Top Ski News 2015

Utah tweaks Olympic facilities; improvements on-line this winter

Utah destination resorts and ski areas have spent another summer in the throes of construction in this, the next to last construction season before the 2002 Games. Here’s a resort-by-resort run down on improvements:

Alta

crews have finished an extensive trail grooming and snow making project in the Sugarloaf area, which completes the USFS approved Snowmaking Master Plan. Most noticeably, several steep breakovers have been removed and/or modified, to make the area more accessible to intermediates. Alta also built a new ski patrol building atop the Germania lift.

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Beaver Mountain

has submitted no news as of October 1.

Brian Head Resort

added new snow making and gladed additional tree skiing terrain.

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Brighton

replaced the venerable Snake Creek triple chair with a new high speed quad dubbed The Snake Creek Express. The old 13 minute ride has been reduced to six minutes.

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The Canyons

continues its phenomenal growth, adding an 8th mountain and 325 acres this summer to become one of the five largest resorts in the US and the biggest in Utah, in terms of acreage, which now exceeds 3600. The resort increased its grooming fleet by 30%.

Whisker Ridge “townhome” condominiums will debut this season at The Canyons, with 30 condominiums and one grand villa. Located a few turns above Canyons Resort Village, this project offers premium ski-in-ski-out access. The Grand Summit Resort Hotel and Conference Center and Sundial Lodge are open this season.

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Deer Valley Resort

has invested more than $6.5 million in improvements and upgrades this season. $1 million went toward a new two-acre, 15 million gallon snowmaking pond and snowmaking has been added to Trump, Ontario, Lower Sunset, Sunset West and Last Chance runs.

Construction began on Empire Lodge between Ruby and Empire lifts, slated for opening in 2001/2002. Empire’s Supreme, Solace and Orion runs have been brought into the snowmaking system.

Improvements to Olympic venues—Deer Valley will host Slalom, Mogul and aerial events—included grading and course shaping. Test races will be held in all venues this season.

For non-Olympic athletes, Deer Valley created a new race course for guests, on Silver Hill in the Deer Crest area. This arena will operate similarly to the course at Silver Lake on Bald Mountain, with timing and announcement systems.

In other improvements, Roamer has been re-gladed to create beginner access to Deer Crest via Navigator run and is now a green run. On the flip side, a new black Diamond called Cascade will improve the appeal of Deer Crest to expert skiers. Cascade bring Deer Valley’s trail total to 88.

Elk Meadows

No news as of October 1

Nordic Valley

No news as of October 1

Park City Mountain Resort

Park City, too, invested heavily in Olympic-related improvements this summer and opened the long-awaited 54,000 square foot Legacy Lodge on the old Plaza. Services include Legacy Sports, an apparel retail shop, logo boutique, Park City Mountain Rental and Repair Center, The Legacy Food Court, Rossmiller Photography Studios, day and season loakers and a new “private club” (Utah-speak for saloon with $5 cover charge).

Olympic improvements centered on the Eagle Race Arena, Pick and Shovel and CB’s run. the area was regraded to create wider and steeper finish areas for snowboard events and the GS, additional snowmaking was installed and, representing most of the work, a new, state-of-art half pipe has been created to allow 20,000 spectators the opportunity of unobstructed views.

announces the opening of the elegant Powderhorn Lodge, the latest step in the transformation of funky old Solitude into a modern, European Alps-styled, pedestrian, ski-in-ski-out mountain village. The new Thirsty Squirrel Club will provide additional on-site apres-ski activity. The Stone House in the central plaza opens this winter too, featuring “Internet Cafe” portals, specialty coffees, fresh baked goods and sundries.

Solitude is expanding the advanced “Smart Card” ticketing system to 100% resort coverage.

 

certainly has the biggest news in terms of sheer size and length-of-anticipation. At long last, the new Trapper’s Loop Connector road is scheduled for completion in October. The new access road will shave 13 miles from the Salt Lake to Snow Basin trip, but, perhaps even more importantly. the death-defying, hair-raising, soul-shriveling old Snow Basin Road is now a thing of the past!

The resort, which has been appointed Olympic Downhill venue, continues to expand snow making and construction on a new base village slated for opening in time for the Games.

opened spectacular Mineral Basin last season, news enough for any respectable decade, but the Master Development Plan continues. This year, less-obvious but still-major improvements include a revamped TomTom Truck GPS control and drive system. While the basics of the Tram’s nervous have been rebuilt, most guests will likely notice only a shorter ride from the Plaza to the top of Hidden Peak. The tram will be less affected by weather inclemency. Net gain: 12% as the Tram ride is shaved to 7 minutes from 8.

Other upgrades include snow making expansion to the top of Gadzoom lift, renovations to the Lodge Club Bistro and improvements to the Lodge itself.

focused on increasing its Nordic Center, adding 20 additional K in trails. This bring the total to 40k, as Sundance continues to enhance its reputation as an elegant and enticing Nordic destination. And it still has the best scenery in Utah and the renowned Tree Restaurant.

I no longer write OnTheSnow’s My Utah!, but I’ll be doing a more-or-less biweekly column here.

We’ve news aplenty: Olympic Scandal indictments, resort, hotel and lift construction, hot new winter programs, lift and lodging deals—I’ll have it all for you right here, beginning Oct. 1st. Please check back with us often as we update all year with the latest in news, good deals and inside facts on Utah, the Wasatch and The Greatest Snow on Earth!

Here’s the final OnTheSnow column…
It’s awards time in Utah

Writing about skiing in Utah is actually easy; the hard part has been limiting the column to something less than book length. It’s almost impossible to convey the scope and variety of skiing here. To paraphrase an old (and tired) industry marketing slogan, you’ve got to ski it to believe it. As the Olympics approach—we’re less than two years from Opening Ceremonies—things will only get better. If this column has been your main contact with the Wasatch, then make plans to come by before the Games. Next season will see all manner of Olympian facilities up and running, but without crowds sure to follow in 2002. It may be the best Utah season ever.

This season has had its share of ups and downs (pardon me!) but has turned out to be another great one. It’s strange to be sitting here writing an end-of-year column in a region where skiing is sure to last at least another two months and may go beyond that at Snowbird.

Nevertheless, OnTheSnow.com’s ski season is winding down and this will be the last My Utah column until fall. If you have questions or comments in the interim, please visit peterkeelty.com.

Thanks to everyone who suggested items for this column and special thanks to Kyle Jones who submitted several excellent items which appear here. Without further folderol, here are the first annual My Utah! awards.
Most lost World Cups award

Utah. We lost America’s Opening the week before Thanksgiving at Park City Mountain Resort. World Cup Downhill and Super G races planned for Snow Basin in January were canceled because, get this, we had too much soft snow. That pulled a ladies slalom slated for Deer Valley along with it. DV had perfect conditions at the time.
What does this mean to recreational skiers? Zip, that’s what. If you canceled plans to come to Utah because of our World Cup woes, I must suggest that you made a mistake. Try again; we’re here for you with The Greatest Snow on Earth, stick dodgers or no.

Stupid marketing trick award

Colorado Ski Country and its VP of Marketing, Charlie Mayfield share this one, although that may be unfair to the organization. Mayfield seized an opportunity to slam Utah when we lost the America’s Opening World Cup races. Mayfield trumpeted to the world that the Rockies lacked early snow. The irony is that when final numbers are in, Utah is more likely than Colorado to stay even in skier days.

Unrewarded optimism

Kip Pitou and Ski Utah planned for a 20 percent skier-day increase this season. Who could have imagined the Millennium bomb? Who could have imagined the Mayfield stupidity? Those who did make their way to the Wasatch found the region operating below capacity (Utah is building infrastructure here like there’s no tomorrow) and found uncrowded good skiing from Christmas on.

No ski school award award

Deer Valley and Park City guarantee results, which is a step in the right direction, but we’d like to see at least one resort find the courage to implement Harald Harb’s Primary Movements Teaching System ™. It works better than traditional P.S.I.A. approach. I have seen this with my own eyes and simply do not understand P.S.I.A.’s stranglehold on instruction methodology in this country.
I’ll be attending the P.S.I.A. Academy and Demo Team selection at Snowbird and shall report on what I find on peterkeelty.com. I hope to see great changes in the local documentaries, but it is still high time to diversify our teaching. Maybe then we could improve ski school participation from its sorry 11 percent of skiers. Maybe then we could retain more than the 18 percent of beginners who come a second time. The better one skis, the more fun one has. Rule of nature.

Longest Running Scandal award

SLOC (sometimes known as Schlock.) The latest: indictments all the way up to SLOC ex-chief Tom Welch are rumored. Oh well, we still wring publicity out of it.

Best For Families award

The whole state. Utah is geared for kids; it’s in the psyche. Every resort in the state, including tiny Nordic Valley, caters to youngsters.

1st guys get the best location award

Alta, I suspect, may be the only resort in the country that regularly underreports snowfall. Alta typically gets the most snow of any area here and is unique in that experts and intermediates can ride lifts together and ski within sight and sound of each other, each on suitable terrain, all of it among the best in the world. As my wife, Sue Ellen, puts it, “The first guys got the best spot.”

Best powder stashes award

Powder Mountain, Honeycomb Canyon at Solitude and Triangle Trees at Deer Valley.

Least Understood Resort award

Deer Valley has transformed itself from “Bambi Basin” into a seven-area playground capable of satisfying the most rabid high end impulse. There is nothing wimpy about Empire Canyon and Deer Valley’s high-speed carving venues are renowned among cognoscenti.

