For advanced-to-expert skiers who want easygoing performance. With 70–80 mm waists, these skis are achievers, but without the attitude. They'll let you do the driving. Perfect for mostly soft groomers, but comfortable venturing everywhere.
These are like your favorite sneakers: They might not shave seconds off your time, but they sure are comfortable. With an easygoing personality, the Fluid also makes a fine everyday companion: It listens to your input, never interrupts and is happy to accompany you anywhere. It’s not the best choice for aggressive East Coast ex-racer types—it prefers a mellow vibe—but for a quintessential cruiser, it’s fine. “Take it easy, slide them around, and let them do the work,” said Sheinberg.
The Viva is extraordinary. With top scores in every criterion, Blizzard sweeps the Cruiser category this year. This ski zings with personality without ever being overbearing. It’s extremely easy to ski, but holds a line so unfailingly that you can’t help but go a little faster, a little deeper, a little steeper. And while it will energetically do your bidding—carve trenches or ease through bumps—on one account it won’t budge: This ski will make you have fun. Period. “You will ski well on these,” said Lewis.
This ski wants to chew up the hill. With classic Atomic bite, the Cloud 9 loves to corkscrew slalom turns down the groomed. It’s on the precise and stiff side, but not in a punishing way: Rather than smoothing over your mistakes, the Cloud 9 capitalizes on your strengths, edging you in the right direction. In other words, it may not be as easy to ski as some of the others in this category, but its rewards are that much greater. “Smooth and flowy, with good rebound energy,” said Forland.
If your definition of cruising begins at 30 mph, you and the AC30 will get along. Völkl touts its versatility in terms of both terrain and snow conditions, and despite its floaty width, testers were impressed by its edge-grip and confidence at speed on flat snow. It can be ponderous in short turns and a little less playful than others in the category in powder and crud. But for swift, graceful arcs on corduroy—firm or soft—it’s hard to beat. “Nicely balanced, with a good stable platform,” said Moffatt.
The name seems misleading on a ski this fun-loving. In fact, the 82-mm-wide Avenger might be the most comfortable ski in the group—partly due to that broad, stable platform and partly due to its uniquely forgiving tip. With metal laminates and a strong tail, it’s as eager for speed as you are. But balance is its defining trait, and while it topped no single criterion, it put up high marks across the board. “Doesn’t demand huge effort to make great turns, but loves to ramp it up, too,” said Lewis.
The tester favorite earns praise for its balance of performance attributes. Carbon-reinforced laminates give it outstanding quickness, and it’s eminently calm at high speeds. In fact, testers preferred the CA to the metal-reinforced and more expensive Nitrous TI ($1,249), which medaled here two years ago. With a wide, stable platform and a broad tip that dives obediently into arcs, it’s a natural carver with excellent soft-snow skills. “Makes you feel like a better skier,” said Hogen.
Kastle layups are classic: laminate construction, wood cores, metal top and bottom. The one difference is rubber—a full sheet beneath the topsheet, plus strips over the edges. The feel is distinctive—smooth and quiet—and particularly well-suited to comfortable cruising. Meanwhile, the tip cutaway reduces weight and further dampens vibrations. Damp is good, as long as it’s not lifeless, and the 78 puts up good scores for rebound energy. “Powerful, silky and dynamic,” said Hogen.
We hardly needed to test the Recon—longtime darling of the test and two-time Ski of the Year. Good thing we did anyway. As with the Apache Xplorer (see Freeride), last year’s addition of the Marker Inter-Pivot heel lends a hard-snow integrity that earlier Recons didn’t have. Top scores in flotation and forgiveness come as no surprise. But No. 1 in stability at speed? Like we said: not your daddy’s Recon. “Does everything: long/stable, short/quick or medium/smooth,” said Rogan.
Look carefully at the dimensions. If you’re not actually carving turns (not naming names here) or at least dead-set on finally learning to, look elsewhere, because the Cross Ti’s talents will be lost on you. But if you live to tip and rip, the shapeliest ski in the category lives up to expectations. It hooks up greedily, hugs the snow with metal-laminate suppleness, and then finishes every turn with best-in-class rebound across the fall line. “Flex and sidecut work together to make magic,” said Lewis.
Here’s that solid, powerful IQ binding interface again, making one of the widest skis in the group perform like something 15 mm narrower, thanks to its exacting boot-to-edge energy transfer. The 8.1’s wood-coreconstruction yields a snappiness that earned it top honors in rebound energy, but it’s also reasonably content to relax, and it skids off speed readily when you’re tired or feeling lazy. “Rips the fall line a new one, but cross-hill carves are also on the menu,” said Hogen.