If you like to squeeze a buck as much as you like to stand on a cleanly arcing edge, check out the NRGy 90. It'll sell for about $600 in most shops, but there's nothing cheap about the way it skis. Its quickness and hard-snow skills belie its ample width; its just-right rebound is man- ageable yet thrilling; and with a modest, GS-y, down-the-hill kind of sidecut, it loves to
go fast in long arcs. Withey: "Rewards you at speed, yet still light and quick."
The universally admired Annex 118 felt like a "new kind of K2" to testers, damper than K2s past, trading some traditional liveliness for speed-loving stability that rippers will adore. It's the model of choice of K2 athlete Seth Morrison and, as one tester noted, especially well suited to the daring speeds and big-mountain lines he favors. And yet it still ranks No. 1 for Forgiveness, with a rocker and tip-taper shape that lends confidence in tight spaces and rebound energy that enhances that quickness. Elling: "So versatile. A hard-charging chameleon that can cruise quietly or bring on the horror as needed. Great new ski for K2."
Gold Medal Gear
LENGTHS158, 168, 178
RATING: 3.82 / 5
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Wow. After tepid results in recent years, Head instantly regained tester devotion with its strong, stable new fleet of Joy skis. The flagship Big Joy is a no-nonsense bomber that does it all. It's the Holy Grail of light and strong-a lightweight wood core is reinforced with graphene, a sheet of carbon one atom thick that earned its developers the 2010 Nobel Prize in Physics. A rockered tip floats in the deep, and low-profile camber in the rest carves on groomed. It's more directional than smeary, and it craves speed-so only experts need apply. "Chicks who rip, rejoice. This is the real-deal powder ski for us," said Barnes.
The all-new 810 is the ultimate hardpack slayer. It's fully cambered underfoot for a vicious edge bite. (Blizzard had experimented with Flip Core- an upside-down core with natural rocker-in this racy niche, but this year it's getting back to busi- ness with full camber.) Yet it's slightly rockered at tip and tail to engage and release without a fight. A shortened tip aims to reduce vibration. A lightweight wood core is reinforced with metal to dampen and stiffen for even the most aggressive skiers. The brand also brings back its IQ binding interface, which transfers power so instantly, "it's like an extension of my body," Brown Lovell said.
Holy Blizzard sweep-the brand topped four categories for women this year (including Value; see the october issue for our review). The Samba wowed testers again this year for its winning combination of power when it's on edge and supple steering when it's not. It doesn't shine in pow-its 98-mm waist is on the slender side of this category-but when the hill gets tracked, this ski will crush it. It's a true one-ski quiver. It's best for experts but isn't as punishing as a ski this fast should be. No. 1 scores in Crud, Balance of Skills, and the all-important overall Impression. "This is a skier's ski," said Kelli Gleason.
The Black Pearl is so versatile, it's almost a shapeshifter, transforming into whatever you desire: damp super-G ski one minute, agile tree slalomer the next. It's powerful yet forgiving, knifey yet smooth, responsive yet stable. It has the same shape as the men's Brahma-gradual rocker tip and tail for float and ease, flat underfoot with sturdy sidewalls for grip-but with a significantly lighter core. It also boasts Flip Core, which takes advantage of the wood's natural bow so there's no need to force it into rocker. "Just like an Audi A4: fast and sporty but with AWD when you need it," said Tracy Gibbons.
This ski prompted testers to wish for a split in the category: Groomed Snow East and Groomed Snow West. The latter is where the Yumi prefers to dwell. It's softer in flex and shorter on fang than some of the others, earning a No. 1 in Forgiveness. Makes sense: Volkl created this ski to be fun for mortals. It politely delivers what you demand with the perfect amount of snap, and its connection to the snow is magnetic. Light and quick edge-to-edge, it laughs through the bumps and is the most versa- tile for soft snow (No. 1 in Flotation), but for blue New England ice, look for more torsional rigidity. "Easy peasy!" said Kelli Gleason.
The cuff is tall and upright, and the flex is a true 105, so our taller, heavier women liked this one a lot. It skied strongly and comfortably everywhere on the hill—a boot doesn’t have to be bone-crushingly tight to be right when all the angles line up. It’s billed as a narrow fit (98 mm) but thicker feet won’t have any problems. Gettmann: “Finds the new edge quickly, like the next turn is its sole purpose in life.”