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The cold world of skimo & alpine climbing

The cold world of skimo & alpine climbing

Thursday, June 16, 2011

La Sportiva Hi5 skis

I see that Lou over at Wildsnow finally let the horse out of the barn :-)

Big help now as I really wanted the info a couple of months ago!   I know Lou had the skis and wondered why he waited so long on the review.  Likely out skiing.  What was he thinking?  Let me help make it a stampede of sorts.

If you follow this blog you know I hadn't skied much (as in none) for a decade or so.   The climbing trip last winter to Chamonix was my cardiac jump start.   The continued ski season (and terrible weather) here in the NW and with the resulting never ending snow it has allowed me to ski instead of ride my bike or rock climb.

Enjoying it actually.  Getting to go back to several old spring ski haunts because of it.

I have been skiing on an assortment of old and new boards over the winter.  Shaped, asymmetrical, super short, skinny, fat and in between.  Lots of skis.   They all generally turn left and right as required.  My BD Aspects, Dyna Stokes  and the Dyna Broad Peaks are missing from this picture.  No huge surprises except one.  And that one ski the Hi 5 has been an interesting education that continues.

I first saw the Hi5 at OR last winter and was more than a little skeptical of the new La Sportiva Hi5 or La Sportiva in particular for skis.  But I did want a pair of those all carbon  race boots the STRATOS!    Any way, hard to miss a bright green, giant ski that resembles a retro water ski more than snow ski.  Or so I first thought.  It was a ski that stood out in the ski racks at two "ski bars" and riding the trams in Chamonix over the winter.  And of the La Sportiva Hi5s I did recognise, all  seemed amazingly LOOONG in comparison to the other skis being toted around the valley. (from a distinct mental note taken back in March...and obvious ski/mtn gawds riding them) 

Huge rocker on the tip of this ski.  (well huge to me,  the guy who had only skied one pair of rockered skis, these) a squared cut tail and a full 105mm wide at the waist.  It is a 75/25 %  rockered ski. My early production 188cms pair measure 135/105/125 mm and weight in at 8# 10oz.  Light I thought for such a fat and long ski.  But they will get lighter in the 2011/2012 production.  The goal is 7#15oz for a pair of 188s.    My skinny 162cm Se7en Summits with a race binding weight 6# for the pair as a comparison, My 178cm BD Aspects are just over 7# with bindings.

The Hi5s are a good bit wider and longer than either with the resulting performance advantages.

In French here:

- Longueur : 168 - 178 - 188

- Weight: 1.600gr - 1.700gr - 1.800gr - Poids : 1.600gr - 1.700gr - 1.800gr

- Construction: Sidewall Fusion - 75% Camber / Rocker 25%. Progressive sidecut Progressive sidecut

- Songs: ABS thermoplastic

- Core: Wood Light Karuba - Ame : bois de Karuba l├ęger

- First layer: fiberglass tri-directional

- Second layer: carbon fiber bi-directional / fiberglass inserts 

Almost nothing on the Net early on besides these:

Having been on the same hill, on those same days, l have to admit I now really wanted to try these fat boys out.   But sadly, mine would show up in April and the closest I would come to a Cham pow day was a foot of nasty Cascade cement at Crystal that was doing point release slides under the lifts by the afternoon..

But that turned out to not be a bad thing.   I wanted to get some skinning in on my lwt stuff but the new snow and avi danger made that problematic.  So I stuck with the Hi5s on the lifts all day.  It seemed better than going home, as most did.  The first steep I dropped into was 4 turns to the packed again.  And I thought that was rather easy.   Easier than expected for sure.    Next drop I made 6 turns and was still not being pushed.  Seemed too easy in the sloppy snow.   Terrible snow to ski on but the kind of snow a good  snow boarder loves   So next time I dropped in the same place and did six turns before the first tree.    Holy shit!  Are these really 188cm and 105cm wide?  These will take some imagination and relearning what is possible was my thought that day.

Just say no to short skis ;)   These are real skis!

No wonder the kids in Cham were on head height or better skis lengths.  These things turn like they are a 150mm soft, skinny skis or a snow board.   And maybe they are with that much rocker and  flotation!  What ever is going on here for technology, they sure are a hoot and super easy to ski on!

Check out the actual surface area being used on flat ground between my 162cm  Se7en Summits and the Hi5 in a 188cm.  That is SOME serious rocker!

When you start looking at rockered skis you need to be really careful with the definition because the ski companies aren't.  "Early rise",  "semi rockered" and the other terms so easily bandied about generally aren't truly rockered skis.  Real rockered skis, ski and turn like much shorter skis than their measured length would first indicate because there is less surface on the ground taking full weight.

When the tips of your skis set on the snow like the Hi5 obviously does, the ski is rockered.  410cm of rocker by my measure on the 188s. A quick example of the difference?  A 173cm Stoke ski like a 188cm Hi5.  If I cut hairs here, the 176 Aspect feels slower to turn than the longer and wider 188 Hi5.  Most of that is rocker, some of it is the additional side cut of the Hi5.  The point is the Hi 5 turns like a much shorter skis in my opinion.  Surprizingly so and much to my personal enjoyment.

