Review: 2012/2013 Praxis GPO
2012/2013 Praxis GPO, 187cm length, 140-116-128mm, 24m radius, mounted 2cm back from recommended line with Dynafit Radical FT. Custom build with Medium/Stiff flex and MAP Core - Carbon/Triaxial Fiberglass layup.
OTHER SKIS I OWN
11/12 184cm Praxis Freeride w/ Dynafit
15/16 177cm G3 Zenoxide Carbon Fusion 93 w/ Dynafit
12/13 186cm ON3P Billy Goat w/ FKS
14/15 187cm Praxis Protest w/ Guardian
09/10 193cm 4FRNT EHP w/ Guardian
14/15 186cm ON3P Wrenegade 112 w/ FKS
09/10 181cm ON3P Wrenegade w/ Guardian
10/11 182cm Moment Belafonte w/ FKS
08/09 189cm Praxis RX w/ STH
The 187 GPO has been my go-to midwinter touring ski for the past 3 seasons. As such, I've skied it in most conditions, but definitely biased towards soft, 3D snow of varying depths. Though I have skied it on firmer snow, I typically grab my Praxis Freerides when I'm expecting those conditions. I'll compare the GPO mostly to the ON3P Billy Goat, as the BG is my resort ski for similar conditions.
Note that although my GPO's were built for the 12/13 season, there have been no changes to the design or construction of the ski since then other than the addition of a few more lengths, and an ultralight core option.
DESIGN, MOUNT, AND TUNE
The GPO was designed by Freeride World Tour athlete Drew Tabke. As a result, the ski is billed as a pretty aggressive, big mountain tool, but if you watch Tabke's skiing style, he is a pretty playful skier, incorporating a lot of slashing turns and spins in the air versus the old school, Jeremy Nobis "pin it everywhere" style of big mountain skiing. Tabke's style is definitely evident in the design of the ski, as it has a pretty forward recommended mount point (-7cm from true center) and a relatively short turn radius (24m). But the big mountain DNA is there too, with a shark nosed tip designed to slice through variable snow, a long and low rocker profile, and a reasonably stout flex.
Knowing my own personal skiing style and preferences, I decided to mount 2cm back from the recommended line. I'm very glad I did. I typically prefer a more aft mount than Praxis recommends and the -2cm mount is definitely the right place for me on this ski.
Additionally, I know from experience that Praxis skis have incredibly sharp edges out of the wrapper, so much so that they are unskiable for me in stock form. I set the edge bevels to my preferred 1° base, 2° edge and aggressively detuned the rockered sections of the ski before even attempting to ski them. Again, I'm glad I did, and would recommend that anyone buying a ski from Praxis detune the ski immediately.
Of note is that Praxis offers a number of custom options on their skis, as well as standard editions. My ski differs from the stock GPO only in graphics and the optional MAP-Carbon layup. Same core as the stock GPO, but less fiberglass and the addition of carbon fiber. This makes the ski about 3/4lb lighter per pair and increases pop at the expense of dampness.
Skinning on the GPO is pleasant; the ski is light, though not ultralight. There is enough cambered length and the tail rocker subtle enough that grip on steep, technical skin tracks is not a major issue. The -2cm mount point is well balanced for kick turns. The shape of the tip and tail hold any brand's skin clips well.
In consistent, 3D snow of varying density and depth, the GPO is great. The ski rewards a neutral to forward stance, with light to moderate shin pressure on the boot, steering the ski through angulation. The tip shape is excellent and planes up easily, and the ski can be arced or slashed at will. It's not super loose and pivoty, and you won't be doing 1000' slarves down an AK spine ala McConkey on this ski, but it can certainly be pivoted easily through tight spaces. Conversely, it does not respond well to aggressive inputs into the tip of the ski, as the generous sidecut tends to hook up easily and it's fairly easy to over-drive the ski. The tip won't submarine, the ski will just turn really, really fast. This makes it a bit difficult to make very fast, pressured, long radius turns and the ski is more comfortable in medium radius turns. This is fine for the typical backcountry skiing we do midwinter in the Colorado Front Range, but if you live somewhere more open and like to make primarily big, long turns, I'd give serious consideration to ordering the stiff flex, or a different ski.
In less consistent, breakable crust conditions, the GPO is a bit below average for skis in this class. I attribute this to the tight sidecut. In my experience, the less sidecut and camber a ski has, and the more tip/tail taper and rocker it has, the less hooky a ski will be in breakable crust. The GPO has plenty of taper, plenty of rocker, low enough camber, but too much sidecut. It's less hooky than most traditionally shaped skis, like the Praxis Freeride or ON3P Wrenegade, but definitely not as good as the Praxis Protest or ON3P Billy Goat or 4FRNT EHP.
On firmer snow, the GPO is fine. Not good, not bad. Predictable and easy to ski. Not really my ski of choice for hardpacked conditions, but I wouldn't expect it to be. But it will get you down any firm snow you encounter with minimal fuss.
In the air, the GPO is balanced and stable, and tip dive on landings has never been an issue for me. That said, I don't typically go huge in the backcountry; 10-15ft is normally about the max unless it's a really good day, but you'll find me 8-10ft up with regularity.
In chop/variable snow/crud, the GPO does get kicked around a bit, but this is probably due to the inherent slop in a Dynafit Radical heel more than the ski.
The ON3P Billy Goat is a very similar ski in terms of overall design and purpose, and both are very good skis. They get compared a lot, and rightfully so. Which one you choose is really a matter of preference. The BG is a bit more demanding than the GPO. It is tolerant of more tip pressure and can be driven harder. It's just as quick in tight spaces, but does want to be driven a bit more aggressively. The GPO is easier to ski on firm snow, whereas the BG requires you to be a bit more on top of things on hardpack. The BG is more stable in chop. The GPO (even in stock layup) is significantly lighter than the BG, and can be built considerably lighter with the custom options available. Float is pretty equivalent, with perhaps a slight edge going to the BG. Durability and build quality of both are excellent.
The GPO is a very versatile ski that makes an excellent soft snow touring ski for those that ski primarily shorter pitches and/or in the trees, particularly with the lightweight options available. It can be skied hard in soft snow, but is fairly forgiving. It would also make for an excellent resort ski for a moderately aggressive skier, particularly if you're the type to spend a lot of time seeking out untracked stashes in obscure places for days after the storm, as the ski will deftly handle any conditions in between the stashes. For a more powerful, aggressive skier in bigger terrain, I might recommend the Billy Goat instead.