Most ambitious plans award

The Canyons is smack in the middle of a development plan which will within a couple of years result in the largest ski area in the country

Far from an airport award

Brian Head. It’s actually closer to Las Vegas’ McCarran than to Salt Lake International. So fly to Vegas, then come on up. Who knows, if things work out, you might make a profit on the trip.

Way far from an airport award

Elk Meadows is about as far from everything else as is Area 51 (which isn’t all that far from EM). The road is frightful but Elk Meadows may be the closest thing to Shangri La to be found in the U.S.

Flashback award

Snow Basin. Imagine a ski resort with the best new lift complex in the world, truly vast snowmaking coverage and virtually no amenities or skiers. This is one of my favorite areas and I’m glad to have experienced it before it morphs into “Vail West,” which it shall by the time the Olympics arrive.

People who don’t ski award

Sundance Film Festival. The “people in black” occupy all the beds in Park City and then some and never step on the hill. Late January is a great time to ski The Canyons, Park City and Deer Valley. You’ll have them all to yourself. If you can find a bed.

Snowboarders rule award

Brighton. Skiers, don’t even think about it!

Missed opportunity award

Jointly awarded to Deer Valley and Park City. DV’s Empire Canyon lift and Park City’s McConkey six-pack terminate on the same ridge within sight of each other, making it easy to travel between areas, but as of now, neither resort respects the other’s lift ticket on the same day. This is not the way to market our unique proximity advantages to guests from around the world.

Perfection award

Deer Valley food service, customer service and employee attitude.

Just short of perfection

Park City Mountain Resort upgraded the menu at Summit House restaurant and the food and service are now first class. Why, then, did they elect to keep the same ratty old picnic tables when round tables smothered in linen and silverware would have brought ambiance in line with quality? And the grumpy guy at the door has to go.

Best parking award

Silver Lake $10 parking at Deer Valley.

Worst parking award

Snow Park mega-lot at Deer Valley. How about some more trains?

Best website award

Park City Mountain Resort.

Best web trailmap award

Deer Valley. The map is broken into logical segments that can be enlarged so that it’s possible to actually read information on the map.

Best in-joke award

Dick Bass, owner of Snowbird, early on blew the budget by hanging a fortune in Persian rugs on the walls of The Cliff Lodge. Many folks found this strange. Now I notice that Snowbird’s web site uses a Persian rug as background wallpaper. Good for you, Dick!

Best new lift award

Mineral Basin Quad. This major addition to Snowbird improves the overall experience not only with the great skiing in the Basin itself, but by spreading people around the mountain.

Best underpublicized new lift award

Paradise Quad at Powder Mountain. “I wouldn’t mind if we continued the secret.” Sorry, Kyle (who submitted this award), I fear a few million folks now know.

Best marketing program award

Legacy Ski and Ride Program at Park City Mountain Resort, under which all Utah kids can learn to ski or board for free. Including gear.

Least welcome return visitor award

La Nina.

Until next time, Have Fun; Don’t Fall!

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10 Easy Skis

The Day Off

A. J. Foyt reigns as one of the greatest drivers ever to circle Indy’s famous Brickyard, but it’s certain that in his prime he didn’t drive open wheel race cars around the countryside on his day off. While Foyt required hair trigger performance and the balance of a full blown Indy car to ply his trade, such a specialized vehicle would be virtually impossible to operate in milder civilian circumstances.

The difference is less dramatic in the world of skiing, but World Cup race models are so technically demanding that only the most masochistic of skiers would use such a tool for free skiing. While ski companies deliver retail models that resemble back-room race skis but are in most cases considerably less demanding, even within the retail universe, some skis play easier than others.

We, like everyone in the ski review business, can stumble into the peak-performance trap. Ski testers by nature tend to seek the biggest and baddest skis in a quest for no-holds-barred performance. Reviews often favor technical products over more forgiving models, at virtually every level. “If it ain’t hard, it ain’t any good…”

This time, just for fun (so to speak), we examine test data through a new lens. Respecting ability levels, we wondered, could we find skis that while performing shy of the genre’s apex nonetheless deliver adequate power for particular skiers while remaining exceptionally easy and fun to use? This doesn’t mean these skis are sluggish or handicapped in any other way, just that they allow skiers to float over, slice through or dart around snow, ice and obstacles with minimum effort and maximum security.

Those more interested in fun than in sifting through hundreds of skis to find the right ride can cut to the chase with these guaranteed-to-ski-easy models. Think of this review as the ultimate crib sheet for fast and easy ski selection.

What’s Easy?

Easy means that skiers of a given ability find the ski capable of most of the performance available in a category, but that the ski is also exceptionally user friendly. For example, a racer may want the most power and edge hold he or she can get on race day, but for free skiing prefer a ski that allows relaxation and does not penalize every lapse in concentration. The racer may not want to ski at peak physical output while cruising with friends. Race-ready GS skis may be too demanding for day-off frolic. Similarly, the recreational skier just learning carving requires a ski capable of laying down respectable arcs, but not one that forces her to ski over her head in difficult circumstances, like fall line steeps.

It works the other way, too. Top skiers can force almost anything to perform at high levels, but it requires intense, abnormal concentration for experts to ski above a ski’s natural limit.

It’s possible, for example, to use Rossignol’s recreation-oriented T Power Viper for precise fall line attack on hard snow, but technically accomplished gravity hounds fare better on, for example, Atomic’s 9’16 race slalom. Aggressive deep snow skiers can get by on the CHUBB, but at the cost of maintaining awareness of the ski’s performance limits. Equipment must not intrude on awareness at either end of the ability spectrum. If you consciously think about a ski’s shortcomings while you are aboard, you aren’t on your easy ski.

The following skis blend performance aplenty with simpatico natures. Some have appeared in earlier reviews, but this time we look at them differently. We’ve organized them for specific kinds of skier and skiing. Jump categories and all bets are off, but if you find the right slot, chances are you’ll fall in love with one of these 10 Easy Skis.

The Skis

Hard snow elite experts: Head Cyber World Cup. 180, 185, 190, 195 (107/63/96)

Head makes two apparently similar GS skis, the Cyber World Cup and the Cyber World Cup Ti. They are actually very different. The Ti is a serious race ski and fares poorly at speed under 20mph. The World Cup, on the other hand, is a treat for groomed-snow free skiing. The wide tip draws the ski into turns as if by magic. One almost “falls” effortlessly into the new turn. A narrow tail facilitates trajectory correction and the overall geometry allows the ski to skid as needed with impeccable smoothness. This one really does do most of the work and with little sacrifice in high speed performance.

Advanced to recreational expert hard snow skiers: Volkl P40 Platinum Energy. 168, 173, 178, 183, 188, 193, 198 (102/65/88)

If we had to pick but one “easy” ski for good skiers, the Platinum might well be it. This thing is amazing. It works on any terrain, at any speed and compliments skill levels from intermediate up. It is quick, smooth, stable, holds well on hard snow and glides through and over the soft stuff. The Platinum possesses an uncanny ability to smooth out technical glitches, while responding to the precise demands of top level skiers. It is possible to “outski” the Platinum, but not at any speed likely achieved legally on public trails.

Intermediate to advanced hard snow skiers: Head Cyber X-60. 160, 170, 180, 190 (110/64/94)

Head bills the 60 as a carving ski for intermediates, but, in our opinion, they underestimate their own design. The 60 is a near perfect choice for intermediates just acquiring carving skills, but performs credibly for advanced and even expert skiers, too. The only caveat: avoid extreme speed, especially on ice. The 60 will “grow” with improving intermediate and advanced skiers for years.

All mountain elite experts: Salomon Super Mountain. 178, 186, 194 (110/78/100)

The Super Mountain surprised us during testing. We expected it to work well off piste, but were frankly amazed at its carving talent. This ski wails on the groomed, including ice, while remaining among the top choices for deep snow. It floats like a feather but blasts through obstacles. We were equally impressed with its ability to snake through tight places in chutes and trees. A great “road-trip” ski.

Advanced to recreational expert all mountain skiers: Dynastar 4X4 ATV. 160, 170, 178, 186, 192 (103/67/88)

The ATV is one of our all-time favorites Garmin Car GPS Units. This ski delivers most of the performance of the Super Mountain, but is even more tolerant of technical glitch. It holds well on hard snow, is quick in the fall line, floats like a cork and slices through crud like a laser. The ATV does have a speed limit, but if this presents problems, chances are you belong on the Super Mountain. Available in female-specific trim as the ATL .

Intermediate to advanced all mountain skiers: K2 MOD-X. 160, 174, 181, 188, 195 (107/70/97)

Just as Head publicly underestimates the prowess of the 60, K2 pegs the MOD-X performance envelope too high, again in our opinion. The X is smooth and quicker than K2’s we’ve seen before. It feels light without sacrificing traditional K2 smoothness or stability. The MOD-X is a solid choice for developing skiers beginning to explore the mountain and, like the 60, will progress with the skier. Up to a point. Strong technical skiers prefer the MOD-X Pro.

One design characteristic that renders the ski easy is its relatively wide profile, coupled with an aggressive tip. The X rolls effortlessly on edge to slice through the snow. That’s the easy part on most shaped skis. It’s releasing the edge to begin the next turn that causes problems for many. With it’s wide profile, the X, once on edge, wants to return to the snow. This makes release almost automatic and accounts for much of the MOD-X’s accommodating style.

