Ski Review: 2018-2019 Åsnes Gamme 54 BC
• 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)
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: 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…).
I can’t think of any at the moment…I don’t see the point of comparing apples to bacon.
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.
January 20th, 2019
Snow Glade Farm