This is not a gear review, at least not in the traditional sense. And it’s not really a product announcement, since these skis were first released about a decade ago. Instead it’s more of a personal essay, a tribute to a ski that’s made me really happy over the years. The ski in question? Moment’s Ghost Train, which just dropped for a limited release, along with re-released Meridians and Meridian Tours. It’ll probably sell out quick, but, even if it does, this piece might as well float around the internet, motivating folks to seek out a second-hand pair.
Weirdly, the two most long-standing romances in my career as a skier started in exactly the same way, with a wad of Christmas cash in my pocket and a used ski posted on Facebook. The first was with the Moment Deathwish which I’ve written about at length. If I had to, I could spend every ski day of the rest of my life on that ski, and not complain too much.
But the second, the one in question here, is much weirder, much more convoluted. My Ghost Trains were the product of an ex-Moment athlete who had converted from professional telemark skiing and went over to the dark side of fixed heels and tech toes. He posted a pair of 186 cm Ghost Trains on Facebook, for a reasonable price, with the caveat that you had to buy his heavily modified 22 Designs Axl tele bindings along with the skis.
I was in a weird place, between powder skis, daily driving something more narrow and practical. So I bought the Ghost Trains, pulled the bindings off, plugged the hilarious number of holes that tele bindings leave in a ski, and handed them off to a friend’s mom to give him for Christmas. Initially I threw a pair of Fritschi Vipecs on them, to use as a 50/50 inbounds/touring ski. But I soon realized that I mostly wanted to use the Ghost Train in the backcountry. And then, I pretty quickly found that the Ghost Train was my top choice for probably 70% of my backcountry skiing days. So let’s get into what makes this ski so special.
Overkill is indeed underrated
Sometimes it feels like ski design is getting boring, like everything is converging into the same mid-fat, mid-width, mid-rise gray sludge, meant to feel “good enough” in the widest range of conditions to the widest possible range of skier types. I get it. Late stage capitalism has a certain unavoidable flavor, an artificial sugar aftertaste. But man, big stupid skis are really fun. Really niche skis are so entertaining. Is mass market appeal really the reason you fell in love with sliding down mountains in the first place? If it is, get in your Rivian and drive the hell out of this town.
The Ghost Train is a wider ski than pretty much any skier needs. It’s a more rockered ski than market analysis would recommend. Its graphics are vaguely arcane and creepy. It’s not for everyone. And that’s the point. It’s overkill, like a dual crown on an enduro bike, like a lifted El Camino, like one of those fantasy knives they sell at gas stations. Every once in a while, take a moment to celebrate excess.
The industry as a whole has decided that we’d all be better off on 105-110ish skis as our daily drivers. I get it, that’s fine. But man, I’d way rather ski a Ghost Train on a groomer day than waste a pow day on some “all-mountain-optimized” stick that doesn’t amplify the experience of untracked snow. It’s the fricking name of our publication after all. Big stupid pow skis are the best.
The early 2010s were an exciting time for powder skis. We weren’t burnt out on Japanuary segments yet, and brands were just figuring out the rocker/camber/taper/sidecut combinations that would homogenize into the typical 120ish underfoot powder ski of more recent years. Everybody was getting real weird in their search for the ultimate deep snow performer. Moment had multiple 120+ underfoot powder skis in their line, and the Ghost Train, as the name implies, melded the best attributes of the Ghost Chant and Night Train into a 123 mm wide, triple cambered weapon.
I wrote at length about how Moment’s triple camber performs in the Deathwish review. But the Ghost Train uses a different triple camber profile than the Deathwish. It’s the same general idea, with two pods of camber in front of and behind the binding, but instead of traditional camber underfoot, the Ghost Train is flat, with much more dramatic rocker outside the camber pods. The result is a really rockered ski, with very little effective edge, especially when you stand up in the middle of the ski.
But the Ghost Train is fairly substantial–it’s no noodle and its float is more a product of its shape and profile than its flex. That means that it’s surprisingly stable in variable snow, and on bigger landings, but is also hard to bend into a butter or press.
