Alpine touring skis have evolved dramatically as more and more users flock to the backcountry. With the added number of skiers riding, we are bound to see more specific equipment. This is good news for us long-time AT-ers; we’ve figured out what works for us and can recognize a winner when we see one.
Five years ago a 90mm waisted touring ski was considered wide. It had a traditional camber construction and advanced technique to ride in powder was required. Wanting a wider plank required you to use a downhill ski, resulting an extra three pounds or more on to your feet. There is no debating that a wider ski with an early rise tip has changed the landscape of skiing. It has had a great impact on the touring ski as we seek the holy trinity of ski touring skis in coastal BC: Control, Weight and Width. It is a balance that each of us seek to find for our own style and terrain. The decision of what ski fits that bill is mostly personal preference but the decision criteria is very similar.
I have tried a lot of different skis over the years but I have always been partial to G3 with the thought that a ski designed in my backyard will likely perform well in the conditions I see on a regular basis. Having skied the Highball, Manhattan, Infidel, and Saint, a point of reference to compare the District is well formed.
Control is not only a downhill function. The wider the ski the harder it is to keep straight on an icy skin track. Therefore a balance between the uphill capability of a ski and its downhill prowess (when it comes to width) is required. The District though slightly wider than my last year’s ski (Manhattan) feels no different uphill. The change comes on the control of the ski on the down. The ski is very stable in deep powder but powers through crud and chopped powder in the resort. This is largely due to the increased tip rise over previous G3 iterations. I was surprised at the performance on groomed slopes and the ability of the ski to hold an edge. This is often a challenge of wider planks with larger side cut radius’ as they often cannot make effective short, sharp turns on groomed terrain.
The District excels in deeper snow. Which is not surprising considering its 112mm width underfoot. The wider platform helps float on top of the snow rather than plummet below, which helps to maintain a balanced and aggressive position. This does make it harder to blast snow into your face if you are into that sort of thing. However the slightly upturned tail does help compensate for our bad technique when you get into the back seat and helps complete the turn regardless.
Width and overall size of the ski make a difference on the ability to hover and float in all conditions. With blower powder conditions, a supportive base isn’t as critical to stay on top of the snow. Wet and heavy coastal snow (which I ride most often), means the deeper you go, often the harder it is to turn requiring more leg lift. Also, the wider the ski, the more difficult it is to side-hill on the skin track. Ask any splitboarder how they like an icy traverse using their extremely wide planks. The same can be said about a touring ski that is too wide. The District finds that balance of width for flotation but it right on the cusp of control for traversing. Any wider and you might notice some degradation in side-hill performance.
Sitting at a little of 8lbs for the pair, The District isn’t a pig but it isn’t the lightest ski in its class on the market. With the never ending race for the lightest ski, there is something to be said about a ski with a some feeling of stability derived from weight. When paired with a tech compatible binding, the District can become your everything-you-need ski. The ski weight is reasonable without resorting to exotic carbon materials, keeping the price in line with any mainstream manufacturer.
The District is stiff, noticeably stiffer than the Manhattan which was one of the best G3 skis ever. This could present a problem to those which love making short and snappy turns. When the throttle is punched, both on or off piste, the stiffness creates a ski that is both responsive and confidence inspiring. Modern skis with generous amounts of tip and tail rocker can feel like they fold when weighted heavily such as in a full drift in deep snow. So the added stiffness is a welcomed feature to allow sensitive and confident drifting in and out of turns. (If only to get that snow up in your face!)
It wasn’t until I went back to riding the Manhattan that I realized how much the District had helped my skiing. To qualify that, the Manhattan was a game changer for me these last two years and I wanted to go back and give its due. One run was all I needed to realize that they would now be my rock skis. Who would have thought 4mm would make that much difference. As it turns out, adding that 4mm with lots of tip and tail rocker on a stiff platform, makes for a Ferrari that loves to be driven. So with many options out in the market, give the District a look because it is most definitely in the league with the big boys.
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