No More F***ing Excuses Salomon
It's fair to say the Salomon Suspect did not have the best reputation on Newschoolers.
Problems with the edges tarnished the Suspect from the start and although the stiff flex made it a great ski for hard carving, it wasn't really what most people were looking for in a park ski. When Salomon announced that the Suspect would be replaced I was very interested to see what they would come up with.
This question was partially answered when I found out the new ski would be a LAB ski; the moniker Salomon's very top tier of products hold. They are generally reserved for the racing side of the sport, but with free-skiing being added to the Winter Olympics, they clearly wanted their free-ski athletes to be on just as good skis as the racers. This meant the new ski was going to be made to the highest possible standards, without any compromising, hence its name; No Fucking Excuses or NFX.
But what would all this mean for me and you - would we get the same ski as Woodsy and Brown used at the Olympics or would it be some cheaper relative - and perhaps more importantly, if it was the same ski, would it actually be something the average park skier would want to ride?
If you compare the Suspect and the NFX on paper it's a little hard to see what has changed. The tip, tail and underfoot dimensions are the same at 122, 86 and 115, however the turn radius has changed to 18.6m on the NFX compared to 19.7m on the Suspect in the largest size.
Another notable change is the base. Often when companies produce a top end park ski they just slap a high end race base on the ski. Although this is certainly fast, it is perhaps not the best for everyday park use as they require more maintenance and tend to get damaged more easily than a cheaper base. What Salomon has done on the NFX is combine the two. The more durable but slightly slower material is used on the edges and high impact zones, while the faster base is used in the high glide zones. This means is you get a fast base which should still hold up to the abuse of park skiing.
The NFX remains full camber and is in fact the only ski in the entire Salomon range to feature no Rocker of any type, although the tips have been redesigned. Compared to the Suspect, the NFX has a slower more gradual tip and tail, giving the effect of a slight early rise, while maintaining as much effective edge as possible. The construction uses full sidewall and rubber elastomers added to the core at the tip and tail as well as under the bindings, to aid impact reduction.
Looking at the ski it's clear to see that this has been part of the LAB program, as the build is very good. Some complained that the graphics look rather unfinished, but I like how you can see some of the layers and laminates added to the ski.
Flexing the ski showed promise too. The overall flex is still certainly mid to firm, but on closer inspection the tip and in particular the tail have some decent flex. Underfoot it's certainly stiff, but given the flex in the tip and tail, I expected the ski to be a little more playful and forgiving than the Suspect.
Everyone seems to be interested in edge size these days and the NFX does pretty well. Salomon use their XL edge on the NFX which I measured to be 2x2mm, so although not as wide as some on the market is a pretty decent size.
The particular pair of skis I tested were lent to me by a rep and anyone who has borrowed a ski from a rep will know they like to keep them with sharp edges. This pair were no exception.
I gave them a couple of groomer laps to see what they could do. The snow was pretty firm and the NFX had no problem carving, they were easy to initiate and finish turns, with the flex letting me push them hard. They were really good fun for ripping about edge to edge and any time I found a hit the pop was huge; the skis just wanted to be in the air.
After a few laps I had to try them in the park, regardless of the stupidly sharp edges. The Whistler park at the time was mainly just boxes and wider rails so I figured I would be ok. My first few laps were awesome - despite the stiffer flex, the skis still popped really easily onto the slower, smaller features. Compared to the Suspect, the flex is much more progressive and they are also a more forgiving ski. Eventually I did end up catching an edge pretty hard on a rail and I figured I had pushed my luck long enough.
Back in the shop I gave the skis a quick detune. I took a file to the section under the bindings and rounded off the edge, also detuning the tip and tail at the contacts slightly. This sort of detune is the one often used by slope skiers who want to maintain some edge to be able to carve into jumps, but want to reduce the chance of catching underfoot.
Straightaway I could feel the difference, detuning the contacts made the ski much more playful - buttering, reverts and swaps became much easier. Compared to the Suspect, the NFX is also much more fun on slower jibs, as the slightly softer flex and crazy pop makes them easy to get onto things. On the larger rails the fast base was nice to get speed easily and I was actually finding I was over jumping things quite often. On a little butter pad area I was finding I could get up on the tip and tails pretty easily and compared to some softer skis the NFX actually supports you in the butter so you don't feel like you will wash out.
Over the next few days I spent some time just riding the mountain. We had a pretty big pow dump and I decided to see what they could do in deep snow – let's just say they are a park ski so don't expect much. A few days later when the snow had firmed up I took them down a different bowl and they ripped down. Although the NFX was never intended to be used as an all mountain ski, park skis often make good options if you ski somewhere that does not see much fresh snow.
Back in the park it was time to see how they handled the jumps. As I mentioned before, these skis just want to be in the air; off any lip the pop is incredible. I constantly surprised myself how big I ended up going off things. The swing weight is also really low, so getting the skis around is no issue at all. On landing the stiffer underfoot flex gives you confidence that even if you land slightly off balance, you can recover. I can certainly see where the athletes input have gone into these skis.
I'm sure you all want to know about the durability. Much to the annoyance of the kind rep who lent me these skis, I have been trying my best to destroy them to find out. Full disclosure, I am getting on a bit and don't ride as hard as a lot of park guys, but so far these skis have held up really well.
The total base damage after a few weeks of testing
This is the worst top sheet damaged the skis sustained during testing
Although the edges are showing some minor signs of wear, there are no cracks and they are holding up really well. The bases are still near pristine, despite the fact I took them for a run down A-Line with shall we say less snow then I expected in places. One thing that has really impressed me is how durable the top sheet has been. With sharp edges on sections of the ski I expected some damage, but so far I have nothing worse than a few cuts. I have bashed the tips off a few rails getting on and expected to have pushed the edge in a couple of times, but again the NFX has more then stood up to the abusive. Only time will tell how they survive long term, but so far I am very impressed so far.
Overall the biggest thing that has surprised me about the NFX is how much more fun it is then the Suspect. Going into this test I expected a ski which performed really well on the bigger jumps and rails, but was perhaps not the most fun at slower speeds. Luckily this is not the NFX. I have found I am spending much more time on them then I expected. Unless it's been dumping, they are my go to ski.
If you base your opinion of Salomon on the Suspect then I urge you to at least try the NFX.
As always we want your reviews too, so if you have had chance to ride the NFX add a review in the review system here.
Next week the in depth review will be something a little less park orientated. I have been skiing the Atomic Waymaker Carbon 130 and next week I will be releasing my full review.
If you missed it check out the rest of this weeks new reviews including Eira, Dragon and SkullCandy here.
Lastly thanks to my mate Peter Walker for helping me get these reviews into decent English.