Hardwater Kiting Long Term Review 2018 Ozone Subzero V1
"The Subzero V1 is a completely new design dedicated purely for snow kiting. Together with our latest design understanding it combines our favorite characteristics of the legendary Frenzy and Summit models into one all-round performance open cell foil kite."
Kite: 2018 Ozone Subzero V1
•Size Range: 7,9,11
•Target User: Intermediate-Advanced
•Test/Demo Duration: 2 Months (+)
•Location: Northern New England
•Surface: 1m Powder-Bare Lake Ice
•Tester Skill: Novice to Expert
About the Ozone Subzero V1:
When we learned that the Ozone Frenzy series, (arguably the heart and soul of Ozone's snow kite program) was being discontinued we were at best skeptical and worse a bit angry. For many of us in the early days the Frenzy was the "gold standard" for snow kites. Ozone was the only company that embrace snow kiting as a legitimate segment of kite sport and put the effort into build purpose built snow kites. Locally, almost every kiter we know owned and rode some version of the Frenzy at one point or another. The fact that Ozone made 10 versions, is a comment on the longevity of the design.
And then suddenly, it was gone. And with it went the Summit series (essentially the replacement for the Manta) which had just been updated in 2017 to the V4. The two performance focused open cell kites in the Ozone snow/land kite line were gone and replaced by a single kite, the Blizzard V1.
We weren't sure what to make of it. Sure we always felt there was some overlap between the Summit and the Frenzy. Personally I always preferred the Frenzy since I had my first one in 2005. And I have to say I felt that the Summit was a bit redundant. It had some slight advantages in some ways over the Frenzy but the Frenzy in my opinion just had better flight quality. Again, this is my opinion and some would argue it the other way but since Ozone has made it go away after such a short run I'm betting they felt the same.
I don't know many people who will miss the Summit. But the fact that the Subzero made the Frenzy go away spurred us want to hate the Blizzard. HOW DARE THEY KILL OFF THE FRENZY?! But here we are after a couple months with the new kite and I have to say, Ozone did an amazing job.
The Subzero is a PHENOMENAL snow kite.
Safety Systems :
The Subzero continues to use the Ozone ReRide system that was found on both the Summit and Frenzy series as well as the Access V7. If you aren't familiar with the ReRide it's specific to Ozone snow kites and is supremely effective and shutting down the power of the kite either in an emergency or for simply landing and packing. It consists of a 5th line actuated bridle assembly placed inside the kite that when the safety is activated the 5th line will draw on the internal bridle and cause the kite to fold up and fall out of the sky. As I said, it makes for a great safety system but also a landing and launching method.
For example the Re-Ride system reduces or eliminates our need for ice screws.
Our normal landing procedure is as follows...
1. Depower the kite.
2. Set an ice screw.
3. Anchor depower line/brakes to ice screw.
4. Secure/pack kite at end of lines.
5. Wind your lines.
6. Pull ice screw.
With the Re-Ride system we do this...
1. Activate Re-Ride system.
2. Wind up the lines. As you do so, the ReRide 5th line BRINGS THE KITE TO YOU. No need to secure the wing. (Something you should NEVER DO with a non Re-Ride equipped kite)
3. Pack the kite.
The ability to do this shortens launch and pack down times to just under 3 minutes without rushing. .
If you don't want to use the Re-Ride to land the kite the Subzero still has the stall handle which attaches to both back lines and allows you to stall the kite the same way we have been since 2004. Note: this is the same handle used to reverse launch the wing.
The 2018 Ozone Subzero is simply a joy to fly. It may be a replacement for the Summit and Frenzy series but it doesn't feel like a hybrid of the two. It has no lack of performance but it also doesn't have any surprises. It's pretty well behaved and rally only seems to do what you tell it to. A few of us, myself included have felt that it feels like a high performance version of the Access. I know, seems a bit of an odd way to describe it but the Blizzard has a very comfortable and familiar feel to it if you've spent any time on both the Frenzy and the Access.
The turn rate is fast and the turn radius is tight. A bonus if climbing uphill or having to maneuver tight channels on lakes or in close quarter flying with others. The Bar pressure is light, reducing fatigue but still offering good feedback and allowing experienced riders to feel where the kite is and what it's doing without having to look at it.
