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2017-2018 Black Crows Camox Freebird

Jonathan Ellsworth reviews the Black Crows Camox Freebird for Blister Review.

Black Crows Camox Freebird

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

Core: paulownia-poplar

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.”

Brian Lindahl reviews the Black Crows Camox Freebird for Blister Gear Review.

Brian Lindahl on the Black Crows Camox Freebird, CO. (photo by Jessie Harris)

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.

Weight

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.

Flex Pattern

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.

On-Snow Performance

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.

Brian Lindahl reviews the Black Crows Camox Freebird for Blister Gear Review.

Brian Lindahl on the Black Crows Camox Freebird. (photo by Jessie Harris)

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.

Durability

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).

Bottom Line

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.

Update: 1.20.17

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

8 Comments

  1. Blister Member
    Antoine February 14, 2017 Reply

    Just picked up the Camox. Looking forward to providing some feedback after a few hardpack days here in Europe.

  2. Blister Member
    Antoine February 17, 2017 Reply

    So I have two days on the standard Camox (not the touring-specific “Freebird”) in a variety of conditions in Val D’Isere. I’ll do my best to give my feedback but I’m no Ellsworth…

    I’m 5’11” 185 and went with a 186 Camox with Look Pivot 14 mounted on the recommended line.

    I’ve always been intrigued about Black Crows but they are pretty difficult to find/ demo in the states so after speaking extensively with a friend who runs a shop in Val d’Isere I decided the Camox would be my next all-mountain tool. I’m most recently coming from a 185 Nordica Enforcer which I really enjoyed (like most of the Blister crew) but was looking for a little more quickness, particularly in trees and bumps. I had played around with the mount point of the Enforcer and even considered a 177 but wasn’t interested in sacrificing the stability of the 185 so started looking for alternatives.

    This leads me to the Camox. I really liked both the shape and flex profile of the Camox. More rocker than the Enforcers but still a good amount of camber. The flex profile is really what peaked my interest. Brian described the Camox Freebird to have a fairly consistent flex through the tip to tail which I would say is mostly true about the Camox with the exception of the underfoot section which does increase a notch or two compared to the tips and tails. I also found that compared to the Freebird, the Camox is definitely stiffer but still wouldn’t classify it as a stiff ski. Compared to the DPS Wailer 99 Pure 3 and the Enforcer, I would put the Camox right in the middle – something that seemed like the perfect mix for what I was looking for.

    I decided to mount the Camox on the line which I debated for quite sometime since it is more forward than I am accustomed to. Personally, I like to give manufacturers the benefit of the doubt when it comes to their mounting recommendation so I figured I would give it a shot with the Camox.

    On a variety of conditions ranging from icy pistes, slushy afternoon baked groomers, crusty chop, and soft off-piste the Camox performs as described. The turn initition is easy. It can pivot on a dime. It did a great job allowing me to make quick turns and if you like to shmear your turns (which I do) the rocker profile of the Camox is perfect. I will admit that I didn’t get the same amount of pop out of GS turns as the Enforcer but didn’t have any issue dropping my hips and driving the skis. I was extremely impressed with the Camox’s ability on ice. Val D’Isere is having a below average winter and there hasn’t been snow in around a week and was worried about the Camox’s ability to perform in these conditions. It did not let down.

    Off-piste consisted of some soft pow but a lot of refrozen chop. The Camox was great in the pow and have no doubt it could perform in up to a 1′ pow thanks to the rocker profile. While tackling the icy chop, I missed the Enforcer a bit. Refrozen crud is no skis friend and the Camox did just fine but I had more confidence on the Enforcer.

    The Camox also did well in bumps- but due to the forward mount point those tails can be a bit punishing. I also felt that I wanted a little more ski out in front of me when really moving. I didn’t find this skis speed limit like Brian alluded to regarding the Freebird (he’s probably skiing faster and better than me) but that could be due to the additional mass in the standard Camox.

    After a couple of days, I’ve decided to move back the mount point -1.5 due to my experience in bumps and just how easy this ski is to turn/ pivot. I don’t think I’ll notice any maneuverability performance loss but am hoping that I’ll feel more comfortable with more ski in front of me and less punishing tails in bumps.

    I have really enjoyed the Camox and what I am looking to get out of my all-mountain ski it is a great choice.

  3. Drew March 9, 2017 Reply

    I very much agree with this review. I’ve been skiing the Camox freebirds in 178 (6ft 170lbs) all season on the south west BC coast, and they’re handling everything very well. When things have set up they’re truly an awesome ski for narrow chutes and tight spaces. They also seem to be more than adept enough at busting through heavy coastal pow, of which we’ve had a lot. I have an ion LTE on them and they’re very tourable – I switch them out with a G3fndr 102 in a 180 and the crows are my go-to for big days when I want a light nimble ski – I like the 178 length for its weight savings and agility, but from a downhill perspective wouldn’t hesitate to ski the 186 – it does probably ski a touch short, but I feel like these are skis made for billy-goating and prefer more turns as the reviewer points out, rather than big fast GS archs, although they do seem to handle speed as well as any pure touring ski in this weight class.

  4. Guy Bowden March 12, 2017 Reply

    How do these compare to the Fischer 98 Ti’s ? Am considering either as a quiver of one ski – touring bindings on and doing 50/50 touring + lift skiing… The Fischers are the same weight as my current skis, so whilst the weight saving would be nice, it’s not the be-all for me.
    Guy

    • Author
      Brian Lindahl March 13, 2017 Reply

      Hey Guy,

      Before you read my thoughts on the differences between the two skis, consider
      1) The Camox Freebird is lighter by about 150 grams per ski.
      2) The 178 cm Camox Freebird is 3 cm shorter than the 180 cm Ranger 98 Ti.

      I’d characterize the differences in this way:
      1) The construction of the Camox Freebird is a bit damper than the Fischer Ranger 98 Ti, though the Ranger 98 Ti has a higher speed limit when making big sweeping turns.
      2) The Camox Freebird skis shorter – when you put it on edge, you don’t quite feel the full length of the ski like you do with the Ranger 98 Ti.
      3) The Camox Freebird is more agile and nimble.
      5) The Ranger 98 Ti is a more exciting carving ski.
      6) The Ranger 98 Ti is a bit more stable.
      7) Both are great in powder snow, but I’d probably give the edge to the Ranger 98 Ti – it does better in longer drawn-out turns than the Camox Freebird.

      Personally, for these reasons, I think the Ranger 98 Ti is a better 50/50 ski, while the Camox Freebird is a better dedicated touring ski (especially if you ski lots of chutes and couloirs).

  5. Peter Wood May 31, 2017 Reply

    Just wondered if you had skied on the Navis Freebird? I am torn between the Navis and Camox Freebirds.
    I ski 2 weeks a year in Europe, and on a total mixture of snow. My aim is to be off piste but sometimes conditions dictate an on piste day. I am looking for a forgiving ski to enjoy all over the mountain. Any feed back on the 2 models would be much appreciated. I have been a keen skier for the past 30 years.

    • Author
      Brian Lindahl June 1, 2017 Reply

      Hi Peter,

      Sorry, no, we haven’t reviewed the Navis Freebird (nor the regular Navis).

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