BLIZZARD BLACK PEARL 98
BEST FOR: Avoiding ice * LENGTHS: 152, 159, 166, 173 * RADIUS: 15@166 * SIDECUT: 135-98-119 * $800
“We can put this ski on anyone and they’re going to have a blast. Unbelievable ski.” That’s the glowing praise from Dave Degelman, manager of Ski West in Calgary. He’s skied the three Black Pearl models and received lots of feedback on the 78, 88 and 98 models. The waist-width span generally lines up with the different parts of the country where they’d perform best: 78 in the East, 88 in the Rockies and 98 at snowier resorts. At Whitewater near Nelson, B.C., Caitlin Burge tested the 98: “Playful at slower speeds and a little chattery at higher speeds. It came alive in playful bumps and held up pretty well off-piste.” The light wood core is improved with two sheets of fibreglass with carbon strips and another sheet of carbon. Burge noticed the stiffness this creates in the tail: “This ski will catch you if you fall a little into the back seat.” On an icy Canadian Ski Council demo day at Blue Mountain Anik Gaumond felt it skied about how it looked—a little old lady-ish. “The ski was torsionally strong but I could not get over how flimsy the tips were,” she said. Andi Ciotti was more impressed. “Nice! This was a very sturdy ski, yet it was agile from turn-to-turn. It held really well and was solid underfoot, which was a nice surprise. It could do short-radius turns, but I liked it in medium to longer turns. I could see it being a lot of fun for more of an advanced woman skier and maybe even better in powder or crud.” Overall our female testers recommended Black Pearls for intermediate to advanced skiers looking for a lightweight ski to cruise everything from groomers to powder.
COALISION SNOW SOS
BEST FOR: Stiff, powerful ski lovers * LENGTHS: 157, 166, 173, 180 * RADIUS: 24@173 * SIDECUT: 129-105-119 * $699
Coalition Snow’s mission is to make skis and boards for women “that don’t suck.” Run by women, designed by women, the Tahoe, California, company only makes women’s skis and the SOS is its take on the one-ski quiver. The full birch wood core creates a consistent flex, dampens vibration and is quite stiff. Testers found they had to adjust their riding to get the most out of this ski. When they got aggressive, the ski came alive. A three-point sidecut helped the ski hook up early on groomers, while lots of tip and tail rocker made it nimble and easy to turn in a variety of shapes. Interestingly, the three lengths available each have unique dimensions. The 166cm has a 101 waist width; the 173cm is 105, and the 180 is 109. This keeps the turn radius consistent across the line, the opposite of what most brands do, which is to keep the waist the same no matter the length, which therefore alters the radius from length to length. Keep this in mind when buying and ask Coalition for advice or line up the dimensions with your favourite ski. Feedback from testers is that you will want to check the SOS out. In the variable conditions of a classic spring day, it stormed through everything from powder to ice, moguls to trees, and wide-open tracked-up bowls to crowded groomers. It rewarded aggressive, high-speed skiing the most, but had enough versatility to get everyone but our lightest and meekest testers smiling. If you have trouble finding a women’s ski with enough performance for your taste, this is a good place to start.
DYNASTAR LEGEND W88
BEST FOR: Technical skiers * LENGTHS: 159, 166, 173, 180 * RADIUS: 18@180 * SIDECUT: 125-88-109 * $649
If our male testers liked the men’s version of the Legend, our women absolutely loved this one. “So easy to connect with this ski. Hero snow? Hero skis,” said Caitlin Burge at Whitewater. While Jenn Warren at Blue Mountain commented: “Very fun ski. An excellent all-mountain ski.” The five-ski family (75, 80, 84, 88 and 96) shares design attributes but each differs slightly in construction. A five-point sidecut creates a large sweet spot and makes the skis easy to carve. Lots of tip and tail rocker add float and manoeuvrability. And the PowerDrive core stacks materials vertically, rather than horizontally, to create lively, powerful skis. Both Warren and Burge tested the Legend W88, which may be the highest-performance ski of the lineup with two Titanal layers—the rest use fibreglass. “This ski purred on groomers, gripping effortlessly,” noted Burge. “It’s super-responsive. Solid off-piste. It’s more work to turn this beauty through tight trees, but that’s not saying much. Solid footing off small drops.” Warren found the ski’s agility most noteworthy: “Super-easy to turn. Easy to pivot while doing slower short-radius turns, and great edge grip at medium radius. Very stable at higher speeds. I found it to be versatile.” Both think technical or powerful skiers from advanced to expert will love the versatility of the 88. The smaller-waisted models are well suited to intermediate to advanced skiers, especially in the East. The 96 would make a good all-mountain choice in deep-snow destinations, and a good option for fast improving intermediates and advanced skiers.
