Navis Freebird Review

New Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-1-2

The Navis has been in the Black Crows line up since the early days and became a cult ski amongst the Chamonix steep skiers. In 2015 Black Crows introduced the lightened Freebird range for the back country.

Initially I was suspicious that the ride quality and dampening was going to be compromised by the lightened poplar / carbon / glass fibre core and I was slow to get out on them – how wrong could I be!  I mounted mine with PLUM guides for the 2015 winter and was really surprised by how dampened the ski is. It skis similarly to the classic 2012 Volkl Mantra but without the weight of the metal sheets.  My skis are the 179.4 / 133-102-118 / 19.

After the European winter I took my Navis Freebird to ski mountaineer in New Zealand where big walks carrying kit are the order of the day. They make the perfect compromise of weight, float with 102 under foot and edge holding.

Since then I have remounted them with a PLUM 170 race binding and the set up weighs 4120 g. The 2016 version has been lightened by 400 g so with any type of low tech binding it would give you a 4 kg set up. These are still my go to ski and the 102 under foot makes them much better for edging on firm or spring snow.

Navis freebird evaluation

14 thoughts on “Navis Freebird Review

  1. hi

    i have just purchased the 179.4

    im 5ft 9 and 75kg

    the ski looks short – are you around the same stats ?

    plan is just to use for tour set up

  2. Hi Ross, would you rate the Navis Freebird as you best skis ever? I’m seriously toying with picking up a ex test pair with G3 Ion bindings, I just need some in justifying the purchase!
    Cheers
    Julian

    • Hi Julian

      Without stepping on Ross’s toes I got to try my 1s a couple of weeks ago on a trip to Engelberg and Andermatt

      I was worried about the length of the ski being 2 short

      Thankfully this was not the case

      I have kingpins on my 1s and this was the 1st time I had ever skied tech bindings

      I felt the ski was great on the way up as it’s a lot lighter than my other set ups

      We skied all types of snow pow at the top , breakable crust then spring and some icy stuff as well

      They were great in the powder great in the spring great on the ice and great for tight spaces

      They were awful in the breakable crust maybe because of the flat tail – but I find this type of snow tricky on any ski but felt they were trickier than my other set ups

      They are ok in cut up conditions when in control of your speed but again when I wanted to put the foot down I felt they got bumped about (They At No Point Washed Out Tho) and I did take a few tumbles

      However we have to remember they are touring skis and my view is they are supberb for this and as long as you accept and ski them within their speed limit you would really enjoy them.

      My other set up at the moment is V Werks Katanas and if I need to tour I’m tending to take the Navis because of the assent

      Are they the best ski I have ever owned – that award has to goto the Katana I’m afraid – but they are not a full on touring ski

      Thanks and hope this helps and hopefully Ross is ok for me to provide feedback on his blog.

      Thanks Gary

      • Thanks Gary,
        Excellent summary of your Navis Freebirds. They appear to be my dream one quiver ski, although I was surprised about how you found them on breakable crust. I guess if the comparison is with the Katanas, it’s stiff competition though! I’ve put the purchase on hold till next season for the moment, but I will succumb at some point to temptation 😉

  3. Apologies for the late reply, I am just back from guides training. The Navis freebird is a great all round touring ski but a completely different category to the katana (which Ive had a few pairs of). The Corvus would compete with the Katana and is stiffness makes it a great Midi North Face ski for me – it will not wash out in the chunder but you need the legs to power it. So hard for one ski to do it all, if you remove weigh for touring then for sure its not going to be as burly or dampened for going down.

    • I’m out to Val d in 3 weeks for the last week of the season and hoping to get a shot of the Corvus

      Very happy with my Navis tho

  4. Hi Ross,

    I am debating between Navis Freebird and Corvus Freebird as my one ski quiver for backcountry only ski days. I ski tour in California mainly (Lake Tahoe, Eastern Sierras, Mt Shasta, etc.) and sometimes I travel to other places (Tetons, Pacific Northwest locations, etc.). I tour mid winter and in Spring. I am 6ft, 185lb.

    I have a few questions:
    1. Would you say that the Navis Freebird is more playful compared to the Corvus Freebird?
    2. What kind of width do you think is more suitable for a one ski to do it all for backcountry in the US West? Wondering if I should go with Navis Freebird or Corvus Freebird.
    3. Would a binding such as Dynafit Superlight 2.0 be good enough to drive either of these skis? I have used Dynafit Radical ST 2.0 in the past and I have never skied a race style binding but I am considering the lighter weight options to make life easier on long tours.

    Thanks.

    • Hi Man,

      1. Both the Navis FB and the Corvus FB are similar style skis with stiff tails. The Navis has a shorter radius sidecut and is slightly more agile whereas the Corvus likes to charge in open space. The new Atris has a stiffer tail than the old version but at 108 under foot is same dims as the corvus. Its slightly heavier but Ive found it a really good all round fun ski with the tail rocker.
      2. Id say either of those skis are good, Navis at 102 or the Corvus at 108, the spatula on the corvus is slightly softer so it rides good snow fast but if its harder snow Id prefer the Navis which is why I use it to steep ski. However, both work well in europes ever changing snow.
      3. Ive used plum race 170s on the navis with F1 evo boot. Those bindings have no ramp angle and Im skiing them softer. To be honest I think you’d be better with a 500 g low tech. Those race bindings also have a very low heal raise and only one. I now run an ord fb with plum race 170s for long or high missions above 4000 m.

      Hope that helps a bit – hopefully you can try some out before you buy.

      cheers
      Ross

  5. Hi Ross. More or less on the same note – how would you compare the Navis FB to the Orb FB? I’m stuck having to choose one ski for all my skiing – predominately steeps in the alps in spring (i.e. courtes & whymper type). I come from the old Dynastar Mythic Light (no rocker, 89 mm) and ski TLT 5 and low tech. The Navis seems like a more playful ski, but heavy. The Orb light, and closer to the old dynastar.

    Thanks.

    • Hi there, I had a pair of mythics for steep skiing a long time ago. The navis and orb are much more forgiving and ride soft snow much more efficiently with front rocker than the dynastar did! The Orb/Navis are very similar in the way they ski, the navis is easier to slide or drift on with the extra width so perhaps more playful. I use the navis for steep skiing especially when its harder spring snow like on the Matterhorn and have the Orb with plum race for long missions or going higher, but I am used to using much wider skis. If weight is the driver then the Orb will win!

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