Skiing somewhere between the racecourse and the edge of the groomed, the skis in this category want to be skied hard, fast and down the fall line. In many cases manufacturers have taken World Cup race skis and tuned them so mere mortals can handle the power and edge grip they deliver. If your idea of a great run is one that makes your eyes water and involves carving parallel and snaking trenches down groomers, you’ve come to the right place.
by RYAN STUART in the Fall 2016 issue
HOW TO USE THIS GUIDE
There’s no one ski that’s perfect for every skier. There’s not even one perfect ski in any one category. That’s why Ski Canada doesn’t bestow awards and declare “winners.” Instead, we break our ski reviews into categories and then for each ski, highlight what kind of skier each ski will appeal to best. To help you match yourself to those two variables, read the descriptions of the different ski categories: What kind of ski do you need? Check out our graphic: What kind of skier are YOU?
Next, check out the profiles of our Test Team and match yourself to ones most like you. Their favourite skis in each category are listed under their bios. Once you’ve done all that, also try out our app and online tool SkiFinder at skifinder.com to rank test skis based on your personal skiing characteristics. All test skis are scored using the following criteria: Edge Grip, Stability, Agility and Versatility. Read more: skicanadamag.com/test.
Take your best matches and head to your favourite ski shop. Since every ski has a unique feel and personality, try to demo the models you’re most interested in. Ultimately, it’s the best way to know which one is right for you
FIND SKIS using Ski Canada’s interactive ski test tool – SkiFinder. Also available as a free app from the iStore for iPhone & Google Play for Android.
* Length tested at Marmot Basin
ATOMIC REDSTER XTi * men
BEST FOR: Playing with turn shapes
SKIER TYPE: Expert; medium-heavy weight; medium-large turns; finesse
LENGTHS: 157, 164, 169, 176*
OVERALL AVERAGE SCORE: 7.9/10
The perfect playmate for a technical skier, the Redster XTi seemed to excel no matter where testers at Marmot took it. Busting down the edges of the test run, it blew through tracked-up powder like an all-mountain ski. With the gas pedal floored, it felt stable. And when the terrain got rolly, its stiff tail helped finish the turn and forgave any lapses in balance or technique. “This ski felt like my old ’97 Volvo. Once you got it going, nothing on earth could stop it,” said Jeremy Badcock. “Amazing versatility combined with silky arcs. It changes turn size at will, blending arcs together seamlessly,” commented Mark Stein.
ATOMIC CLOUD 11 XT * women
BEST FOR: Big groomer turns at medium speeds
SKIER TYPE: Advanced; light-medium weight; medium-long turns; finesse
LENGTHS: 148, 155, 162*, 169
OVERALL AVERAGE SCORE: 8.0/10.0
This ski was at its best hogging the whole run. It could shred tight turns, wiggle through the bumps and handle a little speed, but it seemed happiest going the speed limit in medium to large turns. “Stable, lighter ski that’s über happy in a longer turn. Join your friends in the bumps for some fun on your way to the groomers,” wrote Barb Kupferschmidt. Many, including Anne Terwiel, noted how quick it moved from edge-to-edge: “It moves effortlessly from turn-to-turn, but don’t let that ease fool you. Underneath that freedom is a ton of power. This ski is a wolf in sheep’s clothing.”
BLIZZARD QUATTRO RS * men
BEST FOR: Ex-GS racers happy to tone it back a bit
SKIER TYPE: Expert; heavy weight; long turns; power
LENGTHS: 153, 160, 167, 174*, 181
OVERALL AVERAGE SCORE: 6.5/10
More recreational-skier types had trouble reining in this stallion, while ex-racers found the Quattro RS a blast as soon as they broke the sound barrier. “Wow, I had to work to bend this. If you ski Mach chicken (fast), it’s the perfect ski. The closest thing to a World Cup GS ski you’ll find,” said race coach Dave Gollogly. A sentiment echoed by Jeremy Badcock: “This is a GS racer’s cruising ski. If you have the strength and skill to tip it up and hold on, it will have you grinning like an idiot. Who needs to do short turns anyway?”
BLIZZARD QUATTRO W 6.9 Ti * women
BEST FOR: Moving from a strong intermediate to a ripping expert
SKIER TYPE: Advanced; medium weight; long turns; cruise
LENGTHS: 153, 160, 167*
OVERALL AVERAGE SCORE: 6.8/10
A few testers thought this ski was best driven hard, but most felt the opposite, classing the Quattro as a cruiser. “It’s like a Sunday morning bike ride to get coffee. This ski likes to gently slide its way around the mountain,” commented Katie Joyce. At medium speeds it easily transitioned from turn-to-turn, especially if it was allowed to do most of the work. “Responsive to less steering and aggression,” found Kathleen Buffel. But some of the women noted that it held up to a more assertive mistress, too. “Ripped on the groomers, was lively in the bumps and charged through the crud,” wrote coach Wendy Lumby.
