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2017-2018 Folsom Custom Skis Primary

Jonathan Ellsworth reviews the Folsom Primary for Blister Review

Folsom Primary

Ski: 2017-2018 Folsom Primary (custom), 188 cm

Available Lengths: 174, 178, 182, 188, 192 cm

Blister’s Measured Tip-to-Tail Length (188 cm): 186.3 cm

Blister’s Measured Weight per Ski: 2163 & 2164 grams

Blister’s Measured Dimensions: 137.5-108.5-129 mm

Stated Sidecut Radius: 25 meters

Tip & Tail Splay (ski decambered): 70 mm / 46 mm

Traditional Camber Underfoot: 0 mm

Core: Maple / Poplar / Bamboo blend

Mount Point: -7.00 cm from center; 86.15 cm from tail

Binding: Look Pivot 14 WTR

MSRP: $1199 (see note below re: discount for blister members)

Intro

We posted on Instagram a while back a teaser about a custom skis project that I was doing with Folsom Custom Skis. And today, I’m going to finally be getting these custom skis on snow.

The Project

I first talked about skis with Folsom owner / chief of operations / head ski builder, Mike McCabe, on this podcast we did on custom skis.

Fast forward, and Mike was interested in having me go through Folsom’s custom process. So after a couple of phone calls, several emails, and one very long visit to the Folsom factory in Denver, Colorado, we settled on this custom ski that you see here.

The Shape

I’ll say more about the process as we go, but the punchline here is that we decided to go with Folsom’s “Primary” shape.

Mike was clear that he wanted me to think of this as a ski that I would use as an everyday, all-mountain ski.

But it turns out that Mike and I share a lot of similar opinions on ski design, and this Primary shape — coupled with Folsom’s “SRC” — Subtle Reverse Camber — is one of Mike’s own personal favorite setups for an everyday, all-mountain ski.

So after a lot of back and forth and discussion about some of Folsom’s other shapes (we also looked at and discussed their Johnny C, Kingpin, and Trigger II options), we were zeroing in on the Primary SRC. Mike told me to take a day or two to mull it over and get back to him, and mull it over I did. And here are some of my thoughts:

Rocker Profile

I often like a bit (or a lot) of traditional camber underfoot, because I like to get some pop and rebound out of my skis. Mike and I discussed this, but he employs a construction process that he says allows reverse-camber skis to still return a bit of energy out of the turn. I’ll say more about this later, but this claim certainly made me curious.

Customizing Other Reverse-Camber Skis

Once I’d settled on a reverse camber shape, I naturally started to think of a number of the reverse-camber skis I’ve been on and reviewed. And what I found was that there were a number of skis on the market that personally could see modifying if I were to make my own custom ski. For example:

(1) 185 cm Blizzard Cochise (2014-2015) – I love this ski. But a ski like the Cochise that had a less traditional mount point would be intriguing — would it be possible to keep the Cochise’s stability in variable conditions while bumping up its playfulness?

(2) 186 cm Rossignol Sickle – For the two zillion people who are still looking for a Sickle replacement, could this Primary be an option? And given that in the last year of the Sickle the longest length Rossi offered it in was 181, could the Primary function as something like a longer Sickle?

(3) 186 cm Faction Candide 3.0 – I think the 3.0 is a really good, really interesting ski. But for bashing around at speed in bumped-up, steeper terrain, I personally would be very interested in a heavier version of the 3.0.

(4) 187 cm Moment Meridian – I love how hard the Meridian can be pushed, but I have also been curious to see how the Meridian would perform if it had mellower tip and tail rocker lines and tip and tail splay, since I don’t care too much about the deep-snow performance of my ~107mm-wide ski; instead, I want to emphasize and enhance performance at speed in firm-snow and in moguled-up terrain. Once again, it seemed like this Primary SRC could fit the bill.

(5) 184 & 194 cm 4FRNT Devastator – I like the Devastator, but I feel like I’m in a bit of a goldilocks situation with the 184 being pretty short for me (given its super deep rocker lines), but also feeling like I don’t really need the length (194 cm) or the significant weight (~2600 grams per ski) of the next size up. So both length-wise and weight-wise, the Primary SRC seemed like a potential solution.

Jonathan Ellsworth reviews the Folsom Primary for Blister Review

Folsom Skis Primary (custom build)

More Design Details

With the ideas above in mind about potential tweaks to skis, Mike and I then nailed down more of the particulars of my Primary SRC:

Mount Point

When Mike asked me what I had in mind, I told him that I was thinking -6 to -8 cm behind true center. He said that was going to suggest -7 cm for this build, so we were on the same page. Done.

