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RealSkiers: A Dispatch From The Trenches

Ski TestingI’ve recently concluded four days of intensive ski testing at Mt. Rose, Nevada and Mammoth Mountain, California. Naturally, the first question posed during this ski fetishists’ festival by a fellow fanatic is, “What do you like?” 

The easy, and accurate, answer is there’s a lot to like and very little to dislike as long as one matches the ski to the conditions and skier expectations of performance. 

The test conditions were optimal for any ski with carving in its DNA and sub-optimal for evaluating skis meant more to swivel than slice. Given the nature of the snow surface, it’s little wonder that what stood out were skis with elite carving capacity. 

Be2017 ski standoutsaring in mind that these first-blush impressions aren’t meant to pre-empt a more thorough examination buttressed by hundreds of test cards, here’s a hot list of what skis and ski-related trends rose to the top of mind after our first look at the future. 

Trendsetters like the trend

You could see it in the tracks they left in their wake: expert skiers are elated with the renewed emphasis on narrower skis. Manufacturers are getting better at making skis up to 98mm wide underfoot supple and light enough to arc, making them better all-terrain tools. 

Any must-ski models? 

Last week, a realskiers subscriber requested we provide, as a reader service, a comparison between the 2016 Head i.Supershape skis and the 2017 updates on the same models. Here’s our capsule report:  OMG. The 2016 Speed, Magnum, Rally and Titan in this carving collection were already superb. The new babies ooze power comingled with feather-touch ease. What’s better than superb, über-super, maybe?  

Any other standout new weapons for trench warfare?

In a field crowded with capable contenders, three models excelled at making the powerful skier feel instantly at home: Nordica’s GT 84 Ti EVO, Fischer’s The Curv DTX and Stöckli’s Stormrider 83.  As is the case with Head, these three brands have never taken their eyes off the Technical ski category and now find the market swinging back to their wheelhouse genre. 

Market leader Rossignol revamped the core of their line. What model got the biggest boost from their latest technology?

The Experience 88 HD. While the addition of a Carbon Alloy Matrix benefits all the 2017 models that sport this enhancement, the already wildly popular E88 evinced the greatest improvement in all aspects of on-snow handling.  The edge hold is better on hard snow and in long, cross-hill arcs so the ski is calmer overall whether on trail or off. 

Are there any fat skis that also carve well? 

That depends on your definition of “fat.” What we’ve observed is that below 100mm waist width (for a man), a good skier can carve comfortably without any modification in technique.  Important modifiers pertain: a more torsionally rigid ski will feel fatter than a softer ski of roughly the same girth. Some wider skis will never connect at the top of the turn, so their effective carving surface may only be underfoot. 

What new all-mountain skis have true all-terrain aptitude?

There is an embarrassment of riches in this huge hodgepodge of models. We found instant happiness on the revised Brahma from Blizzard and predict a strong reception for Nordica’s Enforcer 93.  Elan’s Ripstick 96 shares with Fischer’s Pro Mountain 95 Ti a light, easy-to-bow feel married to implacable edge grip in big turns.  K2’s Pinnacle 88 combines an off-trail footprint with Frontside carving chops. 

What’s up with the best of the smaller brands?

We can’t pretend to keep up with all the “small batch” manufacturers, but we do keep an eye out for those who are working hard to find their niche in the specialty retail channel.  Among the few who fit this profile, we’re impressed with two in particular, Faction and Black Crows.  We’ll be giving both these brands a closer look in 2017.

Photos: Top -- RealSkiers testing yields early results (RealSkiers); Left -- A lot to like in new skis (RealSkiers)

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