Ski: 2017-2018 Black Crows Corvus Freebird, 183.3 cm
Available Lengths (cm): 175.1, 183.3
Actual Tip-to-Tail Length (straight tape pull): 181.5 cm
Stated Dimensions (183.3 cm): 139-109-122 mm
Blister’s Measured Dimensions: 138-108-121 mm
Stated Weight per Ski (175 cm model): ~1800 g
Blister’s Measured Weight per Ski (183 cm model): 1825 & 1904 grams
Stated Sidecut Radius (183.3 cm): 21 meters
Tip / Tail Spay (ski decambered): 63 mm / 23 mm
Traditional Camber Underfoot: ~6 mm
Core Construction: Paulownia/Poplar + Carbon Fiber & Fiberglass Laminate
Factory Recommended Line: -10.55 from center; 80.2 cm from tail
Mount Location: Recommended Line
Boots / Bindings: Tecnica Cochise Pro / Marker Kingpin 13
Test Locations: New Mexico, Chamonix, Colorado
Days Skied – Corvus: ~35; Corvus Freebird: ~15
Reviewer: 6’0″, 170-175 lbs[Editor’s Note: Our review was conducted on the 16/17 Corvus Freebird, which was not changed for 17/18.]
The Corvus is Black Crows’ directional, all-mountain freeride ski, designed to be powerful and versatile in all snow conditions. Two years ago, Black Crows decided to offer the “Corvus Freebird,” a lighter touring edition of the Corvus. Julien Regnier kept the shape of the Corvus, with a modified tail to easily mate to skins. (See Jonathan Ellsworth’s First Look at the Corvus Freebird.)
I’ve always valued a ski’s performance in steeps and at speed more than its weight, but I’ve also been spending at least as much time touring as I so skiing inbounds, and I liked the idea of making the up a little easier. So which would be the better choice — the Corvus, or the Corvus Freebird?
I ended up putting a good number of days in on both skis this past season, and here’s what I found…
Back when I was still debating which ski to go with, I began leaning toward the Freebird. But I then came across a Black Crows video staring Julien Regnier and a dude dressed in a white crow suit (not black??) reminiscent of scene out of Eyes Wide Shut, describing how they reduced weight from the Corvus: thin the bases and edges. So given that we run over a lot of rocks around Taos, I went with the regular version of the Corvus, mounted them up with Marker Kingpin 13s, and sentenced my touring partners to wait for me while skinning the backcountry on a heavier ski.
The first time out on the Corvus did not disappoint (well, except for my friends, who had to wait for me).
Immediately upon dropping on to our local quick lap that was pasted with 8-10” of fresh, I was treated to high-speed pow skiing, and could effortlessly transition between GS and slarved turns with just a slight shift in stance.
I spent a good portion of the 15/16 season on the Corvus / Kingpin setup, and was impressed by this touring setup’s versatility and ability to charge.
Note: Corvus + Kingpin 13 vs. Corvus + Look Pivot 14 WTR
For the record, it wasn’t till later that I realized that I’d been handcuffing the regular Corvus by putting an AT binding on them, even the best-skiing AT binding, the Kingpin 13.
I’ll fast-forward here a bit to the day when Jonathan sent me the Corvus Freebird to review. I took the Kingpins off the regular Corvus and put them on the Freebird, then mounted a Look Pivot 14 WTR binding to the Corvus. The Pivot 14 completely changed the behavior of the Corvus. While demanding a lot of control and input when mounted with AT bindings, the Looks provided the leverage needed to really let the Corvus flourish, and provided the power transmission to drive the ski in any condition. It’s worth keeping this in mind: we still love the Kingpin, but in terms of pure downhill performance, it is not the same as an excellent dedicated-alpine binding.
On the Pivot 14s, the Corvus still needed to be skied with power (even with the added leverage), but you are rewarded with even more stability at speed through big turns. In conversation with guides who have a quiver of Black Crows skis, they noted that they steer clients toward the Anima or Nocta, since the softer character of those two skis makes them as versatile as the Corvus in deep snow, but more forgiving for those who aren’t into the “game on always” mindset. Yet for a ski that is very good at high speed, the Corvus has a large sweet spot, and is only intolerant of full-on backseat skiing.
For the record, I don’t regret having mounted the regular Corvus with AT bindings. On Kingpins, I was still able to ski hard on the Corvus through inbounds and backcountry crap snow. But with a pair of Pivot 14 WTRs, I would say that the Corvus is as good as any comparable ski that I’ve been on (e.g., Dynastar Pro Rider XXL, Scott Punisher 110).
While it shares DNA with the Corvus, the Corvus Freebird is a different beast. It is billed as a powerful touring ski without compromise, but curiously, the prescribed conditions for its use are “perfect winter conditions.” As you will read later on, I think you can ditch the word, “perfect.” The Freebird is a relatively lightweight touring ski that is not twitchy and holds up pretty well at speed.
I skied the Freebird inbounds at Taos and in the surrounding backcountry, toured on them on Red Mountain Pass, Colorado, and took them to Chamonix last April to use as my single ski quiver, where they saw a wide variety of conditions.
Starting them out inbounds on hard bumps with some dust on top allowed me to immediately test the limits of this light ski in the conditions that it was not designed for. Initial impressions were positive for a touring ski with AT bindings, on the aforementioned dust on month-old bumps. The ski tracked surprisingly well for its weight, the tip rocker kept the skis from getting hung up, and the flex of the shovels allowed me to drive the shovels without overflexing them.
On smooth groomers, I was able to put the ski on edge at high speeds, showing off pinkie’s stability and responsiveness when under load. The Freebird allowed for a rapid transition from edge to edge, the weight reduction made them nimble between turns, and the skis felt much more comfortable when driving the shovels hard. It will be a recurring theme of this review: neither the Corvus nor the Corvus Freebird want to be skied from the backseat.
The next night’s storm provided us with a decent helping of fresh in the backcountry, offering a chance to get a feel for the Freebird in soft, consistent snow. Dropping into a chute that had been filled with 6 inches of untracked, thick snow, I found the ski to be stable and the tip rocker to be enough to allow me to comfortably drive the ski in a forward position without worrying about the tip diving. While the amount of tail rocker / splay is not extreme, it was enough to allow me to break the ski out of a carve and shed speed. I repeatedly found this to be true — both in deeper, cold snow as well as hot pow.
NEXT: Crust / Zipper Crust, Etc.