On skiing: Checking out next year's gear

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A little over a week ago I headed over to Loon Mountain in  New Hampshire where 10 or a dozen companies had next year’s products on hand for ski shops to try out.

For many years, the Eastern and New England Ski Reps ran a combined show at Stratton Mountain in Vermont. The expense of taking their employees to one of New England’s more expensive resorts for three days caused a number of shops to forego the show, especially those from Maine. To make it easier and less expensive for their shops, the New England Reps set up a show at Loon. The demos were set up for two days, giving shops a chance to try the new skis, boots and accessories such as poles, goggles and helmets.

The Loon show allowed me to check things out in a single day, driving an hour and forty-five minutes instead of four hours to Stratton and staying over for three days.

The caveat is that the weather has to be good enough to drive over the Kancamagus Highway that goes through remote forest from Conway to Lincoln. The high point on the road is 2,800 feet and is no place to be driving in poor winter weather. The day I chose was sunny and warm, ideal for driving a scenic highway through the White Mountains.

It was also an ideal day for checking out new skis.

My first stop was Stockli, brand represented by Brent Mohr. Longtime Sugarloaf skiers know Brent, who was a regular part of the Celebrity Cup and that once-huge fund raiser for the Jimmy Fund. He has now been repping this Swiss brand for a number of years and has seen it go from relatively unknown ski to a popular one. It’s not a bargain brand, as the skis are still hand laid up. Their race skis are among the very best and the same care goes into the recreational models. If you like high performance race skis, the Stocklis are all full camber, and carve with the best. A model that would perform well on groomers is the Laser AX. The skis retail for about $1100 without bindings, but if you’re willing to pay the price the skis are superb.

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I stopped by the Elan tent and found the usual array of models. Skiers remember Stenmark as the best skier ever on Elans for 86 World Cup wins, but today the best known skier on this ski out of Slovenia is Glenn Plake. Their race models, very precise skis, can be found for $999 (giant slalom) and $899 (slalom), both with bindings. The Amphibio series, the number signifying waist width range from the 88 at $899 on down down to the 76 at $499 with bindings. The Amphibio 78 Ti is an example of a lot of performance for $599. This is a ski that most good skiers could be happy on if they allow their egos to accept that they are not on the most expensive ski on the mountain.

At Rossignol I got the lowdown from former freestyler Dino Dudenake, who has repped for Rossi for decades. He explained the new Line Control Technology, a construction change that incorporates an interior Titanal Power rail that provides smoother snow contact stabilizing the ski. The technology is in the new race skis and also in the Hero Elite series. The ST TI (Konect) has race ski dimensions (68 mm waist) for $1099. 95 with bindings. The MT TI at 74 mm is a value at $799.95 with bindings. The Experience series is back for off piste skiers who like a wider model. These skis range in price from $899.95 to $599.95 with bindings.

At HEAD, I found the V Series offering performance at prices that provide value at a number of levels. The widest, V10 at 85 mm waist goes for $899. Drop to the 78 mm waist V6 and it’s $599, both with bindings. My choices were the race models, Worldcup Rebels, 68 mm waist, three models from GS to Sl, all for $849 with bindings.

The focus at Volkl was on the new M5 Mantra, part of the off-piste series with a 96 mm waist. I didn’t try this ski as we had a firm surface and this tip and tail rocker model is more suited for powder. If you like wider skis this along with the Kendro is a good choice. The popular All-Mountain RTM series is back in waist widths ranging from 81 mm down to 76. Go with wider for off-piste, narrower if you stick to groomers. The race skis have a pair of new models in a slalom and a GS both with Speedwalls. Along with a pair of GS models have tip rockers. My preference is the Racetiger SL with full camber. In a ski as short as 165 cms, a good skier doesn’t need any rockering. The cosmetics have changed, green/red for GS and yellow/blue for SL. This means you’re likely to see sales on the current models, red for giant slalom and yellow for slalom. Unfortunately, prices were not available, but look for them at prices similar to last year’s.

Blizzard has always been a top race ski, especially among Europeans. For 2018-19 they have new race skis, new fronts side skis and new freeride skis for men and women. Two other brands with solid race skis and reputations for great edge hold and carving on groomed runs are Atomic and Fischer.

Overall, I found plenty of skis for any ability level and prices to fit most budgets. My advice for now is watch the sales and see if you can demo some before the season ends. There are fine skis out there and more on the way.

See you on the slopes.

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