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Black Crows Corvus Freebird Review

Skis on the absolute heaviest end of what we’d consider suitable for backcountry skiing, these offer the best downhill performance in our review
Black Crows Corvus Freebird
Photo: Evo
Top Pick Award
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Price:  $900 List | Check Price at REI
Pros:  Floaty fast powder performance, stable at speed and through tough snow
Cons:  Heavy, high leverage in steep and firm conditions, demand close skier attention 
Manufacturer:   Black Crows
By Jediah Porter ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Oct 8, 2021
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69
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#7 of 13
  • Weight - 25% 3
  • Firm Snow - 20% 6
  • Powder - 20% 9
  • Crud and Poor Snow - 20% 9
  • Stability at Speed - 15% 9

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 in all but the iciest of conditions with the Corvus. 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. We can report, though, on good authority, that most are better served with skis for human-powered use that are even lighter 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. For you, the Corvus Freebird should be at the top of your short list. 

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Awards Top Pick Award Editors' Choice Award Best Buy Award Editors' Choice Award Best Buy Award 
Price $900 List
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Pros Floaty fast powder performance, stable at speed and through tough snowLight for the uphill, balanced downhill performance for all conditionsAll-around performance, damp, inexpensive, available, sweet spot weightStable, damp, predictableInexpensive, balanced downhill performance, average weight
Cons Heavy, high leverage in steep and firm conditions, demand close skier attention Expensive, generalized downhill performanceSoft and dampMid-weight, no real stand out performanceSki “short”, powder skiing stability suffers at super high speed
Bottom Line Skis on the absolute heaviest end of what we’d consider suitable for backcountry skiing, these offer the best downhill performance in our reviewChoose 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 conditionsGood skis for good skiers in all kinds of conditions; the definition of all around backcountry skisGreat, budget skis for backcountry skiers of all kinds; the all around, balanced performance appeals to a huge range of users
Rating Categories Black Crows Corvus... Movement Alp Tracks... K2 Wayback 106 Black Crows Camox F... Salomon MTN Explore 95
Weight (25%)
3.0
9.0
7.0
6.0
6.0
Firm Snow (20%)
6.0
6.0
7.0
8.0
8.0
Powder (20%)
9.0
8.0
8.0
7.0
7.0
Crud And Poor Snow (20%)
9.0
7.0
7.0
8.0
7.0
Stability At Speed (15%)
9.0
5.0
7.0
7.0
7.0
Specs Black Crows Corvus... Movement Alp Tracks... K2 Wayback 106 Black Crows Camox F... Salomon MTN Explore 95
Weight Per Pair 8.5 lbs 5.6 lbs 6.9 lbs 6.7 lbs 6.8 lbs
Weight Per Ski 1940g, 1923g, average: 1932g 1270g, 1272g, average: 1271g 1518g, 1557g, average: 1537g 1510g, 1509g, average: 1510g 1547g, 1529g, average:1538g
Weight Per Pair 3863g 2542g 3075g 3024g 3076g
Weight Per Surface Area Ratio, g/cm^2 0.86 0.62 0.71 0.71 0.76
Measured Length 183cm 176cm 179cm 182cm 177cm
Manufacturer Length 183cm 177cm 179cm 183cm 177cm
Available Lengths 176, 183, 188cm 170, 177, 185cm 172, 179, 186cm 162, 172, 178, 183cm 169, 177, 184cm
Claimed Dimensions 140/107/119mm 132/100/120mm 135/106/124mm 130/97/115mm 130/95/116mm
Measured Dimensions 142/107/118mm 131/100/118mm 135/107/123mm 137/97/117mm 130/95/116mm
Construction Type Sandwich Cap Sandwich Cap Hybrid Semi-cap Half-cap
Core Material Poplar Karuba Paulownia Paulownia, poplar 3D Full Woodcore, C/FX reinforcement
Waist Width 107mm 100mm 107mm 97mm 95mm
Radius 21m 19m 22m 18m 18m
Rocker/Camber Tip and tail rocker, camber underfoot Tip rocker, camber underfoot Tip rocker, slight camber underfoot Tip rocker, camber underfoot Rocker, camber, rocker

