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2015-2016 Salomon Q-Lab

Jonathan Ellsworth reviews the Salomon Q-Lab for Blister Gear Review

2015-2016 Salomon Q-Lab

Ski: 2015-2016 Salomon Q-Lab, 190cm

Stated Dimensions (mm): 145-109-134

Blister’s Measured Dimensions (mm): 144-109-133

Actual Tip-to-Tail Length (straight tape pull): 187.2cm

Blister’s Measured Weight per Ski: 2571 & 2484 grams

Sidecut Radius (for all lengths): 20.5 meters

Mount Location: Recommended Line (87.8cm from tail / -5.8 from true center)

Boots / Bindings: Salomon X Pro 120 / Marker Jester (DIN at 11)

Test Locations: Taos Ski Valley, Alta Ski Area, Summit County, CO.

Days Skied: 8

[Editor’s Note: Our review was conducted on the 14/15 Q Lab which was not changed for 15/16, except for the graphics.]

 

For the 2014-2015 season, Salomon is introducing the “Q Lab,” which comes in a 176cm model; a 183cm model (with stated dimensions of 138-104-127mm); and a 190cm model, with measured dimensions of 144-109-133mm.

In a nutshell, the story here is that these are beefed-up relatives of the Salomon Quest 105 (part of Salomon’s Quest series)  that we reviewed last season. While the skis in Salomon’s Quest series are positioned for both inbounds and backcountry duty, the Q-Lab is more of a dedicated inbounds tool.

These Q Lab skis are made with Salomon’s “s-core,” the same core they use in their race skis, which has 42 alternating vertical laminates of poplar and ash wood that are then sandwiched between two sheets of titanal.

Salomon has this to say about the Q-Lab: “The guts of our Lab race skis, optimized for a lighter freeride application and built on our ultra versatile Utility Rocker platform. This is the new one-ski quiver of the Salomon Freeride Team.”

While I’ve put multiple days now on the 190cm Q Lab, I also got a handful of runs on the 183cm version, too. In short, the 183cm Q Lab reminded me exactly of a beefed up 188cm Quest 105. I barely noticed the length difference, and the two skis have almost identical dimensions. Since I tend to like fairly beefy skis, for lift-accessed riding, I personally would opt for the more substantial 183cm Q Lab over the 188cm Quest 105 in every instance.

Interestingly, the 190cm Q Lab didn’t have me thinking much at all about the 188cm Quest 105, despite the fact that these two skis are nearly identical in length. Why?

1) Flex Pattern

While I described the 188cm Quest 105’s flex pattern as being very similar to the more playful 190cm Rocker 2 108, the flex Pattern of the Q Lab 190 is quite stout in comparison to the Quest 105. In fact, the back half of the Q Lab 190 ski is among the top 10 skis with the stiffest tails we’ve reviewed, up there with the DPS Wailer 105 Hybrid T2, the DPS Wailer 112RPC, Pure3, and the new, excellent Salomon X Drive 8.8.

And the flex of the initial ~20 centimeters of the tip of the Q Lab 190 is somewhere between extremely stiff and unbendable.

The forebody of the ski, however, by comparison to the tips and back half of the ski, goes relatively soft, on par with the LINE Supernatural 108, and softer than the Moment Belafonte, DPS Wailer 112RPC, or DPS Wailer 105 Hybrid T2.

2) Dimensions

190cm Q Lab 190: 144-109-133mm

188cm Quest 105: 136-105-128mm

While the Q Lab is wider all around than the Quest 105, the tails in particular feel noticeably wider and far more burly. I didn’t have any complaints with the tails of the Quest 105, and that ski carves well. I just like this wider tail shape even more. Fat tails make me happy. They tend to provide excellent edge hold and allow you to finish turns powerfully.

3) Weight

Salomon designed the Quest 105 to be light enough to handle touring duties, yet still hold up in the resort. You could certainly throw an AT binding on the Q Lab 190 if you felt like it, but Salomon didn’t design this thing for people in spandex.

In fact, while the Q Lab 190 doesn’t feel like a super heavy ski on snow, on the scale, this is one of the heaviest ski we’ve reviewed, and it’s just barely lighter than the 194cm 4FRNT Devastator, and a touch heavier than the 193cm Blizzard Cochise.

But again, given that we are talking about some fairly big, heavy, stiff skis, the Q Lab 190 doesn’t feel sluggish on snow, most likely because of the weight-saving and heavily tapered tip, and I’d like to say Thank You to Salomon and every company that acknowledges that lighter isn’t always better.

