ATK Freeraider 14
Atomic Hawx ultra XTD 130
The Draco Freebird sits at 110 underfoot and is constructed with a light Paulownia and damp Poplar. What does that mean? Think touring – but skiing hard with a higher speed tolerance than most skis in the touring category. Light but not so light that you have a bad time at higher speeds or when dealing with mixed snow. At 1900g in my 181cm The Draco offers a shape more commonly found in directional freeride skis featuring long and low rocker profile in both tip and tail, a forward and maneuverable mount point of -5 from true center and a “pivoty” 21-meter radius. The Draco brings together touring performance and freeride characteristics to create the perfect package for someone like me. I took it with me to see Marty, at Blanket glacier Chalet! Here are my thoughts as to how it skied in a mix of conditions.
We went up in early December, where my group and I faced just about every snow type an avid skier would encounter in a season. From sun crusts and wind drifts in the alpine, to low angle tree skiing, even waist deep pow, cliffs and steep pillows as we received a fat storm in the second half of the trip. The skiing was awesome, and we ended our four-day trip with a breezy 5000-meters of elevation gain.
Skiing the Draco Freebird in so many different conditions made for a great opportunity to test the ski and understand its capabilities. At 5’10’’ and 160lbs I opted to ski the Draco in 181cm instead of the 189cm hoping to the ski would help me capitalize in tight trees, couloirs, and kick turns. Downsizing is a common suggestion when buying a touring ski. On our first run, I immediately noticed how playful and quick the ski moved under my feet. Julien Reigner designed the ski to have this “joueur” approach with it’s progressive flex.
With a 21-meter radius the ski balanced out and felt like it handled speed and mixed snow in each pivot. In the tighter trees, and softer snow I found myself skiing taller and more casual. Letting the ski work below me in a neutral position - sliding the turns and popping off the tail. As we worked into steeper more aggressive terrain, including cliffs and pillow lines and it became clear that the stability of the ski was created up front. It was easy to make the shift to a more aggressive upfront stance over the top of the ski. So, Yeah. Skiing a neutral position made me feel an easy pivot, while the further forward I stood drew the ski out into longer faster turns. This created lots of confidence in steeper terrain, and a sense of predictability in different conditions. Stomping airs and skiing steep lines worked nicely when I trusted the front! Sick!
During our trip, there were two main sets of conditions where skiing the Draco became a challenge. First were the high alpine sun crusts and wind slabs we encounter on our first day. Crusts and slabs aren’t usually very forgiving to begin. Any ski can feel erratic and locked in in these conditions. In our case, the high alpine terrain was mostly low angle, meaning it was easy to stand up and pivot the ski side-to-side. However, in the case of steep terrain where a more aggressive stance is required, it became harder to maintain a shorter turn. Just a little hooky in the crust- probably due to the long and low rocker and the 21M radius.
Perhaps a shorter radius and a higher rise off the snow would work better. Anyways. not a feeling of instability, but more a sign that the ski was hungry for speed. The second area was the deep, deep snow we encountered on our final day. It’s easy to say there is no such thing as too much snow but in 40cms of light fluffy overnight pow, the Draco struggled to stay afloat. When trying to ski more aggressively on the front, my turns felt very forced and unpredictable. It wasn’t until I stood back slightly and let the ski surface that I was able to connect some turns. Skiing casually was the correct approach for the deeper snow. Using its playful tail to resurface… Which makes sense. I personally like this width for all sorts of conditions. But if you buy this ski to chase pow – upsize and ski fast!
So overall, a radical place to test this ski and I’m happy to share my experiences. the Draco checks a whole lot of boxes for a do everything, ski everywhere touring freeski. It’s light but still skis great. You can ski it with a freeride approach on the tails, but you can ski it forward and let it rip too! The Draco has awesome speed and style versatility and I’m happy to welcome this ski into my quiver for the foreseeable future!