Freeride Skis - Winter 2012/13
Winter 2012/13: Hottest Off-Piste Skis Reviewed
It seems like it was just the other day I was waxing my skis for storage… and already the new Mountain Tracks touring and off-piste programme for Winter 2012/13 is upon us! As the resident 'techno geek' I'm rounding up the latest developments for the winter season.
The ski buzzwords this winter are ‘light’ and ‘terrain friendly’. Most manufacturers are trying to shave weight off their skis while still making them fatter and giving a rocker that allows a shorter turn radius and more manoeuvrability. Thankfully, gone are the days when manoeuvring a big ski off-piste was like turning the QE2.
Ski Trab (synonymous with light touring skis) are breaking into the freeride market with the Volare. These skis had great reviews from the recent ski testers stating “good stability off-piste for such a light ski”. Dynafit too have been producing light touring skis for years and have expanded their range with the Huscaran (which is 114mm wide) and great for charging powder. The Stoke however is the better all-rounder.
Ski Trab Volare 126/85/110
In the freeride category Dynastar have a new range - the Cham - with under foot widths of 87mm to 127mm. These skis should cover every base: all have a rocker tip and thus a very manoeuvrable turn radius. Nice to see that they have updated graphics - a great improvement on there 'faux wood' era! While not the lightest skis they will nonetheless always be good at busting the crud.
Dynastar Cham 127 149/121/141
Scott has updated the Punisher and Megadozer with more rocker. If you want a more traditional camber then the Venture skis are worth a look. It’s also good to see Scott has further developed women's specific skis with the Layla and Lola - ideally suiting the lighter skier… and my wife also says they look nice!
Scott Layla 132/94/118
Völkl have been producing quality off-piste skis for years. What they’ve lacked in lightness has been made up for in their performance on poor snow. The Katana and Gotama, both with some added rocker and flat camber, are definitely rated. That said they still take some effort making them work for you – no doubt due to the turn-radius of 28 metres! The Kendo is an all-rounder with a more traditional camber and a 22m radius. As with Scott, Völkl have really developed the women's range over the past few years with the Kenja, Kiku and Aura all excellent skis with funky graphics. Susie in the office really raves about these having skied them all.
Völkl Kiku 139/107/123
Movement has a huge range off off-piste skis from the fat Super Turbo to the Source. All have a more traditional design and camber so the turn radiuses are greater - but this is definitely an advantage on steeper terrain with more edge on the mountain! Watch out for the huge variation in stiffness in their range: if you’re a light skier then the Jackal needs to be worked hard. Movement also has a women-specific range to complement the men’s lineup.
Movement Source 135/94/121
Black Diamond has the Drift, Verdict and Zealot – these look pretty good all round. The others in the range are a bit 'phat' (too wide!) for my liking: fine for heli-skiing in Valdez, but pretty sketchy for use in the Alps.
Black Diamond Zealot 135/110/123
Atomic have the men’s Access and the women's Century skis. They both look good, with Atomic going for a tip rocker and traditional camber allowing for greater all round performance on steep terrain.
Atomic Access 129/100/121
K2 continues developing the Side range with the Sidestash, Hardside and Coomback being good quality big mountain skis. The Sidekick and Brightside are great women-specific big mountain skis.
K2 Sidestash 139/108/127
This round up of off-piste specific skis is by no means comprehensive but nonetheless covers most of the widely available brands in the UK. Do bare in mind that the fatter the ski the less control it will have on steep ground – so please don't turn up on some 125mm rockered monsters on Remi's steep ski course!!! I choose a ski of 95mm underfoot, not too light, and with a traditional camber for general off-piste. This allows for easy manoeuvrability, good edge control and stability in all snow conditions. On powder days in the Alps, Gulmarg or heli-skiing I go for a lighter, rockered tip ski (but with traditional camber) between 105mm and 110mm underfoot. In the end it's all down to personal preference: I don't like really fat skis as they are awful on anything other than perfect powder. Call me 'old school' but I like to put in a few turns, and not just 'gun it' snowboard style down the hill! Next up I'll be in my vintage one-piece fluoro Nevica outfit on some 205cm/70mm-wide pencils doing some 80's style Euro-mincing! For my next instalment I’ll be sorting through the different touring skis and discussing my favourite subjects: saving grams, stability and carbon. See you in the winter on not-too-fat skis!