Handmade & Independent Ski Review 2011

Handmade & Indie Ski Demo Shootout at the PowMow Corral

Powder Mountain
As Big As It Gets

We were fortunate to get ahold of some Handmade and Independent skis that we could demo for a four day weekend at Powder Mountain, which is just about 50 miles north of Salt Lake City. In this demo, we didn’t have a test run set-up where we skied the same lines over and over and then compared each ski under somewhat of controlled conditions.

What we did do, was line the skis up and then ask who wanted to ski which ski. It is interesting as for our first ski choice,  most of us still gravitated to a ski with the most appealing topsheet, knowing full well that this wouldn’t make any difference in how the ski was actually going to perform.

Once on the mountain, we proceeded to switch skis amongst each other throughout the day. This made for some interesting exchanges (and bargaining) depending on the conditions of the run and the skis one was interested in.

Indie & Handmade Ski Demo
Indie & Handmade Ski Demo

Prior to our arrival to Powder Mountain, we lined up their guide service through the Adventure Center, which just happens to be located in a yurt ( +1 on the coolness factor of a yurt).

The underlying purpose behind this idea was that there is over 7,000 skiable acres at PowMow, which is larger than Vail. However, Vail has 34 lifts and Powder Mountain only has 7, so we figured there has to be some underskied and under the radar areas that was not readily apparent to PowMow first-timers.

So looking at the trailmaps and studying the lifts and runs each night was only going to get us so far. As it turned out, we made an excellent choice as our guides Dave & John took us right to the goods. No fussing, no bs. Just take us to your powder. Also, with this plan, no Type A’s in our group were going to battle it out and have the pleasure of leading us around an unknown behamoth because they have a certain “feeling” of where the best powder may be lurking. C’mon, the Powder Mountain Express is leaving now!

So our ski particpants are:

  • Bluehouse - local ski company out of Salt Lake City
  • PMGear – from Reno, NV where they handmake their skis
  • Ski Logik - Breckenridge, CO based and also produce their skis by hand
  • Surface Skis - also from SLC
  • Ramp - the newest independent ski manufacturer and locally operated in Park City, UT


We did have a few more manufacturer’s lined up for our demo test.  But with SIA being so close, we lost one company due to logistical issues and two to the success of the firms, as they had to cancel last minute due to the existing allocation of unmounted demo skis being re-purposed for retail sales. We were working hard with a  few other companies without representation where our testers were located wanted to participate, but between us, we just couldn’t make it work.

What the tester’s had to say about the skis:


Bluehouse Maestro 188

Bluehouse Maestro

Both our lighter and heavier testers liked the skis and their overall skiing enjoyment and like-ability of the ski really increased as they skied them more. Our big fella thought they skied like a 140cm on the groomers and yet skied like a 180-185cm in the light stuff as the rockered tips and tails could engage the snow.

Some thought that these Bluehouse’s were not super quick in the trees.  But theywere happy with how they turned in open lines and were also surprised at how well they performed in the crud.  When we were in the powder, the Maestro’s tips were always floating above the surface of the snow with their reverse sidecut tips knifing through the powder.


  • Ripped pow & crud equally well
  • Could hold an edge @ speed
  • Performs better the faster you ski
  • Rips powder, crud & even hardpack
  • Really floats through pow


  • Wasn’t crazy about using it to carve
  • Not as quick in the trees


Final Thoughts:

  • Powder specific
  • Held an edge on hardpack & fun in powder
  • Pleasant surprise and tip really knifed through the soft snow

Ski Logik Rave 185

Here’s a ski that truly lives up to its All Mountain name from a classic version of the term All Mountain. The Rave has a moderate flex that seemed to appeal to all of the Tester’s, who ski the East Coast, Colorado, Wyoming & the Sierra Nevada’s.

You want to carve some frontside courdaroy in the morning, then jump into the day or two after storm crud once it softens up and then spend the rest of the day scoping out whatever happens to be the best stuff on the mountain, this ski can do it. It is 92mm underfoot, so it can float you through some moderate amounts of new pow, but it has some camber, so it can also carve as evidenced by its 15m turn radius.

Ski Logik RavePros:

  • Does everything well
  • Stable, damp yet responsive
  • Saved my ass in an icy chute
  • Great All Mountain ski & can do anything


  • Would’ve liked a litte more edge grip on hardpack
  • After skiing it on & off for 3 days -> None

Final Thoughts:

  • Accomplishes what its designed to do.
  • Pleasure to ski 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 1 Tester didn’t really didn’t want to give it up (true)
  • I am buying them 🙂
  • Construction of this ski is beautiful & it is a GREAT All Mountain ski

Ramp WoodpeckerThe RAMp Woodpecker is a very quick turner and also handled the speed coming down a steep faces quite well. When the Woodpecker’s tips are really pressured, they responded and really set an edge and wanted to carve.

The workmanship on the the skis is top and they appear to be solidly built. They performed admirably in the soft snow, but were the skinniest skis of the test at 90mm in the mid-section, so they were at a disadvantage for comparison sake.

Where they did excel was on the groomed or corduroy where they seemed to be in their element. Get them off-piste and you were going to have to exert a little more energy to get them to perform.


  • Good edge hold on hard surfaces
  • Cruises through junk for narrow ski
  • Quick turner when pressured right


  • Need to give them a lot of “input”
  • Slow turner @ slow speeds

Final Thoughts:

  • Stable at speeds
  • Find its sweet spot and it will perform

PMGear Lhasa Pow 179 & 186

We skied the 179cm & 186cm PMGear Lhasa Pow Bro’s in up to a foot of snow and they both delivered nothing but big smiles. The 179cm version was an absolute jackrabbit in tight turns and trees. Think you are ready to turn? These skis are a step ahead and are already beginning their turn initiation.

