More niche than niche. The all-mountain category is spreading wide and far across your ski area, into every niche and nook.
By ditching weight, tweaking sidecuts, adjusting rocker and using innovative materials, ski manufacturers are getting closer than ever to the Holy Grail of the do-it-all ski—whatever that means to you. (To see what we mean, check out 45 all-mountain skis tested at Jasper posting later on skicanadamag.com.) But the one thing they all have in common is that they make turning less work and more fun. Here’s to one more lap.
THE HOLE GETS BIGGER
Kästle’s trademark hollow tip grows larger for its all-mountain ripping MX line. Like the original, Hollowtech 2.0 removes material from near the tip of the ski, reducing swingweight and vibration, and making the ski easier to turn. Kästle also tweaked the tail shape, tapering the edge a few centimetres shy of the end of the ski to make exiting turns easier and smoother.
PUT (A) CORK IN IT
Nordica took a race boot, detuned it a little and then gave it the most comfortable and warm innards the company could develop. The hand-stitched liner integrates sections of cork around the ankle and heel pocket, with an 80 per cent Primaloft liner and footbed. With use, the cork conforms to the foot shape without packing out or impacting power transfer. The boot, the GPX, comes in three flexes for both women and men ranging from 85 to 130.
SAME SHAPE, DIFFERENT CORE
The names and shapes of the Blizzard women’s freeride skis haven’t changed, but the way they ski is all-new. The addition of a topsheet of carbon fibre over the wood core of the Sheeva, Black Pearl, Samba and Cheyenne drops the weight by 15 to 20 per cent while increasing the rigidity and edge hold.
Building on last year’s Vantage, an off-piste-leaning all-mountain ski, Atomic created the Vantage X, which leans the other way. With a thinner waist and sportier sidecut, it’s made for skiers who spend most of their time on the groomed, but still like the option of taking a lap in the back bowls or veering into the bumps for a few turns. At its core, though, is a hard-carving ski. A Carbon Tank Mesh and three-dimensional profile ups the dampening, rigidity and edge grip from the Vantage, while simultaneously ditching 20 per cent of the weight. With waist widths ranging from 75-83mm, the ski, which comes with a system binding, is ready to shred Ontario groomers and Western back bowls.
THE WORKS, PLEASE
It might be easier to list what features the Alpina Elite 130 boot doesn’t have. In all, Alpina lists 15 key highlights including: a built-in heating system designed to last all day; an X-shaped frame that connects and reinforces the four main stress points radiating from the ankle; a breathable, water-draining and water-resistant construction; easy to tweak volume adjustments under the heel and at the calf; a ski-walk button that switches with a pole push; a plastic that maintains the same flex whether it’s -20 or +15; a soft sole for better grip; and finally, a decent footbed, a rarity in ski boots. About the only thing it won’t do is do itself up.
OF SYNERGY AND AVERAGES
Combining its cross-country and alpine skimaking experience, Fischer created the Pro Mtn, a wide-ranging line of lightweight all-mountain skis. From the XC and backcountry ski side, Fischer brought Air Tec Core, a weight-shaving, milled-out wood core. From the race side, it brought a strip of metal that runs the length of the ski, with carbon at the tip and tail. With waist sizes ranging from 74-95mm, the lineup promises all-mountain performance wherever you ski.
A good match would be the Fischer RC Pro boot. To find a last that would fit the most feet, Fischer compared the shape of boots from several manufacturers, filled them with resin and found the average. With the resulting 100mm last, it built three different boots: one with Fischer’s Vacuum Fit plastic, one with a thermo-mouldable lower boot only and a third made from traditional plastic. The liner is made from two densities of foam: softer where people tend to get pressure issues; harder where feel matters most. And finally, Fischer added a Walk Sole for easy parking lot approaches.
A little butter here. Smear on that spine. A quarterpipe re-entry there. If you look at the ski hill as a playground, then the Armada ARV line is for you. Available in three widths, 86, 96 and 106mm, all three twins feature tip and tail rocker and taper, perfect for washing out turns, floating in powder, smearing and sliding. With chatter-reducing stringers of Kevlar and stiffened with carbon, these should play nice on the hardpack, too.
SIN IN THE SKY
Rossignol’s Sin 7 always lived in the shadow of its wider sibling, the Soul 7. So this year Rossi has ditched the Sin for the Sky 7 HD, a more soulful version. It takes a similar shape as the 98mm Sin, but uses a paulownia wood core with a carbon and basalt weave to add stiffness and power. The new construction ditches 20 per cent of the weight, making the Sky a livelier, all-mountain alternative to the soft-snow-focused Soul.
The K2 Pinnacle family of freeride skis gets a slimmer brother. The Pinnacle 88 takes over where its brethren start feeling pudgy: shredding the whole mountain, including groomers. So, while the Pinnacle 95 is the all-mountain stick for B.C., the 88 will appeal to eastern skiers and could be the ultimate quiver-of-one in Alberta.
ON A DIET
The signature ski of one of this country’s top freeskiers ditches 15 per cent of its weight this winter. The 4FRNT KYE 95, designed with input from Whistler’s Kye Petersen, dropped 300 grams by switching its core to poplar and paulownia.
FROM COLORADO WITH LOVE
Just to set the record straight, Icelantic Skis has nothing to do with the similar-sounding island in the North Atlantic that’s so popular with Canadian tourists. But its newest ski, the men’s Sabre, could handle anything Iceland could throw at it. With lots of camber, the ski rails on ice and hardpack. And with decent widths—the Sabre comes in an 89 or 99mm waist—so there’s plenty of float for powder days.
The Blizzard Brahma was already a solid all-mountain ski with an appetite for charging groomers, moguls and soft snow. To give this rodeo star even more hard-snow bite, Blizzard is adding carbon to the tip and tail. The ride promises to be even smoother.
LENGTH DOES MATTER
As anyone who has strayed to the Darkside knows, snowboard boots feel like slippers compared to the cement clogs we call ski boots. Yeah, we said it. But there is hope. Apex builds ski boots out of snowboard boots, using an exoskeleton to add the necessary stiffness. Now it’s adding more performance to the fit with the XP. The shorter, stiffer and lighter sole transfers power more efficiently to the ski.4FRNT KYE 95, All-Mountain, Alpina Elite 130, Apex XP, Armada ARV, Atomic Vantage X, Blizzard Brahma, Blizzard Sheeva, Buyer's Guide, Fischer Pro Mtn, gear guide, Icelantic Sabre, K2 Pinnacle 88, Kastle MX, Nordica GPX, Rossignol Sky 7 HD