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2016-2017 Parlor Skis Cardinal 100

Jonathan Ellsworth reviews the Parlor Skis Cardinal 100 for Blister Gear Review

Parlor Skis Cardinal 100

Ski: 2016-2017 Parlor Skis Cardinal 100 — 185cm & 178cm

Stated Dimensions (mm):

• 185cm: 136-100-126

• 178cm: 136-100-126

Blister’s Measured Dimensions (mm):

• 185cm: 136.5-100-126.5

• 178cm: 137.5-100-127

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

• 185cm: 184.0cm

• 178cm: 176.6cm

Stated Sidecut Radius:

• 185cm: 21.6 meters

• 178cm : 19.6 meters

Tip / Tail Splay (ski decambered):

• 185cm: ~47mm / ~6mm

• 178cm: ~50mm / ~6mm

Core Construction: combination of maple & aspen

Available Lengths: 154, 164, 171, 178, 185, and 192cm

Camber Profile Options: traditional camber or full rocker (reverse camber)

Factory Recommended Line:

185cm: 80.5cm from tail; 11.5cm behind center

178cm: 77.5cm from tail; 10.8cm behind center

Reviewer’s Mount Location:

185cm: on the line

178cm: on the line

Boots: Fischer Vacuum RC4 130 & Tecnica Mach 1

Bindings: Tyrollia AAAttack 13 (DIN at 11)

Test Location: Taos Ski Valley, Arapahoe Basin

Days Skied:

185cm: 8 days

178cm: 3 days

[Editor’s Note: Our review was conducted on the 15/16 Cardinal, which was not changed for 16/17]

Background

Parlor Skis is a young company that produces made-to-order skis in East Boston, Massachusetts. (Prior to moving to East Boston, the company was building skis in an old funeral parlor in Cambridge, Mass. Get it?)

Pete Endres, Mark Wallace, and Jason Epstein are the three co-founders of Parlor Skis, and they met and raced together at Williams College.

If there are two things you could rightfully infer from this last sentence, it is:

(1) These guys aren’t idiots; I’ve met Pete and Mark, and I can vouch. (I haven’t met Jason, however, so I guess it’s at least possible that he is an idiot?)

(2) They care about the performance of a ski when you put it on edge.

But these guys aren’t merely race dorks who only care about a ski’s performance on groomed snow, which brings us to the Cardinal 100, Parlor’s flagship, all-mountain, one ski quiver.

Parlor calls the Cardinal 100 a ski that “provides soft snow versatility without sacrificing grip on ice and loose granular. This ski will rip on hardpack without feeling grabby in soft snow.”

May companies say stuff like that, but the Cardinal 100 that I tested—in two different lengths—merges two design elements that makes Parlor’s characterization more than marketing fluff:

Design Element #1 – Rocker Profile of the Cardinal 100

The Cardinal 100 has a very subtle reverse camber / full rocker design. Emphasis here is on “very subtle,” because as you’ll notice in the rocker pics of the 185cm Cardinal 100 on the last page of this review, while you can see a deep tail rocker line on the Cardinal that opens up – subtly – to a mere ~6mms of tail splay, the tip rocker line on the Cardinal 100 is almost non-existent. I.e., this ski could almost be described as flat (at least through the shovels) rather than “reverse cambered.”

Note #1: For the coming season, Parlor is planning to increase the tip splay very slightly, while the tails will remain unchanged. That will make for a subtle difference—if any—and I hope that Parlor errs on the side of a less-than-1-cm increase as opposed to more-than-1-cm. In short, that flat-ish design works.

Note #2: Before we go any further, you know that we’re going to have to talk about the Volkl Mantra. 3 guys who grew up racing on the east coast = 3 guys who grew up seeing Volkl Mantras everywhere. And unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’re probably aware that Volkl decided this past season to go full reverse camber on the Mantra, bringing the Mantra closer to the already-fully-rockered Cardinal 100.

Jonathan Ellsworth reviews the Parlor Skis Cardinal 100 for Blister Gear Review

Jonathan Ellsworth on the Parlor Skis Cardinal 100, A-Basin, CO.

The difference here is that, as I’ve said, the Cardinal 100 is pretty flat, while the Mantra has an impressively subtle amount of splay. It’s a beautiful design, and next season, the Cardinal’s reverse camber design will look a bit more like the Mantra.

Note #3: Some people like traditional camber, so not everyone was psyched about the reverse camberization (that’s a word, right?) of the Mantra. Well, those people might be happy to hear that for the 15/16 season, Parlor is offering the Cardinal 100 with traditional camber. So while you can’t get a cambered Mantra, you can get a cambered Cardinal 100…

Design Element #2 – Tail Profile of the Cardinal 100

Flat skis and fully rockered skis are good at feeling loose and remaining maneuverable in grabby snow. But they can also sacrifice edgehold on “ice and loose granular.”

But Parlor wanted to have the best of both worlds, so they did something with the Cardinal 100 that I haven’t seen anybody else do: make a reverse cambered ski, then stick a big, fat, flat tail on it. Check out the rocker pics on page 3. There is no twinned-up tail here, and there is very little tail taper. There is some tail splay, but tilt this ski on edge, and those fat tails bite and engage and rail.

In an age where ski manufacturers seem so nervous about, and intent on making sure that their skis are super duper duper accessible for every skier out there who wants to rock back on their heels and swish back and forth at very slow speeds down the mountain (if that’s you, do yourself a huge favor and go take some ski lessons!), Parlor stuck a tail on the Cardinal 100 that allows the ski to actually accomplish the two things we mentioned above: be versatile in soft snow (in soft or punchy snow, if you take a more bases-flat stance, you can pivot & foot steer the Cardinal 100 very easily), while still allowing you to hit high edge angles and carve hard (set the Cardinal 100 on edge, and those fat tails will bite and engage, and help reduce wash out).

