The issue, though, is that skis vary widely. In fact, modern families of skis can include race skis, front-side carving skis, all-mountain skis, all- mountain twin tips, big mountain powder skis, women’s skis, junior skis, as well as backcountry skis.
To help, we tested dozens of skis. We tracked tens of thousands of vertical feet. We tested multiple brands. We tested different lengths. In truth, though, it’s not as exciting as it sounds. To ensure consistency we used one test track: one trail. That meant skiing approximately 100,000 feet of vertical on a single run, day after day. Fortunately, the new 2013-2014 skis illustrate new refinements. In addition, of interest to some skiers, while many all-mountain skis still come as integrated, well-designed ski and binding systems, shoppers will be pleased to learn that other skis are available as “flat” skis where you pick the binding.
“Somehow we topped last year,” adds Geoff Curtis, a vice president at Volkl. “A lot goes into making new skis and into putting together different technologies. It’s not just rocker. It’s not just side cut. We blend all the components and strive for a perfect setup. If you try these new skis you’ll want to buy them. They just make skiing so much more fun.”
It’s true. But be realistic. Not all skis perform equally in all conditions. On hard Eastern conditions some skis shined. I grinned with delight on my lunch break skiing on the Blizzard Power 800 Suspension IQ. It just seemed a perfect ski for my tastes. Still, know that during my test runs I was delighted to find that the Rossignol Pursuit Series highlights a new era for Rossi. And I gasped with surprise at the high quality of base and edge preparation on the Kastle Race slalom ski. And while this last pair would be too race- specific for my daily ski, it’s noteworthy as I realized that no matter the product, tuning or a lack of tuning can enhance or detract from the performance of any ski.
Atomic skis are a staple in racing. In this course, using proven race-driven designs Atomic continues to offer stellar performance, while varying the amount of rocker depending on the mission.
Ritual: With a waist of 103 mm this wood-core ski uses an all-mountain tip and tail rocker shape. While that wider waist is more likely to appeal to those who spend time in the trees or woods it boasts solid grip on piste.
Alibi: With a waist of 98 mm this wood-core ski also uses tip and tail rocker. While that somewhat narrower waist is more likely to appeal to Eastern skiers it is wide enough for those who spend a good amount of time in the trees or woods.
Theory: The Theory also uses a wood core with a 95 mm waist, dark red and black graphics, and all-mountain, tip and tail rocker. This ski boasts a great look and loves speed.
Panic: The updated Panic also uses a wood core with an 87 mm waist and all-mountain rocker to create a versatile ski. This ski can charge! Hard! But it also was ideal on the hard snow. It’s fun.
No matter where you ski, the Nomad Series can be enticing. With seven models, these skis use all-mountain rocker with 15% rocker in the tip. These are solid Eastern skis with waist widths ranging from a nice 73 mm for rapid edge grip to 86 mm for those seeking softer snow versatility.
Crimson TI: The new Crimson TI has an 86 mm waist, offers great versatility, and blends solid edge grip with easy turn initiation. It turned easily, held strongly, and could ski all conditions. (If only I could!). From shooting trees to carving the front side this is a great daily driver.
Blackeye TI: With a new waist of 81 mm this was a fun ride. It skis strongly on hard snow and has an easy turning, appreciated by skiers from intermediates to experts. It seems more forgiving than the Crimson TI, easier to turn, but sufficiently powerful to appeal to all but the strongest all-mountain chargers. There is also a new Blackeye model without titanium.
Personal pick; The Blackeye TI was just fun.
Over the past few seasons Blizzard skis have stunned skiers with their edge grip and general performance. “The Magnum 8. TI is one of the most versatile skis,” notes PSIA examiner Brian Whatley. “These skis have great edge grip,” adds Pico Mountain trainer and PSIA examiner emeritus Charlie Rockwell. Truly, from a small niche brand it has become an industry leader. In fact, a fellow magazine tester was so dazzled after testing that he chose a pair of Blizzard R Powers as a personal ski. Fortunately, with more than 38 models this line is as deep as, well, the snow from a blizzard. Here is a sampling:
Bodacious: This ski is the widest in this series, coming flat for maximum binding choice, and with a 118 mm waist for deep powder and off-piste performance. If I lived in the West it would be in my quiver. The turn radius is 32 m – for big, big arcs. What’s your speed limit?
