REVIEWS AND TESTS
Ski Tests & Reviews
Review: Praxis Concept 177cm 2011-2012
139-117-125mm, 177cm R=23m
(click images for larger versions)
Incline Village, NV 89451
Keith O'Meara is one of the pioneers in innovative, small-brand ski manufacturing, creating such classics as the Praxis Powder, Praxis Freeride and other models highly sought-after by a nearly cult-like following of enthusiastic skiers. Keith's skis are highly regarded and offer a famous build quality and durability, along with performance and feel the loyal buyers crave and rave about.
Suggested Retail Price (MSRP):
My Rating (with comments): (1="get me off these things"->10="I have to own a pair")
9-10 for 3D and variable snow. 7-8 for pure hardpack
The Praxis Concept has several design elements which have never really been combined in a ski before, making it unusual and innovative . Keith O'Meara has created a ski with what he calls "Compound Camber" (rocker-camber-rocker-camber-rocker) and "Tri-Cut sidecut " (reverse sidecut underfoot, with traditional hour-glass sidecut in the forebody and tail section. )The result is a ski with a remarkably wide range of excellent behavior and capabilities in many kinds of snow and terrain, along with an effective\ hard-snow behavior. The bottom line is the Praxis Concept is probably one of the best "one-ski-for-varied-snow" skis you can find (like the DPS Wailer RP112, but with a different personality since it prefers a punchy direction change on hard-snow rather than “lay-it-over-and-make-a-GS-turn” technique due to its innovative design. Feels like it has a tighter turn radius than its 23m specification would indicate. Extremely maneuverable in tight situations. Durable and high-performance, made by one of the legends of ski building in the U.S.A. Since the DPS Wailer 112RP is very similar dimensionally, and may appeal to the same type of skier and conditions if you are looking for a more stout platform. Below are some photos show both skis for comparison (plus, I was skiing both on some of the same days).
Technical Ski Data:
- Compound Camber (rocker-camber-rocker-camber-rocker)
- Tri-Cut sidecut (reverse sidecut underfoot)
- 4001 sintered base
- UHMW polyethylene orbicular sidewalls
- Basswood & Ash vertical laminate wood core
- 2.2mm edges with full wrap tip and tail
- Rubberized epoxy
- 22 oz. triaxial fiberglass
- Nylon top sheet.
- VDS Rubber damping around the skis entire Perimeter
- Perforated VDS Rubber binding zone;
This pair is mouned "on-the-dot" as recommended by Keith O'Meara.
(data chart from PraxisSkis.com website 2012) - Click for larger version
Superb fit and finish, with a quality-built look and feel. Relatively soft forebody and moderate flex throughout the mid and tail sections. Tatoo-art topsheet graphic that grows on you the more you look at it (pure black is available). Bi-color sidewalls. Has a damp feel by hand. Beefy 2.2mm edges fully-wrapped around the entire ski. Relatively subtle "compound camber" zones (camber in front and behind the foot - subtle early rise tip and tail with nearly-flat underfoot area - see pics), not as profound as some prototypes seen around the western US the last two seasons. Gives the impression of a high-performance ski for enthusiasts, but not intimidating at all. Tri-cut sidecut has tapered tip and tail, a recognizable sidecut shape, with a reverse sidecut underfoot. This translates into a ski with a distinctive 3-point contact when tipped on-edge on a firm surface (see pics). The Praxis Concept is definitely a relatively exotic mix of rocker-camber-rocker-camber-rocker base profile, with three-point edge contact with a "wide-underfoot" reverse-sidecut geometry. Keith O'Meara is thinking outside the box again. It begs you to get it on snow and see how it handles.
Eastern boilerplate, ice, hardpack, packed powder, granular snow, rain crust, crud and knee-deep, dry fluff powder, trees. Minor and major windbuff & drifts....”wild snow”, “cut-up snow” conditions and fluff.
