REVIEWS AND TESTS
Ski Tests & Reviews
Sterling Matterhorn Skis 2007-2008
Pre-ski review...(will have on-snow report Monday Dec. 3)
Just unwrapped the Sterling Matterhorn (116 - 76 - 102 @ 174cm) from its velvet bag. John Mansell, owner of Sterling said they were "fresh" off the press...and I could tell....the varnish/laquer was still a little smelly!
First Impression (right out of the box):
Wow. It was like unwrapping a new Ebel or Breitling watch. I felt like I should have white gloves on. Very shiny surface, excellent workmanship and finish. (see pics below). Nice exotic wood inlay inside the titanal topsheet cavity. A real beauty. Everyhone who saw them said "wow...beautiful."
Second Impression (hand flex and inspection):
This is not a fluffy "doctor-lawyer ski" (no hard feelings to the doctors and lawyers out there who love skiing...it's just a phrase...lighten up) for the fuzzy-boot sundeck lizards...this ski has a very nice hand-flex and dampening, with beef underfoot and substantial tail strength. This is a "skier's ski" with carving in its nature. I really, really wanted to try it on some fresh hardpack at speed. (first impression - it's not a backcountry powder ski or some gnarly crud-buster...this is mainly targeted for on-piste terrain of all types, but compliant enough to definitely handle nicely in the powder, cut-up crud and thicker stuff. I will bet this is a superb one-ski-quiver candidate.
Camber. Repeat - Camber. This ski has perhaps the highest camber I have seen in a ski recently. Check out the pics. That means this ski could be particularly touchy at the helm...let's reserve judgement until Monday's on-snow test...!
Third Impression (reflecting on the price):
Ok. These skis cost $3,000 usd. (remain calm). $3500 if you want the carbon poles and a really, really nice velvet-lined wooden box package (see the Sterling website for pics). A little mental adjustment is needed here. I don't expect this $3,000 ski to outperform some of the fine $1,000 racing skis on bulletproof surfaces, nor do I expect it to outperform powder skis in powder, big mountain skis on hard-core terrain, or some of the fine all-mountain skis already out there. I do expect it to be really, really good and perfectly suitable for a wide variety of terrain. I expect a very high degree of performance on all these surfaces and terrain...so much so I could live with it as my only ski. Tall order? Yes.
I talk myself into it this way:
A Jaguar or Mercedes automobile will probably not out-perform some of the excellent cars by Audi, Nissan, BWM...etc. but people love Jaguars, Mercedes, Alpha Romeos for the beautiful products they are. Sure, they perform really, really well, and are works of art to some people, but the fact is, premium products are about more than performance. They involve a degree of artistry, craftsmanship and elegance beyond the statistics of performance. That's what Sterling Skis is all about. Highest degree of quality materials and craftsmanship used to produce a very high-performance product. Not for everyone, but then again, John is only manufacturing 140 pairs this year...so the market is full of enough people to sell out the production run for 2007-2008.
VIST BINDING HARDWARE
Sterling Matterhorn 174cm, 116-76-102mm (19.1m radius)
Sterling Skis - Boulder Colorado USA
Suggested Retail Price (MSRP):
$3,500 includes carbon poles, bindings, velvet lined wooden box
$3,000 for just the skis.
Luxury market, premium price "One Ski Solution" according to Sterling (all mountain ski)
Your Rating (with comments): (1="get me off these things"->10="I have to own a pair")
8 for performance.
10 for finish and workmanship/appearance
Premium priced, highest quality, exclusive ski for expert front-side skiers who appreciate Jaguar automobiles, Ebel and Breitling watches, fine cuisine, fine art and exquisite cabinetry and furniture workmanship. Not a fluffy intermediate ski. This ski has the feel of a race-bred core and "Euro Carver" architecture reshaped and re-flexed for civilian usage in more types of conditions. Definitely performs its best on groomers and hardpack, although handles cut-up surfaces and softer snow just fine if you pay attention and don't expect a floaty ride. It really begs for wide-open groomed or windswept cruising surfaces, but remains agile enough to navigate bumpy runs or in the trees with some effort. It will go through the crud and soft stuff just fine, but you should pick a different ski in your quiver for such conditions, especially with the great selection of mid-fats out there now. This ski rewards the skier posessing a strong technique. I don't think I would put Granny on this ski. It feels like a detuned race ski with a wider shovel, spruced up underfoot with a VIST plate for really nice grip to lay down some serious arcs on the firm surfaces at speed with nice tail acceleration, but soft enough to enjoy the scenery as you head down the slopes to your hillside condo for a nice '47 Latour. Very good edge-to-edge performance, security and quickness on groomers and hard surfaces. A little unforgiving, but dead-stable and nicely damp in the the heavy chop since it is so good on the hard surfaces...but that's to be expected. Very responsive to skier input. No dead zones.
