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Ski Review: 2018-2019 Åsnes Gamme 54 BC

Posted: Sun Jan 20, 2019 8:31 pm
by lilcliffy
Ski Review: 2018-2019 Åsnes Gamme 54 BC


Specs:
• Sidecut profile: 68-54-61mm
• Camber-rocker profile:
o Slightly Nordic-rockered tip
o Low-profile double camber underfoot- tuned for XC kick & glide skiing on highly variable backcountry snow
o Flat tail
• Flex pattern:
o Full-length stiff, stable and supportive flex
o Stiff and supportive tip
• Broad, raised tip
• Full-wrap steel edges
• Sintered waxable bases
• X-Skin/Skin-Lock kicker skin inserts
• Lengths to 210cm (I have the 210cm)

Overview

To start it is important for me to say that this ski is everything that Åsnes claims it to be! So- make sure you read the description on the Åsnes site!

What is the Gamme 54 BC ski? The Gamme 54 is a state-of-the-art long-distance cross-country ski designed to deal with everything the wilderness has to throw at it.

This ski is excellent in almost every imaginable backcountry-cross-country context:
• Fresh soft snow: despite the double-camber underfoot, this ski is finely tuned to offer both an effective wax pocket, yet still be able to effectively engage the traction zone on soft snow.
• Very deep snow: although this ski does not offer as much flotation as its wider siblings (e.g. Ingstad, Combat Nato)- this ski is remarkably stable and supportive in deep snow, and the traditional and stable tip breaks trail very effectively.
• Wind-compacted snow: this ski carves its way through wind-compacted snow VERY effectively- mostly due to its stable, raised tip, and stable flex.
• Breakable crust: this ski smashes through ice crust like a champ, carving a channel that allows the ski to grip on freeable snow below the crust.
• Consolidated, hardpack snow: this ski has just enough camber and stiffness underfoot to be quite effective on dense/hard snow. It also has a very long glide zone- despite the rockered tip. This ski tracks very well as well- to date is the only ski in my quiver that actually makes me smile on a snowmobile track!
This ski has what I would describe as a “low-profile” double camber underfoot. For example; it’s “wax pocket” is every bit as stiff and resistant as my E99 Xtralite, but the Gamme 54 is noticeably less cambered than the E99. As an alternate example; the Gamme 54 is only slightly more cambered than my Åsnes Ingstad BC, but significantly stiffer underfoot. This combination of camber and flex results in an incredibly versatile ski:
• It offers true double-cambered kick & glide- even on soft snow.
• Its low-profile camber makes it easy to pressure and get grip when climbing.
• Its low-profile camber makes it relatively “easy” to pressure and turn (not as easy as the softer Ingstad BC; but certainly easier to pressure than the more cambered E99 for example.)

The Nordic-rockered tips are quite tame (i.e. much less rockered than the Ingstad BC). But they are rockered enough that I can feel the advantage in terms of turn initiation. I have not yet managed to get this narrow ski up to Ludicrous Speed and see if those tips do produce early-tip rise…

This is certainly no downhill ski. I have a number of steep, open fields nearby that I can ride wonderful open telemark turns- even on a ski with as wide a turn radius as a 210cm Gamme 54!
This ski has a very wide turn radius. From my perspective the biggest downhill advantage of this ski is that- despite its burly construction- it remains very light, and it is a pure pleasure making striding, step and jump turns with this ski! Coming down steep tight lines and trails requires step and jump turns- turns that this light and balanced ski was made for! And, at every opportunity I pounce on these skis and rip/carve wondrous wide open turns on them!!

Anyone looking at even the specs of this ski should consider how similar it is the legendary Fischer E-99 Tour. And seeing as how I have both a 210cm Gamme 54 BC, and a 210cm E-99 Tour Xtralite, I would be failing all of you if I did not try and compare these two skis!

