The Great American Ski Test: Part III (Jim Tucker)
Published on Wednesday, November 6, 2013 in News & Updates, Snowmobile Tech
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Has a new king been crowned or is the Simmons ski still at the top of the heap? Read on loyal followers and you will soon find out what is the hot set-up this year.

To recap, we have reviewed the SLP Straight Line Tracking, Simmons original Flexi-Ski and the C&A RZ Razors. We know that the Simmons reign supreme in this writer’s eyes for its cornering precision, minimal darting and precise tracking. A tough act to follow, indeed.

The Great American Ski Test: Part I

The Great American Ski Test: Part II

Now for the new kid on the block, the Curve XS Ski System made by Curve Industries, with a base price of $368. I had seen these skis on the trails and heard good feedback from riders, I just knew I had to get my hands on a pair. A quick call to the head honchos in upper New York and shortly thereafter a package arrived with Curve skis inside.

Right out of the box I noticed the curvature to the length of the skis, much like shape skis which revolutionized downhill skiing. Would the precise turning of downhill skis transfer to the snowmobile world? We shall see.

Beefy and robust, with “Tivar” embossed in raised letters, you know right away these curved skis mean business. They weigh in at a svelt 8.1 pounds and have space for one carbide runner. The Curve is a system of pieces that make up a unique ski. There is an optional Thruster for soft or deep snow that bolts to the outside of each ski, protruding beyond the edge like a little wing. I’m a groomed trail rider so the Thrusters weren’t tested, but the Leading Edge plate was installed right away. The Leading Edge is a small angular block that bolts to the underside of the ski in front of the carbide. The design prevents the ski from diving into ruts made by other skis and eliminates something called deceleration tracking.

Installing the skis on my Cat was a snap and by far the easiest to date. Perhaps it’s because I’ve done it so many times. The life of a tester is not easy you know! Straightaway I noticed how easy it was to get on and off the trailer. Not quite sure why, but the single runner and keel design may have something to do with this very pleasant trait.

After unloading, I hit the trail. Right off the bat I noticed how easy it was to turn at walking speeds. These skis were also easy to maneuver while backing up, and short-slow speed adjustments for trail hazards produced no measurable seat-of-the-pants bad manners. Nice!

My heart was pounding as I hit the throttle in anxious anticipation of what I thought these skis would be capable of. I had no way of knowing which way this test would go, thumbs up or thumbs down, but there I was, in the cold north, eagerly awaiting the hands-on results of the Great American Ski Test!

As speed picked up I discovered that the skis really tracked well around corners. I found myself going a little too fast but couldn’t help it as they inspired confidence. Funny how these things work. When it feels right you know it straightaway. I said to myself, “Slow down, get control of yourself, there will be a time and place to turn the heat up.” Safety instructors from various disciplines had drilled into my head that overconfidence and unfamiliarity with new equipment is a recipe for disaster. ‘Nuff said there.

The skis darted some and I wondered if a slight ski alignment tweak could fix it. A quick toe out adjustment of 1/4 inch, and the problem got measurably better. After lunch I went out again to explore more of the confidence-inspiring cornering, with no wobbles, miscues or off trail excursions. These are not full-blown race skis but are darn close in cornering precision. The C&A’s take that title, but if you purchase the Curves you would not be embarrassed around any corner that is white!

Riding down the trail I realized I had to spin around after missing a trailhead. As with most trails, safe places to turn around are few and far between. I wanted to test the skis off-trail and here was an opportunity. Going off the groomed surface I braced myself for some bogging due to the deep snow, thinking I may even get stuck. For those of you that don’t know, I ride a Arctic Cat four-stroke, and that is one sled you do not want to get stuck. Out in the deep, I was pleasantly surprised; there were no ill effects whatsoever, it just glided along like nothing ever happened. I suspect the curved ski shape helped here as the leading and trailing edges are wider than the waist of the ski. Bonus!

If you do have to move the skis by hand, the loops are not so ergonomic. They may hurt your hands, but the loops are made to last and might have some effect on how the front of the ski absorbs trail junk and shock. Perhaps a little redesign may be in order here, but not a big deal.

So, are the Simmons dethroned? Let’s do a rundown. The original Simmons Flexi-Ski has very precise cornering, planes up on the snow above 25 mph, offers easy steering, cool looks and a tremendous amount of shock absorption. On the downside, they sink a little bit off trail, seem to follow other dual carbide ski tracks and are a bit harder to turn at walking speeds and turnarounds. They may be expensive but with zero push and an attitude that holds a line with an iron fist, they are worth it.

For absolute zero darting and good grip in the corners, it’s the SLP Straight Line Tracking, hands down. Thumbs up here for a lightweight and thoughtful design. A slight push in the corners, but again, most riders would never notice. Limited somewhat in runner choices but the ski just works.

The C&A RZ Razors track well, are a hardy ski and corner better than the SLP’s, but despite adjustments, dart the most of all. Cool factor is that they’re following in the footsteps of racy big brother, the C&A Pros. Definitely a good choice for the hard core, aggressive, rider, although the handlebar push/pull technique is needed to really get the most out of these boards.

With its somewhat radical look, easy steering at any speed, ultra-precise cornering, no push, very minimal darting and excellent off trail manners, the Curve XS gets my vote as the best all-around trail ski. Clicking off the miles is just a pure delight with these boards. The leading edge and keel shape really do tone down the darting and virtually eliminate deceleration darting. Rutted trails are no problem as this ski seems to make its own path. I think the flared tail is responsible for some of the precise cornering. The Curves are not wiry and do not wear you out after a two-hundred-mile day, like some others I’ve tried. When you let off the throttle the ski seems to glide somewhat easier than the others, much like adding ski wax to downhill skis. Not quite sure how they pulled that one off, but I like it anyways.

A new king is crowned! How long will it take for the others to catch and surpass? Stay tuned! Seriously, any of the above skis would be an excellent choice for all the reasons stated above and keep in mind that ski behavior varies from snowmobile to snowmobile. The best thing about aftermarket skis is that you can take them off when you trade in your ride and then slap ’em on the new buggy! Win, win! Next up: Duraflex ice scratchers. Do they work?

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