I picture the ideal candidate for this ski to be a skier with strong skills, no longer chasing racers, who likes to carve on many types of terrain and stays predominantly on the frontside, but ventures all over the frontside and finds the little out-of-bounds shortcuts here and there for fun on the way down. Anyone who owns this ski will have another ski for powder days and the backcountry. While you could buy a really nice powder ski, race ski and general-purpose ski all for the price of this one pair of Sterlings, you do get a really beautiful work of craftsmanship that carves some great turns on-piste at any speed. The quality of the materials should mean this ski should last a long time...time will tell. Is it worth $3000 usd? That depends on the person.
Although you can buy any number of automobiles with the same or better performance than a Jaguar or Alfa Romeo for less money, you just don't get a Jaguar or Alfa Romeo. It's that simple. My $15 Timex keeps the same accuracy of time as a $15,000 Rolex, Ebel or Breitling, but thousands and thousands of people love their premium products because they want something more than just simple performance. They want a thing of beauty at the same time. That's what the Sterling skis are. Great performance for those who know how to carve a ski, but also thing of beauty and craftsmanship...or....to put it another way...a great thing of beauty and craftsmanship that can really lay down some arcs at the resort. Definitely a collector's item for those who care to spend $3,000 on their winter toys. (I know some people who spend 10 times that much on their bass fishing boats...but that's another story...)...
Ski Designer (if known):
Unknown..."feels" like a Swiss ski...maybe Austrian. Sterling isn't telling!
Technical Ski Data (if known):
116-76-102 @174 (19.1m radius)
Proprietary wood core.
"Trapezoidal" sidewalls (not quite straight)
HRC48 stainless edges
carbon bases (PTEX 4000?)
Titanal topsheet inlaid with choice of 3 exotic woods.
I tested in less-than ideal conditions for this ski. 8 inches of fresh, cold snow relentlessly cut-up in all directions by skier traffic (endless undulating troughs and piles). Smooth surfaces were hard to find, but rewarding when discovered. Edges of the trail had nice powder where people hadn't cut it up.
Very nice, very capable carving ski with the ability to lay down really nice arcs without extreme effort. Elegant turn shapes are possible at a wide variety of speeds. Not a mid-fat "all mountain" ski, although it handled the softer surfaces without complaint. It really came alive when it found hardpack and the speed increased, along with edge angles. Nicely damp and secure underfoot. Not a trace of skittish feel at speed. Feels Austrian or Swiss in the way it handles. This ski wants to race all over the frontside groomers. Fully capable of a drifted turn when asked, this ski wants to be pressured and turned to be at its best. the high-camber of this ski probably helps this feeling. It's geometry is suited for a carving environment on groomed slopes, but its flex and dampening allow it to venture into the fresh snow and bumpier terrain just fine. If you're going to make a one-ski solution, you have to either make it mediocre at everything, or good at somethings at the expense of others. This ski wants to haunt the groomed terrain to show its stuff. Overall, a really nice carving ski. You could probably even jump into your local beer league race night course with these and do just fine as long as the ruts didn't get too bad. You could remove the VIST plate and get a much more compliant and soft flexing softer-snow ski, but you'd loose the great underfoot grip. I think it's a good combo. Is it better than any other carving ski out there? No. Is it a work of art? Yes. Really nice ski. Really scary price. Anyone who saw the ski in the lift line, gondola or hill was immediately stopped by its beauty and workmanship. "Wow, those are beautiful!" was the standard response when someone saw the skis for the first time.
Analogies: (this ski is like...)
Really nice European luxury touring coupe (think nice-tight Alpha Romeo)
After Skiing These, I Want To...
Find someone to buy them for me.
