When testing skis, it’s easy to focus on the top of the line models, something confess being guilty of. Years ago, this made sense because skis at the low end simply couldn’t measure up. That’s all changed. It’s like race cars, and the cars we drive. Today’s cars handle the way they do because technology was developed on the race track. Tubeless tires came from the track, as did rack-and-pinion steering and a host of other improvements.

The same is true with skis. We may not need the same skis Bode Miller uses, but the materials and construction developed for race skis are used for recreational models. The results are spectacular.

Every January, I spend a few days at Stratton Mountain to check out the skis that will be in the shops next winter. As I stated in my New Year’s resolution, I took the time to check out some of the skis in the lower price range, skis suitable for low intermediate skiers.

What I found were a variety of skis suitable, not only for low intermediate skiers, but also for high intermediates and even to advanced skiers. Many cost half the price of the top models.

One example was the Elan Magfire 8. It was easy to turn, but was unexpectedly solid at higher speeds. ($549 with bindings.)

I sampled a number of similar skis. While they varied in performance, all were easy turners at recreational speeds and very stable when speeds were increased. Most of the skis will be priced between $400 and $700. That may not seem inexpensive, but remember, bindings are included since most skis come as part of ski/binding systems. The top models, race and recreational, with bindings can run as high as $1,200.

One important thing to remember is the difference between MSRP (manufacturer’s suggested retail price) and “Street Price.” The latter is what you’re most likely to find the skis for in the ski shop, usually 10 percent or more below MSRP. The prices listed here are what you can look for in the shops.

Here are some skis to look for next season. I avoided the super wide skis as most skiers spend their time on groomed runs.

I tried four Head models. The Xenon Xi 9.0 at 75 mm underfoot was wider than most, but was still quick enough edge to edge, and the 7.0 at 73 mm was solid. With bindings look for them at $549 and $499. I also checked out the iXRC 800 and 500, closer to traditional widths at 68 mm – $599 and $429 with bindings.

For most brands I tried a pair or two. The Rossignol Z-3 , for example, has a 72 mm waist and I skied it in a 162 and a 170. Both worked fine with the 170 ($699) more stable.

One of the most impressive for price was the Atomic Nomad Sativa. The $399 with binding seems like a misprint, but I checked and that is the price.

At K2 I was directed to the Apache series and skied the Ranger 72 waist, 174 cms, Raider 78 waist, 167 cms, and Crossfire 70 waist at 174 cms. The Crossfire was almost a recreational GS, and all performed well.

I hit three Kneissel models – Silver Star 168, Black Star 168, and Super Moto 170 – and found solid performers.

I also got on some more expensive models. Stockli is a Swiss company that makes a limited number of skis and is better known for its race skis. The Spirit with a 67 mm waist at 170 performed at a higher level than the skiers it was designed for. It sells for $699 without a binding.

Another group that I tried was definitely not in the mid-price range, but certainly interesting. Volkl’s Tiger Shark series includes a pair with a power switch. The switch at the tail of the ski compresses springs at the end of carbon fiber rods, increasing rebound and energy. Depending on binding, they are priced at $1,119 to $1,249. The switch definitely made a noticeable change giving the ski more pop.

These represent a sample of next season’s offerings. You may find some in the shops before this season ends, and surely there will be some demos available. Also, there are plenty of this year’s models in the same categories, and they are worth checking out.

Now that winter is finally here, we have two more months of skiing. It’s a great time to try some new skis.

Dave Irons is a freelance writer who lives in Westbrook.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.