Heaven, because of the way it made 12 inches feel bottomless, and Hell because, well, it’s wicked fun. The category’s narrowest and most agile ski skimmed through fluff and bounced through tight trees. It’s a rockered ski, but, remarkably, it earned the category-high score for hard-snow versatility, thanks to a flat tail that powers turns on groomed. A powder ski without the snobbery, this ski will perform wherever you want to go. “It’s comfortable,” said Stokes. “You don’t have to overthink it.”
Coral reef. Frozen ocean. Bulletproof. The first day of the powder test was, well, not exactly powdery. Counter-intuitive as it may be, the conditions made testing easy: Powder masks flaws; hardpack accentuates them. And the Völkl Aura soared. A perennial test favorite, it won big again for being the smoothest, most comfortable ride out there. It makes you feel confident the moment you get off the lift; searching for its sweet spot is not required. “Anyone would love this ski,” said Dawson.
Though the unisex version (see the Prophet 100) has astonished our men’s team the past couple of years, our women remained unimpressed. But this year Line sealed the deal: They added metal to the ski, enhancing stability and edge-grip. It still has a lightweight, buoyant feel that makes bouncing through trees a blast, but underlying stability encourages speed. Bigger skiers may overpower it, but our test team was all in. “For a powder ski, its technical attributes really shined,” said Barnes.
Usually, a ski with rebound, or snap, lives on the technical side of the spectrum: more hand surgeon than bagel schmearer. The Elysian manages to be both, earning top scores in rebound—springing down the fall line in meticulously rounded turns—and forgiveness—sliding willingly when backed off. And did we mention it also won category highs in quickness/bumps and balance of skills? Paradise, indeed. “Lots of zip, fun turn shape—this ski is forgiving, yet it holds well at speed,” said Loring.
Testers medaled the VI in the Cruiser category last year, which means it’s capable of expert arcing. (Carbon reinforcements underfoot transfer power instantly from boot to edge.) The question, then, is can so much power be easy? Testers found the generous tip a cinch to initiate, and the gentle flex friendly until you’re ready for the edges to bite. But it is high energy (No. 1 in rebound), so better skiers will get the most out of it. “Good combo of stable reassurance and enthusiasm,” Thys said.
This ski is spring-loaded and ready to rip—almost humming with potential energy. The 8.1, with the category’s highest score for rebound, is a zippy ride. With a full wood core and vertical sidewalls, this addition to Blizzard’s growing women’s line is anything but watered down. You can opt for Blizzard’s new Slider binding, too: same instant power transfer, but it quickly switches out for AT or tele bindings. Talk about a one-ski quiver. “Quick in the fall line; arcs short turns,” Forland said.