Core

Given that Mike already knew that I actually like a bit of weight in my inbounds skis, he quickly suggested that we go with a core made of a blend of Poplar, Maple, and Bamboo. He said that this blend would keep the ski quieter in variable conditions (than a lighter poplar blend), would make the ski more lively (than, say, going with a straight Aspen blend), and it would be more robust — while adding 141 g per ski. I said Yes to all of this very quickly.

Tip & Tail Shape

Given that we were already starting with a very pivot-y, reverse camber platform, I told Mike that I had no interest in adding much tip or tail taper to this ski. This shape was going to be easy to turn, so we don’t need to make it even easier to turn. “Yep, exactly,” Mike said, and we quickly moved on after discussing this for about 9 seconds.

Flex Profile

Folsom offers 3-5 different flex profiles for every shape. “Profile 2,” according to Mike, “is very accurate for what I want this ski to be. It’s pretty forgiving in the tip, and supportive in the tail. It’s a balanced profile that will still feel really dynamic, while conforming to the terrain and adding soft-snow performance. Basically,” Mike said, “I want the longitudinal flex to be as soft as possible, but torsionally stiff.”

To be clear, I often tend to like stiffer shovels, but I told Mike that I’d follow his lead on this one, since I’m very curious to see how this flex pattern feels on snow.

Hand flexing the ski, here’s how I’d characterize the flex pattern:

Tips: 5.5/6 – 7
Shovels: 8-9
Underfoot: 10
Behind the Heel piece: 10-9
Tails: 8-7/6

Interesting. And actually, those tip and tail numbers I’ve listed might actually be more like 5.5 – 6 at the tips, and a “7” softening to “6” at the very end of the ski, so I’ve updated the numbers above. And the single biggest question I have is whether this shape + flex pattern will amount to a ski that I can drive quite hard? Or will this ski be less of a charger, but more of a really fun, playful ski?

Bottom Line (For Now)

I’ll be saying more about the Folsom custom process soon, but for now, I just want to get these on snow and see what we’ve got here. The skis arrived beautifully finished and ready to go, so it’s time to go ski. Stay tuned…

NEXT: THE REVIEW

23 Comments

  1. Blister Member
    Vincent May 14, 2017 Reply

    Looking at the rocker profile pics I was surprised to see how much rocker, especially tail rocker there is. I didn’t get that sense from your write up.

  2. Daryl May 14, 2017 Reply

    This is pretty much my ideal ski shape and construction that doesn’t exist. More versatile than the Hoji or Chugach, less Moment-y than the meridian. I love that you could tweak the design to either be fatter or lighter or both.

    I just can’t spend $1000 on skis…especially when everyone can get a great ski for $400-500 in April / May. The issue is: skiers can have TWO pairs of skis for the price of one custom pair.

    When this ski is really good, which I’m sure it will be, set up a production run a la the Blister Pro (Bibby resurrection) and I’ll buy a Blister membership + purchase a “stock” version of this exact ski….but not with that top sheet. :)

  3. Vince May 14, 2017 Reply

    The real question is?…. What bindings you going to put on those bad boys!
    CAST?

  4. Blister Member
    Hannes May 15, 2017 Reply

    This design makes a lot of sense for a daily driver in snowier areas imo. Could also be a killer one ski quiver for a lot of bigger mountains in the alps. I had considered the romp 106 mold in a 185 with 20 cm tip rocker and slight tail rocker with a flatter tail (no twin tip) as a similar offering, but I still cannot decide whether to go with 1 – 2mm of camber or fully flat. Maybe your review does help whether such semi custom ski process makes sense at all and with which design to go…

  5. Blister Member
    Dan May 15, 2017 Reply

    Hot damn! I’ll second Daryl’s comment: I hope Blister forces Folsom’s hand and we can get these for around $600 when they make a bunch of them.

    Seems like my dream ski for a daily driver. Having skied the metal Katana, Rossi Sickle, and 4Frnt Devastator in the 183-186 cm lengths as daily drivers over the past decade, I’m sold on the subtle reverse camber with no tip/tail taper profile in a 106-112 waist width. On paper this ski improves upon the others I mentioned above because:

    1) Straight pull length of 186-187. Yes!
    2) Mount point between the Dev (-5cm) and the metal Katana (around -12 cm in the 184)
    3) Lighter build at 2150 gm but not Candice 3.0 light
    4) Not the full twin of the Sickle, which can get hung up in thick snow and creates a nasty rooster tail
    5) Potentially more energy out of a carved turn according to Folsom?