Åsnes Gamme 54 BC vs. Fischer E-99 Tour Xtralite
Apparently, Fischer designed the “Europa” 99 to be the “best backcountry Nordic touring ski in the world”. By “best”, I am thinking- even back when it was first conceived- Fischer meant the same thing that Åsnes does: “highly versatile”. Unlike the Gamme 54- the E-99 Tour has been Fischer’s flagship long-distance BC-XC ski for decades and as such has gone through a number of redesigns. This comparison is between the two current models- the Gamme 54 BC, and the E-99 Tour Xtralite:
gamme 54 vs e99.jpg
Some notes on these two skis:
• The Gamme 54 breaks trail much more effectively than the E-99- due to its stable, broad raised tip.
• The Gamme 54 is better when XC skiing in breakable crust and wind-compacted snow- due to its more stable and broad, raised tip.
• The Gamme 54 has a longer XC glide surface than the E99- due to the E99 having more tip rocker. This makes the Gamme 54 a faster XC ski on consolidated snow- despite the E99’s extra camber.
• The Gamme 54 is more stable in deep snow- due to its full-length stable flex.
• The Gamme 54 climbs better- due to its low-profile camber.
• The E-99 is noticeably more cambered underfoot. This gives it more XC kick & glide “pop”. It also releases kick wax a bit more effectively in deep snow, and likewise the kicker skin releases more effectively on the E99. I don’t know how significant this is yet…The mohair X-Skin on the Gamme 54 glides better than the mohair-nylon mix of the Easy-Skin- so, it’s hard to get an “apples-to-apples” comparison…
• The E-99 has a shorter turn-radius- due to it having more tip rocker.
• The E-99 offers better turn initiation- due to the extra tip rocker.
• The Gamme 54 is heavier- though I admit to not noticing it when I am skiing.

To sum up- these are both excellent distance-focused double-cambered backcountry Nordic touring skis. They are certainly in the same class- and have more in common than they do with a ski like the Ingstad/E-109- but there are still significant differences between the Gamme 54 and the E-99.
Bet you can’t guess which one I prefer…
I challenge Fischer to do better!

Gamme 54 BC vs. Amundsen BC/Fram
The Amundsen appears to be in a class of its own. I have never even seen an Åsnes Amundsen ski. Regardless- I do think it worth bringing up. The Amundsen BC- and its even stiffer “Fram” version- is clearly stiffer and more cambered than the Gamme 54. The tip on the Amundsen is not rockered. The Amundsen should offer a longer glide zone and more effective/efficient kick & glide- especially with a kicker skin and on dense/consolidated snow. Would the Amundsen perform as well as the Gamme 54 in deep snow and climbing- don’t know- but, I doubt it. The lower-profile camber of the Gamme 54 must make it more effective in deep snow and steep terrain the Amundsen?

Gamme 54/E99 vs. E-89/Mountain Race
So- why choose a ski like the Gamme 54 over narrower, stiffer and more cambered BC-XC skis like the Fischer E-89 or Åsnes Mountain Race?
Number one: I see these narrower skis as being exclusively oriented to dense/consolidated/groomed snow and gentle terrain.
Though the Gamme 54 is certainly no Telemark ski- at least not by current standards- it is wider and more stable.

Gamme 54/E99 vs. Ingstad/Eon/78/E-109
Why choose a Gamme 54 over wider, softer skis? When distance trumps downhill- but, more importantly when stabilized, consolidated, dense snow is more likely than deep soft snow. At this point in my life- if I had to choose between them- I would choose my Combat Nato (previous gen Ingstad) over my Gamme 54. But- this purely because of my local, constant rec-charge of soft fresh snow. Not only is the Gamme 54 perfectly acceptable in deep snow- it kicks-ass compared to these wider, softer snow on dense/consolidated snow (as a note the Gamme 54 class ski also just fits in a conventional, Classic groomed track…).

Other Comparisons?
I can’t think of any at the moment…I don’t see the point of comparing apples to bacon.

Current Conclusions/Perspectives
If I had to choose just one distance-oriented backcountry-cross-country ski I would have a hard time choosing between my 210cm Combat Nato and my 210cm Gamme 54 BC. (And as another note until this winter my 210cm E-99 Tour Xtralite was in the Gamme 54’s place here). If the climate changed enough that I seized to get all of the soft fresh snow to ski on, there is no question the Gamme 54 would be the pick. Even with my regular re-charge of fresh stuff- there are many days that my tour would be miserable without a ski like the E-99- and now my Gamme 54 that replaces it! And the Gamme 54 is more than acceptable in soft snow- even deep snow…
SO- this leads me to a conclusion…If I had to pick just one distance-oriented backcountry Nordic touring ski that can handle steep terrain, deep snow and dense/consolidated snow- the Gamme 54 BC is it.
The Gamme 54 is my number one- must-have- distance-oriented ski for the hill-country.
This ski is a masterpiece of design, construction, quality and performance.
Well done.

Gnardisk Madgick!

Gareth Davies
January 20th, 2019
Snow Glade Farm
Stanley, NB
Canada

Re: Ski Review: 2018-2019 Åsnes Gamme 54 BC

Posted: Mon Jan 21, 2019 7:09 pm
by Woodserson
Fantastic comprehensive review. I'm slowly putting my Gamme's through the paces. All evidence indicates a smashingly well thought out ski.

Re: Ski Review: 2018-2019 Åsnes Gamme 54 BC

Posted: Mon Jan 21, 2019 7:31 pm
by lilcliffy
Cool Woods. I am VERY impressed with this ski. Versatile it certainly is!

