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Adventure, Alpine / February 11, 2016

Gear Review: Rocky Mountain Underground Carbon Apostle Men’s Ski

Written by: Phil Lindeman

It’s tough to find the perfect touring ski for deep, deep powder.

Or, it was tough about 10 years ago, back when we weren’t spoiled rotten with the best and most varied touring technology ever. Seriously: At the SnowSports Industries Trade show in Denver, the backcountry and alpine touring (AT) sections were nearly twice as big as they were just four or five years ago. That means more gear than ever before from more manufacturers, including big names like K2. (According to SIA, the AT trend might be leveling off. Sales of AT gear reached a peak in December 2014 and have slowly been declining since then.)

Then again, all this can make the search tougher. At 5 years old, Rocky Mountain Underground <http://www.rockymountainunderground.com/> of Breckenridge is a newcomer in the backcountry game, but they came onto the scene just before things exploded. The founders started making skis in a garage and are still pretty small, working with a Canadian factory to press less then 5,000 pair per year. The designers experimented with the best and worst of AT technology to come up with skis that work in the Colorado backcountry, where snow ranges from fluffy in January to mucky in April and skin tracks can be brutally steep. And long.

RMU’s flagship men’s model, the Apostle, got an upgrade this season with tech made for touring: carbon. The 2015-16 Carbon Apostle features the same shape as the regular Apostle (RMU’s five-point shape: 126 nose, 132 mid, 105 waist, 120 mid, 114 tail) with the major addition of carbon inserts in the yellow aspen core. The core is layered between

 

Photo: Phil Lindeman

Photo: Phil Lindeman

What does this new tech do? In theory, carbon inserts make a ski stronger and lighter by supporting the old-fashioned wood core in all the right ways. It also means the ski should last longer, float better and basically destroy it in the backcountry.

I took the Carbon Apostle a mile or two east of Breckenridge to Baldy Mountain (13,684 feet), where a mellow skin track leads to the abandoned Iowa Mill around 11,300 feet. Above that, it’s all meadows and glades and turns between mining relics. Here’s how it did.

Uphill

The first thing I notice about the Carbon Apostle is the weight. These skis are seriously light: just seven pounds at 175cm long (it also comes in 165cm and 185cm). The demo pair I took had ultra-light Dynafit touring bindings — not those clunky AT/alpine hybrid bindings — but still, it’s nice when a ski that’s made for powder doesn’t weigh nine pounds. It’s also nice when it weighs lighter and costs the same as the Black Diamond Carbon Megawatt, one of the most trusted touring skis out there.

The trip from the parking lot to Iowa Mill is about 2.5 miles one-way and gains 1,300 vertical feet. After 15 minutes, I almost forgot I had skis on my feet. The Apostle was stable, even when the slope of the trail dipped to one side or the other. It felt just as light on the steep uphill after the mine.

Powder

The trickiest part about carbon is the feel. Sometimes, it can feel synthetic or fake or just wrong. In the powder, the Carbon Apostle felt exactly how it should: responsive and forgiving in turns, stiff and powerful in straightaways. The ski floated like a dream on the windblown south face and never collapsed unexpectedly when I took a few tight turns through trees around treeline. When I came within sight of the mill — right as the terrain gets flat — the ski carried well on rollers from meadow to meadow. It sunk more than I expected in patches of windblown powder, but that’s getting nitpicky.

Groomers

The luge-like run back down from Iowa Mill back to the parking lot is fast and fun, but it’s also bumpy and beat after a few days of traffic. Powder skis (and carbon skis in particular) are notorious for clattering on hard, flat terrain. Carbon is also known for vibrating uncomfortably. RMU’s first try at a Carbon Apostle suffered from it.

The company has come close to figuring this out, but not quite. The ski still vibrates slightly on long, sustained sections of hard pack, although it hardly chattered due to the rocker. It was the only time the carbon felt wrong — this isn’t a resort ski.

All said, I don’t recommend the Carbon Apostle if you’re chasing insanely thick powder. Other than that, it’s a nice catch in the deep, deep AT sea.

MSRP: $999

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about the author

Phil Lindeman

Phil Lindeman is a gear junkie based in Summit County, Colorado, where the powder is deep and the singletrack is nearly endless.

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