The ski industry has a dirty secret: most skis are essentially the same. In terms of materials and construction, the differences are minor. Beneath their colorful topsheets are similar — if not identical — layups of laminated wood, composites, titanium, fiberglass and carbon.
So when a ski comes along that doesn’t fit the homogenous mold, I get curious. The Black Crows Solis is just that. It’s different. Possibly even very different. It’s engineered and marketed for the backcountry, but it’s decidedly heavy, long and stiff. Every other ski in its weight class — 100mm underfoot and 8-plus pounds per pair — aims to be a versatile all-mountain charger, but not the Solis. It bucks the trend completely, instead aiming to specialize in just one thing: very steep slopes.
Black Crows threw out the rulebook when developing the Solis. The brand challenged its designers to create a new ski without worrying about weight — a fireable offense at most ski companies these days. They wanted something optimized for the steepest slopes, at the expense of everything else. From that sandbox came the Solis, which I’ve learned to both love and hate. Here’s why.
What We Love
For context, I’m not a skimo nerd and I don’t particularly care about weight penalties. Sure, like any rational human, I don’t love slogging uphill with bricks on my feet, but in the same breath, I’m not going to sacrifice the fun of a wide open GS turn for just about anything, including a few extra grams. So most of my skis — including backcountry setups — err on the side of heavy.
However, the general consensus in steep skiing is that one should optimize for jump turns and small carves, a notion that favors a lighter ski with a tighter turn radius. The theory is, that makes it easier to maneuver in couloirs and through choke points. But the Solis begs to differ. It prioritizes edge contact and stability — titanal plates, less flex, minimal rocker and a gradual sidecut, giving you contact and confidence when you need it most. That’s my type of ski.
The shape and construction helps with overturning as well, especially while wearing a heavy pack. This is great for my home range, Wyoming’s Tetons, where a lot of the fun skiing is in the alpine. We often do full-day tours that require a lot of gear — crampons, ice ax, harness and rope — and that puts more weight on our backs. Much of the skiing in the Tetons is vertical with variable snow, necessitating a ski you can trust when things get hairy.
In icy or mixed conditions, a lighter ski will chatter and flex like a noodle, oscillating your headspace between annoyed and downright terrified. No one likes a ski that’s liable to rattle off at any moment. The Solis has an added sheet of titanium that increases the stiffness and decreases defection, which is especially helpful in crud and chopped up snow. This added stability is crucial, especially in no-fall zones.
What to Watch Out For
Skiing is really fun. The Solis is not. Let me explain.
I love powder skiing, and corn skiing, and ripping corduroy. An equal opportunity schusser, perhaps. I love hot laps as much as I love big objectives in the backcountry. I love laying down a perfect turn and I love laughing at myself when I mess it up. I believe that skiing, at its most fundamental level, is about having fun, whether you’re a pro riding big mountains or a beginner dropping into your first black diamond.
Unfortunately, the Solis doesn’t make skiing more fun. It isn’t playful in powder, or great for long tours, or snappy for quick turns on tree runs. It’s a tool, designed for a specific purpose. It’s like the guy who shows up to a casual dinner party with a pressed suit. Like, yes, that is a serviceable outfit, but what the heck man, who are you trying to impress?
The Solis isn’t for everyone — that should be patently obvious by now. It’s an incredibly good ski — possibly the best ski — for steep (even very steep) skiing, especially when you’re likely to find ice, crust and mixed snow conditions. If that’s your jam, then it’s well worth the investment in this very unique Black Crows ski.
Skiing is, ultimately, a feel sport. When you’re on a summit, about to drop into a big line, you probably aren’t thinking about popular cores, titanal plates and fiberglass layers. What you care about is confidence. You want to know the ski lashed to your feet is going to do its job, and the Solis will give you that guarantee. You will reach the base safely and smoothly — you just might not be hootin’ and hollerin’ when you get there.