First Look: 2015-2016 Salomon Q-96 Lumen, 170cm
Dimensions (mm): 131-96-117
Sidecut Radius: 18.8 meters
Actual Tip-to-Tail Length (Straight Tape Pull): 170cm
Boots / Bindings: Black Diamond Shiva / Salomon Z12 (DIN at 8)
Mount Location: Recommended Line
Days Skied: 4
Test Location: Alta Ski Area[Editor’s Note: Our review was conducted on the 13/14 Lumen, which was not changed for 14/15 or 15/16, except for the graphics. (The ski’s name was also changed from the “Lumen” to the “Q-96 Lumen” for the 14/15 season.)]
For the 2013-2014 season, Salomon is introducing their new Quest line, a series designed to provide a more versatile, all-mountain alternative to the more playful and powder-oriented Rocker2 series. All of the skis in the line feature what Salomon calls “Utility Rocker” (or full tip rocker), camber underfoot, five-point sidecut, and a flat tail. What varies among the skis is their width.
The Salomon Stella is the widest on the women’s side, at 103mm underfoot in the 172cm model (the 178cm Stella is 104mm underfoot), and the Lux is the narrowest at 88mm. The Lumen falls in the middle at 96mm.
Recently I had a chance to ride the Stella and the Lumen to get a better sense of the performance differences between these two similar skis: what you gain by going ~8mm skinnier, what you give up, and where the other pronounced differences were to be found on snow.
I noted in my review of the Salomon Stella that the ski blew me away on groomers. That day, Alta had offered up sunny skies and perfect, firm corduroy—great conditions for testing the ski’s speed limit. But after some fun, fast laps down Collins, I swapped them out for the Lumen.
Pulling into to the Collins lift after my first run on the Lumen, I was blown away all over again.
The Lumen felt just as stable, aggressive, and fun as the larger Stella, but initiating a deep carve was even more intuitive. The combination of a narrower width underfoot and flat tail made arcing small and large turns on the Lumen feel effortless, even on icy sections. As I lapped Collins and Extrovert at top speed, I had no problem skiing as fast as I had on the Stella, despite being on a shorter ski. I could also easily make smaller-radius slalom turns, and the ski responded with a playful energy throughout each turn.
After several runs, I ventured out to Alta’s Ballroom area, where the snow had hardened into a sea of low, crusty bumps following a few days of sunshine. I cut down onto the face, and made a few slow, cautious slarve turns, unsure how the skis would react to the more demanding snow.
Surprisingly, I met little resistance and found that the Lumen, like the Stella, was easy to drive through the crud. Each turn inspired a little more confidence, and I was able to open things down the face with a fair amount of speed.
While both skis offered plenty of stability in these conditions, the Stella felt more capable of dampening and plowing through the snow, whereas the Lumen was easier to maneuver through the crud with strong, aggressive turns.
The Lumen required little effort to make quick hop turns through tight rocky sections, or in bumped-out zones, thanks to its shorter length and narrower waist. The ski is also built with a honeycomb tip construction, taking a little weight off the front of the ski and making it easy to throw around.
Although I didn’t feel too much of a difference in stability between the Stella and Lumen on groomers, I felt more comfortable charging down the fall line on the Stella than the Lumen over variable hardpack. The Lumen will also be offered in a 178cm length next season, which will likely provide a little more stability to those who want to push the Lumen further.
After a few days of sunshine, a storm system rolled into the Wasatch, blanketing Alta in 18 inches of fresh snow. The snow did not let up throughout the day, and even though it was late afternoon, I continued to find untouched stashes off Eagle’s Nest.
I was only able to ski several runs on the Lumen in powder, but given its narrower width, I was impressed by its ability to float. Of course, almost all of the wider skis I have ridden, particularly dedicated powder skis, felt more natural through untracked snow and could stay on top with little to no effort.
For the most part, the Lumen stayed on the surface of the snow, but at times I needed to sit back and pull up the front of the skis with my toes in order to keep them afloat. (No big surprise, given the shape and width of the ski.)
The deep, light snow made for a close to perfect day, and I can imagine that I would have enjoyed skiing on just about any ski. That being said, ideally I would like to be skiing on something that requires a little less work and would probably choose a powder-specific option on deeper days. For shallower storms, however, the Lumen is still plenty capable in fresh snow.
While it will be important to spend more time on the Lumen in moguls and in deep and shallow chop, it was valuable to take back-to-back runs on both the Stella and Lumen in the same conditions to get a sense of their similarities, differences, and their ideal audience.
The Stella feels like more of a big-mountain charging ski that can carve exceedingly well and tackle variable snow, too. The Lumen rips groomers better than any non-race ski I’ve ridden, but can hold its own through firmer, off-piste snow as well.
The Lumen is a outstanding in trees and on groomers, and would also serve as a great addition to a quiver for days when there’s not a lot of fresh snow on the mountain. And if you don’t often ski deep pow, the Lumen would be a great all-mountain option for all but the deepest days.