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Black Crows Camox Freebird Review

Good skis for good skiers in all kinds of conditions.
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Price:  $740 List | $719.95 at Amazon
Compare prices at 3 resellers
Pros:  Stable, damp, predictable
Cons:  mid-weight, no real stand out performance
Manufacturer:   Black Crows
By Jediah Porter ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Oct 23, 2019
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75
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#5 of 15
  • Weight - 25% 6
  • Stability at Speed - 15% 8
  • Firm Snow - 20% 8
  • Powder - 20% 8
  • 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.


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Overall Score Sort Icon
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Star Rating
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Pros Stable, damp, predictableLight, well-balanced downhill performanceAll around ski performance, hit what we consider to be the weight ‘sweet spot’Solid all around downhill performance, compatible with excellent Dynafit SpeedSkinsLight and versatile
Cons mid-weight, no real stand out performanceExpensive, ski “short”Grabby firm snow performance, expensiveHeavier than averageLimited 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
Weight (25%)
10
0
6
10
0
8
10
0
7
10
0
6
10
0
8
Stability At Speed (15%)
10
0
8
10
0
8
10
0
8
10
0
9
10
0
5
Firm Snow (20%)
10
0
8
10
0
9
10
0
7
10
0
8
10
0
9
Powder (20%)
10
0
8
10
0
9
10
0
10
10
0
9
10
0
8
Crud And Poor Snow (20%)
10
0
8
10
0
9
10
0
8
10
0
8
10
0
7
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.

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.

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

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.

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; don't be afraid to size these up.

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.

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. 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.

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 than this smaller pair.


Jediah Porter