As we begin our fourth year live on
the web we could not be more stoked to bring this review of Karhu's
new "Jak" telemark skis to you. Why? Not just because
these skis are the most versatile boards for telemark we have
ever had the pleasure of steering down a mountain, not because
they float through the powder and carve through the mank. Not
because they rail hard though the widest range of conditions
of any fat ski in our quiver, and not just because they rocked
our world last season. We are stoked for all of those reasons
but even more because the Jaks represent a landmark in the history
of tele ski design and performance.
You see, to put it simply, with the
introduction of the Jak this fall, tele skis have finally caught
up, even surpassed, their alpine bretheran. Karhu designer François
Sylvain is leading the way into the future of ski design with
this beefed up, stiffer, tele version of his already popular
Line Mothership. But wait a minute you might say...if the Mothership
was already out how can the Jak be "leading the way?"
Fact is, while the Line fattie had many fans last year, a lot
of skiers thought it could use a little more stiffness. So when
Sylvain began working on the Jak he experimented, incorporating
layers of titanal both above and below a new wood core. The result
was a tasty mix--a cross between a sweet round flexing fat board
and a stiffer, high performance, modern all-mountain ski. Leading
the way? You betcha: next season's Mothership will share the
construction pioneered last winter by Sylvain's Jak prototypes.
OK, You might now say, "the Jaks
are pretty advanced for a tele ski, so what? How do they compare
to the latest and greatest big mountain alpine skis?"
Let's put it this way: K2 recently announced
a December 1st launch date for their much anticipated Seth Morrison
signature model ski the "Seth Pistol." Rumor has it
that Morrison skied the Mothership last year and was wild about
it, but like others, felt it would rock harder if it was a little
stiffer. So let's see, K2's Pistol will measure out at 128/95/118
and utilize layers of aluminum for a stiffer ride. Karhu's Jak
will be 127/97/117 and get its added stiffness from the aforementioned
light, but rigid, titanal. And you won't have to wait until after
Turkey Day to get the telemark ski. It'll be out this fall in
three lengths, 172, 182 and 192.
For those of us who lived through the
dark '90s (and before), those days of crappy, soft and skinny
tele skis, this is a great development. A cause for celebration.
Frankly, if it's not the same for you...you just don't know.
We suffered with toothpicks for tele skis, we tele'd alpine skis
winter after winter. We waited two years from the time cap skis
showed up on alpine skis to their first appearance in the tele
world. Waited another two years before the more shapely alpine
profiles made it to the tele market...still we skied alpine skis.
Then we saw some real progress in tele baords the past couple
of years. Now Karhu, yes KARHU (of all people), has hit the ball
out of the park, giving us a tele specific ski that is as progressive
as the most advanced big-mountain alpine skis out there this
We have been skiing our Jak prototypes
for many months. They have been tested head to head against several
other similar skis. We have put them on the feet of dozens skiers
whose opinions we respect, from traditional tele skiers to progressive
freeheel skiers who spend the morning skiing the powder and the
afternoon in the park. We had a real rock star (not the skiing
kind) but a relatively new tele skier practically beg us to let
him keep one of our pairs and we had many veteran skiers asking
how soon they could get their own Jaks.
Everybody loved 'em.
In head to head tests the Jaks came
out on top every time. Stiffer and much more versatile than the
Pocket Rockets, the Karhus give up nothing in soft snow performance
to the PRs but gain a lot on firmer snow, crud and mank. Unlike
the Salomons, the Jaks don't strike an attitude when you push
them out of the built-in turn they want to make. All around performance
of the Jak is closer to the older Volkl Explosive, but with a
less hingy, more round, easy-going flex. Take the best qualities
of the Pocket Rocket and the latest Volkl Explosiv, combine them,
and you will have the Karhu Jak.
Conclusion: Our 182cm Jak prototypes
have been epic big-mountain performers for us since the first
day we took them out into the Mt. Tallac backcountry on an unreal
powder day early last season. Since then we have skied them everywhere
we have been, from California to Jackson Hole, from Mt. Hood
to Mad River Glen and Stowe. Even all the way over to Verbier,
Switzerland. We've skied them in Mammoth powder and mush, windpack
and corn. The Jaks were our first choice to mow down the late
spring/early summer sun cups and runnels of the Tioga Pass backcountry.
They are extremely versatile boards that tore up the steep and
narrow at Independence Peak last May in the Southern Sierra,
the twin tip design proved to be a real advantage when negotiating
tight spots. And of course the powder...the powder...
Reservations? We don't have any except
that BT and I are both dying to get on a longer pair...the 192cm
versions should be unreal! We'll have a production model review
of the big Jaks this fall. One other important note: the Jaks
are built with special inserts in the turned up part of the tip
and tail. These inserts are made of rubber to withstand the repeated
shock of hard park and big air landings. If you try to flex a
pair of Jaks in a shop using the traditional stand-up method
you will get a false sense of their stiffness. Instead flex the
Jaks by placing the tail running surface on the floor,
the ski will be almost parallel to the floor, then pressure the
middle of the ski. You will find that these are not really akk
OK, so if all of the above doesn't have
you convinced that you should give the Karhu Jaks a good hard
look, maybe this will: the Jaks will carry a manufacturer's suggested
retail price of just $450. Expect the street price to go as low
as $399. In a world of five, six and even $700+ performance skis,
the Jaks will be an awesome buy. One last tip: they will be available
in limited numbers this first season. If you want a pair you
probably best get 'em early. Know Jak, you'll be glad you did.