FISCHER RC4 THE CURV * men
BEST FOR: Going really fast
SKIER TYPE: Advanced-expert; medium weight; long turns; power
LENGTHS: 164, 171, 178*, 185
OVERALL AVERAGE SCORE: 8.1/10
Ski Canada testers skidded into the Marmot Basin test pit with smiles on their faces after their run on The Curv, part of a new family of skis designed by ex-racers. Erin Keam summed up the experience well: “Get the five-point harness on and let’s go racing. Tons of energy from this bullish ski that likes big turns.” At slower speeds and tighter turns the ski felt sluggish and unwieldy, requiring lots of effort, but once it was screaming down the fall line it felt more stable, with tenacious edge hold and a smooth feel. “It was magic on snow with its strong, responsive edge grip,” said George Terwiel.
FISCHER RC4 THE CURV * women
BEST FOR: Do-it-all groomer ski that can moonlight all over the mountain
SKIER TYPE: Advanced-expert;
light-heavy weight; short-long turns; finesse-power
LENGTHS: 164*, 171, 178, 185
OVERALL AVERAGE SCORE: 9.0/10
“Amazeballs!” “Wow!” “Fun!” “Awesome!” Whatever exclamation Ski Canada’s female testers used, they loved this ski. “Amazing edge grip throughout the turn. It handled well in the crud and bumps, and performed off the charts on the groomers,” wrote Ally Wagorn. The women found no faults, only seemingly impossible contradictions. This ski could make any size turn, slow or fast. It felt stable and powerful, but also agile and quick turning, lively and smooth. “Great control and stability on all fronts,” noted Meredith Eades. It’s a ski that experts will love, but also one on which intermediates can improve.
HEAD RAW INSTINCT Ti PRO * men
BEST FOR: Medium-speed carving
SKIER TYPE: Intermediate-advanced; medium weight; short-long turns; finesse
LENGTHS: 149, 156, 163, 170*, 177
OVERALL AVERAGE SCORE: 7.3/10
Testers may have had mixed feelings on whether this was an easy ski to initiate the turn or not, but they were certain on what happened once they got the ski on edge. For instance, Jeremy Badcock thought it was “a rewarding ski for those who can work a ski tip and stay on top of a ski.” While Kristian Armstrong found it turned on autopilot: “The soft tip allows for easy initiation of the turn. A perfect intermediate ski.” Once it was in the turn, edge grip was top-notch and it felt comfy in any turn shape, while preferring medium speeds.
HEAD SUPER JOY * women
BEST FOR: Learning to really carve
SKIER TYPE: Intermediate-advanced; light-heavy weight; short-long turns; finesse
LENGTHS: 143, 148, 153, 158, 163*, 168
OVERALL AVERAGE SCORE: 8.0/10
This ski promises to live up to its name as it guides you to better skiing. Strong intermediates will find it forgiving and stable. “A light touch and little power allow the ski to give you a smooth ride both on and off groomers,” said Katie Joyce. The Super Joy won’t hold a skier back as she gains confidence and skill; it has plenty of power for any turn shape at any speed. “Go easy and it’s fine, but give it a bit of juice and it really gives back,” commented Alannah Gamblin-Jensen. Don’t feel restricted to groomers; it played nicely in the five cm of fresh at Marmot Basin, too.
K2 SUPER CHARGER * men
BEST FOR: Long days of ripping groomers
SKIER TYPE: Advanced-expert; medium weight; short-long turns; power
LENGTHS: 161, 168, 175*, 182
OVERALL AVERAGE SCORE: 8.2/10
Considering its name, the Super Charger was more easygoing than the most aggressive skis in this category. “Let the skis go and just float down the hill, or really drive the ski with power. It’s happy either way,” reported Dave Gollogly. Charger Kristian Armstrong liked the way it behaved when spanked: “This ski begs to be pushed hard and fast. And it has the guts to back up the gusto.” Quick edge-to-edge, the ski was versatile enough to easily initiate any turn shape. Mark Stein ranked it tops in the category: “This ski is the ultimate blend of stability, quickness, power, edge hold and smoothness.”
KÄSTLE MX84 * men
BEST FOR: Western everyday ski
SKIER TYPE: Advanced-expert; medium-heavy weight; medium-long turns; finesse
LENGTHS: 152, 160, 168, 176*, 184
OVERALL AVERAGE SCORE: 8.1/10
The 84mm waist of this oversized carver out-performed first impressions. With almost a full centimetre of extra girth compared to others in the category, the MX84 annihilated the tracked-up powder on the run edges. “What a blast! It felt like a heat-seeking missile set on destroying powder clumps,” wrote Kristian Armstrong. The extra girth also made the ski stable at all speeds, and testers were surprised at how easy it was to turn in medium on up shapes. “Smooth, stable ride with a responsive feel,” noted George Terwiel, and Fritz Stephenson liked the “nice sweet spot that pushes you into a new turn effortlessly.”
