This year’s news in ski equipment is a simple continuation of recent seasons. The combination of new materials, technology and construction techniques has given skiers higher performance in several ways. Skis now deliver higher performance in much shorter lengths, and this year’s models are shorter still. Boots are easier than ever to fit, and that means more comfort even in high performance boots. Holding everything together bindings are now part of systems that enhance performance.

As with automobiles, competition drives improvements. Just as race car type suspension systems have made our cars handle better, race ski technology has been adapted to even intermediate and novice models to enhance performance. Those who like race skis will like today’s even better. The new side cuts make them quicker into the turn, while the new materials and construction give them better stability in shorter lengths.

The wedding of ski and binding into systems has eliminated one of the problems in ski design. Ski companies would design a ski with what they believed was the perfect flex pattern, and as soon as a binding was added, the pattern changed. Binding companies addressed this in a variety of ways. Some such as Look shortened the mounting distance by using a turntable which placed the heel screws further forward, while others, Marker and Tyrolia, offered variable flex models. The ESS binding, now Atomic, utilized a plate to remove the influence of the binding on the ski’s flex.

Now the bindings and skis are being designed under the same roof to work as a system and the results are very good as long as the binding is attached to a good ski. A mediocre ski will be a mediocre ski no matter what binding is mounted on it, but with all of the good skis out there today, getting a good ski is not a problem.

The first out was the Salomon Pilot. The skis have a built-in binding interface which accepts a specially designed binding and attaches with only a pair of pins. The system has been extended down from the early GS models to ski for virtually every level of skier. These boots skis and bindings all carry the Salomon name.

Other companies have consolidated, some renaming to have all products carry the same name, while others carry the original names but are marketed by a single company. Atomic has renamed the ESS binding and Koflach boots under the Atomic name. Rossignol has skis, boots and bindings under its own name, but also controls Dynastar skis, Look bindings and Lange boots. Head has its own skis and boots and also owns Tyrolia to complete its packages. Volkl and Marker are technically separate companies, but the owners of Volkl and Tecnica own Marker, so they work as a team. Dolomite and Elan are also part of the Tecnica, Volkl, Marker combo.

There are still stand alone companies, but distribution is often combined as in the case of Blizzard and Dalbello. Look for K2 skis to be packaged with Marker bindings although the companies are not connected.

What all this means to the skier shopping for skis varies. Some skiers want a particular ski and binding combination such as Volkl skis and Salomon bindings. It’s still possible, but there is a good chance the shop can offer a better price on Volk/Marker or Salomon/Salomon, because of the manufacturers packages. The best bet is to discuss all of this with the shop. System pricing has created some sticker shock, but that’s because the skis and bindings are priced as a unit, obviously more than skis alone.

While many of the systems offer superb performance, with the new skis, high performance can be found in many skis, and with all the push toward systems, skiers looking for bargains can find them in leftovers. Any skier with skis more than five years old can step up to left over skis from a year ago and get a real boost. System or not, today’s skis are the best ever, and skiing them has never been easier. As always, the best way to find the right ski for you is to get out and demo them.

Early season

demo days
Sunday River:

November 29-30

Sugarloaf:

December 5-7

Cannon:

December 12

Loon:

December 13


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