As my first official foray into rockered skis, I mounted up a new pair of Surface Live Life 181’s to my Fritschi Freeride AT bindings. Specs on the Live Life’s looked great for a backcountry setup and the weight is superlight for the girth. I cut a new pair of BD Ascension skins and was touring the very next day. Two words… I’m sold.
Salt Lake City-based Surface Skis is a small brand with a growing reputation. Case in point, a pow day at Alta Ski Area last week and I must have seen 15-20 pairs of Surface skis. I’m stoked on what Surface brings to the table and look forward to watching them grow in coming seasons.
The 2009/2010 Surface Live Life is all-new with a wider profile, 3-stage rocker and slight camber underfoot. As with all Surface Skis, the Live Life has abstract and artsy topsheets (akin to Line’s designs) that seem to fit well.
About the Surface Live Life Skis
I’ll let Surface tell the story about the Live Life’s:
The Live Life for the 2009-2010 season got a bit of a makeover. We added a couple centimeters to the length and refined the early rise in the tip, making it a smoother transition from underfoot to the rocker point. The Directional-Tapered shape maximizes float and comes around more easily than most big mountain skis in it’s class. Equipped with a full Maple-Poplar Wood Core from tip-to-tail, the Live Life is bombproof but still extremely light for backcountry travel. With that being said, continue to Live Life to the fullest.
Features of the Live Life:
- Early-rise tip/tail with slight camber underfoot
- Tip-to-Tail Maple-Poplar Wood Core
- Full Wrap Edge Protection
- Thick 2.5mm Edge
- ABS Sidewall Construction
- Mounting Points
- Sintered Base
- Binding Reinforcement
- Sizes: 181 (tested), 191 cm
- Dimensions: 156/120/135
- MSRP: $599
Surface Live Life Skis Review
It was really by chance that I ended up with the Live Life’s as my dedicated AT setup for the season. I was a little worried that having a rockered tip and tail in the backcountry might be a little problematic (remember, I was a rockered noob). That said, the night before my first tour of the season, I cut some new Black Diamond Ascension skins (125mm) and hoped for the best. As it turned out, I would be treated to knee-deep blower pow–perfect conditions for these skis.
The majority of my turns have been in the backcountry on the Live Life’s, but I did spend a half-day at Alta on a powder day testing the groomer and cut-up crud capabilities of these skis. The following is a summary of their performance by conditions.
The capabilities of these skis in powder are amazing. The overall girth of these skis enables them to float extremely well. Add on top of that the rockered tip and tail and you’ve got a pow-slaying instrument on your hands. That said, the snow density does affect how well these ride. I found them to be the most responsive and capable in slightly heavier or settled untracked backcountry powder. In ultra-blower Utah pow, I felt like the rockered tail threw my balance off just slightly until I got the hang of it, but in most snow conditions that wasn’t a factor.
In cut-up and tracked-out runs at Alta, I felt confident blowing through the crud with ease–again, a centered stance was key as it was easy to get thrown in the backseat. Staying aggressive and centered was met with predictable response and they charged through anything–except for an unseen dip in the cat track at the base of High Rustler at Alta which caught me by surprise and threw me for a double-heel ejection in a millionth of a second (yeah… I was seeing stars).
Groomers… Yeah Groomers
On groomers, these skis required serious angulation to carve nice railroad tracks. That said, once you got the hang of that, they were pretty fun. On the other end of the spectrum, I felt like I could pop short, quick turns with ease due to the short running length and snappy, lightweight feel of these skis. Definitely not my favorite ski for a groomer day at Deer Valley, but they efficiently get you back to the lift for your next dose of pow.
Trees are Your Friends
Tree skiing with these is absolutely killer. The rockered design in soft snow makes these things turn on a dime (no hooky-ness here). I’ve skied through some pretty tight situations and have been confidently able to snap turns in tight trees and while slash-turn-bushwhacking my way out of the backcountry.
The Uphill Slog
For backcountry touring, these skis are an absolute dream. I’ve been breaking trail all season in these and have found them to stay on top of the snow while maintaining plenty of snow contact for efficient uphill assaults. They are very lightweight and the 181cm length is so flickable that switchbacks are second-nature. Once at the top, the flat tails are easily stuck into the snow for skin removal (not possible with true twin-tips.