I hear fat skis are a little tough to edge.   Big, stiff  boots will solve part of that.

Fat skis are not suppose to like light weight boots. I took that test and like the Dynafit TLT Ps with these skis. And I generally ski the Ps without the tongue, as I was doing in the skiing comments above. Add the tongue and there is plenty of boot for the Stokes or the Hi5s in any length. But I haven't bothered adding the tongue. Might be the fact the Hi5 is so easy to ski and not the boots. It is a question yet unanswered to my satisfaction. But I have the technology to find that answer and will come back to it when I do. I like to think of the Hi5 as my Aspects with power steering and 4 wheel drive if that makes sense. Lower geared, and easier to drive in shitty snow.

The only other fat ski in my quiver is a pair of the new Dynafit Stokes.  Good ski as well.  But neither ski is  really FAT by today's standards.   Can't consider the BD Aspect as fat either.   I wanted some serious rocker just to see what it was like to ski.  But if possible on a more traditional ski with some side cut.  Dbl rockered skis seem a little extreme.  But may be I am wrong there.   Traditional you say?  Well no tail rocker (unless you consider the last 2" of ski rockered" and the reasonable side cut seems almost traditional  these days.   The side cut isn't that far off between the Aspect and the Hi5.    BTW I simply haven't noticed the square cut tail.  When you sit back there is good support and edge a decent GS ski.  Looks a little weird a first but then so does this ski.  That was amazingly easy to get over.  And amazingly easy to set tail first in hard snow if it is required.   The Hi5 numbers made it look like a more "traditional" ski  with some added rocker...OK a lot of rocker.

(all factory numbers..not my numbers)

Mustagh SL 187cm  6lb 9oz  122-88-111

Aspect   186cm  7 lb 2 oz   130 / 90 / 117   

Drift     186 cm  7 lb 10 oz  138/ 100/ 123

Stoke    191cm  7 lb 14oz  134 / 108 / 122   

Hi5       188cm  7lb 15oz  135 / 105 / 125  

Wailer HB 190cm   9lb 4oz  141/ 112 / 128

Megawatt  188cm  10 lb 1 oz  153-125-130

My pre production pair of Hi5s are a few oz. over at a measured 8# 7oz.  La Sportiva missed the mark early on  by  4oz per ski in a 188.    Close enough from my perspective for what I am getting in added performance.    I actually made a special trip to Marmot just to check my own numbers again when I started listing the weight numbers on the Aspect and Stoke.  Part of that is the HI5 is a little longer and a good bit wider.  And the ski performance matches the Hi5's bigger numbers.    Bottom line is I don't care about the weight on this ski  (within reason)  compared to my Aspects or Stokes.  The Hi5s have proven themselves as my go to, "Hero skis" any any kind of soft snow.   If I need a hero ski that particular day I'll deal with the marginal extra weight on the uphill.  (Thank Colin at La Sportiva for correcting the production numbers on the skis being shipped as of  Sept  '11)

I think, if given the choice, you'll find few willing to ski a non rockered 175 or 180cm ski where you can so easily ski the rockered 188 Hi5.   The rocker makes that much difference.  I like skiing a little longer ski again.  It was an easy sale after just three runs.

This is the most fun all around ski I have been on for junk snow.   Short of ice and really hard groomers anyway.   They aren't GS skis.  There is a definite speed limit.   These are my hero skis for junk snow.  Ski just about anything, anywhere on these and feel awesome while doing it.  Might even be able to give my boarding buddy a run for the money in wind blown.   Which says a lot.  No way I would have believed that if the only place I had skied them was on Chamonix pow.  Might be the only ski I use for the down there next winter though.    Ripping right out of the gate on the Midi is a dream I intend to make real with this board.

Bottom line?  If you haven't skied a fat rocker should ASAP.  Hero skis, plain and simple..   With a decade off line...I needed a hero ski ;-)


Anonymous said...

"...and a full 105cm wide at the waist. It is a 75/25 rockered ski. My 188cms pair..."

Hate to bug you on this, but I've seen you do it before. I suspect you mean 150 mm (not cm) wide. That's a x10 difference. Sort of like saying you're 60 ft tall...

Dane said...

I did mention these were fat skis, right? I stand corrected, they are 105mm wide and 188cm tall or 4" x 6'2". Thanks for pointing out the mistake.

Anonymous said...

With the TLT 5 making the silvretta binding obsolete, I'm still surprised to see you don't have one in your quiver of skis. What's your thoughts on silvrettas?

Dane said...

I have skied on and still own a pair Silvrettas. Great set up if you want to switch back and forth from one style of boot to the next.

