Sports
November 25, 2014

The Mountain Journal: The 2014-15 ski collection, notes from the test track

The search for the one ski quiver continues

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 materials used to construct a multi-layer ski core are dazzling, often blending exotic woods with titanium, carbon, fiberglass, or even steel. These materials are carefully mixed and matched to create specific models which must also be integrated with varying amounts of tip and tail rocker as well as design decisions involving waist widths, torsional flex, and edge material. The tip to tail shapes and dimensions used in a ski are crucial to its performance, as even minor modifications can dramatically change how a ski reacts.

In addition, ski bindings can enhance or inhibit flex and performance, which is why some skis have integrated bindings intended to maximize the ski and binding interface. Two years ago, on test, I adjusted the “ramp angle” of a test binding. The results were stunning and yielded tangible changes in my skiing. I also found that modifying side edge angles yielded different outcomes. The point, of course, is to help readers understand that new skis choices truly represent highly evolved and engineered products.

Former Olympic Racer Pam Fletcher agrees, saying, “I hope people realize it’s important to figure out what equipment is right for you because then you can really feel comfortable and gain confidence.”

As consumers, then, skiers should recognize that while there are many wonderful skis on the mountain, there are also profound differences between skis.  In fact, the same ski, in different lengths, may have a different radius turn. We suggest you test two or possibly three skis as you narrow your choices. Then, test your final choice in two lengths.

“For the East a great ski is a ski that’s versatile enough for softer snow, but quick enough edge-to-edge to function everyday in the groomed and harder snow we see daily,” said Jed Duke, product marketing manager for Blizzard Skis. “From Blizzard, it’s the X Power 810, which is an 81mm waisted ski with a wood core, and the new Latigo is a new ski 78mm underfoot and it’s basically a front side ski with a back side feel. The Brahma is also one of our best selling skis… We are quite excited about our skis this year,” said Duke. “We changed the camber and reduced rocker in key models to make you feel more connected to the snow.”

It is helpful to understand that while skis once ranged from novice to race skis, today skis belong more in “families,” with low to high end performance qualities within each family.  These families include Race Skis, Front Side Carving Skis, All Mountain Skis, Twin Tips, Powder Skis, Women’s Skis, Junior Skis, as well as Back Country Skis.

Honestly, the range in the 2014-2015 skis is extraordinary. That is, not all new skis are equal. In addition, performance can vary widely because of skier weight, strength, and skiing style. Tuning and preparation aside (yes, even a great skis will not perform well if out of tune and, conversely,  a poor ski can sometimes ski remarkably well if properly tuned) this may be the most important year yet for potential buyers to take a test ride on their two or three top choices!
Ski testers try all the skis on the same trail – the same test track – in order to create a standard for comparison. It’s not perfect, as snow conditions change, but it adds as much uniformity as possible. The good news is that this year we tested many impressive and fun skis!

Welcome to the test track— this week it’s the Atomic line.

ATOMIC SKIS

The 2014- 2015 Atomic line skis fast, skis fun
Atomic Skis use proven race-driven designs. Always popular with top racers, Atomic leads with 52 options – excluding rentals – offering remarkable depth and breadth.

All-Mountain Vantage Series:

Ritual: Leading this series of flat offerings – designed to balance flotation and edge hold, the Ritual uses a waist of 103mm in a wood core ski using an all-mountain tip and tail rocker shape. While that wider waist is more likely to appeal to those who spend time in the trees or woods, it boasts solid grip.
Waist 103 mm; Lengths: 174,182,190.

Alibi: With a waist of 98 mm this wood core ski also uses tip and tail rocker. While that waist is more likely to appeal to Eastern skiers it is still wide enough for those who ski in the trees or woods.
Waist 98 mm. Lengths: 173,180,187.

Theory: The Theory boasts a beautiful blue and black graphic. Using a wood core with a 95mm waist, this ski balances a great look with a love for speed.
Waist 95 mm, Lengths: 168,177,186.

Panic: The Panic also uses a wood core with an 87 mm waist and all-mountain rocker to create a versatile ski. This ski can charge! But it also was ideal on the hard snow.
Waist 87 mm, Lengths: 149,157,165,173,181.

All Mountain Nomad Series:

The Nomad Series uses all-mountain rocker with 15 percent rocker in the tip. These are solid on-piste Eastern skis with waist widths ranging from a nice 73 mm for rapid edge grip to 86 mm for those who seeking softer snow versatility. Boasting ARC technology, with only one mounting point in the center of the ski, the ski is designed to flex more naturally.

Temper TI: Led by the 73 mm waisted Temper TI, this wood core TI/Carbon uses a “floating deck” to amplify the boot/ski interface. The waist seems ideal for the East and it held beautifully. The ride was smooth.

Radon TI: The slightly wider 76 mm waisted Radon also is built similarly to the Temper, and also uses 15 percent tip rocker. Skied fast. Skied fun.