Fall line elite experts: Atomic BetaRace 9’16 160, 170, 180, 190 (106/62/95)

One of the best of the new “wonder” slaloms. The 9’16 can be used with equal effectiveness as a big arc carver or fall line slasher. Light, powerful, stable, lightening quick and smooth enough to make you wonder whether you are really on a short ski. Good in bumps. Best in longer lengths for free skiing, 170 for slalom racing,

Intermediate to recreational expert fall line skiers: Rossignol T Power Viper. 140, 150, 160, 167, 174 (103/65/93)

Rossignol got it right yet again. Though very different in design and performance, the T Power resembles in modern terms such classics as the venerable 4SK. This model sports the same foot print as the 9S race ski, but is far more forgiving, The T is designed specifically for recreational skiers, although it performs credibly for citizen racing like NASTAR. The T carves, skids, clings, ricochets back and forth like a whip and except for a definite 25mph speed limit, provides all the versatility most recreational skiers will ever require. It is, in a word, ‘easy.”

Natural snow elite experts: Volant Machete Huckster. 183, 193 (110/92/102)

One of Volant’s trio of “young” skis, the Huckster is very tricky on the groomed but provides great float, the power to crush obstacles and solidity in marginal conditions like crud and wind chop. The Huckster craves speed and, in general, rises to the top of any snow or situation. Don’t consider this model unless you are an accomplished off-piste veteran with strength and skill.

Intermediate to recreational expert natural snow skiers: Volant CHUBB 170, 180, 190 (112/87/104)

There are reasons why several famed Canadian helicopter tour operations recommend the CHUBB to their guests. This is the easiest powder ski ever built, excepting possibly its progenitor, the classic CHUBB. The new incarnation still provides the CHUBB’s renowned float and easy of turning, but a svelte new waist and side cut allow this iteration to perform better on the groomed than its bulky predecessor. The secret lies in Volant’s patented stainless steel cap construction, which allows the company to make skis that are simultaneously soft longitudinally and rigid laterally. Never skied bottomless? Success starts here.

Natural Snow Skis

Whoa!

The “Name Game” is out of hand. This industry seems to possess endless talent, if not actually to drive skiers from the market in confusion and frustration, at least to make fairly straightforward things appear complex and daunting.

Consider the profusion of labels attached to skis and to categories of skis these days by marketing nabobs eager to develop as many niches as possible, a process abetted by equally enthusiastic magazine editors bent on differentiating annual gear review issues. So far, we’ve had super side cuts, super shapes, “parabolics” and finally the now universally accepted, if redundant, shaped ski sobriquet, often counter pointed against pencil or traditional to describe old-fashioned “straight” skis.

It gets worse when attempting to divine the meaning of labels attached to various types of skis. Giant Slalom, Race Carver, Hyper Carver, Super Carver and All-mountain Carver; each purports to describe a specific kind of ski good at making arcs on the groomed. Mogul skis, competition mogul skis, “Zipper Line” bumps skis, traditional slalom skis and super-short slalom (or just super-slalom) skis describe tools for rapid fall line turns.

For skiing in broken and deep snow, windpack, crud and spring glop, we now have all-mountain skis, which may or may not be something other than all-mountain carvers, powder skis, heli-skis, free ride skis and expert free ride skis.

The “ride” tag, especially, irritates us. Skiers ski and boarders ride. We suspect that marketers, noting that males aged 15 to 25 identify themselves culturally as “riders” and captivated with the odd notion that cliff jumping represents the acme of ski sport, are collectively pushing this free ride thing as the latest in a long line of marketing quick-fixes. We’re buying into our own X-Games hype.

None of this, of course, makes it any easier for you to locate skis suited to your style of skiing. This is why coverage this season is focused on clear distinctions between ski uses rather than being based on comparing industry-defined types.

For example, in earlier articles we included super slaloms in both carving and fall line groups, as they excel in both arenas. All-mountain skis, likewise covered in an earlier issue, we define as skis capable of handling all terrain and conditions, but with a bias toward the groomed. This is how this most popular of current designs is actually used. This time we examine a collection of natural snow skis, suitable for everything from a day at Alta that begins with fresh untracked and degenerates into crud as the day wears on, to true bottomless as promised by Canadian helicopter tour operators and Rocky Mountain snow cat adventures.

No one ski performs at the highest level in all conditions. True powder boards can be clumsy on the groomed; so-called free ride skis do not render bottomless cruising as effortless as do dedicated powder skis. The trick is to identify your needs, ignore huckster ads, cliff-jumping posters and extreme movie sequences and test a couple of designs before making the final decision. One caveat about this group of truck navigators. The truth is that neither we nor anyone else often see enough bottomless snow during spring test season to really put deep snow skis through their paces. It is possible to determine performance characteristics that offer an excellent picture of how these skis work in their natural environs, but it’s more important than ever for you to test several yourself.

There is deep snow and then there is deep snow. Sadly, even those lucky few who live at the foot of Little Cottonwood Canyon in Salt Lake City, for example, home to fabled Snowbird and Alta, rarely see a day of untracked run after untracked run all day long. Usually a few clean run or two in the morning is the best one can expect before the mountain is skied into chop. About the only way to savor unlimited bottomless powder is to take a helicopter or snow cat trip.

In-resort powder skiing and deep-mountain heli-adventuring present very different environments and require different tools. Lift-served off-piste skiing Here’s a small trade secret. The trick is mostly in the shape. Certainly layers of Titanium and the like stiffen skis and make them more stable at speed (as well as more demanding of technical perfection), but the best clue to a ski’s behavior can be found in its side cut dimensions.

For example, as we look at skis designed for non-groomed use, lines blur between all-mountain skis, which can go off-piste but which are made to spend much of the time on the groomed, and this group that we suggest for lift-served natural snow skiing, all definitely biased toward deep snow. They do not fare as well as all-mountain skis on the groomed and can be positively death defying in deep bumps, but for all of that are still more versatile than dedicated powder skis.

We define all-mountain skis as having waists between 65 and 75mm. Backside tools for lift-served natural snow have waists between 76 and 86mm. We’ve found that skis with waists in excess of 86mm can be awkward on the groomed and so include those in the pure powder collection. They’re at their best in bottomless raw wilderness conditions.

For lift-served natural snow skiing

Salomon Super Mountain (110/78/100)

This is another of Salomon’s “chameleon” designs. It is wide, floats nearly as well as many deep powder boards, but is also entirely at home on the groomed (although bumps can be a challenge.) This ski is stable, amazingly quick edge-to-edge for such a beefy stick and can carve big arcs on anything up to and including the kind of ice one can read newsprint through. A transition ski bridging the gap between all-mountain designs and backside big iron. High intermediate to experts. Lengths: 178, 186, 194
Dynastar 4X4 BIG (112/80/102)

This member of Dynastar’s amazing 4X4 family is loaded with crud and windpack busting power, but, like the Supermountain, is almost equally at home in packed conditions. Smooth, quick and perhaps a bit easier to handle in bumps than the Salomon, but still capable of serious backcountry screaming. Advance through expert skiers. Lengths: 188, 194
Atomic Beta Ride 10 EX (118/84/110)

Atomic has done a slight about-face this season. Most of its skis have been made lighter and more forgiving than previous generations of Atomics and the brand new 10 EX is another nearly universal ski for folks who plan to spend time away from crowds and packed out trails. It handles itself well in 2D conditions, but really shines in the puckerbrush. Light but powerful, stable but quick and a surprisingly adept carver. In fact, we know a masters’ racer who won several slalom races this past summer in New Zealand using the EX. Advanced to experts. Lengths: 183, 191, 198
Rossignol Bandit XXX (115/84/105)

The triple-X, in our opinion, forms a performance demarcation between skis that could reasonably be included in a list of all-mountain designs and those that ought to be reserved for skilled skiers who spend most of the time off-piste. The 3X is capable of blasting through the worst natural conditions with unshakable stability. It floats well, but is a lot of work on the groomed. It’s possible to ski to and from raw snow, but anyone planning to spend much more time than that on packed slopes and trails will be better off with the XX. Experts only. Lengths: 168, 178, 188, 193
Fischer Alltrax Big Stick 84 (116/84/103)

Smoothness is a Fischer brand trade-mark and the 84 is kind of a “Cadillac for crud.” As powerful as the XXX, but easier to handle on the groomed. Tricky in bumps, but solid in other 3-D conditions. Good carver for a wide board. Advanced to expert. Lengths: 186, 191, 196
Volkl Vertigo G41 Pro (118/86/103)

We like this ski a lot. The Pro is sibling to the G31, one of our favorite all-mountain designs, yet it is substantially wider and more powerful. Best in the deep stuff, the Pro is also a good choice for skilled technicians who ski the whole mountain. It carves well, floats well and is fairly forgiving in terms of energy, though not in terms of technique. Don’t even consider bumps, unless they are very soft and you simply blast through them as though they weren’t even there! Experts only. Lengths: 178, 188, 198

True bottomless

Here we tamp down our prejudice against the word “ride” a bit: some of these skis are wide enough almost to masquerade as boards! Notice how waist dimensions in this group creep toward 100mm and even beyond. Excepting the CHUBB, unless there’s a Heli hovering nearby or you find yourself on a cat, avoid these bad boys.
Volant Chubb (112/87/104)

One of our favorite skis since the day it first appeared five seasons ago. Since then, the Chubb has gone through several iterations. The current configuration provides the best blend of “CHUBB-ness” past and present. Volant’s stainless steel cap construction allows for soft flex with exceptional torsional rigidity. This combination makes the CHUBB ideal for bottomless snow, although it easily qualifies as a superior all-mountain ski, too. Easy to turn, stable at almost any speed, agreeable on the groomed thanks to its newly svelte shape and the perfect choice for intermediates through experts who plan the occasional powder trip or day. Lengths: 170, 180, 190
K2 AK Launcher (119/88/105)

