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Unfair Advantage: Gear of the Year 2003

Unfair Advantage: Gear of the Year 2003

By the SKI Magazine Editors
posted: 04/28/2003

Every year, a few special products come along, and suddenly everything else looks inadequate-or vaguely obsolete. Not only do these new stars earn unanimous tester raves, they also nudge ski technology a little closer to its apogee. So buckle up, click in and ski better (or more comfortably) than you ever have. But don't get too cocky. It might just be the equipment that makes the skier.

All-Mountain Expert, All-Mountain Cruiser, Player
Yes, you can have it all: a quick, subtle, slalom-waisted ski (66 mm) that likes to go fast. Dancing in the fall line? Nimble. Mach schnell down National? Rock solid. Dynastar's ingenious Autodrive design-cap construction in the forebody for easy turn-initiation and beefy vertical sidewalls underfoot for powerful edge-hold-is the foundation of this astoundingly easy ski. With its top score overall in the All-Mountain Expert category, the SkiCross 10 pleases every tester, making it a hands-down winner.

All-Mountain Expert, Freerider, All-Mountain Cruiser
The K2 Axis XP is fat in the same way Jerome Bettis is fat-relentless, low to the ground, just beefy enough to overcome all obstacles. But while the powerful XP handles rough snow with aplomb (thanks in part to its 78-mm waist), it's the ski's balance of skills-a sprinkling of slalom quickness, a dash of agility-that earns tester raves. One key: The ski's dampening "elastomeric" rubber core rides atop a snappy wood-core torsion box. So the XP handles tight spots as much as it enjoys the wide-open. Dig in.

$750 (with binding)
Women's All-Mountain Expert, All-Mountain Cruiser
The "20/20" doesn't stand for perfect eyesight; it has to do with the core. Völkl, one of the first to make women-specific skis, uses its Fibercell core technology and energY XT construction to make a ski that's 20 percent lighter and 20 percent softer than a unisex ski, yet has 100 percent edge-grip and stability. Add Marker's Motion 10-a lightweight plate-binding system positioned 1 cm forward for easy turn-initiation-and the result is an astonishingly versatile women's ski at a price that won't break the bank.


NORDICA SmarTech 12
All-Mountain Cruiser, Player, Aspiring Carver
"Soft" boots, alternative shells-whatever you want to call them-have already proven themselves as comfortable alternatives for less-aggressive skiers with pain issues. The SmarTech takes it to a higher level. It's a radical rethinking of shell design and closure that manages to be soft and comfortable yet not wimpy. The system of cables and pulleys looks complicated, but it's easy to use, and it envelops the foot snugly but not painfully. High performance for hard-charging experts? Not yet. But closer.

TECNICA Icon Alu HotForm
All-Mountain Expert, All-Mountain Cruiser, Player
Here are two cool innovations on one already excellent boot. First, the HotForm liner: Plug it in, heat it up, stick your foot in and presto-a custom-fit liner. Better yet, plug it in on the drive to slopes and you'll start your day with toasty toes. Next, Rapid Access: The front of the Alu's cuff is molded in a shin-hugging curve that swings open on a hinge. Entry is a snap, but more important, the cuff wraps the lower leg snugly for precise energy transfer. Both features improve comfort and performance. Two new tricks for your tired old dogs. u

Skier Types

  • All-Mountain Expert Skis any trail on the mountain-and occasionally off-trail.
  • Freerider The powder hound-always looking for the soft snow no one else has found.
  • All-Mountain Cruiser Expert skills, but judicious rather than aggressive.
  • Player An expert in the making: aggreessive, athletic...and still learning to ski all terrain.
  • Aspiring Carver Skis cautiously...and sometimes gracefully; not interested in speed.
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