Want to know what’s the best off-piste ski of the 2012-2013 season?
McCloy has the utterly enviable job of picking all the skis in Snow+Rock range, and each winter he gets 50-55 days on snow, testing up to 150 different skis in the process. I’ve trailed in his wake on a couple of equipment tests in my time, and can vouch for the fact that McCloy skis like a rocket. Every pair he tries gets a heavy-duty workout.
Certainly, the Squad 7s are his favourite skis of the class of 2012 – and in part that’s because of the conditions in which he was able to try them.
Through the trees in La Grave
“I first tried them on a ten-day holiday over Christmas,” he recalls. “We started out in La Grave, south of Grenoble. It was at the tail-end of December’s stormy weather, and we were skiing in the trees, where the powder was thigh-deep in places.
“The terrain there was just wild. Our guides were weaving in and out of the trees and then, suddenly, they’d just disappear. We were thinking, ‘What the -?’ and then we’d catch up and find that they’d slotted through these little couloirs that were littered all over the place. So we had not just trees, but cliffs and chutes to contend with, too. It was a tough environment to be on skis that are 190cm long, and 12cm wide under the boot. But under the circumstances the Rossignol Squad 7 performed well.”
In deep powder above Les Arcs and La Plagne
In La Grave, the avalanche risk was way too high to venture any distance above the treeline “But then we started getting texts from friends over in the Tarentaise, saying there the powder there was solid as a rock,” says McCloy. “So we said ‘thanks very much’ to the guys in La Grave, and headed for Les Arcs.”
What followed was some of the best skiing of McCloy’s career – in the company of a small team of friends living and working in the resort.
“I’ve never skied in such conditions so early in the season,” he says. “For eight or nine days we were the first to ski many of the best off-piste routes in both Les Arcs and La Plagne; on the north face of the Bellecote, the backside of the Aiguille Rouge – all over, really. Everywhere we went, we skied incredible snow.”
“In conditions like that, the Squad 7s are superb. In open terrain, they’re ‘no-speed limit’ skis. You can go as fast as you want, where you want. I was jumping 20, 30ft cliffs, and they were soaking up the landings with ease. But what really impressed me was the manoeuvrability. They have so much float – they’re always on top of the snow, no matter how soft and light it is. As a result, it feels like you can turn on a dime.”
Too much float?
In fact, there was so much float that occasionally McCloy found himself missing the feeling of being “in the powder” rather than on top of it; and for a more down and dirty experience he’d recommend K2’s narrower Sidestash skis. But if you ever get the chance to ski snow like he did last December in the Tarentaise, and you’ve got the strength and skills to ski at speed, then the message coming from McCloy is loud and clear – beg, steal or borrow a pair of Rossignol Squad 7s. (Or you could always buy yourself a pair – they’re £785, ski only, at Snow+Rock.)
Here’s a second opinion – which pretty much duplicates McCloy’s – courtesy of BackcountryVIDEO.