NORDICA DOBERMANN SPITFIRE PRO EVO * men
BEST FOR: Elevating your carving
SKIER TYPE: Intermediate-advanced; light-medium weight; short-long turns; finesse-power
LENGTHS: 156, 162, 168*, 174, 180
OVERALL AVERAGE SCORE: 7.7/10
Let the dog loose and prepare to party—just don’t take your attention off it. That was the consensus for this Dobermann, a detuned race ski. Mark Stein noticed its race heritage right away: “Precise, surgical and powerful carver.” But let your concentration wander or get off balance and watch out. That was especially true of the heavier testers, who made note of the ski’s high-speed jitters. Others found it could seamlessly swing from one turn shape to another like it was two different skis. “Pick your turn shape and just do it,” said Chris Candow.
NORDICA SENTRA S 6 EVO * women
BEST FOR: Lighter skiers who like to go fast
SKIER TYPE: Advanced; light weight; short-long turns; power
LENGTHS: 144, 150, 156, 162*, 168
OVERALL AVERAGE SCORE: 7.9/10
The shorter and lighter female testers liked the Sentra a lot, while Ski Canada’s taller women found it flat and less exciting. “What a fun ride! Very fast and turny. You can really put it on edge and crank it. I had a blast ripping GS-style turns,” commented five-foot-tall lightweight Ally Wagorn. Veteran tester Anne Terwiel was also a fan: “This ski has a beautiful trampoline effect that moves you effortlessly from turn-to-turn.” And even those who weren’t smitten as much gave the Sentra credit for its versatility in turn shape, easy initiation, and the stability and power to ski fast.
SALOMON X-MAX X12 +X12 Ti * men
BEST FOR: The more powerful the skier and the harder the snow, the better
SKIER TYPE: Expert; heavy weight; medium-long turns; power
LENGTHS: 155, 160, 165*, 170, 175
OVERALL AVERAGE SCORE: 6.9/10
Unapologetic might best describe this ski. It scored near the top in edge grip and stability, but near the bottom in agility and versatility. “The ski feels dead at slow speeds, but wakes up when you start to push it,” said Dave Gollogly, summing up the general feeling. As turns got bigger and speeds increased, this ski never let up. “Solid, stable ride with a powerful edge grip. A strong operator would suit this ski,” wrote George Terwiel. Indeed, the more technical, powerful and heavier testers gave it better overall marks than the more recreational riders. Everyone agreed it skied best in harder snow.
SALOMON W-MAX 12 +XT10 Ti * women
BEST FOR: Eastern skiers who holiday in the west
SKIER TYPE: Intermediate-advanced; medium weight; medium-long turns; power
LENGTHS: 150, 155, 160*, 165
OVERALL AVERAGE SCORE: 7.4/10
Among the skis in this category, the W-Max 12 was unique for two reasons: a soft tip and stiff tail, and its all-mountain capabilities. The construction allowed it to turn easily, but it was also able to hold an edge throughout the turn and maintain stability at high speeds and in mixed conditions. “A versatile ski. It loved carving at high speeds and handled anything I could throw at it,” commented Anne Terwiel. Marmot Basin tester Kathleen Buffel took it off the groomers and found the tip-tail combo was just as versatile there: “It likes soft snow, hardpack and small bumps.”
VÖLKL RACETIGER SPEEDWALL GS UVO * men
BEST FOR: Any expert who wants to rip from wall to wall
SKIER TYPE: Expert; medium-heavy weight; short-long turns; power
LENGTHS: 165, 170, 175, 180*, 185
OVERALL AVERAGE SCORE: 8.4/10
Though not a ski for the meek or weak, both finesse and power skiers alike raved about their exciting ride on the RaceTiger Speedwall GS UVO. Paul Cunnius summed it up well on his test card: “An incredible rare performance translated beautifully to the open slope. Top marks in precision, power, flex and grip are an understatement. This ski will satisfy any discerning expert.” Fritz Stephenson called out its race-ski feel and easy turn initiation, noting: “This ski wants to ski fast. With extreme engagement via the tip, it then powers through and shoots you from one edge to the next.”
VÖLKL FLAIR SC UVO * women
BEST FOR: Power and cruise in one
SKIER TYPE: Intermediate-expert; light-heavy weight; short-long turns; power & cruise
LENGTHS: 150, 155, 160, 165*
OVERALL AVERAGE SCORE: 8.4/10
The Flair is like a house cat: all calm and sleeping one minute, and then a ball of muscle ready to pounce the next. When testers wanted to try mellow turns, the Flair purred quietly and made skiing easy. “This ski is so lightweight it’s like skiing on cream puffs. It’s incredibly easy to turn,” wrote Wendy Lumby. But when they tipped it on edge and added some power, the Flair roared to life. “I couldn’t find a top speed. A smooth, strong and predictable ski,” commented Anne Terwiel. And beyond the groomers, it skied just as silkily, riding stable through crud, chopped power and bumps.