Thursday, 17 August 2017

Whitedot R.98 review

Last winter those very nice folks at Whitedot Skis sent a pair of shiny R.98 skis in my direction and having spent the best part of the winter on them here (finally) is a review.

First a bit of tester information:

Height: 190cm (6'2"), weight: 83Kg.
Skiing style: reasonably aggressive, 20+ years as a professional ski coach & ski mountaineer.
Testing conditions: the skis were skied in pretty much every snow condition imaginable, from deep cold powder to wet post-rain 'heavy', spring snow, hard-pack (and even the occasional bit of piste...).

Dimensions/stats: length: 185cm, width: 128 - 98 - 109, nominal radius: 27m, weight: 1990g per ski.
Shape/camber/rocker: minimal camber, gentle tip rocker.
Mounting: the skis were mounted with Marker Kingpins on the manufacturer recommended boot centre.

Skiing to the sea in Lofoten

I was very much looking forward to getting onto the R.98s as the Ranger Carbonlite (precursor to the R.98s big brother the R.108) has for several years been my 'go-to' touring ski, but is definitely a little on the wide side for some conditions.
On an aesthetic side the R.98s have the classic 'Whitedot' look - instantly recognisable with the squared tip, 'dotty' top sheet and the aluminium tail piece. Mounted with Marker Kingpin bindings the single ski + binding combination came out at 2.5Kg, a perfectly acceptable weight for all but the biggest of days ski mountaineering.

Taking the R.98s for a quick blast down the 'Svolvaer Mallory" (Bl├ątindrenna) on Lofoten

Uphill the ski has great torsional rigidity and edge hold even on steep firm skin tracks and (combined with a well-cut skin) felt very secure. The gentle sidecut profile definitely has a part to play in this as it ensures edge contact along the full length of the ski, even while skinning concave gullies. The tail profile (concave) is great for providing a really secure attachment point for tail clips (although many people do without these I am a big fan). One point to be aware of is the squared off profile of the tip - most skin attachments will work with this (I mostly use Black Diamond Glidelite Mix or Ultralight skins and the tip loops are fine) but worth checking before cutting skins...

Downhill the ski was everything I had hoped for: the combination of a 98mm waist and a gentle sidecut profile/long turn radius is the perfect combination providing a stable ski that will float well in all but the very deepest/heaviest of snows, yet still have loads of grip and great edge hold when you want to go fast or when things are getting steep and firm. The long radius also stops the tip from being hooky or feeling 'twitchy', an all too common problem with todays carvy skis, and the skis are very easy to skid through the end of a turn - a crucial point to be able to ski steep tight lines with ease and control. Flex along the length is progressive, finding a good balance between damping out the lumps and bumps and pushing back when loaded up for a responsive feel when going for performance.

Heading to a secret line in the Wild West of Lofoten

In summary: as near to the perfect all-rounder for off-piste, touring and ski-mountaineering as you will get. Enough float for deep, soft days, loads of grip for firm snow/high speed/buttock-clenching moments. Enough sidecut to help the turn without making the tip twitchy. If you are really looking to save grams then go for the Carbonlite version and pair with a superlight pin binding, but the 'standard' model has a great feel to it and is worth the extra weight!

The R.98s in their natural environment!