2nd Look: Kingswood SMB

Paul Forward reviews the Kingswood SMB for BLister Gear Review

Kingswood SMB

Ski: 2016-2017 Kingswood Skis SMB, 187cm

Available Lengths: 156, 165, 177, 187, 194 cm

Actual Tip to Tail Length (straight tape pull): 187.5cm

Stated Dimensions (mm): 145-123-135

Blister’s Measured Weight per Ski: 2,429 grams & 2,437 grams

Sidecut Radius: 24 meters

Core Construction: Bamboo + Fiberglass Laminate

Tip & Tail Splay: 42 / 30 mm

Traditional Camber Underfoot: 2-3 mm

Boots / Bindings (DIN setting): Salomon X-Max 130 / Marker Jester (DIN 13)

Mount Location: Factory Recommended Line

Test Locations: Alyeska Resort, Girdwood, Alaska, Chugach Powder Guides Helicopter ski terrain

Days Skied: 10

[Editor’s Note: our review was conducted on the 13/14 SMB, which was not changed for 14/15, 15/16, or 16/17, apart from graphics.]

In February a pair of 187cm Kingswood SMBs made their way to Alaska, the same pair reviewed by Jonathan Ellsworth in his comprehensive review. Jonathan did an excellent job describing the flex and design of the ski, and I agree with everything he’s said in that regard. I’ll also echo his comments that the skis are beautiful, and that the construction appears to be quite high quality.

I’m very fortunate to spend the majority of my ski season riding powder, and have been on many powder skis over the past decade. I’ve found that skis with reverse sidecut shapes—like the DPS Lotus 138, DPS Spoon, Praxis Protest and Powderboards—are generally what I prefer to ride on the best ski touring and heli-ski days. But none of those skis are my favorite for lift-served skiing, and I’m always on the lookout for a more versatile resort powder ski that works well in tracked-out and variable conditions, too.

Based on the shape, construction, and Kingswood’s description of the SMB, I hoped the SMB could fill this role.

Powder

It’s no secret that Southcentral Alaska has struggled with low snow accumulation this year, but we did get one big week-long storm in early March that yielded a week or so of great lift-served skiing in resort. My first day on the SMB was at the beginning of the storm, and at the time there was still a very palpable, firm base under a layer of medium-density pow that was quickly getting deeper.

At the beginning of the day the hard base was pretty rough, and the new snow didn’t provide much of a cushion. The SMB handled this relatively well with it’s medium sidecut radius, initiating turns easily without being particularly hooky. Compared to the 192cm Salomon Rocker2 122 and the 188cm Salomon Quest 115 that I used on the same day, the SMB was more predictable, less prone to deflection, and inspired more confidence to ski fast in the variable conditions and flat light. The SMB felt fairly nimble yet damp, which made for a good time in those bumped-up conditions early in the storm.

As the storm progressed, the wind picked up and temperatures warmed slightly. The next day of resort skiing was one of the best powder days of the year, with over 30 inches of accumulation at most elevations. Due to the warmer nature of the storm, those 30 inches skied more like 12, but it finally felt like a normal day of skiing at Alyeska and I headed for my usual routes, riding as fast as I could around the south side of the resort (the North face was still closed for the season).

In the lower-density snow on the upper mountain, I found that the subtle splay of the SMB’s tip rocker did not let the ski plane up on top of the snow very easily. Especially in lower-angle runouts, I needed to maintain a more neutral stance and shift my weight more to my heels to keep the tips up in untracked snow. In this regard, I found the SMB comparable the original version of the Rossignol Squad 7 (pre-honeycomb tips) which I also had difficulty getting to stay on top of untracked, low density snow. (And to be fair, I experienced similar flotation issues with the Salomon Rocker2 122’s and the Quest 115’s during the same storm cycle, though the more dramatic tip rocker of those skis did allow them to plane a bit better.)

My experience here differs significantly from Jonathan’s, as he found that the SMB planed easily and quickly in fresh snow. One reason might be that I spend much of my season skiing heavily rockered, superfat skis like the DPS Lotus 138 and Spoon and I love driving hard into the front of the ski and bending those big boards into the top of the turn. Second, I have a couple inches and about 25 lbs (plus I often ski with a 25 or 30 lb pack) on Jonathan, so it’s likely that our weight and height difference was also a factor in how we each found the 187cm SMB to handle in fresh powder.

Paul Forward reviews the Kingswood Skis SMB, Blister Gear Review

Paul Forward, Chugach Mountains, Alaska. (photo by Henry Munter)

Interestingly, an aggressive, forward style of skiing worked well for me on the SMB in cut up snow, which I’ll say more about below. But I do think bigger skiers who like to lean into a ski throughout the turn in deep, fresh snow might need to adjust their style or consider going with a longer length if they’re going to keep the SMB’s tips afloat.

Long Drift / Surf Turns in Powder

I’ve written a lot in my DPS reviews about drifting and sliding out turns. Compared to reverse sidecut dedicated powder tools like the Lotus 138 and Spoon, the SMBs feel much more traditional / less loose and surfy, not as immediately willing to break free into high speed drifts while powder skiing. No real surprise there. But the SMB is still a ski that can be thrown into fun and predictable drifts in soft snow.

During some of the same resort days I was riding the SMB’s, I also put some time on the Salomon Quest 115, which is also fairly traditional compared to the DPS Lotus 138 or Spoon. Compared to the Quest 115, the SMB was much easier to break free and drift, while it wasn’t quite as quick and easy to slide out as the Salomon Rocker2 122.

Denser, Wind Affected Powder

I spend about ten weeks of my season each year guiding for Chugach Powder Guides, so I took the SMB’s out for a few days of heli skiing as well. A north wind followed one of our storms in the much of the Chugach, subjecting some of the heli terrain to a fair amount of wind affect.

The SMB’s more traditional shape tracked well through denser, wind-affected snow and did not deflect, though I found that the low splay of the SMB’s tip rocker and tail rocker made it a bit harder to throw the ski across the fall line than the DPS Lotus 138 or Salomon Rocker2 122. However, the SMB’s relatively conservative splay helped make it considerably smoother, more stable, and more damp than either of those skis in denser powder, and increasingly so as conditions firmed up.

Crud and Soft Chop: ‘Resort Charger’ Conditions

The SMB is a relatively light-feeling ski, and yet it’s also moderately damp, making it good choice on days when conditions are chunky and firm. We get some hard, rough refrozen chunder late in the season in AK, and the SMB handles that snow as well as anything I’ve ridden.

We haven’t had the North Face open for much of the year at Alyeska, limiting the total amount of open terrain and causing to the ski area to get tracked up quite a bit faster than usual. Fortunately, as any “Resort Charger” should, the SMB also excel’s in soft chop and tracked-up powder.

One afternoon of very poor visibility  at Alyeska, riding both harder, refrozen crud and soft chop, I swapped skis with a friend who was on his 188cm Salomon Quest 115’s. He felt like the SMB was a bit more work than the 115s, but we all noticed that I was skiing much faster on the SMB’s than I was on his Quest 115s, and I couldn’t wait to get the SMB’s back on my feet.

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