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GEAR GUIDE 2008
164 New Skis
SEPTEMBER 2007

SKI TEST EVE
ER!

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PLUS: Boots, Bindings, Helmets, Poles, Packs, Goggles, and More
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NORTHWEST CHUNDERFEST PAGE 60 THE SEASON’S BEST BACKCOUNTRY SETUPS

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Skis that survived the tests and made it into the magazine. These are the official Skiing Magazine Ski Test Finalists.

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Pairs of skis submitted to our tests in Snowbird and Deer Valley, Utah, and Winter Park and Devil’s Thumb Ranch, Colorado.

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Every piece of gear reviewed here received top scores from our testers. We tested more than what’s here, but only reviewed the best.
Alpine skis with this symbol earned the highest scores in their categories. See page 99. These editors’ picks are either affordable, incredibly versatile, or both.

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Professional skiers, ski-film stars, and Skiing editors who skied 30,000 vertical feet per day.

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Some things you should know about our ski test: 1) We test everything that gets submitted. 2) Whether they’re from a company that advertises or not, only the best skis—fewer than 50 percent—make it into the magazine. 3) Sometimes we take heat for point 2. 4) Every review contains both positive and negative critical analysis. 5) There is typically a clear consensus among testers whether a ski excels or bombs. 6) Skiing Magazine endorses the skis on the following pages— they all perform differently, but they all perform well.

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contents
page 72 One-Ski Quiver Expert page 78 Big-Mountain Expert page 86 Powder Specialty page 92 Frontside Expert page 96 One-Ski Quiver Advanced page 98 Frontside Advanced page 99 Best in Test Card page 100 Bootfitters’ Take Chart page 101 Giant Slalom and Slalom Race page 104 Women’s Skis page 115 Boots

Dead hamster. Being investigated as a possible vehicular homicide.
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TEST DIRECTOR: SAM BASS
CONTRIBUTING WRITERS: Jake Bogoch, David Currier, Marc Peruzzi, Matt Ross, Tracy Ross (no relation to Matt), Heather Schultz

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ACTION PHOTOGRAPHY BY SCOTT MARKEWITZ
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“These skis float over rocks like nothing I’ve ever skied.” Tester Dan Withey at Snowbird.

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Ski a lot of groomers? You’re not alone. Unless you’re a heli guide, that’s the reality. These skis make groomed snow more fun.

NUMBER OF SKIS TESTED: 27 FINALISTS (REVIEWED HERE): 13
POWER/FINESSE SPEED TURN CORDUROY

FISCHER RX COOL HEAT 117/76/103; $1,125 (with binding) Like the Progressor, the Cool Heat dives into turns with hardly a nudge. The edge hold is crisp and clean. And you can easily reel them back into short swing turns. GRIPES: It can feel a little unpredictable in the apex of the turn. PROPS: The binding plate adds tremendous power to this zippy ski. TESTER’S TAKE: “You don’t ride the Cool Heat, you drive it.” —Kevin Kaneda LENGTHS: 155, 160, 165, 170, 175, 180
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ATOMIC SX 12 PB 115/68/99; $1,135 (without binding) The second-highest-rated ski in the category, the SX 12 dives actively into turns, pulls forcefully across the fall line, and doesn’t easily relinquish its magnetic edge grip. The stability underfoot is unmatched. GRIPES: Stiff tail makes you work to disengage from the carve. Bending into short-radius whippers is a chore. PROPS: Think-turn reactivity makes for even, smooth, autopilot carving. The quintessential frontside ski. TESTER’S TAKE: “I could not get these skis to make a bad turn.” —Mike Taché LENGTHS: 162, 169, 176, 183
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K2 APACHE CROSSFIRE 117/70/101; $1,250 (with binding) Tip it over on edge and the Crossfire does the rest. This ski hugs the terrain (thanks in no small part to the Marker Piston binding) and executes damp, stable, round turns with almost zero muscling. GRIPES: Most of our testers wanted more snap out of the turn. PROPS: Incredibly predictable. You never feel the ski twitch. TESTER’S TAKE: “Playful, easy, damp, and slinky.” —Sam Bass LENGTHS: 160, 167, 174, 181
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ATOMIC METRON 11 B5C 123/76/107; $1,065 (without binding) Secure on edge, but more forgiving than the SX 12 (above), this Metron delivers a smooth, terrainabsorbing ride. Click in and feel the well-engineered binding system seamlessly transfer power to track through crud. GRIPES: Not a natural turn initiator. Requires more steering than the SX 12. PROPS: Playful, and won’t lock you into a series of uniform, sterile carved turns. TESTER’S TAKE: “Will not waver off the arc.” —Andy Gaylord LENGTHS: 152, 158, 164, 170, 176
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NORDICA SPEEDMACHINE MACH 3 XBI 119/72/104; $1,275 (with binding) A lighter and livelier version of Mach 3 Power (below), this Speedmachine excels at knocking off medium-radius turns in soft snow and corduroy. GRIPES: They were a touch chattery on the earlymorning hardpack at Deer Valley. If you ski a lot of ice, think about upgrading to the Power. PROPS: As stable and well balanced as…a Nordica ski. TESTER’S TAKE: “Go fast. Scare intermediates. But avoid them.” —Peter Nestor LENGTHS: 154, 162, 170, 178
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DYNASTAR CONTACT LIMITED 122/72/102; $1,200 (with binding) A snappy carver, the Contact Limited has a shapely tip that initiates smoothly. The edge hold stays strong in the turn belly. And the tail is predictable and powerful. GRIPES: Larger testers found it skittish at high speed. PROPS: The ski’s progressively stiffer flex torpedoes you into your next turn. TESTER’S TAKE: “Like an MG roadster with the top down: plenty of fun at speed.” —Peter Nestor LENGTHS: 158, 165, 172, 178
POWER/FINESSE SPEED TURN CORDUROY

