ON3P Wren 88 (2016-2017)
ON3P Wren 98 (2016-2017)
“Surf-flavored. solid smoothies with spunk.”
“Crud cruising fun house daily driver skis with high energy on-demand, wrapped around a refined core recipie"
ON3P Wren 98 (left) and Wren 88 (right)
This is a short-term test of ON3P's Wren 88s and 98s over only a two week period with early-season snow in Vermont, but we want to thank Jay Volak and Will Barton for loaning us these skis from their Eastern demo fleet in-between public demo events. We got a pretty good idea about ON3P's narrowest offerings and wanted to share our observations with everyone. ON3P has enjoyed a cult-like, and ever-growing population of devoted skiers since Scott Andrus broke onto the scene in 2008 as one of the first pioneers of the direct-to-skier ski company movement.
We are combining these two skis into one review since they are nearly identical in their behavior and personality, with the Wren 88 being a bit quicker, a bit more precise and a bit less surfy than the Wren 98. Scott's crew at ON3P has delivered a consistent personality in two physically different designs to meet two different kinds of skiers and conditions, but they are so close in feel they can be reviewed as one ski with subtle notes of difference in they way they handle and respond.
We didn't get the opportunity to get our normal variety of different skiers on the Wrens since this was a "quickie" test period, so these observations are my own.
- Eric Edelstein - January 2017
5622 NE Hassalo St
Portland, OR 97213
Suggested Retail Price (MSRP):
$749 usd (2016) - Free Worldwide shipping, unusual two-year warranty
All-Mountain Freeride (off-piste bias)
Rating (with comments):
(1="get me off these things"->10="I have to own a pair")
7+ for packed powder groomers...all speeds
9+ for mixed conditions.
Powder unavailable by press time
“Don’t call it a diet. Though slimmer, the Wrenegade Series is the kind of directional driver you need whether it’s fresh, cut up, or downright icy. Featuring a brand new rocker profile, three new waist widths, and our Bi-Radius sidecut design, the Wrenegade Series offers a stable, directional option for every condition. The Wrenegade 88 brings a new level of hard snow performance to the ON3P stable. Not to be confused with a carver, the Wrenegade 88 is designed to be a true all-mountain performer for those wanting a thinner waist and tighter turn radius.”
"Don’t call it a diet. Though slimmer, the Wrenegade Series is the kind of directional driver you need whether it’s fresh, cut up, or downright icy. Featuring a brand new rocker profile, three new waist widths, and our Bi-Radius sidecut design, the Wrenegade Series offers a stable, directional option for every condition. The Wrenegade 98 is our most versatile daily driver. An updated rocker profile improves float in soft snow while the thinner waist ensures solid edge hold in any conditions."
- Website November 2016
The Wren series of skis were given refactored rocker and sidecut geometry for 2016-2017 to make them a little more directional and precise than previous freeride skis from ON3P, and with the addition of the 88mm model, the Wrens provide platform for nearly any condition between icy boilerplate and bottomless fluff. The cult following of ON3P's skis regularly mentions the "feel" and "personality" of their skis as things they love, as well as the ability to handle a wide, wide variety of conditions as a one-ski quiver choice.
ON3P succeeded in delivering stable, (semi) directional all-terrain tools with a soft-snow bias having a great feel and response underfoot. Both skis feature a long-rise, significant rocker up front and a lower, somewhat flatter, (yet rockered) tail mated with a damp, quiet chassis with lots of energy potential. The significant rocker in the forebody and moderate rocker in the rear means the effective edge is relatively short (148cm on the 179cm Wren 98 for example), with a loose and playful front end and a tail section that finishes quickly. This creates a really agile platform that surfs cruddy, cut-up conditions with ease, confidence and control (thanks to the chassis...we will get to that later), yet can cut-and-thrust changes of direction when needed without feeling like you're turning a boat around.