I can think of a lot of fully rockered skis out there, and I can think of a number of carving-oriented skis that have fat, flat tails. But I can’t think of any ski that combines this rocker profile with this tail shape. And the design works quite well.

NEXT: Parlor’s Custom Process, Flex Pattern, Etc.

6 Comments

  1. Blister Member
    Tom June 23, 2015 Reply

    This is nearly a bang-on sidecut duplicate of the old Enforcer/Hell & Back, with a more modern camber/rocker line. I do love me some fat tails! I will be watching for a chance to try a demo pair, though that seems unlikely “out west”.

    Great summer reading. Best of luck to these guys.

    • Author

      Thanks, Tom. And funny – your bringing up of the Hell & Back really caught me off guard, because I never thought of that ski once while skiing the Cardinal 100s. Which to me, really is evidence that fat tail / reverse camber creates a distinctive ride.

      And now, with Parlor’s option for traditional camber, those pining for the Hell & Back will be able to Bring it Back.

  2. Albuquerquedan August 13, 2015 Reply

    I skied the Cardinal at a Taos demo day last year, where I spent most of the day on my Rossi E100s. I compared the two skis at EpicSki, and here’s my post. Bottom line, I friggin’ LOVED the Cards.

    I skied Taos yesterday, where there was a small demo day going on. All the usual suspects were there: Rossi, Salomon, Volkl, etc… I was skiing my Rossi Experience 100s, which were about the perfect ski for the conditions, so I had no desire to waste my ski time by trying out a bunch of demos… Until I noticed the Parlor tent. I had never heard of the brand, but they billed themselves as custom, hand built skis — how could I pass up taking a pair out? (I’m a sucker for bespoke goods)

    Anyway, I opted for a ski that had virtually the same dimensions as my E100, so I could really compare two similar skis. (The model was called Cardinal 100 in a 178, r=19m). Well, to cut to the chase, the Parlors were the most exciting pair of skis I have ever been on, flat out. There’s been an ongoing discussion on this board lately about the difference between “lively” and “damp” — this ski was massively damp but had more “pop” out of a turn than any other all mountain ski I’ve been on. The edge grip left the E100 in the absolute dust — no comparison, and that’s saying quite a bit because the E100 is no slouch when it come to railing turns.

    The Cardinal is not for everyone — it is a very demanding ski that will simply not let go of its tail. But for bombing down crud, soft bumps, and other variable terrain, and then making hero arcs on groomers under the chair lift, I have never been on anything better.

    So, with that said, I want to give a shout-out to Parlor skis. Here’s there website . Apparently, for about $1,000, they’ll make you a custom pair, which is expensive but not ridiculous for what you get, based on my limited experience.

    As for my E100s, I’m still very pleased with their performance, and I still think that they’re the right ski for where I ski and how I ski, but when held against the Parlor, I’m afraid there’s no comparison…

  3. Guy Anderson June 2, 2016 Reply

    With regards to Parlor Card 100 with traditional camber… heard from them and they indicated that there is no slight tip rocker or tail elevation/rocker. I don’t know why but there must be a reason ? I do like a little of tip / rocker for initiation and release of turn.

    Maybe next year they will meaning 17/18

  4. Blister Member
    Paul February 26, 2017 Reply

    Hey Jonathan, I listened to the podcast and chatted with Mark about the Cardinals. With the RIP ff the Xdrive 8.8, what would you think of the comparative top end performance if the flex of the Parlors was stiff thoughout? Ballpark?

    • Author

      Hmmm, interesting question, though it’s hard for me not to view the X-Drive 8.8 & Cardinal 100 as a fairly apples-to-oranges comparison. The X-Drive 8.8 is a GS ski that can be used off-piste on the feet of a strong skier. (Keep in mind that I only skied the 184 cm X-Drive 8.8.)

      The Cardinal 100 is a true all-mountain ski (that I would be more comfortable skiing across a broader range of conditions off-piste than I would the X-Drive 8.8) that you can carve the hell out of.

      On roughed-up, end-of-day groomers, I still think the 184 cm X-Drive 8.8 beats most / all skis I’ve ever been on. On the fatter end of things, I’d say the same about the 184 cm Head Monster 108.) I think with a stiff flex, the Cardinal 100 could fare quite well, but the limiting factor would be the weight and lack of metal. They would do “well / fine” … but they aren’t going to have the absolute-best-I’ve-ever-skied stability & top end of skis like the two I’ve mentioned. And no surprise.

      Then again, if we’re not really talking about absolutely raging, then don’t worry about the difference. And if we’re talking about off-piste stability at speed in variable conditions, there are *many* instances where I would rather be on the wider Cardinal as opposed to the X-Drive 8.8. I’d only prefer the 8.8s on steep ice and windscoured terrain.

      On clean, even-slightly-soft groomers, I would happily ski any of these skis, and would probably want the 8.8 or Monter 108 only if we were nuking down very steep, very firm pitches, where metal and more weight are your friends.

      And finally, to offer one very apples-to-apples comparison … I would rather ski the Cardinal 100 over the Rossi E100 in any & all of the situations your describing. Both skis have awesome tails. But I’ll take the Cardinal’s tip, where (unlike the Rossi) weight was not removed to help ease turn initiation. When we’re talking about top-end stability, I don’t give a damn about ease of turn initiation, and I see it at odds with that top end stability.

      Sorry for the convoluted answer, but I hope it will let you triangulate in on the Cardinal 100.

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