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Gear

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."

Viva X8

Blizzard

2016

Gold Medal Gear

rating3.21

price$960

Ratings
Stability At Speed: 
4.07 / 5
Hard Snow Performance: 
3.75 / 5
Crud Performance: 
3.02 / 5
Forgiveness: 
3.92 / 5
Overall: 
3.21 / 5
Flotation: 
1.47 / 5

YEAR2015/2016

WAIST WIDTH81mm

TIP/TAIL/WAIST124-81-107

LEVELAdvanced

LENGTHS146,153,160,167

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The Viva, last year's winner, finishes in a virtual tie for first. It's possessed of all the quali- ties of a high-performance carver: full-sidewall grippiness, metal smoothness and flow. But though it likes to be pushed hard, its performance is manageable. The 81-mm waist never trenches too deeply and presents an easy-to-find sweet spot. Testers agreed that it inspires confidence and keeps calm in a crisis. Barnes: "It's a power suit. Do women still wear those? Looks good and gives you confidence."

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."

Vantage 90 CTi W

Atomic

2016

Gold Medal Gear

rating3.40

price$725

Ratings
Stability At Speed: 
3.83 / 5
Hard Snow Performance: 
3.50 / 5
Crud Performance: 
3.54 / 5
Forgiveness: 
3.51 / 5
Overall: 
3.40 / 5
Flotation: 
2.14 / 5

YEAR2015/2016

WAIST WIDTH90mm

TIP/TAIL/WAIST130.5-90-114

LEVELExpert

LENGTHS153,161,169

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Spend most of your time off road? The new Vantage is an eager companion. No one had anything but praise for its groomed-snow performance. But it's a wilder ride that brings out its personality. It's built for liveliness and snap, with a light wood core and carbon-fiber reinforcement. It tackles rough snow and rowdy terrain eagerly, and testers said it made them look good doing it. It packs a performance punch way above its price. Webster: "So fun in the chop, and then it sailed right onto the corny groomers like a pro."

Black Pearl

Blizzard

2016

Gold Medal Gear

rating3.35

price$720

Ratings
Stability At Speed: 
3.54 / 5
Hard Snow Performance: 
3.58 / 5
Crud Performance: 
3.28 / 5
Forgiveness: 
3.33 / 5
Overall: 
3.35 / 5
Flotation: 
2.20 / 5

YEAR2015/2016

WAIST WIDTH88mm

TIP/TAIL/WAIST123-88-108

LEVELAdvanced

LENGTHS152,159,166,173

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Last year's champ remains on the podium this year, emblematic of the team's ongoing romance with Blizzard. Wider rides dominated the category this year-testers pushing women to embrace the fatness, even for Eastern applications-and the Pearl has plenty of rocker-enabled soft-snow skill. But hard snow and high speeds remain its specialty. Snow from hoses will not ruin its day. Testers also deemed it the best-looking ski in the bunch. Gibbons: "Great balance between light maneuverability and solidity at speed."

Kendo

Volkl

2016

Gold Medal Gear

rating3.42

price$825

Ratings
Stability At Speed: 
3.97 / 5
Hard Snow Performance: 
3.71 / 5
Crud Performance: 
3.20 / 5
Forgiveness: 
3.39 / 5
Overall: 
3.42 / 5
Flotation: 
2.89 / 5

YEAR2015/2016

WAIST WIDTH90mm

TIP/TAIL/WAIST127-90-110

LEVELExpert

LENGTHS163,170,177,184

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The only knock against Kendos past: Their thoroughbred performance was accessible only to the best skiers. The un- shakable stability is still there in this year's version, even (es- pecially) at unsafe speeds. But testers detected a new ease to it, a more willing versatility. It's still more about strength than playfulness, precision over spontaneity. But go ahead, slither through the bumps, dart through trees, and look better doing it. Elling: "Improved over last year. Still a high-speed all-mountain knife but more fun and more forgiving. Top-shelf." NOTES: The Kendo name has long been part of the Volkl collection, but the 2016 version is once again updated. Like the Mantra was last year, the Kendo has been widened slightly (from 88 to 90 mm), and the tip has been tapered to give it a looser, slashier feel. Still, with its moderate waist width and two sheets of metal, it's the knifiest of the All-Mountain Freeski series skis, and doesn't mind a bit if it's been a while since the last storm. Volkl's All-Mountain Freeskiing collection includes five midfat models built for all-conditions versatility and ranging in width from a modest 89 mm (Kink) to a powder-ready 108 mm (100Eight). The series includes two important new models, the 100Eight and the 90Eight, as well as longtime Volkl stalwarts like the Mantra and Kendo. All are built with wood cores for snappy performance and durability. Most have tapered tips, where the widest part of the ski is pulled back toward the foot, giving them a looser, more maneuverable feel, especially in deep snow. All are sold flat (no binding). The Mantra and 100Eight are fully rockered for maximum buoyancy and shock absorption. The 90Eight, Kendo and Kink have rocker tip and tail with camber underfoot for positive edge grip and more traditional feeling rebound energy.

Power X8

Blizzard

2016

Gold Medal Gear

rating2.99

price$1080

Ratings
Stability At Speed: 
3.69 / 5
Hard Snow Performance: 
4.16 / 5
Crud Performance: 
2.33 / 5
Forgiveness: 
2.89 / 5
Overall: 
2.99 / 5
Flotation: 
1.03 / 5

YEAR2015/2016

WAIST WIDTH81mm

TIP/TAIL/WAIST125-81-108

LEVELExpert

LENGTHS160,167,174,181

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Testers continue to be amazed by the solid edginess manufacturers are building into wider waists these days. Case in point: the Power X8. All agreed it's hard-snow appropriate-as exciting as almost anything in the category when it's edging hard snow at speed. But it has a measure of soft-snow versatility as well. With its 81-mm waist width and tight turning radius, it's like a fat slalom ski. Elling: "Comin' through! Go as fast you can, tip it as high as you dare. A great hard-snow assault vehicle."

Samba

Blizzard

2016

Gold Medal Gear

rating3.33

price$780

Ratings
Stability At Speed: 
3.66 / 5
Hard Snow Performance: 
3.41 / 5
Crud Performance: 
3.76 / 5
Forgiveness: 
3.41 / 5
Overall: 
3.33 / 5
Flotation: 
2.78 / 5

YEAR2015/2016

WAIST WIDTH98mm

TIP/TAIL/WAIST131-98-116

LEVELAdvanced

LENGTHS152,159,166,173

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The No. 1-ranked ski is light and playful. The No. 2, solid and edgy. The No. 3-ranked Samba achieves a balance, demonstrating both personali- ties to lesser extent in a single super-versatile package. Last year's Samba won the category. This year's, slightly lighter, still put up the top Overall Impression score, and the testers still think it's the best of the bunch in crud. It suits a hard-charging style best, but it's never overpowering. And everyone loved the graphic. Elling: "Dependable, balanced, always in the right place."

100Eight W

Volkl

2016

Gold Medal Gear

rating3.55

price$825

Ratings
Stability At Speed: 
3.54 / 5
Hard Snow Performance: 
2.70 / 5
Crud Performance: 
3.85 / 5
Forgiveness: 
3.54 / 5
Overall: 
3.55 / 5
Flotation: 
4.01 / 5

YEAR2015/2016

WAIST WIDTH108mm

TIP/TAIL/WAIST141-108-124

LEVELIntermediate

LENGTHS157,165,173

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Volkl's new Eight series stomped its debut in both the men's and women's tests. Only another Volkl (Kenja; see Mixed Snow East), outscored the 100Eight W in the women's test. Getting light isn't always about materials. Volkl's new 3D Ridge Construction plays with shape-thick down the middle for strength, thin toward the edges to save weight-a concept refined in the premium-priced V-Werks series. Testers were grumpy Volkl had nothing longer than 165 cm for the test. They got over it.

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