Overall: A full Five Stars for a highly competitive race ski with additional versatility for “real” backcountry skiing. Check out the Hagan Ascent if you want the same design but with a different wood core to save some $ at the penalty of a few trivial ounces. However, both of these models are still full-on race skis – for a more all-around yet still very light ski, within the Hagan line-up check out the Cirrus.
Background on product familiarity: I used the 2013-14 version for just over 90,000 feet of earned vertical, plus a couple afternoons of post-race lift-served skiing, in just about every possible condition, mounted with Hagan ZR bindings, driven by the Scarpa Alien 1.0 boot. Previously used race skis have been the Atomic TM:11, Atomic MX:20, Movement Fish-X (still used for most training), and the traditionally shaped version of the X-Race from the two prior seasons (still preferred a little bit for carving on groomers).
First, the first impressions out of the box: The weight – or rather, lack thereof – is amazing, but you’re probably already used to that by now, or at least expecting that from a full-on skimo model. The tip rocker though is new for race skis. Hagan wasn’t the first to try it, but Hagan was the first to sell a rockered race ski in North America, and Hagan also seems to have dialed it in just right. Compared to the version over the two prior seasons, Hagan increased the overall ski length by 3cm (i.e., from 160cm to 163cm for men, and 150cm to 153cm for women), yet kept the mounting position at the same distance from the tail, so all the additional length was essentially added up front. And somehow despite the additional length (plus another mm in the waist and two more in the tail), the spec weight stayed pretty much the same, with plenty of pairs coming in under that.
Note that you can’t deviate from the suggested mounting position, because the toe area’s internal mounting plate is just barely long enough for the drill pattern. (The heel plate though is long enough to accommodate any extremes of boot sole length.) And that mounting plate is impressive: between the current version and the version over the two prior seasons, I have mounted six pairs of Hagan race skis, and the amount of metal that flies up during drilling into such a light ski never ceases to amaze me. You will probably break all sorts of gear and body parts before you ever rip a binding out of a Hagan race ski.
Second impressions, in use: My first couple turns felt odd, since the mounting position was effectively shifted back relative to the prior version. But since I was on such a short light ski with a turny radius, that oddness immediately disappeared. I still find that older version a bit more fun for true carving on perfectly smooth groomers (which of course is entirely irrelevant for competitive purposes), given the way an entirely non-rocked tip engages more definitively.
Otherwise though, the current version has expanded the versatility of a race ski to a level that I never thought was possible – after two races, I just kept using them for some lift-serving skiing, not bothering to get more “normal” skis from my car, one day on all sorts of ungroomed funky natural snow, plus another day in tight moguls. And an Eastern rando buddy who often races and trains in Colorado finds the new version great for powder.
In the backcountry, I’ve skied pretty much everything on them, even including some surprise powder on a short hill. In the spring, I still mainly use the Cirrus, but then as the snow becomes more consolidated and/or the dry approaches (and exits) even longer, I switch over to the X-Race, especially for summer snow. The only time the X-Race ever started to feel skitterish was in a couloir somewhere in the 40s for pitch, with a few inches of fresh gloppy snow on top of old somewhat soft ice, where I was definitely reminded of the drawbacks of having only one-a-half pounds of ski on each foot.
Third impressions, for long-term durability: The only problem I’ve had was more of a manufacturing defect, as I noticed a slight “crinkly” (?) effect on one of the sidewalls when new. Eventually this chipped off, although it was easily sealed up with epoxy, and seemed to be only cosmetic. I sent a picture more as an FYI/FWIW to the U.S. distributor, who forwarded it to Austria, where the HQ insisted that I should be issued a pair of replacement skis (formulated in bonus entertaining Germglish). I don’t think this manufacturing defect says anything important about Hagan’s quality, but the replacement sure says a lot about how they support their products.
Picture from a backcountry rando race last season (2015, when New England actually had winter snow), on my way to passing a second racer on the long descent to move onto the podium -- so yes, you can really ski on these skis!
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