In my most recent review of the Elan Ripstick 102 W, I mentioned that there’s a lot of repetition in the women’s 100-something ski space: moderate flex, carbon laminates, -8cm mount point and 1700g in weight. I call them Vanilla skis. They’re palatable crowd-pleasers, and they make a lot of sense in the wide, women’s category where there aren’t the largest sales numbers.
But that makes me really intrigued and excited when I get to try a ski that’s giving other than “cheese pizza” energy. Enter the Coalition Snow SOS. The combination of design components is unlike any other ski I’ve seen before, much less tested. Where most other brands resort to average, the SOS combines a bunch of design features that are many standard deviations outside the norm. Some lend themselves to an aggressive, burly ski, and others that make for a nimble and maneuverable product.
Tips from other skiers were equally confusing. One of my first gear consults was with a woman who found them to be too much ski for her. My sister-in-law demoed them and said they were more of a charger than she was looking for. But a friend said they skied short and felt nimble, and the founder of Coalition recommended getting them a little long. Those things are opposites.
But I get it after skiing them. They’re stable and they like speed, but they don’t need to be driven and it takes little commitment to turn the skis due to the rocker and mount point, so you always feel a strong sense of control. It’s a combo that makes them a strong off-piste resort ski that floats well in powder, is nimble enough to seek out powder stashes in the trees at midday, and stays steady in crud once the snow is sunbaked and skied out in the afternoon.
Where these came from
These skis were a demo covered by Coalition Snow (once I submit the invoice…) valued at $55. Look ma, I made it, first review with brand-provided gear! All reviewers getting something of value out of their reviews are required to disclose this info, and I believe that transparency is important. And no matter the value, my #1 allegiance is to readers and their search for the best gear.
Construction (size 173)
To really appreciate how the Coalition Snow SOS handles, it helps to understand it’s made and how it’s different from its peers before connecting those features to its on snow performance.
We’ll dive in to how these specs inform how the SOS handles, but to learn more, check out the Construction Cheat Sheet.
Coalition Snow SOS & Ability Level
I’d recommend the Coalition Snow to advanced and expert skiers. Could an intermediate get down on it? Probably. But I think they should buy a Blizzard Sheeva 10 instead. 2 reasons:
- The SOS has a 25m turn radius. The radius on a ski may shorten when you flex it, but the SOS is also really stiff. Every time I test a ski, I do a run in intermediate, windshield wiper turns just to see how the skis react to basic skidding turns. Even with this slower turn style, the SOS wanted to truck. It’s really hard to these slowly.
- Intermediates tend to spend more time on piste, and the Sheeva does a better job on firm and icy slopes.
But the Sheeva feels skittish in the fall line and feels more limited to quick, tight turns and careful speeds. For speedy skiers, that trait either means they need to turn more than they want to, or they need to size up to a gargantuan ski in order to feel comfortable letting them run. That’s where the SOS comes in.
Next, we’ll get into the SOS’s performance in various types of terrain and snow conditions, from best to worst:
Performance at Speed
I love a good analogy in a ski review. The SOS reminds me of my mom’s Toyota Camry. When my parents first bought it, my dad noted that it was so smooth that you’d find yourself going 20 over on the highway without even realizing it. It gets me every time I’m back in NC and borrowing the car.
The SOS is similar, and for a few reasons. The SOS is heavy and stiff, which means stability both at speed and in variable, skied out snow, and crud. I’ve been spending a lot of time this season on the 18 / 19 Santa Ana 110, which is also in that 1900-2000g range, and shares that damp, weighty sensation.
But I have to be intentional about getting speed on the Santa Ana. I’ve got to get forward, drive the tips, and think 3-4 turns ahead of myself to make sure they’re lined up so I’m dodging all the Douglas firs. If end up barreling headfirst towards a tree, I’ve got to shift into the backseat, hockey stop, and then start over.