This one is another mixed groomed/bottomless tool designed for the deep stuff. K2 fans will appreciate the penultimate K2 “feel”: smooth, stable, predictable, though not lightning quick in the fall line. Ideal for big cruising turns through a pristine powder field. Advanced to expert. Lengths: 165, 180, 190, 195
Atomic Powder Ride (128/104/118)
Heli Star (135/115/125)

Atomic, along with Kneissl, started the whole thing way back in the 80’s with super-wide powder boards. Both of these skis are top-flight powder skis, both are difficult in other conditions. Atomic makes highly focused products; if cat or chopper adventure is in your future, either one of these is a good bet, with the Heli-Star being the better choice for less experienced powder hounds. If you plan mainly lift-served off trail skiing, check out the 10.EX instead. Lengths: Powder Ride: 160, 170, 180, 190; Heli-Star: 170, 180

Fall Line Skis

There was a time when being called a “fall line skier” was high praise, like being called “fast.” Now, with media emphasis on all-mountain skiing, competitive free riding and the fine and varied arts of carving, it’s easy to forget that a large group of skiers, especially long-time experts, remain devoted to the pursuit of pure gravity in the fall line. Bumpers, slalom racers, powder-eight skiers and independent spirits who dance tight lines down along the trees that fence eastern double-diamond trails, or who plunge like bungee-jumpers into narrow Western chutes all belong to the confederacy of fall line skiers.

Fall line skiing ranges from ultra-controlled slow-motion short-radius descents of icy-hard black diamond trails to the all out fury of a World Cup slalom race to the sublime first-time conquest of moderate “gray diamond” bumps without need to bail or stop. Few skiers would consider themselves exclusively fall line skiers¾technical racers, pro and World Cup mogul competitors or professional free riders comprising most of those few¾but every skier above the level of intermediate spends more or less time in the fall line and for many, fall line orientation is a principal aspect of the sport, as opposed to legions of less aggressive skiers who use the whole trail as they “park and ride” in sweeping side-to-side turns, almost like snow boarders. Fall line skiers possess the skills and inclination to “thread the needle,” whether on flats, in bumps, on steeps or even down crowded going-home-at-the-end-of-the-day trails.

Probably the ultimate fall line skiers are celebrated athletes like C.B. Vaughn, Dick Dorworth, Franz Weber and the late Steve McKinney, who took straight line steeps to the limit in the early days of speed skiing. Other high-profile gravity hounds include free ride competitors, powder fiends and elite level bumps skiers, but we’re focusing here on the needs of recreational skiers who spend considerable time in the fall line, but who also require diversity to manage all recreational situations.

Fall line skis come in three basic varieties: traditional zipper line bumps skis, skis for skiers who prefer traditional lengths and technique and super slaloms, which promise to become one of the most important categories of ski in the near future.

The ultimate “straight” skis

Zipper line bumps skis are among the least versatile, most specialized skis. They are very narrow, with the straightest side cuts made and suited only to competitive mogul skiing. Elite bumpers can carve on the groomed with these tools, but they are really only good for side-to-side slapping in the bumps, kind of like skiing stairs. Speed control is not an issue, save that bumpers want to go as fast as possible from point A to point B in the fall line. The Dynastar Assault (86/61/76), Volkl’s Straight Line (89/63/78), the K2 Power Mamba (84/64/74) and Hart’s F17 (87/63/75) are typical of the genre. Hart, by the way, has been a major force in World Cup bump skiing, but at press time it is not certain that the company will remain in business. In any case, at the end of the day, these skis are valuable only to the dedicated zipper line bumps skier and should be avoided by anyone who skis more than moguls.

Skis for traditionalists

It is becoming ever more difficult to find pencil-like skis that feel like traditional skis and can be skied in long lengths. Virtually the entire stable has acquired relatively deep side cuts, but skiers who prefer less dramatic shapes can still find a few good models that perform very much like the skis we all grew up with. What these skis have in common is that they are narrow overall and use shallow side cuts, at least by modern standards, and they perform well with traditional technique. They track well, skid well and while all can be used to carve, none “require” carving technique. They are the essence of time-honored versatility and it’s no coincidence that they bear similar footprints.

Skiers who have become accustomed to more dramatic shapes will find these skis hard to turn; skiers who feel that more dramatic shapes do not track well or are in other ways unstable and squirrelly will love them. Be sure to try before you buy.

Rossignol Viper Z 9.3 (93/62/81)

The Viper Z has been around almost long enough to be called venerable and it remains on of the best choices for skiers not ready to abandon longer skis. Granted, 191 is not 210, but the Viper will satisfy skiers seeking that “210 feel”. Lengths: 177, 184, 191

Stockli Laser SL (94/61/86)

Stockli is a little known but highly respected brand of hand-made Swiss skis and continues to manufacture ski in time-honored shapes. This is perhaps the most traditional ski here, although is less widely distributed than other brands. It is stable, solid, holds well and for anyone seeking to replace a favorite pair of long-held straight skis, it will feel like home. Lengths: 162, 172, 180, 186

Hart Boron (95/62/86)

Although at press time it is by no means certain that Hart will ship product this fall, we include the Boron, actually manufactured by Atomic, as another superb choice for those who like moderate shapes. The Boron is capable of serious, high speed, big radius carving, but is equally adept at more relaxed skidding, straight running and general cruising. Lengths: 180, 190, 198

Super slaloms

This is where the action is. Only lately have super slaloms, with lengths between 160 and 180 cm and deep side cuts in which tips are often 40mm or so wider than waists, come to the fore. Conventional wisdom held as recently as two seasons ago that slalom skis had to be straight skis, like our selection of traditional shapes. How wrong we were! Not only has the racing community wholeheartedly embraced the super-short slaloms in record time—racers are notoriously conservative when it comes to accepting new ideas—but the super slalom genre promises to become a powerful force among recreational skiers. These are amazing skis; they can do it all and more and more high level skiers are choosing super slaloms as the primary ride in all conditions except, perhaps, bottomless powder.

But, be careful. There are super slaloms and there are super slaloms. K2’s M6SSL, for example, like Rossignol’s T Power 9S Deviator and the Dynastar Speed STC race, are real, no-compromise race skis. They are as quick side to side as any skis ever made and, beneath the fast feet of a legitimate high level junior racer, master’s veteran or World Cup or Nor Am athlete, these skis allow efficiency in flushes and other devious slalom course configurations previously unattainable. But this is all they do. These skis are very demanding and demand total concentration, not the stuff of recreational versatility. They are stiff, extremely powerful in the tail and best left to competitors.

Other super slaloms, however, are more forgiving, without sacrificing very much of the quickness and edge-holding tenacity of the real race models, and make great all around skis for advanced to expert skiers who spend most of the time on the groomed. These skis excel at rapid-fire turns, in or out of bumps or chutes, and also proved to be remarkably stable carving platforms. They do it all.

Rossignol T Power Viper (103/65/93)

Rossignol’s genius has always been in providing user-friendly skis derived from their successful World Cup designs. The 4SK slalom ski, for example, is one of the all time classics. The T Power Viper is in the same tradition. It has a footprint identical to the macho 9S Deviator, but is softer and more forgiving. In fact, Rossignol designed this ski specifically for non-racers who still want the speed and power of a genuine new-era slalom ski. It can hang with the best of the breed, except in the highest speed ranges. This is a great ski for the advanced skier who spends a lot of time on narrow, steep trails. Lengths: 140, 150, 160, 167, 174

Salomon Equipe 10 3V (103/62/93)

The 3V can negotiate a real race ski, but as is the case with so many Salomon models, it has a very wide usability range. It is fully qualified to enter competitive fray, but is at the same time forgiving. You can drive this one as hard as you want, but it’s OK to relax a bit, too. The 3V is one of the best big arc carvers of the genre, while being also very quick edge to edge and it has Salomon’s legendary ice holding power. Lengths: 168, 176

Atomic BetaRace 9’16 HC SL RC (106/62/95)

Like the Salomon, the 9’16 is a legitimate race ski and we recommend it for serious Masters. And also like the Salomon, it is far more versatile than that would suggest. Quick, powerful, great kick coming out of the turn, the 9’16 is a good carver and even serves as a fairly relaxing cruiser. This ski is a great choice for instructors. 160, 170, 180

Elan SLX World Cup (100/62/86)

We just love this ski! It, too, is a real new-breed slalom ski, but we found it agreeable even in deep snow. The SLX may be the most broadly applicable ski in this collection. We did not find any circumstance in which it did not excel, although serious powder skiers will certainly do well to choose a bit wider platform. The SLX could serve as prototype for a new generation of bumps skis. You can race it on blue ice, too. Lengths: 163, 173

Head Slalom World Cup Ti (110/63/98)

Head’s entry is a contender for Ski of The Year. We find nothing wrong about this ski, save for the caveat that it should be used by advanced to expert skiers, with a bias toward the upper end of that scale. On the right skier, however, this is as close to a universal tool as we have seen. There are better choices for bottomless snow¾although a good skier can ski powder with it if she pays attention¾but for lateral rapidity, unshakeable stability at speed, a penchant for aggressive trenching and the ability to snake through sharks-tooth bumps, stumps, trees and rock-strewn couloirs, it has few equals. And, it’s short enough to toss into the back seat. Lengths: 160, 170, 180

Dynastar Speed STC (103/63/91)

In step with corporate sibling Rossignol, Dynastar makes a toned-down version of its genuine race slalom, using the same shape and dimensions. The STC, like the T Power Viper, provides almost all the performance of its more serious name-mate, but is forgiving enough for high intermediates and powerful enough for all but the most expert of experts. Lengths: 162, 172, 182
Buy? Lease? Rent?