Some skis are built to excel over a wide range of terrain, in a huge range of snow conditions. And others are single-minded. For me, the Ghost Train is synonymous with the skiing off of a four mile stretch of Highway 22 on Teton Pass. For the last seven years, from December through March, I’ve probably averaged two or three days in this zone per week. It’s my favorite kind of backcountry skiing: thousand-ish foot laps of treed, protected terrain, with plenty of small to medium sized things to jump off of. It’s hard to overstate how much I love skiing in this area. It regularly gets small refills that add up to a generally bottomless feeling snowpack. And it’s low hanging fruit, close to the road, but somehow gets overlooked by most other skiers. The Moment Ghost Train is the absolute best ski for this style of skiing I’ve ever used.
That’s mostly down to two factors: float and platform. Some skis take a second to plane up in deep snow. They have a minimum speed before they float. The Ghost Train does not, in my experience, require any sort of speed to float. As long as you are moving, your tips are up. That’s really useful when you’re working through tight terrain in deep untracked snow. You can noodle through trees, turning with your hips and ankles, never worrying about wallowing or sinking. That means the Ghost Train is perfect for hunting for stashes and hits protected by dense trees. It’s effortless to work through tight terrain, steep or flat.
The Ghost Train’s taper helps here as well. Not only does it float at low speeds, but it’s also easy to turn and pivot. It doesn’t hook or grab when you try to pivot it from the center of the ski, and it doesn’t require momentum to initiate a turn.
I haven’t really experienced a powder ski that floats and noodles around in tight terrain better than the Ghost Train. So, if you’re looking to ski tight or very flat terrain in deep snow, the Ghost Train is a great choice. It’s so easy to throw sideways and move snow around with, so you can manufacture face shots anywhere there’s fresh snow, and make things feel deep, even though it planes so nicely.
Luckily though, the Ghost Train isn’t one dimensional. Those noodling, tight, low speed moments aren’t the point of backcountry skiing for me. Instead, I want to jump off lots of five- to fifteen-foot things, into deep fresh snow, and then slash and jib my way down the run. That’s where the Ghost Train’s platform makes itself known. They’re fairly stiff, which really helps when it’s time to stomp bigger landings, but that’s not the only factor at play. Most of the time, in deep snow, I don’t notice the triple camber profile. They could just be fully rockered, and I’d be a happy camper. But, if you land a little front, or backseat, those camber pods act almost like training wheels or wheelie bars, catching you before you go over your tips or tails.
I am an aspirationally playful skier. I like to jump off things that are above my paygrade and try to spin or flip things that I probably won’t land. The Ghost Train perfectly enables that sort of tomfoolery. If you have a tendency to land a little off center, you’ll love how the Ghost Train’s profile catches you. There have been so many instances where I’ve wheelied out of a landing, started to panic, and then been caught in the gentle hand of triple camber, bumped forward to center, and skied out. It’s a really special sensation.
That stiffness also means that you can feel confident at higher speeds in consistent snow. The Ghost Train smooths out smaller lumps and pillows nicely, but is still easy to shut down on a dime, so you can straightline out, lay a couple of big turns down, and then shut it down in a cloud of snow.
Weight, length, and bindings
The Ghost Train seems to hover near 2100 g per ski for the 186 cm length, in every permutation I’ve seen. Moment briefly made the Exit World, a tour-oriented version of the Ghost Train, that shaved a few hundred grams. But that ski is a bit of a white whale these days. I really, really want a pair, but the only ones I could track down were in Germany, and the owner didn’t want to part with them. So I can’t really comment on that ski.
However, for my uses at least, the Ghost Train is best used as a touring ski. It’s a little heavier than what I’d typically tour on, and I’d give a whole lot to get my hands on a 1700ish gram version of it. But, for me at least, the regular version is just fine as a touring ski for the shorter, more featured tours I use it for. I rarely have more than 5000 ft of the very active, playful skiing I like to do on the Ghost Train in me anyway, so weight isn’t the limiting factor.
