SKI also tested a number of add-on lifter/plates, some of which are more or less endemic to a particular binding manufacturer, some more generic. Floaters and lifters are where it's at¿for all skiers beyond Newcomers. Choices cover a broad price range.
Salomon AXE Plus Plate $40
Hot, hot, hot! This is the greatest $40 investment you could make. The two-piece plate with 10 mm of lift lets the ski flex naturally and amplifies the sensation of edge engagement. Mounted on the right ski, this plate may make you feel invincible. Little beads of plastic, right over the ski's sweet spot¿like braille buttons for your foot soles¿tell you exactly where to stand and drive through the ski waist. The effect? Tremendous edge grip and silky feel. Compatible with many Salomon bindings. This plate, with an S 900 Carbon binding, for example, sells for $280.
Marker EPS 3 $25
An incredibly cheap add-on to lift Marker bindings an extra¿but rampless¿6 mm. Marker argues that ramp angle is dependent on boot-sole length: the shorter the boot's sole the greater the heel lift and vice-versa. As a result, Marker also offers special ramp-angle and canting shims that allow skiers to customize their own binding-ski interfaces. We recommend getting expert counsel before applying these yourself.
Tyrolia Carve Plate $55
This plate offers 13 mm of extra elevation at an attractive price. It's reinforced with glass-fiber reinforced but it's still light. Binding screws go into the plate, not the ski, so the plate can flex in the middle. Must be used with Tyrolia bindings.
Tyrolia Super Carve Plate $110
Here's 23 mm of lift on a Tyrolia-compatible plate that has a very short contact point against the ski and integrates triple dampening. The "Dragon Brake" has extended arms to stop the ski quickly in the event of a release. This Super Carve Plate makes swooping turns silky and sensational. Short turns become a little more touchy, but if you want big-carve lift¿without the negatives of excessive height¿you won't go wrong with this plate.
EPB (Extra Power Booster) GPS 1.3 $110
This is an outstanding alternative to the Derbyflex plate used by high-level racers because it's more versatile. For 1998-99 EPB has replaced its metal base plate with plastic and added rubber inserts to make the plate more torsionally flexible. Advanced skiers will sense they're standing high on the 12 mm of lift, and the ski may feel clumsy at slow speeds. Once it's moving, however, it feels like a Porsche through corners. You'll discover edge you never knew was there.
K2 Ultra Lite $150
Developed by EPB but built at K2, this floater plate can be simply screwed¿or screwed and glued¿to high-performance and race skis. Racers and All-Mountain Experts who love making high-speed GS turns will find it to be a thriller. When glued down it takes all the jittery brittleness out of the ski, thereby dampening without deadening. This is a speed-generating slicing instrument. We don't recommend the K2 Ultra Lite for soft snow, short turns, bumps, or the faint of heart.
Atomic CarvX Charger Plate (CXC) $179
This high, multi-zoned plate is one of the most technical, effective and classy carving tools on the market. It can be mounted to any ski with a flat mounting zone.
Atomic RaceCharger Plate (RC) $179
The RaceCharger Plate works like the Atomic CXC, but is shaped to fit only newer Atomic skis with "Beta" shapes. (The ski top resembles a "B" lying on its back, with two round humps.) It has 17 mm of lift, a dampening zone and a flex zone, for astonishing carvability and a vibration-free ride.
Rossignol FTX 110 Lifter $265
FTX 100 Lifter $210
Both offer more forgiving couplings with 10 mm of lift for Newcomers, Aspiring Carvers and Players. This season's models have a new toe (with no torsion clamps in the heel) and lifters that are even lighter than last year's. Comes in a wide variety of colors.These setups, without plates and without ramp but with lift, work beautifully on softer, damper skis. Rossignol, understandably, believes its skis perform best with Rossignol binding systems. Look for package deals featuring the popular new Rossi Bandit X ski, mounted with the FTX 110 lifter.