If you're a gear head who insists on race performance but also likes a cool technical story, consider the SL:11, which is tops in Short Turns. The 13-meter SL:11 has a dimpled topskin, said to reduce wind drag; carbon lobes running down its center, for energetic responsiveness; and titanium tubes inside. "A race animal," says Morgan, "but with nice manners. Quick, smooth and rock-solid." Delliquadri recommends a "strong, forward stance."
* Dimensions vary by length; these are for the 157 cm.
Dynamics are again available in the U.S., but anyone who recalls the unforgiving black skis with the yellow stripes will need to adjust. The ski that Twardokens describes as an "ultra-stable, almost automatic ride" has two carbon "power channels" inside its core, a combination cap-sandwich construction and a topskin made of an aluminum textile. "Rewards a wider stance," says Thys. "Arcs nice mini-GS turns," says Bigford. "Solid all over."
Speed Omeglass 64
Its NASCAR graphics scream "raw horsepower." But make one arc on the Omeglass and you'll think "smooth as silk," says Twardokens. "Any racer will love it, even out of the course." It features Autodrive construction (supple cap combined with vertical sidewalls for edge-hold) and an 11-meter sidecut. "Just right for the two-footed racer," says Delliquadri. Bigford likes its turn progression: "Easy initiation, solid underfoot, then bang!" No. 2 in Rebound, the Omeglass "loves when you lay it out," says McGrath.
Elan's resurgence in high-end skis is evident in the SLX. With an 11-meter radius and 63-mm waist, it's "versatile even while it's specialized," says Morgan. "It really let me dive into the turn: perfect ski for building confidence." Its sidewall construction "makes it a hardcore slalom ski that can also rip a sweet GS turn," says Lewis. Titanium reinforcement makes this "a true slalom race ski, with lots of fun built in," says McGrath.
* Dimensions vary by length; these are for the 162 cm.
Looking for fun? Consider the simply named and simply fantastic Slalom. The Slalom has "full-on power," says Bigford. "But you could also race NASTAR on it if you have a wide, forward stance." McGrath got "the best arcs in the test" from the SL. "Stay forward," says Lewis, "and hold on for World Cup power and precision with a little forgiveness, too." The Slalom features Fischer's patented "Frequency Tuning," which filters out nasty vibrations.
WC i.SL Plate
The "i" is for "intellifibers," which run diagonally across the i.SL's top. These contract the instant the ski flexes, giving it extra hold on hard snow even while it remains relatively soft longitudinally. "Beefy," says MacConnell. "Great for the heavy, strong racer who likes longer turns." Brown finds the i.SL "strong, but very damp, so it's smooth outside the course." It's not for the ultra-quick, whippet skier, but it is nice and firm.
K2 Axis XR
The Asix XR wasn't conceived as a race ski, but it nevertheless "delivers slalom turns on a silver platter," says Morgan. "It's as fun as you could want." The easygoing XR-metal-reinforced and dampened by K2's MOD structure-is "great for the NASTAR skier who also likes a fun all-mountain ski," says MacConnell. "Perfect for recreational racers," Delliquadri agrees. "It holds great arcs but is also friendly on groomers."
$1,200 (w/ binding),
How good is the K12 SL? Aamodt-perfect. Sorry. We had to invoke the Olympic gold medalist's name. The powerful K12 finished No. 1 in Stability at Speed and tied for No. 2 iin Short Turns. One reason: The gel modules in the tip soak up chatter. "Limitless potential in and out of the course," says Delliquadri. McGrath calls it "sweet as Vermont maple syrup!" Thys says the powerful K12 "unlocks the secret code to the new SL technique." One caveat, says Bigford: "Stay on it. No backseat driving."
109-63-99 (at 150 cm),
115-63-104 (at 158 cm)
The new black-and-gold look of the snow-hugging 9S says "race me," but the great thing about it is you can actually use it off the course, too. "Incredibly agile," says Twardokens, "especially nice for lighter, 'touch' racers and experts." Morgan found the 9S, with its 11.5-meter sidecut and 63-mm waist "curvaceous and fun, with a nice, simple entry into every turn." Brown called it "Mr. Smooth," and Thys liked the 9S' "easy-rider versatility."
Equipe 10 3V Poweraxe Race
What a ski: dampened with a "Metaltex" topskin, held to the snow by "Prolink" arms and sporting multiple radii along its length (different shapes for different jobs). The 3V is not only a World Cup winner, it's "accessible and thrilling," Morgan says. "The energy and quickness complement its hold and power," Lewis adds. No. 1 in Rebound and Forgiveness, the 3V is perhaps the most versatile racer in the test: Slalom and GS for everyone.
P50 SC Piston Motion
$1,175 (w/ binding),
What do you get when you sandwich a snappy wood core between metal laminates, add a binding that glides on integrated rails and throw in a bit of vibration dampening rubber? "A slalom ski that actually lets you relax," says Lewis. "Highly versatile, even out of the course." Forland suggests "center-forward pressure to get the most pop out of the P50." Twardokens says it's perfect for those who want "polite power." Bigford adds, "This could be my everyday ski, and it's still very strong in the gates."