REVIEWS AND TESTS
Ski Tests & Reviews
Sterling Matterhorn Skis 2007-2008
A quick followup on the original testing after getting on a bunch of other skis the last month or two and coming back to the Sterling Matterhorns (It's always good to get away from a ski for a while and come back to it after riding other brands for a while in different snow conditions and trails...)
This time, we had the 163cm version (shortest one they have) with the "Madrona Burl" topsheet in addition to the 174 length with the "Palisander Santos" topsheet. We still did not get a chance to try the 185 (darn).
163 cm Matterhorn:
I got to ski these 163s one day in soft, soft packed powder (the kind you walk on and sink about 2 inches in your boots) and up to knee-deep powder.
Soft, Soft Packed Powder:
The ski really felt like a race ski at first. It sank undefoot and lost momentum if you pressed down like you wanted to carve in the soft packed stuff. It really wanted a firmer surface for that kind of technique. If I backed off the foot pressure and smeared my turns, the Matterhorns were happy and made perfectly civilized changes of direction with just a little bit of effort. To be fair, everyone with a ski less than 85mm underfoot has having the same problem in these conditions. The Matterhorns are only 76mm at the waist, so skiing sinkable packed powder with them was going to be an adventure anyway.
As soon as the surface firmed up or was scraped away by traffic, the ski came alive and wanted to immediately sink its teeth into the surface and grip a high-performance arc. Being a 163, quick SL-type turns were immediately available on demand, with more kick than you might expect...(definitely a race-bred gene pool at work here). Higher speed GS turns were no problem. Stability was excellent and turn intiation was predictable and consistent. You want to stay forward on the Matterhorns at 163. The lack of tail behind you becomes apparent at really high speeds. The ski's dampening is high, so it stays quiet at speed, but I could find the end of the tail quickly if I was really humming along and got into the back seat.
The sinking underfoot feeling in the really soft, soft packed powder disappeared once I ventured into the fresh knee-deep powder. The whole ski remained "in" the snow (it is not a porpoise-like surfacing powder ski like a Praxis!), but could be raised or lowered in the powder without too much work. Just keep your stance steady and centered. Again, it is not a specialized powder ski...don't expect it to act like one. Much more civilized than a race ski in powder, for sure. While it's natural habitat is the groomed surfaces, the Matterhorns work perfectly OK in the powder if you're not spoiled by using fat skis in the fluff.
Ditto for the 174 Matterhorn in the soft pack and powder conditions.
Grippy, Squeaky Eastern Hardpack:
On a different day with epic squeaky Eastern hardpack buffed smooth, I got to use the 163 Matterhorns. The same vice-grip feeling of the 174cm Sterlings on hardpack showed up in the 163s. Both skis reward an athletic, expert initiation with a resulting strong, very secure edgehold and pressure control. The 163 will allow a tighter turn to happen quicker (16.5m radius) than the 174 (19.1m radius), and at lower speeds. Where the 174 takes a little speed to get into its best groove for its first turn, the 163 has already ripped off a turn and begun the next one. The 163 still requires a bit of preparation before you get it set into its race-like turn, but if you ski it easy...it just changes direction without the race-like grip. Like its longer versions, the 163 can still catch a lazy skier off-guard. The Matterhorn is responsive and strong, with a high amount of camber, making the old "I caught an edge" saying come to mind more than a less athletic ski would cause.
I watched another skier riding the Sterling Matterhorn 163 who had tried the 174cm version earlier. She had been somewhat overwhelmed by the 174 since she is much shorter and less aggressive in style. The 163 allowed her to increase her speed and control across the hardpack and experience a race-like grip lacking in her own skis. I think she said "Oh boy...these things just want to RUN!". She immediately became comfortable with them and was confident in her turn control, where the 174 took her for a ride sometimes. Bottom line: make sure you size this ski correctly by demoing it first for your preferred terrain and style. When in doubt, go with the shorter length!
The Matterhorn 163 as not as richochet-rabbit as a pure SL ski. It was more like a short GS ski, with all the high speed cruising and carving manners of its longer versions. You could do slalom turns with it lickety split, but make sure you stay on top of them. Very manuverable, but still business-like in their attitude. Shorter skiers who love a high-performance, near-race quality carving ski will love the Matterhorn 163. I repeat my feeling that the intermediate level skiers will have to increase their skills or be in good physical condition to really enjoy this ski. It rips, plain and simple. It is not a fluffy luxury ski. It is a race-bred carving tool in high-gloss, exotic wood clothing. Gorgeous to look at, a really nice work of art and a high-end performance machine. I don't think there are many skis with that combination. You could probably find skis that perform as nicely as the Sterlings, but they won't have that same work-of-art appearance and premium branding.
Some folks wanted more photos of the Sterlings. Here you go:
[click here for larger image]
[click here for a larger picture]
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