The ATOMIC BETA RACE 10.22 is not only Hermann's choice; it was just about everybody else's at Beaver Creek, too. With a No. 1 Overall score and top finishes in five of six criteria, the powerful, precise 10.22 is the gold standard. "Smooth, yet gutsy," said Palmer. "Just slices ice and hard snow." Currier recommends "pressing that tip down and hanging on." Remember, this is an uncompromising race ski: "The real deal," said Morgan. "Finicky, precise and rock-solid underfoot." Two titanium-reinforced beta lobes mean "Power City," said Mike Brown. "Pay attention!"
The ATOMIC BETA RACE 9.20 is a recreational-racing version. "Amazingly easy to carve," MacConnell said. "Lower-level racers who want shorter arcs will love its friendliness." One key to the No. 2 score in Forgiveness and No. 4 finish in Short Turns: light, snappy carbon lobes running the length of it and a waspish, 62-mm waist. "Fun to freeski," said Megan Brown. "Lightning-quick and effortless."
Looking for smooth power-delivery? The light but muscular DYNASTAR AUTODRIVE COURSE "entered the turn like a dream," said Currier, "and left it with a whisper." Pelletier said the supple Course "holds its composure, even on frozen goo and yields a satisfying boost at the turn's finish." The AutoDrive system, which melds a cap to a substantial vertical sidewall underfoot, is accessible for everybody. "The Masters racer who thinks he has to ski on Hermann's skis better try this one," said Morgan.
Those who are determined to get exactly what Cup racers use should consider the ELAN WORLD CUP GSX. All testers-no exceptions-remarked that while some skis require a little tenderness, the GSX emphatically does not. "Heavy, aggressive and powerful," said MacConnell. "Gives you huge energy, but you have to work." Megan Brown recommends that it be skied "aggressively-and mostly in the course: This is tough love."
Testers didn't have to work hard to get the most out of the shapely, dynamic FISCHER WORLD CUP GS. "It has a really gentle feel considering the amount of power you can get out of it," said Mike Brown. In fact, Fischer nipped at Atomic's heels in every criteria but Short Turns. "Ski strong, and you'll be on the podium," promises Palmer. "Needs guidance," said Megan Brown of the shapely, ankle-driven race ski, "but it truly holds on anything." No. 2 rankings in Hard-Snow Grip and Stability at Speed can be attributed in part to its beefy-but-flexible Accelerator lifter plate, which offers both leverage and rigidity.
At the risk of offending, you don't have to be smart to enjoy the HEAD CYBER WORLD CUP Ti. You just have to want to go so fast your hair catches fire. "If you trust your ability to get your feet out from under you, you can trust this ski," said Megan Brown. Morgan liked the Head for "bigger guys who like the solid feel of a speed ski." Mike Brown called it "a big-time race ski for the speed-hungry."
From the other end of the Forgiveness spectrum comes one of the friendliest race skis in the test, the K2 MACH G. Replete with the company's famous dual-core Mod technology (an elastomeric core placed over a traditional wood core), the Mach G "is no Nervous Nellie," said Currier. "Really quiet, with great sense of stability." Megan Brown agreed: "These are ego-boosters; quick edge-to-edge, even while being dependable and consistent." The words "calm" and "reassuring" came up a lot, and perhaps so will this term: "Nastar champ." "Melts into the carve," said Pelletier, "and really surges out of it."
And now, the winner in the eats-nails-for-breakfast GS category, where, as Megan Brown put it, the KNEISSL WHITE STAR M1X "demands commitment...or else." "This is a power ski that requires a power stance," said Mike Brown. "The further you get it away from you, the more powerful it becomes." Morgan agreed: "Has that plugged-in, high-voltage, not-for-children feel." MacConnell called the M1X "hefty, llike a Tyrolean bricklayer." Sound familiar?
Nordica, which used to be Kastle until it was purchased by Benetton (still with us?), has, in the all-new NORDICA K11 GS, created a great race ski for the all-mountain expert who doesn't want to buy multiple pairs to compete. "Very forgiving," said Mike Brown, "and perfect as an all-mountain GS ski that can duck into the gates." Morgan found the K11 "friendly inside and out. It likes strong, balanced skiing and rewards it with a clean, smooth arc." Perhaps no flames here, but definitely a slow burn.
The ROSSIGNOL T-POWER 9X PPS (for "Power Pulsion System," which sends energy to the whole ski through integrated rails) has the second-longest name in the test but can scribe the shortest distance between two points. A GS ski that scores No. 1 in Short Turns is fun, even out of the course. "Can't stop giggling," said Pelletier. "Creamy-smooth initiation and even nicer release." Morgan agreed: "truly sweet in the middle and a dream to initiate." Just don't go too short on this short GS if you want high-speed stability for racing.
You want length? How about this name: SALOMON EQUIPE 10 2V POWERAXE GS. Couldn't they just call it the Mustang or something? Still: "Four Stars!" said the normally reserved Palmer. "The Poweraxe lifter plate grounds you in the snow." The Salomon was among the smoothest-feeling in the test ("Velvet!" exclaimed Mike Brown), but also one of the most focused in its skills: "Lock 'n' load," said Pelletier. "These make full-blown, super G arcs on rock-hard snow." Work its tail, recommended Morgan and MacConnell. It's a truly smooth, pure-race sled.
Another smoothie, intended for a completely different application, is the VOLANT T3 SUPER, which is ready to carve all over the hill. "Use a centered stance," said Currier, "and you'll get a Caddy-smooth ride. It's the perfect Nastar gold-getter." Or, as Palmer said of this steel-topskinned ski, "a gentle GS ski." But don't write it off. "While it lacks high-end snap," said Mike Brown, "the T3 has everything else for the occasional racer." MacConnell called the T3 "rock solid-and so stable."
Once again, we lament Völkl's name, only because the "V" relegates this purebred GS ski to the end of the alphabet. With top-3 finishes in Long Turns and Short Turns, the VÖLKL P50 F1 ENERGY is truly versatile. "It waltzes you through turn progressions like Astaire leading Rogers," said Pelletier. The titanium-capped P50, with its 65-mm waist, is smoother than its ancestors, but it's also heftier: "Quick edge-to-edge," said Megan Brown, "but only if you work it." Morgan suspects that "strong technical skiers versed in today's race tactics will like it most, because you have to use your whole skeleton-not just your muscles-to get the most out of it."
Race Ski Testers:
Andy Bigford, Kristi Brown, Megan Brown, Mike Brown, David Currier, Terry Delliquandri, Toril Forland, Amy Livran, Noel Lyons, Erica Macconnell, Felix McGrath, Chan Morgan, Terry Palmer, Carter Payne, Nicole Pelletier