As equipment selling season gets into full swing, it makes sense to look at how to acquire new skis. There are three possibilities: buy, lease or rent.

Skiers who take pride in ownership or who ski more than 5 to 10 days per season, or who take numerous day or weekend trips, should buy¾no news there. Leasing equipment makes sense for kids who are in the midst of rapid growth, but for no one else—someone is paying interest on the lease and you can probably guess who.

If you ski less than 10 days a season , however, especially if your skiing takes place exclusively at destination resorts, you may find that renting is the best answer. By renting, we do not mean enduring standard rental fare, but finding resort stores that specialize in high-end rental or demo. In fact, be certain that you retain the option to apply rental/demo fees to a final purchase, even if you do not plan to buy the skis.

The advantages of demo are that for roughly $40 – $50 per day, you can enjoy state-of-the-art gear, well maintained, tuned and waxed. Do the math; over 10 days, that ads up to about half what it would cost to purchase the same equipment. Skis do have some re-sale value, but recouping 40% of the original retail price is about as good as it ever gets. You are still ahead of the game with multi-day demo. Moreover, some shops may allow you to swap demo skis if conditions change—say a powder dump happens overnight¾or even if you feel like sampling a variety of kinds of ski.

Maybe best of all, you won’t have any skis to lug through airports.

Carving Skis

 

Not that long ago, the term “carving” chiefly was bandied about in race shacks and ski school locker rooms, used to describe long radius turns in which the tail of the edge follows exactly in a narrow track scribed by the tip of the edge. The advantages of carved turns are superior holding power, especially on ice, precision of line, stability at high velocity and great speed itself. The sensation is among the most exhilarating in sport.

Producing a carved turn in the bad old days required great physical strength to force the ski into reverse camber, like a turned-up barrel stave, great skill to manage precise edge angles and subtle mastery of pressure control. Carving was limited to the top two or three percent of skiers; even a majority of instructors found the art of arcing elusive and, in any case, most areas pounced upon those who skied at the speeds necessary to produce a carved turn, issuing dire warnings and pulling lift tickets. Practically the only venues in which carving was both common and acceptable were GS, Downhill and Super G racing.

Now, even as all-mountain skis become the most popular design in North America, more and more skiers are discovering the visceral pleasures of carving. For some, pursuit of the pure arc has become almost religious. Warren Witherell in his 1972 How the Racers Ski and 1993’s The Athletic Skier (co-authored with David Evrard), has done as much as anyone to promote the pleasures of carving, but in many ways he was ahead of his time. Witherell described techniques for acquiring carving skills, but the equipment available even as recently as the early Nineties was simply too unwieldy for most non-professional skiers to use as effective carving tools. Unfortunately and needlessly, many recreational skiers to this day imagine this most sublime of skiing thrills to be forever beyond reach.

Nonsense. Modern deep-side-cut skis have changed everything, on World Cup race courses and blue and black recreational runs alike.

The secret lies largely in the shape, although modern materials play a role in carve-friendly ski design as well. Wide tips, usually 99mm or more, pinched waists of 62–65mm and tails between 85 and 95mm define a shape which almost automatically rolls up on edge, bites into the snow and begins to carve. Modern skis are shorter and generally softer than old-fashioned GS skis, yet possess greater torsional rigidity, thanks to newly ubiquitous materials like Titanium. This means that they are much easier to de-camber, which in turn means that skiers can carve at lower speeds with less pressure than was the case with skis of yore.

Not all carving skis are the same, however, and finding the right choice is crucial. Physically strong skiers possessing highly developed carving skills tend to prefer Giant Slalom skis. They are powerful, stable and provide the smoothest ride at speed and over rough terrain. They are also demanding, precise, energy-intensive and unforgiving of technical error.

Expert and advanced skiers who seek a more forgiving nature and who ski at less than competition-level speeds may fare better with so-called Race Carvers. There is a very fine line between GS skis and Race Carvers. In fact, depending on brand, the line becomes blurry indeed, but RC’s are generally a bit wider in the tip than GS skis and perform well at lower speeds with less de-camber pressure. These skis suit the majority of recreational carvers and can handle all but the most extreme demands of the pro.

Skiers just learning to carve or who ski at speeds under 20mph should focus on what Inside Tracks dubs “recreational carvers.” These are softer and more forgiving than GS skis or Race Carvers. While there is no “official” recreational carving designation in general use throughout the industry, we discovered a need for such a category during testing and here present three skis which we found suitable for those who are metamorphosing into arc-meisters. These are skis to grow with and they can handle anything but the most demented of high-speed runs on super-hard snow. And even there, they aren’t too bad…

Our final group of superior carving skis may surprise some. We’ve discovered that the new super-short slaloms, originally conceived for cobra-quick fall line work in World Cup slalom race courses, turn out to be superb carving machines. A glance at the side-cut dimensions will reveal why, but it is impossible to appreciate just how effective 3d printing pens these skis are at serious trenching without stepping aboard.

The skis we describe below are our favorites; there may be others equally worthy of investigation. In the end, the only way to find the perfect ride is to test several candidates for yourself. Here are some of the best.

Giant Slalom race skis for very fast, very good skiers (side cut dimensions in parentheses)

Atomic BetaRace 10’22 Ti (99/62/90)

Atomic has so dominated World Cup GS for the past few seasons that some folks have become intimidated by the brand. Until this season, a case could be made that Atomic race GS skis were “too much” for most skiers, even top experts in recreational mode. No more. The Atomic line has been re-designed to be more forgiving and the 10’22 especially exhibits the new, lighter Atomic “feel.” It is a powerful race ski to be sure, but physically lighter than previous iterations and much more forgiving. The company has reduced suggested retail prices in the bargain. This is a superb choice for skilled skiers who want a no-compromise GS for free skiing purposes. Available lengths: 178-198.
Fischer World Cup GS (99/64/87)

Woefully under-recognized in this country, Fischer makes superior skis in all categories and especially in the race genre. The World Cup GS has been redesigned, with the unwieldy but effective Accelerator plate incorporated into the ski itself in what the company calls Power Distribution Technology. Never mind the name; the ski is smooth, stable, quick, powerful and holds like Velcro ™ at any speed. A great ski made better. Available from 176 to 201.
Head Cyber World Cup Ti (101/63/94)

Head’s “full metal jacket” is about as close to the real thing as can be found at retail, a serious, no-compromise race ski that has been made by a 2015 3D printer and could be plunked down on virtually any race course in the world. Of course, the flip side is that this ski requires work and is not at all forgiving. Still, for the few who desire the most macho model on the hill or who actually need this kind of speed handling capability, the WC is a top choice. Don’t even think about buying this ski without testing it. Lengths: 180 – 200

Race Carvers for fast skiers who want a less demanding ski

Atomic BetaRace 9’20 Race Carv VC (106/62/95)

Atomic’s re-vamped line is one of the most tightly focused collections. Each model is specific to its task. This reduces versatility, but enhances the ability of each to do its job. The BetaRace Carv is a pure carving machine with few equals. This is not the ski for bumps, fall line work or off-piste adventure, but if carving clean, deep arcs on groomed snow or ice is the game, this ski is exceptional; it performs like a monorail once in the turn and the thing wants to turn! 160 – 190
Dynastar Autodrive Speed Carve (104/63/94)

The Speed Carve is one of two current Dynastar models utilizing the company’s new AutoDrive construction, a three-part system in which a cap tip, vertical-walled race style tail and beefy main body are each optimized for specific tasks. It works. This ski is very quick edge to edge, with snappy rebound, yet smooth and powerful in the belly of the carve, with great edge hold. For advanced to expert skiers. 170 – 192.
Volkl P40 Platinum energY (102/65/88)

Volkl imports a whole family of P40 models, three of which wear the F1 GS shape. The Platinum is our favorite. It’s like a chameleon; depending on who skis it, and how. The Platinum can satisfy virtually all levels of skier from high-intermediate up. It is rapid edge-top-edge in the fall line, stable at any slope-legal speed and has a huge penchant for forgiveness. One wonders why Volkl even sells the F1GS model at retail; this year’s Platinum does it all. 168-198

Recreational Carvers for those improving carving skills

Head Cyber X-60 (110/64/94)

This ski is light, quick, stable, fast and can handle almost any skiing style short of actual race performance. Head’s entire line is outstanding, and this ski is a standout even in that crowd. Targeted for intermediate to advanced recreational skiers, even our pros found it an agreeable ride, capable of leaving etched eyebrows in the hardest of surfaces.
Elan X-Carve 9.0 Ti (103/65/90)

Elan has had its share of political, managerial and distribution problems in recent years, but continues to design technically impressive products. The 9.0 is a superb ski. It will accommodate virtually any speed, terrain and snow condition, even including mild bumps. But it especially shines at carving clean arcs and can be used by skiers of high intermediate to expert level. Distribution is improving, too. Lengths: 160 – 192
Rossignol Viper X 102 (102/64/93)

The Viper X has been around several seasons now and continues among the picks of the litter. Rossignol has a knack for making versatile models and the Viper is among the most agreeable skis on the market. Experts love it, as do intermediates. Stability at speed, smooth carving manners and adaptability to virtually all snow and terrain conditions place it firmly among our top picks. Also available in a female-specific model, the 102 Lady. Lengths: 170 – 196; 160 to 191 in L configuration.

