2013-2014 Praxis Le Petite
127-98-117 11m @ 143cm
848 Tanager Street, STE J
Incline Village, NV 89451-9453
Suggested Retail Price (MSRP):
$599 retail (but Praxis has frequent sales...get on their list)
Freeride Ski For Small People
Keith O'Meara has a legendary cult following for his high-quality, long-durability freeride and powder skis and with world freeride/freeski championships from Praxis-mounted skiers such as Drew Tabke under his belt, Keith knows about performance and ski behaviors. Praxis has explored the world of skis for little people with the Jr. MVP (120 & 130cm) and the Le Petite model in 143, 153 and 163cm sizes...so we wanted to see what Keith has built for little freeriders, and tested the 143cm Le Petite in Vermont.
Rating (with comments):
(1="get me off these things"->10="I have to own a pair")
9+ for any soft or variable snow...mixed terrain for lightweight skiers
6 for boilerplate hardpack
8+ for packed powder groomers
Praxis is happy to be offering some skis for the smaller and lighter riders out there this year. In response to a very common request to make a shorter ski for all those lightweight rippers, we present the Le Petite. This ski incorporates all the things we like in an easy-to-ride ski: gradual tip and tail splay for smooth float and quickness, classic camber and sidecut underfoot, and a generous amount of tip and tail splay makes for an incredibly functional and user-friendly ski. This skis design is the ideal stepping stone for an intermediate skier wishing to become an expert. Praxis is confident the Le Petite will introduce many skiers to the world of off-piste terrain. With shorter sizes being offered at 143 cm, 153 cm, and 163 cm, this mid fat ski is the perfect fit for the often-overlooked younger and female rippers out there looking for a custom, handcrafted pair of skis. The 163 cm prototype was loved by all the women who skied them and now, with the smaller sizes added to the mix the youth can experience what a carefully handcrafted ski is all about.
The Praxis Le Petite is probably the best off-piste ski for kids I have ever seen in action. They could also be one of the easiest off-piste skis for very lightweight skiers of any age. The Le Petite has that hard-to-find combination of geometry, flex pattern, progressive torsional compliance and rebound energy perfect for the intermediate 11-13 year olds we tested with. Kids who had never previously ventured into the ungroomed, powdery off-piste terrain were able to go wherever they wanted with zero struggle, zero effort and most importantly, perfect confidence.That's a big thing.
Cruising down the groomers to catch the lift back up showed the ski gripped underfoot securely, letting kids turn on demand without any hint of loosing edgehold, cranking turns as they would with their standard twintip skis...only with a more "loose" feel (that's a quote). Stop on demand. Slide on demand. Smear, goof around, jump, spray your buddies, find some jumps. Bumps and undulating terrain were fun and easy. Boilerplate grip was less than the narrower frontside-oriented skis, but was never, ever slippery or unpredictable..."More slidey, but just fine." (another quote).
While the soft-flex version may be overpowered by the more athletic and heavier skiers who would fit into the 143-163cm sizes, this ski hits the mark as the off-piste ski I would put my own kids on to venture off the groomers while retaining carving and security on packed surfaces. This is not a hard-charger, but a crowd pleaser design.
When you see kids traversing undulating, uneven terrain covered with a variety of snow surfaces ranging from fresh powder to windpack to denser old-snow and cut-up crud without any effort and big grins on their faces, having a blast without thinking about it, you have a winning ski. Since it's made by Praxis, it will stand up to plenty of hard use for several seasons, meaning the Le Petite hand-me-downs will still be excellent performers...long after the lesser skis have lost their spunk.
Technical Ski Data: (from Praxis specs)
Ski Length = 143cm (also available in 153 and 163)
Camber = Early-rise tip and tail, camber underfoot
Sidecut = 127-98-117
Sidecut Length = 1300mm
Radius = 11m @ 143cm
Multi-laminate ash, aspen, maple wood core (see graphic),
19 oz. Triaxial fiberglass
Durasurf 4000 bases
Manufactured in USA
Bindings and Boots Used:
Tyrolia SP100 demo bindings, Mounted on-the-mark as recommended by Keith
Nordica Doberman Team 70 boots
Salomon T3 Jr. boots
First off, the "Le Petite" model name is either an intential mix of the feminine and masculine French forms ("La petite" = Feminine, "Le petit" = Masculine...there is no "Le Petite"), or just plain misformed...either way, this 143cm ski is one of the coolest little skis we have ever seen. Other manufacturers have been bringing out off-piste kid skis (For example...Blizzard, Volkl, Rossi, Armada, Salomon, Moment, 4FRNT, Icelantic and others), but many (not all) seem to be merely shortened twin-tip designs in fatter widths, while the Praxis Le Petite is a truly scaled-down, modern multipoint off-piste geometry. The tip and tail taper, splay proportions, sidecut, contact points and flex are perfectly proportioned for shorter sizes (143, 153, 163cm), with soft flex for the expected lighter weight of the skiers choosing these lengths. Right out of the wrapper, they were very impressively shaped. The light weight and soft flex of these skis is achieved with a very thin core profile since there is an abundance of surface area in the design. When prepping the ski for mounting, we chose the shallow, 7mm drill to prevent any chance of distorting the bases.
The fit and finish are the high-quality Praxis is known for, and the ski is topped off with a vibrant, fun topsheet graphic that looks even better on snow when you get it outside. Our test pair was marked "soft flex" (other flexes can be built...just ask Keith), and was indeed soft, but progressively compliant throughout its length. The ski hand-flexed with a moderate dampness, torsional strength progressing along the forebody to a stronger midsection and tail. "Lively" was the word that came to mind when flexing the little Praxis. They have a thin vertical profile (see pics below). They came sharp, base-ground and ready to wax right out of the bag. We skied them as-is. Did we mention their shape looks really cool in 143cm?
