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.”
Mach1 105W C.A.S
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Testers said the name is apt. They found themselves skiing faster and harder in this boot than most others in the category. Its athletic, balanced stance, honest 105 flex, and lateral strength combine to drive a ski with authority. Yet it’s plenty comfortable: All key fit zones are roomier than the average medium-width boot’s. Kennaday: “Perfect for women who want a little extra room but don’t want to give up the power.”
This agile, all-mountain ripper has tricks up its sleeve. The tongue and cuff are just right for off-piste exploration (a little tall, a little upright, a little long-flexing). The cushioned liner dampens bumps and jumps. Testers loved the big-buckle hike-mode mechanism for its ease of use and solid lockdown. And the heat-moldable shell fits a huge range of foot widths. Theren: “Good dynamic bal- ance fore and aft.”
X Max 110 W
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A yawning calf-size adjustment and the shell’s heat-moldability give this boot great fit flexibility. It works well with a variety of foot types, skiing styles, and even sizes. Bigger testers felt the flex was a little soft. Lightweights with low-volume feet and average to slender calves liked the snow-handling capabilities and gave it high agility scores. Goldsmith-Rahill: “Once I sized down it was solid underfoot and snug.”