    If this thing skis damp like a Dev/Sickle/metal Katana, I’ll need to buy one! I bet JFE is one excited skier right now

  6. GuyAnderson May 16, 2017 Reply

    I 2nd or 3rd Dan and Daryl…..I am looking at Meradian and Dev….I have Sego Prospect 120 with a partial Swallow tail for deep days in PNW it has little tip taper if any at all..the Prospect 112 is more playful/quick..I have demo bindings on them both so I can adjust +1 or -2……I am surprised the Dev does not come in 187 or 88….this Folsom looks like a charger…..looks like a lot of effective edge zero camber…..and bet editor is pretty happy about now.

    So my reading on Meridian says it does well on groomers…..and -6 mount for All Mtn…..is the Meridian something one would enjoy skiing groomers all day ? Regardless of quiver…say ya went to ski area and only brought 1 ski was expecting a dump but storm missed mtn, freeze thaw inversion instead – should have brought front side 88……I am hoping and thinking the Meridian would be OK maybe not 1st Choice obviously.

    Maybe 1000 is less than 5 x 700 ? In my next life I want to grow up and be a ski analyst I know that for sure :)

  7. Blister Member
    Dan June 21, 2017 Reply

    JFE, any updates?

  8. Blister Member
    Dan October 21, 2017 Reply

    Still hoping JFE will post some first impressions of this ski soon.

    For those that really want to try the Folsom Primary SRC but don’t want to spend full custom money, know that Backcountry is selling the stock versions of this ski for significantly less than the cost of custom.

    • Author

      Hi, Dan – apologies for the delay — we’ve been busy as hell with the buyer’s guide.

      Full review drops this Sunday. We put a lot of time on the ski this spring, and there is a lot to talk about.

      A shorter writeup is in our buyer’s guide. But long and short: you can basically turn this shape — the Primary with the “SRC” profile — into anything you want.

  9. Blister Member
    Dan November 1, 2017 Reply

    Thanks Jonathan. At 150 lbs and 5’9”, I’m wondering if the standard Primary would feel more stable through the shovels for me? You weigh about 180lbs? (It sounds like a great ski. But if it’s less stable in the shovel than the 184 Devastator, then it might not be exactly what I’m looking for.)

    But having owned the metal Katana and the Sickle and the Devastator, I’m now intrigued by the custom Primary option to get the best combination of traits possible. Might have to wait on your review of the Hammer, and consider making my own “Hammer Lite.” Will the Hammer feature both a stiffer shovel, and decreased tip and tail splay?

    • Author

      Hi, Dan – I think the short answer is, “probably?” (And yes, I’m 5’10”, 175-180 lbs.) I just tend to prefer stiffer shovels — *for all-mountain / off-piste use* — and that has come out in a number of reviews I’ve written (cf. Black Crows Atris, J Skis The Metal – two skis that I reference here.) Go too stiff, however, and you’d certainly give up some of the fun factor of being able to bend these skis in half while carving. But I’m usually ok with that compromise.

      As for the Hammer … a couple of the key things (that I’ve already spoken about with Mike) are (1) stiffen up the shovels; up the weight to about 2300 g. Of course, many / most people prefer a lighter ski, and I understand why. But for this “variable charger” version of the Primary, I think ~2300 g in a 188 makes good sense, and honestly, I wouldn’t be at all afraid of going heavier — this profile is so easy to ski, you can afford to go heavier.

      And as for the tip & tail splay, I am a bit tempted to reduce it — since as I note in my review (and unlike a whole lot of skiers) I wouldn’t be aiming to optimize this ski for deep snow; I’d be optimizing it for chopped-up snow — and even fairly beat conditions. Variable.

      But the version I reviewed feels nicely balanced, and I don’t think the way to design skis is to simply say take this exact ski, reduce the tip & tail splay. So it’s something I’ll discuss with Mike.

      I think the direction I’m heading in is something in the ballpark of a slightly-less directional / more playful 13/14 Cochise. A twinned up tail, a more progressive mount point. But I want to be able to push this ski really hard. (Especially since I heard back from my surgeon today, and the x-rays show that I’m healing faster than he was expecting…)

      • Blister Member
        Dan November 1, 2017 Reply

        Good info, thank you.

        And congrats on the rapid healing, glad to hear it. Hopefully you’ll be out on snow before you know it.