And no, the Ghost Train does not have the best grip on icy skin tracks. You’ll have that with lots of width, and very little base in contact with the snow. But what the hell are you doing walking up icy skin tracks on the Ghost Train anyway? This is a ski for the deep days, not the icy scraps.
All that to say, my favorite way to run the Ghost Train is with pin bindings. Moment’s Voyager Evo is a great choice for this ski.
I’m 6’1” tall, 200 lbs. I really like the 186 Ghost Train, but it’s also not a ski I’d worry about sizing up on. It’s really rockered and really different, so if you’re unsure, don’t sweat it too hard. It’s not like going slightly short is going to kill its float, or going too long is going to make it too hard to turn. This a goofy ski so follow your heart on sizing.
I’ve skied the Ghost Train inbounds a fair bit, and, in the Tetons at least, it’s been fine, but not exceptional. It does better than you’d expect in variable snow. It’s stiff, and when you get on edge those camber pods bite nicely, but it still feels very short and very rockered in any kind of firm snow. So you’re left pivoting around things, instead of plowing through them. That’s fine occasionally, but generally not ideal.
I could ski the Ghost Train inbounds as a powder-only ski happily, but it’s so much fun to tour on that I could never just mount alpine bindings on it. The whole point of backcountry skiing for me is accessing better snow than the chairlifts have on tap. And the whole point of the Ghost Train is skiing that better snow.
Why could a Ghost Train make sense for me?
If, like most folks, you don’t live a fifteen minute drive from that four mile stretch of Highway 22 that made me fall in love with the Ghost Train, then it’s more of a niche, specialty ski than a daily driver. However, there are still a few instances where I would highly recommend grabbing a pair. The most obvious is a trip to Japan or BC for backcountry skiing. If you’ve got a foot-, cat-, or heli-powered trip lined up, to ski featured, powdery terrain, there is no ski I’d rather bring along than the Ghost Train.
I have not yet been lucky enough to head to the interior of BC to burn diesel and pop pillows, but if that happens, there will be Ghost Trains in my bag. Similarly, if I ever get to experience the magic of Japanese convenience store vending machines and sushi conveyor belts, this is the ski I’m packing.
No, the Ghost Train is not a well-rounded or versatile ski. Instead it’s got a very specific set of conditions where it’s an absolute blast. If you get to ski those conditions (fresh snow, featured terrain, lots of things to play around on) they’re the best tool for the job I’ve ever found. And outside of those conditions, they’re serviceable, if uninspiring.
I’ve retired the Ghost Train twice, pulled the bindings off, put them in the garage to display on the wall of a shop someday. But, call these skis Ennis, ‘cause I just can’t quit them. The snow starts stacking up, I get tired shoveling the driveway, and I can’t keep my hands off the Ghost Train, so back the bindings go, and we fall into our old routine again. No matter what other powder skis come into my life, I can’t help thinking about my first love when things get really deep.
This spring we packed all our crap in the car and drove away from the mountains that made me fall in love with the Ghost Train. This winter I won’t be able to slam my laptop shut after lunch, throw my Ghost Trains and the dog in the Baja and head out to my favorite lap. So, as we left, I handed off my second-hand pair to someone who promised he’d ski them in that magical zone. I drove into the sunset without my Ghost Trains and have felt a little naked since.
But today, there’s a new pair going into my virtual shopping cart. I’ll figure out how they do in a more maritime snowpack. If I’m lucky enough to ski in the Tetons this winter, they’ll come along for sure. And, even if I never get to ski those laps that made me fall in love with them again, even if climate change means my powder days are numbered, I’ll go to my grave smiling at the memory of my favorite days, on my favorite skis, surrounded by my favorite people and my favorite dogs. Just one more lap up Brewer’s Butte, one more kick turn, one more skin rip, one more pillow to pop, one more stash to slash before we bounce out the exit giggling. If you’ve made one good powder turn in your life, you’re blessed.