New in ski equipment

By Dave Irons

Feature Writer

Over the past couple of decades we have seen shaped skis revolutionize skiing with shorter skis making it easier for everyone. More recently rockers have come along and all companies are offering a variety of rockered models. With the growing popularity of off piste or tree skiing, wider skis have caught on.

If we totaled up all the models from all the ski manufacturers we would find over 300 choices and that’s not including the smaller boutique skis. There are so many choices that many skiers are lost when it comes to shopping for new skis.

One choice, however, has been largely eliminated. Instead of buying skis and choosing a binding, many skis and bindings are sold as a system. This has come about partly as a result of ski companies acquiring binding companies or, in the case of Salomon, a binding company adding ski manufacturing. In other cases, ski and binding companies simply partner with each other to provide packages while remaining independent.

For the buyer it simply means getting a package deal which matches the best binding for the ski’s performance and saving a few bucks. You can still buy what the industry calls flat (skis without bindings) skis and pair them up yourself, mostly racing skis and off piste models.

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While years ago we had three choices — slalom, giant slalom or combis — today we have all mountain, big mountain, carvers, free ride and so on. There are skis for hard snow, soft snow, groomed runs and off piste and twin tips for terrain parks and moguls.

Which ski is for you is best determined by where you ski. If you ski mostly smooth, groomed runs, choose a more narrow model. If you like to ski off piste, in ungroomed snow you might want a wider model.

How wide? Race skis are the skinniest, 65 to 70 mm at the waist. The widest are the truly fat skis, primarily for deep powder, 120 mm at the waist. In between are models ranging from 75 to 100 mm, with a lot of popular models in the 84 mm range.

Here in the East, 65 to 70 mm makes sense if you ski only groomed runs and up to 84 if you ski off piste. The good news is that there are skis at 84 mm that ski very well on groomed runs and still offer the wider profile for off piste, such as the Volkl RTM 84.

Obviously it’s impossible to review 300 plus models so let’s pick a ski or two from some of the companies as a good place to start. It will also help to hit various price points.

One example of the way new technology has worked its way down into lower price models is the Atomic Smoke TI. This ski can be found in shops for around $600 with a binding and will be a good fit for most intermediate and many advanced skiers. With a 76 mm waist it works well on groomed slopes and off piste.

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Although the brand has a lot of choices in a range of prices, my favorites from Blizzard are the Suspension series, almost race skis for advanced skiers. Try the Power 800 for around $1,000 with binding, for great edge hold with a forgiving feel.

Elan’s Amphibio series are grabbing the headlines for innovation and offer superior edge hold, but the Delight will be found in shops for under $700 and offers versatility for beginners and intermediates. This is the kind of ski you see instructors on when they’re looking for something easy to demonstrate turns on.

Fischer built their reputation on race skis and when you head out on one of their race models you can count on a solid tracking ski with no speed limit. Just a step down is the RC4 Superior Pro, a solid carver that is more forgiving than the race models. Look for them under $1,000.

Head offers performance at a bargain price in the REV 78, an all-mountain ski with a 78 mm waist for off piste fans. This ski lists for $575 with binding and may be found in shops for less. It’s an example of how a lot of skis can be found in the low to moderate price ranges.

Rossignol has long been known for high performance skis and their current line includes every level, but the Pursuit 12 TI sells for $500 with bindings. With a 70 mm waist, it’s a ski for groomers and should work fine for almost any level skier who takes time on groomed runs.

From Salomon comes the Enduro series, an all-mountain front side ski available in waist widths of 74 to 84 mm and priced from $400 to $900 with bindings. This is typical of many companies offering a variety in price and performance. If a skier demos the Enduro series, there’s a good chance one will fit the technique of the skier.

We started with the Volkl RTM 84, an all-mountain model with tip and tail Rocker for $1,059. The RTM series includes nine models from $349 up to the top of the line 84. Somewhere in the line there is a ski for about any ability and any budget.

And this is the important thing about today’s new skis. There are models for every type of skier, every ability level and at every price range. Check with your favorite ski shop, select a few models and demo them. Then, maintain them carefully and have a great season.

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