Super Slaloms that are superb carving machines

This is the wild card group. The new short slalom skis are designed for slalom racing, but also reveal themselves to be among the best carvers available. Three of our favorites for this application are the Elan SLX World Cup (100/62/86), Head’s Slalom World Cup Ti (110/63/98) and the Salomon Equipe 10 3V (100/62/93). Lengths top out at 180. We discuss the new slaloms in an upcoming article on fall line skis, but if you’re looking for a carving tool with phenomenal versatility, be sure not to overlook these.

All Mountain Skis 2015

Back in 1995, in the early days of the so-called side-cut revolution, then-tiny niche-marketer Volant introduced the PowerKarve. At a time when recreational super-side-cuts came in two configurations—extreme hourglass carvers like Elan’s SCX and GS-derived moderate shapes such as the K2 Four and Head’s Cyber 24X—the Powerkarve sported under-foot dimensions more like those of single-purpose powder skis than products designed for general use by recreational skiers. It really was something new.

Revolutionary or not, the original PowerKarve sparked little enthusiasm within the ski testing community. Judged an odd design that might in time appeal to silver-haired dabblers, it was not widely recognized as first in a new breed of ski destined to change the way people think about skiing and all but crowd other shapes from the retail racks of America.

So much for foresight. Salomon X-Screams were last season’s best sellers and Rossignol’s Bandit models weren’t far behind. In 2001, all mountain skis will comprise considerably more than half the total number of skis sold. Skiers have embraced this design, periodically known as “mid-fat,” “free ride” or “all mountain,” for thoroughly practical reasons; they not only tame conditions ranging from ice to bottomless powder, but also help people ski better with less effort in most circumstances(see box).

Much of the industry seems to have settled on the “free ride” sobriquet to describe any wide ski, but we find basic differences in behavior between truly fat skis with 75mm + underfoot—to which we henceforth limit the free ride label—and the more versatile group we review in this article as All Mountain skis. These have dimensions, approximately,  of 100mm or more at tip, 66 to 74 mm at waist, tails of 88-100mm ± and have a performance bias toward the groomed, though they perform nearly well in natural snow conditions. It has become a cliché to describe these models as “Swiss Army Knife” skis, but as is the case with clichés, there’s a lot of truth in the notion.

And while we’re at it, let’s do away with oxymoronically redundant  label “shaped ski.” There are no more pencil skis and every object in the physical universe has some sort of shape. We’re simply going to call skis, well, skis.

We avoid as well the fallacy of ski ranking. Forget the gold, silver and bronze medal nonsense to which newsstand magazines seem addicted. We believe that outside the incestuous circle of suppliers and ad-funded publications, within which high test scores may have some commercial meaning, ranking means nothing—especially to skiers. Most modern skis are very good and all offer levels of performance unattainable a few years ago. Different models certainly have different “feels” and one company’s iteration of a given genre will vary from another’s, but in the end it boils down to personal preference and relative rankings mean little to an individual. What counts is personal testing.

Here is a diverse selection of models which our test crew loved. Each is unique; all deliver superb all mountain performance for specific kinds of skiers. Many of the dozens of all mountain skis on the market we do not here mention are also excellent products. These favorites, however, we have put through our rigorous wringer and recommend as excellent “pool” choices from which to make your own final selection.

Volant defined the category.

The original PowerKarve remains in the line along with up-dated sibling Power T3. Volant’s trademark smoothness derives from exceptional torsional rigidity which allows for softer longitudinal flex. The T3 is capable of stunning top-end performance—read stability at speed—and will appeal to skilled skiers who tear up any and all terrain with power and confidence. More relaxed skiers will likely find the PowerKarve the better buy. While lacking some of the T3’s top end talent, the PowerKarve still performs well in any situation short of competition-level free riding. Both are smooth, stable and easy to control either on the groomed or in 3-dimensional conditions including moderate bumps.  Our only quibble is that other skis are quicker edge-to-edge, but this is not a major enough shortcoming to keep either from our list of top all mountain picks. PowerKarve Lengths: 173 to 193 cm, 5 cm increments.  Dimensions: 105/73/97. Estimated street price: $XXX            For intermediate to advanced skiers. Power T3 lengths: 173 to 193 cm, 5 cm increments.  Dimensions: 106/73/96. Estimated street price:    $XXX  For advanced to expert skiers.

Salomon Pilot.

The Pilots are the first examples of Salomon’s fully integrated systems in which binding and ski are parts of the same mechanism.  Our first impression was frankly lukewarm. Touted by the company as a ski for fast experts, the 186 Scream 10 we initially tested was disappointing. It lacked stability at speed and we found  it appropriate for intermediate to advanced skiers content to cruise at moderate pace. This impression was confirmed by glowing reports from those among our test crew who do ski at relaxed recreational levels.

Late in test season, Salomon sent a re-vamped 192, which they told us had been beefed up in response to similar sentiments from other testing organizations and contract skiers. What a difference! The final iteration of the Pilot 10 is a marvel—fully capable of no-holds-barred on-groomed screaming, but sacrificing none of the ease of turning, lightening lateral moves and huge skill-level sweet spot of the original. This is one of the best all around skis we’ve seen. For advanced to expert skiers.  Lengths: 170, 180, 186, 192 Dimensions:  108/70/101. Estimated price: $XXXX

Rossignol Rebel X.

The Rebels are similar to the phenomenally successful Bandits, available in plain, X and XX configurations. As with the Bandits, it is important to read the whole name. There are real differences between, say, the versatile Bandit X, with dimensions of 100/67/88 and the raw powerhouse Bandit XXX, which measures 115/84/105. These are two drastically different skis and so it is with the three Rebel models. While the Rebel X lacks some of the silky smooth power for which the Bandit X is known, tradeoffs are minimal for most skiers this side of elite level and the difference in price makes the Rebel X a definite best buy. Lengths: 160, 170, 177, 184, 191  Dimensions: 100, 67, 88 

Dynastar 4X4 ATV.

As with the Rossignol Rebels and Bandits, watch for variations in model nomenclature; the 4X4 Power and the 4X4 ATV are radically different beasts. The ATV is still among the most versatile skis made and suits a wide range of ability levels. The ski carves cleanly on hard snow, is stable at high speed, floats very well is deeper conditions and is remarkably quick edge-to-edge for a wide ski. Notable is Dynastar’s “pintail” design feature technology in which the tail is dramatically less wide than the tip. This makes for easy turn entry but with great control in tight places. The narrow tail makes it easy to effect trajectory change, on steeps, in moderate bumps or among trees. The ski skids with the same smoothness as it carves. Available in ATL trim for female and other lighter skiers. Lengths:  160, 170, 178, 186, 192.  Dimensions: 103/67/88 

K2 MOD-X Pro.

MOD-X was out last season as mid-season introduction and was the first available example of K2’s new XXX t4chnology and new “feel”. Much more lively and responsive than K2’s have traditionally felt to us, but with little sacrifices in power and top end stability. We were frankly Luke-warm on the MOD X, especially for good skiers, but the PRO is a great ride. Stable, quick, powerful, light feeling but with plenty of power. Have the stuff to become a classis; time will tell. Be sure to test this one, especially if you are a K2 fan or, even more especially, if you have wondered what all the fuss about K2 was in the past; you may find the new “feel” answer that question. Lengths: 174, 181, 188, 197  Dimensions:   107, 70, 97

Volkl Vertigo G31 and G21.

The G31 is a powerful, stable, solid all muntain ski. Little brother 21 is smack in the middle of all mountain genre and should be on every advanced skiers test list, at lest those who are interested in exploring the entire mountain. The G31 has more at the top end, but can still be used by skiers just developing all mountain skills. G31 Lengths: 168, 178, 188, 193, 198  Dimensions: 105, 65, 93  Estimated street price:  G21 Lengths: 158, 168, 178, 188  Dimensions: 105, 71, 93 

Head Cyber Cross Ti.

Great for all mountain exploring at anything short of competition speeds. Use the Super Cross Ti for that, but for the average recreational skier, we find the Cyber Cross the more enjoyable ride. Forgiving, equally at home on groomed or hard snow, remarkably quick for wide ride. Cyber Cross Lengths: 160, 170, 180, 190  Dimensions:  108, 66, 98 Super Cross Ti Lengths: 160, 170, 180, 190, 195 Dimensions: 109/71/99

Atomic BetaRide 10’20 Ti CXC

Here the difference in lightness from predecessors is less pronounced, but the fin de siecle 10.20  was hardly ponderous. The 10’22 cuts a clean arc but is less a pure carving machine than the members of the racing family. In a word, it’s wider and skis like a recreational free ride. Stable, flows from turn to turn, and, like most new era skis, more comfortable with carving technique than skidding. In fact, it revealed itself to be a bit balky and jumpy in skidding turns, especially at speed. Ok for straight running, though no pencil ski.

The 10’20 was surprisingly quick in short turns for a mid-fat. Our verdict: a great all around ski for expert levels. Lengths: 160, 170, 180, 190, 198  Dimensions:  105/68/95

BetaRide 9’20 HC

The exceptionally light-feeling BR 9’20 is surprisingly stable at speeds above 20mph, although not in the same league as the race skis or even the 10’20, and is a reliable carver. This ski, unlike the others, works well driven by cross-under technique or by skidding-based traditional style, although the slight bias is toward carving. It even tracks reasonably well in straight running. The 9’20 is also capable of respectable fall-line work, although it is not nearly as quick as the 9’16, but then, we have found few skis that are. This is another excellent choice for skiers developing carving skills. Lengths: 160, 170, 180, 190  Dimensions: 106/66/90 

Skis: General Survey

Accelerated innovation in boot design tempts us to dub 2001 The Year of the Boot, but important advances in shaped ski technology should maintain skis’ traditional position as the sexiest gear. Three key trends emerge for the new season:

Correct length is as important as the right ski.

