The Best Skis of 2014
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Rossignol Super 7 Skis
BEST FOR: Everyday skiers.
THE TEST: Prostrate yourself before the highest-scoring ski ever to emerge from our annual test. For its redesigned Super 7, Rossignol found the perfect balance of rocker (upturned tip and tail), camber (underfoot for edge hold), and taper (for easy turn entry and exit). All that and it cut the weight by 25 percent, thanks to unique Air Tip honeycomb inserts and a lightweight paulownia core. It floats as well as any powder ski, pivots at will, and still edges powerfully on hard snow. 140/116/130
THE VERDICT: The most versatile western ski we’ve ever tested.
TURNING PLEASURE: 5
Völkl Gotama Skis
BEST FOR: Occasional powder skiers who carve.
THE TEST: The Gotama held stable at speeds. It wasn’t the most buoyant ski in the category, but because it’s fully rockered, it’s easy to swing around when pinballing through the aspens. Tip them into a big, arced turn on packed snow and you’ll understand this ski’s versatility. Once you achieve the appropriate edging angles—meaning the rocker is engaging snow—the chubby Gotama flat out leaves trenches. 139/107/123
THE VERDICT: Völkl says the Gotama is a 35 percent groomer, 65 percent soft-snow ski, but we’d say it’s an even 50-50.
TURNING PLEASURE: 4
Head Collective 105 Skis
BEST FOR: Big folks.
THE TEST: Make better skis, charge less, sell more. That’s Head’s revamped business plan, and the collective 105 epitomizes it. You still get the Austrian brand’s damping wood core and powerful vertical sidewall construction, but it’ll run you about a hundred bucks less than in the past. New in the 105 are rubber vibration-eating inserts at the tip and tail that quiet the ride—especially important with a rockered ski like this one. 146/105/128
THE VERDICT: Big-turn stability and bashing power. But thanks to its light swing weight, it’s no bear to whip around either.
TURNING PLEASURE: 4
Atomic Automatic Skis
BEST FOR: Pure powder skiers with a surfy style.
THE TEST: Like any powder-specific tool, the Automatic has tons of rocker—fully 45 percent of the ski is upturned. The tip and tail have pronounced taper, and there’s 117 millimeters of girth underfoot to float you in bottomless powder. Testers loved smearing turns at any speed no matter how perfectly fluffy or weirdly cruddy the snow. It’s decidedly less fun on hardpack, but that’s not what it’s built for. 140.5/117/129.5
THE VERDICT: “The perfect powder flex,” said one tester. “But there’s enough tail to power through big turns, too.”
Salomon Q 98 Skis
BEST FOR: Squirreling around in the trees looking for powder.
THE TEST: We have 12 test cards on the Q 98, and the word “nimble” appears on five of them. Also: “pivot,” “slice,” “dice,” and “surf.” Credit the ample rocker but also new polymer inserts in the tip that reduce swing weight—crucial when heavy snow is grabbing at your skis. How about the carving? There’s ample edge hold here, but the Q 98 isn’t a deep-sidecut frontside ski. Still, it’s lots of fun on chalky corduroy. 137/98/123
THE VERDICT: Look here if you often find yourself hiking for leftover powder in blown-in chutes three days after the last storm.
Nordica Hell and Back Skis
BEST FOR: Hard-charging all-mountain skiers.
THE TEST: The Hell and Back is light enough to shoulder for an in-bounds hike, but it won’t let you down if you’re stuck skiing groomers all day. Testers singled out this wood-core ski’s stiff and powerful tail—a trait still favored by ex-racers and telemark skiers. Some praised the end-of-turn oomph. Others like to skid more. “Classic all-mountain shape,” said one tester. “Rails hardpack, but still lively in soft snow.” 135/98/125
THE VERDICT: Does everything well except slarve—that stiff tail performs best with a pilot who carves every turn.
Kastle FX94 Skis
BEST FOR: Versatility, from the resort to the backcountry.
THE TEST: Designed to meet the needs of racer turned steeps skier Chris Davenport, the FX94 is light enough for touring. But point it downhill and it’s flat out unwavering on firm snow— groomed or otherwise. The price reflects the construction quality, which once upon a time would have been called “race room.” Testers found the FX94 surprisingly forgiving for the amount of energy it delivered, but it preferred hard snow to soft. 128/94/117
THE VERDICT: “Carve forever,” remarked one tester. “Makes all turn shapes if you stay aggressive.”
Fischer Motive 86 Skis
BEST FOR: Loading up the G’s.
THE TEST: We like railing turns on early-morning corduroy, too. We just don’t like twitchy race gear aggravating our hangovers. The Motive 86 is the solution. A ski of this width—86 millimeters underfoot—would have been a powder tool during the Clinton years. But now you get the benefits of edge hold and dynamic rebound. Plus, you don’t have to muscle it into turns, thanks to subtle tip rocker. “Like a soft race ski—with cojones,” said one tester. Sí, Cojones. 128/86/116
THE VERDICT: east coast or Summit county, colorado, skier? Or just a lover of hardpack? You need the Motive in your quiver.