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Gear Guide 2006

Features
posted: 10/27/2005


In this year's test, there were more skis specifically for women-and more female-friendly features-than ever before. Want a ski that'll actually flex into a turn? Got it. How about a raised heel to complement your feminine grace? Ditto. Unlike in years past, many of these skis are actually designed by and built for women-from the P-tex up. And they're just as tough and performance-driven as any ski out there.

ALL-TERRAIN EXPERT

1) DYNASTAR: EXCLUSIVE LEGEND
$695; 114/75/102; 16 M

The Exclusive features a few women-specific tweaks, like a raised heelpiece (to help keep your weight in front), a slightly forward mounting point (to accelerate turn initiation), and a lightweight construction (for better maneuverability). GRIPES: A bit too narrow to power through crud. PROPS: Effortless into turns; powerful out of them. TESTER'S TAKE: "The Leather(wo)man of skis. It has the attributes to handle any circumstance." -Megan McGrath

2) K2: T:NINE LOTTA LUV
$1,050 (WITH BINDING); 119/78/105; 15 M
BEST IN TEST

The Lotta Luv features quick turn initiation, solid edge grip, and forgiveness in the tip and tail. And a versatile 78-mm waist lets it bust crud and float in powder. GRIPES: Can be chattery on hard steeps and at speed. PROPS: Silky and effortless full-suspension feel. TESTER'S TAKE: "The T:Nine gives you unconditional Luv in all conditions." -Jamie Britt

3) NORDICA: OLYMPIA VICTORY XBS
$895 (WITH BINDING);119/74/104; 15.8 M

The Victory uses Nordica's unique X-Balance System (see binding reviews, page 158) to evenly distribute pressure from tip to tail, even if you're slightly back or forward. Vertical sidewalls and a wood core generate rock-solid edge grip and a racelike feel. GRIPES: Can feel sluggish at slower speeds. PROPS: Loves fast, large-radius turns. TESTER'S TAKE: "This ski is a perfectionist." -Jen Brown

4) SALOMON: SIAM N° 10
$975 (WITH BINDING); 118/77/106; 17.5 M

The No 10 features Salomon's minimalist Spaceframe construction (dense, rigid material placed only where it's needed). The result is an extremely versatile, all-mountain tool that's happy on groomers, in powder, and in the trees. GRIPES: Occasionally chatters on boilerplate. PROPS: Lightning-fast during turn transitions. Easy to swing around in tight spaces. TESTER'S TAKE: "Handles terrain like a Hummer, but feels like a Porsche." -Becky McLachlan

ONE-SKI QUIVER

5) FISCHER: VISION 76
$1,069 (WITH BINDING); 120/76/106; 14 M
BEST IN TEST

The Vision 76 was the only women-specific model to make the cut in this one-ski-does-all group (see unisex ATE reviews for details, page 112). A 76-mm waist provides ample float in powder, while a tight, 14-m turning radius lets you engrave buffed terrain. It may look overbuilt, but the 3D Combi Chassis (ultra-lightweight wood, carbon fiber, and titanium) keeps things light. GRIPES: Bumpers might find it a bit stiff. PROPS: Serious torsion underfoot for superior edge hold. TESTER'S TAKE: "The enduro bike of skis." -Vicky Bogner

BIG MOUNTAIN EXPERT

6) FISCHER: RANGI 88
$954 (WITH BINDING); 124/88/112; 18 M

This twin-tip ski got its highest marks in turn execution (it hangs on in a carve) and maneuverability (it's easy to swing around). A carbon-and-wood core gives the Rangi an easy flex, but doesn't skimp on the torsional rigidity needed for tenacious edge bite. GRIPES: A bit quaky at higher speeds. PROPS: Light and nimble in tight trees and chutes, yet wide enough for powder and crud. TESTER'S TAKE: "Pipe, park, or backcountry, this ski-of-the-times always performs." -Andi Malboeuf

7) K2: T:NINE PHAT LUV
$675; 128/95/118; 17 M
BEST IN TEST

The Phat Luv's BioFlex core (lightweight sprucen tip and tail; dense fir underfoot) provides softer flex at the ends and a rigid, stable platform where it's most needed: under the boot. GRIPES: Women over 150 pounds (and aggressive lighter skiers) found the shovel too soft. PROPS: A huge sweet spot makes recoveries easy. TESTER'S TAKE: "It can hang with the guys, but you don't need testosterone to muscle it around." -Vicky Bogner