- Very lightweight… no, EXTREMELY lightweight
- Floats amazingly-well in deep pow or chunky crud
- Excellent overall value
- Rockered tip makes breaking trail easy on the skintrack
- Easy to hop turns when needed
- Slash turns are a breeze
- Nimble and turnable in tight situations
- Durable bases can withstand backcountry abuse
- Really have to angulate to get them to carve on groomers, but they do
- Not super confidence-inspiring on groomers, but that’s not their forte
- Rockered tail requires perfectly-centered balance
- Already have a couple of small topsheet chips
Bottom Line: Surface Live Life Skis
The Live Life’s are light and fun in the backcountry and inbounds when the conditions are deep or chunky. These are best for soft snow where you can take full advantage of the rockered profile and girth of these babies, but with the right leverage, they will respond on groomers.
Buy Now: Visit SurfaceSkis.com
Had an amazing backcountry ski day on Saturday with the Live Life’s in tow. What an amazing ski for backcountry powder turns! It’s lightweight for efficiency on the up and it just blows through crud and deep powder unlike any other.
Check out the photos:
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Did you test the 181 or 191? Where did you mount the bindings in relation to boot center?
181cm and I can’t remember exactly where I mounted them, but I know I mounted them a good 15-20mm back from center. I’ll check and reply.
Wondering if you ever checked your LLs for mounting. I just got the skullcandy topsheet model and am planning mounting 5cm back from center, based on my research. I’m 6’2″ and 200# and would appreciate your thoughts (in addition to a good review that helped influence my decision to go with Surface).
Le Pistoir and Seth… Sorry, it took me a a few days. I was off from my initial thoughts of 2cm back. I mounted them 5cm back. Now that I’m dusting off the cobwebs in my mind, I recall talking with Mike Schneider about this and that was his recommendation for all-mountain skiing and touring.
I obviously haven’t skied them at any other mounting point, but 5cm back feels perfect. I just got back out on these yesterday and man are these a killer backcountry ski!!!
Jason…I ended up mounting mine – 3 cm. I’ve skied them about 5 times, and although I do like the skis I think I need to go further back, maybe to -5 cm like you did. I just feel like there is not enough tip and too much tail I asked one of the guys at Surface and they said don’t go to -5 cm because I would be skiing the low-rise tail and feel like I’m popping a wheelie all day, do you ever get this sensation at -5 cm on your setup? Curious about your input before I have them re-mounted.
Oh, and in case it matters, I have these mounted with alpine bindings and this ski is my days-off from patrolling resort ski, which only gets used if it is a powder day because otherwise I go touring.
The skis feel very balanced to me at -5cm. On groomers, I can carve them, but more importantly, they just feel balanced, snappy and responsive in the powder and crud. For an all-mountain and touring setup, I’m digging what I’ve got. Heading out for some backcountry pow tomorrow morning!
Thanks for all the help. Too bad we didn’t get more snow last night, should freshen things up a little but not quite what I was hoping for. Cheers!
I didn’t realize you were local. Where do you patrol? Yeah, last night’s storm did kind of fizzle out. We’re going to hit the Uintas for some untracked turns. Most lines elsewhere are well tracked at this point. Let me know how that mount goes.
At The Canyons. -5 seems better to me, but since we only recorded 24″ of snow in January at The Canyons, I haven’t been skiing them too much since they are my pow-day skiing the resort ski. If they pan out I think I might get a second set and mount with Dynafits for touring post big-dump days. Thanks for all the help!
i have mounted a pair of Marker Schizo on my Live Life. I have them mounted so i can go -6cm. But i have always ended up (-3)-(-4)cm back. Atlest when im hucking. I feel the back ski is to soft to go anymore back and still have som “landing platform”.
Sebba – I agree with you on the tail of the ski doesn’t support big air…I wish they made a model that had the early rise and a traditional tail. I don’t ski switch so the tail really doesn’t do anything for me but make the ski shorter.
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