Cyrus Schenck doesn’t let any grass grow beneath his feet. Or snow pile up, for that matter. That’s because he’s too busy traveling from here to there to here again, holding demos and spreading the word about the small ski company he founded in 2011: RENOUN skis.
Back then, he and his friends were engineering students at Clarkson University in Potsdam, NY, driving back and forth to ski at Jay Peak, and talking about what they could do to build a better ski than the big guys. Then one day, while sitting in an engineering class, Cyrus learned about a non-Newtonian polymer — a polymer that doesn’t follow Isaac Newton’s third law of motion, which states that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Instead, the polymer responds to an action — in this case, impact — by becoming stiffer; more rigid. It’s the basis for RENOUN’s hyper-dampening, or HDT Technology, which RENOUN uses in the core of its skis.
For a small company, this is creating some pretty big buzz. In 2015, RENOUN captured the coveted world-class ISPO GOLD Award in Munich, Germany, in recognition of its pioneering technological design. And in December, 2015, the New York Times put it on its list of the year’s hottest ski gear.
Sounds like a gimmick, right? Does it actually work?
First, let me tell you more about HDT. All skis tend to chatter at high speeds, or over terrain that’s unforgiving, such as ice and hardpack. According to Schenck, the HDT core minimizes that by constantly changing its density, adjusting in real time to the skier and snow conditions. Put simply, when you ski on a stiffer surface, the ski becomes more rigid and damp. And when conditions become more forgiving, such as powder, the ski becomes softer, less damp. Instantly.
Here’s how the NY Times put it: “The more the skis get deflected because of uneven terrain or a high speed, the damper they become, allowing them to absorb the vibrations. At lower speeds or in powder, the core remains lively and flexible for quick turning.”
RENOUN has two lines: the Z’s, which are performance carvers, and the Endurance, which are freeride skis. Both come in two different widths: the Z’s in 77 and 90 mm, the Endurance in 98 and 104 mm.
RENOUN sent me the Z-77 to review. And yeah, I was pretty excited to try them out. So here goes.
First, a bit about me:
Size: 5’1″, 112 lbs
Skier type: Advanced
Where I ski: Mostly in Vermont. Which means I see it all: a lot of ice (aka hard pack), packed powder, sometimes powder on top of ice , and once in a while — but not too often — some actual powder.
And now, the skis:
157 mm, 123-77-111
Core: Canadian Maple and 8-layers of HDT™ inlays (15% core volume).
Reinforcement: Carbon fiber, metal and tri-axial fiberglass
So how do they ski?
My first day on them was ideal for putting them to the test: 2-3 inches of fresh powder that was eventually scraped away to reveal a surface of alternately packed powder and ice. This was great; I got to try them in everything from the sublime to the miserable. And in every instance, these skis rocked.
If I had to reduce it to one word, I’d say they were smooth. No, let me change that to two words: smooth and stable. No, let me change once again: smooth, stable, and OMIGOD THESE ARE SO MUCH FUN.
Okay. I got carried away. But it’s true. These are frickin’ great skis.
Seriously, they didn’t feel like any other ski I’ve ever skied before.
I’ve tried to put my finger on a way to describe them, and it hasn’t been easy. They’re just that different. But here goes, anyway: You know the feeling you get when you transition from one type of surface to another — like from ice to packed powder to hard pack to fluff? It’s not really a jolt; it’s more like a measure of vibration that travels from the ski to your feet to your legs, depending on the surface you’re on. In general, it’s not a bad thing — unless there’s too much of it. Then you get thrown around and your ride can be somewhat uncomfortable.
Most skis have some vibration, and that’s fine. It keeps you on your toes and provides the feedback you need to adjust your skiing to the conditions at hand. The skis that don’t are generally quite damp, and can have a dead, heavy feeling to match.
This isn’t the case with the RENOUN Z-77. The company says its HDT Technology reduces vibration by 300%. I don’t know if that’s the exact number, but I will say this: the vibration is gone. Yet the skis don’t feel dead, heavy or plank-y. Instead, the Z-77 is responsive, fun, and quick edge to edge. These babies carve. Take them on the groomers and you’ll feel like Lindsey Vonn. But what happens when you slow them down? Do they start to chatter? In a word, no. They’re still very, very fun.
So what else did I find about these skis?
Turn initiation: easy
Long turns: no problem
Short turns: ditto
Smeared turns: why not
In short, these skis do whatever you want them to, and they’ll do it so easily that you’ll wonder how your skiing improved so fast.
Any cons, Ski Diva?
Yeah, a few.
The first is pretty minor — and you could chalk it up to a matter of taste — but I think the graphics are sort of meh. If RENOUN is going after a subtle look, well, they’ve succeeded. And I guess that appeals to a lot of people. But this ski is so super cool that I think it should have some super cool graphics, too. Not that I get skis based on graphics — I don’t — but still, it’d be nice.
Second, yes, you get what you pay for, and these skis are a bit pricey. They do come with a 100-day back guarantee, which is pretty awesome. But still, the price is a bit steep. I’m hoping that’ll come down, as time goes by.
Three, they’re not easy to find. You have to get them directly from the company right now. So if you want to give them a try, you’ll have to catch them at one of their many demo days across the country. Follow them on Facebook and you’ll see where they are when.
And four, I wish they were available in shorter lengths. I know, I’m a pipsqueak. But just so you know, Cyrus is 6’6″, so he’s coming at this from a totally different perspective. Hey, look down here, Cyrus! We’re short, and we’re proud!
Awesome is a word that gets tossed around a lot for just about anything these days (‘Man, that’s an awesome cheeseburger.’ ‘Oh, your shirt is so awesome.‘). So let’s not go there. Instead, let’s call these skis something else: exceptional. These are skis that will make your ski day better than it’d be if you were skiing something else. Skis that will make you grin. Skis that will make you fall in love with skiing all over again. And really, you can’t beat that.
I can’t wait to try to Z-90’s.
Final rating: Two ski poles up!