ELAN RIPSTICK 94W
BEST FOR: Skiing it all at moderate speeds * LENGTHS: 156, 163, 170, 177 * RADIUS: 15@163 * SIDECUT: 134-94-109 * $649
Testers swooned over the bright and beautiful colour combos of the women’s Ripstick 94 and new 86 width. And then they skied them. “Hard not to find the sweet spot. Playful and forgiving,” wrote Whitewater ski instructor Caitlin Burge. “Versatile, fun, and can carve on a dime. Lively, has a lot of energy, and is responsive on- or off-piste,” said Jenna Burge. How did Elan do it? Both models are asymmetric, but the left and right edges are more than just different lengths. Elan added extra camber to the inside edge for edge grip and stability, and more rocker to the outside for easier turn initiation. Donie Blunden noted while testing in Whistler: “Easy start to the turn will give confidence to attack steeper terrain.” On an icy day at Ontario’s Blue Mountain, Andi Ciotti found the camber came in handy: “It skied with more finesse than expected and held well on the icy conditions.” As with most of its skis, Elan kept the weight low. The core is made of wood strips with carbon tubes close to the edge to add torsional stability and rebound out of the turn. At the tip and tail, wood is milled out to cut weight and a composite sheet is inserted to reduce vibration. Testers concluded both the 94 and 86 are fun skis ideal for more technical skiers who like to drive at the speed limit. “Super-responsive, and quick and nimble in the bumps,” said Caitlin Burge. “A very versatile all-mountain ski.”
HEAD WILD JOY
BEST FOR: Western all-mountain skiing * LENGTHS: 153, 158, 163, 168, 173 * RADIUS: 14.4@168 * SIDECUT: 139-90-119 * $747
If “moguls, trees, back bowls, powder, groomers,” and yes, “joy” are all part of your skiing vernacular, then you should check out this wild child. Our testers said it checked all those boxes and more. Donie Blunden in Whistler could barely manage full sentences: “Amazing all-mountain charger. Smooth Cadillac ride. Carves like a race ski.” Andi Ciotti at Blue Mountain wrote: “Very stable ski. Felt great control and power on it. It was responsive and fun.” At 90mm underfoot, the Wild Joy is designed as a backside all-mountain ski. Indeed, testers found it danced through tight trees and moguls, had plenty of float for powder, and could crank big turns in wide-open terrain. What surprised our testers was how well it performed on-piste. A combination of graphene (at the tips to keep swingweight down), Koroyd (a vibration dampener) and carbon (stiffness) gives the ski plenty of edge hold. “It had a few tricks up its sleeves,” noted Anik Gaumond. “It performed really well on soft groomed terrain and crud. This ski was steady and I thought the transitions between turns were smoother at higher speeds.” She thought it would be a great all-access pass for a strong intermediate to less-demanding expert skier.
BEST FOR: Dabbling in the park * LENGTHS: 149, 159, 169 * RADIUS: 14.5@159 * SIDECUT: 116-88-110 * $500
This ski proved to be a different beast. Most all-mountain skis straddle the line between groomer ski and powder ski while the MissConduct looks to the freestyle crowd for inspiration. The result is a ton of fun. K2 redesigned the already well-liked MissConduct ski by taking the guts of a park and pipe ski and paired it with freeride shape. The result: never judge a ski by its twintips. “This ski was a surprise,” reports Barb Kupferschmidt Linder. “Easy edge-to-edge, stiffer tail allowing for snappy short turns and crisp edge hold in a longer arc.” The core is all aspen completely wrapped by fibreglass, a K2 patented process that creates good torsional stability and lots of life in the flex. K2 pressed it into its aptly named All Terrain Rocker profile, the same one used on its all-mountain skis. To add durability, the sidewalls are rolled to reduce edge-to-edge contact. With an 85mm waist, 118 at the tip and 109 at the tail, there’s plenty of sidecut for tight turns and enough stability for high speeds. “Awesome and playful in the bumps, and fun in the park,” said 16-year-old racer Korina Linder. “Ideal for an intermediate avid park rider.” While Marianne Coral said it was a stable GS cruiser with on- and off-piste versatility. If your idea of all-mountain also includes laps in the park, or the idea of riding switch every now and then gets your heart racing, add this impressive performer to your dance card. No one walked away disappointed.
K2 THRILLUVIT 85
BEST FOR: Your first all-mountain ski * LENGTHS: 149, 156, 163, 170 * RADIUS: 13.5@170 * SIDECUT: 128-85-112 * $500
How many ways can you profess your Luv? At K2 it’s been nine and now the company is adding one more. The newest addition to its Luv series of all-mountain and freeride skis (which also includes the Alluvit 88, $600; Fulluvit 95, $650; and Luv Boat 105, $700) is the first aimed at intermediate skiers and the most affordable yet. Like many K2 skis, the Thrilluvit 85 has an aspen wood core wrapped in fibreglass. This combo maintains the predictable soft flex of wood while adding the edge-to-edge rigidity needed to hold carves in hard snow. Early-rise tip and tail help make the ski easy to turn and floaty in powder, while the 85mm waist offers all-mountain versatility. “Fun all-mountain ski that’s easy-turning in both short and long turns,” said Barb Kupferschmidt Linder. In skilled hands it danced through any terrain. “Light and quick turn-to-turn,” discovered Donie Blunden. The overall design purpose was a forgiving ski that would help an intermediate progress into expert terrain. On that rating one of Canada’s top mogul skiers said it scores a 10. “Great ski for all levels,” wrote Raine Haziza. “Aggressive skiers will find lots to like.” Any intermediate or advanced skier with an eye on the backside of the mountain or a Western road trip in the plans will likely benefit from this ski’s easygoing, but fearless nature.