Since March of this year I have zero interest in every doing that again. Combo of Spantiks and BD Aspects was my last attempt at using Silvrettas. Terrible deservice to two really nice pieces of kit, that were horribly mismatched.

Great climbing boot, great ski. Put them together and nothing great about the combo on any terrain imo. That dismal experience lead me directly to my current TLT experiment. I noticed most using Silvrettas simply used AT boots and carried climbing boots anyway. An option I want to avoid. If I have to do that I would pefer the least amount of weight involved all around.

The problem with the Silvretta I think is that it is a great idea that will weight almost as much as a good mtn boot or the lwt ski you want to use them on.

Silvretta may work for your gear. And in various forms has for several decades now. My take is the now most will be better served with a Dynafit binding system. All it will take to make that prediction a fact is better climbing boots that are Dynafit compatible. I am truly surprized no one has done it yet.

A reinforced ankle on a lighter Spantik with Dynafit pins and a 160cm mtn ski that weights in at 1000g and a low tech Dynafit bnding would totally rule in the alpine world.

The TLT is a much better ski boot that people are climbing in but hopefully there will be others even better suited for climbing and still an excellent ski boot.

Colin Lantz said...

Hi Dane. Colin here from La Sportiva. I'm the product manager for the winter sports products. Glad you liked the Hi5. Seems you really got the gist of what we were trying to create -- a super versatile fat rocker ski married to the best parts of a traditional ski mountaineering ski. Have to mention that the weight specs you put up caught my eye right away. you wrote:
"Hi5 188cm 9lb 2oz 135 / 105 / 125 mm". The weight per pair for the 188's is actually 3600 grams or 7.9 pounds. We're using some pretty hi-tech carbon technology inside to keep the weights down. Cheers!

Dane said...

The is FYI that Colin Lantz posted over at Wildsnow. I thought it worth repeating here for those that haven't (but you should) take a look at wildsnow.

"I'm the worldwide
product manager for the winter sports products. Just wanted to jump in and help
clarify the whole Movement/La Sportiva relationship... The Hi5 is not a rebadge and is a shape we designed, with the help of Nanni Tua's 40+ years of ski manufacturing expertise, specifically for the North American ski mountaineer. We saw a niche in the market and built the Hi5 to fill it. Well, actually we built it for us and thought some other people would like it too. That's the Sportiva way! We've never seen a niche that is too small to fill. If there are 100 people asking for it we'll do it. Always having the right tool for the job at hand is that important to us.

Here's the skinny on how La Sportiva came to be the North American ("NA")
distributor for Movement. Nanni Tua is Italian and this is how La Sportiva (an
Italian company) came to make their skis in his new factory in Tunisia. I was going
to the factory and working on the new ski line with Nanni and came to know the
Movement guys as they are making their skis in the same place. The Movement guys
(all core skiers and not a bunch of suits) let us know that they were looking for a
new distributor for NA. Well, one thing led to another and in the end La Sportiva NA
decided it made a lot of sense to start selling Movement in the U.S. and Canada. One
of the main reasons for doing this (besides the fact that it's just damn good
product and a really cool company with heaps of old school soul) is that we wanted
to make sure that we were able to maintain our position in the factory and keep
working closely with Nanni. Having a tighter association with Nanni's best customer
(Movement) was
a way to do this. There is a lot of competition right now to be in the ski
industry for production space in the good factories. The Chinese economy is
heating up so fast that labor costs are going through the roof and a lot of
companies that decided to move their production to China in the past few years are
now looking to pull out and move elsewhere. In the end, there are really only a
few "A" list ski manufacturers in the world and if you want to be in one of those
factories you need to have one of two things: massive quantities or a tight
relationship with the owners. This is especially true for a newbie brand in the
world of skis like Sportiva. As La Sportiva Italy was planning to launch a new
ski, ski boot and binding line at the same time La Sportiva NA was taking on
distribution for Movement, the decision was made to setup Movement as a separate
entity to avoid any confusion between the two lines. So, in the end, yes, Movement
is being distributed by La Sportiva, b
ut their skis lines have nothing to do with each other. Movement is "
The Freeski Company". They are Swiss based and THE first ski company to really
focus on Freeskiing or what is usually referred to as Freeride skiing over here.
We'd like La Sportiva to be known as "The Ski Mountaineering Company".
Mountaineering is La Sportiva's heritage business and so the jump to Ski
Mountaineering is not as far as it would first appear. The truth is that La
Sportiva's original heritage business was leather ski boots and when it all went to
plastic in the 70's La Sportiva abandoned the category because they couldn't afford
the plastic injection mold investment costs and that is when they really started
focusing on climbing and mountaineering. So, La Sportiva's entry into ski
mountaineering products is really a re-entry. Kind of a Back to the Future thing."

Anonymous said...


Try using a leash system like Colin Haley describes somewhere on the web and you'll ski way better in your spantiks. It makes a huge difference since the rearword Stiffness of a climbing boot is the biggest problem. The tip leash makes up for this.