Not so with the SOS. First, the mount point is so close to center that you don’t need a forward, directional stance. It’ll tolerate it, if that’s your style, but it doesn’t need it. Centered stances are fine. Second, the deep rocker in the tail really gives you the feeling of agility and control. The skis may be hauling ass with that 25m turn radius, but they don’t feel locked into each turn. If you need to make your right turn a little wider or hang in the fall line for an extra second or two before making your left turn, they’ll oblige.
Stability and maneuverability tend to be at odds with each other, but this unconventional design seems to get the best of both worlds. They’re stable for long, high speed turns, but also have “micro-maneuverability” where you can adjust a bit within the turn on the fly.
They’re 2000g per ski. That’s heavy (but they don’t feel it. I’ll get to that part in a bit). The burly weight and stiff flex really mutes out snow inconsistencies. The only time these got overmatched was when I took a run that was all refrozen avy debris. But no ski can make up for bad judgement.
I only got the SOS in a few drifts of windblown pow, but they felt most at home in these snow conditions. They have deep rocker in the tips that help the ski plane and keeps them on the snow rather than in the snow. They also lend themselves to a variety of turn styles instead of favoring being bent in clean, classic carves. The deeply rockered tails slash and pivot easily. Here’s what that means: generally, in low density snow, you want a soft ski that’ll bend even when soft snow gives you less leverage to press against. Most powder specialty skis are really soft for that reason. But the SOS just makes it easy to do other types of turns.
“Analisa, this is not a snow condition or terrain feature.” I know. But I was pleasantly surprised at how light the SOS felt on my feet. As I mentioned, I ski an older version of a Santa Ana with a similar weight, and it makes its mass known. The difference is that the SOS has really low swing weight. In other words, the midsection is heavy, but the tips are lighter. But carrying weight closer to your center of gravity / point of axis feels a lot lighter than carrying that same weight because of physics-y things like torque and leverage.
This leads to the SOS feeling fairly quick and nimble on the slopes, and I felt a lot more comfortable popping off traverse rollers or side hits than my other heavy skis.
The SOS is so close to center mounted that it’ll accept a wide range of stances. It most prefers a fairly centered stance, but if you shift into the backseat or a cautious stance, they’ll continue to make turns. On the flip side, they’ll oblige a somewhat forward stance, but doesn’t particularly reward you for it. If your goals include working on traditional form, I’d reach for one of the many more directional offerings that’ll carrot & stick you to get forward.
Moguls, Trees, and Tight Terrain
The SOS is fairly maneuverable. It handled smaller and shallower bumps with ease, but started to feel like work a bit in bigger moguls. I didn’t get a chance to take these in the trees, but I imagine they’d be similar: lots of fun in spaced trees where you can keep your speed up, but that you might be fighting them when the trees get tight.
Groomers were the only spot where I didn’t love the SOS. Those wind-deposited soft spots I loved so much came at the expense of some spots that were windblown down to our most recent ice crust, and I had a hard time keeping an edge. I was able to get down fine and fairly efficiently, but they felt most comfortable at low edge angles. I also didn’t let them run as fast as they could since I didn’t trust that I could throw them in a hockey stop if I came up on someone too fast.
I had this nagging feeling on the mountain that there was something different about the sidewalls that impacted how much leverage I had standing on top of the ski and therefore how well the edges bite. The edges bevel in at an angle, and you can see the sidewall color while looking down on the ski, which I haven’t seen before. Here’s an example of an old Powder7 listing and you can see the outline around the skis.
Turns out, Coalition uses slanted sidewalls, and I’ve spent way more time on full sandwich, vertical sidewalls. A few Google searches later, I confirmed that angled sidewalls sacrifice some edge grip in order to get weight savings and a lighter, nimble feel.
