Comparison Review Comparison: 2016 Blizzard Cochise 185 and 2016 Salomon Q-Lab 183

Discussion in 'Gear Reviews and Comparisons' started by FairToMiddlin, Jan 29, 2016.

  1. FairToMiddlin

    FairToMiddlin Getting off the lift Pugski Ski Tester

    Nov 8, 2015
    8300', CO
    I got to test these same day, same conditions, two days in a row. Day 1 was at Sunlight with fresh snow and no crowds; Day 2 was at Snowmass, not quite as much fresh snow, but still few crowds in the terrain we rolled through. Terrain included crud, bumps, untracked, and groomers; basically, most of what you can expect to see out west on "this day didn’t suck" kind of snow days.

    Crud: The Cochise rules here. Especially in tree-filled crud, the Cochise is a lovely combination of deflection resistance and quickness. Despite the added camber, the 2016 Cochise felt just as maneuverable in the crud between trees in Sunlight and Snowmass as the 2012 Cochise felt in similar conditions at Kirkwood. In fact, I think (for me), the 185 Cochise is better here than the 187 Bonafide; it feels more nimble, more pivot-y.

    Out of the trees, and into open-space crud, the Cochise is a treat. On a midweek day with no crowds and no small children to look out for, let ‘em run and enjoy the ride. No tip dive, no grabbiness in irregular snow, no fear.

    The Q-Lab is … within shouting distance. I have read about its alleged irregular flex pattern, and its aggressive sidecut (20.5m radius, vs 27m for the Cochise). The result is a ski that is 90% of what the Cochise can do, in conditions the Cochise is supposed to reign supreme.

    Bumps: These were soft, friendly bumps. No teeth were dislodged in the making of this comparison. Nevertheless, picking lines, absorption, pivoting, and carving were needed. The Q-Lab is a better tool here; it is quicker, and, when you learn to live with its very strong tails and keep moving down the hill, it actually encourages better technique. The Cochise probably lets you pivot your way out of trouble better, if you are making good choices at the top of the bump, or the downhill spine of a canoe-shaped bump. But for intuitive fun, I’d have the Q-Lab in bumps.

    Pow: Pick ‘em, they are equals. At mach schnell in pow, they both have good float, and great resistance of snow snakes grabbing at you from underneath the surface. These are both skis that reward skiing from the middle or slightly back of middle of the arch; they have lots of forgiveness in the little micro adjustments we make each second to stay balanced. Neither will feel like a 115-125mm dedicated pow ski, but they are both exceptional in the One Oh Something class, and both will allow you to enjoy more of an inbounds pow day (which usually gets tracked out rapidly) than any of the dedicated powder boards.

    If you get up in the morning and read that your mountain was supposed to get 5” and then ended up reporting 16”, and these are what you have in the car, fear not.

    Groomers: No contest: Q-Lab. Yes, the Cochise has camber now. Yes, the Cochise has a carbon tip that wants to interact with the snow more positively than the original Cochise when tipped on edge. Neither makes a difference in this comparison. For a One Oh Something, the Q-Lab is as good as it gets, save the Stöckli Stormrider 107. Tip it on edge, and it pulls across the hill like an all-mountain ski should. The very strong tail finishes turns on harder snow in a way that usually requires the word Kästle and the letters "MX" on the topsheet. For a >100mm ski, it is fun on the way back to the lift.

    It’s not that the Cochise isn’t fun on a groomer. It does have a tip that wants to get going in your new choice of direction, and the camber (and its strong construction) will lock into an arc. These are fun things, yes? The issue is what the ski wants to do once on edge. You can measure the time it takes to pull across the hill with a pocket watch (by which time you will be traveling at a rate of speed that gets the attention of any patroller young enough to hear the sonic boom you’ll generate…). The speed at which you end up traveling is indeed fun, but it’s not, sigh, responsible. Yes, you can steer and windshield-wipe the Cochise into shorter-radius, responsibler turns, but then the fun goes away again; we aren’t enjoying carving a ski that rewards the effort.

    Where does this leave us? Well, not with a bad ski among the two. Who they are for?

    The Q-Lab comes ever so close to a (wider) everyday ski/travel ski. It does most things very well and nothing poorly. A lighter skier might find them to be a handful, but the same could be said about the Cochise.

    The Cochise is more focused in its bag of tricks. It trades some of the everyday usability of the Q-Lab in pursuit of the Nth degree in soft-snow off-piste prowess. If my usual method of getting up the hill was a cat or a heli, the Cochise would be at the top of the list; from 5% water content fresh, to wind-affected cement, to plowing through the guides’ tracks in the runout, the Cochise is hard to beat.
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 29, 2016
    Slim, Ken_R, Crudmaster and 6 others like this.
  2. DoryBreaux

    DoryBreaux Friend for Hire on Powder Days Industry Insider Pugski Ski Tester

    Nov 13, 2015
    Having more fun than you
    Sick. Thank you for the write up!
  3. BMC

    BMC Putting on skis Skier

    Mar 20, 2017
    I haven’t compared the Cochise with the QLab but I have tested the QLab against the DPS Wailer 105 T2 Hybrid (also an excellent ski) and the Line Supernatural 108. They’re all good skis but for my skiing I firmly preferred the QLabs. I liked them so much I picked up a second pair to keep in reserve!

    What I like about the QLabs is how they combine precise carving on groomers with a looseness in soft snow. For me, in those two conditions, they outperformed the other skis. In crud I personally found each of the skis around the same. I was in awe of the DPS construction quality though.

    Fantastic skis the QLabs and a real shame Salomon couldn’t find a way to continue them in their line up.
  4. Comish

    Comish Putting on skis Skier

    Mar 2, 2016
    LaLa Land / Mammoth
    Completely agree with this statement. Finally got some snow at Mammoth so took the QLab's out and was just loving the combination between looseness in the crud and how awesome they slay groomers on the way back to the lifts. Really unique combination that makes it a really dang fun ski!
    BMC likes this.
  5. Josh Matta

    Josh Matta Making fresh tracks Instructor

    Dec 21, 2015
    Honestly the QST 99/QST106 are really good skis, they are actually damper than the Qlab. 95 percent as good on groomed and 110 percent better in powder.

  6. BMC

    BMC Putting on skis Skier

    Mar 20, 2017
    I agree with you that they're good skis but I would put the disparity on groomed with the QST at 90% of the QLab, and I don't find the QST to be more damp (I own the QLab and QST 99). Indeed I much prefer the QLab on groomed.

    I think you're right the QST is maybe a touch better in powder but I haven't personally discerned a difference (on the 99). I'd bet the 106 is considerably better in powder than the QLab (for the same reasons the QLab is better on groomed and in crud).

    Of course we can all perceive different things on the same skis so there's no right or wrong!

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