The first few days on the Concepts were on good, old-fashioned Eastern boilerplate (bounce a bowling ball on it) and hardpack with no real snow anywhere in sight. Most surfaces were hard enough to leave no trace as you skied across them. At slow speeds, the Concepts felt fairly grippy for a 115+-mm underfoot, but very easy edge-to-edge, and fairly damp. As soon as I got them up to a carving pace and rolled them over, staying centered underfoot with a traditional GS-turn technique, they immediately signaled they preferred a “punch-and-go” technique to change direction on the hard surface, and change directions quickly they did. This is different than any other ski with simlar dimensions I've tried, but you quickly learn that you don't ski this untraditional design in a traditional way on boilerplate surfaces. If you try to ski the Concepts with an ex-racer's carving technique, you don't get what you expect. If you shift your bias to ski the front of the ski or the back of the ski, you get a remarkably secure grip and bite to change your direction as desired, with no chatter, slip, smear or wimpy feel. If you stand square and do punchy turns to get the ski to flex and bite, you get quick direction changes. If you do what Early-ups.com describes as "bump skier turns", the Concepts bite and go where you point them. On steeper, hard terrain, the Concepts are secure and give a reliable platform underfoot if you avoid the traditional roll-em-and-ride-em" technique and get your focus up front or in the rear as needed. The torsional stability is excellent and you can put plenty of pressure and tension into them with great feedback and response. I quickly found I had superb confidence with the Praxis Concepts anywhere I pointed them. Some old-school ex-racers who tried the Concepts found that a slalom-type turn worked quickly and securely, while the GS-type turn on hardest surfaces caused the Concepts to send feedback to the pilot asking to be pressured differently. For punchy, quick directional changes, stand square, pressure the ski quickly in the forebody or tail and punch yourself into a new line. For more cruise-like turns, apply pressure to the forebody or tail section and hold to maintain a new line. (major pressure directly underfoot is not the answer since you are riding reverse-sidecut underfoot – but it's that reverse sidecut underfoot that makes the selectively pivoting, slarvy behavior so addicting in the Concepts in tight terrain). I found you choose the forebody cruise section or the tail cruise section depending on the steepness and terrain type you're cruising on. For tight trees, bumpy terrain or wacked-out cruddy surfaces, just punch-and-go...instant directional change with surprisingly little effort, and that's fun.
The Praxis Concepts are not a fluffy, noodly 115+-mm ski, but have a sports-car feel rather than a commuter-car feel. At high speeds on hardpack, you get a heightened sensitivity to the reverse sidecut and the ski can feel “darty”, as the cambered forebody in front of your foot pulls you in a new direction or cambered tail behind your heel pushes you in a new direction. Again, focus on the front or focus on the tail, and the sensation goes away. When you ride the center of the Concepts on hardpack, you are riding the reverse-sidecut section, and the forebody and tail are waiting to engage and do their thing. I am sure the exaggerated prototypes (see the EarlyUps.com photo) had a really "interesting" behavior, and Keith obviously toned it down to finally end up with the current design, which works really, really well.
As soon as I got the Concepts "into" snow at least sidewall-deep, the skis's personality shined as super responsive and easy to turn in short or long radii, with a sporty, fun feel and a remarkable ability to hold a line through variable surface conditions at different pressure levels without deflection or complaint. You can really load the Concepts up and get a fun rebound response, giving them the feel of a jack rabbit in the tight woods, able to bound left and right over obstacles and junk as needed. The sporty behavior is in no way nervous-feeling, but damped, controlled and accurate. That's addicting.
What was interesting after a couple days in different conditions was the feel of being able to smear sideways, scrub speed, slarve, surf, freight-train or waddle your way through powder or junk on demand. The Praxis Concept has a full variety of turn types in its toolbox, not limited to just a handful like some skis. The Concepts are not a "hard charger" ski for huge mountains and intense drops and warp-speeds, but more practical for all-terrain, all-condition scenarios, and the whole ski is a big sweet spot if the snow is at least a few centimeters deep. The Concept has an interesting combination of being able to cruise through the windbuff, crud and junk just fine while being remarkably nimble for its size in the tight conditions, quickly pivoting as needed without the slightest hint of balkiness or bulkiness. After a few days skiing them in different conditions, the Concepts now always get loaded into the car no matter where I'm going, or whatever the snow looks like. If there are boilerplate conditions, I bring a carving ski. If it's anything else, the Concepts get pulled out. I think Keith has designed a really versatile, fun, sporty ski in the 115mm+-waist category with a remarkably wide set of excellent behaviors in variable snow conditions. I would buy them again (maybe in the longer size for western conditions).
