Essential Gear

Outside magazine, Travel Guide 1997-1998

Essential Gear
By Doug Gantenbein


Quick-turning super-sidecut skis, which came from nowhere three years ago to dominate the market, have been refined and polished this year to tame just about any terrain snow falls on. Boots and bindings are catching up to give you even better leverage and control in the turns. Add to that ski styles for everything from pristine powder to crusty crud, and it means that consumers can tune their ski purchase like a violin. The end result: mixing gravity, snow, and a pair of boards has never been more fun.

K2's new Xplorer ($599) is the official ski of the Lewis & Clark Expedition. With its medium-fat width, deep sidecut, and beefy construction, it's a go-anywhere ski designed to blast through the heavy, wet drifts found out West while still carving hard snow as easily as slicing a Thanksgiving turkey. Volant's new SuperKarve I ($575) uses stainless steel to create a cap-construction, super-sidecut ski that has the torsional strength needed to hold its edge when you're really jamming a turn. Yet it's light and plenty flexible, and with Volant's perimeter-weighting design the SuperKarve I is as stable as Arnold Schwarzenegger's Hummer.

Dynastar knows that girls just want to go fast, and they can with the ATL ($595), a quick-turning, super-sidecut ski with a softer flex distribution adjusted to a woman's weight. It's especially adept at softer snow, with a wide body for flotation but a narrow waist for leaving the guys way behind on the corners. For skiers who want a shaped ski but don't want to sacrifice high-speed performance, Volkl's new P30 Race Carver ($735) is a high-speed ski that isn't afraid of crooked lines. It uses Volkl's vertical-wall, wood-core construction for quickness, power, and great edge grip. Not training for the Olympics? Then try Kastle's new C O9 ($425), which turns easily and floats well, yet has the heft and grip to take you from intermediate to black-diamond slopes this winter. Turn-masters will have a blast with Salomon's Axendo 9 ($635), a quick-carving ski with Salomon's Prolink technology that uses a built-in composite-construction arm to help keep you in contact with the snow. And Rossignol's new Energy Cut 10.1 ($479) is a super-smooth cruiser for skiers interested in just having a good time.

A good pair of poles does more than keep you upright — today's light, responsive poles help you ski better with less fatigue by putting more bounce in your pole plants. Kerma's Viper ($69) brings carbon-fiber technology to a more reasonable price range and comes with an easy-to-hold, more aerodynamic grip. Scott's new Boa ($130) has a thin-wall design that's lighter and stiffer than previous graphite poles yet is even stronger.

New boot designs are matching the developments in skis to become more specialized and to adapt to super-sidecut boards. Lange's new GX8 ACD ($525), for instance, has more fore and aft support to hold up to the hard, tight turns super-sidecut skis allow. Comfort and performance are being pushed by many bootmakers this year, including Tecnica with its new Explosion TNS ($535). This boot has a slightly de-tuned carbon frame for plenty of power in steep turns but a more forgiving feel on easier slopes. Nordica's new Grand Prix Exopower S ($450) is a more affordable boot that still has high-end features, such as a stiff external "skeleton" with a softer inner shell for both control and flex. For those just hitting the slopes, Rossignol's new Vision 10 ($359) will let you develop your skills without mashing your feet.

Like boots, bindings are evolving to keep up with skis. One that's climbing the food chain fast is Marker's new formidable-sounding M9.1 Turbo SC Titanium ($395), which has a built-in lift for more leverage, stainless-steel contact points for durability, and shock absorbers for a smooth run. Look's TX8 MaxFlex ($340) uses an elevated plate to provide skier leverage so the ski can bend more naturally in turns. Salomon's S900 Equipe Drive Plus ($330) is designed to turn well while offering good knee-protection and accident-release during falls.

Photographs by Clay Ellis

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