Skis That Take a Turn for the Better
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Outside magazine, November 1995
Skis That Take a Turn for the Better
Between hourglass, fat, and all-mountain boards, there’s an easy way down every run
I’m not sure whether you can peg it to a dip on the growth charts or competition from the upstart snowboarding industry, but downhill skis are currently undergoing more than a little makeover. Instead of serving up old technologies behind another set of pretty new topskins, ski manufacturers have put their products through some surgery, and the results are encouraging: With a
There are basically three ski shapes to choose from, and deciding which one is right for you depends on how you like to get down the mountain: One skier’s slalom run is another’s downhill; one’s junk is another’s powder. In general, all-mountain and giant-slalom skis are being built with more sidecut–that is, a greater degree of curve to the edges–to make initiating and
On the other hand, the adoringly termed fat ski, which continues to get squatter, is skiing’s answer to a Cadillac ride. Fats have at least 20 percent more surface area than traditional skis, together with relatively little sidecut, so that even the inexperienced powder-goer can float over bottomless fluff or crud. As fat skis have become wider, they’ve also become shorter to
In hope of sussing out the best of the new breeds, I skied last spring on a bevy of all three morphs. The new models in general, and my choices in particular, undoubtedly make skiing more enjoyable. Prices listed are suggested retail, but most shops will offer the same gear for at least 15 percent less.
GS AND ALL-MOUNTAIN SKIS
Adding a little flare
Such changes have perhaps made no greater impact than on giant-slalom skis. Whereas the stable but speed-happy GS boards of the past were only for racers, the latest offerings combine improved turning ability with unparalleled steadiness. The best GS ski I’ve come across is Dynastar’s Coupe G9 ($625): A deep-dish sidecut and even flex make the
Slightly more benevolent, and therefore potentially more appealing to skiers who don’t have unlimited time to spend on the slopes, is the all-mountain ski. All-mountain skis have GS-like sidecuts and more flex; I can bring all-mountain boards around faster, which keeps me out of trouble in tight places. Atomic’s ATC 3 ($529) and K2’s MSL ($589) ski like chips off the same cap: Neither had the absolute edge-holding ability of a slalom ski or the Mach-one steadiness of a GS board, but with nearly identical sidecuts and forgiving wood-core constructions they both made easy work of some narrow chutes. These skis also held their own when I put the hammer down–both have sophisticated
My favorite all-mountain ski, however, is Salomon’s Prolink EXP Demonstration. For the admittedly stiff $700 price, you get short-turn ability plus a unique and effective damping system: Shallow cylinders just fore and aft of the bindings house thin pistons that impact a shock-absorbing material when the ski flexes. The system doesn’t deaden the
No need to throw your weight around
The S Ski Performer ($475) and the Elan SCX Monoblock ($500) are cut on the extreme end of the hourglass spectrum; the Elan is an inch wider than many GS skis at the tip and tail, but narrower in the waist. The nimble Performer–the manufacturer recommends that you buy its skis on the shorter side–is fine for those
The hourglass ski that I gave the heaviest consideration is Head’s Cyber 24X ($550). Because its tip and tail are about 10 percent wider than those of a typical GS ski, you get some added float in loose snow and right-now turning ability. What you don’t get is the nervous wandering when you’re running flat. With neoprene rubber sheets inside the
Floundering is not allowed
The Völkl Snow Ranger ($645) is about 20 percent wider than a conventional ski, but I still didn’t believe that that would be enough to get me through some wicked spring glop. It was, and I did, actually enjoying the run and looking for more. Two pieces of metal in the ski made of a titanium and aluminum alloy help dampen the harsh ride you
Glenn Randall is an Outside correspondent who has been skiing for 20 years and writing about gear for the last 15.