Bonafide: The Bonafide has a 98 mm waist, stunning graphics, and a 20.5 m radius. It also arcs. And holds with amazing grip. It’s a true free- mountain ski, perfect for the West, and ideal for those who ski off-piste.
Magnum 8.5 Ti: This ski is the top of the series, coming wide enough for powder but built strong enough to hold Eastern hardpack. With a 19 m radius it likes to arc. And cruises beautifully. The ski comes flat, allowing personal choice for bindings.
Magnum 8.0 Ti: This ski was my favorite in this series. With an 80 mm waist it gripped more easily, and with a 17 m radius it arcs. It turned with surprising ease for such a powerful ski. Fortunately, the titanium enhances edge grip. Like the 8.5 this ski uses flipcore technology. Again it’s a flat ski: You select the binding of your choice. My impression? A magnificent Magnum!
Magnum 7.7 TI Suspension IQ: This new offering comes with a 77 mm waist and 17 m radius. A gem for intermediates and lighter experts, this is a lot of ski for a modest price. The ski uses the IQ System which seems to enhance edge grip. A best buy!
R Power Full Suspension IQ: Also using the IQ system, and with a nice 72 mm waist it boasts a 18m radius. Intended for frontsi de cruisers, this ski was powerful.
Power 800 Suspension IQ: The new Power 800 Suspension IQ, like two of the race skis, lacks the FS System: the long arms in the front and rear, something many racers have requested. This ski uses an integrated Marker binding, and stunning graphics with a forgiving all-mountain, front- side 18 m radius. This is the ski I chose. I’d have liked to keep cruising all day. The smile factor was off the scale.
Personal pick: I liked the Power 800 Suspension IQ so much I skipped my lunch and soared on the mountain.
Dynastars remain a popular choice, especially for racers and elite experts. After all, linked with Lange ski boots and Look bindings, these are powerful. Handcrafted in Chamonix, this line of 43 offerings is consistently on the feet of many of the fastest skiers in the world. In fact, longtime PSIA pro and industry veteran Bud Bennett from Snow Ridge Ski Area in upstate New York was so impressed with the Chrome Series he personally selected a pair of Chrome 72 Pros for my test ride. Here are standouts.
Cham 127: Last year Dynastar introduced the Cham Series. Featuring a long rocker tip with classic camber under- foot, this series is intended to change our understanding of freeride. That in hand, the 127 is the widest of seven Cham models with a long 22 m radius. This ski is designed for big mountain enthusiasts, and would excel off-piste.
Cham 97: Boasting a 16 m radius, this ski still likes a big turn. With a 97 mm waist it can accommodate soft snow on- and off-trail. It’s for powerful skiers. It’s an expert ski. It’s built to ski off-trail. I liked the 172 and 178 best.
Cham 87: With a 16 m radius, but 87 mm waist, this ski accommodates eastern skiing. It would seem nicely built for intermediates and easy-riding advanced skiers, with a nice ability to accommodate beginning forays to the back country and trees.
Outland 80 XT: The second to the top of this three- ski line, these skis use all-mountain rocker, which has moderate tip and tail rise as well as a solid wood core, for carving on the groomer with moderate off-trail versatility. These blend vertical sidewalls and cap construction. The 80 XT boasts an 80 mm waist and 15 m radius. Expert? Check; Advanced intermediate? Check.
Outland 75: The 75 boasts a 15 m radius and 75 mm waist, for easier edge hold. It’s a great ski for a range of beginners and intermediates. It’s easy to ski and fun on the groomed.