NORDICA SPEEDMACHINE MACH 3 XBI POWER 119/72/104; $1,385 (with binding) Like the men’s razor of the same name, the Mach 3 Power has a feature the plain old Mach 3 doesn’t—two sheets of metal that result in deeper edge hold and the total lack of a speed limit. GRIPES: The metal makes them slower edge to edge. PROPS: Great agility at high speed. TESTER’S TAKE: “Once this ski bit the snow, it wouldn’t let go till the turn was devoured.” —Mike Britt LENGTHS: 154, 162, 170, 178
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FISCHER RC4 PROGRESSOR 117/70/100; $1,250 (with binding) Two of our testers are former pro racers—and they loved the Progressor. Expect powerful edge penetration and the ability to move from slalom to GS turns at will. “A beer-league cheater ski,” said one tester. GRIPES: You need to bring them up to speed to find the sweet spot. PROPS: The flex is perfectly dialed. Smooth but powerful. TESTER’S TAKE: “I didn’t want to put ’em back on the rack. ” —Mike Britt LENGTHS: 160, 165, 170, 175, 180

ROSSIGNOL 9S OVERSIZE 118/66.5/104; $1,250 (with binding) The 9S Oversize is lightweight but stable, lively but damp. You need to ski it with power, but it doesn’t waver when you do. Initiation is quick, followed by a secure cross-fall-line carve and a mellow finish. GRIPES: Could use some more energy in transition. PROPS: Silky through the turn. Easy to adjust turn shape. TESTER’S TAKE: “The edges were always in contact with the snow. They’re unflappable.” —Mark Lesh LENGTHS: 150, 158, 165, 173

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WHAT I LOOK FOR
Alex Shaffer, Olympian and Skiing tester
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A frontside ski performs when asked, and relaxes and cruises the rest of the time. I want to be able to lay it on edge and hammer, or rip off some pristine arcs on a powder day. I like to ski fast and make full, sweeping, big-belly turns—the kind you plan for. I need a ski that is willing, not too stiff, and not too floppy. The 76-millimeter waist in a 170-centimeter length is ideal.
10 ROSSIGNOL RADICAL R11 MUTIX 118/70/102; $1,350 (with binding) Snap in the Mutix’s longer arms and you have a dynamic GS ski. Switch them out for the shorter arms and you have a lively short-turner. Either way, the shovel initiates smoothly and the platform-like feel underfoot boosts confidence in racer-fast arcs. GRIPES: Needs to be run at full speed. PROPS: Superb energy release. TESTER’S TAKE: “You’re always in the sweet spot.” —Mike Taché LENGTHS: 155, 165, 175 11 SALOMON X-WING CYCLONE 115/68/97; $1,250 (with binding) KILLER DEAL Salomon continues to ramp up its line with more wood-core skis that offer tons of edge hold and high-speed stability—without losing their classic play6

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fulness and loose feel. True to form, the Cyclone is damp and smooth but lightningfast edge to edge. GRIPES: Superheavyweights can overpower it. PROPS: Responds well to power or finesse. TESTER’S TAKE: “Great for making GS turns on hard snow.” —Andy Gaylord LENGTHS: 154, 162, 170, 178

the skis off to flick the switches. PROPS: Incredible edge hold. TESTER’S TAKE: “Takes a bite out of the mountain.” —Kevin Kaneda LENGTHS: 161, 168, 175, 182

