Ski: 2016-2017 Salomon QST 118, 192 cm
Available Lengths (cm): 171, 178, 185, 192
Actual Tip-to-Tail Length (straight tape pull): 191.3 cm
Stated Dimensions (mm): 143-118-130
Blister’s Measured Dimensions (mm): 142.5-118-130.5
Blister’s Measured Weight per Ski (192 cm): 2133 & 2133 grams
Stated Sidecut Radius: 26.5 meters
Tip / Tail Splay (ski decambered): 67 mm / 35 mm
Traditional Camber Underfoot: 3-4 mm
Core Construction: Poplar + Titanal Layer + Carbon Fiber/Flax Laminate
Factory Recommended Line: -4.65 cm from center; 91.0 cm from tail
Mount Location: Recommended Line
Boots / Bindings: 15/16 Lange XT 130 27.5 / Marker Jester
Days Tested: 3
Paul Forward: Chugach Powder Guides, Girdwood, Alaska
Jonathan Ellsworth: Silverton, Colorado
For 16/17, Salomon has completely revamped their freeski line, replacing the popular Rocker series with the QST series (though the Rocker2 100 remains in the line for 16/17).
The Rocker2 122 — one of my favorite skis in deep powder — has been replaced, effectively, by the QST 118, a ski that Salomon designed to charge hard in powder, while still maintaining the ability to drift and float.
From hand flexing the skis, we’d characterize the QST 118 like this:
After he skied the QST 118 at Silverton, Jonathan sent them to me and the skis arrived at the Chugach Powder Guides’ hangar the day before I was helping guide a group of hard-charging skiers on a potentially-amazing bluebird powder day. We had been dealing with clouds and waiting for two feet of new snow to settle for a couple of days, and it seemed like everything was lining up for us. When walking out to the helicopter that morning, I second guessed my decision to take a totally untested pair of skis on what would probably be a 10-12 hour day of skiing big, steep, heavily-sluffing terrain. I was fortunate on that day to be able to throw in an extra pair of skis (the Blizzard Spur), to provide a baseline for ski testing and to serve as backup in case the QST 118s weren’t up to the task.
I spend 10 to 11 weeks each year heli guiding full-time, and just about every day I go helicopter skiing is an amazing day in the mountains. But the day that followed was pretty spectacular. After doing some snow assessment, we started our day on a seldom-skied peak with a 2000 foot fall line that maintained a pitch in the high 40’s and had at least 12 inches of dry, settled pow (and serious sluff potential) before spilling out into a big, rolling pow bowl to the pickup perch.
The skiing was ridiculously good, and everyone made huge, fast, slarving turns. Spirits were high, and it was just the beginning of a 35,000+ vertical-feet day that took us to the shoulder of the tallest peak in the Chugach (Mt Marcus Baker) to over a hundred miles away to a beach on the Gulf of Alaska (near Seward, AK) while skiing every steep big powder line we encountered along the way.
While it was mostly classic AK steep pow skiing, I came across just about every kind of snow possible, and spent almost the entire day on the QST 118. Given that, it felt like pretty ideal conditions to test the versatility of a powder ski.
The 118’s stiff flex underfoot, significant camber, and fairly light weight combined with the heavily and abruptly rockered tip and tail create a lively, poppy ski on hard snow. I can’t remember the last time I skied something this wide that has so much energy from turn to turn. The 118 does carve remarkably well on hard snow, so long as it’s smooth.
The downside to the short effective edge and short side cut is that the ski is a bit more prone to deflection when hitting bumpy, firm snow. Similarly, on extremely hard wind-packed or icy snow, the 118 also becomes a bit nervous, and when trying to skid on hard snow it feels short and a bit bouncy. But overall, on smooth, firm snow the 118 will carve trenches as long as it’s not too bumpy to maintain a smooth, clean carve.
I need to get these out at the ski area, but my initial impression is that the QST 118 is also relatively damp for a ski that feels as light and poppy as it does.
Skiing the Chugach in late April can offer a little bit of everything, even when heli skiing on big, steep, north-facing powder runs. Often the runouts of north-facing runs are much lower-angle and will get incidental solar heating during the long spring days. So it’s not uncommon to come rocketing down a big, sluffy face, hop a bergschrund, and find yourself cruising across the valley at high speeds through all kinds of weird, crusty snow. And on one of my first runs on the QST 118, I did almost exactly that. And instead of cruising back to the heli crushing through the crust as I had done on my previous run on the Blizzard Spur, I found the 118s’s hooking awkwardly and pulling me around. It was manageable, but I definitely felt like I needed to slow down a little and pay attention, as opposed to the victory-lap cruising I was doing on the wider, heavier Spur.
Next run, I switched back to the Spur and once again crushed through the weird stuff at the bottom.
As with the firm, bumpy conditions I mentioned above, I think the issue with the QST 118 in breakable crust or other weird snow is the exaggerated, abrupt early rise coupled with the light weight of the ski and and the dramatic early taper. I did have a gummi stone in my pocket, and detuning the shovels (from the widest point of the ski on up) helped a little. But the feeling of hookiness persisted.
Powder & Mixed Conditions
The QST 118 is the replacement for the Salomon Rocker2 122, which was one of the most fun, slashy all-around powder skis I’ve ever used. Going narrower by 4mm doesn’t seem like a big deal, but the increased camber and tapered tip and tail made me wonder if the QST 118 would be a pretty different animal than the Rocker2 122 (we’ll say more about the QST 118 vs. Rocker2 122 in our Deep Dive Comparisons.)
My first turn ever on the QST 118 was at the top of a large, steep, exposed ramp of boot-top powder while heli-skiing. I was immediately aware of the light, poppy feel of the 118s compared to any powder skis I’d been on this season, and had a great time popping and sliding down the short, narrow, upper pitch. After popping off a small cornice, I entered into 1500 ft of 45 degree perfect powder with small ridges and bumps to play with. The group up top could hear me whooping the whole way down as I alternated between quick, poppy pow arcs and long, drifted slarves until I hit the aforementioned breakable crust at the bottom of the runout.
Like most light, poppy skis, the QST 118 does suffer from decreased stability. There is a great zone in our terrain called “Freight Trains” that offers up a very steep 800-1000 foot wall with room for dozens of fun lines scattered with fins, a few airs and, in places a sizable bergschrund. The zone gets its name from the sometimes monstrous sluffs that can be intimidating at best and dangerous at worst. Forty-eight hours after a sizable dump and with shin-deep snow at the knife-edge ridge drop-in, I had big sluffs on my mind and a plan to work left and exit hot over a weakness in the schrund.
The top of the line went great, with some ridiculously fun slash turns and double overhead powder sprays. But as I picked up speed and got lower on the face where natural sluffs had already firmed up a bit, I started to feel significant wobble and bounce in the skis. But it was easy to keep the skis under control, and once I got clear of the schrund and onto the mellow runout, it was back to poppy pow carves.
NEXT: Corn, Tight Terrain, Etc.