Saturday, February 5, 2011

Ski Test: RAMp Woodpecker & Groundhog

     Another benefit of my Winter of Wanderlust is the ability to test some skis now and again. Here is my test of the RAMp Woodpecker and Groundhog. 
    In the last week I had the opportunity to test ride both the Woodpecker and Groundhog models from RAMp. The setting was Aspen during the X-Games with runs taken at Buttermilk/Tiehack, Ajax and Snowmass. Conditions were firm corduroy, and temperatures were moderate in the 30's. The Woodpecker was first as I headed to Ajax. Generally I like a beefier ski such as Atomic, Volkl, Stockli, however the RAMp Woodpecker was fairly impressive. It was agile in handling both firm groomers and the piles of sluff that build toward the edges of the trail. When I ventured into new snow, slightly off-piste the ski responded well. I did find that as with some French-designed skis the turn initiation begins with toe pressure and follows the foot through heel pressure and finally back cuff pressure to finish off the turn.although somewhat lacking in edge hold, this was the turn style that got the best performance from the Woodpecker.


     Later that evening my wife Martha and our dear friend Jen arrived, so the next day it was time to try Snowmass and change-up models to the RAMp Groundhog in a 179cm. Love at first turn! Like the Woodpecker, initiation began with the toe but as I rolled the pressure back toward my arch, the second straighter-walled section of the sidecut hooked up and lookout! A nice firm mid-turn platform to stand on, great edge hold. Turn completion was easy, and the ski was extremely stable throughout each arc. I expected a bit less honestly, but the 100mm waist and low-rise rocker tips really made this a one-ski-does-all choice. Next day we headed to Breckenridge where the most new snowfall in the front range was forecast. We arrived in time to catch the last 2-1/2 hours of the day as the snowfall began, then steadily increased in intensity. It was the kind of day where the snow piles up on your forearms and thighs as you ride the slower fixed-grips. Soon there was 2 to 3" of fluff over groomers... One of my favorite set-ups from my many years in Vermont. As expected, the Groundhog ripped and floated accordingly, playing in the soft but acknowledging the firm underbelly. The wind that accompanied the storm kept us on the Peak 8 Superchairs, which also meant that the terrain served by these lifts was a bit steep-starved. We decided that given the late hour of the day and the building storm that looping these two lifts would provide enough fun for the Groundhogs and our posse until the bullwheels slowed to a stop at 4 pm. 
     With the incoming storm, the next day would promise some more freshies, sub-zero temperatures, and it would be February 2, Groundhog Day. How appropriate. The snow stopped during the night leaving snowfall projections a little aggressive, nonetheless it was -10 F, not much wind and 4 to 5" of fresh, depending upon aspect. We chose to lap Peak 10 and 6 Chair for a bit more challenge, about as much as you can find at Breck. The one thing about Breckenridge is that the skier ability is on the lower end of the scale. For us, this meant fresh tracks in the trees all day, and soft, snow-filled troughs on the bump runs like Mar's choice 'Spitfire'. 
     Add up the new snow, great company and beautiful location and I was in Groundhog Heaven. If you couldn't tell, the Groundhog was the most enjoyable ski I have skied in quite some time. Not to mention the lift line comments on the cool cord-of-wood top sheet graphics. (Sales pitch: If you are looking for a one-ski-does-all for east to west coast conditions, opt for the RAMp Groundhog. With a street price south of $700, even Punxsutawney Phil himself may want a pair. (Commercial break: Full story at www.rampsports.com)
     Peace.

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