Don't buck the system: The melding of skis, bindings and lifters into coordinated, cohesive units-usually called "systems"-is in full swing. And the technology that underlies these new products has finally matured. With systems, it is now safe to say, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
Consider Rossignol's PowerPulsion System, which combines Rossignol's Axial binding, T-Plate lifter and T-Power ski. The Axial has a mounting base 10 cm shorter than traditional bindings, so Rossignol made the T-Plate lifter under the Axial shorter, too. The result: the ski can also be shorter, since there is less binding sitting on top of it to interfere with the flex. And the ski feels longer than it is, while the flex is even more supple.
Völkl and Marker, meanwhile, teamed up to create the silky-smooth but powerful (and widely appreciated) Motion system, which lets the binding glide along rails on the ski's topskin. And both the Salomon Pilot and Atomic Device sytems, respectively, integrate ski and binding functions-the ski and binding are insulated from each other, yielding turns that are easier and rounder than any we'd ever tried. Perhaps the most interesting system, though, was Head's Mad Trix, which allows the entire binding unit (toe and heel) to rotate 180 degrees, making the ski's tip into its tail, and vice-versa. You get two skis in one, not to mention a liftline conversation piece.
We admit the guilty pleasure we feel every April morning, strolling up from The Charter, grabbing a latte and clicking into next year's great skis. But this year, we couldn't afford to be too smug: We were being watched. Two lucky SKI Magazine readers and 10 Beaver Creek visitors became Testers for a Day. Our guests, who had won a local competition arranged by Beaver Creek's fun-loving PR department, greeted us at our test corral at the base of the Centennial lift and took out test skis. Two SKI Magazine testers joined each guest and went through the test protocol on the hill, pushing new skis through a variety of turn shapes and snow conditions.
The consensus: Skis are so good and so varied, anyone can get a custom ride.