Ski: 2013-2014 & 2014-2015 Black Diamond AMPerage, 185cm
Stated Dimensions (mm): 142-115-124
Blister’s Measured Dimensions (mm): 142-115-123
Sidecut Radius: 22 meters
Actual Tip-to-Tail Length (straight tape pull): 186.0 cm
Stated Weight per Pair: 4309 grams
Blister’s Measured Weight per Ski: 2132 & 2174 grams (4306 grams pair)
Boots / Bindings: Rossignol Alltrack Pro 130 / Marker Jester (DIN at 10)
Mount Location: +3cm was my favorite
Test Location: Alta Ski Area
Days Skied: 17
The AMPerage has been around for a few years now. You can find two reviews covering the previous iteration of the ski on Blister, one from Jonathan Ellsworth, and another by Andrew Gregovich. I did ride the original AMPerage for a few days back then, but ended up switching over to the 182cm Black Diamond Zealot since I felt it fit my personal riding style much better.
The AMPerage got tweaked for the 2013-2014 season, and it is worthy of a fresh look given its completely new construction featuring vertical sidewalls and a revamped flex profile. This new version will come back unchanged for the 2014-2015 season, too.
Aside from the physical changes, I tend to get excited by eager marketing claims as well, and this one from BD got me: “If a crown for the mythical “quiver of one” ski existed, the powder destroying, hybrid fun-shape AMPerage would be a strong contender.” I love this claim because I love one-ski-quiver skis. If I didn’t write for Blister, there is a 100% chance a “one-ski-quiver” ski would be the type of ski I owned.
Continuing with Black Diamond’s claims, the AMPerage is said to be “Quicker and more freestyle oriented than the Megawatt and Zealot,” idealized for “Mechanized access… Medium-to-long turns…Off-piste performance,” and supporting the one-ski-quiver idea, “Whether drifting smear-turns in deep powder or laying trenches on the groomer back to the lift, this ski loves it all.”
I’ll touch on these as I progress through the review.
Shape / Flex
It was a few years ago that I rode the first generation AMPerage, and I remember it feeling like a slightly higher performing Rossignol S7. So a comparison to the S7 shouldn’t come as much of a surprise given the sidecut shape and flex of the AMPerage.
The old AMPerage had a slightly less dramatic tail taper than the S7; a tip shape that wasn’t as excessively wide; and a more subtle rocker/camber profile. The flex of the original AMPerage was also a bit stouter, and less “hingy” feeling than the S7 and the 12/13 Rossignol Super 7.
The new AMPerage shares the same profile as the original, and Black Diamond is right to classify this ski as a “hybrid fun-shaped”. If memory serves, the new ski’s flex feels much softer than the original version underfoot and through the tip, and its tail is slightly stiffer, just as BD claims.
Comparisons aside, performing a hand flex I found the last 10-12” of the tail to be noticeably stiffer than the front of the ski, but it quickly softens up as you move toward the bindings. While on the hill, there is no denying these skis feel super soft; in fact, I would call this AMPerage the softest ski I have ever ridden, softer even than the K2 Hellbent. So even though the tails do have some additional stiffness to them over the tips, given the ski’s tapered shape, I found little support from the rear of the ski until I moved the bindings forward at least 2 cm’s.
That soft flex is slightly progressive (though it certainly has to be pushed deeper into the flex than I’m used to before sensing that progressiveness), but thankfully the ski doesn’t have a distinct hinge point; it’s just soft throughout. The rebound is what I would expect from this soft and weakly progressive flex: fairly lackluster unless flexed deeply.
I’ve spent a significant amount of time covering the range of mount locations available to me on this ski with Jester demo bindings. Black Diamond says not to mount behind the factory “0” line, and with that line at about -8 cm from center, I had no problem adhering to that recommendation. From 0, I moved up in .5 to 1 cm increments to +3.5 cm ahead of the 0 line. Of all these positions, I personally liked the range from +2.5 to +3.5 the best. I felt that moving the bindings forward in this way had little effect on the support and float from the tip, but dramatically improved the support and power offered by the tail.