You can be in a bowl and be floating some big, fast GS turns down through the powder, then suddenly put the brakes on and jump a line over and begin skiing through some tight brush or trees instantaneously.  When someone is skiing and you hear them cackling, giggling & laughing you know they are enjoying themselves like and really like the skis they are on. This is that ski.

Lhasa Pow FKNA
In case you didn't know Reno was in the USA

Expectedly, the 186cm version wasn’t quite as quick (but still rightfully quick in its category), but give you some extra length, so you could dial up the speed a couple notches above the 179cm, without compromising stability.

In deeper snow the 186’s held a nice float advantage over the smaller 179’s and were also preferred by the heavier skiers. The Lhasa Pow’s also comes in a 191 & 196cm

Even with demo bindings, the skis felt light, but also didn’t get knocked around in crud and chowder. Hardpack was a bit of a different story, but the Bro’s were still very manageable.

Who liked this ski? Pretty much everyone. Young, strong testers throwing big air, 165lb finesse skiers along with our larger testers who are over 6’3″ & 220lbs. These boards were some of the most coveted by the testers. Usually someone had to ask the existing skier more than once if they were willing to switch skis.

Our demo Lhasa skis were the cool 2011 models showing off their grayish black carbon fiber insides with clear topcoats. There is no mistake in how much carbon is used in each pair of these Bro’s.

  • Fast in powder & crud. Really fun when you stay forward.
  • Do anything ski. Quickest powder ski I’ve ever been on.
  • Turns quicker than a jackrabbit.
  • Made me giggle
  • Turned well both short & long turns
  • Great in powder
  • Sleek looking & feeling


  • Get in the backseat & you can get bucked
  • Not much
  • Don’t expect too much on hardpack
  • No cons for me thank you

Final Thoughts:

  • Fun powder ski that doesn’t forgive a slacker
  • Effortless turning
  • Makes powder sheer joy
  • Wanted to take these home

Surface Live Life Skullcandy 191

The Surface Live Life’s handled on soft days whatever the mountain could throw at it, even landing the biggest airs. Our strong, young big air tester gave it his nod of approval as did our “older” and not quite as big air tester.

As wide as they are underfoot (120mm), I was impressed with how quickly they could turn and were quite playful. Additionally, with a wide shovel of 156mm and not having a tapered tip like the previously reviewed Bluehouse Maestro, the Live Life’s were not hooky in the soft stuff. The tapered tail of 130mm released in the fluff so you could smear & slarve easily. Needing to get down the hill quickly is not a problem with this ski as it can really bomb the run.

With the camber underfoot, I thought it had more than adequate grip on the hardpack making for an excellent all around ski that holds its own on the slicker surfaces and floats in the powder with its rockered tip. They alsoSurface Live Life Skullcandy have a large sweet spot so you don’t have to worry if you are perfectly balanced or precise in your boot pressure for turn initiation. I am 165lbs and these Surface’s were quite forgiving and I never had any issues about getting in the backseat and then being able to recover.

You will notice in the comments below that the Tester’s either really liked the Life Life’s or weren’t as impressed with them on anything but the soft stuff. I attribute this to a set of skis that had seen a fair amount demo days and maybe didn’t have a proper tune.

Since not all testers skied the Live Life’s on a soft day or in the powder, the comments reflect what day they were on these. I skied on them in a variety of conditions including hardpack and still think the Surface Live Life’s are definitely worth a look and demo if you are interested in an All Mountain – Big Mountain ski.


  • Nimble in any soft conditions
  • Ready set turn, ready set turn.
  • This ski didn’t miss a turn
  • Stomps big air
  • Great powder & crud bomber.
  • Ready to bump & jump


  • Icy chutes
  • Not versatile enough
  • Had trouble holding an edge on hardpack

Final Thoughts:

  • Can do Big Mountain ski.
  • I want just one more run on these!
  • Fav air ski of the demo
  • Ski this on a powder day & not after a good freeze

Ski Logik Howitzer 188:

The Howitzer’s could be your fat ski in a two ski quiver and you’d have a lot coverage as this ski will float you in all but the biggest days. Another wide body Big Mountain ski that can also do some double-duty as an All Mountain or even a frontside ski if conditions demand it.
Ski Logik HowitzerAs most of our Tester’s are from the Rockies and the West, these skis were one of the top choices as they are made for these types conditions. The Howitzer’s have an even flex from tip to tail and had the Ski Logik dampness feel to them.
I wouldn’t call them snappy, but they were very responsive and made adequately quick turns for this big of ski. No issues with taking them in the trees or probably even through the bumps (wasn’t able to do this while demo’ing), although you wouldn’t want to spend too much time in the zipper line.
I was able to ski these on a harpack day and came away happily impressed with their edgehold. It didn’t lock on like a carving ski, but name one Big Mountain ski that does.
Overall, these were one of the Tester’s favorites and really didn’t have any real dificiencies. The Howitzer’s excel in going fast and also cruising through any fluff. Most of the time crud wasn’t an issue, as the early rise tip just floated over and smoothed out the ride.
  • Excellent edge hold for a 110mm underfoot
  • Easy to ski
  • Can sail through powder
  • Light & responsive
  • Likes powder & crud
  • Very solid
  • Craftmanship
  • Easy to control
  • Stable but also quick turning
  • I had to switch with someone else
  • Too light in the crud. Not enough of a sierra cement bulldozer (Heavy Tester)
  • Downsize for more responiveness (Lighter Tester)
Final Thoughts:
  • The fat ski in your 2 ski quiver
  • Fun on both the fresh & hardpack
  • Performed well, but not great
  • Def a Big Mountain ski & very stable
  • Great in powder