ALL-TERRAIN INTERMEDIATE

8) VOLANT: VERTEX M
$1,100 (WITH BINDING); 116/79/105; 17 M

The Vertex M marries the terrain-hugging dampness of a steel top sheet with the even, responsive flex of a wood core. A new Flex-Tech riser plate increases your leverage for better edging. GRIPES: Steel is heavy, so short turns feel sluggish. PROPS: The M's heft handles high speed and rough chop without a quiver. TESTER'S TAKE: "For the female skier who knows that 'woman' is not synonymous with 'soft.'" -Hilaree O'Neill

9) FISCHER: VISION 73
$879 (WITH BINDING); 118/73/105; 13 M

Like the Vision 76, the skinnier 73 has a lightweight personality, but a slightly easier flex. Lazy skiers, think twice: It still takes some muscle to fully bend the 73 into a turn. GRIPES: The 73-mm waist is a bit slim if your home hill is Alta. PROPS: Venture outside your comfort zone and this tough, reliable board will stick with you through the most challenging conditions and terrain. TESTER'S TAKE: "A take-charge ski-if you've got the motivation." -Andi Malboeuf

10) K2: T:NINE ONE LUV
$910 (WITH BINDING); 115/68/99; 13 M

Lose the husband (in your tracks), arc clean turns, and feel more confident. The shiny MOD Monic device (a vibration eater on the forebody of the ski) really does damp the Luv on rough surfaces. GRIPES: Too soft in the shovel for fast, aggressive, or heavy (150 pounds and up) skiers. PROPS: Light and smooth. Guaranteed to provoke honest-to-God carves out of you. TESTER'S TAKE: "You'll feel like you need an audience and a red carpet after performing on this A-lister." -Jen Brown

11) Và–LKL: ATTIVA AC2
$650 (WITH BINDING); 116/72/103; 14.4 M
BEST IN TEST

Attiva is Italian for "active," and the AC2 deserves the billing. The 20/20 Sensorwood utilizes inter-layered balsa to save weight while retaining stability and rebound energy. GRIPES: Prefers smooth snow. Can get bucky in chop. PROPS: Beefed-up sidewall construction delivers unyielding edge hold. TESTER'S TAKE: "Nothing lost in translation-edge to snow or Italian to English." -Jamie Britt

CARVING EXPERT

12) K2: T:NINE BURNIN LUV
$965 (WITH BINDING); 115/68/99; 13 M

At 68 mm underfoot, it's the Lotta Luv (see page 136) on a diet. With the same metal-laminate and Bioflex-core guts (lightweight spruce in tip and tail; dense fir underfoot), it's got a ride just as satiny and a sweet spot just as enormous. GRIPES: Not a natural short-turner. PROPS: Edge grip is fierce, and the 13-m turn radius lets you dig trenches that'll be the envy of your snowboarding friends. TESTER'S TAKE: "No warmup runs needed; go right to the sickest buffed-out steeps and hang 'em way out there." -Jamie Britt

13) Và–LKL: ATTIVA 5 STAR
$985 (WITH BINDING); 114/68/99; 14 M
BEST IN TEST

The Attiva 5 Star will have you accelerating through corners like Danica Patrick. Völkl's Double Grip construction (extra layers of wood along the edges) pumps up edge hold and torsional stiffness, so the ski feels responsive and lively, especially when exiting the turn. GRIPES: Pretty jumpy; not very damp. PROPS: A soft tip on an otherwise rigid ski makes steering and initiation thoughtlessly easy. TESTER'S TAKE: "A 21st-century ski for the 21st-century woman-strong, versatile, and decisive without sacrificing femininity and grace." -Jen Brown