Crimson TI: The Crimson TI has an 86 mm waist, offers great versatility, and blends solid edge grip with easy turn initiation. It turned easily. Held strongly. And could ski all conditions. From trees to carving this is a great daily driver.
Waist 86 mm, Lengths 170, 178,186.

Blackeye TI: With a 81mm waist this ski is strong on hard snow and has an easy turn. It seemed more forgiving than the Crimson TI, easier to turn, but sufficiently powerful to appeal to all but the strongest all mountain chargers.  (There is also a new Blackeye Model without Titanium).
Waist 81 mm, Lengths 160,167,174,18.

Smoke TI: With a 76 mm waist, the Smoke TI is deceptively strong and tailor-made for intermediates and mellow experts looking for a forgiving ride, and the occasional fast cruise.
Waist 76mm, Lengths 157,164,171,178

Personal Pick: The Temper TI was ideal on hard pack.

BLIZZARD SKIS
Over the past few seasons Blizzard skis have increasingly captured the hearts of Eastern skiers with their solid edge grip and powerful performance. A perennial favorite for the testers, what started as a small niche brand has become a benchmark for excellence. In fact last year Snoweast Magazine tester Bill Bird was so impressed that he chose a pair of Blizzard R Powers as his personal ski. Now, with 42 models this line is as deep as, well, a blizzard.

Free  Mountain series

Bodacious: The 118 mm waisted Bodacious is the widest in this series, coming flat for those seeking personal binding choice. That 118 mm waist is built for powder and off-piste. If I lived in the West it would be in my quiver. The turn radius is 32 m – for big big arcs. What’s your speed limit?
Waist 118 mm. Lengths: 176, 186, 196.

Cochise: The 108 mm waisted Cochise uses a 28.5 m radius. With beautiful blue graphics it seemed more versatile than its older sibling while still offering a wide platform for off-piste performance.
Waist: 108mm. Lengths: 170,177,185,193.

Bonafide: The Bonafide has a 98 mm waist and a 21 m radius. It arcs. It holds with amazing grip. Truly this is an extraordinary all-mountain ski. Perfect for the West. Ideal for those who venture off piste East or West.
Waist: 98mm. Lengths: 166, 173, 180, 187.

Brahma:  This was a surprisingly stunning ski. With that 88 mm waist it demonstrated surprising edge grip on hard conditions. And with a 19 m radius it was surprising versatile. Honestly, it held beautifully here in the East and will appeal to those seeing this kind of wide all-mountain ski.

The Power and X Power Series  

The Power and X Power Series together offer seven models ideally married to Eastern hardpack and front side cruising. Built with the IQ System and using carefully matched Marker bindings, these were my personal favorites on the test track. In fact, the X Power 720 IQ seemed remarkably powerful for a ski and binding offered with a suggested retail price of $399!

G Power Full Suspension IQ: The G Power is one of two skis in the Power Series and the strongest of these models. With a 75 mm waist and 17 m radius it carves like a razor. What’s your power quotient? This skied the test track like a race track.
Waist 75 mm, Lengths: 167,174, 181.

Power 800 Suspension IQ: The Power 800 Suspension IQ lacks the long arms in the front and rear of its sibling, something many racers  have requested, but remains a powerful ski. I used this as a benchmark. It held like Velcro. And it turned amazingly well for a speed demon with a 18 m radius. The smile factor? It was off the scale.

X Power 810 TI IQ: The 810 TI uses a 81 mm waist with a 18 m radius arc. With stunning back and green graphics this is ideal for those looking for that wider waist balanced with Titanium for solid edge grip. It’s strong. Versatile. It’s almost an ideal one ski quiver.

X Power 770 TI IQ: With that 77 mm waist and Ti construction this seemed a great blend for Eastern skiers. Like all Blizzards, it boasts solid edge grip, was well-tuned from the factory, and was versatile. Let’s take another run. It deserves a second test flight.

X Power 77 IQ: With a 73 mm waist, this was made for high performance intermediates and low key experts seeking a great ski at an amazing price. The 15 m radius is, just, playful, and the black and blue graphics are appealing. It’s fun. Fast. And affordable!

X Power 730 IQ:  The back and orange 730 IQ also uses that 73 mm waist and 15 m radius arc in a more forgiving frame. It’s remarkably versatile and could appeal to emerging intermediates while offering surprising power for those developing new skill sets. Nastar? X Power on board!

Race Series (non-FIS race skis for experts)

SRC Racing Suspension: With a 70 mm waist and 13 m radius this skis is ideal for those seeking a slalom flavor in a consumer oriented product. This is a Ferrari. For experts wanting a great ski on hard snow days this sets a standard for high performance front side groomers.
Waist 70 mm; Lengths 156,160,165.

Personal Pick: I liked the Power 800 Suspension IQ so much I used it as a benchmark.  Interested in a front side charger? That SRC took my heart away!

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