Chrome 78 Pro: The top of a three-ski series, the 78 Pro heads a new on-trail series offering carving performance with racelike features. This is a wood core series with vertical sidewalls for maximum grip. Uniquely, the plate can be adjusted in a fixed or floating position to taste. The 19 m radius and 78 mm waist will appeal to experts.
Chrome 72 Pro XP: The 72 Pro XP has an appealing 72 mm waist. This is a wonderful all-mountain cruising ski. It was versatile and fun. It skied like a Dynastar.
Personal pick: Chrome 72 Pro XP.
“Head has so many great choices,” exclaims former Olympic racer Pam Fletcher. “I hope people realize it’s important to figure out what equipment is right for you because then you can really feel comfortable and gain comfort and confidence. “
While in decades past Head skis were a staple on the mountain, they have been less visible the past few years. These new offerings, though, may change that perception. In fact, this year the test team was deeply impressed by the quality, performance, and price points. There are 53 models.
Supershape Titan: The Performance Series includes six models ranging from the Supershape Titan to the Limited. Head has strived for the shape of perfection in this series melding race technology, rocker, and a V shape. These skis are for front-side skiers seeking high speed and near race performance. These include 10% rocker and 90% camber. Know the bindings are a system binding that slides onto the ski. The Titan is the top of the line and skis with a powerful feel, yielding a fast- turning 14.3 radius. It felt strong. Solid. Those seeking that wider width will enjoy the 80 mm waist while those seeking a narrower race feel may prefer the Rally.
Supershape Rally: The Rally felt fabulous for Eastern snow with that 76 radius. I found the 170 pleasant but the 163 may be of appeal to many seeking to crank extra turns on smaller mountains. Edge grip was solid, the ski was smooth on hard snow, and price was stunning.
Supershape Magnum: The Magnum was a personal favorite. With a 72 mm waist it easily sliced the hard Eastern hardpack on the test track and deftly held speed in a range of turns. This ski personifies the new Head line. The graphics also captured applause.
REV 105: The Allride Series is intended for skiers seeking to venture over the entire mountain playground. While not boasting the high speed limits of the Performance Series, the Allride Series uses 20% rocker and 80% camber to enhance soft snow versatility for off-piste adventures. In addition, skiers will find wider waists ideal for deeper snow.
REV 85 Pro: The 85 Pro in a 170 length was enjoyable on the hard snow. The graphics are appealing, the ski boasts a 15.9 radius yielding a nice intermediate turn radius, and edge grip was surprisingly solid for a ski equally at home off piste. For many skiers this may be the one quiver ski.
REV 80 Pro: The 80 Pro is an amazing price point for this performance. The 14.8 radius was ideal for Eastern trails but the mildly wider waist would easily adapt to occasional off-piste adventures.
Personal pick: The Supershape Magnum seemed ideal for front-side Eastern skiing, The 72m underfoot was solid for hard snow and the 13.1 radius easily sliced sharp, fast, turns. It’s worth a test ride.
With arguably some of the most artistically beautiful and graceful looking skis on the market, these skis surprised.
RX SL: The RX Series embodies three new models designed for on-piste performance with stability at speed. The RX SL is intended for short turns. With stunning white graphics and matching bindings this ski is targeted for athletic performers.
RX 12: The RX 12 is intended to provide edge control with a nice medium arc. It’s beautiful. Fun. Softer,yet forgiving. It soared and turned almost effortlessly.
The LX 72: The LX Series includes three models ,which I found fun, forgiving, and sporty. The 72 is a graceful ski with a sufficiently narrow waist to offer nice appeal for Eastern skiers. Intermediates, this is fabulous offering.
The LX 82: The 82 is wider underfoot and will appeal to those balancing both on-and off-piste fun.
MX 78: The MX Series is an all-mountain high performance ski. This includes three models of varying waists. Kastle claims it’s the hammer for every nail on the mountain. The MX 78 is seen as an on-piste ski able to easily transition to the backside.
Personal pick: The RX SL. It seems perfect for Eastern hardpack. Plus, the graphics are simply exquisite.
