Expert Review: Black Crows Navis Freebird 102 Skis · 2022Published on 09/15/2022 · 7 min readThis review is my honest opinion of the skis, which I purchased with my own money in December of 2021.
Backcountry Skiing in Oregon with the Black Crows Navis Freebird. All photos courtesy of Michael Bennett
About this Review: This review is my honest opinion of the skis, which I purchased with my own money in December of 2021.
The Black Crows Navis Freebird 102 is a ski for intermediate to advanced skiers looking to venture into the backcountry. Being 102mm underfoot with an early rise tip and flat tail, it is well suited for both on-piste and ski touring. This is my go-to ski for most of my backcountry days, as I know it will be able to handle nearly any conditions thrown its way.
About the skis I own
- Model: 2022 Black Crows Navis Freebird
- Size: 185.5cm
- Height: 6’2”
- Weight: 190lbs
- Experience: 20+ years of skiing
- When I bought these: December 2021
- Days tested: 40 days
- Mount position: Manufacturer recommended
- Boots: 2022 Roxa R3 TI
- Boot Size: 27.5
- Bindings: Dynafit Radical Tech Bindings
- Where I’ve used it: Mt Bachelor, Anthony Lakes, Oregon Cascades Backcountry
- Terrain: Powder, tracked powder, groomers, ice
How it performs
What I was looking for
I wanted a versatile ski that I could grab for 80–90% of the skiing I do. I was looking for something I could enjoy for powder skiing, ski touring, and could also handle some soft groomer runs at the resort.
Why I chose this gear
I bought the Navis Freebird because it checked all my boxes for versatility, waist width for float (102mm), value, and metal plate for binding mounting. I was also demoing the Camox Freebird and Corvus Freebird, but I chose the Navis because it sat nicely in between these models and the length for touring (185cm) was what I wanted. I was also considering a few of the DPS Pagoda Touring skis. I ended up choosing the Navis over these as the price point was more appealing and I loved the overall feel of the ski.
What I love about it
- Edge hold: I felt edge hold was very good for a ski focused on lightweight backcountry performance. The more traditional shape and flat tail allowed the ski to hold up in the rear and at the end of the turn well.
- Turns: This is an extremely energetic ski that is inspiring to make turns either in powder or soft groomers. It really lets me bounce and “porpoise” from turn to turn. The 19m turning radius is perfect for a ski that I need to be able to jib through trees but hold me up in and rip those backcountry bowls.
- Groomers: Soft Groomers are super fun on this ski. Because of the flat tail and camber underfoot, I am able to open it up and carve some GS turns while dragging my hands on the snow. They can get a bit chattery on harder/icy groomers early in the day, but once the snow softens they are great.
- Powder : This ski is really fun in backcountry powder. The early rise/rocker tip and 102mm underfoot allow for great float in all but the lightest, deepest snow. For those riders only skiing on the deepest powder days, they may want to move up to the 110–120mm underfoot category.
- Trees: This is where I spend much of my time, so I like a ski that is fast turning and initiates the turn easily. The Navis Freebird won me over when demoing, as it is easy to get over the front of and make fast turns in the trees. Tree skiing performance is essentially what swayed my decision to purchase the Navis Freebird after demoing.
- Moguls: I grew up on the East Coast, so moguls are nostalgic and still very fun for me. It is important to have a versatile ski that can handle many different types of skiing and terrain. The Navis Freebird’s more “traditional” ski shape and modest length made it really fun to take for a few bump runs.
- Backcountry: The Navis Freebird shines in the backcountry. It is lightweight and the lengths are optimized for what I need in a versatil touring ski. I love the flat tail with a cutout for skin clip; I chose the pre-trimmed skins to ship with my skis. This is my favorite backcountry ski I have owned to date.
- Durability: So far I have been very pleased with how these skis are holding up. The top sheet is durable and the ABS sidewalls hold up to beating when my edges come in contact. The titanol plate underfoot further increases the durability of this ski.
- Weight: At 3600 grams, there are not many skis that can match the performance-to-weight ratio of this ski.
- Switch riding: It’s possible, but it’s not a full twin tip.
Issues I’ve encountered
- Speed: For my weight and skill level, the Navis Freebird has a speed limit on chopped-up, heavier powder. When really pushing this ski under these conditions, I could feel the limit of its weight and flex rating. But only when at the most upper level of my speed and comfort zone, which I only ski 5–10% of my time and nearly never when in the backcountry. For solely resort skiing, I went up to the Corvus for those days.
- Stability: For most of my backcountry skiing, the Navis is plenty stable. It’s only when pushed hard at the resort that I feel I could use a heavier, stiffer ski. I say this is a con, but if it was stiffer and heavier, it would not excel the way it does in the backcountry.
- Park: I would say park is where all of the Freebird series fall short, as they are not a twin tip. They are a backcountry ski with a flat tail designed to hold the skin clips, so for those skiers spending more than 40–50% of their time in the park, I would steer toward the Camox (non-Freebird model). The Camox is still light but is more of twin shape.
Favorite moment with this gear
It was a late-May day of backcountry sledskiing where we went up Devils Hill in the Sister Backcountry of Oregon. It was a late-season storm and the conditions were not perfect, but there were pockets of amazing snow. I was happy to have the Navis Freebird, as the approach was long and very steep in places. The light weight and maneuverability allowed me to billy goat through some technical sections. On the way down, the Navis performed flawlessly through some steep, icy sections in the trees. When the terrain opened up and the snow got light, I was able to charge with confidence knowing this ski could take everything that was thrown its way. We finished the day with a sled ride out to Elk Lake Lodge for high fives, food, and beverages. I was extremely pleased with the successful day—knowing I had chosen the perfect ski for what I love to do.
Value for the money vs. other options
I put this up in the category of all the high-end carbon skis in performance and feel. Although it will not nearly have the lifetime shelf life of a carbon ski, I personally will only keep a ski for five years anyway. For those who will buy one ski and keep it for 10–20 years, I would go with my other choice of a Carbon DPS Touring ski. But for value and performance, you cannot beat the Blackcrows Navis Freebird—or any of the Black Crows Freebird series.
The Navis Freebird is a lightweight, performance-oriented backcountry ski that unlocks the true nature of ski touring. It can be pushed hard in variable conditions but does have a speed limit. If one is over 200 pounds and extremely aggressive, they will likely want to move up to the Corvus Freebird for a little more stiffness and longer length.