Really fun, with porpoise-up, porpoise-down movements, surfing on-demand, excellent sideways slides above and below the surface. Surprisingly light feeling in powder. Never hooky. Predictable and reliable. Did I mention "fun"?
Excellent ability to cut through or surf above nearly any variable, uneven or inconsistent surface types. As EarlyUps.com reported, the Praxis Concept is an excellent choice for "wild snow" conditions. Instills confidence underfoot, no matter what kind of junk is in front of you. Due to its mild rocker profile, the Concept is not prone to a naturally "surfy" feel, nor "head-down crud cutter" handling, but something in-between, which is really practical for unpredictable surfaces.
Excellent bite and vibration dampening. Likes to have its forebody or tail driven in a punchy or commanding style rather than "rolled-over-and-ridden" carving style (due to the reverse sidecut immediately underfoot and the combo-camber design). Could cause "traditional carving skiers" to change their technique on real cueball surfaces as they figure out that this innovative shape prefers a different behavior. Remarkable bite once you get the feel for it. It takes about 15 minutes to get your head around it, then you're all set.
Remarkably nimble directional changes in nearly any snow condition, making it one of my favorites in the trees. Pivoty when you want it, stable platform when you need it. Scrubs speed quickly and efficiently without feeling like you're "throwing 'em sideways" to avoid obstacles. Pivots on semi-submerged downed tree trunks really well! Good brush-crusher.
Responsive and compliant in the bumps for a ski its size, but not mushy and noodly. Hit the bumps square, and it will absorb, but only up to a point, then it wants to get you up and on-top to surf the apexes until you steer them back down into the troughs. Quick pivots on the tops of bumps when needed.
Analogies: (this ski is like...)
A great pair of trail-running shoes you grab for nearly any condition, anywhere...knowing that a pure racing flat is the better choice for your 5k-10k pavement pounding.
Things You Would Change About This Ski:
Short Answer When Someone Asks "What Do You Think About This Ski?":
Awesome ski for nearly any natural snow condition, good or bad. Versatile with a huge performance envelope. Not for high-speed warping or huge-mountain intensity due to its responsive, pivoty nature at eye-watering speeds and somewhat softer flex for all-terrain compliance.
Advice To People Considering This Ski:
Be prepared to adopt a different technique on boilerplate surfaces than you're used to, especially if you're an ex-racer. You don't just "roll-it-and-ride-it" into a carving mode, but when punched fore or aft, it has more bite on hardpack than nearly any ski its size. Definitely check it out. It's a design that works really well and could become your favorite all-terrain 115+-mm ski.
Self-Description of Skiing Style, Ability, Experience, Preferences:
5' 11", 180 lbs. 52 year-old expert, "old-style" race inspired, "foot steerer" with fairly sensitive edging feel. Loves to hold long arcs with lots of pressure on the downhill ski (you know the type), but also loves the feel of both skis on-edge leaving tiny railroad track edge tracks. More a finesse skier than muscle-skier. Loves powder when it's not tracked out. Trees and odd terrain angles are fun.
Pics: (click images for larger versions)
Tail camber section
Forebody camber section
Praxis Concept (L) and DPS Wailer 112RP (R)
Praxis Concept (L) and DPS Wailer 112RP (R) from the rear
Praxis Concept (R) and DPS Wailer 112RP (L) from the front
EarlyUps has an informative review of the 187cm Praxis Concept:
Reposted ExoticSkis.com Praxis 2011-2012 Concept review.
There is a review of the 2012-2013 Praxis Concepts over at BlisterGearReview...
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