By Jill Adler
Head, K2, Salomon, Rossignol, Volkl, Fischer, Dynastar, Atomic, Scott, Elan, Blizzard, Nordica – and then there are the boutiques: Line, Movement, Bluehouse, White Dot, Icelantic. What to buy? What to buy? I’m thinking about the 2012 skis cause it’s time to think about that sort of thing if you’re in the market for new products. Which I am.
I blew out the cuff rivet in my Head boots so they’re toast. My current boots that I pulled from the attic are fives old. The buckles no longer adjust and the heel and toe are shaved down from miles of parking lot pavement. Some people can wear the same boots for 20 years but that’s only if they don’t beat them up like I’ve done to mine. Ski technology, on the other hand, makes it crazy not to invest in a new ski every few years. Manufacturers just keep getting better and better.
Just about every ski shop in the state is taking inventory for blowout sales that have already begun. Cole Sport in Park City had theirs on Tuesday. Gotta clear the floor to make room for 2012 gear. But I’m going to go out on a limb and say that if you’re planning to buy new and bargains aren’t important, hold off until you demo the new stuff. Alta will have their annual Spring Demo Day Saturday, April 9, from 8 a.m. – 3:30 p.m. where you can try out any pair of next year’s skis for free. All you need is a pair of boots and a credit card for collateral.
If this season was the year of the rocker, next season will be the year of restraint. Look around this year; people were riding super fat skis turned up in the tip and tail to the point that it looked like they were skiing on bananas. Next season, they’ve dialed in (and down) the technology. The majority of big mountain skis will be stiffer with less rocker. I checked it out for myself in January when the Western Winter Sales Rep dealer demo converged on Snowbasin Resort.
The storm had finally delivered on Day 2 so that we could test the fatter skis on terrain they were meant for. Maybe it wasn’t two feet of new at Snowbasin but we’ll take the six inches. It’s six inches more than the barren start we had the day before. Not to mention that Snowbasin has got to be one of the best resorts for ski testing. You grab your pair from the booth, ski down to the Needles Gondola, and do a giant lap back down to the event. In between, you can hit all of the necessary terrain- groomers, off-piste, moguls, ice, trees, chutes and bowls. You forget how versatile and exciting The Basin is when you haven’t skied there in a while.
The energy was there too as hundreds of retail shop owners and their employees all along the intermountain region showed up to test next year’s gear. The annual event culls these guys (and girls) for two days of testing 2012 skis, boots, boards, goggles, helmets, and ski poles. What they see and like they (hopefully) buy and you in turn will purchase.
But the hardpack conditions and nuking winds put a slight damper on the testing mojo for Day 1. Ski techs spent almost as much time holding up their canopies as they did adjusting bindings. Not the best conditions for testing the slew of models returning to the market for 2011/12.
Personally, I like to have two pairs of skis. One all-mountain pair to dance between groomers, powder and crud and one big mountain pair- strictly for the days when the snow’s boot deep or above.
But for most lay skiers, the goal might be to find a “one ski quiver”- that’s where you have one ski you use for every condition. With that in mind, I hopped on a pair of White Dot Preachers.
The high-end boutique ski is all the rage in Europe and it’s beginning to find a following here in the U.S. Even pro skier Jeremy Nobis ditched long-time sponsor Dynastar to ride these. Apparently, they are bomber- holding up even under the toughest stomp.
The Preachers were the fattest pair of sticks I skied during the demo. At 112mm underfoot, it skied solidly and turned easily on the groomers (albeit the turn radius was HUGE). The White Dot One is 89mm under foot but plays well with the other fat kids.
This season, K2 threw rocker into every ski in their line- down to the juniors and beginner skis. Next season, they’ve gone and revamped everything all over again. Their “Side” skis generated the most buzz.
Volkl, too, has redesigned their line. The once-popular Gotama got a ton of rocker this season but will lose most of it for next season while the Mantra and Aura get rocker in the tip and less shape. The AC series is gone. It’s now the RTM (Ride The Mountain) ski for frontsiders who want to dabble in off piste snow. The series has just a smidge of tip and tail rise.
The boys at Line have remodeled the P-90 and 100, flattening the tip and tail and whittling the width of the 100 slightly, to 98. They’ve added a 105 model as well.
Personally, I liked that they are one of the few companies that shied away from violent twisted graphics. There will be a lot of UGLY skis on the hill next year. The women’s Rossignol S7 is an enigma. I can’t think of any woman that would enjoy looking down at her feet to see a Geisha-like girl with a lockbox at her crotch and a purple snake tail teasing the keyhole, and a skull with pink flowers. Nordica has a pair of skis that look like a psycho clown. Yuck.
Nordica’s FireArrow line, however, is gorgeous. If you’re looking for a playful frontside ski that will rip up the groomers you can’t go wrong with the Conqueror.
Salomon’s big news is the BBR. No, this isn’t a tribute to Justin Beiber but to Bertrand (“Beber”) Krafft who invented it. It wasn’t my cup of tea at all but I can see where intermediate skiers who spend all day skiing with their heels (or what we instructors call the backseat) will fall in love with it. You can ski for yourself on April 2 when the Salomon BBR Tour Finale Wrap Party hits Alta Ski Area. In addition to music and athlete appearances, Salomon will demo and raffle BBR skis, Rocker2 skis and Alta season passes. And when skiers demo a BBR ski, they’ll get food and drink vouchers and entry in the Snow Games. Are you any good at snow volleyball, tug-of-war and three-legged races? I need a partner. The party starts at 9:30 a.m. in the Wildcat Base Area.
So to sum up next year’s stuff: it looks like rocker or early rise is now the accepted design but it’s been toned down for next season. The skis are still big but they have sidecut and camber. Reverse camber hasn’t paid off this year so most companies ignored it for next season. The bottomline is that it doesn’t matter. Every manufacturer is dialing in their products so if you’re in the market for a new pair of skis you can’t go wrong with whatever you choose. Just make sure you testdrive your choice first to make sure you have the right length and feel that suits you best.
Jill Adler is an award-winning outdoors writer and broadcaster based in Park City, Utah. As a professional skier, rock climber, kayaker, hiker and mom, she goes out of her way to play hard and tell about it. To find out more or to send her a note, follow her on Twitter @pcskigal.