NORDICA ASTRAL 84
BEST FOR: Intermediates learning off-piste * LENGTHS: 144, 151, 158, 165 * RADIUS: 14@158 * SIDECUT: 120-84-105 * $650
What do you get when you mix a freeride tip with a carving tail? A ski that carves effortlessly from start to finish in a mix of conditions. The Astral is Nordica’s new for ’18 all-mountain ski. Rather than try to be everything to everyone though, it focuses on what we sometimes call all-mountain frontside. Reflected in the waist widths, 88, 84 and 78, these are more firm-snow oriented than some all-mountain skis, but Nordica also made them as light as possible, combining a balsa wood core with a Titanal sheet with hexagon shapes cut out to cut weight. The combo creates a unique-feeling ski that left some testers unsure what to think. The shallow tip with plenty of rocker helped with turn initiation, setting the edge high and early, a great attribute, especially in firm snow. But at high speeds the shovel tended to be floppy. The stiff tail felt stable through the whole turn, keeping the edge in contact right into the transition and providing plenty of support if testers slipped into the back seat. In other words: forgiving. Built a lot like a dedicated mogul ski, testers weren’t surprised to find it smooth through the bumps. In general, the Astral tended to find its happy place at moderate speeds in soft to firm snow. A good bet for improving intermediates and advanced skiers who like to keep the speed on the safe side of fast.
VÖLKL 90EIGHT W
BEST FOR: Demanding Western experts * LENGTHS: 156, 163, 170 * RADIUS: 15.9@163 * SIDECUT: 133-98-116 * $749
Compared to a Chevy Malibu, a Cadillac XTS Sedan feels more solid, quiet and precise. That’s the same difference Völkl’s new 3D.Glass layering technology in the binding area makes in the 90Eight W, says Völkl. Rather than a flat sheet of fibreglass near the base of the ski, like last year’s model, this year Völkl extended the sheet vertically and then horizontally to wrap the sidewalls, improving agility and power transmission to the edge. The result is like adding ice cream to cake: it makes an already loved all-mountain ski better. “Moral of the story: this ski can rip,” wrote Jenna Burge. “Whether I was on a groomer or popping down a chute or in the trees, the 90Eight provided me with confidence in every situation. I felt great on this ski. It remained smooth and strong in every situation. I could definitely see this ski being my partner in crime in 2018.” Many testers noted the light weight, which came in handy particularly in tight and steep situations, but even after a long day on the slopes when testers noticed their legs weren’t as tired as they expected. Credit the 3D construction, a process that concentrates the skis bulk and mass over the centre, smoothing out flex and reducing mass. Lucky Paula Timmins got a chance to test the ski at Marmot Basin: “The 3D.Glass gives the 90Eight more edge hold underfoot, enhancing its carving on harder snow. It’s still a great ski in powder.” It proved forgiving enough for a strong intermediate but with the performance an expert expects. A versatile all-mountain ski for anywhere in the West.
BEST FOR: If you like a softer ski that can do it all * LENGTHS: 147, 154, 161, 168 * RADIUS: 15.8@161 * SIDECUT: 123-84-104 * $699
Like its German homeland, we’ve come to stereotype Völkl skis: full of cutting-edge technology, designed to do a specific purpose, serious and no-nonsense. The Yumi goes against the grain. With an all-wood core and just a Titanal band, the construction is like a throwback to a decade ago. But the Yumi kept modern early rise at the tip and tail, lots of camber and plenty of shape with a 123mm tip, 84 waist and 104 tail. It was mogul pro Raine Haziza’s favourite ski: “It has a smooth transition from off-piste to on. A fun ski and perfect for everyone from intermediate to expert.” Her mom, Sandra Haziza, calls it the perfect progression boards: “Take this ski all over the mountain.” And Barb Kupferschmidt Linder was also stoked on the performance: “Super-versatile with concise edge-to-edge performance not only on the groomers but off-piste and in the bumps. This ski can be an all-encompassing tool for recreational and professional skiers alike.” The trick, said Kupferschmidt Linder, is to find the right length for your ski style and ability. Depending on the length (147, 154, 161 and 168cm), the ski’s turning radius ranged from a snappy 13m to an almost super-G 18m.