PRODUCT SPOTLIGHT: Gigawatt ski
Innovation is what drives everything here at Black Diamond. If we're not making gear better, stronger, lighter, faster, more durable and easier to use, then we're not doing our job. In this ongoing series of monthly posts, we'll be giving you an inside look at some of our most innovative products through one-on-one interviews with our team of industry-leading product designers and category directors.
This month we sat down with Ski Category Director Thomas Laakso to talk about our all-new, ultra-fat powder ski, the Gigawatt, which takes the legendary deep snow performance of our famous Megawatt to all new levels by adopting full tip-to-tail rocker, a reverse-camber profile, and a massive 135 mm waist.
For more information, or to grab yourself a pair before the next powder day, click HERE.
What was the design goal in creating the Gigawatt? Why such a big ski?
A fair number of Megawatt fans were asking for something bigger and longer. But the magic combo of the Gigawatt is its amount of agility despite its float. The agility comes from the relatively short contact length, and its float from the longer rockered tip and general girth. So though skiers were asking for a longer Megawatt, a long short contact length ski isn't really what they think they wanted. Creating more of a long-board type of feel with high-speed stability is really what was being asked for. The constant full rocker shape allows the ski to have pure tip to tail contact when tilted on a plane. With a dramatically different ride than the more short-board feeling Megawatt, there's a ride for everyone.
What kinds of skiing is the Gigawatt designed for? Will it work as a touring ski?
The Gigawatt is designed for high-performance powder skiing. Though anything BD makes takes a keen consideration of weight, if it's suitable for touring or not is based on your uphill pain threshold. Ben Walker, Director of Design here at BD, tours exclusively on the Giga, and with the Ascension Split Skin he seemingly hasn't developed birthing hips yet.
What specific features make the Gigawatt so specialized for deep powder skiing?
Sheer width no doubt plays a large part in the deep powder performance. But if BD is going to build such a behemoth, it's got to remain agile! I'm not a big believer in skis that are like tanks, that seemingly only have surface area as the key design driver. There's a few different ways of describing full reverse camber, but I like to think of it as decambered, flexed and ready in the turn shape that you would normally create when loading up the ski. We basically modeled the ski mid-state of a 30-degree tilted turn, where the ski is loaded up and carving. And we froze that shape in time, tilted it back to 0, and that's your camber profile. So when you tilt that ski over, boom! It's already in that turn shape and ready to arc. So you get a big surface area ski that's agile and actually quite manageable on hard snow. In controlled groomers it's actually just a hoot to tilt over and lock into the most powerful turn you can imagine. Almost to the point of carving 360 turns if you had enough momentum.
I'm also not a large guy, standing 5'8", but the agility of this ski is such that I actually prefer the 195cm over the 185cm. But this ski for me really only comes out on the unique storm days mid-season where I'm feeling strong and it's game on. You can really take another 10 feet of air on these because of the cushioned and predictable landings this girth and shape offers. If I was living back up in the NW though, the Giga would probably come out anytime a layer of 6" dense snow landed, and I'd be on the 185, saving the 188 Mega for the 1" and more days of regular winter and lighter snow.
How does the ski perform in harder or variable conditions?
The decambered design plus the serious torsional stiffness that the 3D geometry and fiber orientation yields really lends itself to a variable-to-hard condition ski. Granted, it's 135mm underfoot and 163mm up at the tip, but it's very very surprising as to what it can do. But don't take my word for it, try to catch Zack Griffin up at Baker ripping around on it as his daily driver. Even when it's fully tracked out, that guy can rip on it.
Did the design team encounter any unique challenges when designing the Gigawatt?
I find that the only characteristic I do not like in this type of ski is herringboning up some hard slope. Those hip muscles aren't something I get to exercise a lot, and they start to scream a bit. And you don't really get that spring on each step when trying to skate uphill that an underfoot cambered ski has. A small price to pay though for ear to ear grins when you have any ounce of gravity working for you.