Ski Test // October 24, 2016 // By


Slalom Test 2017

HIGH-PERFORMANCE
SHORT-RADIUS TURNS

These skis are designed to do one thing: make tight turns on hard snow. They can dabble elsewhere on the mountain, but are best confined to groomed runs under the guidance of expert skiers. In the right hands these skis will turn on a flake, hold an edge on ice and beg you to ski faster. On a racecourse they’ll blow your boots off.

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tester Gillian Browning

by RYAN STUART in 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 FIS SL M  * men

$849

BEST FOR: NASTAR racing

SKIER TYPE: Expert; medium weight; power

LENGTHS:  165*

SIDECUT:   117.5/65/101.5

RADIUS:     12.5@165

OVERALL AVERAGE SCORE: 8.5/10

Scoring high in short-radius turns, stability, agility, initiation and especially edge grip, the Redster FIS SL performed exactly how our testers would expect a race-ready slalom ski to ride. “Great grip that holds on regardless of the edge angle,” wrote Kristian Armstrong. According to Fritz Stephenson, the smooth flex felt consistent: “Not too aggressive at the tip and follows effortlessly through to the tail. Not too much heel kick allows a centred stance without effort.” But Dave Gollogly warns that this ski is needier than a new girlfriend: “It doesn’t like to take breaks. Enjoyable if you have the legs and energy to keep up.”

ATOMIC REDSTER FIS SL W  *  women

$849

BEST FOR: Pushing edge hold to the limit

SKIER TYPE: Expert; medium-heavy weight; power

LENGTHS:  157*

SIDECUT:   114.5/66.3/99.5

RADIUS:     12.7@157

OVERALL AVERAGE SCORE: 8.9/10

This ski demands a solid mix of technique and power. While Donie Blunden called it “A confidence booster for big angles,” Alannah Gamblin-Jensen warned, “It needs a smart rider otherwise you’ll go on a ride.” If you have what it takes to get your hip to the snow, the Redster FIS SL will take you to new depths. Anne Terwiel figured it out: “Wow, this ski has tremendous elasticity, holding, bending then propelling you effortlessly into the next turn. It’s like jet propulsion edge-to-edge. It runs a deep arc, allowing the skier to come inside the turn to run a really great line.”

BLIZZARD SRC RACING  *  men

$1,149

BEST FOR: First slalom ski

SKIER TYPE: Expert; light weight; finesse

LENGTHS:  156, 160, 165*, 170, 175

SIDECUT:   121/70/106

RADIUS:     13@165

OVERALL AVERAGE SCORE: 8.5/10

A little more easygoing than some of the other skis in this category, the SRC didn’t demand focus or a heavy hand, easily swinging from turn-to-turn in any shape. “You don’t have to power the ski. Nice gentle initiation and then smooth transition to the tail,” said Fritz Stephenson. George Terwiel found it stable and adaptable in a variety of turn shapes: “Easy to operate yet good energy from turn-to-turn and fun for long turns.” The consensus is that the SRC performed best for lighter skiers, but heavier guys might just want to size up from the 165 length tested.

BLIZZARD SRC RACING  *  women

$1,149

BEST FOR: A first race ski

SKIER TYPE: Advanced; medium weight; finesse

LENGTHS:  156*, 160, 165, 170, 175

SIDECUT:   121/70/106

RADIUS:     11@156

OVERALL AVERAGE SCORE: 8.2/10

Several testers thought the SRC Racing fit the category well and found it just as much at home outside the ruts than inside. Donie Blunden said “Tip it and it steers automatically. Very smooth, easy transitions turn-to-turn with a big sweet spot.” Anne Terwiel noted: “Since it’s more forgiving and versatile than some in this category, it’s a good entry-level slalom ski for a Masters racer. A few testers found it took a few turns to find the sweet spot between turn shape and speed—medium on both counts. Finesse skiers will like it best, said Alannah Gamblin-Jensen, “Caress lightly with an airy touch—with not too much power.”

