Hard to fathom how skis and snowboards keep making leaps and bounds in
technology and performance. New materials in the core, ever changing side
cuts, cambers or the reverse, and splashy top sheets with gutsy graphics
continue to emerge for skiers and riders.
Whether you are in the market for a front side carving ski or an AT backcountry ski that functions far better than your old 3pin teleski, manufacturers are making a ski fleet for you to choose from. There are also the quiver satisfying skis that bridge the gap - bouncing from powder to crud to cord with stability, grip and a wide platform that floats but still rips on hard pack.
Best bet for buying a ski is to demo, at a ski resort demo day or by sampling a ski from your ski shop with the demo fee being applied to your purchase. The 2013-2104 skis feature more rocker technology, which offers soft and supple handling, easy to initiate turns but strong edge control that carves when snow conditions demand you rip like Bode Miller.
Here are our picks for the best skis for the 2013-14 winter ski season
Rossignol Experience 98 has made our best ski list for 3 years now. The Rossi 98 is dynamic, durable, fat enough but fast. This all mountain ski carves like a beast on hard pack with a rocker tip and tail that float through soft snow and crud. This Rossignol is by far our male testers' best ski - boom! Rossignol is back on top of its game, the cock ski rocks again.
Rossi Experience 88 we also love, for its narrower stance but the same snappy performance and stability on powder and slush. Rossignol's 88 has less metal making it lighter and quicker, a better choice for small frame guys and gals that like to rip - our best female tester bought these and brought these to Switzerland - done! Not so fun carrying them on and off the Swiss trains, but ski love is blind.
Rossignol's Temptation is the prettier version of the 88 if you want girly graphics and a slightly lighter, smoother ride - but our female tester, Heather Burke, prefers sustenance over swirls and feathers as featured on the Temptation ski.
The Rossignol Soul 7 with dimension 136-109-126 is highly recommended and revered particularly for western skiers due to its honeycomb tip and tail as a better wider powder ski - over the more versatile all round Rossi 98. Rossi also makes a Super 7 (with 116 under foot) and a Rossi Squad 7 (at 120mm waist) for deeper snow, which our 200lb tester loved on a powder day at Mt Bachelor - lowing through glades, a foot of resh and even a few groomers!
Blizzard Bonafide has been a bullish performer for several years now. Aside from the bull snorting graphics, Blizzard is making a strong combo ski here - it has the dynamic carving qualities of Blizzard's Magnum 8.7 (which racers and carvers love) but the beefy 98mm ski brings versatility to your vertical. The Bonafide is a an aggressive carver, with enough rocker to give you a pleasant ride through powder, crud and bumps. Blizzard is making some bullish skis.
Blizzard Viva 8.0 continues to be our lady tester's go to little black dress, the LBD of skis. This elegant looking ski is also ego pleasing - you put it on edge and it stays in place (wish our lbd would be so reliable). Guys were secretly sneaking these Blizzards out of the demo tent...after seeing the ladies' big smiles. It's quite tapered at 120-80-105 so it's ideal for ripping groomers, not as floaty as you might want in powder.
For Blizzard Viva's soft snow sister, break out your Pearls, the Blizzard Black Pearl that is... a wider ski with many of the same qualities - and pearl necklace graphics to dress up your powder day in style!
Nordic Hell and Back is a head turner - the name sounds like the boot company's rise and fall in the ski manufacturing biz, and they are indeed back making a quality ski. Testers including ourselves found Nordica to be super responsive especially on front side steeps and at speed.
Nordica's Hells Belles is the female front side stomper. Like her brother boards, The Hell's Belle, great name conjuring up ACDC in my head as I demo'd, is stable and smooth at speed but bouncy in bumps and glades. Pretty powder blue graphics with swirls make it nice for girls, Belle means beautiful in French, the hell part of the name should be self explanatory.
Volkl RTM keeps appearing on our list. In fact, everyone drops this big name ski but few know the acronym means "Ride The Mountain." This year's Volkl RTM 81 is a well constructed ski that does it all well. No wonder this Volkl continues to top the charts as a bestselling ski. Its versatile and incredibly well made- the Volkl benchmark.
Volkl's lady ski line up includes some beauties like the Volkl Yumi for hard snow with a 83mm waist, and the uber popular Volkl Kenja for softer conditions and a more front side style skiing. Volkl Aura, the girl version of the men's Volkl Mantra is a winner for mixed ski conditions, a quiver killer if you will - but pretty fat in the tip by east coast standards at 131-96-114. The Aura is constructed of a light wood core, so it won’t weigh you down like most big mountain skis after lunch. Volkl has been making top model skis for women - stable, sturdy but soft underfoot with a forgiveness that girls like. And Volkl ski desings are really pretty - many ski companies try with the shrink and pink method but few hit the top sheet with truly attractive graphics while dialing in the ergonometric.
Atomic’s Automatic is a hard charging powder ski with a wide 117 mm waist and full rocker in the tip and tail. Our 21 year old tester who ski instructs at Big Sky loves Atomic when he is free skiing. This is his grab and go to the Tram ski when he is heading for big turns down the Dictator Chutes or a hyped run down the fresh windblown on the Headwaters into Moonlight Basin. He loved the Atomic Blog, but now the Automatic is Ian's "automatic."
HEAD is hosting much of the US Ski Team on their tried and true boards. Ted rides HEAD, so does Bode Miller, Lindsey Vonn, Julia Mancuso...did I miss anyone? All the best and brightest are skiing Head and heading to Sochi Winter Olympics for Gold. The Head Supershape Titan turned our head. This ski is quick, responsive and grippy, but still holds a smooth stable ride on more docile descents. The Head Rev 85 is a more all mountain ski that is getting good reviews, however we did not sample it as it was always out of the demo tent - a sign?! The Austrian ski company Head is strong again, hammering out some solid performing skis. Look out Russia, USA and Austria are going to crush ya...lol.
HEAD MYA 8 is a classic eastern carver for ladies. Just 84 under foot, this Head ski is solid and quick with intellifibers (some engineer speak for you from the brochure) to dampen any jitters and bad vibes. Not the ski I would want to be on in deep pow or crud however. The Head Mya likes to cruise the groomed trails, so imagine in your head that you are crushing some cord with Lindsey Vonn and Julia Mancuso - putting your Heads together.
Salomon makes a beautiful buoyant Lumen ski for powder, soft snow and spring ski conditons. The graphics are soothing, pastel summits and sun bows - very prertty. But beyond cosmetics, these skis are super lightweight, and glossy over groomed packed powder, but perform ok on hard pack too. With 94 mm under foot, The Salomon Q series Lumen loves a light powder day, 6-8 inches is delightful.
This is just a sampling of the best skis on the market for the 2014 season. We haven't had the opportunity to test all the gorgeous boards out there. K2 did not make our best ski list, sorry - you just didn't wow us this season - but keep trying K2. Dynastar too, we weren't entirely charmed by the Cham. Similarly a note to Elan, impress us with next year's superior ski models.
You may agree or disagree with some of our impression, which can change with weather, conditions, and frankly by the number of skis you test in a day. By ski number 13, the medal, side cut and wood core construction all start to meld together and après ski starts calling.
Get out on the slopes and test drive some downhill skis yourself. It's fun, addictive even, but can be costly as you form a crush on that perfect carving ski or fall for some pricey powder boards. Skis cost $600- $1,100 bucks these days, but there are ski sales, deals. Ski bindings are often integrated and included in the ski package price. Test drive some at the next on snow demo at your favorite ski resort, or ask your ski shop for an opportunity to try before you buy.