By Tony Crespi
Each season the ski industry unveils new ski collections boasting advancements and refinements in technology and design. Often unrecognized by the public are the complexity of engineering and design principles involved in this process. The tip to tail shapes and dimensions used in a ski are crucial to its performance as even minor modifications can change how a ski reacts dramatically.
Honestly, the range in the 2014-2015 skis is extraordinary. But not all new skis are equal. In addition, performance can vary widely because of skier weight, strength, as well as skiing style.
Ski testers try all the skis on the same trail – the same test track – in order to create a standard for comparison.
Interested in our results? Welcome to the test track.
This week we will explore the 2014- 2015 ski lines of Head, K2, Rossignol and Volkl.
The Head line
“Head has great choices,” exclaims former Olympic Racer Pam Fletcher. While Head skis were a staple for years they have been less visible the past few years. Watching the Olympics, though, you likely saw Head after Head on the feet of many champions. We know why! Today’s Head line is impressive. And there are 42 models.
The Performance Series
The Performance Series includes 4 models ranging from the Supershape Titan to the Speed. Head has strived for the shape of perfection in this series melding race technology, rocker, and a ‘V’ shape. These skis are for front side skiers seeking high speed and near race performance. The Titan is the top of the line and skis with a powerful feel yielding a fast turning 14.3 radius. It felt strong and solid. Those seeking that wider width will enjoy the 80 mm waist while those seeking a narrower race feel may prefer the Rally.
Supershape Speed is racing type of ski using a 66 mm waist. It sliced the hardpack and personifies the new Head line. It skis like a rocket. Wow!
The Supershape Magnum, however, was a personal favorite. With a 72 mm waist it easily sliced the hardpack on the test tack and deftly held speed in a range of turns. This ski personifies the new Head line. The graphics also captured applause on the lift!
Waist: 72. Lengths: 149, 156, 163, 170, 177
REV 105 The ALLRIDE Series is intended for skiers who venture over the entire mountain. While not boasting the high speed limits of the Performance Series the Allride Series skiers offers wider waists ideal for deeper snow. The REV 105 is the widest and the top of the line yielding a 16 radius for a longer, larger turn.
REV 85 Pro in a 170 length was enjoyable on the hard snow. The graphics are appealing, the ski boasts a 15.9 radius yielding a nice intermediate turn radius, and edge grip was surprisingly solid for a ski equally at home off piste. For many skiers this may be the one quiver ski.
REV 80 Pro is an amazing price point for this performance. The 14.8 radius was ideal for Eastern trails but the mildly wider waist would easily adapt to occasional off piste adventures.
REV 78 is ideal for Eastern skiers seeking a more modest waist will smile. The REV 78 boasts a 13.6 radius turn. At intermediate speeds this ski shines and only wobbled at the higher ranges. That said, it’s a lot of ski for the money.
While elite racers will seek the World Cup skis in the line Head also offers consumer-oriented race skis of great appeal. Here’s one great ski to sample: the Worldcup Rebel i.SL.
The Rebel i.SL was sharp and sliced the ice easily. Amazingly, though, it was somehow forgiving! In fact, I skied for several additional runs it was such fun! To me it would be a fabulous front side carver in the East. With a 11.5m radius it turns easily but in that 165 length it was, well, just great.
The Worldcup Rebel is my personal pick. It was amazing!
Waist: 66. Lengths: 150, 155, 160, 165, 170.
The K2 line
K2 skis have always seemed like, well, a brass, American company. While no longer producing race skis, K2s remain very popular with all-mountain and off-trail skiers. Welcome to K2.
The All Mountain Resort Series (AMP)
AMP Rictor 90XTi is one of nine skis in the AMP Series: seven in the All Mountain Resort Group, augmented with three more AMP skis in the Precision Piste Group. The widest at 90 mm under foot, with a 18 m radius, felt like a hard-charging, Western ski designed for huge arcs. Its designed to bridge the gap between an all mountain ski and a Freeride ski.
AMP Rictor 82XTi has a more versatile 82 mm waist, a 17 m radius, and a metal laminate to dampen the ski. It skis like a wider ski, and felt like a ski well suited to mixing soft snow off-piste and on piste.
AMP 80X and 80XTi are two similar models with the Ti feeling more powerful. Both are responsive. Both are stable. Both are fun.
AMP 72, 76, 76Ti are three AMP models offering narrower waists. Well suited, I felt, for less powerful skiers and those favoring soft snow and intermediate terrain, the TI is the strongest, using a metal laminate.
Precision Piste AMP Skis
The Bolt is designed for front side groomed terrain, the Bolt is a metal laminate ski emphasizing strong grip in medium to long turns. Its pleasant. Skis clean. The lengths are longer then folks may expect. I like the 72 mm waist for Eastern snow!
The Charger has a 74 mm waist, 17 m radius, and metal laminate. The turns seemed quicker then the Bolt. The 165 was playful.
The Annex 98 is part of seven models in this grouping. The 98 is the narrowest, with a 22 m radius for the fastest, straightest, lines. This is for those who ski straight. And fast.
The Annex 118: Seth Morrison Pro Model, is a big mountain ski, boasting a 23 m radius, wide waist, narrow tip, and a design built for speed. Western escapes for extreme terrain? This is its forte.
