One day at the Outdoor Retailer show was barely enough time to scratch the surface of what is coming down the road for next season. Rather than head to Denver I dodged the travel costs of attending SIA and attended the local demo put on by the WWSRA (Western Winter Sports Representatives Association) at Alpine Meadows. Myself and local ski retailers are really thankful for the reps putting this event on, and Alpine Meadows for hosting it. It was early February and the conditions were firm and cold with an inch of packed powder from one of this season’s wimpy storms the week before.
I did not get a lot of time on anything, typically one run and done, then swap to another set up. These are my first impressions of what struck me with the few skis I managed to take out for a spin.
Forgiving ski. Lets you make most any turn radius. Doesn’t dig in too hard, lets you make a skidding turn without washing out. Holds an edge well. Smooth round turns in soft snow.
Pretty much the same as the Ritual. A bit narrower, thus a bit better on hard pack. Not a carving ski, but does hold a solid edge on hard icy snow.
Arguably one of the better skis of the day. Held an edge well on hardpack. Carved well but wasn’t a carving ski. A bit too wide for that, but could hold a rail well on a large radius turn. Soft turns were easy. Forgiving for skidders, doesn’t wash out, releases easily into the next turn.
Pretty much what I expected after skiing several days on the Kabookie, its sibling, and from the consistently rave reviews in forums and on paper. Solid edge hold, at any speed or any turn radius. Very stable at speed as well. Rebounded well at the end of each turn.
Hands down the best ski of the day for holding an edge on hardpack. At only 88mm underfoot physics would predict it should have been, and so it was. It turned as commanded, never over turning or under turning and held when told to hold. Carving turns in the runout zone was, as expected, second nature.
Dynastar Cham 97
This is a ski that has to be skied to believed. As the construction suggests, on hard icy snow it holds a firm edge, riding rails or hitting the brakes. In deeper snow the huge tip scoops you into as big or small of a turn as you desire, depending on how hard you drive the shovel into the deep. The metal top sheet adds noticeable weight compared to the High Mountain version, and you can feel the inertia of the tips when making jump turns. Probably better for big boys, not mid to welter weight skiers.
Head Rev 105
First time on this wide bodied version of Head’s acclaimed Rev series. Despite the 105mm waist it held admirably on all firm snow encountered, though it must be admitted early in the day there was little of that to be found. The shapely sidecut knocked out rhythmic turns like a song.
The Annex replaces the Hardside for next year with a lively wood core that delivers old fashioned responsiveness. Whatever radius turn you want the Annex to abide it does so at your command. Wide and sweeping or with a tight syncopation the Annex holds easily on hard and icy snow. The early rise tip helps it float in soft snow and again, yields a smooth turn initiation for any radius turn you desire. Of the skis tested, only Blizzard’s Bonafide held better for the same waist width.
Almost indistinguishable from Nordica’s overlooked Enforcer, the Steadfast held fast on firm snow while making turns smooth and effortless in the minimal fluff available for the day. Not excessively heavy either, so worth considering for the BC.
Rossignol Super 7
No surprises here, this fat waisted descendent of Rossi’s 7 series prefers soft snow. It can hold an edge on firm snow but it only carves well with an extra dose of imagination or delusion, whichever works for you. While the honeycomb tip certainly reduces swing weight it will not withstand the all too common practice of slamming the tail on pavement to knock snow from the ski; not without disintegrating. Look for the honeycomb construction in the tail to disappear by next September. I can imagine a fair number of folks like this ski, especially in the Wasatch or Rockies.
I mostly skied regular alpine bindings in full lock down mode with various brands. They all worked the same as far as I could tell; step in simplicity, rock solid control, and lots of mass regardless of whether they said Salomon, Rossi, Look, Marker, or Head. Some skis were outfitted with AT bindings allowing me to ski the Marker Duke, Salomon’s Guardian, and the Tyrolia Adrenaline.
The Adrenaline was the only plate binding in the “weight is great” genre that I had not skied before. As with any locked heel binding there was little to distinguish. A quick test of the mode switch revealed that it is nearly as easy to switch as the Fritschi Freeride, but skis with the sort of performance one expects from competitors like the Duke. The touring post is easy to engage, and there are three positions – flat, low, and high. I have since experienced it icing up when the conditions are sticky, making the switch to downhill mode not quite as easy as pie, but not a major issue either. Tele performance was pathetic.
One thing that shone through loud and clear – light skis cannot deliver the performance and reliability of heavier skis designed for resort skiing. However, the biggest factor affecting the sense of weight with these alpine rigs was the bindings. On the few skis outfitted with Dynafit the lack of weight was noticeable just walking to the lifts, and there was no obvious reduction in performance. In other words, the best way to save weight for the backcountry is to focus on getting lighter weight bindings, then boots, then skis.
Don’t let the promises of next year’s gear keep you from enjoying what you have now. Spring touring season is here. Go out and get some.