It’s hard to find a “bad” ski, but easy to make a bad personal match.

Super-short slalom skis have arrived as a significant category.

Ski manufacturers this fall unleash improvements ranging from minor tweaks to novel designs in which ski flex, vibration and shock are managed in clever new ways. Several companies, among them Atomic, Hart, K2 and Volant, trot out essentially re-designed lines. Blizzard, absent from the U.S. for several seasons, returns with an aggressive model line-up and high hopes.

All mountain skis—the softer side of the Free Ride genre—will continue as best sellers, but there’s a new player on the hill, which, despite initially high prices, we predict will vie in time for the top spot, at first in the East and Midwest. Most companies now have a super-slalom in the arsenal. These ultra-short skis re-define the concept of versatility and may be the most important development to materialize since those same all mountain skis were born as mid fats.

Speaking of short, it became clear during this test go-round just how important length really is and just how crucial it is to test any ski in a couple of lengths before buying. A mere 5 cm can make adjacent lengths of the same model seem like two different skis.

The harder-edged “new school” Free Ride craze escalates, at least in marketing minds, with manufacturers beefing up already beefy back-of-the-mountain choices for skiers to whom trail maps are but guides to where not to ski. The good news is that the category is receiving more attention and there are good choices, too, for those who only occasionally head for the outback.

Our carving ski group, including Giant Slalom, Race Carver and All Mountain Carver skis, now holds something for in-bounds fans from intermediates first tasting the thrill of the arc to serious Masters racers whose demands for power and precision resemble World Cup requirements as retail GS skis resemble race-room stock.

Courting advanced skiers who prefer not to modify technique years in the acquiring, companies cover that bet with models that, while not precisely pencil-like, work with traditional technique in fall-line skiing and all-purpose cruising.

We begin in-depth coverage of top models in September. Our approach may seem new to long-time readers. We pick a few top models for various skill-levels in each of four styles of skiing: all mountain exploration, packed-snow carving and cruising, deep snow adventure and fall line skiing. Some of our choices may surprise you, made not “by the book,” but according to your actual needs. A ski labeled Carver by the manufacturer may fit better in the all mountain group, for example, based on real-life performance. The opposite may be true. We focus on what counts: how skis work for specific skiers.

All mountain, all condition skiing and you’re going to need a Garmin Sat Nav for your Car, however often its difficult to decide which is the best for your needs

All mountain skis, which we differentiate from ultra-wide “Free Ride” skis, are the all-things-to-everyone tools among modern skis and have become the best selling design in the years since Volant unveiled the prototypical PowerKarve mid-fat. While not quite as effective in natural conditions as dedicated deep snow skis nor as tenacious on hard-pack as pure carvers, these chameleons provide most of the best of both worlds.

Dimensions are typically 6105 mm in the tip, between 67 and 72 mm underfoot and in the high 80’s to mid 90’s at the tail. They have more side cut than deep snow skis, which makes them more agreeable on the groomed than really fat boards and accounts for their versatility and is our criterion for differentiation.

While at this writing we have not yet finished compiling final test results, our list of top performers thus far includes Dynastar’s 4X4 ATV, suitable for a vast range of abilities, Rossingol’s powerful-yet-forgiving Bandit XX and the K2 MOD-X designs, built on new technology consisting of two “skis,” one which sits on the snow and is meant to absorb shock and vibration and another mounted atop the first, through which the skier controls the whole assembly. Sounds complicated, but it looks and works like any ski. Rossi’s new Rebel XX, which delivers much of the performance of the more expensive Bandit XX, just may turn out to be the bargain of the year for intermediate to advanced off-piste skiers.

Certainly the most remarkable design, and harbinger of things to come, is Salomon’s Scream Pilot, available in two versions for intermediates through experts. The Pilot incorporates the binding into the ski itself. It is fastened with horizontal rods through the sidewalls rather than with vertically implanted screws. Salomon says this reduces the effect upon ski flex of traditional mounting systems.

Groomed snow carving and cruising

Few thrills in skiing equal the sensation of laying down cleanly etched “railroad tracks” in pure carved arcs. Not so long ago, this form of the sport was reserved for racers and other elite technicians, but shaped skis allow any skier to carve at moderate speeds.

Carving skis come in a variety of flavors. Many serious speedsters continue to rely on GS models, like the Head World Cup Ti, a macho monster stuffed with three layers of Titanium and delivered with a pre-mounted 15 mm Traction Plate. Although the Ti is difficult to manage below 20mph, it is unshakably stable at high speed and holds on ice like few skis can. Slightly more mellow is the newly lightened but still plenty powerful Atomic BetaRace 10’22 GS.

Other experts choose race carvers like Atomic’s BetaRace 9’20 RaceCarv, with a tighter turn radius and better low-energy manners than GS models. The P40 Platinum Energy Rail, which manufacturer Volkl labels a race carver despite a footprint identical to their F1 GS ski, suits high-intermediate through expert skiers and is equally adept at leisurely cruising, rapid-fire fall line turns and high-edge-angle trenching.

Surprisingly—and this notion may cause position-sensitive product managers throughout New England to cringe—super-slaloms, like Head’s World Cup Slalom, turn out not only to be superior fall-line slashers but extraordinary butt-near-the-ground carvers as well. This is one reason we predict they’ll become more important than most originally suspected.

Deep snow

Just as proliferation of all mountain skis has tempted many skiers away from the groomed part of the time, high-calorie Free Rides, which we call deep snow skis and which are generally over 105mm at tip and tail and 75mm and up at the waist, are luring other skiers away from prepared slopes more of the time. Backside adventuring has never been easier.

Guaranteed a spot on our top-choice list is Volant’s CHUBB, returning after a season’s absence with svelte profile similar to that of the demanding, now gone, CHUBB Ti. The CHUBB, which because of Volant’s stainless steel cap construction is longitudinally soft with exceptional lateral rigidity, not only floats like a cork and turns effortlessly in bottomless snow, but delivers a pleasant ride even on hard snow.

Serious helmet-headed hucksters of the Jackson-Snowbird persuasion will find Volant’s new big time backside ski, the Machete Huckster, one of the most powerful raw snow rides yet. Imagine driving a freight train through whipped cream or piloting an artic ice-breaker through semi-frozen fjords.

Rossingol’s Bandit XXX continues to set the benchmark for heavy-duty back-country iron, but Salomon’s Super Mountain surrenders nothing in power and stability and can do double-duty as a cruiser or hard-snow carver as well.

Fall line

Gravity-seekers, as opposed to G-force lovers, form a substantial part of our community, especially east of the Rockies. From cobra-quick fall line edge-set turns on hard-pack or ice to relaxed “slow motion” bump skiing, many of us still relish the challenge of maintaining precise control in the direct face of gravity and skis suited to the task are improving along with every other kind of ski.

Hart’s Boron, a moderately shaped GS-footprint ski, delivers the kind of performance that boot-together stylists have found increasingly difficult to obtain since the shaped revolution began and is a competent tool as well for high-speed arcing. With dimensions of 95/62/86, it, like Rossignol’s excellent Viper Z 9.3 (93/62/81), is one of the few remaining relatively straight skis.

The K2 GT6 has more pronounced side-cut than conventional, long-length slaloms that have only recently been swept aside by the racing culture, but performs adeptly under technique suited to those older designs and it responds well, too, to cross-under, feet-apart, simultaneous-edge change aggressive fall line attack, although most racers seem to have placed long slaloms permanently in their rear view mirrors.

The big news surrounds super-slaloms. While, as we noted above, these designs are surprisingly capable of producing big-mountain monster turns, their real raison d’ėtre becomes obvious in the fall line. Think flush. These are the fastest lateral skis we’ve seen. Some of them are formidable bumps skis in the bargain. It was interesting to note during the recent quadrennial PSIA Demo Team tryouts that a chunk of the candidate pool stood astride super-slaloms.

Atomic’s BetaRace 9’16 is one of the best and suited to skilled technicians and to those who are working to become skilled technicians. Salomon and Volkl produce equally well-conceived shorties, the Equipe 10 3V and P40 SL Carver Energy, respectively. Like all new-era slaloms, these skis are available in sub-180cm lengths and shorter is generally better.

Rossingol has created the Viper Power-T for more relaxed recreational skiers, which is to say it is built with super-slalom silhouette but lacks the heft and demanding nature of models designed strictly for racing. This is, in our opinion, a brilliant approach; look for more manufacturers to introduce de-tuned short slaloms in future.

Boot Fitting: Unlike Skiing, a Team Sport

Spurred by specters of legal reproof for malfeasance real or imagined, the industry defined a protocol for selecting, mounting and adjusting bindings way back in the Seventies. More recently, ski manufacturers seem finally to have standardized boot position, moving from a mystifying mix of ball-of-foot, toe mark and center mount methods to a single system built on the now nearly ubiquitous mid-sole mark.

Boot fit procedures, however, remain as chaotic as ever. No general protocol yet exists; anything goes. Approaches span a spectrum from mega-sale crude-“What’s your shoe size? Try these; use extra socks if you have to”-all the way to expensive on-hill and in-lab sessions with renowned gurus who set up shop at premier resorts armed with exotic theories and more technical gear than you’d find in a forensic laboratory.

Given that boots are central to the skiing experience and that accurate fitting and alignment are complex undertakings through which experienced boot techs remain uniquely qualified to shepherd individual skiers, we set out to discover whether a de-facto protocol exists among, at least, top tier technicians.

