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:
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.
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?)
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:
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: