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Gear

Kenja

Volkl

2016

Winner - Mixed Snow

rating3.69

price$825

Ratings
Stability At Speed: 
3.86 / 5
Hard Snow Performance: 
3.90 / 5
Crud Performance: 
3.30 / 5
Forgiveness: 
3.86 / 5
Overall: 
3.69 / 5
Flotation: 
2.29 / 5

YEAR2015/2016

WAIST WIDTH90mm

TIP/TAIL/WAIST127-90-106

LEVELAdvanced

LENGTHS149,156,163,170

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It's a new Kenja, but it's in a familiar place atop the rankings. Devoted fans of this perennial champ could be excused for fearing change. They can relax, testers said. It's just three mm wider and still built for high-end performance wood core, metal laminates, vertical sidewalls. But the women noticed a brighter note in its personality, and they no longer warn that it's best left to experts. It still arcs like a Volkl on hardpack, but now there's an easy pivotability that opens up creative new options in the way it can be skied, especially on soft-snow days. "Like poetry in motion.

BMX105

Kastle

2016

Gold Medal Gear

rating3.31

price$999

Ratings
Stability At Speed: 
3.50 / 5
Hard Snow Performance: 
2.88 / 5
Crud Performance: 
3.75 / 5
Forgiveness: 
2.98 / 5
Overall: 
3.31 / 5
Flotation: 
3.97 / 5

YEAR2015/2016

WAIST WIDTH105mm

TIP/TAIL/WAIST134-105-123

LEVELExpert

LENGTHS173,181,189

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Testers have come to expect a supple, luxurious feel from premium-priced Kastles—and, until recently, a locked-in feel that left little room for creativity. The BMX still knows what you want when you put it on edge, but it has a looseness and an exuberance in soft snow that testers didn't expect from the Austrian brand. Credit the whippy swing weight of the cutaway tip. Casey: "Has the ability to change gears easily. Still favors a better skier, but more forgiving than Kastles past."

Brahma

Blizzard

2016

Winner - Mixed Snow

rating3.52

price$780

Ratings
Stability At Speed: 
3.97 / 5
Hard Snow Performance: 
3.80 / 5
Crud Performance: 
3.53 / 5
Forgiveness: 
3.23 / 5
Overall: 
3.52 / 5
Flotation: 
2.86 / 5

YEAR2015/2016

WAIST WIDTH88mm

TIP/TAIL/WAIST125-88-110

LEVELAdvanced

LENGTHS166,173,180,187

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Here's the new benchmark for East Coast all-mountain skis. The outstanding Brahma earned unanimous raves from testers. It put up high rankings across all criteria, but two stand out: It's No. 1 in Balance of Skills and No. 1, by far, in Overall Impression. The Brahma, tweaked for this year with a lighter tip and what testers thought was a generally less demanding demeanor, combines quickness, power, ease, and maneuverability in a single amazing package. It's edgy when you want it to be, smeary and skiddy when you don't. Reliably strong but never scary.

Elite 11 Fluid

Dynastar

2016

Gold Medal Gear

rating3.84

price$900

Ratings
Stability At Speed: 
3.84 / 5
Hard Snow Performance: 
3.84 / 5
Crud Performance: 
3.06 / 5
Forgiveness: 
3.62 / 5
Overall: 
3.84 / 5
Flotation: 
1.56 / 5

YEAR2015/2016

WAIST WIDTH67mm

TIP/TAIL/WAIST119-67-102

LEVELExpert

LENGTHS148,153,159,165

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To Dynastar from the women at the test: "Thanks for making a fun carver for us girls." The Elite 11 is all that, with its deep-dish sidecut, springy camber underfoot, solid metal reinforcement, and knifey sidewalls. The Elite, it must be noted, wins the category by the bar- est of margins. It does so with a slight edge in playfulness, thanks to its zingy rebound energy and wasp-waisted quickness. But testers warn that its playfulness can be the devilish kind. While turn entries are fine and feathery, there's a spirited pop to the finish. Don't let it spank you. Unless you like that kind of thing. Moffatt: "Make millions of turns. Zippy and fun. Just be ready for its quickness." NOTES: The Elite 11 Fluid is one of the wider skis in Dynastar's Elite series, with a 121 mm tip and 72 mm waist. These dimensions are still quite skinny, though, and are intended for optimal edge control on groomers, as they are quite similar to that of a race ski. The Elite 12 Fluid's 14 m radius (at 165 cm) is also intended for quick and snappy turns and classic camber from tip to tail are designed to help these turns be as smooth as possible. For something similar but a bit skinnier, check out the Elite 12 Fluid. The Elite series includes race-inspired, on-trail carvers with narrow waists. Natural Stance technology takes into account women's lower center of gravity and is designed to shift the ski's pressure points to accommodate, and progressive sidewalls run down the entire ski (many models only have sidecut in the underfoot area), intended to create great edge grip. If you're a lady who loves ripping turns on groomers and other hardpack snow, this is a great series for you from Dynastar. Dynastar, based in Chamonix, France, was founded in 1963. Its U.S. headquarters are in Park City, Utah.

Laser AX

Stockli

2016

Gold Medal Gear

rating3.16

price$1149

Ratings
Stability At Speed: 
3.89 / 5
Hard Snow Performance: 
4.03 / 5
Crud Performance: 
3.10 / 5
Forgiveness: 
2.59 / 5
Overall: 
3.16 / 5
Flotation: 
1.77 / 5

YEAR2015/2016

WAIST WIDTH78mm

TIP/TAIL/WAIST123-78-110

LEVELExpert

LENGTHS159,167,175,183

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The AX doesn't just expect you to be rich, but also to know how to stand on an edge and bend a ski. But if you can afford it (artisanal Swiss skis don't come cheap) and tame it (it's one of the least forgiving in the category), it'll blow your hair back. It's the raciest ski among the winners. Built for precision performance on the hardest snow, it's solid, edgy and damp. Other skis might be more versatile, but testers gave this one their top Overall Impression score. Rogan: "A pure ripstick. Small sweet spot, though, so be ready."

RTM 84

Volkl

2016

Gold Medal Gear

rating3.32

price$1125

Ratings
Stability At Speed: 
4.00 / 5
Hard Snow Performance: 
3.65 / 5
Crud Performance: 
3.20 / 5
Forgiveness: 
3.40 / 5
Overall: 
3.32 / 5
Flotation: 
1.85 / 5

YEAR2015/2016

WAIST WIDTH84mm

TIP/TAIL/WAIST131-84-112

LEVELAdvanced

LENGTHS162,167,172,177,182

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Long a top seller for Volkl, the RTM series has been redesigned. Its new 3D Ridge construction (thick down the middle, thinner toward the edges) saves weight; a new binding interface grapples the binding from the sides for enhanced energy transmission to the edge. The result is a return to the top of the rankings. As the second-widest ski in the category, it promises a bit of soft-snow versatility. And testers praised its performance at moderate speeds and even in bumps, but the RTM really shines at crazy speeds on hardpack and soft groomers, loving long arcs especially.

100Eight

Volkl

2016

Gold Medal Gear

rating3.48

price$825

Ratings
Stability At Speed: 
3.63 / 5
Hard Snow Performance: 
3.04 / 5
Crud Performance: 
3.70 / 5
Forgiveness: 
2.90 / 5
Overall: 
3.48 / 5
Flotation: 
3.91 / 5

YEAR2015/2016

WAIST WIDTH108mm

TIP/TAIL/WAIST141-108-124

LEVELAdvanced

LENGTHS173,181,189

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Volkl's new 3D Ridge construction focuses mass down the middle so the ski can be thinner toward the edges for enhanced sensitivity. Testers were awed by a lightness and quickness they didn't expect in a ski this wide. The 100Eight, widest of the new Eight series, is a floater first, but even with its lowered sidewalls it lacked little for trustworthy edginess. If the sloppy sluggishness of other extra-wides has bothered you, try this one. Rogan: "Huge range of abilities for a ski this wide. Crud, groomers, pow- der...no problem."

iKonic 85Ti

K2

2016

Gold Medal Gear

rating3.28

price$0

Ratings
Stability At Speed: 
3.30 / 5
Hard Snow Performance: 
2.90 / 5
Crud Performance: 
3.30 / 5
Forgiveness: 
3.75 / 5
Overall: 
3.28 / 5
Flotation: 
1.75 / 5

YEAR2015/2016

WAIST WIDTH85mm

TIP/TAIL/WAIST126-85-114

LEVELAdvanced

LENGTHS163,170,177,184

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How does a ski earn No. 1 rankings in four criteria (Quickness, Playfulness, Forgiveness, and Crud) but not win the category? Because the new iKonic is an optimist. Its idea of "hard snow" is groomed velvet, and it gladly sacrifices some performance on the hardest snow to be all those other things. The iKonic features K2's new perimeter-weighting construction: dense over the edges; light and airy down the middle. There's metal reinforcement, but it's strategically placed. Casey: "Fun! Not fair putting this one in with all the race skis."

Yumi

Volkl

2016

Gold Medal Gear

rating3.20

price$650

Ratings
Stability At Speed: 
3.78 / 5
Hard Snow Performance: 
3.40 / 5
Crud Performance: 
2.63 / 5
Forgiveness: 
3.27 / 5
Overall: 
3.20 / 5
Flotation: 
1.70 / 5

YEAR2015/2016

WAIST WIDTH83mm

TIP/TAIL/WAIST125-83-103

LEVELAdvanced

LENGTHS147,154,161,168

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The Yumi, a past winner, barely misses finishing fourth. And check out its No. 2 for Overall Impression. So yes, Volkl lovers get what they're looking for. Rather than a detuned race ski, the Yumi comes out of the freeskiing category and aims for all-conditions versatility. As one tester put it, it's "an all- mountain carver" rather than a groomed-snow one. And check out the price: an exceptional value. Barnes: "On edge, it feels damp and glued to the snow, yet it maintains a playful attitude. Very well-rounded."

Speed Course Fluid

Dynastar

2016

Gold Medal Gear

rating2.93

price$1100

Ratings
Stability At Speed: 
3.86 / 5
Hard Snow Performance: 
4.16 / 5
Crud Performance: 
1.80 / 5
Forgiveness: 
2.64 / 5
Overall: 
2.93 / 5
Flotation: 
0.74 / 5

YEAR2015/2016

WAIST WIDTH71mm

TIP/TAIL/WAIST117-71-101

LEVELExpert

LENGTHS163,169,175,181

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The Course Speed is about as narrow as skis get these days. With its sturdy vertical side- walls and torsional stiffness, you'd expect it to be a veritable knife on hard snow. It is. It's also exuberantly energetic. Testers especially loved the exciting rebound energy: Finish your turns, and it catapults you across the hill and into the next turn with a zing that many skis lack in the rocker era. Gleason: "Round and solid on edge, with a traditional race feel. Slender waist is quick to edge, where this ski wants to be."

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