The Subzero is grunty. It will pull you through just about anything if you need it too. But its also nimble with exceptional gust handling with the ability to dump power rapidly by sheeting out with minimal reliance on using the trim system in all but the sustained winds at the top of the kites given wind range. This is part of the reason I think it reminds us of the Access V7. The Subzero has got surprisingly good upwind performance and can be worked to get upwind better than you would expect. Downwind performance is very good as well and it goes downwind without the need to spool up a lot of speed beforehand.
As with many kites there is often a "sweet spot" in the size range that seems to have the best all round performance for the widest spectrum of riders. Maybe it's a function of the scalability of the kite whereas one size really captures all the best qualities while some of those qualities fade as the kite is scaled bigger or smaller, with the Subzero we have found the performance to be consistent throughout the sizes we've been demoing. There have been no surprises and no let downs and the sizing is consistent with rider weight with roughly a size change per 50lbs. For example 180lb rider would be on the 9m where a 130lb rider would choose the 7m and they would be very evenly matched.
Reverse launch is as simple as it gets with the Subzero. Rarely do you need the kite to roll completely over as the fast turn rate and tight radius allow for simple reverse launch and turn.
The fast turn rate also pays off at the low end of the wind range allowing skilled riders the ability to work the kite and squeeze every bit of performance out of them they can.
The lift on the Subzero is quite good. The fast turn rate and tight radius allow for snappy jumps but with very smooth power delivery. The fast turn rate also allows for easy mid-flight corrections when needed. The jumping is consistent through the sizes but obviously better glide in the 9m+ range.
Stability of the Subzero V1 is excellent. Better slightly than the Frenzy and Summit and less tip curl prone than the Summit was. For an open cell foil it is about as stabile as they come. It is prone (like any open cell) to sudden directional shifts in wind but is often easily recoverable. And it tends to sit pretty much in the center of the window and does a good job drifting when the lines go slack in a turn, similar to a wave kite.
It sits well at all positions of the wind window edge and exhibits very little over flight tendency although we did see it to some extent in high gust situations, conditions where you wouldn't park the kite at 12:00 anyway. The overflight is easily offset by sheeting in and stalling.
The build quality is typical of what we've become accustomed to from Ozone. There really isn't much that we can say beyond they are still building solid, well thought out kites. The Subzero is no exception. There are no surprises with this kite.
One thing that is different with the Subzero vs. the Frenzy and Summit is the addition of blow out valves to reduce the risk of damage due to internal over-pressure in the event of a leading edge down crash. These used to be found only on the Access series kites but they make good sense for any open cell in my opinion. Especially in a backcountry situation where a miscalculation or some unforeseen event causes you to whip the kite in, blow out a cell or two and strand you. The blow out valves can be a day saver.
Another difference between the Subzero and the other the Summit, is the lack of leading edge battens. And the Subzero has similar intake design to the Summit V4. The blizzard still has leading edge battens but only in the vent areas. Maybe to ensure ease of vent opening and inflation while reducing weight by not stiffening the entire leading edge. And also like the Summit, the Subzero has much fewer intakes than the Frenzy V10 had and all are mesh covered.
Just as the Frenzy and the Summit before, the Subzero comes with a quality technical backpack. Big enough to easily fit a couple of wings for long tours as well as snacks, skins, etc... It also has the loops for securing skis or a board. And like the earlier performance series kite packs, the Subzero pack integrates with the Ozone Connect series snow kite harnesses.
Bottom Line: The 2018 Subzero V1 delivers just as promised. Plain and simple. It's a great all rounder and just straight up fun to fly. A kite for advanced riders but also a kite for intermediate riders looking to add something to their quiver that feels familiar but something that as their skills improve, there's no risk that they will "outgrow" the kite. And a higher performance addition to their quiver without adding too much risk as again, it really tends to do only as told. It can be a hucking machine, a sporty backcountry touring kite or just a wing to rip around your favorite spot all day long.
Hardwater Kiting: You will struggle to find many reviewers with more depower foil experience anywhere. These reviews are non-brand biased and based on our first hand experiences and those of our customers. Granted these reviews are on product that we carry so there may be an assumed bias but I do my best to be impartial and to incorporate customer impressions as well.