Ski Whisperer: In Search Of The 'Perfect Ski'
Alas, there is no "perfect" ski, although skis in general are vastly superior to those available only a few years ago. Nevertheless, each year we publish a list of skis we consider to be the best available, a list we call Realskiers' Skis of the Year.
We identify Overall Skis of the Year as well as individual skis in each of six other categories in both mainstream and female-specific categories.
Some may not agree with our choices --opinions certainly will vary-- but these are all great skis and we are confident that none will disappoint.
Like Consumer Reports (r), subscriber-supported realskiers.com is free from advertiser pressure and these choices are based solely on performance as reported by our more than 100 test skiers.
Nor, for the same reason, are we compelled to limit our list to new-for-2013 models. Several skis are unchanged from last year and one continues from 2011. We simply find these the best currently available skis in their respective genres.
Of course, while all are superb skis, most won't be good choices for a given individual. It's important not merely to find a good ski, but to find one that matches how and where it will be used. For example, a reverse camber rocker is not the best choice for those who stick to the groomed, no matter what you may have heard in shops, forums or from well-meaning amateur friends. Similarly, a frontside carver is not right for the all mountain roamer who spends limited time on the groomed.
We have room here only for quick thumbnails sketches of each model; detailed reviews, including test skier comments, are available at realskiers.com.
Overall Ski Of The Year:
Kastle MX 83
In a line chock full of great skis, the 83 is the standout! We received the most cards and they were overwhelmingly positive. The 83 is the overall Ski of the Year and may be the ultimate resort-based 1-ski-quiver for both traditional and modern technique.
Elan Amphibio Insomnia
Elan's proprietary Amphibio camber profile works. The Insomnia is suitable for almost any skill level or terrain and condition, although it rely shines on the groomed. The ski is ideal for technically developing skiers and has enough "headroom" to remain a favorite for seasons to come.
It is one of a handful of skis that have received all 5's for performance in the 14 years we have been testing. 'Nuff said . . .
SkiLogik Ullr's Chariot and The Goddess
The most versatile ski we've ever tested, this may be closest yet to the mythical "universal" ski.
A solid carver, the ski also handles deep snow, crud, chop, speed and all but the most fearsome bumps. The Chariot is reliable and predictable and not difficult to handle for any skier with solid technique. In our opinion, the most impressive 1-ski-quiver on the market.
The Goddess is the same story in a female-specific ski.
Please don't confuse these with RL models, to which these comments do not apply.
Both of these skis are what we call "mainstream" skis. There are no female -specific race skis; women just use shorter lengths of the same ski.
Head Worldcup i.SL RD
The RD is no-holds-barred World Cup ski similar to that being used by Ligety, Vonn, Miller and company. We say similar because athletes have quivers of competition skis tailored to specific conditions and even specific courses.
This is not a recreational ski for the masses, but if you ski the fall line proficiently on serious ice or compete seriously in citizen racing, there are few better tools.
Kastle RX 12
While not an actual GS ski, the RX is as much as one could possibly want outside a top-tier NCAA race course. If you are looking for the real thing, see Atomic or Head, but if you want one of the best high speed carving machines yet made, look no further. This is a superb ski for high end technical skiers.
Nordica FireArrow 84 EDT
Two words sum it up: Power Carver! This is not quite a locomotive, but close. The 84 may be too much for some, but if you like digging trenches on any kind of smooth surface, don't overlook this one. The 84 also is amazingly versatile. It is not designed as an all mountain ski, but can handle reasonable raw snow conditions. The ski really lives for high speed carving, slicing crud like a knife, to use the old cliché, through butter.
Head MYA No 5
Female-specific frontside carver featuring ERA 3.0 design and a tight turn radius of less than 11m. The "5" is a fun technical ski and a great choice for fall line carving.
A good tool for developing carving skills, the MYA has a wide skill level envelope; it is not overly demanding for the developing skier yet provides all the high end power and stability that experts require.
All Mountain -- 50% Groomed
Head REV 85 pro
This is the most-tested REV and, we suspect, will prove to be the most sought after of the REV group. It is a key player in resuscitating Head's all mountain credibility (at least among die hard iPeak critics).
Line Celebrity 85
Along with mainstream companion Prophet 85, the Celebrity rounds out an already strong all mountain line, no pun intended. It is capable of strong performance on the groomed or off, without being demanding. One quoted tester gave it what may be the ultimate accolade: "Makes you want to keep skiing!"
All Mountain -- 50% Off Piste
Blizzard Bushwacker And Black Pearl
The highly rated Bushwacker loses nothing in the 2013 upgrade. One of Blizzard's most versatile skis--maybe the most versatile--the Bushwacker is a true all mountain power tool, retooled using Blizzard's Flipcore technology and that returns to rave reviews.
Black Pearl is the female-specific version and scored even higher in our tests, becoming another one of the few skis in our history to garner top scores for every performance characteristic.
Adventure (aka Freeride) Ski:
The Kodiak is a legitimate powder ski, but with surprising technical capabilities. Even more surprising, as one skier put it, the Kodiak is "easy to handle." This brand new ski definitely is a freeride wonder more than worth considering.
Salomon Rockette 115
This ski is the female-specific version of the Rocker 2 108 and sports a width of 108mm underfoot, even though it is called, for some reason, the 115. The Rockette is unusually versatile and a reasonable 1-ski-quiver for women who roam the entire mountain, including the raw outback.
Identifying superior skis for a list such as this is all well and good and we hope it helps narrow the field, but please remember that even from among top-ranked skis like these, it remains possible to get a wrong one.
The ski must fit you, not the other way around. The only way to determine whether it does or not is to try for yourself before buying. As always in our advice, the last word is "demo!"
Until next time,
Have Fun, Don't Fall
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