These easy-driving skis essentialy absorb choppy, uneven surface materials without significant deflection while remaining dead-quiet underfoot and along the entire ski length at speed, amd can lay down arcs in packed powder conditions if they have some sidewall-depth snow to set their sidecuts into. Hardsnow performance is what we would call "Western-oriented" with some lack of grip on true boilerplate Eastern surfaces (...think of noisy concrete underfoot and feeling like you're going to lose your dental filings while you desperately try to get your pole to penetrate the surface...) compared to some all-mountain designs. We could have coaxed more edge grip out of these demo skis with a tighter base bevel, but since they were ON3P's demo fleet samples, we didn't want to mess with their tune (that would be rude).
I found myself grabbing the Wrens when there was a storm, or the early-season conditions turned Spring-like with semi-corn chop. There is a special "feel" to the ON3P Wren chassis best described as a quiet, controlled envelope around a springy, spunky core. The bamboo cores used by ON3P are enhanced with carbon fiber and triaxial fiberglass, with rubber dampening strips supporting the 3/4-wrap, thick, durable edges. The ON3P skis show a relatively thick core profile along the whole length of the ski, so there is plenty of material between your feet and the surface to absorb and distrubute energy really well. When skied lazy, the Wrens are loose and super fun with pop and energy, and you can get them to trench quickly across the fall line when the surface is anything less than bulletproof, and they cruise at faster speeds through mixed surfaces with complete confidence and control...retaining their quiet control, yet let you load the chassis and release with a powerful and addicting "zing". This is the feel I think people love about the ON3P. The core has a feel and personality to it that rides smooth and quiet, yet delivers lots of rebound when loaded and unleashed.
The Wrens feel targeted at the fans of significant rocker skis who enounter lots of different snow conditions, with a bias toward sking "in" snow rather than "on" snow, but have to deal with fontside snow conditions when powder is hard to find, and the Wrens feel like they are designed specifically for those conditions...Western daily drivers for those who use the groomers to get to the good stuff, rather than laps the groomers as their primary terrain.
If you over-turn them on firmer surfaces, the tails will come around on you since the Wrens are mounted in a forward-bias for buttery navigation, but back-off your racer-style and loosen up your attitude and the Wrens to their thing really well. These aren't all-mountain carvers, but real freeride frontside skis. Stand centered, charge the junk, pivot, slarve, pound the bumps and throw 'em sideways on demand to scrub speed in tight situations, ..these are the antics the Wrens love to deliver. Throw in a 2 year warranty and free Worldwide shipping...you've got my attention.
Technical Ski Data:
VDS rubber strips
Carbon fiber stringers
1.8mm Durasurf 4001 bases
Extra binding mat fiberglass
Dual-radius sidecut (different in forebody than mid-tail section)
Image from ON3P Website
(click for larger image)
Bindings, Boots, Wax & Tune Used:
Tyrolia AAAttack Demo Bindings
Salomon S-Max 120 boots.
Green Ice waxes, cold and warm
Skied as-is delivered from Killington Test Fest December 2016.
Solid, sturdy construction with good fit and finish. Nice, vibrant colors. Soft tip and tail flex, stout midbody with good dampening and rebound response. Relatively thick vertical core profile, yet not heavy feeling. Significant forebody rocker, midbody camber and mildly rockered, rounded tail. They look surfy.
Eastern corduroy, man-made dry packed powder (shin-deep max), Spring-like corn and refrozen man-made hardpack boilerplate in places.
Hardpack and Boilerplate:
The early season conditions in Vermont in late December and early January were a mixed bag, but I had plenty of packed powder, hardpack and boilerplate to put the Wrens through their paces for grip testing. As you might expect, the 88s were definitely quicker edge-to-edge and more accurate at line-tracking and delivered more feedback underfoot on hard surfaces than the 98s which felt more cruise-like and less serious, yet quieter. These demo skis were tuned with a base and edge bevel biased toward easy, friendly looseness rather than grip-and-go bite, so they felt a bit slick on the hardest surfaces, yet when you could sink the edges "into" the snow surface, they could trench their way across the fall line at a variety of angles with very little effort and had great turn-finishing snap at the end if you wanted it..yet were always controlled and quiet.
