We had been excited to ski something from this forward-thinking female-led company for some time. While it didn’t win any awards, we think there’s something to be said for supporting a progressive local business such as this – at least local to us here in the Sierra. The Coalition SOS is a big, burly ski with a huge turned-up tip built for powder and crud; it is less appropriate for on-piste groomers and high speeds. The stick-straight side-cut makes the turn radius feel even bigger than 25 meters, and we didn’t love the feel of this ski at those giant slalom race speeds. However, this ski is a reliable partner in the deep and choppy for those keen on fresh snow.Editor's Note: We updated this review for the Coalition SOS on March 6, 2022, with a quick discussion of value and our opinion of how it stacks up against similar options.
Coalition SOS Review
Cons: Unpredictable at speed, very large turn radius
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$598.93 at REI
|$559.99 at Amazon|
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|Pros||Wide underfoot, massive tip rocker, quality powder and crud tool||Crud blaster, dependable, great one-ski quiver option, good for every ability level||Awesome powder tool, fabulous fun factor even for light skiers, affordable price||Great stability at high speeds, good on hard snow and crud, more affordable than others||Superbly stable at high speeds, great edge hold|
|Cons||Unpredictable at speed, very large turn radius||No wow-factor, not a lot of rebound||Gets bouncy in crud, slight tip flap, doesn’t carve perfectly||Only for shallower pow days, needs strong skier to guide them||Too burly for lighter gals, not nimble|
|Bottom Line||Not the powder-puncher we hoped for given the dimensions, but still a good tool for the task||A great all-rounder ski that we think is the most versatile option for a one-ski quiver||A fun and responsive toy for powder days, groomer antics, and bumps, with a value-oriented price tag||This model will do great in everything but the deepest powder and is ideal for an aggressive skier||A good choice for hard-charging speed demons that still performs decently off-piste|
|Rating Categories||Coalition SOS||Nordica Santa Ana 98||Elan Ripstick 94 W||Faction Dictator 2.0X||Volkl Secret 96|
|Stability at Speed (20%)|
|Carving Ability (20%)|
|Powder Performance (20%)|
|Crud Performance (20%)|
|Terrain Playfulness (15%)|
|Specs||Coalition SOS||Nordica Santa Ana 98||Elan Ripstick 94 W||Faction Dictator 2.0X||Volkl Secret 96|
|Waist Width||105 mm||98 mm||94 mm||96 mm||96 mm|
|Available Lengths (cm)||157, 166, 173, 180||151, 158, 165, 172, 179||154, 162, 170, 178||155, 163, 171, 175, 179, 183, 187||149, 156, 163, 170|
|Length Tested||173 cm||172 cm||178 cm||171 cm||170 cm|
|Turn Radius||25 m||16.3 m||18 m||18 m||16 m|
|Camber Profile||Rocker tip and tail, mild camber underfoot||Rocker tip and tail, camber underfoot||Rocker tip and tail, cambered inside edge, Amphibio tech||Rocker tip and tail, camber underfoot||Rocker tip and tail, camber underfoot|
|Weight Per Pair||8.8 lbs||8.1 lbs||7.4 lbs||7.9 lbs||8.5 lbs|
|Construction Type||ABS sidewalls||Energy Ti W||SST sidewall||Sandwich||Full sidewall|
|Core Material||Birch wood||Performance Wood & Metal||Tubelite wood||Paulownia & Poplar||Beech and poplar|
Our Analysis and Test Results
We hoped for just a bit more from this ski, as we think the company’s mission statement is a worthy one, and we love the idea of them making skis built just for women. They’re onto a good thing in the realm of powder performance; the SOS just needs some tweaks in other areas to make it truly versatile.
Stability at Speed
Our testers had trouble finding the sweet spot of this ski; we thought we were in tune with it, and then it would suddenly buck us out of balance. There is such an incredible amount of rocker in the tips — it's as if the entire front half of the ski is not in contact with the snow. This feature allows the SOS to stay afloat well in fresh snow, but it does not create a feeling of steadiness along the length of the ski when moving at higher speeds. Perhaps because we were skiing such a small effective edge, we often felt thrown off balance with nowhere to recover fore and aft. The limited effective edge length meant less gripping power when we were on firmer snow, leading to a challenging ride on hard-packed steeps or ice.
The sidecut of the SOS is almost imperceptible visually, and the published radius is 25 meters, which is quite a bit longer than most skis in the all-mountain range. A 25-meter radius creates a giant slalom-shaped and speed turn (that’s pretty big and fast for anyone without Mikaela Shiffron’s quads and glutes). Since we didn’t love how this ski performed at those speeds, we were not often fully comfortable laying them over into an arced turn. When we did, we noticed that we had to remember to focus pressure for longer on the outside ski, rather than moving inside earlier as we might on a ski with a tighter turn radius. Otherwise, the outside ski would barrel down the mountain on its natural trajectory away from us when we thought we were moving sideways. This ski is quite stiff, but with an unusual flex pattern, so it doesn't have much rebound to speak of.
Powder skiing is where the SOS is most at home. Its supremely rockered tip profile was a liability on hard groomers, but it works like a charm for flotation in deeper snow. The SOS buttered and pivoted easily on the surface of both light freshies and denser Sierra cement. We had hoped that it would be a full-on powder machine, staying perfectly atop the snow at every turn. It wasn’t exactly the infallible beast we’d imagined, perhaps because there isn’t the distinctive wide shovel to plow a pathway for the rest of the ski. The extreme rocker in the tips, plus the wide 105-millimeter platform underfoot, provided more than adequate buoyancy for us to feel confident landing medium-sized drops in deep snow.
Generally, the SOS’s heavy-duty plank-like nature served well in chopped-up snow conditions. Only occasionally did the unpredictable flex pattern knock us off track this type of snow. We appreciated the stiffer qualities of the SOS; one of our testers commented that it was like a “big burly snowcat pushing the chunder around.”
The SOS is far from a lively, lightweight ski. It felt stiff and land-bound, even just skating or walking around on the flats near the chairlift. This ski felt heavy to get airborne, but there was some joy to be found in the solid platform it provided for a landing. In terms of rebound, we received little to no feedback from this ski when we pressured and released it; any kickback we got was too unpredictable to find enjoyment in it.
This ski is too stiff and heavy-footed to make the agile movements necessary to succeed in a mogul field.
Should You Buy the Coalition SOS?
You need to be planning to ski primarily fresh snow or chopped-up powder to make the Coalition SOS a worthwhile investment. But a purchase means you will be supporting a female-oriented, independent ski company. For those living in the Western US, this opportunity to support small, local businesses may be reason alone to adjust your brand loyalties.
What Other Women's All-Mountain Skis Should You Consider?
The Coalition SOS is not a reliable performer on-piste or in the bumps. Frontside carvers should consider the Blizzard Black Pearl 88 or Nordica Santa Ana 98. If you seek a stiff, powerful ski like the SOS, but want something with more energy, then the Faction Dictator 2.0X is a great substitute. And if you want to ski powder and bumps, go over to the Icelantic Riveter 95.
— Renee McCormack
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