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FISCHER RC4 THE CURV DTX  *  men

$1,349

BEST FOR: Lighter Masters racers

SKIER TYPE: Expert; light weight; finesse

LENGTHS:  157, 164*, 171, 178

SIDECUT:   121/72/106

RADIUS:     16@171

OVERALL AVERAGE SCORE: 8.0/10

Designed with input from a couple of ex-racers, The Curv is the ski they wanted for playing on groomers. No surprise that it acts like a racecar, but it’s also forgiving enough for technical experts. “This ski has a smooth and even turn shape that is automatic! Just tip it and rip it, all day,” gushed big boy Mark Stein. Smaller-framed Dave Gollogly was equally enthusiastic: “Perfect for the tiny finesse skier. It’s easy to ski and will make you feel like a super hero.” But like a racecar, keep it confined to the course and smooth groomers, warns Erin Keam: “Felt a little pushed around in the ruts.”

FISCHER RC4 THE CURV DTX  *  women

$1,349

BEST FOR: Experienced Masters racers

SKIER TYPE: Expert; light-medium weight; power

LENGTHS:  157*, 164, 171, 178

SIDECUT:   121/72/106

RADIUS:     16@171

OVERALL AVERAGE SCORE: 9.4/10

Almost all Ski Canada’s women testers gave top overall marks to this ski. “Shifts gears and radius with no problem,” wrote Alanah Gamblin-Jensen. “Very grippy and full of life. This ski loves to turn and be on edge, and is very stable,” added Nina Gretzmacher. Anne Terwiel found it was best skied a little behind centre: “Engage the tail and you have so much power under your feet. You can trust the ski to hold any line.” A winner, yes, but also a thoroughbred. “Easy to turn with no problems changing turn shape,” noted Wendy Lumby, but all testers were unanimous in recommending this ski to “experienced racers only.”

HEAD i.SL RD  *  men

$1,149

BEST FOR: Strong, experienced racers

SKIER TYPE: Expert; heavy weight; power

LENGTHS:  156, 158, 165*

SIDECUT:   119/66/104

RADIUS:     12@165

OVERALL AVERAGE SCORE: 8.6/10

Some thought the tip a little soft, but none questioned that this ski was ready for the racecourse. “Full-on performance for full-on racing. Speed and aggression made this ski come to life,” said George Terwiel. And the operator better know what he’s doing, stated Erin Keam: “This is a purebred that demands attention but gives back in spades. Lightning-quick but stay on top; back of this ski is a no-go zone.” It scored near the top of the category for edge grip, stability and initiation. “Would be an absolute weapon on a prepared slalom track,” concluded Kristian Armstrong.

HEAD i.SL RD  *  women

$1,149

BEST FOR: Shredding the blue-ice days

SKIER TYPE: Expert; medium-heavy weight; cruise-power

LENGTHS:  156*, 158, 165

SIDECUT:   118/65/102

RADIUS:     10.7@156

OVERALL AVERAGE SCORE: 8.4/10

All slalom skis should be easy to turn, but this ski took it to the next level. “As the ski comes under you, it reaches for the next turn before you even ask. So beautifully turny without any nervous energy,” noted Anne Terwiel. Nina Gretzmacher seconded that: “Springs you from edge-to-edge. You can easily flex this ski and get the slalom action you’re looking for.” Wendy Lumby found it “a bit heavier and an enjoyable ride.” The ski preferred short turns to higher speeds and bigger radius and was notably bouncy from turn to turn. The heavier feel and stiffer tail make it a good ski for those who don’t mind driving out of the backseat.

KÄSTLE MX74  *  men

$1,299

BEST FOR: Everyday carving ski

SKIER TYPE: Advanced-expert; all weights; finesse & cruise

LENGTHS:  148, 156, 164, 172*, 180

SIDECUT:   124/74/103

RADIUS:     14.7@172

OVERALL AVERAGE SCORE: 8.3/10

The least race-focused ski in the pack, the MX74 still emerged as a tester favourite for its easygoing attitude matched with plentiful performance. Dave Gollogly wants a pair: “Amazing initiation and stability through all types of terrain and conditions. Handles larger turns as well as short.” Erin Keam wrote: “A huge sweet spot made this ski shine. Want to improve your game? Get on this ski.” Mark Stein felt it was “the most versatile ski in the category. User-friendly without beating you up.” In conclusion, a good choice for anyone who wants the performance of a slalom ski without the demands in fitness and technique.

