Of the professional perks of ski writing, sampling next year's gear is my favorite. Stratton's annual on-snow demo last week allowed retailers and industry folk to see and ski next season's equipment. With over 900 new skis and boards in the 2011-12 fleet, I focused on lady-specific skis (pretty but very performance-oriented), while my husband, Greg, explored the staggering men's selection. It's amazing how each ski turns and cruises differently, so the opportunity to demo is tremendous. Personal preference and conditions are a huge factor, and each manufacturer has an extensive line up (Rossignol has 40-plus ski types for example) so it's mind boggling recommending one ski.
Wide, reverse camber( aka: rocker)skis are still the rage next season, with more ghetto graphics - ho-hum, but the rocker technology seeps into the tips and tails of more traditional shaped skis for easier turn initiation and better float in snow. We skied 'em all - front side carvers, race skis, all mountain, even Kastle's BMX 118 mm twin tip fatties. Here are Of the professional perks of ski writing, sampling next year’s gear is my favorite. Stratton’s annual on-snow demo last week allowed retailers and industry folk to see and ski next season’s equipment. With over 900 new skis and boards in the 2011-12 fleet, I focused on lady-specific skis (pretty but very performance-oriented), while my husband, Greg, explored the staggering men’s selection. It’s amazing how each ski turns and cruises differently, so the opportunity to demo is tremendous. Personal preference and conditions are a huge factor, and each manufacturer has an extensive line up (Rossignol has 40-plus ski types for example) so it’s mind boggling recommending one ski.
Wide, reverse camber( aka: rocker)skis are still the rage next season, with more ghetto graphics – ho hum, but the rocker technology seeps into the tips and tails of more traditional shaped skis for easier turn initiation and better float in snow. We skied ‘em all - front side carvers, race skis, all mountain, even Kastle’s BMX 118 mm twin tip fatties. Here are our favorite skis for 2011-12:
Heather’s best women’s skis for 2011-12
Volkl Aurora is the ultimate expert eastern women’s ski, it’s powerful and precise, loves to carve when tipped on its side, but also feels fast when you just want to fly. I witnessed several men sampling the Aurora, with smiles.
Volkl Fuego is a fun, more light-hearted version of Volkl’s Aurora, a bit easier to flex with a tighter turning radius. The Volkl Aura and Volkl Kenja are fatter under foot but still lively and fun to turn, they’d be perfect in a little pow.
Head Mya 8 really turned my head and turned on a dime. Head’s flow ride system (instead of rocker) carves smoothly on groomed snow with enough softness in the tip to float through heavy snow or powder. No wonder Julia Mancuso skis a Head. The Head Mya6 is more forgiving, while the Mya8 stands up to the top women’s boards by Volkl.
Dynastar Elite is not just another pretty girl’s ski, the Elite was fast underfoot, and just wanted to rip big steady arcs. The Elite is for the technical expert woman, the rep called it K2s Burnin Love killer – a dig on K2 - the company that initiated the women’s ski movement a decade ago.
Blizzard Viva 8.1 or 7.6 is the little black dress of women’s skis. It’s nimble and quick to engage in a turn, steady in high speed turns despite its lightness, and well - I flew by men on these beautiful boards. The Viva is a softer and suppler version of the Blizzard’s Magnum for men.
Blizzard Black Pearl is wider underfoot (88mm), loves to plow through pow and crud but holds a worthy edge, a refreshing change from most reverse camber planks colored pink for girls that seem to skid. If the forecast was pow, I’d grab my black pearls and go.
Fischer RC 4 Fischer’s unisex performance carver was like a Henckel knife on hard pack, all grip no slip. I loved ripping quick edge to edge turns on these pseudo race skis. If you simply love to carve, this Fischer is the stick for you.
Elan Amphibia has a distinctive left and right ski with modified rocker on each tip to adapt to your uphill and downhill edges in a turn. These Elans carved circles around some of the competitors, so the technology works– but I prefer to swap my ski edges.
Greg’s Top Skis for 2011-12
Greg had four favorites, these all-mountain, all-terrain skis were head and shoulder above the rest from hard packed to crud and powder due to their design and width.
Rossignol Experience 98 is the quiver killer, an all mountain carver with a slight rocker tip and tail that floats over pow and crud but still carves with serious sidecut. There is no speed limit on the 98. Rossi’s 88 offers a narrower Experience with less metal.
Volkl RTM 84 means “ride the mountain.” Replacing the popular Volkl AC50 is this all around ski that tenaciously grabs the ice, but is wide enough to power through mixed snow. Perhaps a bit too heavy and stiff to be the ultimate powder ski, the RTM is ideal for aggressive, all mountain skiers.
Dynastar Legend 95 and 85 both ski incredibly well, a traditionally crafted ski from France that carved as well as any according to Greg. Both are grippy and great in heavier snow, particularly the wider 94 version, but the 85 may be a better choice for East coast skiing.
Head Titan is an impressive all around ski, carved well on hard pack, easy side to side yet wide enough to handle varied snow and terrain. The Titan likes to go fast, just ask Bode Miller & Ted Ligety who are both skiing on Head.
Other skis worth mentioning:
Blizzard Magnum 8.7 is an assertive turner in all snow conditions particularly for an eastern skier, strong enough to grip the ice, still turns like a champ in packed powder and thicker crud.
Volkl Code takes the place of the Tigershark, as a solid cruiser that loves to turn, the only thing quicker and more aggressive would be a race ski, but this is the ticket for the recreational skier who wants to rip cord.
Salomon BBR was the most unique looking ski – resembling a surf board or waterski . The BBR design is the latest from the XWing originator. It is supposed to be the one quiver ski with its arrow head tips and tapered waist, it certainly is a head turner. Greg skied it, and while it did carve well, he found it more gimmicky than effective but others love it.
So there are our picks from over 95 ski and snowboard companies, the good news – there really is a ski or board for everybody, and every condition – if only we had unlimited skid days and dollars to try them all. Stay tuned for our ski boot review, including the Oreck of boots and the return of the Raichle.
Photo by Greg Burke. For
more of Heather’s ski tips, go to www.familyskitrips.com:
Eric Wilbur is a lifelong recreational skier who spends most of his winter and spring in the mountains of New England. He does not ski in jeans. You can read more of Eric's work here.
Heather Burke is an award winning ski journalist with over a decade of ski news coverage. As a former ski instructor and a ski parent, she knows the ski biz from the inside out. She and her family visit New England ski resorts, as well as the West and Canada, to report on the latest trends and their best family finds. Her husband Greg takes all the accompanying photos, and their work can be seen at www.familysktitrips.com and www.luxuryskitrips.com.