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2006 Gear Guide

Features
posted: 10/27/2005



It's the biggest category in skiing-and no wonder. These skis tackle anything-powder and crud, moguls and hardpack. True, they don't float like big mountain boards and they aren't thoroughbred carving skis. But if you want the one ski to rule them all, this is where to look.

1) DYNASTAR: LEGEND 8000
$875; 116/79/102; 21 M

No funny business here. The 8000's versatility let our pros transition from big, fast arcs on groomers and pow to tight chutes and trees without blinking. It turns on a dime but doesn't demand constant rider attention. GRIPES: A bit chattery on the boilerplate. PROPS: Vertical sidewalls provide a responsive, racy feel without the jarring snap and pop of a race-oriented ski. TESTER'S TAKE: "The 8000's make you look at terrain differently: Anything seems possible." -Chris Anthony

2) ELAN: M 666
$999 (WITH BINDING); 116/76/102; 17.9 M

The 666 has all the positive characteristics of a race ski-dampness, stability, energy, and edge hold-without a race ski's harsh demands. Turn initiation was smooth and quick, and the ski favored medium-to-long turns at moderate-to-high speeds. GRIPES: That same race-bred feel made it ill at ease in the bumps, where livelier skis fared better. PROPS: Stays glued to the groomers, but the 76-mm waist handles chopped-up powder, too. TESTER'S TAKE: "Does everything that the devil in you desires." -Charlie Gaylord

3) FISCHER: AMC 79
$1,179 (WITH BINDING); 116/79/109; 18 M

Thanks to the precise and positive contact of the Railflex binding system, the light, responsive AMC 79 seems to crackle with potential energy. It carves exceptionally well and, with a 79-mm waist, it also floats nicely in soft snow. GRIPES: Likes cruising better than quick turns. PROPS: Outstanding edge hold on the hardest of snow. TESTER'S TAKE: "Rails carves like a race board; floats better than a pool toy. Am I dreaming?" -Billy O'Donnell

4) HEAD: MONSTER I.M 77
$930; 119/77/104; 17.9 M

Powerful and stable in big fast arcs, the Monster's stiff tail lends a snappy finish to turns. It also handles heavy crud with ease. GRIPES: Definitely a cruiser. It's tough to dance quickly down the fall line. PROPS: A predictable, even flex in the shovel of the ski makes its power accessible. TESTER'S TAKE: "Like a gator thrashing dinner: You gotta watch the tail." -Aleisha Cline

5) K2: APACHE RECON
$1,125 (WITH BINDING); 119/78/105; 18 M
BEST IN TEST

The Recon flexes effortlessly, and predictably produces any turn shape. A vibration-absorbing, two-layer core lends a silky, damp feel in any type of snow. GRIPES: Moderate sidecut makes quick turns difficult. PROPS: Exceptionally solid edge grip. TESTER'S TAKE: "Glides through any situation." -Mike Britt

6) NORDICA: HOT ROD MODIFIED
$1,075 (WITH BINDING); 119/74/104; 15.8 M

The Modified felt so velvety and quiet that even the shortest test length earned high corduroy-carving points. Credit the traditional laminate construction and the X-Balance System, a binding and plate co-built with Marker that distributes pressure evenly throughout the ski. GRIPES: A tad narrow for powder days, but so stable it'll plow through any junky stuff. PROPS: Huge sweet spot. Damp, but not dead; quick, but not squirrelly. TESTER'S TAKE: "Like a barracuda knifing through the surf." -Megan McGrath

7) ROSSIGNOL: BANDIT B2
$729; 116/78/105; 16.6 M

The mellow, plush B2 can handle just about any condition or terrain. Our smallest pros didn't get jostled by this ultra-damp ride-even when pushing top-end speeds. Initiates easily and cruises quietly when the powder turns to chop. GRIPES: Hard snow or soft? It doesn't truly excel in any one particular area. PROPS: Suits the needs of a huge range of sskiers. TESTER'S TAKE: "It doesn't scream for attention, but executes smoothly and consistently everywhere." -Jamie Britt

8) ROSSIGNOL: BANDIT B3
$849; 120/83/110; 17.3 M

The new, 83-mm-waisted B3 had the highest float scores in this category, and it devoured days-old crud with ease. Surprisingly, it also topped the charts in edge hold. Its mellow flex (reminiscent of the B2's) kept even the lightest skiers in control. GRIPES: Not a quick turner. PROPS: Sets a new paradigm for what a wide stick can accomplish in all conditions. TESTER'S TAKE: "The B3 has supersized the All-Terrain category. Big and forgiving." -Zach Crist

9) SALOMON: SCRAMBLER HOT
$1,075 (WITH BINDING); 118/78/107; 19.5 M

We knew it would float well, but the relatively fat Hot (78 mm underfoot) surprised us by earning top marks in maneuverability. Salomon's weight-saving Spaceframe construction makes the Hot nimble, especially in short turns. GRIPES: In heavy junk, the light shovel tended to get deflected. PROPS: Shines at moderate speeds and in tight spots. TESTER'S TAKE: "Like a powerful tailback, it can hit the smallest of openings and run like hell for daylight." -Charlie Gaylord

10) STà–CKLI: STORMRIDER XL
$919; 116/75/102; 20.8 M

True to Stöckli's racing heritage, the XL feels like a GS race ski, and proves it on the firmest early-morning corduroy. The XL needs to go fast, and it favors heavy, powerful riders. GRIPES: Quick adjustments and other short-radius maneuvers demand some muscle. PROPS: Skis long (meaning a 170 feels as stable as a 180) with nary a hint of chatter. TESTER'S TAKE: "What World Cup speed freaks choose on their days off." -Zach Crist

11) Và–LKL: UNLIMITED AC3
$990 (WITH BINDING); 116/74/102; 18.1 M

The versatile AC3 will make any turn shape at any speed. Mash the accelerator, though, and it really shines. The responsive, energy-producing binding system, combined with a slim 74-mm waist, led to high corduroy performance marks. GRIPES: A bit more width underfoot would bring the AC3's float scores in line with its carving prowess. PROPS: Inspires confidence with every move. Strong cross-hill pull on groomers. TESTER'S TAKE: "The pleasure is unlimited." -Chris Anthony

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