REVIEWS AND TESTS
Ski Tests & Reviews
Zero Sten 164cm (2020-2021)
Zero Sten (2020-2021)
131-77-111 r=12 @ 164cm
Via Torriani 17/a,
Suggested Retail Price (MSRP):
All mountain carver
Rating (with comments):
(1="get me off these things"->10="I have to own a pair")
8-9 packed groomer carving
7 crud and mixed surface conditions
Zero Skis was founded in Como, Italy in 2011 by Claudio Valsecchi and Andrea Bonacina. They have applied high-quality, artisan topsheets containing exotic wood veneers, gold leaf, gemstones and layers of slate and other materials to create a series of customized, high-end skis to appeal to the luxury sector of the World ski market. Their dedication to craftsmanship and artistry brings artful designs to high performance carving skis to satisfy expert skiers looking for beauty as well as athletic personality in their skis. Zero's marketing efforts are aimed squarely at the fashion/luxury segment.
"Sten are all-round skis, entirely covered with natural slate, a
stone which gives a look of elegance and aggressiveness.
Have you ever thought about skis made in stone? We have created them. With a pure and minimal design, Sten are allround skis, wholly covered in stone. A very thin sheet of natural slate gives a decisive and aggressive look.
Sten are skis characterized by the application of a very thin layer of natural slate (1mm), a stone that originated 200 million years ago, which is applied on the structure of the skis through a special matrix.
Sten's structure is the classic sandwich composition, lightened through the use of lightwood core, which helps compensating the negligible weight of natural slate of 2.2 gr / sqm. The application of this material does not affect in any way the structural characteristics but improves the strength of the surface that is the most exposed to stress and impacts."
"Design, precision hand crafting, pure materials, technical experience and passion for details. This is Zero. Zero brings a new concept and style of skiing where technology and design come together to create something precious and unique. Personalized and customizable 100% in all aspects of design and structure, each Zero ski has its own history.
Exclusively made from Italian design, Zero workshop is located in the heart of the Alps; where for generations skiing has not only been a sport, but a profession and a passion as well.
Zero philosophy consists in creating products that matches the needs of any single skier, and for this reason, every production is followed together with the client in any moment of its realization. The objective is to create a ski which satisfies the technical and esthetic requirements of the customer, in order to create a unique piece of craftsmanship, which will endure in time."
- Website - 2020
Technical Ski Data:
Bindings and Boots Used:
Tyrolia PowerRail PRD 12 adjustable bindings
Salomon S-Max 130 Carbon boots.
This was our first personal encounter with a ski finished with a topsheet of actual stone (slate in this case). The first impression is "...Wow...those are so cool....", followed by "...wait a minute...they must weigh a ton....", followed by astonishment when you pick up the skis and realize they weigh no more than a normal set of frontside carving skis. (We didn't have our scale on the trip to Italy, so we don't have the exact weights of each ski.) You constantly give-in to the temptation to run your fingers over the surface texture of the slate topsheet over and over again, marveling at the ability of the artist to not only slice, but secure slate to the body of a ski.
Once you convince yourself the slate topsheet is really ready to be ignored (it never is...), you look at the rest of the ski, which demonstrates a very high-quality, professional construction. Zero has utilized a solid, superb-quality ski upon which to layer its artistic topsheet. Fit and finish are superb, and even with this test pair being put into service as demo/test skis prior to our receiving them, they were essentialy flawless except for some minor chipping of the slate in some spots. The flex is moderate throughout the ski, with solid torsional strength and moderately energetic rebound when flexed. The ski feels damp and essentially immune to vibration when you handle it. The geometry looks like a traditional Euro-carver with a sub-12m radius at 77mm underfoot, so it looks like it wants to lay down tracks on packed surfaces, yet has enough width in the shovel and tail to avoid intense submarine behavior in 3-dimensional snow surfaces.
Fresh, dry natural powder (15cm ~ 6 inches),skied-out packed-powder, corduroy, soft-packed and hard-packed groomers, no boilerplate surfaces.
The Zero Sten is a dead-quiet, stable, solid frontside carver hovering in the space between all-mountain recreational carver and race-carver categories. It craves being tipped-on-edge and pressured through a turn on packed surfaces where it delivers a very accurate, super-stable ride through its short-radius arc with authority and confidence. The ski is essentially immune to vibrations, and while it may or may not be due to the dampening quality of the stone (slate) topsheet, delivers a classicaly grippy, confidence-inspring ride.
The Sten loves to ride within its design radius, and if pressed to create an arc of a tighter radii than it naturally delivers, can resist a bit and protest underfoot, letting you know it prefers to be opened-up a little more than you're asking. You can force it into a tighter, j-turn behavior with a quick stomp under tight pressure, and it delivers a new trajectory quickly. If you let it ride back into its natural habitat radius, it immediately lets you know it's happy and content to take that turn shape with a hint of pressure or an intense load...letting intermediate skiers or high-energy experts equally happy and secure.
This is a ski that likes its design radius and wants to stay there in its sweet spot where it delivers a solidly secure ride with impeccable behaviors. The Sten has an upper speed limit and can feel a bit darty at GS-like speeds and above, but can run flat at speed fairly well without twitchy behaviors.