Self-Description of Skiing Style, Ability, Experience, Preferences (be honest):
Expert groomed-surface carver, "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. Not an instructor, but 10 year coach for youth race team in New England (bulletproof is the norm).
A little googling indicates the Sterling Matterhorn is shaped like these skis (plus or minus a millimeter)
dimensions: 116 - 76 - 102
Dobermann Pro GS
Elan Speedwave 14
Elan Magfire 12
Elan Magfire 10
Volkl Unlimited AC 3
Atomic Sweet Mama
Atomic Izor 7.2
please follow this link to a review of the 185 matterhorn. and nice in-depth review, ES.
Those Sterling Matterhorns skis are the most beautiful skis I've ever had in my hand. As I walked around the Killington Ski Club, every GS racer stopped me to ask about them. My fellow ski instructors also turned heads as I went by. These skis sure attract attention. Then I put them on my feet and away I went.
Long cruising turns, cutting gracefully through the snow with elegance. There were patches of hard pack, but I never noticed... these skis gripped the icy patches, never a skid. I planted the edges into the hard pack and carved magnificant turns down Sky Lark and Bittersweet. The length and weight of the skis was a concern for me (being a female that normally skis 154's). At 174 there was a lot of ski to manuver. It took major leg strength for me to power and flex those skis through the turns. I'm sure the J1 racers would have no trouble at all, but a lighter ski might appeal to the ladies.
Truly a racer's delight. Made for those individuals in competition mode. I surely enjoyed the experience, even if they were too much ski for me.
Killington Ski Instructor
It was a beautiful day at the king of grooming in Vermont....Okemo. Perfect for my first day out and perfect conditions for test driving the Sterling Matterhorns..a race ski in disguise.
First of all, these skis are beautiful to look at. Finely made topskins of laquered exotic wood trimmed with beautiful metal trim. I didn't even get to the lodge before I was accosted by people asking about them on looks alone! I went to Okemo to test these skis privately and that was all thrown out the window by my friends at the Nordica Demo tent who wanted to know all about them.
These skis are real attention getters,wonderful to look at. The truth ,however,is in the pudding, and these skis perform! You can go back to my friends post for the dimensions, but these skis rip! Tenacious, grippy, smooth edge to edge, precise and very comfortable at speed. I could not push them hard enough. I spend most of my time on Volkl Race Carvers in a 167cm length or a Volkl AC4 in a 177.
The Matterhorns just gripped and didn't budge. If you got back on them they exploded out from under your feet precisely. Never once was I in fear of ending up in the bushs from the ski unloading. If this ski was flat, with no VIST plate like it comes with, oh boy, it would be race stock material! You would be in the bush's!
This ski is perfect for hard core, speed freak, front side rippers. After 30 years in the ski business,Its hard to be surprised by things. All I can say is buy a pair...who cares about the cost.. This is the ski you dream about for ripping down groomers at high speeds, with nothing to worry about. The Matterhorns will take care of you and get you there with your eyes watering and a big smile on your face. I totally forget about how much my new boots hurt I was having so much fun on them.
Great job,Sterling, I really need to get a pair!
Just a quick note, to add to my previous ski review... Those Sterling skis are truly hot skis, and I look forward to trying my own length of 154-160 range. I love the way they cruise over powder, crud, and ice. No matter what surface, they handle it easily. I'm sure the shorter length will delight the ladies, especially the competitors where speed and control is their avenue of pleasure. Looking forward to more skis like these.
2/28/08... Today I took out the Sterling 163's. They wanted to fly down SuperStar... they picked up speed and took me for a wonderful ride. These skis want to be on edge, no skidding your turns with these babies. The sweet spot covers 2/3 of the ski. As I pressured through each turn, I could feel the sweet spot from tip to tail... not just under my boot. These are truly fine racing skis, crusing the open slope at top speed was easy and sweet. I picked up speed without even trying. They laid over on the edge and arc'd into a smooth carving radius. First long radius turns, than shorter carving turns... but with speed and elegance. It was easy to dynamically move throughout the entire turn; no park and ride with these skis. Excellent GS ski for high speed racing or high speed cruising.
As promised to the site admin, here is my review. - dude.
PRODUCT: Sterling Matterhorn, 174cm Palisander Santos.