We contacted six of the best known boot pros in the U.S. to ask how they do what they do. We weren’t interested in the particular methods this or that technician uses to stretch shells or pad liners, but rather in how top pros diagnose customer needs, communicate with clients during fitting and how they organize the process itself. Our contextual question: “How can skiers help you do your best work?”

What we found was encouraging, if short of defined protocol. Each technician has his own approach to the three crucial areas, but agree that these are the key elements of the fit/alignment process. All six feel strongly that client-technician teamwork is requisite for good outcome. Boot fitting is not something the technician does to a customer, nor should skiers dictate solutions like demanding a specific fix-punch out here-or a particular model based on advertising or endorsements.

As Jeff Bergeron of Boot Fixation in Frisco, Colorado, puts it, “The technician has but two tools with which to satisfy your boot needs. The first is his own expertise; the second is your feedback.” All agreed that just as they must exercise skill in getting to know and understand customer needs, so for top results must clients understand how to work with a technician.

What follows flows from our “virtual round table” discussion with Bergeron, Corty Lawrence of Footloose in Mammoth, Footwork’s Tim Hutchinson, South Paris, ME, Greg Hoffman who operates The Green Mountain Orthotics Lab at Stratton, VT, Master Fit University co-director Jeff Rich, proprietor of NYC’s U.S. Orthotic Center, and Steve Bagley of Superior Ski at Snowbird, Utah.

We didn’t sit down with all six players at a single location-we interviewed each by phone-but for clarity we’ve consolidated major points. While each technician approaches tasks uniquely, overall similarity of advice was striking and consensus on most critical issues was clear.

We did not focus specifically on new boots-most of these pros’ clients seek solutions for existing problems and two members of our panel don’t even sell boots-but the techniques are the same for new or old.

As corollary, we discovered identifiable hallmarks of expert technicians: they listen, observe and guide and possess vast knowledge of boots, biomechanics, human nature, communication skills, ski technique and modification procedures. This alone is worth the price of admission.

This time, we examine establishing good communication. In the next issue, our panel members describe ways to pin-point causes of pain or discomfort, to differentiate between real boot problems and issues which masquerade as boot problems and the steps each takes to resolve the real problems, which are not always obvious.

Getting to know you

“Teamwork,” Tim Hutchinson explains, “is essential. The more information I get from the customer, the better the result will be.”

Our panel unanimously agrees that technician and client must establish a good relationship built on mutual understanding of needs, goals and procedures. The technician needs to know about you: how you ski, where you ski, how long you’ve skied and how often you go, what terrain and conditions you prefer and which you avoid, what other equipment you use, what your skiing goals are, what your perception of the problem is and your anatomical configuration. You need to know how to describe the problem and both must establish a common technical language.

Rapport is essential. If you encounter an instance in which you simply do not like the technician’s personality, find someone else, regardless of his reputation or skill.

Tell me, Doctor, how bad is it?

Our panel speaks as one on the issue of foot and physiological examination. All agree that close examination of the foot, along with observations of whether the client is short, tall, long-legged, bow legged or knock kneed, or displays any other unusual physical characteristic, reveals encyclopedic data to the trained eye.

“I watch them walk as they enter the shop,” says Corty Lawrence, “and you learn about a person’s foot from the initial handshake. Are the fingers long and bony? Is the hand small or more pudgy? This will tell you a lot before you even look at the foot.”

Physiological examination, of course, is the crux of the matter. The competent tech will examine both feet and both ankles, observing static configurations, how they bear weight and will manipulate feet and ankles to discover degree of mobility or rigidity. He will consider the biomechanical composition of the body, what super-coach Harald Harb calls the kinesthetic chain.

Jeff Rich takes this procedure to the extreme, just short, as he puts it, of Voodoo.

“People are products of their lifestyles; you are what you do. We see a lot of exotic professionals here and we’ve learned to anticipate difficulties based on a person’s calling. Camera operators, for example, assume a specific stance while they work-typically, the right foot is flatter than the left and the right hip is rotated forward. Fencers’ back feet are likely pronated while the front foot is neutral. Runway models exhibit similar characteristics. Desk bound executives often develop lower back and calf problems which affect stance, gait and fore/aft balance.”

Just the facts, Ma’am

Brimming with boundless potential for miscommunication is the sensitive issue of skill level. According to Steve Bagley, “People tend not to get their ability level right. Some exaggerate, others underestimate their skills.”

Hoffman concurs. “Everyone’s an expert,” he says with a chuckle. “We as individuals are the only ones who don’t know what we look like. What we’re feeling on the hill and what others see can be two different things.”

Lawrence suggests a simple series of objective questions designed to discover skill level with minimal risk to the ego. “I ask how they like to ski. Long, slow turns? Bumps bashing? High speed arcs? Where do they ski? Front side? Backside? One clue for me is to listen to words the client uses. If she complains about having trouble in ‘deep stuff’ on a fluffy powder day, this tells me about her level. Does the client describe hard pack as ‘ice’? Does he find every condition ‘great’? I learn from the way people talk about their experience.

Jeff Rich offers the most succinct advice: “Gentlemen, check your egos at the door! Ladies, speak up!”

Our panel agrees as well that information about other equipment-skis, bindings, old boots- contributes mightily to an effective process. What do you like about your equipment? What do you dislike? Do compatibility problems lurk in the mix?

What does “tight” mean?

In the next installment, we discuss all the best sat nav reviews on the market to include shell fitting, how inner boots force bad sizing, how to isolate boot problems from other problems, the nature of pain, what not to expect from boot modification, how top technicians structure the actual work process, how to achieve simultaneous high performance and comfort and what you should expect to pay for boot service.

As Bagley puts it, “Ski boots can be comfortable.”

Personal Testing—Planning

There is no substitute for personal ski testing. Skiers who rely on reviews, published here or anywhere else, run a big risk not only of getting the wrong ski, but, maybe even worse, not getting the right one. Today’s skis are so good, that it is possible to find a ski capable of opening up un-dreamt of levels of performance. Try before you buy, or you’ll never know. And, as you are no doubt aware, big bucks are at stake; not merely for the skis themselves, but for every other dollar spent on skiing.

Following are our suggestions for performing your own on-snow tests.
The Extreme Importance of Boots

Ski boot fit and alignment are so important that without correct fit and alignment, no skier will be able to distinguish between ski models, evaluate performance characteristics of skis or even determine whether skiing problems derive from technique, skis or ill-fit boots.

Anyone wishing to enjoy skiing should work with a qualified boot technician to determine that all is well. Anyone wishing to test skis effectively must eliminate boot problems.

This subject is complex and requires hands-on evaluation. While I have written about what constitutes a good fit, the best way for any skier to determine his or her state of fit is with knowledge and assistance. The knowledge is available in Harald Harb’s best-selling book Anyone Can Be An Expert Skier, available from amazon.com and fro barnesandnoble.com. The book goes well beyond fit and alignment; it is a must for any serious skier’s library.

Qualified technicians can be found in most boot-only shops in resorts. If possible, find such a shop. Boot work is best performed near snow; this is virtually the only way in which to test progress during the process.

Please contact us for more information and, if you cannot locate a good shop, assistance in that area.
Pre-selecting Test Skis

No one can test all skis. so it becomes necessary to pre-select skis for on-snow testing.

The short answer is to locate 3 or 4 skis which sound about right, using magazine reviews, other test reports, like our own, and past experience with specific brands. Arrange in advance with an area shop to test ski them, one after the other, making notes and determining which you especially like. Most shops located near lifts at resorts and ski areas have programs which will allow you to do this.

Most city shops do not. Virtually any shop will charge fees ranging between $30 and $50 per pair for such a test, which may sound like a lot, but most shops will also apply demo fees to the final purchase. Call ahead for specific policies.

It may also be possible to attend “Demo Days” at your favorite area. These have the advantage of being right on the snow, of having technicians available to adjust bindings and of being free. Hundreds of such events occur throughout the season, many of them in the “quiet” times in January and early February. Chances are your own home area has such events on the calendar. A phone call can find out.
The On-Snow Process

Please click here for suggestions for effective on-snow testing, along with a simple test form.

Why Skis Turn: What the ski, not the skier, does

Despite talk about “shapes”, too little has been explained of why super side cut skis make skiing easier for every level of skier.

The principal design characteristics of a ski that affect turning behavior are depth/shape of side cut and flex pattern, the ski’s ability to bend in reverse, or de-camber.

The picture above shows a skier approximately 80% through a carved turn to her left. Notice that the stance (weighted or “outside”) ski is de-cambered, cutting an arc through the snow in such a way that the tail of the ski travels in the groove the tip has etched. In carved turns, the edge moves forward through the snow in an arc; there is no lateral movement of the ski across the surface of the snow. The ski slices forward through the snow as though on a monorail or like a knife through warm butter.

At the moment the edge angle is relaxed and pressure transferred to the new stance ski, the old stance ski will return to its original camber while the new stance ski begins to de-camber and slice into the snow.

Elite skiers have employed skis in this way for years, but the skill, strength and speed required to elicit this behavior from “pencil” skis and even many modern racing skis have been beyond the reach of the average recreational skier.

Shaped skis, especially “super shapes” like Head’s CyberSpace XT, de-camber and engage the snow at lower speeds and with less edge angle and stance pressure, which is how they aid recreational skiers. The difference is huge.

This is only part of the story. Please click here to go to the next page and understand exactly how shaped skis perform with different styles and techniques, traditional or new.