Rating: / 5
Lengths: 156, 166, 176
Stability at speed: 4.00 / 5
Hard snow performance: 0.00 / 5
Crud performance: 3.00 / 5
Forgiveness: 3.00 / 5
It’s 7 a.m. in Utah’s Little Cottonwood Canyon and it’s still so dark I need to use a headlamp to stick my skins to my skis and click into my bindings. I’m in Utah for the winter Outdoor Retailer show, a gathering of gear manufacturers, retailers, and media meant to showcase outdoor gear that’ll be hitting retail shelves next fall. I’m doing a dawn patrol backcountry tour near Alta Ski Area with some friends to test out a new pair of Black Diamond women’s skis called the Starlet, which is 100 millimeters underfoot, the perfect all-mountain width that’s still plenty fat enough for powder. (The men’s version of this ski is called the Drift.)
The Starlet has a similar shape and feel to BD’s popular Verdict ski, but it feels about half the weight, thanks to a soft wood core. On the steep skin track, the weight is a true blessing—kick turns have never felt so easy. But it isn’t until I rip my skins off, buckle my boots tight, and prepare for the descent that I truly feel the blessing of the Starlet. The ski has an early rise tip, which literally floats to the surface of the snow like a fishing bobber. I was worried about the soft, weightless feel I experienced on the way uphill to be washed out in the six inches of creamy snow on the way down, but this isn’t a problem. They handle wind-blown crud, a natural powder-filled halfpipe, and long and short-radius turns with grace, ease, and utter maneuverability. The only bummer about these skis? They won’t be available till next fall.