Ok, on to the Q Lab 190’s on snow performance.

Groomers

I recently spent some time in Summit County, Colorado, the land of long, wide groomers that are extremely conducive to going very fast and making big turns. When the groomers were smooth and the conditions were soft, the edge hold of the Q Lab’s fat, powerful tails was outstanding, and its softer shovels were easy to bend. I had a lot of fun setting high-speed, high-angle carves down the mountain. But if your style is to make lots of turns, still-substantial skis like the Nordica Helldorado or the Line Supernatural 108 are a bit more conducive to that.

At very high speeds on smooth groomers, I loved everything about the Q Lab. But once those groomers began to get roughed up a bit, the shovels began to feel too soft to go flat out. This reminded me a bit of the Blizzard Bonafide vs. the 13/14 Volkl Mantra: at very high speeds, the Bonafide’s shovels begin to feel too insubstantial, while the Mantra held up much better at speed in roughed up conditions. The softer, lighterweight, tapered tips of the Q Lab don’t do much to smooth things out; the shovels don’t feel damp. And yet, the back half of the ski still felt very solid and kept things tracking pretty well.

In the 105-110mm range, when carving on roughed-up groomers, I personally would prefer the more substantial shovels of the 13/14 Moment Belafonte or the 14/15 DPS Wailer 105 Hybrid T2. But if the groomers are in good shape, there is nothing I’ve skied in the 105-110mm range that I clearly prefer over the Q Lab 190.

Jonathan Ellsworth reviews the Salomon Q Lab 109 for Blister Gear Review

Jonathan Ellsworth on the Salomon Q Lab 109, Taos Ski Valley.

And if you tend to slow down when things get roughed up (1) you’re probably smarter than me, and (2) a lot of what I’ve just described may be a non-issue.

Untracked Pow

In beautiful, untracked, fairly dense snow on Alta’s Baldy Shoulder Area, these skis felt smooth, easy to ski, fast, precise. This isn’t a loose, super-surfy ski (its tail should make that kind of obvious), but a ski that had me wanting to stay on edge and carve through pow rather than run bases flat and smear around in it. So if you know you’re more of a pow carver than a pow surfer, this ski should be on your radar.

Jonathan Ellsworth reviews the Salomon Q Lab from Alta, Blister Gear Review

Jonathan Ellsworth on the Salomon Q Lab, Alta Ski Area. (photo by Tom Bear)

Soft, Spring Chop & Slush Bumps

On open, rolling, off-piste pitches like Copper Mountain’s “Hallelujah,” the Q Lab was great. Hallelujah is a mellow-pitched face with mid-sized moguls, and it was fun to ski the Q Lab very fast down this stuff. The bottom section of the area steepens up a bit, and the moguls get bigger. Here, I was able to keep my speed up and ski dynamically, airing from bump to bump into the next trough. The Q Lab felt supportive, and quick enough (again, keeping in mind that this is a fairly burly ski).

Dedicated Bump Runs

The tails of the Q Lab are quite stiff, so you do need to be on your game to ski these in bumps. But still, on a run like Copper Mountain’s Mine Dump where the bumps were nice and uniform and it was easy to find a line, I could happily ski the Q Labs.

But if I was choosing among the various skis in this category, I’d pick the 187 Belafonte or the Line Supernatural 108 if we were going to go ski bumps all day, given the Belafonte’s and Supernatural’s twinned up tails, slightly softer tails, and narrower shovels. And the steeper, bigger, and less uniform those bumps get, the more I definitely would want to be on the Moment Belafonte or the Line Supernatural 108. Case in point…

28 Comments

  1. Marcel April 24, 2014 Reply

    Which niche do you think salomon is trying to put this ski on? From what I’ve heard before it looked like it would be a crud buster, but based on this review it’s really far from belafonte/cochise/katata and I’d think the same compared to vicick or wrenegade. So looks like it doesn’t bust crud as well as others, and it doesn’t really reserves a place in tight, groomers, pow… not really sure what salomon is going to accomplish here. Think this won’t be any close to the BC version in terms of number of users.

    • Author

      Salomon positions this as a freeride, 1 ski quiver, and it is a ski that can be pushed hard, it just has a flex pattern that didn’t feel as balanced to me as some of the other skis in the category. But while I’d give the nod to the Belafonte / Cochise / Katana in roughed up groomers and steep bumps, I’d take the Q Lab over the Cochise and Belafonte in deeper pow, and would probably take it over the regular Katana, too. So I think it depends what you’re looking for.

