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Ski Whisperer: Best Bargain Skis From The Worst Season - Ever?


OK, 2011/12 hasn’t been the greatest season on record—some say the worst. Nevertheless, there has been some reasonable skiing, even in the climate-challenged Northeast. Equipment sales, however, have been down.


The good news: Fall sales are expected to be strong and many top skis are likely to be available, whereas in a normal year they tend to go long before preseason sales.


2012 saw the introduction of a great many good skis and a number of great ones.


Skis we judge to be both exceptional and representative of their respective genres—based on scores, tester interviews and personal experience—become Skis of the Year. These are our picks for 2012. 


They may not be yours, or even the "best" skis for every skier, but all are credible and we're confident that, for the right skier, none will disappoint. They are good buys even at suggested retail; on sale, they are great bargains.


Complete reviews are available on realskiers.com.


Groomer Cruisers


Rossignol Experience 76 Aramide:



Rossignol at one point described the new Experience and Temptation models as "'S7s for the frontside." We're not sure we'd describe them exactly that way, but it was during testing one of the Experience models that it stood out even more clearly to us that new skis are making skiing easier for many people. The 76 is an ideal example of why and how.


Fischer KOA 73 My Style:



Vaulting the 73 to the top of our relaxed cruiser list is that it is at once user-friendly for casual skiers, an excellent learning tool and endowed with enough performance to remain adequate beyond the usual season or two typical of skis like this. A rare combination.


Technical Skis


Dynastar Speed Course Ti:



When informed of the impending demise of the classic Contact 4X4 in January 2011, we expressed our disappointment in strong terms. Dynastar suggested that the Speed Course Ti is the logical replacement—15m @ 171, 72mm underfoot. Frankly, we had not thought of the Course that way. 


The Course was on our radar as a superb Masters GS ski, but when we tested it head-to-head with the 4X4, its versatility became apparent. The fit is not perfect, but close enough to be credible, especially on the groomed. This made the Course a contender in two categories and ultimately the frontside technical Skis of the Year.


Elan Amphibio Insomnia: 



Elan has shown the most innovative approach thus far to early rise tip design.   From our review of the WF 12, itself favorably scored: The essence of Amphibio is that outside sections of tip and tail are mildly 'early-risen', while inside edges follow a traditional camber profile. The idea is to allow ease-of-use and technical performance features in the same ski.


It works. Amphibios did very well in this year's reviews, and with across the board performance scores of 5, the Insomnia is a standout and a Ski of the Year.


All Mountain biased toward the groomed (50% +)


Elan Amphibio 82xti:



We were skeptical when we first heard about Elan's Amphibio design with mixed traditional/early rise tip profile. The question was whether the asymmetric profile—different medial (inside) and lateral (outside) tip configurations—would create timing or other issues during weighted or two-footed release (see our technique articles for more on this).  Not to worry! 


Some of our more technical skiers harboring similar concerns found the ski is as adept at four-edge technique as are most "normal" skis. If all that seems a bit technical, the important bottom line is this is a great and versatile all mountain ski that scored almost as well as the Insomnia. A worthy 1-Ski-Quiver.


Fischer KOA 78 My Style:



When a ski receives scores like the 78 did—seven 5's and 1 four—and unanimously positive comments from our skiers, it is easy to anoint it as one of the Skis of the Year. This may well be the ultimate female-specific 1-ski-quiver for 2012.


All Mountain biased toward off piste (50% +)


Movement Jam:



Noted sometime wide ski critic and realskiers contributor Harald Harb includes this summery in his own reviews:  "We were astonished at its performance. Quick rebound makes them snappy from edge-to-edge. They grip on hard snow without flapping and you can charge from powder to crud to wind slab to crust without hesitation—the tip will not let you down. If you want a one-ski quiver with a slight bias toward the ungroomed, look no further."


Nordica Infinite:



The Infinite, like the KOA 78, received almost perfect scores (seven 5's and one 4) and comments like this: "Best balance of flex, torsion, and damping on the woman's market. Nimble enough for bumps, stable enough for GS turns at almost any speed and edge grip just shy of an ice pick." Although unchanged from 2011 (when it was runner up in this category) and therefore not re-tested, we did receive a few new cards that put it over the top for 2012.




Blizzard Cochise:



To our amazement, one of our more hard-core rocker-holdouts actually enjoyed this ski . . . as did virtually every test skier who rode it. We don't have a "Rocker of the Year" category, but if we did, this would be it. As is, the Cochise is our choice for freeride Ski of the Year, dislodging Rossi's legendary S7.


Armada VJJ:



The VJJ garnered unheard of technical performance scores for a rocker and more than one skier opined that it may be the ideal 1-ski-quiver for females. We have mixed feelings about that, but there is no doubt this is a great female-specific deep snow ski that also handles respectably in-bounds.


Overall Skis of the Year


SkiLogik Ullr’s Chariot TT / SkiLogik Goddess:



This is the first time we've picked a ski two years back-to-back.  We had very strong candidates this year, including Elan's Amphibio WF 82 xti which became the Big Mountain Carver of the Year, but in the final analysis, we had to go with the Chariot (and it's female-specific companion, the Goddess). 


These skis represent the current benchmark for versatility. Race skis carve better, but these are respectable. Rockers render powder easier, but not all that much easier. Other skis are quicker in bumps, but not all that much quicker. And so . . .  


Simply put, the Chariot and Goddess are the most versatile, terrain-balanced, do-everything, skiable-by-almost-anyone, 1-ski-quivers we've yet come across and so are our picks, again, for Overall Skis of the Year.


We are now in the process of gathering test cards and beginning to put together 2013 reviews to be released this summer.


While this is my last column here, we’ll keep the party going all summer at realskiers.com.


Until next time,

Have Fun; Don’t Fall!

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