When we were at Copper Mountain for the 2015 SIA on-snow demo, we put our feet into a lot of skis. The 2016 G3 Empire Carbon ski was one of our favorites. We were also interested in the G3 ION 12 binding. Thank goodness G3 mounted the ION 12 onto the Empire Carbon demos! Take a look at the video and read our impressions, below.
2016 G3 Empire Carbon Ski
G3 hasn’t done much internal updating to the Empire for 2016, but it was our first time on the ski. The Empire performs like an all-mountain ski, has the width of a powder ski, but is still light enough to tour like a champ.
Externally, the Empire shares a new, matte-finish, textured top sheet with the new Scapegoat Carbon and the awesome Black Sheep Carbon splitboards. It feels almost like truck bed liner, but with a smaller texture. We expect it to be really durable. Internally, G3 continues to use its Carbon PowerRide Construction, sandwiching a poplar/paulownia wood core between two internal layers and two triaxial carbon layers.
The Empire is a full rocker ski but has two different rocker curves – high curve at the tip and tail and low curve underfoot. G3 doesn’t list the sidecut of the ski but based on our time with it, we think it’s somewhere south of a 20m radius. That’s right in the sweet zone as far as we’re concerned. The Empire Carbon comes in four lengths – 175, 180, 185, and 190 – and keeps the same dimensions across the lineup – 145/115/126. It has a slight pin-tail and tip, so those fat points are a bit more toward the binding than a traditionally shaped ski, as is the style these days. Each pair of Empires weighs 7lbs, 4oz. That’s stupid light for a 115mm-waisted ski. For comparison, a Rossi Super7 in the 172 lengths weighs 8lb, 1oz. 13 oz may not seem like much, but when you’re skinning up a hill, that’s almost 3500 extra pounds you’re carrying each hour. (Feel free to ask how we did that math.)
How does it ski? Well, you saw the video. It’s pretty darn sweet. A lot of companies are out there trying to design that holy grail of skis – lightweight, floaty, and rail-carving. Some of the resulting skis are jacks of all trades but masters of none. The G3 masters all. The poplar/paulownia core pairs with the carbon to create a laterally-stiff ski that will hold a solid edge. But, unlike other lightweight skis, the Empire’s two internal layers damp vibrations, giving it a stable ride. The 145mm tip and 115mm waist (same dimensions as our custom Ski Logiks) we find to be the perfect balance of float and skiability – you don’t need to put these away on resort groomer days, but they don’t torpedo in the deep. Daddy likey.
The Empire Carbon lists for $980. You may be able to find some end-of-season deals on the 2015 model via our Gear Search tool, but pickings are slim. These things sold out!
G3 ION 12 Bindings
Just in the last few years, tech binding manufacturers have finally incorporated forward pressure into their bindings. We could go into a long essay about how forward pressure affects skiing performance and why it’s awesome, but that’s not why we’re here and there are plenty of people who know more about binding tech than us. What we care about, and what we can convey to you, is how it skis. Forward pressure = good.
The ION incorporates forward pressure along with some other nifty features that set it apart. First, it uses a mostly-metal construction. We can debate on the virtues of plastic (we think it’s fine in a ski binding), but some people prefer metal. The ION delivers. The heelpiece incorporates G3’s newish heel-riser system. It’s ridiculously easy to use – reach down with your pole and flip. The risers operate no matter which way your heelpiece is turned. G3 also has, in our opinion, the best toe guide design. They incorporate small plastic tabs front and center on the toepiece. Simple touch the toe of your boot to the guides and step down. You’ll never miss the toe pins again. Finally, G3 designed a snow-clearing channel under the toe springs. It’s big enough to use your pole to clear snow and ice.
With the ION mounted to the Empire Carbons, we experienced the feel and power transfer similar to if not better than normal alpine bindings. The IONs don’t have the same elasticity as an alpine binding, so when you move your boot to initiate a turn, you don’t have any springs to overcome before the ski response. We’ve been skiing almost exclusively on tech bindings for the last four or five years and appreciate that. Some may find it rough.
Overall, G3 has a winner with the ION 12. Next season, they’ll have a new, lightweight version called the ION LT 12, which sacrifices the brakes. They’ll also have a new ION 10, which has the same features as the ION 12, but with release values of 4-10 instead of 5-12. The ION 10 is designed with lighter and less aggressive skiers in mind.
List prices for the ION series – ION 12, $550; ION LT 12, $430; ION 10, $500.
Weights for the ION series – ION 12, 2.6 lbs per pair; ION LT 12, 2.0 lbs per pair; ION 10, 2.6 lbs per pair.