  10. Guido November 2, 2017 Reply

    Sounds like a ski ripe for experimentation with an idea I’ve been bouncing around for a few seasons now. To increase damping, tweaking longitudinal flex pattern, and add or remove mass in a customizable fashion… add a removable tip to tail stiffening object that could be attached to the ski top sheet. I experimented with 1/4 inch thick aluminum strips to stiffen up the forebody of my k2 darkside skis and they had a noticeable effect of stiffening the flex and give the ski a more solid feel when charging and working through heavy wet ‘pushy’ cementy snow. The alu strips were carefully bent to match the rocker profile of the ski and attached via heated double sided carpet tape for optimum and a durable bond. It was easy to remove them after heating the area slightly as well.

  11. Guido November 2, 2017 Reply

    With this option perhaps you could tweak the version of ski skied by J.E. and have a more chargey, stiffer, damper ski with the same shape for conditions that require it or days where you prefer it…then remove the appendages to revert to the easier going lighter o.g. ski? 2 skis in 1?

  12. Guido November 2, 2017 Reply

    …and also, sending vibes for continuing positive healing; really hope it all comes together for ya for ski season either sooner or later.

  13. Andy November 3, 2017 Reply

    “…I’m heading in is something in the ballpark of a slightly-less directional / more playful 13/14 Cochise.”

    Yes! Since my 12/13 Cochise is finally going into retirement (kicking and screaming), and the only tweaks to it I would have made were less dive and a bit less grunt required on occasion, I’m really looking forward to hearing how your Hammer turns out.

    Jonathan, did I read correctly, no metal in the Primary you tested?
    Would Folsom build that same version with a ti layer tip to tail?
    Thinking dampness, mass, flex boost and that smooth ti feel.

    Glad to hear your fusing quickly. See you in LCC soon.
    AF

  14. Blister Member
    Jeffrey November 7, 2017 Reply

    Can you compare/contrast this* with the wren 108? The wren sounds way friendlier than it has been in a while now, and the primary (with a bit more stiffness than this setup) seems like it’s starting to push into stable enough but still fun. Or am I reading too much into them being compared to some of similar skis?

    Both were compared with plenty of other skis, considering both for a daily driver (and appreciate the answers you gave me about the wren a bit back).

    * but with more beef, basically “the hammer” vs wren speculation, since I’m planning to pick something up in the next couple weeks.

    • Author

      Just to clarify, the Wren 108 has been equally friendly for the past couple of seasons, now, but all in all, you are correct to see them as belonging to a very similar category. And no question that even with a bit of an adjustment toward ‘The Hammer’ end of things, you’d have ‘more’ ski than a Wren 108. Do keep in mind — the Wren 189 would technically be the direct comparison to the 188 Primary we reviewed, and we’ve only skied the 184 cm Wren. But the Primary is a pivot machine with lots of pop; the (184 cm) Wren 108 is more of a forgiving, directional ski that can still be pushed a bit, but not like the Wrens of old.

      • Blister Member
        Jeffrey November 8, 2017 Reply

        Yeah, I was thinking 189 Wren and 188/192 Primary. Sounds like, even with a bit more meat on it, the primary is likely to be less well behaved on chopped up heavy snow. In tahoe, chopped up heavy snow is kind of ubiquitous. Chatting with Folsom tomorrow, this was extremely helpful!

      • Blister Member
        Jeffrey November 9, 2017 Reply

        Really appreciate your feedback. You did mean “you’d have ‘more’ ski with the wren” rather than “than a wren” right?

        Decided to try a pair of the primaries, but more in the hammer direction. 190 cm
        same base material, but thicker (p4)
        directional rocker
        stiff flex, reinforced tip.

        Hoping to keep most of that pivot machine fun, but better performance in variable snow. (also, I’m tall and heavy)

  15. Blister Member
    Dan November 27, 2017 Reply

    Jonathan,

    Any updates on the Hammer? Did you end up decreasing the tip/tail rocker splay or rocker length? Any days on snow with the Hammer yet?

    Lastly, if it turns out great, do you think Blister will offer the same discount to members on the Hammer as you did in your initial Folsom Primary build?

    Thanks

  16. Blister Member
    Tanner December 8, 2017 Reply

    Just received my Primary in the mail 2 days ago. I went w the same flex and core as the Blister SRC version but added 2-3mm of camber. Folsom calls it the directional rocker build which has tip rocker/camber underfoot/shallow tail rocker. I told Mike I was looking for more of an in-between storm ski but not a “charger” like the Cochise. Can’t wait to get it on the snow and try it out. Just need some snow now….

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