12 VÖLKL TIGERSHARK 10FT POWER SWITCH 121/73/105; $1,375 (with binding) BEST IN TEST Twist the Power Switch on the Tigershark’s tail and two carbon-fiber rods in the ski load with tension, giving it extra zing as it arcs through a turn. It sounds like a gimmick but it works. The ski is mellower and more playful in the off position and souped up when on. GRIPES: Unless you’re a yogi, you have to take

13 VÖLKL TIGERSHARK 12FT POWER SWITCH 124/79/108; $1,375 (with binding) Whether the Power Switch was on or off (see review above) the 12FT Shark was the most powerful frontside ski in the test. Be prepared to hang on all the way through long, fast arcs. The payoff is world-class energy and hold. GRIPES: A bear in short turns. PROPS: Lay them all the way over. They won’t wash out. TESTER’S TAKE: “Watch out, boy. She’ll chew you up. She’s a maneater.” —Hall and Oates LENGTHS: 161, 168, 175, 182
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Tester Charlotte Moats loads ’em up and shoots ‘em down the barrel at Snowbird, Utah.
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CROSSOVER GEAR
The line between alpine and backcountry freeride gear is fading. All six of these items are tough enough to charge hairy terrain, but light and comfortable enough to access it. Crossover gear is not for expeditions. That’s for certain. But for tours just beyond the ropes, this hardgood sixpack is hard to beat. —JEFF BURKE K2 APACHE COOMBA (135/102/121; 8 lb; $800) This is the first posthumous pro model in the history of skiing. Not only does it assassinate soft snow, but the notched tails accept skins easily to get you to it (see full review, p. 80). BLACK DIAMOND VERDICT (134/102/120; 8 lb., 6 oz.; $600) BD widened this year’s Verdict by four millimeters, but also machined the new wood core to keep the weight penalty down. The Verdict earned high marks in the tele test (see review p. 135) and in the Big Mountain category, reviewed on p. 78. MOVEMENT GOLIATH (135/108/124; 9 lb.; $795) One of our editors demoed these wood-cored beauties on a Whistler powder day and he literally wouldn’t leave until the guy in the Movement booth set him up with a pair. It probably had something to do with the Goliath’s flawless performance in powder, speed, and crud. GARMONT SHAMAN (10 lb., 11 oz.; $799) The new Shaman is an ultraprecise alpine boot tweaked for backand sidecountry use. The high cuff, four buckles, power strap, and fixed spine provide race-boot sensitivity. The declawed fit and interchangeable DINreleasable lug soles make ’em ready for ridge walks and crampons. One of our favorite new boots. nated with antimicrobial silver particles to stop helmet-stink. Pair it with Uvex goggles for a seamlessly integrated fit. Add Bluetooth-compatible earphones for no extra cost. [$180; uvexsports.com] K2 EDGE The Edge gives you all the features and protection of a top-end helmet—12 vents, a washable liner, removable earflaps, and an elastic goggle retention strap—at a price that won’t leave you eating mustard sardines for dinner. [$100; k2skis.com] GIRO G9 Craniometrically challenged? You won’t find a lighter, better-fitting helmet than the G9. Replacing Giro’s ultrapopular Nine.9 series, this new dome features the same low-profile design and extended head coverage. A new interior cradle can be adjusted for the perfect fit—even if you do have Charlie Brown syndrome. [$100; giro.com] SALOMON POISON With its printed shell and fauxfur-and-leather earflaps, the women-specific Poison is way stylish. Thanks to a removable visor, extra interior impact pads, and a hollowed notch in the back for ponytail freedom, you can mix your Poison however you want. [$145; salomonsports.com] —KEVIN ARNOLD SCARPA HURRICANE (8 lb.; $699) Like the Shaman, it has four buckles and no walk mode, but Pebax plastic and an Intuition heat-moldable liner keep it nearly three and a half pounds lighter per pair. Stout enough for hardsnow performance, but still firmly rooted in ski-mountaineering design. MARKER DUKE (5 lb., 10 oz.; max DIN 16; $496) The first true alpine binding with AT capability. Tour to the top, then drop in and feel how the Duke’s 76-millimeter-wide footprint transfers gobs of ski-bending power. At DIN 16, you’ll toss your lunch before your boards. (Full review on p. 129.)
PHOTOGRAPH BY SETH HUGHES SEPTEMBER 2007

HELMETS
FROM LEFT TO RIGHT, TOP TO BOTTOM

SMITH VARIANT BRIM Two sliding panels control the huge vents in this stylish lid, letting you shut out the cold or usher in the breeze. Inside, the removable, machine-washable liner soaks up your cold sweats. Oh, and did we mention it has a brim? [$150; smithoptics.com] UVEX X-RIDE SPORTSTYLE A matte-black finish hides the X-Ride’s guts, like six adjustable vents and a breathable mesh liner that’s impreg-

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PHOTOGRAPH BY SETH HUGHES

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