I have been doing some more focused comparisons between my BC-XC skis...

The Gamme 54, Combat Nato and Ingstad don't really have a "low-profile" camber in terms of height- they just feel that way underfoot because their initial camber is relatively soft and easy to pressure.

My E99- for example- doesn't really have a higher camber than my Gamme 54- but, the E99's initial camber is stiffer- making it feel more cambered underfoot than the Gamme 54...

Same difference between the the E109 and the Combat Nato/Ingstad BC...

Re: Ski Review: 2018-2019 Åsnes Gamme 54 BC

Posted: Tue Jan 22, 2019 6:14 am
by Leo Tasker
Getting my pair mounted this week. Very excited to try them out, especially as a good dump of snow is forecast for the weekend! Haven't got skins yet, thinking of the 30mm mohair ones for use in warmer temps as an alternative to using klister. Any thoughts on whether this will work ok? Or am I better off with the wider skins? Probably not going to be pulling a pull much, so glide is important.
Cheers, Leo

Re: Ski Review: 2018-2019 Åsnes Gamme 54 BC

Posted: Tue Jan 22, 2019 8:09 am
by bgregoire
Leo Tasker wrote:Getting my pair mounted this week. Very excited to try them out, especially as a good dump of snow is forecast for the weekend! Haven't got skins yet, thinking of the 30mm mohair ones for use in warmer temps as an alternative to using klister. Any thoughts on whether this will work ok? Or am I better off with the wider skins? Probably not going to be pulling a pull much, so glide is important.
Cheers, Leo
Sure the 30mm mohairs will work. I'm assuming those are the pink Race mohairs? Man are they good looking!

Re: Ski Review: 2018-2019 Åsnes Gamme 54 BC

Posted: Tue Jan 22, 2019 9:13 am
by Leo Tasker
I was thinking of the grey rather than the pink (race). Both are mohair according to Åsnes, but Lilcliffy's review of the X-skin system suggests the race ones are much lighter, so maybe less durable...

Re: Ski Review: 2018-2019 Åsnes Gamme 54 BC

Posted: Tue Jan 22, 2019 1:49 pm
by Cannatonic
great review Gareth, it matches my experience well. It should be said that the edges on Gamme's are thicker than on current Fischers which has a big effect on durability - and this explains the lighter weight of the Fischers. The lighter weight could be desirable if you never ski on rocks and your skis tend to last. Question: what skin are you using with the Gamme? Woods, what length did you get?

The best part about these skis, and the E99s, is that you're not sacrificing much in weight, camber, or stiffness from traditional XC skis. These are not bad skis for doing laps around XC ski areas. But they also turn enough that when it comes to downhills you enjoy them as a tele ski. Or if you're skiing a completely flat tour but you want more flotation than an XC ski it's good for that too. As soon as you get into a wider tip or a softer flexing ski things deteriorate for XC mode quickly....straight tracking and glide speed suffer.

These modern versions are so light it becomes even more versatile because you can just pick up the skis and flick them around in a pinch. On a very steep section you can jump-turn your way down. There is something about E99's that makes them very easy to turn - I haven't used the Gammes as much, I'm glad to hear they're good for turns as well.

Re: Ski Review: 2018-2019 Åsnes Gamme 54 BC

Posted: Tue Jan 22, 2019 4:14 pm
by lilcliffy
I have used the following skins in my 210cm Gamme 54 BC- all trimmed to my heel:
1) 45mm mohair X-Skin
2) 35mm mohair Skin-Lock
3) 35mm nylon Skin-Lock

I have mostly used kick wax on this ski, but the 35mm mohair has been the best so far in terms of grip and glide on icy, refrozen snow- allowing me to avoid klister in mid-winter!

I tend to err on the side of glide with kicker skins as I do with kick wax (i.e. I have the 45mm skin in my pack, but I always start with the 35mm mohair hoping it is enough grip).

BTW- trimming the kicker skin to just behind the boot heel makes a massive difference in glide when XC skiing.

Re: Ski Review: 2018-2019 Åsnes Gamme 54 BC

Posted: Tue Jan 22, 2019 4:21 pm
by lilcliffy
And yes- the narrow mohair X-Skins work perfectly in warm, wet snow- I personally get as good a glide as waxless scales on that kind of snow and the grip is even better.

Re: Ski Review: 2018-2019 Åsnes Gamme 54 BC

Posted: Tue Jan 22, 2019 5:49 pm
by Leo Tasker
Cool, thanks for the info! I'll start with the 30mm mohair, maybe get the 45mm at some point down the line.
Cheers, Leo