Black Crows Camox Freebird 17/18 Review

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Woodserson

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Favorite Skis: Voile Objective, Altai KOMs, Atomic Vantage 85, Classy Woodies
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Black Crows Camox Freebird 17/18 Review

Postby Woodserson » Fri Jan 04, 2019 11:26 pm

So this is going to be a weird review with an anti-consumerist/branding rant in the first half. Real review is next post down.

I've been hunting around for a mid/high 90's "fat" ski (I know this is the new "midfat" but not to this old fart, for whom 76mm waists are "midfat). With much enthusiasm I got Vectors (sold them, tails too stiff) the Line Sick Day 94's in a 172 (too short and too floppy) and was getting desperate.

Sometime during the summer I was perusing the internet and stumbled on this Camox Freebird. It was a decent price (July pricing) but still $100 more than the nearest ski but in summertime funk I pulled the trigger. Then I stared at them for months until November rolled around. I few well timed storms laid the groundwork for a pretty sweet deep day in the White Mountains and so I grabbed the Camox FBs and in the first few turns I knew they were the sweetness. And they are sweet and continue to be sweet!

But before I get into the ski there's something about Black Crows that really just makes me scratch my head. Here in New England, having coveted Black Crows skis is like having a secret handshake. Guys with Black Crows will give each other the knowing-eyeball and pooh-pooh the plebes that don't have Black Crows. Or they will crow about their Black Crows even though maybe I didn't ask. There's just a thing surrounding the company branding, (DPS too, I have found) that just really always rubbed me the weird way, but it makes people happy so whatever, I'm neck deep in Asnes Fever, guilty as charged.

EXCEPT they make really weird videos about their skis extolling all the virtues, but the virtues are actually somewhat mundane. For example, Black Crows LOVES talking about the little rubber rental-fleet tail protector, that little black rubber thing that most of my skis, both alpine and XCD have. They are wasting valuable airtime/attention-capital on a "feature" that is not a feature. Here's just ONE video of MANY where they talk about their little rental-fleet protector thing:



EXCEPT they also talk about how they keep their skis so light, and one feature was "lightweight touring edges" or something like that... I can't find it right now. But that's a weird one right? What's a lightweight touring edge or whatever?

EXCEPT the box shows up and I had just come home from work, was pretty burned out and so I opened the box (in July!) with much happiness and the moment the tip of the ski showed itself I blurted out loud "It looks like my Vantage 85!!!" and woke up my wife as I stumbled to the computer to figure out what the hell was going on.

Here's an examination of sidewall construction compared between the Camox Freebird and the Atomic Vantage 85:

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A quick internet search revealed to me that ATOMIC, ELAN, and now BLACK CROWS are made in the SAME FACTORY in Bulgaria! This is good news (Elan and Atomic really pump out high quality skis that I've been very impressed with lately) but I paid easily $100 more for this ski than any other comparable ski in its class. Black Crows sells itself as a small independent boutique ski company in the heart of a little French alpine town called Chamonix and where they lovingly craft all these skis in a chalet by hand surrounded by les vaches. So sorry, no. It's not the case. Yes, they may be "independent" but they are using Atomic and Elan's years of ski building expertise to have their skis made. Again, this is good for quality, but makes me realize that Black Crows is selling identity, a lifestyle, not skis. Make no mistake, they are a clothing and identity brand, not a ski hardware company. Here's the homepage RIGHT NOW as I type this review.

Screen Shot 2019-01-04 at 9.40.26 PM.png


The website is absolutely chock-a-block full of pages upon pages of clothes and softgoods! It's not about skis. It's about the hat, jacket, poles, gloves... BACKPACKS for chrissake. Who's making their backpacks? Heidi? Is each "urban-inspired" bag is made by hand using real vache guts for thread? Probably not! You are paying a premium for an "authentic" backpack designed with Chamonix guides! WOW! (but probably made in... China?)

Screen Shot 2019-01-04 at 10.15.06 PM.png


OH OH OH and that "lightweight touring edge" I mentioned earlier? It's the cheapo edge that Atomic uses on their intermediate rental skis (Vantage 85)! Here they are, compared next to each other! BC on the left Vantage 85 on the right:

2019-01-04 21.52.34.jpg


This means that I am spending MORE money to buy cachet, ski bling, identity... to get a ski made by Atomic/Elan. Now this gets me because I have an Atomic ski that is built in the same factory, using the same construction, but I bought it for $190! My Camox are good skis, I like them a lot, but they are not worth hundreds of extra dollars because they are not offering anything that is actually worth hundreds of dollars. Tail protectors, thin edges, identical factory construction, the list goes on. This is not uncommon, but Black Crows really pushes this "independence" thing. I get that company bottom line is protected by cheap fabrics sewn in China and sold for hundreds of times more than what they are actually worth to people starved to stand out in a consumeristic world. I get this, but Black Crows, in my opinion, really excels at taking it to the next level and is successful at it!

