The Camox Freebird from Black Crows, overall, is right in the mix with the best backcountry skis on the market. Other close competitors are at least slightly more polished and/or less expensive. The Camox is super stylish and ready to scream in a hot red color scheme. We found downhill performance to be balanced across the board and through all kinds of conditions. The touring weight is manageable, but not super light.
Black Crows Camox Freebird Review
Compare prices at 3 resellers Pros: Stable, damp, predictable
Cons: mid-weight, no real stand out performance
Manufacturer: Black Crows
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Black Crows Camox Freebird
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|Pros||Stable, damp, predictable||Light, well-balanced downhill performance||All around ski performance, hit what we consider to be the weight ‘sweet spot’||Solid all around downhill performance, compatible with excellent Dynafit SpeedSkins||Light and versatile|
|Cons||mid-weight, no real stand out performance||Expensive, ski “short”||Grabby firm snow performance, expensive||Heavier than average||Limited poor snow performance|
|Bottom Line||Good skis for good skiers in all kinds of conditions.||Excellent, all-around backcountry skis in nearly all conditions.||Excellent backcountry skis for the majority of applications.||Touring skis for he or she that prefers downhill performance to uphill efficiency.||All around choice for beginner to advanced backcountry skiers on a budget.|
|Rating Categories||Black Crows Camox Freebird||Kastle TX98||Volkl VTA 98||Dynafit Beast 98||Fischer Hannibal|
|Stability At Speed (15%)|
|Firm Snow (20%)|
|Crud And Poor Snow (20%)|
|Specs||Black Crows Camox...||Kastle TX98||Volkl VTA 98||Dynafit Beast 98||Fischer Hannibal|
|Weight Per Pair||6.7 lbs||6.2 lbs||6.4 lbs||6.8 lbs||6.2 lbs|
|Measured Length||182 cm||177 cm||185 cm||183 cm||183 cm|
|Manufacturer Length||183 cm||178 cm||184 cm||184 cm||183 cm|
|Available Lengths||162, 172, 178, 183 cm||168, 178, 188 cm||156, 163, 170, 177, 184 cm||170, 177, 184 cm||162, 169, 176, 183 cm|
|Claimed Dimensions||130/97/115 mm||128/98/117 mm||133/98/116 mm||136/98/117 mm||126/96/114 mm|
|Measured Dimensions||137/97/117 mm||122/97/116 mm||132/98/111 mm||126/97/116 mm||127/97/113 mm|
|Weight Per Ski grams||1510g, 1509g, average: 1510g||1394g, 1400g, average: 1397g||1454g, 1449g, average: 1452g||1541g, 1553g, average: 1547g||1421g, 1388g, average: 1405g|
|Weight Per Pair||3024g||2794g||2903g||3094g||2809g|
|Weight per Surface Area Ratio, g/cm^2||0.71||0.71||0.69||0.75||0.69|
|Construction Type||Semi-cap||Sandwich Cap Hybrid||Sandwich Cap Hybrid||Sandwich||Sandwich Cap Hybrid|
|Core Material||Paulownia, poplar||Karuba Wood||Beech, poplar & paulownia||Ash/poplar wood||Paulownia wood with carbon stringers|
|Waist Width||97 mm||98 mm||98 mm||98 mm||97 mm|
|Radius||18 meters||22 meters||22.3 meters||21 meters||21 meters|
|Rocker/Camber||Tip rocker, camber underfoot||Low camber||Tip rocker||Double Ellipse Rocker||Tip rocker|
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Black Crows Camox is an all-around, "daily driver" for human-powered skiing. Black Crows skis are legendary for damp performance, and the Camox is no exception. These track straight and don't chatter. They don't "pop" like some, but they also don't push back in tougher conditions and with lapse in technique. We found them to grip firm on ice and firm snow, and to float just right in powder. Tough snow performance wasn't spectacular, but not poor either. Touring weight is acceptable, right near the top of what we'd consider the range of weights for "all-around" human-powered skis.
We tested 183cm Camox Freebird skis. Left and right skis from a manufacturer often differ a little in weight; remarkably, we found our test pair to be different by only one gram. One weighed 1510g, and the other weighed 1509g. The close tolerances are cool, but no big deal. We've tested skis that differ by much, much more than that, and noticed no issues associated with the difference. The overall weight is right in line with what we consider to be suitable touring skis. For the width and length, 1500g is good but not great. You can get equal or better skiing performance for lower weight.
Stability at Speed
That slight additional weight helps keep your skis tracking and charging at higher speeds. These skis like to go fast. Don't let our "touring dork" language fool you; we love to go fast too. When skis like this can go fast, we maximize their abilities any chance we get. Whether on the base in deep snow or up on edge on firmer stuff, we found that the Camox could hang with all the speed that is prudent in the wilderness.
We found average performance on hard snow with the Camox Freebird. A hand flex test shows them considerably softer than resort groomer skis. They're even softer than some of the budget all-around skis we have tested. One could expect compromised firm snow performance from softer skis. It is harder to "hand flex" for torsional rigidity, but we suspect that that is where the Camox makes up its firm snow performance. In a descent of a slick Teton "Apocalypse Couloir", the Camox grabbed in high consequence terrain under a tester that had taken their possession just the night before.
That soft longitudinal flex seems to come into its own in powder snow. Deep and bottomless, or fast and smooth, powder snow is amazing with the Camox. They'll snap around in short-radius turns or hang with you as you open it up faster. The relatively long size we tested (183cm) floated under even the bigger of our testers. Our experience with shorter skis like this indicates that performance would suffer for our test team at the next size down. Choose your size wisely; don't be afraid to size these up.
Bad snow is a backcountry reality. We wish it weren't, and we all work our tails off, searching out only good to perfect stuff. Nonetheless, you can't get the goods without encountering breakable crust and bottomless slop. When you do, the Camox Freebird will keep up, but doesn't let you relax. The wide shovel surfs up out of late-day spring slop but grabs in the breakable crust of a sunny February afternoon. Slow it down in that breakable crust, stay centered, and be patient. You could do a lot worse than the Camox Freebird in tough snow, but they won't let you forget your timing or route selection error that day.
These French sticks aren't cheap. At this price range, you can get even higher performance, but perhaps no hotter ski. These are classy, more and more widely available, and have all-around performance that is pretty dang balanced for human-powered skiing.
The Camox Freebird is not Black Crows' most popular ski, but it is the one with the most appealing all-around dimensions. In our testing, their bigger skis seem a little more polished than this smaller pair.
— Jediah Porter