Trends in ski equipment this year

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Is this your year for new skis? If it is and you didn’t take advantage of the pre-season sales, you have two choices. Take advantage of demos to find the right ski or rely on the advice of your shop. When I say rely on the advice of your shop, I’m assuming you have a regular shop, one where you purchase your equipment and have it maintained.

Every skier should have a solid relationship with their ski shop. If you have shop employees who know how you ski, fit your boots and maintain your skis and bindings, you can count on them to help you select the right skis.

Once you decide you need new boards, the question becomes which of the 300 or more models offered by the various ski manufacturers will fill your needs? On my desk are ski company catalogs, SKI Magazine buyers’ guides, some notes on ski reviews from online sources and my own notes taken while testing this year’s models last winter, far too much information to relay here.

The important question in selecting that new ski is, “Where do you ski?” Not which ski area, but where within the boundaries of the area. Do you spend all your times on groomed runs and don’t venture forth when it’s snowing? Or do you head for the trees and ungroomed snow as often as possible? Maybe it’s a combination of both.

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In a recent email from SKI Magazine, I spotted a list of skis recommended for groomed runs and checked the list. The trend in the magazines and with the ski companies is to recommend wider models and this was evident. The nine skis listed ranged from 74 mm to 83 mm under foot. The closest thing to a race ski was the Dynastar Speed Course Pro at 74 mm. A typical race ski will be 67 to 68mm. Having skied it, I can recommend the Speed Course. It carves easily and is nearly as quick edge to edge as the narrower race models.

Other skis on the list that I have skied and can recommend are the Volkl RTM 81, the Rossignol Experience 84 and the Head Supershape Rally 76, the number representing the waist width. While these are recommended for groomed runs, they offer enough width to handle off piste conditions as well and would make a good ski for a skier who divides his time between groomers and tree skiing.

While ski width is important, in recent years another construction has been added to the mix: rockers. Up until a few years ago, all skis had traditional camber — simply put: lay the skis flat on the floor and there would be a gap under the waist. True race skis are still made this way, although there are recreational race models that feature slight rockering at the tip. Full rocker is almost a reverse camber. Of the above skis the Volkl RTM is a full rocker. The Rossignol Experience is rockered at the tip and tail and Head Supershape at the tip. Rocker means a ski turns up slightly further back than the tip and also at the tail.

Rockers are typically more forgiving than traditional camber and hooking a tip is less likely, one reason many ski schools have gone with all rockered models for their rentals. Rockers are also an advantage in soft snow. It’s recommended that rockers be skied a bit longer, 5-10 mms.

When I check out new skis I have two goals. The first is to find skis that I can recommend for recreational skiers. The hardcore skiers don’t need my advice. They know what they want and usually have contacts with a shop so they can try a number of models.

Average skiers are more likely to look for recommendations. I look for skis that an intermediate skier can handle and offer high enough performance for that skier to advance without moving up in equipment.

The second goal is to identify skis that I like. Usually, that goal is met with a race ski. While I will ski powder on those days we have some, I rarely go off piste, opting instead for cruising on groomers. Today’s GS skis are perfect for this type of skiing, especially now that we’re skiing them in shorter lengths. The longest pair of skis in my quiver are 180s and my personal choice for this year is the Volkl Racetiger Speedwall GS UVO.

Volkl calls this their “Beer league race ski.” At 70 mms under foot, it’s a little wider than the Race Stock GS at 65mms. The tip rocker makes it a little more forgiving and the UVO feature smooths out the ride. Cost: $999 with binding.

In the Atomic line I found a lot of performance in the Nomad Blackeye, comfortable for an intermediate with room to grow, a lot of value for $600 with binding. My Atomic favorite was the Redster Double Deck 3.0 GS, a ski without a speed limit. Manufacturer’s suggested retail pice: $1,150, but look for it $100 or more less.

Elan has a variety of models with the Morpheo series for value. The 4, 6 and 8 step up in price and performance. Learn on the 4 and advance to the 8 for $600 and get a high-performance ski. My favorite was the Ripstick Fusion, a GS that likes speed, $1000 with binding.

I could go on, but you get the message. Within the various brands are models for all levels of ability, for skiing on and off piste, and plenty of value for the money. There are still systems out there and ski and binding combinations, but a lot more models now come what they call “Flat.” It simply means without bindings, mostly brought about by skiers who wanted new skis but didn’t want to give up perfectly good bindings. My advice is talk with the shop guy or gal, select a few possible models and find way to demo them. The right ski can make your winter.

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