As the largest ski manufacturer in the world, Rossignol has boasted a number of skis over the years. This year? Honestly, moving forward from a preview last spring these are some of the finest Rossis I have skied in a decade.
Pursuit HP TI: The Pursuit HP TI is the top of a four ski line designed for the hardpack. This ski uses traditional camber with subtle tip rocker, traditional sidewalls, and wood cores. , These are rock stable. With an 81 mm waist this is the widest of the series, and uses titanium for power. I felt the power! With a 16.8 m radius it likes to arc long, and fast.
Pursuit 18: The Pursuit 18 is the second ski in the line. With an 18 m radius it also likes to arc long, and fast, but with a 76 mm waist it rolls onto edge easily and seems ideal for eastern snow. With white graphics it’s standards apart from its family, boasting a wood core and TI.
Pursuit 16: The Pursuit 16 is the third ski in the line. With a 16 m radius it seems versatile, and with a 74 mm waist it rolls easily onto edge. It seems ideal for “old school” skiers while offering new technology. It’s built like its brethren, but with that narrower profile.
Pursuit 12TI: The Pursuit 12 TI is the narrowest in the line, offering 13.6 m radius for narrower turns and a nice 70 mm waist for eastern hardpack. This is an easy, forgiving ski, with surprising performance. It would make a wonderful daily driver for dedicated frontside skiers.
Experience 98: The six-ski Experience series is led off by the 98. With progressively narrower waists, and progressively smaller radius turns, these models are designed to rip groomers or float in powder depending on your choice. They use 30% rocker in the tip and tail with traditional high camber under the boot. These are targeting the one-ski quiver skier.
Experience 88: The Experience 88 is wide, comes flat, and would be a strong soft snow and packed soft snow ski. That 88 mm waist is surprising as the ski actually has strong edge grip. It blends on-and off-trail versatility.
Personal pick: Pursuit 18. It personifies a great Rossi.
For years Volkl was a cult ski. But that changed. As Volkl grew, many skiers found the edge grip and performance enticing. In fact, they also established a reputation as a ski which came impeccably tuned from the factory. That’s still true. With 57 skis, excluding rentals, the line is deep.
V Werks leads the Frontside Series. This includes three models including the V Werks RTM and V Werks Code. With a metal hybrid construction, using titanal and carbon, with an integrated binding and wood core, these feel like classic Volkls, but each skis quite differently.
V Werks RTM: This may be my favorite. The ski is strong, stable, and with a 84 mm waist, amazingly holds hard snow like Velcro. The radius varies by length with a nice 15,8 m in the 166 and 16.9 m in the 171. Each length skis differently and emphasizes the need for that test ride.
V Werks Code Speedwall: The Code uses a narrower 76 mm waist. It’s light and playful.
RTM 84, 81, 80,77, 75iS, 75, and 73: With increasingly modest waists, these skis boast waists which match each number. Each is narrower, and each ski has varying radius turns according to the length. What this means is a tremendous range of choices for skiers, and the ability to select a ski almost customized to your desires. Well worth a test ride or two.
Code Speedwall L: The Speedwall is a TI ski using a 76 mm waist for harder snow, and a deep sidecut yielding a 15.3 m radius in the 164 and 16.9 in the 171. Tip and tail rocker provide a frontside kind of performance. Volkl lovers will smile.
Code Speedwall S: The new S uses a 74 mm waist and shorter radius turn. This may be the most versatile ski.
Personal pick: The V Werks 84.
Picking new skis is challenging. Many skiers simply pick a pair based on reviews and graphics. But, that can be a mistake. Understand, the same ski in two different lengths can ski like two different skis. In addition, performance can vary widely because of skier weight, strength, as well as skiing style. The good news is that there are a wide array of great skis entering the market. But to find your ideal ski you should talk to the local shops. Consider a test ride and, as you do, evaluate that smile factor. That’s the real ruler, from your first run to your last run.