Ski: 2012-2013 Blizzard GunSmoke, 186cm
Dimensions (mm): 140-114-130
Actual Tip-to-Tail Length (straight tape pull): 183.5cm
Turn Radius: 23 meters
Weight Per Ski: 2,086 grams / 4.6 lbs
Boots/Bindings: Nordica Enforcer / Marker Jester (DIN) 11
Mount Location: -0.5cm from recommended
Days Skied: 12
(Editor’s Note: This is an interesting moment for us at BLISTER: We’ve finally found a fairly stronge divergence of opinion about a ski. Given the broad range of skiing styles, height, weight, and terrain preferences among our reviewers, I expected that we’d arrive at contrasting views about a piece of gear sooner than this. In fact, given all of the differences and variables, I would say that there has been a surprising amount of agreement. Sure, some may have liked a ski, bike, or board a bit more or a bit less than someone else around here, but the differences have been relatively small.
The new Blizzard GunSmoke is a different story. And this is the reason why we are committed to doing second and even third reviews whenever possible: We think that a thorough review process requires an archive of informed opinion. We don’t boil down multiple reviewers’ impressions into a single review; instead, we ask reviewers to articulate how a ski worked (or didn’t work) for them, and to provide as many specifics as possible. Then, we leave it to you to decide for yourself.
We believe that it is useful to know when a consensus has emerged among several reviewers, since it increases the likelihood that you know what you can expect. And we find it equally telling when no real consensus emerges.
Andrew Gregovich went first, and as you can read in his review of the Blizzard GunSmoke, he liked the ski quite a bit. But as you’ll read below, Jason Hutchins didn’t get along as well with the GunSmoke. As always, you’ll get to decide how much stock to put in any particular reviewer’s opinion, and determine whether it sounds like this ski will work for you or not. And now, without further ado, we’ll let Jason get on with his review.)
For more than a year, Blizzard has been creating quite a stir in the freeride market with its Flipcore technology and chargeable-yet-surprisingly-skier-friendly skis such as the Cochise and Bodacious. Now, for 2013, Blizzard is looking to take on the more playful side of the freeride scene, with the addition of the fully twin tipped GunSmoke.
The GunSmoke uses the same Flipcore technology as its burlier brothers, but instead of using titanium in the construction, the GunSmoke uses a carbon laminate. The carbon lay-up decreases the ski’s overall weight, softens the flex, and makes for a little more “spunky” feel. Also, in contrast to the other skis in Blizzard’s “Free Mountain” series, the GunSmoke has a fairly curvy rocker profile. The camber runs approximately 95cm +/- 2cm unweighted, and the tip and tail rocker is fairly steep.
I’ve been skiing the GunSmoke on and off for more than a month now, beginning in Japan and then ripping around Alta. During that time, I’ve spent a few days each in quality pow, nice packed powder, bulletproof hardpack, and spring slush. With 114mm underfoot, a 23-meter sidecut, and previously mentioned rocker profile, the GunSmoke looked to be the perfect tool for playing around any mountain receiving decent snowfall. Blizzard calls this their playful resort powder ski; I would call these dimensions and shape more of a West Coast almost everyday ski.
As with any ski I find myself testing, I was hoping to jump on the GunSmoke and immediately be blown away. Unfortunately, this wasn’t the case. Following Andrew’s lead and my usual trend, I started at the recommended line and shortly thereafter bumped up 1cm ahead of the line, then 2cm. Moving the bindings forward did make the ski more balanced in the air and more playful for nose and tail presses, but the overall ski-ability of the GunSmoke left me wanting more. The tips didn’t offer as much support as I’d hoped—especially to trust them busting through cut-up snow—which put me in a stance too heavy on my heels for my liking.
Given the way the sidecut and tip rocker interact, turning the GunSmoke required quite a bit of steering action at the beginning of each turn, which I found odd given the ski’s 23-meter side-cut. So I decided to head back the recommended line and work my way back. Eventually I settled on -0.5cm from the recommended for the best balance of skiing performance and playfulness.
On my final morning in Japan and third day on the GunSmoke, I finally felt at home on the ski. We had received around 16” overnight, and I spent the entire morning lapping Niseko Grand Hirafu’s gondola. With the bindings in a spot where I felt moderately comfortable, I found myself having a great time ripping through the trees of Miharashi. While the skis didn’t float on the soft stuff as well as some of the other skis I had ridden while on the trip (admittedly those skis were slightly fatter), they did offer enough float to get tip feedback in the fluff.
The GunSmoke feels different than most of the playful skis on the market right now. Their preferred method of turning in tight spaces involves quite a bit of skier input, and they like to be locked on an edge, setting quicker and harder edges, rather than slarved through the trees. Also, for a ski made with carbon, I didn’t feel like I was getting much energy from the ski from turn to turn, unless I found a steep little terrain feature to flex the ski more than the sidecut alone allowed.