NORDICA DOBERMANN SLR RB EVO  *  men

$1,249

BEST FOR: Hard chargers who sometimes like to relax

SKIER TYPE: Expert; medium-heavy weight; power

LENGTHS:  156, 160, 165*, 170

SIDECUT:   121/70/106

RADIUS:     12.5@165

OVERALL AVERAGE SCORE: 8.8/10

Feel free to mess with this puppy. The more the ski was pushed, the harder it bit. “Solid performance at speed, and the faster and more aggressively I skied…the ski came to life,” said George Terwiel. But even at slower speeds it was fun, scoring tops in the class in initiation, edge grip and short-turn prowess. “This is a light ski that felt playful and nimble,” reported Erin Keam. “It’s an easy-skiing ski that boosted confidence.” Even flexing made it a solid choice for slalom racers. “Precise, surgical and smooth,” commented Mark Stein. “Rips the slalom arc and re-centres after every turn.”

NORDICA SENTRA SL 7 Ti EVO  *  women

$1,049

BEST FOR: Controlled finesse princesses who like tight turns

SKIER TYPE: Advanced; light weight; finesse

LENGTHS:  156*, 160, 165, 170

SIDECUT:   121/70/106

RADIUS:     11.5@156

OVERALL AVERAGE SCORE: 8.8/10

If the Sentra were a woman, she’d wear heels, have immaculately painted nails and perfect hair. “This ski is made for the girly girl,” wrote Wendy Lumby. “It’s light and delicate feeling, with no effort needed to turn it at all.” It skied best in precise short turns, losing some of its appeal when overpowered or pushed too hard, continued Lumby: “Don’t go too fast or you lose the best of this ski.” The elegant Nina Gretzmacher found her dance partner: “A match made in heaven! It’s stable underfoot, responsive and full of energy.”

SALOMON X-RACE LAB SL  *  men

$949

BEST FOR: Slalom racing, especially juniors

SKIER TYPE: Expert; medium weight; power

LENGTHS:  157, 165*

SIDECUT:   117.5/65.5/101.5

RADIUS:     12.5@165

OVERALL AVERAGE SCORE: 7.4/10

With a stiff feel behind the heel, testers found the X-Race Lab required a more confident slalom skier to initiate turns compared to the rest of the field. It was happiest making medium-sized turns at moderate speeds, noted Erin Keam, and that it had a “big sweet spot for a slalom ski and very predictable. Faster speeds seemed to push the tip around.” The stiff tail does have some advantages, adding stability and a dynamic element to every turn. “The tail makes it easy to regain balance and shoot the ski through the turn,” said Dave Gollogly. The consensus was that it’s a ski best left to racers.

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VÖLKL RACETIGER SPEEDWALL SL UVO  *  men

$1,249

BEST FOR: A ripping ski for high-end racers

SKIER TYPE: Expert; light-heavy weights; power

LENGTHS:  165*, 170

SIDECUT:   123/68/104

RADIUS:     12.7@165

OVERALL AVERAGE SCORE: 9.4/10

Glowing praise rained down, with high scores for everything from initiation to edging, versatility and agility. Race coach Dave Gollogly gave it perfect 10s: “Speechless. The perfect ski. The more you push, the better it performs.” Veteran tester Mark Stein was blown away: “Uncanny ability to tighten the turn radius with a subtle increase of pressure to the edge. A real slalom ripper.” All our testers are strong, technical and fit and that’s the only caveat. “Absolutely rock solid for carving only. Don’t even think about skidding,” stated Erin Keam. While a realistic Fritz Stephenson warns: “You need strength and attention.” If you’ve got the legs, this is a category winner.

VÖLKL RACETIGER SPEEDWALL SL UVO  *  women

$1,249

BEST FOR: The fearless with no speed limit

SKIER TYPE: Expert; light-heavy weights; finesse-power

LENGTHS:  150, 155*, 160

SIDECUT:   120/68/101

RADIUS:     11.9@155

OVERALL AVERAGE SCORE: 8.5/10

Some testers thought it was a light ski, while others found it heavy. One felt it would be best for a heavier powerhouse. Another pegged it as a match for a lightweight finesse princess. What they all could agree on is that the Racetiger Speedwall is aptly named; it comes alive at an eye-watering pace. “Get this ski up to its happy speed and it gets into its comfy turn shape,” noted Donie Blunden. At Mach 1 it’s easy to ski in just about any turn shape and is very stable. Alannah Gamblin-Jensen was sold: “I want this as my slalom ski. A bit of gas and this thing cranks.”

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