      Also – it’s important to note that the Katana no longer exists, the shovels of the Cochise get softened up, too, and the Belafonte has been modified – we’ll see how similar or different it skis. And as for the 13/14 Wrenegade I reviewed, it is WAY softer than the 190 Q Lab all around.

  2. Troy M April 24, 2014 Reply

    Nice review Jonathan,

    I spent a little bit of time on a 183 demo and a shop owners 190 up here in the PNW this spring. I was expecting just a beast to work through some of my favorite steep big mogul runs but found the 183cm quite fun and the 190cm tolerable. Spring slush bumps helped I’m sure but I thoroughly enjoyed the green machine on numerous other runs as well. The 190cm was a blast on late afternoon slushed up groomers. I typically don’t prefer stiff heavy skis as a daily driver but found enough fun on both sizes that I’m looking forward to more time on them next season.

  3. Brian April 24, 2014 Reply

    Thats a pretty centered (forward) mount point compared to something like the Katana. I wonder how much of your impression was because of this. Did you try it mounted further back? From testing next years Wailer 105 T2, and playing with mount points, it can really affect a ski’s personality.

    • Author

      Hey, Brian – check out the section in my review of the Quest 105 re: Salomon’s forward mount points. It’s something they did on the Quest 105, the Rocker2 108, and the Quest / Rocker2 115. It’s clearly an intentional decision on their part, and the truth is, the fore / aft position felt good / less peculiar on the Q Lab 190 than it did to me on the Quest 105. I really didn’t feel out of balance on the Q Lab (too little tip, too much tail), it was just the flex pattern. Having said all that, the Q Lab 190 truly skied well in many conditions & terrain types, so I hope my review makes that clear. Still .. I’ll try to find the time to tinker a bit with the mount point over the next week and a half.

      (BTW, I’m getting back on the Wailer 105 this weekend & coming week. Curious what mount point you ended up preferring?)

  4. Marcel April 25, 2014 Reply

    Wow, that surprises me about the wrenegade, and it got softer for next year. Interesting… when are you guys gonna be in the remodeled belafonte?

    • Author

      Just to be clear, while the Wrenegade is softer all around, I thought it skied great. Love the shape, love the flex pattern. And if Brian is right that ON3P is stiffening it up a bit, that’s fine by me – so long as the consistency of the flex pattern doesn’t go out the window.

      As for the new Belafonte? I’ll begin A/B-ing it with the old Belafonte at Alta tomorrow…

  5. Brian April 25, 2014 Reply

    Actually, next year’s Wrenegade 112 is back to the 11-12 stiffness, so noticably stiffer than the last few years. Still somewhat softer than the burliest of skis though (of which the only one I’ve been on are next year’s Wailer 105s, which is comparable to my old Head 103s and PM Gear Kusala extra stiffs).

  6. Sindre April 25, 2014 Reply

    How would you compare the 190 Q lab to the 190(?) Rocker 2 115 when it comes to bumped up terrain?
    And how are the showels on the Q lab compared to the 115?
    I had the first gen el dictator as my every day ski and switched them out with the 115, something I really regret because the showels where way to soft for me..

  7. willie April 27, 2014 Reply

    sounds like just another piece of crap ski from salomon. I like they the way you tried to make it sound useful in certain situations, but it only sounds O.K. at best.

  8. churbo June 9, 2014 Reply

    this is the best ski ever made…carves on tussock patches and stomps everything. makes normal life feel boring.

  9. Jonathan June 11, 2014 Reply

    Jonathan, how does the 183 Q Lab compare to the 182 E100? Their descriptions/stats would make them seem similar in a lot of ways, but there’s gotta be some things that set them apart, I reckon.

    • Author

      I need more time on the 183 Q Lab, but my impressions were that it is an all-around easier ski to ski than the E100. When skiing the 183 Q Lab in those same messed-up bumps at the bottom of Hunzinger that I mention in my E100 review, the 183s were more forgiving, for sure. But I didn’t get the 183 Q Labs on Reforma or in the steeps of West Basin, so I can’t say yet how hard they could be pushed in that type of terrain. But if a question remains about how hard you can push the 183s, I will again say that they will likely be the easier, more forgiving ski all-around the mountain.