REVIEWER: I am – male, 5’10", 165lbs, age 38, between Level 8 & 9, 30+ ski days / year, 29 total seasons of experience, 15% frontside groomed, 40% backside bowls and trees, 45% bumps and steeps
LOCATIONS: Three days of skis at A-Basin, Vail, Copper,
CONDITIONS: Groomed, Packed Power, Powder, Skied Up Powder/Crud, Some Ice
REVIEW: My review is a compare & contrast to my Stockli Storm Riders XL and Dynastar Legend 8000. Over the past few years these two skis have been my skis of choice. I have been demoing other skis for the last two years but have not found any that are a better all mountain or freeride ski. Last year, I began testing some of the indie company skis, most were good but were not what I was looking for. The Sterling Skis President told me that if I buy the Matterhorns and did not like them, he would refund my money. I jumped at the opportunity. Over the last three weeks, I have been putting them to the test and below is my review of the Sterling Matterhorns.
Groomers/Packed Powder: I could not compare/contrast my Stockli’s or Dynastars to the Sterlings. The Matterhorn is in a different league. It has been years since I have been on a true race ski but these are the fastest skis in my memory. You point them down hill and they are off to the races. At speed they are remarkably stable, solid, quiet and responsive. Turning the ski at speed was ez and controllable. They have a fun pop when exiting out of the turns. On GS turns, they track like no other ski I have been on. I pushed them as hard as I could and found no limits. I don’t always have the best form and they were forgiving even when I got back on the tail.
The Matterhorn liked the steep terrain and easily transitioned from light powder to packed powder to ice without missing a beat. They were also good at short turns and were very lively. They may not be the fastest edge to edge ski I have ever been on but they are fast and they practically beg for speed and big turns.
Bumps: I am an average bump skier. I like to spend a lot of time in them, if the conditions are good. For bump skiing, I typically like my Stocklis. They are quick and do a good job. The first day of testing the Matterhorn, I found the Stocklis quicker and easier to control through the moguls. The Sterlings seem to be slower and did not like it when you got back on the tail. On the second day of skiing the bumps, the Sterling came to life for me. I was working my form and trying to keep my weight forward and noticed the Sterling responded completely different with my weight forward rather than skiing them in a more neutral position. By the third day of skiing, I had found the Sterling’s sweet spot. They were quick, responsive and had a lot of pop if I kept good form and weight forward. I think the Stocklis are easier to ski in the bumps and more forgiving but when I got dialed into the Sterlings, they really did perform better. It takes a little better form and effort to get this result.
Powder/Chopped Up Powder: When conditions are boot deep or less I grab my Dynastars. On deeper powder days you will find me on my fatties. The Dynastar ski powder ok but I really like the way they handle tracked up powder, crud and heavier conditions. In Vail, I went to the back bowls to give the Sterlings a test on heavy, boot deep skied up terrain. I was completely surprised by their performance. Like on groomers, the Sterlings are speed demons.
On the first run, I was way outside my speed comfort zone but found myself in complete control. The Sterling handled the mounds, holes and chop like it was a groomer. They were unfazed by the conditions and easy to handle. I thought my Dynastars were good but the Sterlings are much better. I think the Sterlings are the best chopped up/crud ski I have been on. I spent almost all day skiing on those conditions and just could not get enough.
Now, things were a little different on untracked power. The Dynastars float and ride better than the Sterlings. The 76cm under foot and direct stiffness tend not to be your first choice for the powder. They performed as you would expect 76cm under foot would in powder. If I am the first on the mountain following a 16-inch dump, it’s my fatties. If I am skiing the second day after a 16-inch dump, it’s the Sterlings.
Conclusion: After three days of skiing, I can firmly say, these skis are for me. They have completely exceeded my extremely high exceptions. I will not be asking for my money back; I am keeping these babies. If they were a few millimeters wider in the waist they would handle deeper powder better and would be the "perfect" ski. The only thing I don’t like is that the heavy gloss varnish on the wood veneer already has a couple of scratches from crossing my tails. It hurts to see these beauties get marked up. I am very hard on my skis and I will have to see what they look like at the end of the season.
Bottom line, these skis are true high-octane performers. Yes, I paid for the style, uniqueness and performance, but I have no regrets… They are the hottest skis I’ve been on.
Bob Peters over at EpicSki has posted his review at:
Stephen Sven Hultquist over at EpicSki.com has posted his two day review of the 174cm Sterling Matterhorn here:
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