Review: 2014/2015 ON3P Wrenegade 112
THE SKI: 2014/2015 ON3P Wrenegade 112, 186cm length, 142-112-130mm, 27.3m radius, mounted on the line with FKS155
OTHER SKIS I OWN:
12/13 186cm ON3P Billy Goat w/ FKS
09/10 181cm ON3P Wrenegade w/ Guardian
08/09 189cm Praxis RX w/ STH
14/15 187cm Praxis Protest w/ Guardian
12/13 187cm Praxis GPO w/ Dynafit
11/12 184cm Praxis Freeride w/ Dynafit
The 186 Wren is currently occupying the inbounds daily driver slot in my quiver. I will compare these primarily to the 186 Billy Goat (since it is my other primary alpine ski) and the 189 RX (since it is the ski that these Wrens replaced).
Full disclosure: ON3P wanted me to review the new, 186cm length Wrenegade 112 so badly that I begged them to make it, then bought a pair with my own hard earned money and skied the piss out of them.
If you're not familiar with ON3P skis, they are a small, boutique, handmade ski company based out of Portland, OR. Unlike many smaller brands, ON3P does not outsource their production and builds all of their skis in-house, in the USA.
The Wrenegade has existed in various forms since the company's founding, and has morphed over the years from a stiff, directional twintip to an absolute missile, then dialed into a more friendly, all-around western US charging ski. In all previous iterations, it was offered in 181cm and 191cm lengths, which presented me with a bit of a Goldilocks conundrum. The 181cm was just a little short, the 191cm was just a little long, but after much pleading as mentioned above, ON3P finally decided to offer the ski in a 186cm length.
I wrote the following review in stages as the season progressed, offering my initial reactions to the ski's performance, and expanding upon it as I spent more time on the skis.
Days 1 - 3: Loveland inbounds and sidecountry
Loveland doesn't have much open yet; a few groomers with a mix of manmade and natural snow, and one run of ungroomed, natural snow. All are intermediate runs, no advanced/expert stuff open yet.
On groomers, the Wrens hold a very solid edge, have no speed limit, and love to carve medium to long radius turns. The tail is pretty stiff and demanding and the ski prefers to be driven through the tip. Backseat driving is punished. A slight change in angulation will allow the tail of the ski to break free and skid easily if need be. It's not quite as effortless to pivot/slide as the Cochise (a ski that is basically the gold standard for damp, charging skis these days), but then again, the Wren is far more stable and relaxed with bases flat on firm snow than the Cochise is.
On the ungroomed run, which had developed chalky, edgeable bumps, the Wrens were awesome. I tend to ski "bumps" by seeking out the edges of runs where the bumps are smaller and further spaced, allowing me to make faster and longer turns, gap jumping the moguls where appropriate, and the Wrens are incredibly happy to do this. They are exceptionally smooth and damp for a ski with no metal in them, especially paired with a highly elastic binding such as the FKS. I did not really attempt to noodle through or zipperline the larger moguls in the center and I don't think the Wren would have been particularly happy to do so. Straightlining at speed through the smallish moguls at the bottom felt comfortable.
The only issue I had with the Wrens in this terrain was the turn radius. 99.8% of the time it was just fine. Despite the radius being reduced to 27m this year compared to ~31m on previous Wrens, most of the time the Wren felt perfectly stable going straight or in longer radius turns (Scott told me this is partially due to the fact that the sidecut is straighter in the tail than in the tip and therefore the ski tends to track very well). However, when just slightly on edge at fairly high speeds in the run out, I felt the tip of the ski just slightly try to engage a harder turn. It never really did, but it was just enough to be disconcerning. I am confident that mildly detuning the tip contact point of the ski will solve this problem.
I also skied my Billy Goats on the same run in the same conditions, and while the BG handles these conditions *fine* they absolutely do not have the powerful, precise, locked in, chargy feeling that the Wrens have. The BG is about 85% of the Wren in terms of stability at speed and dampness, but there is absolutely no question that the Wren is more comfortable setting an edge and holding it in long radius, high speed turns on hard and variable snow than the BG. Given the shape of the two skis, this should not be a surprise.