But there is an antidote! If you want your money to go to ski design and production and not softgoods, branding, and secret handshakes you can! You know who makes real skis right here in the USA? VOILE. They are scrapping along, putting their money into design, innovation, hardware, they are making real equipment where every penny I spend is being funneled back into the R&D of sweet products. You want softgoods? You get one pageand can choose between 2 t-shirts and a few hats. AND ON TOP OF THAT:

Voile uses REAL edges and their skis are still LIGHTER. The 17/18 Camox Freebird comes in at 1680 and the Voile V6 (bigger ski too!) came in at 1530 on my digital scale. V6 on the left:

2019-01-04 21.59.24.jpg

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lilcliffy

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Re: Black Crows Camox Freebird 17/18

Postby lilcliffy » Fri Jan 04, 2019 11:35 pm

Oooh!
Did you buy a V6 too?
Cross-country AND down-hill skiing in the backcountry.
Unashamed to be a "cross-country type" and love skiing down-hill.

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Woodserson

Rank: XCD KNIGHT
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Posts: 1119
Joined: Wed Feb 11, 2015 11:25 am
Location: New Hampshire
Ski style: Dancey
Favorite Skis: Voile Objective, Altai KOMs, Atomic Vantage 85, Classy Woodies
Favorite boots: T4, Alaska
Occupation: Retro Rager-grouch

Re: Black Crows Camox Freebird 17/18

Postby Woodserson » Fri Jan 04, 2019 11:57 pm

But let's not get too carried away with GRUMPINESS

20190104_121712.jpg


I have skied this ski in 24" powder, powdery bumps, soft groomers, firm bumps, firm groomers, steeps and shallows and it is just a wonderful ski in so many respects. I wish it was 200grams lighter, but alas so it goes. (But not too light, I like a little whoomph in the ski to get through the mank)

I did not catch my back ski tip once during the pow day. The shovel has a strongly pronounced delayed taper, the ski has a 4-point (it would be a 5 point if the tail did it but it doesn't) sidecut with perfect rocker. The thinner tail, (without the 5th point sidecut) coupled with the large shovel, rocker, and easy flex keeps the tails down and the tips up in pow. I personally don't like wide tails on downhill pow skis, I want the tails to sink! Camox FB does this.

They are not very energetic and have a damp, but not dead, ride and the flex is very smooth, even, and round throughout the ski. The rockered portion is not overly soft, it maintains a good stiffness here so they don't fold up but also rise above the pow. I can take these skis to high speed on frozen granular and they stay quiet and don't chatter inspiring confidence. I can load the ski up and pop right out of turns, and the edge hold is top notch. I can lay trench down anywhere, and the tail, though it flairs out to 114mm has some early rise baked in so it doesn't hook, and like I mentioned, they thankfully did not carry a 5 point sidecut to the tail. And in reality the 114 is actually not much, many skis with these dimensions do a tip-10mm for the tail-- like 128-98-118 for instance. The chopping of the tail a bit down to 114 was brilliant IMO and perfectly executed.

Fast edge to edge for a 97 waist, easy turn initiation but a little more work since they lack the energy and don't pop unless loaded right up, as previously mentioned. Here are some quick turns on flat cord... 97mm Camox on the left matching every turn of the 85mm Voile Objective on the right, both made by me:

20190104_121415.jpg


Fun in the bumps because the ski is dependable and predictable.

Predictable is a good word for this ski. It doesn't have any surprises it just delivers what it's supposed to do. One review/comment on Wild Snow called it boring. This is actually a good adjective, and not necessarily bad depending on what you're doing! Consistency can be an attribute. Maybe the ski is so good, you don't realize how good it is, and take it for granted.

I'm not going to lie, this ski is a contender for a 1 ski quiver for a frontside East Coast skier who forays out West or to Europe. You know what you're going to get. It works in all sectors of skiing, a true Jack-of-All Trades. If I could design one downhill ski for me, it would be this ski with a little more energy (only a hair) and 200g lighter. It is SO CLOSE to perfect!

UNFORTUNATELY Black Crows screwed it all up for 18/19 and they took away lots of the rocker and delayed tip-taper, made the camber longer for a more "traditional feel." It is lighter. Why they took out the rocker is beyond me. I think it's because ski companies see mid-90 waisted skis as "midfats" and treat them as such so people buy fatter and fatter skis. It's such a shame. My Objectives (85mm waist) have tons of rocker and I LOVE IT. Rocker solves so many problems. Also, I'm not a Ski Movie Star! I'm Wooderson aka CHUCK FLANNEL and I'm kind of a loose cannon sometimes but I don't harbor any delusions of grandeur. I'm not jumping big cliffs, I'm not skiing bottomless pow everyday. Life is NOT a ski movie. I want a ski that reflects MY ski life, hard bumps, no snow, no big airs, sometimes pow, crappy snow in Tuckerman Ravine, tight trees... not my imagined ski life. The 17/18 Camox Freebird does this. It does not feed into some crazy desk-bound daydream that I'm Seth Morrison or Coombs (rip) or Schmidt or whoever and I need a 115mm underfoot ski with 2 layers of titanal.

The 17/18 Camox FB looks at me and says, "you know, you're pretty ugly but I love you anyway." My kind of ski!

2017-2018 Black Crows Camox Freebird

178cm
128-97-114
R18

Me: 6'2" 160lbs Scarpa T4, mounted -2cm

20190104_121625.jpg


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