So naturally I’ve gone deep on sidewall angles. Seems like it’s a bit more common within snowboarding, and for skis, a lot more skis had it in the late 2000s / early 2010s. They tend to be more park or touring-specific where weight / swing weight really matter. An ON3P employee chimed in on a forum and mentioned that they (at least at the time) used a more angled sidewall for park and less angled for big mountain. Look at us, learning new things together everyday.
Do I need an off-piste oriented ski to also rail on groomers? No. But at least at Stevens, I do have a lot of icy, side-slippy entrances to Tye Bowl, Big Chief Bowl, or along 7th Heaven traverses, and I don’t want to start those runs with an unsexy kegel at best or a fall at worst.
Who should buy it?
Advanced and expert skiers should get on this ski. Will they all love it? No. But it’s such a different ski design that it’s hard to be like “you’ll like it if you like X” or “it’s a stiffer, more stable version of Y.” It’s like a more charge-y version of the old ON3P Jessie 108. If you want a longer turning version of the Sheeva 10 that’s more comfortable in the fall line, it’s close, but gives up a little edge hold in exchange. If you’ve skied a lot of park skis or forward mounted skis like an Armada ARW, K2 Midnight, or Pandora 110 (and just the 110), this might be your stable, charge-y soft snow ski.
How convenient that Coalition is currently on a big spring demo tour that is probably stopping by a mountain near you? They also demo out of their Reno HQ, Evo Seattle, and Evo Denver. I highly recommend getting on a pair because they’re probably different than anything you’ve skied before, and you’ll either find something you really like, or at least try something that forces your ski style to become more adaptable for a few runs. Both are good for you.
Buy a size that scares you, at least a little bit. I usually fall somewhere between Coalition’s 166 and 173, but I took the longer size since that’s what was available at the last minute from evo. I’m so glad I did. They felt a little short (even though most of my mid-fat skis fall in the 168-170 range). I’m pretty sure I could’ve driven the 180, not that I’d need to; the SOS is super stable. Maybe it would’ve given me a bit more length on the effective edge and therefore better grip? I should also note that the Coalition size chart would put me on a 157 or 166, which, no.
Is the Coalition Snow SOS a good touring ski?
Despite the marketing, not really. They’re 1900g+. An option like the Backland 98 clocks in at around 1200. That’s almost 40% lighter. Three pounds if you combine both skis. But they do feel lighter than expected on your feet, and technically you can drag any ski you’d like uphill. If you’ve got the cardio capacity to drag them uphill, I’d be jealous during the descent, but most people would do best with a lighter ski.
A word about Coalition Snow SOS’s marketing
Every all-mountain ski promises to be all things to all people, and it’s an industry norm to claim that a ski “does it all, from carving groomers to slashing deep pow.” But I feel like Coalition’s product copy came from AI that was forced to read hours of reviews and product description and insert every positive sentiment ever written about skis. Personally, I think it waters down the places where the SOS is exceptional and it makes it seem like all those other “cheese pizza” skis that just conform to industry norms. So I pulled the whole list of claimed strengths and rated their validity:
- Couloirs: probably decent
- Groomers: not with much aplomb
- Powder–filled bowls: wholeheartedly yes
- All snow conditions: pretty true
- Resort: absolutely
- Backcountry terrain: not really
- Firm snow: not so much
- Pow: enthusiastically yes
- Crud: hell yea!
- Deep snow: affirmative
- Stability: more stability than millennial adults have ever known
- Quick edge-to-edge: sure
- Absorbs vibrations: only truth detected here
- Energetic: definitely not from a birch core. Doesn’t bend and snap.
- Carveable: nope
- Responsive: if the SOS was your Tinder match, it would always message back
- Ideal for long, arced GS turns: accurate
- Responds well to speed: double thumbs up
- Boilerplate: hardly
But I also have to shoutout the Coalition team, and specifically Artistic Director, Lauren Bello Okerman for consistently some of the best graphics out of any brand in the industry. Their reputation for their artwork really proves that cool things happen when women are allowed to design things and pick things for other women without needing the approval of a man.
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