CARVING INTERMEDIATE

14) DYNASTAR: EXCLUSIVE CARVE
$925 (WITH BINDING, NOT SHOWN); 115/65/104; 11 M

Whether you're out for a cruise or want to push the envelope, this versatile carver delivers it all. This year's model features the same easy flex as last year's, but it sports a new binding plate that increases your carving leverage and damps vibrations. GRIPES: Not a short turner. PROPS: A forgiving confidence builder. You don't need to muscle this ski. TESTER'S TAKE: "This supple carver is a time machine: It'll show you your skiing's future." -Jamie Britt

15) FISCHER: VISION 40
$779 (WITH BINDING); 107/68/95; 15 M

You get a lot of bang for your buck with this aggressive carver. Fischer's carbon-and-wood construction results in a forgiving ski with edges that hang on for the whole turn. GRIPES: A bit sluggish when pushed into short arcs. PROPS: A damp and polished ride that, because of its lightness, you can ski all day. TESTER'S TAKE: "This strong carver is far from the white-bread-intermediate, go-nowhere ski." -Jen Brown

16) K2: T:NINE TRUE LUV
$700 (WITH BINDING); 116/69/101; 13 M

If you occasionally end up in the backseat, the True Luv's giant sweet spot will make recovery easy. Like its sisters in the T:Nine series, it's light and has a soft flex, but it maintains enough torsion for excellent edge hold. GRIPES: Feels shorter than it is, so high speeds tend to make it jumpy. PROPS: Incredibly versatile. Likes all turn shapes. TESTER'S TAKE: "Smooth, well-balanced, and easy to ski." -Jamie Britt

17) Và–LKL: ATTIVA S2
$650 (WITH BINDING); 112/68/99; 14.4 M
BEST IN TEST

The S2 skis like an easy version of Völkl's award-winning 5 Star. It has nearly the same footprint (it's only 2 mm smaller in the tip) and a slightly softer flex. Roll your ankles and the ski cuts clean arcs beneath you. GRIPES: Twitchy and responsive like a high-strung horse, so stay over 'em. PROPS: An energetic joyride with great rebound when you load them up. TESTER'S TAKE: "Perfect for the intermediate who wants to make the next grade." -Tatiana MoskovaARVING INTERMEDIATE

14) DYNASTAR: EXCLUSIVE CARVE
$925 (WITH BINDING, NOT SHOWN); 115/65/104; 11 M

Whether you're out for a cruise or want to push the envelope, this versatile carver delivers it all. This year's model features the same easy flex as last year's, but it sports a new binding plate that increases your carving leverage and damps vibrations. GRIPES: Not a short turner. PROPS: A forgiving confidence builder. You don't need to muscle this ski. TESTER'S TAKE: "This supple carver is a time machine: It'll show you your skiing's future." -Jamie Britt

15) FISCHER: VISION 40
$779 (WITH BINDING); 107/68/95; 15 M

You get a lot of bang for your buck with this aggressive carver. Fischer's carbon-and-wood construction results in a forgiving ski with edges that hang on for the whole turn. GRIPES: A bit sluggish when pushed into short arcs. PROPS: A damp and polished ride that, because of its lightness, you can ski all day. TESTER'S TAKE: "This strong carver is far from the white-bread-intermediate, go-nowhere ski." -Jen Brown

16) K2: T:NINE TRUE LUV
$700 (WITH BINDING); 116/69/101; 13 M

If you occasionally end up in the backseat, the True Luv's giant sweet spot will make recovery easy. Like its sisters in the T:Nine series, it's light and has a soft flex, but it maintains enough torsion for excellent edge hold. GRIPES: Feels shorter than it is, so high speeds tend to make it jumpy. PROPS: Incredibly versatile. Likes all turn shapes. TESTER'S TAKE: "Smooth, well-balanced, and easy to ski." -Jamie Britt

17) Và–LKL: ATTIVA S2
$650 (WITH BINDING); 112/68/99; 14.4 M
BEST IN TEST

The S2 skis like an easy version of Völkl's award-winning 5 Star. It has nearly the same footprint (it's only 2 mm smaller in the tip) and a slightly softer flex. Roll your ankles and the ski cuts clean arcs beneath you. GRIPES: Twitchy and responsive like a high-strung horse, so stay over 'em. PROPS: An energetic joyride with great rebound when you load them up. TESTER'S TAKE: "Perfect for the intermediate who wants to make the next grade." -Tatiana Moskova

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