Light Powder / Settled Backcountry Powder
At slow speeds the AMPerage’s flex, shape, and rocker profile made short and medium radius turns through powder quite effortless. I appreciated this attribute of the AMPerage most when picking my way down a few tight hidden stashes I enjoy in Alta’s Eagle’s Nest.
Much like the S7, the tapered tail keeps the back of the ski from feeling stuck in soft snow, even when your weight is further back than is ideal.
Moving to the wide open terrain of High Greeley, Eddie’s, the Backside, and Ballroom, where the general, go-to technique is to open the throttle and arc long radius turns through the fluff, the AMPerage didn’t feed the stoke-o’-meter quite as much. At these higher speeds, I found the soft flex and shape to feel a little “tug boaty,” unless I shifted my weight slightly to the rear. I also felt that even with speed and a centered stance, the tails continue to ride pretty deep in the snow. This nose-high angle of attack provided a different sensation than most of the skis I ride; rather than the tail riding high and loose, being capable of the “high speed side slide,” the Amp’s looked to perform more of an arc in the powder, and felt much more prone to dropping a bunch of speed during a fall-line slash/smear than a ski that rode higher in the snow from tip to tail.
Dense New Snow / Wind Buffed / “Butter”
Alta should be just as famous for it’s creamy “hero” snow conditions as it is for blower powder, and it is in these conditions the AMPerage really comes into its drifty, smeary own. The ski doesn’t necessary love to go 60mph and lay trenches down a buffed out West Rustler, but it does like to slide and slash with reckless abandon. In these conditions, the AMPerage is smooth as silk, and again, effortless.
As the cream loses its depth, getting into shallower windblown snow, the skis show a few weaknesses. Although Black Diamond switched to a vertical sidewall for better edge hold, the shape and flex of the ski still doesn’t lend itself to an exceptionally solid feel on firmer, buffed-out surfaces.
Underfoot through the rear of the ski in particular is very washy feeling, and when I’ve wanted solid, quick edge plant and release, the skis simply weren’t crisp. This sensation also makes this ski a bit nerve-wracking while scrubbing speed before or after a drop or straight-line in these conditions (I’ve had a number of close calls / exciting moments on the AMPerage due to this characteristic).
If speeds are held to a slow pace however, the AMPerage is easy to turn and does provide enough edge grip to feel in control.
Soft over Firm Crud
One surprising area I found the AMPerage to be interestingly fun was in soft-over-firm conditions. I’m not talking about dust on crust conditions, because this ski certainly doesn’t make that condition any better, but when I found 3-4” of new snow over frozen moguls and crud, the AMPerage is forgiving and smooth. Unlike stiffer flexing skis, which tend to ride a little harsh in these conditions (at least at my weight), using a slightly forward-to-centered stance, the soft AMPerage dampens the abruptness of unseen, rock hard, abnormalities hidden beneath the small piles of pushed around fluff. As long as speeds are kept to a moderate pace, the skis remain very predictable, promoting a playful skiing style, boosting and slashing from pile to pile.
Deeper chopped up snow starts to elicit the same sensations as when skiing powder at higher speeds. Regardless of speed, the AMPerage doesn’t have the power, stability, or float to plow through chop or hover over the surface.
I did find, however, that by using some unorthodox techniques (backseat smearing), I could feather the skis through cut up soft snow at a good clip, but that’s not to say I haven’t had my fair share of close calls trying to rally these typical resort powder conditions on the AMPerage.
If you like excitement, tail press scrubs, and repetitive high-speed recoveries, you may have found your new love. If that doesn’t sound inviting, but you want a ski from BD, I’d suggest taking a look at the Zealot, which BD states is “Designed for higher speeds on variable snow than the AMPerage”, a statement I fully agree with.