I also took the Wren out the backcountry gate to ski a medium-pitched, SE facing sidecountry run. There was recent snow, but the sun and wind had been out and a mild surface crust had developed over an essentially non-compacted 2-3ft base. Float was sufficient on the Wren for these conditions, but the ski was definitely a bit hooky in breakable crust. Again, not surprising for the shape of the ski.
I skied the Billy Goats on the same run a couple days later when an even more pronounced crust had developed, and the BG was FAR better for these variable 3D conditions than the Wren (again, no surprise as the BG is probably the least hooky ski I've been on).
Overall, the Wren is much more damp and smooth, just as stable, yet quicker turning than the 189 Praxis RX that they are replacing. The Wren is a better firm snow/variable 2D snow ski than the BG, whereas the BG is a better soft snow/variable 3D snow ski than the Wren.
Days 4-5, Loveland and Silverton inbounds
Loveland finally got some steeper terrain open, and I got a run in at Silverton on these guys. First off, I switched boots (from a Full Tilt First Chair to a Dalbello Scorpion) and that made a huge difference in what I felt on the skis.
On firmer snow/bumps the Wrens are agile enough for my style and incredibly powerful on edge. I don't know how much of the edge power comes from the boot change, though. The Wrens are quite stable and unperturbed while straightlining through moguls.
In dense, soft crud/chop at Silverton and Loveland, I had a really hard time finding the balance point on my setup, kept getting thrown backseat. I think this has much more to do with the boot change and me trying to remember how to flex a two piece boot (haven't been on one in about 5 years) than with the ski though. So I need some more days to fully evaluate these conditions, but for now, I'll just say that the Wren tends to plow through rather than over the snow in these conditions.
Day 6: Jackson Hole Sidecountry
I think I can now expound a little more on the soft snow performance of the Wren 112.
We spent the day out the gates at JHMR, skiing a couple laps in the Rock Springs/4 Pines area and a lap in Granite. The Village was reporting 2" new, but it skied deeper, especially out the gates. Wind had been blowing and things were skiing like 8-10" of fairly dense, settled pow.
The ski floats decently for what it is: a 112mm underfoot ski with pretty traditional, firm snow shape. Yes, there is tip rocker, but not a lot of it. They're not quite the bottom-feeders that my Blizzard Answers were, but they don't float particularly well for a ski of these dimensions either. Keep in mind that I am scrawny at 140lbs and that a heavier skier might find that they de-camber the ski more and therefore get better float. Or perhaps the extra weight will push the ski to the bottom more. Dunno. If you like the feel of traditionally shaped skis vs. more aggressively rockered skis in pow, you'll like these. If you prefer the feel of a substantially rockered ski in pow, you probably won't.
In denser snow or slightly crusted snow (soft wind slab, etc.), the Wren is fairly hooky and grabby. There is simply not enough sidecut taper or rocker to really prevent the ski from locking into a turn in these kind of conditions. Likewise, the wide and flat tail does not lend itself to smearing the tail out in soft snow. My 189 Praxis RX were slightly better in this regard; though they didn't have much splay, the tip rocker length was fairly long, and the ski straighter at 32m radius, and overall that made them a bit less hooky in denser 3D snow.
I skied my Billy Goats the next day and the difference in dense snow is NIGHT AND DAY. The Billy Goat is simply a better ski for 3D snow in every way. And it should be, its shape is optimized for that.
Back to the Wrens performance in chop. After a bit more time on them, now that I've kinda figured out how to ski an overlap alpine boot again, I've figured out why I was having a bit of a tough time on them at first. In soft chop, as with in pow, the Wrens do not particularly want to ski on top of the snow. They generally sink to the nearest layer of dense, supportive snow, and stay right there, blasting through anything in their path. This can lead to sudden changes in momentum as you plow into deeper piles if you are not on top of and driving the skis. In other words, these are a ski that require you to ski balanced and powerfully. Once you do that they are highly rewarding. They will not skim along the top of soft chop like a rockered pow ski will.
On our Granite lap, the center part of the chute was compacted down into more dense chop (rather than the soft, fluffy, cut-up pow I'm mentioning above) and the Wrens loved those conditions. Smooth, stable, and predictable.
