Reviews You Can Rely On

Black Crows Corvus Freebird Review

On the absolute heaviest end of what we’d consider suitable for backcountry skiing, these offer among the best downhill performance in our review
black crows corvus freebird backcountry skis review
Credit: Black Crows
Price:  $1,000 List
Manufacturer:   Black Crows
By Jediah Porter ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Nov 1, 2022
64
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#8 of 15
  • Weight - 25% 1.0
  • Firm Snow - 20% 6.0
  • Powder - 20% 9.0
  • Crud and Poor Snow - 20% 9.0
  • Stability at Speed - 15% 9.0

Our Verdict

In some reviews and circles, these are light skis. Among human-powered skiers, though, a touring ski at nearly 2000g is now the upper frontier of what is reasonable to cart around. The Black Crows Corvus Freebird is indeed a powerful and versatile downhill rider, but you pay a penalty on the way up. If you can stomach the weight trade-off, you will be pleased with the Corvus in all but the iciest conditions. In tough snow, fast powder carving, and high-speed corn, the mass and dimensions of the Corvus are unmatched. The Corvus is quite a bit lighter than comparable resort skis, which might make them appealing as your first backcountry skis. However, we believe that most will be better served by a lighter ski than the Corvus Freebird. Many options are almost a pound lighter per ski, with downhill performance that will shock you in a good way. Of course, there are those of you that absolutely demand optimum downhill performance for one reason or another. If that's you, the Corvus Freebird should be at the top of your shortlist. 
REASONS TO BUY
Floaty fast powder performance
Stable at speed and through tough snow
REASONS TO AVOID
Heavy
High leverage in steep and firm conditions
Demand close skier attention 

Compare to Similar Products

 
Awards  Editors' Choice Award Editors' Choice Award Best Buy Award Top Pick Award 
Price $1,000 at Backcountry
Compare at 2 sellers
Check Price at REI
Compare at 2 sellers
$1,295 at Backcountry
Compare at 2 sellers
$749.95 at Amazon
Compare at 2 sellers
$795 List
$795.00 at Amazon
Overall Score Sort Icon
64
72
72
67
60
Star Rating
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Pros Floaty fast powder performance, stable at speed and through tough snowStable, damp, versatile, floaty, balancedLight for the uphill, balanced downhill performance for all conditionsAll-around performance, damp, inexpensive, available, sweet-spot weightFast float, incredible weight (for the size), acceptable poor snow performance
Cons Heavy, high leverage in steep and firm conditions, demand close skier attention Moderately heavy, not optimal firm snow performanceExpensive, generalized downhill performanceSoft and dampAbysmal, scary firm snow performance, specialized application
Bottom Line On the absolute heaviest end of what we’d consider suitable for backcountry skiing, these offer among the best downhill performance in our reviewThis is our favorite ski for modern, all-around backcountry skiing, bringing traditional reliability, modern dimensions, and performance balanceChoose this ski for all-year, all-purpose human-powered skiing in any region of the worldInexpensive, proven all-around performance that's suitable for a wide variety of backcountry skiers and ski conditionsAmong the most specialized skis in our test, it's optimized for the deepest of days in the deepest of regions
Rating Categories Black Crows Corvus... Blizzard Zero G 105 Movement Alp Tracks... K2 Wayback 106 Voile HyperDrifter
Weight (25%)
1
5.0
8.0
5.0
6.0
Firm Snow (20%)
6.0
7.0
7.0
7.0
1
Powder (20%)
9.0
8.0
8.0
8.0
10.0
Crud and Poor Snow (20%)
9.0
8.5
7.0
7.0
6.0
Stability at Speed (15%)
9.0
8.0
5.0
7.0
7.0
Specs Black Crows Corvus... Blizzard Zero G 105 Movement Alp Tracks... K2 Wayback 106 Voile HyperDrifter
Weight Per Pair 8.5 lbs 6.7 lbs 5.6 lbs 6.9 lbs 7.0 lbs
Weight Per Ski 1940g, 1923g
average: 1932g
1515g, 1510g
average: 1513g
1270g, 1272g
average: 1271g
1518g, 1557g
average: 1537g
1545g, 1585g
average: 1565g
Weight Per Pair 3863g 3025g 2542g 3075g 3130g
Weight Per Surface Area Ratio, g/cm^2 0.86 0.72 0.62 0.71 0.64
Measured Length 183cm 178cm 176cm 179cm 177cm
Manufacturer Length 183cm 180cm 177cm 179cm 178cm
Available Lengths (cm) 176, 183, 188 164, 172, 180, 188 170, 177, 185 172, 179, 186 171, 178, 186
Claimed Dimensions (mm) 140/107/119 133/105/118 132/100/120 136/106/124 155/121/138
Measured Dimensions (mm) 142/107/118 133/104/118 131/100/118 135/107/123 154/121/138
Construction Type Sandwich Sandwich Cap Sandwich Cap Hybrid Cap
Core Material Poplar Paulownia Paulownia Paulownia Paulownia
Waist Width 107mm 105mm 100mm 107mm 121mm
Radius 21m 23m 19m 22m 19m
Rocker/Camber Tip and tail rocker, camber underfoot Tip and tail rocker Tip rocker, camber underfoot Tip rocker, slight camber underfoot Tip rocker, camber underfoot

Our Analysis and Test Results

Big guns! Among "touring skis", despite what other reviews might suggest, these are as heavy as you should be considering. The Black Crows Corvus Freebird is almost twice the weight of our lightest tested skis, and more than twice the weight of skis our testers use on specialized missions. It's funny; other "backcountry" ski reviews mention just how light the Corvus Freebird is, but then go on to compare it to resort alpine skis and to refer to testing performed inbounds (we have to credit Black Crows inc here. They are direct and honest about the weight point of these skis. It is third party reviewers that are conflating the matter). The Corvus Freebird is light, as compared to resort skis. Here, we're comparing them to skis for human-powered riding. Compared to what else is on the market in this category, these are super heavy touring skis or light resort skis. Sure, there is a place on the market (and maybe in your quiver) for skis that bridge the gap between resort and backcountry, but they will be heavy for touring and ill-suited for either application. This is a typical compromise piece of equipment, sitting on the fence separating different worlds. Read on for the summary of our largely favorable (once we adjusted to and allowed for the additional weight) experiences.

Performance Comparison


black crows corvus freebird backcountry skis review - the corvus freebird is downhill optimized. on this short tour in...
The Corvus Freebird is downhill optimized. On this short tour in Idaho's Big Hole mountains they were just the ticket.
Credit: Rosie De Lise

Weight


1932 grams for a backcountry ski is heavy. With options on the market that are under 1000g, it is difficult to justify lugging these up giant mountains with your hard-earned calories and muscles. The only justification is downhill performance, but lighter skis keep performing better and better. 

Most other backcountry skis we have recently tested are at least a little lighter than the Corvus Freebird. Years ago in our ski testing, we reviewed a few skis even heavier than these. 1900-gram skis a decade ago was around average for human-powered skiing. But technology just keeps improving, and skis get lighter while maintaining reasonable performance. Of course, weight enhances downhill performance up to a point. All else equal, heavier skis will go downhill better than lighter skis, and this ski is no exception.

black crows corvus freebird backcountry skis review - big skis paired with small bindings might seem like an interesting...
Big skis paired with small bindings might seem like an interesting choice. Our test team has found, though, that you can get a suitably light setup this way, that skis downhill better than the whole weight might suggest.
Credit: Rosie De Lise

Firm Snow


At high speeds, firm snow performance is more of a stability performance issue, which we discuss later on. The Corvus Freebird's stability advantages transfer just fine to fast and firm. Their mass and torsional rigidity make for good hard snow carving capability. At lower speeds, usually on steeper and higher consequence terrain, the criteria for hard snow performance changes a little bit. Stability then is less important than absolute edge hold and relative tip-to-tail edge hold. Wide skis require more force to grab hard snow. The Corvus Freebird is relatively wide and struggles to hold on the hard steeps as well as narrower skis. The good news is that the tip-to-tail edge grip distribution is perfectly balanced. Tip nor tail seems to grab unnecessarily, and the forces are distributed evenly underfoot. 

We pretty deeply discount hard and fast low-angle backcountry ski performance. These conditions and terrain setup just aren't that common in the wild. Carving at high speeds on rock hard snow is more of a resort ski consideration. Nonetheless, these skis do pretty well in that context, especially considering their width. Of course, resort carving skis will beat the pants off the Corvus Freebird, but the torsional rigidity and mass best the performance of most of the backcountry skis we've assessed.

We look more closely at steep and firm ski performance in this review. This is actually a very common backcountry skiing situation, and one that is high consequence; you need your backcountry skis to grab predictably and reliably in slow, technical, steep, icy skiing. In these contexts, the weight and width of the Corvus Freebird are a liability. When one is conditioned to methodical steep skiing, lighter skis come around easier. To a point, of course. Our test team has found that the sweet spot for weight for steep and hard skiing is something below the weight of the Black Crows Corvus Freebird. The same can be said for ski width. Steep and firm riding rewards a sweet spot of width, usually around 90mm. At 107mm, the Corvus Freebird takes a lot of leverage to get gripping on ice. We'd go with stiff, light skis around 90mm underfoot if we were choosing skis for just steep icy snow.

black crows corvus freebird backcountry skis review - high speed, high energy skiing with the black crows corvus requires...
High speed, high energy skiing with the Black Crows Corvus requires high level technique and great fitness to get them up the mountain.
Credit: Rosie De Lise

Powder


In so many ways, powder skiing is what we live for. Even a dedicated backcountry skier might spend an entire season chasing a few thousand vertical feet of perfect deep powder skiing on one or two days. Because it is so fun, we highly prioritize powder skiing performance. It isn't that common, though, and a very wide range of skis and ski design considerations make for excellent powder performance. High powder performance is relatively easy to achieve, technique-wise and in terms of equipment. All modern skis of "normal" dimensions ski powder very, very well. That being said, there are subtle differences. The Black Crows Corvus Freebird are definitely very floaty in powder and like to go really fast in the softest of conditions. It is more difficult to slow things down and ride shorter radius turns. 

The best powder skis we test float high in high speed turns and pop in all three dimensions in slower, shorter-radius turns. The Corvus Freebird excels in the former but requires more work in the latter.

black crows corvus freebird backcountry skis review - we have tested several versions of the corvus freebird. black crows...
We have tested several versions of the Corvus Freebird. Black Crows bucked convention when they changed the ski but not the main graphic design elements. Clever.
Credit: Rosie De Lise

Crud/Poor Snow


Like with stability, poor snow performance is enhanced by mass. Heavier skis bust through the crud better. Also, wide skis are less likely to get grabbed, deflected, or thrown around by tough snow conditions. The Black Crows Corvus Freebird, for these reasons, are very high-scoring poor snow performers. In breakable crust, correcting for differences in individual technique, these push further into the spectrum of poor snow before requiring reversion to survival skiing tactics. The same can be said of sloppy "mashed potatoes" type snow, though our team found that in the most difficult of wet snow, the Corvus's length, weight, and width is overwhelmed in low-speed survival slop snow turns. When you really have to slow things down, smaller and lighter skis (to a point) are easier to maneuver. 

No skis, overall, ride tough stuff as well as the Corvus Freebird. Weight and width are on the Corvus's side. Smaller skis, even those that aren't that much smaller or lighter, get pushed around. The Corvus Freebird's construction helps the size and mass of the ski to do its job. The round and gentle longitudinal flex pops up out of the tough stuff, while rocker geometry helps further. 

black crows corvus freebird backcountry skis review - this deep day, with varied snow consistency, was a perfect test for...
This deep day, with varied snow consistency, was a perfect test for the Corvus Freebird. We're on Western Wyoming's Beards Mountain.
Credit: Rosie De Lise

Stability at Speed


Of the major performance attributes, stability at speed is most inverse to weight. Mass literally helps stabilize your speed. Of course, there are other attributes that enhance stability, but weight is right in the mix. As heavy skis (and skis that are very well made, with excellent dimensions and careful attention to materials and assembly), the Black Crows Corvus Freebird are very stable at speed. These skis prefer high-speed riding and track through tough stuff and smooth conditions almost equally as well. Of course, resort skis will be the most stable, but for touring-specific sticks, the Black Crows are very stable. On wide-open Teton powder and big Sierra corn faces alike, the mass and long turning radius of the Corvus Freebird will inspire confidence underfoot. In the original version, we recommended you "size them long to get the full benefit of their stability", but we no longer recommend this with the latest version. Size them as you would any other skis, if not a little shorter.

No skis we tested really compared to the stability of the Corvus, especially when compared across varied snow conditions.

black crows corvus freebird backcountry skis review - the black crows corvus dimensions, with their robust construction...
The Black Crows Corvus dimensions, with their robust construction, are suitable for "all around use", but are on the big end.
Credit: Rosie De Lise

Should You Buy the Black Crows Corvus Freebird?


Shop carefully with this one. This prominent pink product seems to be everywhere. Is that, though, a function of who the skis are best for, or just of really good marketing? The weight and dimensions make this a great ski for expert backcountry skiers (who are much, much better skiers than expert resort skiers) chasing serious and soft snow.

What Other Backcountry Skis Should You Consider?


In this weight class, we are really digging the Elan Ripstick 106. It is both more predictable and more forgiving than the Black Crows Corvus Freebird. If you want the damp riding experience that Black Crows are known for, our Best Buy K2 Wayback 106 is great, less expensive, and more forgiving of lesser technique.

Jediah Porter
 
You Might Also Like

Ad-free. Influence-free. Powered by Testing.

GearLab is founded on the principle of honest, objective, reviews. Our experts test thousands of products each year using thoughtful test plans that bring out key performance differences between competing products. And, to assure complete independence, we buy all the products we test ourselves. No cherry-picked units sent by manufacturers. No sponsored content. No ads. Just real, honest, side-by-side testing and comparison.

Learn More