The default mounting position is slighlty forward-biased to keep the ON3Ps buttery and agile in all kinds of terrain for freeride antics, and on really hard surfaces you can get the tails to come around on you if you press too agressively and get the rockered body to pivot excessively, but set the bindings back a notch or two or simply stop trying to ski these rockered freeride skis like a GS ski on boilerplate and the feeling goes away. The short effective edge of the rocker design definitely influences the hardpack grip of the narrowest Wrens, but the construction of the skis is excellent at cancelling vibration and buzz underfoot, and the skis don't feel like they're unglued at any time. The Wrens are not designed as hardpack-etching ditch-diggers, but given any snow depth at least sidewall-deep, and you can carve them with lots of fun...just remember they will ski short because of their design.
Mixed snow conditions and terrain are where the Wrens really shine and show their Pacific Northwest heritage where snow can sometimes come in copius amounts of variable consistency. Essentially, the Wren 88 and 98 eat through different kinds of snow surfaces with enthusiasm, and they don't care if its low-angle or high-angle terrain with or without bumps. The significant forebody rocker is long and gradual, delivering a smooth and controlled absorbtion of pretty much anything you can throw at it with minimal deflection. The Wrens have a bias toward playful fun rather than stiff-and-deadly freight train behavior, so you can feel the short effective running length of the design when your speeds get up into excitement zones, so pick a longer length if you like going fast.
The construction layup of the Wrens has an addictive feel to it. The ski is relatively vibration-free, and rides quietly across nearly any surface you can find, yet is reactive and quick, but never nervous. That's the key to the ON3P "feel" people talk about. This chassis feel leads to confidence to charge through mixed surface conditions and remains easy-to-handle, so you don't feel like you're being subjected to a fitness test all day long. You can generate a little tip flap at speed, but it's mostly harmless. Keep you eyes forward on the terrain and stop looking down at your tips and enjoy the ride. If you want a ski built to play in the variable snow conditions of the Pacific Northwest, ON3P has the formula down.
Bumps and Powder:
The Wrens use their refined forebody and tail rocker to deliver an essentially friction-free ride through bumpy terrain. While I didn't get a chance to try large bumps this early in the season, the small bumps showed the Wrens essentially absorb bumpy terrain in a silky manner and avoid any tip or tail hangups when things get tight. The bamboo core counteracts any potential wishy-washy feel in the bumps from the rockered profile by delivering a poppy, energetic response when the ski is bent and released, and if you charge straight through the bumps, you get more confident along the way, with plenty of zing when you want it. The Wrens are really fun in bumpy terrain, and that's a good thing.
Analogies: ("This ski is like...")
The Wren 88 is like a young bird dog bounding through tight underbrush. Quick and zingy and full of fun, but definitely on a precise line along scent of something and energetic to watch.
The Wren 98 is more like a black Labrador bounding through the bushes...bigger radius, bigger lines, not as quick, but more stable and more likely to crush something in its path than dodge it.
Things We Would Change About This Ski:
Probably tune it with less edge bevel to improve grip, maybe lengthen the effective edge a bit in the forebody to get more ski on the snow.
Short Answer When Someone Asks "What Do You Think About This Ski?":
The Wrens are one of the best examples of a soft-snow-biased rockered freeride ski out there. Super maneuverable, solid riding all-terrain tools. More surfy than carvy. Charge through crud with nearly zero effort.
Advice To People Considering This Ski:
Consider getting a pair one size up from what you normally buy since they have significant rocker and the effective edge is a shorter than you might think. The Wrens are better in soft snow conditions than rattly hardpack. Get a demo if you can.
Who and What Are These Good For?
People who live where snow conditions like those in the Pacific Northwest are frequent will find Wrens pretty much ideal for daily drivers. Storm skiers will like 'em...pick your width. Skiers who find fresh snow of variable consistency (good and bad) falling frequently will like the Wrens in their quiver. Both lightweight and heavier/stronger skiers will like the Wrens...just get your length right.
Yes, ON3P has bomber edges.