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. They are more than twice the weight of skis our testers use on specialized missions. It is 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. In actuality, as compared to all that is available, 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 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


In total, these are just too heavy to score near the top of the heap. No amount of downhill performance will overcome those additional pounds for the average human-powered skier. The Corvus Freebird might be just the ticket for the occasionally human-powered skier, especially one that prefers absolute downhill performance. We have now tested two generations of this ski model. Bucking ski business trends, Black Crows keeps the look the same while changing construction, dimensions, and materials. The new version is just as good as the original. It is a little stiffer and more robust, downhill, at a very similar weight. The primary difference in recommendation we would make for the new version is that it skis a little "longer" than the original. We liked the original in 183 and wish we had tested the new one in 176cm.

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.
Photo: Rosie De Lise

Weight


1932 grams for a backcountry ski is heavy. When there are choices 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. And 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. Earlier in our ski testing, years ago now, we reviewed a few skis even heavier than these. 1900 gram skis 5 years ago were close to average for human-powered skiing. But technology just keeps improving, and skis get lighter while maintaining reasonable performance. Of course, as we note extensively in our main comparative article, in our Backcountry Ski Buying Advice, and in each individual product review, weight does enhance downhill performance up to a point. All else equal, heavier skis are going to go downhill better than lighter skis. That means that this Top Pick Black Crows Corvus Freebird is the best downhill performer in our test. When we eliminate weight from consideration, the Freebird is the highest scoring in our review. It is notable that the Editors Choice winners approach the overall downhill performance of the Corvus Freebird and weigh a lot less. Our other Top Pick gets its award for uphill efficiency and weighs 60% of what the Black Crows Corvus Freebird does. All our other award winners weigh much less than the Corvus. 

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.
Photo: 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 are going to be more 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 that you "size them long to get the full benefit of their stability". 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 compare to the stability of the Corvus, especially when we compare across varied snow conditions.

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.
Photo: Rosie De Lise

Firm Snow


At high speeds, firm snow performance is more of a stability performance issue. For that, see above. The Corvus Freebird’s stability advantages transfer just fine to fast and firm. That mass and the torsional rigidity of the Corvus Freebird make for good hard snow carving capability. At lower speeds, usually on steeper and higher consequence terrain, the criteria for hard snow performance change a little bit. Stability is less important then 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 do a good job of exceeding the performance of most of the backcountry skis we have assessed.

Black Crows redid the Corvus, from the ground up, for the latest...
Black Crows redid the Corvus, from the ground up, for the latest version. They look and ski similar, but are slightly different in some ways.
Photo: Rosie De Lise

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, our test team has found. 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.

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.
Photo: 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 real 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 require more work in the latter.

We have tested both versions of the Corvus Freebird. On the left...
We have tested both versions of the Corvus Freebird. On the left, the older version and the new one on the right. Black Crows bucked convention when they changed the ski but not the main graphic design elements. Clever.
Photo: 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’s technique, the Black Crows Corvus pushes 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 side of the Corvus. Smaller skis, even those that aren’t that much smaller or lighter, get pushed around. The Corvus Freebird 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. 

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.
Photo: Rosie De Lise

Value


These are expensive skis for a narrow niche of users. If you fit that niche, though, the Corvus Freebird might be on your shortlist. 

Conclusion


We can recommend these skis for two very select user groups. First, these are great for the super-strong climber that absolutely has to have optimum downhill performance, for whatever reason. Next, and we make this recommendation very reluctantly, we suggest these skis to those that insist on having a “quiver of one” that will work at resorts and in the backcountry. Resort skiing and backcountry skiing have very different demands, and asking one set of equipment to do both is a tall order. There are many, many users who seek equipment for these dual purposes, and there are almost as many users who are disappointed (in one way or another) with the performance of their chosen product in either or both settings. It is a difficult compromise to swallow. Of course, you may not know the difference. If, though, you have any exposure to human-powered touring on actual lightweight gear, you will have a very hard time stomaching the energy expenditure associated with bigger kit. 

These big guns are worth considering for the discerning downhill skier with energy to spare on the uphill. If you are looking for skis to use both inbounds and out, first see above for our warning on this strategy and then consider the Top Pick Black Crows Corvus Freebird

Jediah Porter