Eastern corduroy, packed powder and hardpack groomers, ungroomed packed powder with small bumps, shin-deep to knee-deep powder conditions (for kids), both smooth and bumpy. Windpack, crust, chalky wind buff, fresh and old powder, weeds). We used kids ranging in age from 10-13 with intermediate abilities....and maybe an adult or two...
Testing a junior ski is difficult for adult reviewers is difficult since we have to judge the ski's behavior by observing the way kids ski it in the given terrain and snow conditions. Even if adults can fit into the bindings to try the junior ski, the weight, leverage, muscle and skill of the pilot is completely out of the design range for a ski only 143cm long. We can get a feel for it, for sure, but the proof of the pudding is in how the kids react to the ski, and how the ski reacts to the kids. Since I am writing the review, people should know I coached 6-12 year-old racers for about 9 years, so I have some experience observing the behavior of kids on skis, and the behavior of skis under kids (there's an important difference). Coaching over those years included not only race training, but freesking in powder, crud, trees, bumps, groomers...you name it, so I hope I can convey what we saw in this ski with some clarity so you can judge the personality of the Praxis Le Petite from the descriptions.
Hardpack and Boilerplate:
The Le Petite is not a carving ski, nor is it a twin-tip park & pipe ski. It's a freeride, essentially off-piste ski for lightweight skiers and kids who need a ski with good, predictable edgehold on groomers or hardpack off-piste. The Praxis Le Petite demonstrates the reliable edgegrip of most of the contemporary multi-point sidecut designs from the best ski desgners. Because of its camber underfoot and short contact length when rolled-up on edge and pressured, the Le Petite grips the groomers very nicely and predictably, never "giving out" or surprising the pilot. While it has a loose feel on the true boilerplate (the kind you can't get the tip of you pole to stick into), it is never slippery or washy. It grips predictably, cuts across the terrain and takes you where you want to go without a hitch. As soon as the snow depth gets at least sidewall-depth, the Le Petite curves into its geometry saddle and locks in for a nice, smooth turn like the modern ski it is. Many off-piste freeride skis feel slippery on hardpack, but the Praxis Le Petite is pretty darn secure and reliable, and that's a good thing, especially for kids.
Mixed conditions are where the geometry of the Le Petite really shines. The tapered, gently rising tip cuts through the irregular snowpack with finesse, never throwing the skier around (this is really important for kids at the helm), absorbing the little impacts while keeping the ski on-track. The turny sidecut and progressive torsional strength allows impressive agility in tight conditions, and in higher-speed situations, the ski's dampening works to keep it respectively quiet. In very high-speed situations, the soft, thin flex of the ski can cause it to become either overpowered by an agressive or heavy skier, or somewhat rattled since it has a short running surface, but it always retains its control and composure. The Le Petite falls into the recreational off-piste category, not the competitive or hard-charging freeride category...and that's just fine for the intended audience. While testing in some day-old, cut-up snow with the kids, I watched another kid (about the same age and size as our test kid) go by us with a pair of K2 Bad Seed junior freeride skis. He was struggling a bit because the ski was somewhat stiff for his weight, and lacked the pivoting and smearing ability of the Praxis skis in the same terrain conditions. The Bad Seeds could rail at higher speeds on the harder surfaces better than the Le Petite, but in the off-piste conditions, the difference was like night-and-day with the Praxis-equiped kids playing and pouncing through the terrain and the Bad Seed-equipped kid pounding through the same lines and surfaces.
Bumps were absorbed quietly with good control, although the relatively large shovel areas can urge the ski to turn if the skier is lazy or not paying attention. Diving in and out of the bumps and wales is pretty effortless because of the soft flex and compliant torsional characteristics, but retains a good popping energy underfoot and in the tail when the kids want to catch some air as the bounce along. "Control" and "Smoothness" are the buzzwords to describe the Le Petite in bumps, rather than "Rowdy" and "Rocketing". Not once did kids get knocked around..so that's good.
We only got to try the Le Petites in powder up to shin deep for kids (lack of fresh snow in December and January in Vermont), but it was clearly where these skis shine. The soft flex and great geometry made the kids "all-terrain-creatures", allowing them to point-and-go anywhere they wanted. The skis had the right balance of surfy, pivoty agility, floating prowess and quick edge-to-edge transitions with gripping security underfoot any time it was required. Kids could float over the tops of bumps, lumps and ditches, or dive down and make cranky or surfy turns...pretty much anything they wanted. The way the ski behaves, kids never felt a need to lean back, lean over to the side or get way forward...they seemed to get feedback cluing them in to stay centered, stand up and just "ski".
Analogies: (Quotes from kids)
"These are like the skis I know and love."
"They make me want to ski the thick stuff"
"These are like carving powder skis."
Things I Would Change About This Ski:
Short Answer When Someone Asks "What Do You Think About This Ski?":
The Praxis Le Petite should be one of the first skis you consider if you want to introduce kids to off-piste freeriding. It has a great combination of geometry, flex and personality to give kids instant confidence in all kinds of terrain off the groomed slopes.
Advice To People Considering This Ski:
Seriously consider having Keith build a stiffer version if you or your junior skier is slightly heavy or a stronger, charging type of rider. In its "stock" layup, it is soft-flexing and designed for lightweights (and performs very well for them), but a stiffer version could very well be a great ride for heavier or rowdier people looking for an under-165cm freeride ski.
See full review and pics at: