Every winter brings new ski gear. Ski technology advances and manufacturers launch their vastly improved products, so-called game-changers when it comes to charging down the ski slopes. The best way to determine what ski is best for you is to try it before you buy it, right?! That's why I love the on snow Super Ski Demo held at Okemo every December, now in its 5th year. Last weekend, my husband Greg and I sampled as many skis as we could. Here are our 2014 ski winners.
Best 2014 Eastern Carving Skis
Volkl RTM is a classic carving ski with the bonus of a bit of rocker in the tip and tail to make it versatile, and fun. Available in 81 or 84 mm waist, this ski rips arcing turns on hard pack but also has the ability to plow through mixed snow and crud. RTM means" Ride the Mountain" and that's exactly what you will want to do on this well constructed ski.
Rossi Experience 88 and its wider big brother the Rossi 98 have become a new beloved ski for professionals, instructors and coaches, and greg & me too. The Rossi Experience delivers versatility - a smooth but responsive ski at all speeds, loves to carve quick turns but is super stable during big sweeping GS turns or straight lining. The Rossi Experience has rocker in the wider tail and tip so it pushes through slush, powder and moguls nicely but still carves precisely. Let's just say Heather bought a pair of the Rossi 88's - loving the lighter quicker ski, while Greg got the Experience 98's for their beefy bold performance on all snow.
Rossignol's Temptation is the girlie version of the men's 88 if you want the Experience 88 technology underfoot in a slightly lighter, less demanding ski with obviously prettier female graphics.
Volkl Yumi is the her version of Volkl's RTM. Heather didn't get to demo the Yumi - always out on the slopes, not in the demo tent... which is clearly a good sign. Volkl's Yumi has been very well-received for hard snow carving, with a 83mm waist, I can only bet it's got good bite while being forgiving for females, with undeniable beautiful pink graphics.
HEAD's Super Shape I.Titan is a supreme carving machine. Everyone that skied this race-oriented ski on Okemo's corduroy came back to the demo tent grinning, ourselves included. It carves sharp turns and is stable at high speeds. No wonder the US Ski Team are on Heads. Ted Ligety, Bode Miller, Lindsey Vonn, and Julia Mancuso are all Head-ing to Sochi in February. The Head Supershape Titan is quick and super grippy on edge - well made by the Austrians. Our only complaint, this ski demands you be on your game, there is no floaty free ski feel here. Apparently the Head Rev 85 is a more forgiving ski, we did not get to sample it - due to its popularity at the demo tent (hint).
HEAD MYA 8 is the ladies version of the classic eastern carver Head Titan. The Mya has a slender, by today's standards, 84 mm waist making it shapely and quick on groomed corduroy. If you like to ski front side blue squares primarily - this is a good go to ski girls.
Blizzard Viva 8.0 is our lady tester Heather's favorite front side quick carving ski. It's her LBD, little black dress, it looks beautiful in sleek black graphics but is snappy and fast from short slalom turns to high speed cruising. The Viva has just enough rocker to make it forgiving in 6 inches of snow or spring slush, but is certainly not a powder ski at 120-80-105. For powder and mixed snow, you should ride on the Blizzard Black Pearl at 88mm waist, or the Blizzard Samba - Blizzard's new 98mm powder skis for girls.
Nordica's Fire Arrow is a surprisingly intense ski. The boot manufacturer is making carving skis that boot out much of the competition and the Fire Arrow at 84 mm skis fast and fierce with super edging capabilities. Nordica's retail rate is not inexpensive however, at $1500 it is pricier than Volkl and Kästle.
Nordica's Wild Belle was a head turner for Heather, this female version of Nordica's Hell & Back series has a light wood core that blends stability and energy together. The ski had a glassy smooth ride thanks to the rocker tip, and the faster the Wild Belle goes on edge, the happier she is.
Best 2014 Mixed Snow, Wider Western Style Skis
Faction Prodigy brought a surprise smile to Greg's face, despite the flashy orange color and crazy twin tip platform. It looks like a park to powder skis, but it carved beautifully, even short radius turn, and offered serious stability at all speeds. Leave it to the Norwegians to make a 98mm ski that excels in many conditions. Greg called the Faction "the best ski you've never heard of."
Rossignol Soul 7 is super popular with powder skiers out west, it has lots of rocker but is pretty quick when you ask it to carve a turn - given its 106mm waist width. For sure the Rossi 98 is more versatile, and a better choice for eastern skiers, but Rossi's Soul 7 or Super 7 (116mm) would be the goods to grab on a deep powder day like we had last Sunday at Okemo.
Blizzard Bonafide continues to offer bullish performance in a mix of snow conditions. The Bonafide has the strong carving characteristics of its more slender 80 mm Blizzard Magnum (hugely popular with racers) but the bigger 98mm ski stampedes through crud and heavy powder too. And the snorting bull graphic on the rocker tip is sure to inspire you to charge a little harder.
Volkl Mantra is still a men's mixed snow winner - with a wide rocker tip, dimensions 131-96-114, this ski is demanding but provides a great ride through all kinds of snow if you are on top of your game.
Volkl Kenja is a fun-loving all-mountain ski for ladies. Heather didn't think it ripped like some of the other chick sticks, it was more forgiving and fun. With 87mm it floats well through powder and pushes slushy snow out of the way. Volkl's Aura is an even fatter female ski at 96mm underfoot, it's a pretty pink powder ski with punch.
Atomic Automatic is a serious powder ski with full rocker tip and tail, and a platform of 117mm at the waist. My son who teaches skiing at Big Sky in Montana loves these Atomics for a free ski powder day.
Best Ski and Snowboard Graphics go to RAMP. These handmade US skis and boards from Park City, Utah, feature wine corks, woodpeckers, tater tots, lobsters - you name it on their top sheets. RAMP is an acronym for Rider Artist Musicians Project, started in 2010.
Our ski reviews represent only a fraction of the vast fleet of 2014 skis for sale. From front side carvers to powder boards, AT and Tele skis, it is overwhelming (but fun) to ski and analyze them all.
Our advice to you, get out and demo when you can. Or find a ski shop that lets you try before you buy with your demo/rental fee being applied to your purchase. And remember, don't over gear, be honest about your ability and where you will be skiing the majority of the time. Don't buy the 120mm powder ski because it looks cool if you are going to be cruising primarily groomers on the East Coast. Photos by Greg Burke at Okemo Super Ski Demo
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.familyskitrips.com and www.luxuryskitrips.com.