  10. Paul September 4, 2014 Reply

    I skied the 183 and enjoyed it albeit it felt a little short. Not necessarily in how it skied more so in look at the lack of ski in front of my feet. I’m 6′, 190 isn, ski 8 of 10 on the aggressive scale and definitely don’t seek out bumps, however they are inevitable in the locations that we all ski (SW Colorado, New Mexico, Utah on occasion).

    Debating about buying the 190 even though I haven’t skied it yet. My usual everyday ski that this would be replacing is a beat pair of 185cm Cochise’s as a resort charger. Any input as you’ve been on both?

    Thanks!

  11. Bert October 7, 2014 Reply

    I’d be really really interested in a review of the Salomon Q BC Lab. At 114 underfoot and only 1.7 kg it sounds like a killer (pow) touring ski. Unfortunately very few reviews out there. Any chance you guys will be getting on it soon?

  12. Eric October 8, 2014 Reply

    How do you think this ski compares with the Q105? I am pretty torn between the two of these, but worried the Q-Lab may be a little on the too stiff side. Curious which you prefer.

  13. Joost October 30, 2014 Reply

    Hi Jonathan,

    Last season I had the Q105. A stone that took out my edges forces me to look for new ski’s this season. Since I will occasionally do Alpine touring on the ski’s as well and also like to charge a few groomers now and then as well along the way I, as well as trees and bumbs I was considering to maybe opt for the Q98 to replace them. This because for me there was very little not to like in the Q series of last year. Still your review made me thinking. I’m quite a heavy guy (98kg) so I immediately got interested in the Q-lab after reading your review. I am heavy but fit and like to ski aggressively and fast now and then. I had the Q105 in 188 and that performed quite well for me. Although on speed the edge grip, which was normally fine in most conditions, could for me still be a bit better on hard snow and I thought the Q105 did have a speed limit. Since I will want to use this ski for all mountain purposes (I have the AK JJ for deep days), will do occasional AT, like bumps and trees but also to ski fast. Would you recommend the Q105 /98 or the Q-Lab in this case? Your view would be much appreciated. Thanks, Joost

  14. ryon January 27, 2015 Reply

    What do you think of this ski compared to a devastator for a daily ski? Been on the devastator for the past two seasons and I am thinking hard about the 190 q-lab for a replacement. Not that the Devastator was bad in anyway but to try a little different flavor out. Thanks.

  15. Jake August 18, 2015 Reply

    Hello, If you were skiing Crested Butte everyday would you prefer the Q-Lab 190 or the Scott Punisher 189?
    Advanced skier 6’3″ 175 pounds rips the entire mountain and likes to huck cliffs

  16. kyle wisner January 9, 2016 Reply

    rode the 190 a bit last season, gotta say i wasn’t very impressed. don’t really know what they were going for with this thing. i’ve been on the cochise and 4frnt renegade for the last 4 seasons, love a ski that has no speed limit, that crushes everything in it’s path. after flexing this ski i thought it would be that type of ski, but the extreme sidecut and massive shovels really killed it for me. the renegade has a 135 mm shovel, and a 122 mm waist. q lab comes in at 144 in the tip, and 109 waist. everytime i got this ski up to the kind of speeds this flex pattern wants i would get slowed down by the ridiculously hooky tip and super tight turn radius, the dimensions just don’t make any sense. a whole slew of better skis for the job in my opinion.

  17. Miroslav September 13, 2016 Reply

    Is it true that the actual tip-to-tail length is only 187.2cm ?!?!?…

    • Author

      Yep. Measured with a straight tape pull from tip to tail — for the record, when measured this way, very few skis we review come in at their stated length. So nothing out of the ordinary here — check out any random selection of our other ski reviews.

  18. Alex October 29, 2016 Reply

    What are your thought on mounting these at -1 or -2cm? The line seems a bit centered. Less tail could make them more pivoty and plane better, no?

  19. Alexander Babat November 2, 2016 Reply

    PS: I get -8cm from center as my recommended line. Did they change that between 14/15 and 15/16?

  20. Nick December 4, 2016 Reply

    Hi- I was wondering if you put any more time on the 183? I’d be really interested to know more about what separates it from the 190 and maybe how it compares the Cochise. Thanks!

  21. Ola September 21, 2017 Reply

    Knowing they’re discontinued I think you should really get back on the 190’s again, this time mounted at -8 or even -9 cm. Just do it!

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