Someone on another website asked if these skis could handle everything acceptably. The short answer is yes, they can, but for me they aren't particularly fun in softer conditions. They really come alive more once the snow is packed down a bit. The Billy Goat is also a ski that can handle all conditions acceptably well, but is just the opposite in it's strengths. It excels in soft, 3D snow (including chop and crud) and is acceptable but not particularly fun on firmer snow. Either one can make a 1 ski quiver, just a matter of the feel you prefer and the snow conditions you want to bias performance towards.
Days 7-11: Loveland inbounds
It hasn't snowed significantly in CO in about 6 weeks, so we've been skiing various varieties of hardpack lately. Fortunately high elevation + low sun angle has been kind to our north facing snow, and things have stayed fairly cold and chalky on the chair 1 steeps where I spend nearly all of my time.
As I mentioned above, hardpack performance is fantastic on these. Very powerful and precise on edge, super confidence inspiring while making fast, high edge angle carved turns on uneven firm snow. I haven't jumped off anything very sizable, but they are very balanced in the air and actually have decent pop for what they are (a stiff, damp, big mountain ski). No speed limit straightlining through junk.
I've also had some more time in tight trees and techy billygoat lines (as techy as they get in the LL trees, anyway). While I'm not going to go so far as to call these great tree skis, they are adequately maneuverable for what they are. The tail releases easily, but it is a ski that prefers some speed, so noodling through tight trees at low speeds does take some work. I don't doubt that a heavier skier might find them a bit easier in tight spaces. Even just a couple inches of soft snow increases their maneuverability dramatically. However, jump turning through billygoat lines is surprisingly easy - I think the bit of pop in the skis helps here.
The durability of ON3P's is well known by now, but... I have recently been skiing rock gardens, dirt, and stumps with basically complete disregard for my bases and edges. I'm talking fast, fully pressured GS turns directly on rock and dirt patches, jumping directly onto rocks in billygoat lines, etc. Basically if I think a snag might take me off my feet, I might attempt to avoid or be light on my feet, but otherwise I've just been skiing through things as if it were snow. I did managed to put one fairly substantial coreshot in them on the first couple days (this was before I started ambitiously rock skiing) and I have no idea how, but since then, they have held up beautifully to the abuse. No sidewall damage, no cracked edges, no base gouges that even need filling. All I've needed to do since that first coreshot was deburr the edges.
I have now retuned the edges from 1 degree side edge to 2 degrees. After a few days on them I can't say I'm completely sold on the change. I would say the ski is a bit less hooky, but also not quite as lively and responsive - which makes sense.
Days 12-13: Aspen Highlands and Ajax inbounds
My final days of the season on the Wrens were inbounds at Aspen in full-on spring conditions. We did find some choppy, wintery snow up in Highlands Bowl, and all I can say about the ski's behavior in those conditions is to echo my thoughts above.
In slush, corn, and other typical spring snow, the Wrens are awesome. I could definitely have stood to give them a more open structure, as they were fairly sticky in the super-warm temps despite a warm weather wax job, but the skis are incredibly at home bashing through piles of manky, soft spring snow, and will carve or pivot on command in corn or slush. I'm somewhat of a sucker for slush bumps anyway, but I wouldn't trade these for any other ski I've been on for resort spring skiing. Their superb durability is also a bonus if you, like me, enjoy spring shenangigans such as skiing directly through large grass patches.
I should also mention how much pop these skis have. They are stiff, so it takes some work to load them up compared to something like a park ski, but once you do, they will give you that energy back in spades. This makes launching off of bumps and rollovers (which Aspen has many of) very, very fun. In fact, I underestimated how much pop they have and sent one roller about 4X larger than expected, landed out in the parking lot, and promptly exploded.
Unfortunately, I ended my resort ski season by failing to clear a mogul gap at Ajax and spraining my SI joint, so that will conclude this review.
The Wrenegade 112 is a classic, charger ski. Don't be fooled by the width; this is a ski that is optimized to ski firm and variable snow, and do it fast and aggressively. It's not a playful pow floater, and it will punish a skier that is sloppy with their form. That said, it is not an overly demanding ski like some of the charging skis of the mid-2000's, and it's certainly one of the best - if not THE best - ski in it's class currently on the market.