My personal pick is the AMP Rictor 82XTi.
The Rossignol line
As the largest ski manufacturer in the world Rossignol has boasted a number of fine skis over the years. Many were classics. This year? Honestly, moving forward from a stunning preview last spring these are some of the finest Rossis I have skied in a decade.
Experience All Mountain Series
The Experience Series is intended to offer versatility, maneuverability, and stability while offering superior edge grip. With six models and varying waists, the goal, of course, is to Experience More on the mountain.
Experience 100, 88, 84, 80, 77, and 75, vary in versatility with a 18 m radius in the 100 varying to a 15.4 radius in the 77 and 75. All have wood in the cores, with Titanal in the 100 and Carbon in the 84 and 77. Honestly, these vary from one to the next depending on preferences for width, stiffness, and lengths. So if you love Rossi, take test ride. But test a few! These are amazingly versatile, fun, forgiving, but with this line they vary from ski to ski.
On Trail Pursuit Series
Pursuit HP TI is intended for front side hardpack, the Pursuit Series is designed for the hardpack. The Pursuit HP is the top of a 4 ski line, using traditional camber with subtle tip rocker, oversize sidecut, traditional sidewalls, and wood cores balanced with Ti as needed. The HP is rock stable. With an 81 mm waist this is the widest of the series, and uses titanium for power. I felt the power! With a 16.8 m radius it likes to arc long, and fast.
The Pursuit 18 is the second ski in the line. With a 17.4 m radius it also likes to arc long, and fast, but with a 76 mm waist it rolls onto edge easily and seems ideal for eastern snow. With black and red graphics it’s also sharp. On trail. Or off.
The Pursuit 16 is the third ski in the line. With a 15.1 m radius it seems versatile, and with a 74 mm waist it rolls easily onto edge. It seems ideal for “old school” skiers while offering new technology. It’s built like its brethren, also has Ti, but with that narrower profile.
The Pursuit 12 is the narrowest in the line, offering a 70 mm waist and 12.4 m radius turn for narrower turns on eastern hardpack. This is an easy, forgiving ski, with surprising performance. It would make a wonderful daily driver for dedicated front side skiers.
All Snow Experience Series
The six skis in the Experience series is led off by the 98 with a progressively narrower waist and progressively smaller radius turns, these models are designed to rip groomers or float in powder depending on your choice. They use 30 percent rocker in the tip and tail with traditional high camber under the boot. These are targeting the one-ski quiver skier. The 98 has a long 19.9 m radius while the narrowest 74 has a 15.2 m radius. Three come flat while three use systems.
My personal pick is the Pursuit 18. It’s sharp.
The Volkl line
For years German produced Volkl was a cult ski. Now it’s a staple. In fact, Volkl is also known as a ski which comes impeccably tuned. That’s still true. With 58 skis, excluding rentals, this year’s line is deep.
The V-Werks Collection
V Werks uniquely includes both frontside skis as well as three new BMT – Big Mountain Touring Skis for those who climb the mountain but expect top performance on the descent.
V Werks RTM: This is a favorite. The ski is strong, stable, and with a 84 mm waist amazingly holds hard snow like Velcro. The radius varies by length with a nice 15.8 m in the 166 — my choice, 16.9 m in the 171, 18 in the 176, and 19.1 in the 181. Each length truly skis differently and emphasizes the need for that test ride.
V Werks Code uses a narrower 76 mm waist. It’s light and playful and like the RTM radius varies with length, again necessitating that test ride.
BMT 122, 109, 94 are truly Big Mountain Touring Skis and intended for that goal. They also have pre-cut glue free climbing skis! All are flat. All are for big mountain skiers. If you climb for those turns investigate these options.
The Frontside Ride The Mountain Series
This six model series offers a variety of waists, and a range in rocker. In other words, the skis truly vary model to model. As turn radius varies by length and each varying waist offers remarkably different skis.
RTM 84, 81, 80,77, 75iS, 75, and 73 — with increasingly modest waists, these skis boasts waists which match each number. Each is narrower, and each ski has varying radius turns according to the lengths. What this means is a tremendous range of choices for skiers, and the ability to select a ski almost customized to your desires. RTM? Well worth a test ride! The RTM 84 has been updated boasting both beautiful graphics as well as strengthened performance. It held like Velcro and soared over the crud effortlessly.
The Code Series
Code Speedwall L UVO is a TI ski using a 76 mm waist for harder snow, and a deep sidecut yielding a 15.3m radius in the 164, 16.9 in the 171, 18.6 in the 178, and 20.3 in the 185. Tip and tail rocker provide a front side kind of performance. Volkl lovers will smile. It’s a satisfying ride.
Code Speedwall S UVO: The new S uses a 74 mm waist and varying radius turn. This may be the most versatile Volkl ski to-date with a 13.6 radius in the 159, 15 in the 166, 16.5 in the 173, and 18.1 in the 180.
My personal pick: The RTM 84.
Contributing writer Tony Crespi has served as both a Ski School Supervisor and Development Team Coach. A frequent contributor to publications throughout snow country, his column is published throughout the season.