Crud and 3-D surface conditions show the Sten to be happier on-piste since it yields a slightly cumbersome feel when submerged "in" snow instead of "on top" of snow. It can navigate fresh conditions perfectly well, but with the availability of rockered all-mountain skis allowing soft-snow performance with little skier effort, the Sten remains true to its carving-ski roots and prefers groomed conditions to 3-dimensional snow.
Overall, the Sten is a classic frontside piste carver with a fairly wide band of performance available to advancing intermediates to expert carving fanatics. It's undeniable exotic look with the slate topsheet is ideal for people who want a unique and artistic statement. Zero has delivered a high-performance, all-mountain carver with a rare and stunning slate topsheet. Nice work.
Hardpack and Boilerplate:
The Sten lives to carve arcs into packed surfaces, and does so with a quiet authority. It does not demand the level of attention of a race ski, but does not reward lazy technique on firm surfaces either. Simply stand centered on it, roll it on-edge and pressure your way through the turn, increasing into the center of the arc and releasing it off the tail...repeat...repeat... The Sten is quick, but never nervous. It only gets a bit darty on hard surfaces at high speeds unsuitable for a 12m radius ski...the same as any short-radius carver. Vibrations are non-existent, and the feel is quiet and solid underfoot, showing the feel of a metal-infused ski. Some of this feel may be due to the slate topsheet, but without an A-B comparison between a regular topsheet version and the Sten version...it's hard to say. We did not get a chance to try the Sten on rock-hard surfaces.
Mixed Surface & Variable Conditions:
The relatively narrow (77mm) midsection and slightly stiff flex of the Sten produces a somewhat balky feel in crud or cut-up powder conditions where the body sinks below the surface. The tracking behavior is rock-solid and purely directional since the Sten is a carving ski at heart and its damp character and strong edgehold delivers an authoritative cut through the mixed surface materials without any deflection or instability. There is no real "surfy" feel to the Sten in mixed conditions, but it will track solidly in the desired direction and ignore any changes in snow conditions in its path. It takes a bit of unweighting to get a directional change in 3D conditions unless you carve your turn into the surface, but since the Sten has some good spunky character, it can pop into a new turn in mixed conditions when needed. The Sten inspires confidence in mixed conditions, but if you want a surfy feel, look to another ski design with rockered geometry.
We took the Sten on some laps in 8-12 inches of fresh snow, but its narrow body and somewhat stiff flex pattern made it feel like a balky race-like ski, so we parked it until the next day when the groomers had manicured the surface into a packed surface.
Turn Initiation, Apex & Finish:
The Sten initiates turns with a simple tip of the ski on-edge. The forebody engages the snow quickly, drawing you into a 12 meter turn automatically, allowing you to finish the turn with a quick weight of the tail or a tip of the ski in the opposite direction. Advancing intermediates will get the feel of their first carving experience with a ski like the Sten, and they'll be hooked. The apex of the Sten's arc can be held tightly in a short or longer arc with a bit of hesitation or increased pressure, making adjustments mid-turn easy and intuitive. The finish of the Sten's turn can be held into a deep trench-digging action, or feathered-off with a decrease of edge angle and pressure/weight. While the Sten really, really likes its 12 meter radius turn and naturally migrates to that size arc, you can adjust it along the way within reasonable boundaries. Over-turn it or force it to turn tighter than it likes, and it will resist a bit and feel like it has been slightly insulted, but never let-go of the arc, so it's nicely predictable. Composure across different densities of snow surface while in its carved state is very confident and authoritative without being demanding.
Manufacturer's Mounting Position:
We found the stock mounting position was the best balance point for the Sten in its 164cm length. Moving the demo binding fore and aft from the factory mounting point produced an unbalanced feel in the ski's forebody and tail behaviors.
Analogies: ("This ski is like...")
A sporty touring coupe with 20 coats of customized, hand-rubbed laquer.
Things I Would Change About This Ski:
Nothing. It does what its design intended and looks stunning doing it.
Short Answer When Someone Asks "What Do You Think About This Ski?":
The Zero Sten fits in-between a recreational carver and race-carver category with its geometry and flex pattern, so it appeals to the resort crowd who wants a high-performance ski, but it's stunning topsheet is a work of art and exudes exclusivity. Definitely a collector's item, with carving cred to back up its good looks. Luxury art meets real performance.
What kind of skier is this ski good for and not suitable for?
Beginners or off-piste skiers are not a good match for the Zero Sten.
Advice To People Considering This Ski:
Be prepared to get "oooohs" and "aaaahhhs" in the lift line, along with all the stereotypes that go along with someone who has a slate-topped luxury brand ski. Be prepared to protect it during transport with a nicely padded bag. Take some carving lessons from an expert and up your game if you're going to ski the Sten. It deserves a good pilot to go along with its good looks.
Pics: (click for larger versions)
Zero Sten topsheet
(note chipping on right edge from previous tests and demos)
Zero Sten in Alta Badia - Italy
Zero Sten (Left) All-Mtn. and Zero Lignum Racecarver (Right)
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