Ski: 2016-2017 Black Crows Camox Freebird, 178 cm
Available Lengths (cm): 162.8, 171.4, 178.1, 183.2, cm
Actual Length (178 cm, straight tape pull): 175.9 cm
Stated Dimensions (mm): 128-97-114
Blister’s Measured Dimensions (mm): 126.5-96-113
Stated Weight per Ski (171 cm model): 1600 g
Blister’s Measured Weight per Ski (178 cm): 1661 & 1664 grams
Stated Sidecut Radius: 18 meters
Tip & Tail Splay (ski decambered): 61 mm / 26 mm
Traditional Camber Underfoot: 5-6 mm
Factory Recommended Mount Point: -8.5 cm from center; 79.5 cm from tail
Mount Location: Recommended Line
Boots: Atomic Backland Carbon & Tecnica Cochise 120
Bindings: Dynafit Radical FT 2.0
Days skied: 9[Editor’s Note: Our review was conducted on the 16/17 Camox Freebird, which was not changed for 17/18, apart from graphics.] Intro
While the Black Crows brand has been established in Europe for many years now, their presence in North America is still relatively new. But Black Crows skis can now be found in a number of shops across North America.
We took a First Look at the Camox Freebird earlier this spring, and I’ve spent four days touring on the ski in Colorado since then.
In French, the word Camox (Chamox, Chamois) refers to an agile, goat-like antelope. In line with this, Black Crows describes the Camox as a mid-fat ski that was designed with the goal of “adapting to sudden bursts of speed and changes in terrain.”
Camox vs. Camox “Freebird”
The Camox exists in both non-touring and touring versions, and as with several of their other skis, the “Freebird” moniker designates its place in the touring lineup. Skis with the Freebird name have a slightly different core to reduce weight, a core that blends paulownia into the all-poplar cores used in their alpine skis. Freebird skis also have reduced edge material to further shed weight, plus a plastic tail protector with a notch for a skin tail clip. In addition to those features shared with the rest of the touring lineup, the Camox Freebird also sheds the carbon layer found in the other Freebird skis.
At just over 1650 grams per ski (178 cm model), the Camox Freebird sits at the higher end of the weight spectrum for touring skis. But there are currently a number of skis on the market that come in around this weight and width, so it will be interesting to see how the Camox Freebird measures up.
The Camox Freebird has a nice, round flex profile that is pretty consistent from the tail through the tip. In my experience, a more round flex profile tends to feel more intuitive when flexing the ski through a turn. The ski is on the softer end of the spectrum compared to other touring skis I’ve been on recently like the Line Sick Day Tourist, the Down Countdown 102, and the Blizzard Bushwacker. However, it still has a nice medium flex.
Shape and Rocker Profile
As Jonathan mentioned in his First Look, the Camox Freebird has an unusual taper shape. There’s very little taper at all — both the tips and the tails are pretty squared off, and the taper doesn’t extend far down the ski.
The rocker profile of the Camox is pretty typical, ~18 cm of tail rocker run and 33 cm of tip rocker run. In terms of splay, some skis have a pretty shallow rocker that really doesn’t increase much in splay until the very tip or tail. The Camox Freebird takes the opposite approach, and its rocker is a smooth, continuous curve that blends into the final tip and tail rise.
I haven’t been able to spend a lot of time on the Camox Freebird yet, but I have spent four longer days in the backcountry on them in conditions ranging from firm, semi-frozen corn to pretty thick slush, and in terrain ranging from tight steep chutes to wide open faces. Overall, I’ve been impressed with the Camox Freebird. It has an intuitive and confident feel when making controlled turns in steep terrain, and feels smooth and predictable when opening it up in perfect corn.
The Camox Freebird definitely has agility nailed, but when opening it up in rougher snow, it obviously is missing the mass and power of heavier skis. But the ski provides good feedback as to when you might want to slow it down a little (it doesn’t surprise you immediately like some skis can). I should also note that there weren’t any glaringly-obvious issues with stability, even though the ski has a softer flex. Its speed limit felt like it was more of a mass issue, which is common for touring skis.
I’m also curious to see how the ski performs in chalky snow, since the summer corn and slush I skied in is pretty forgiving. Finally, I’m particularly interested to see how the somewhat small turn radius performs on steep, firm snow, as I tend to prefer larger turn radii in these conditions for reasons.
Given the late-season thin snowpack, I hit more than a few rocks on the Camox Freebird, but I only have some very minor and isolated base damage to deal with. So I’d give the ski good marks so far for durability, especially since some touring skis look to save overall weight by making their bases thinner (and less durable).
While I haven’t gotten the Camox Freebird out in a full range of conditions yet, I’ve been impressed so far. It lives up to its mountain goat name — it’s an agile ski with an intuitive feel that is comfortable on open faces at speed (in smooth snow) as well as making quick turns down steep chutes. The speed limit is noticeable, but if you exceed it, the ski still shows enough composure to give you fair warning to slow down, which isn’t always the case with touring skis.
Overall, Black Crows has found a nice balance between weight, dampness, flex, and shape to produce an agile ski that knows its limits, but that won’t throw those limits in your face. I’m looking to see how the Camox Freebird continues to perform in a broader range of conditions and terrain.
I’ve gotten out on the Camox Freebird again both in the backcountry for several days and also in the resort. And while that additional time has allowed me to round out my opinion of the ski, my overall opinion of the ski hasn’t changed that much.
In untracked powder, the Camox Freebird floats well, and I didn’t find myself wishing for a wider or more rockered ski when skiing at more moderate paces or on mellower terrain. On steeper terrain, visibility didn’t allow for pushing it into large, sweeping, high-speed turns, I didn’t experience any diving behavior on the Freebird, even when the visibility added its own challenges to staying balanced.
I’d still say that the Camox Freebird prefers to make more turns rather than fewer turns, and in moguls and generally bumpy, firm-snow conditions, the ski is quite agile and nimble. And as I had found last season, when I’ve gone beyond the ski’s speed limit, it’s still rather well behaved and will stay composed enough to dial it back down again before things get completely out of hand.
In steep chutes (e.g., the 1st and 2nd Notch at Arapahoe Basin), it felt very much at home. While there’s a lot of tip and tail rocker, and more effective edge might be nice in extremely icy conditions, I would say that steep chutes are its forte. I can’t think of a better ski (that I’ve been on) to have in a narrow couloir, whether the conditions be powder, corn, or chalk, and I look forward to getting back out on it, now that the snowpack is getting to be more stable here in Colorado.
NEXT: Rocker Profile Pics