Columns, First Tracks // May 11, 2008 // By


Split Decision

Despite Utah’s trademarked, and distracting, “Greatest Snow on Earth” swirling outside the windows of Snow Basin’s magnificent base lodge in January, I was still able to listen intently to a PK, or product knowledge, talk about Atomic’s latest creation, D2 Doubledeck technology. But partway into the dog and pony show, the scene was interrupted by one of those “Did I hear him correctly?” moments. It came so abruptly I stopped writing in my pad and looked up vacantly at buddy on the mike, then relaxed a little after seeing all the other stunned expressions in the room that appeared to have maybe heard it wrong, too.

But the concept was repeated—and we had heard it right: “The more the ski flexes, the wider its shovel and tail become.” Huh?

In an era of skiers wanting one ski to fit both their changing style as well as the current snow conditions, Atomic has created a ski that is split from tip to binding and binding to tail, and flattens (and therefore widens) the harder it’s flexed. And along with this change in geometry (since the waist width stays the same), comes a change in turn radius—from 12 to 18 metres. In other words, the more the user flexes the ski, the wider the tip and tail become, which means the tighter the turn radius, or the quicker it turns.

The D2 Doubledeck concept, of which this adaptive turn radius is an integral part, is basically two separate skis layered on top of one another. The softer, lower ski is meant to adapt to different snow conditions. The top ski (or layer) is the control deck, and is designed to adapt to the skier. It’s this top deck to which the binding is attached. And because the two layers are connected by only five rubberized joints, they’re intended to float independently.

Available in two waist widths (72 mm for eastern and 82 mm for western Canadian skiers, I figure), the D2 Doubledeck technology without the split tip and tail is known as Vario Flex; and with this unique design, which lets you shove your ski pole straight through your ski to impress your friends in the lift line, it’s known as Vario Cut.

For once it seems technology isn’t going to trickle down from the racecourse. (Apparently the goal here wasn’t to increase performance; Atomic’s retail poll found its skis are often too much for certain skiers.) And the results, says Atomic’s industry ski show pitchmen, are high vibration dampening, ease in skiing (the first hint that this isn’t a double-diamond-skier’s ski), ease in turnability and light weight.

We took several models out to do a few runs in Utah, but given my own light weight and the fact that we were skiing what seemed to be the softest, most bottomless snow on earth, I wasn’t able to make the cruiser perform and show off its abilities. I think it’s a ski that’s going to like the groomed frontside of the mountain. And one that’s going to be difficult finding a category in which to test it.

Every January and February, ski manufacturers launch out of the start gates at industry ski shows in Munich and Las Vegas (and, at one time, Montreal) eager to show buyers from ski shops (as well as the ski media) all the latest and greatest they’re hoping to see on shop shelves the following season. Starting on page 24, Technical Editor Martin lets us in on some highlights of what’s to come next autumn in the way of gear. And while you’re reading this in early March, Team Ski Canada will be at Big White testing almost a hundred 2009 skis to help you find just the right pair.