Made in Austria by a company – Hagan Skis – with a fifty-plus year history of making skis, the 2011 Hagan X-Ultra is a ski that represents the future of backcountry skiing and ski mountaineering. That future involves ultra light gear that is able to handle the full range of conditions, from ice to 4% water content powder.
Through the implementation of a Semicap Carbon Air Channel, the 2011 version shaves about 150 grams of weight off each ski, for a total of 2090 grams for the pair, as measured on my gram scale. This is about 90 grams more than the company literature states; however, there are almost always some vagaries in actual ski weights due to the construction process. As described to me, the ultra light weight is created by the inclusion of air spaces between the wood layers, all of which are covered in a sheet of carbon fiber. 2090 grams (just about 4 pounds, 10 ounces) is incredibly light for a pair of all-mountain skis sporting these dimensions: 111-71-101.
With a nicely upturned tip, they don’t tip dive in powder as skinnier skis tend to do. The deeply sidecut shape helps ensure that the ski holds an impressive edge on ice, and other firm conditions. Realizing that highly variable conditions are a fact of life when it comes to skiing ungroomed mountains, it’s important to have a ski that’s up to the challenges.
Their smaller under-foot width means that trail breaking is a bit more effort than with a wider ski – they tend to sink an extra inch or two per step – but this is more than compensated for energy-wise by their light weight. Don’t let that weight fool you though, this is a stiff ski, not some floppy noodle with no substance. Charging through chunks isn’t my idea of the best of times, but it still happens. And the Hagan’s have held their own in avy debris, smoothed over with a dusting of wind-blown snow.
As for powder performance, the wide plank riding crowd might scoff, but I’ve always felt that powder skiing was best done when one was in the powder, not just floating effortlessly above it. And as any powder hound should know, the faster one goes, the more they float. That in mind, the Hagan’s have worked well for me in the pow. They don’t provide the same experience as wider boards, but they can float if you’re up to it.
Edge handling on firm styrofoam snow is superb, and I’ve yet to feel the Hagan tail slip out on me in any conditions. That’s fabulous, because a tail slip can ruin anyone’s day in a hurry. That, and I’ve experienced tail slip on much larger skis than these. I even took them inbounds and flew down a handful of groomed runs to test their high-speed edge handling, carving ability. The experience left me smiling. At full speed, there was zero worry about chatter or edge slip – the skis just soaked it up. On groomers, they handled like slalom race skis.
In breakable crust, the X-Ultra tends to get buried. This might just be the one condition in which these skis don’t handle magnificently. However, I’ve experienced ‘burial’ with all sizes of skis, to varying degrees. If you know it’s crusty, you’ll have to adapt your technique, not necessarily get bigger skis.
Adjustment period: They’re substantially different than the last (similarly dimensioned) five pairs of skis I’ve used, in that they’re shorter (163cm), narrower, and far lighter. Each of these characteristics takes a bit of getting used to.
~Shorter skis are easier to turn quickly, but take a bit of getting used to at speed (aside from skiing groomers).
~Narrower skis sink more during trail breaking and powder skiing, and in crusty conditions. However, with a serious sidecut, they hold an edge over a wide range of conditions.
~Lighter skis tend to be less tank-like, forcing the skier to be more aware of the snow surface conditions. This too, takes a bit of practice and adjustment.
All of that covers the downhill performance, and these skis are fun and energetic on the down. But with their low weight, they breathe new life into the up. One has far more energy after topping out on a pair of lighter weight skis than is possible with a heavier pair.
Once adjusted: When it comes to skiing the full range of conditions found in the untamed, ungroomed mountains, the Hagan X-Ultra is like a dream come true. It handles it all with aplomb. As for breakable crust, I have yet to ride a ski that turns that surface experience into a favorable one, so I can’t really detract from the Hagan’s in this regard.
On the downhill: They’ll take some getting used to – 2 or 3 days, depending on how much you ski per day – because the aforementioned adjustment period isn’t instantaneous. They create a very different downhill experience than a typical, heavier ski provides. On my third or fourth day of skiing the X-Ultra’s – the first day being with a broken boot – they no longer felt squirrely. They carve predictably and don’t buckle under the stresses of highly variable conditions. There’s not much more that one can ask for in a ski; this is probably why it reads ‘tour professional’ on the topsheet.
On the Uphill: Adjusting to the lighter weight, reduced heart rate, easier breathing, and faster exercise recovery time that this ski facilitates on the up doesn’t really take much getting used to. It’s really quite easy, and nice, adapting to these aspects…
Apres Ski: The bright green graphics and sidewalls, coupled with a low-key white and grey combo background, provide a striking contrast to the snow, as well as to many other skis. Nicely done.
Getting some for yourself: Hagan is based in Europe; manufactured in Austria. To purchase these skis in America, contact Mike or Eva Hagen at Colorado Springs, CO based InForm Sports. Phone: 719.592.1742. Inform is presently the only outfit to supply the Hagan brand Stateside.
Which brings us to Price: At a retail price of $629, this ultralight ski is far less expensive than what the competition offers in a similar weight range. Enough said!