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Black Crows Camox Freebird Review

Good skis for good skiers in all kinds of conditions
Editors' Choice Award
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Price:  $740 List | $739.95 at REI
Pros:  Stable, damp, predictable
Cons:  Mid-weight, no real stand out performance
Manufacturer:   Black Crows
By Jediah Porter ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Feb 10, 2020
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72
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#2 of 16
  • Weight - 25% 6
  • Stability at Speed - 15% 7
  • Firm Snow - 20% 8
  • Powder - 20% 7
  • Crud and Poor Snow - 20% 8

Our Verdict

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. In round two of testing this ski, we enlisted even more help and more opinions. Thanks to the vociferous and authoritative views of two of these new testers, we did an even deeper dive on the Camox. This is the strength of the OGL testing regimen; we have and take the time to examine and reexamine. Our expanded and authoritative team decided, for 2020, that the Camox Freebird deserves an Editors' Choice Award.

Compare to Similar Products

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.

Performance Comparison


A deep  stormy day at Teton Pass with the Camox Freebird.
A deep, stormy day at Teton Pass with the Camox Freebird.

Weight


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.


Fifteen hundred grams puts the Camox in the absolute center of our tested roster. This weight range is tourable but could be better. They ski downhill real well, but our other Editors' Choice does similarly for quite a bit less weight. The flip side of this is that the Camox will be more durable than the lighter Editors' Choice winner. If you are trying to choose between our two Editors' Choice winners, choose this one for durability and value.

The Camox  here paired with the Marker Alpinist binding and excellent Dynafit Hoji.
The Camox, here paired with the Marker Alpinist binding and excellent Dynafit Hoji.

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, the Camox could hang with all the speed that is prudent in the wilderness.


Size the Camox down for light and tight, and size them up for high-speed cruising. For our test team, 183cm in the Camox feels long and fast and stable. We can't comment on exactly what they would be like in the next smaller size, but we can speculate that they'd be less stable but quicker in the steeps and better on firm snow.

Deep trail breaking for deeper skiing. Camox Freebird's dimensions don't scream "deep powder"  but the tested length and centered skiing are damn fun.
Deep trail breaking for deeper skiing. Camox Freebird's dimensions don't scream "deep powder", but the tested length and centered skiing are damn fun.

Firm Snow


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.


We wish we could test the next shorter size. We bet that, downsized, the Camox would do firm snow even better. They don't suffer in the tested configuration, but shorter (to a point, of course) is often easier to manage in the steeps.

The Camox Freebird (and untested Black Crows Navis Freebird) at the top of the Tetons' Apocalypse Couloir.
The Camox Freebird (and untested Black Crows Navis Freebird) at the top of the Tetons' Apocalypse Couloir.

Powder


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; for powder, don't be afraid to size these up.


We were glad to observe that the Camox Freebird is capable of both long and short powder turns. Such ski style versatility requires both ski and skier to be adaptable. The Camox seems adaptable, and then some.

Crud/Poor Snow


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.


It is in tough snow that the Camox most impressed us and earned it the Editors Choice award. Late in round two of its testing, we finally got these and some others to one of our best testers. He was able to spend a full week of crusty, south-facing "exercise skiing" alternating between these and other top contenders. His authoritative voice, the tough conditions, and the favorable experiences of the rest of our test team brought the Editors' Choice to the Camox Freebird. They won't make tough snow fun, and you'll have to pay attention the whole time, but they do better in all that then most.

We found the Camox Freebird to handle tough snow with aplomb  but nothing flashy.
We found the Camox Freebird to handle tough snow with aplomb, but nothing flashy.

Value


These French sticks aren't cheap, but not prohibitive. At this price range, you can get lighter or 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. They are quite a bit less expensive than our other Editors' Choice winner but more expensive than the Best Buy.

An all around  modern backcountry set up could (should?) look exactly like this: 1500g ski  270g binding  and 1500g boot. It's like a 1500g sandwich  with minimal fillings.
An all around, modern backcountry set up could (should?) look exactly like this: 1500g ski, 270g binding, and 1500g boot. It's like a 1500g sandwich, with minimal fillings.

Conclusion


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, downhill, than this smaller pair. Their bigger skis, though, are heavier for the dimensions, than average while the Camox is about average, for its dimensions.

Jediah Porter