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2006 Gear Guide

posted: 10/27/2005

Powder, crud, hardpack, high speeds: Can one ski do it all? This groundbreaking group-a shorter (average test length was 170), fatter (74 mm and up at the waist), more deeply sidecut (average turning radius is 17.2 m) spin-off of the All-Terrain Expert category-comes damn close.

$999 (WITH BINDING); 116/76/102; 17.9 M

The Mag 12 dives into turns quickly, and a narrow width amplifies its strong cross-hill pull. It's hefty enough so it won't deflect in rough, hard snow, but still maneuverable enough for trees and tight spaces. GRIPES: With its large turn radius, it struggles to bang out quick turns. PROPS: Perfect all-mountain ski for the skier who spends a lot of time making arcs. TESTER'S TAKE: "The Mag magnifies your carving power." -Nicole Pelletier

$1,099 (WITH BINDING); 120/76/106; 16 M

Thanks to a light and stiff carbon-wood-titanium construction, the AMC's energy and edge hold are off the charts. A beefy tail snaps you out of hardpack arcs, and it has the girth, if not the heft, to handle most crud. GRIPES: Some tip deflection at speed in rougher crud. PROPS: Liveliest ride of the group and one of the hardest chargers on firm snow. TESTER'S TAKE: "Serious tail! Rips groomers wide open and surfs over anything." -David Currier

$1,125 (WITH BINDING); 119/78/105; 18 M

No, we didn't mistakenly review the same ski twice. Based on the Recon's high marks from last season's test, we chose it as a benchmark ski for rating this new group of fatter all-terrain skis. It epitomizes this subgroup: a wide-waisted ski with a pronounced sidecut for true on- and off-piste versatility. Ski it long for a more traditional and floaty feel, or go shorter to emphasize the 18-meter-radius carving muscle.

$1,195 (WITH BINDING); 123/78/108; 17.6 M

In a category that earns superlatives, this burly metal/laminate board tops the charts as the most stable, powerful ride. It has the top-end muscle of a World Cup GS racer and carves like it's 68 mm underfoot, when it's actually 78. That extra girth lends true performance in powder and chop. GRIPES: A bit heavy for zippy arcs. PROPS: A virtually unlimited top end and unprecedented versatility. TESTER'S TAKE: "Nothing will beat this space shuttle in a drag race." -Zach Crist

$1,049 (WITH BINDING); 126/74/105; 14.8 M

Damp and silky, the Z9 quietly slips through anything, but it truly shows its chops on hard corduroy, where carves are clean and fast and grip is magnetic. GRIPES: We'd love a bit more float in the crud. PROPS: Plenty of power, and a gigantic sweet spot. TESTER'S TAKE: "Like the paddle shifters in a Formula 1 car, the Z9 lets you easily notch it up or down." -Jamie Britt

$695; 124/85/114; 17.6 M

Despite the Custom's 85-mm belly, its weight-saving Spaceframe core ensures it's actually quite nimble. Its tight 17.6-m turn radius made it a pleasure on the groomers. GRIPES: Our power-oriented pros found the shovel short and a tad floppy-feeling. PROPS: Easy to squirrel around in the trees. TESTER'S TAKE: "Amazing contrast in size and agility-like working a 150-pound tarpon on 12-pound test." -Megan McGrath

$1065 (WITH BINDING); 125/82/110; 17.8 M

You'll be hard-pressed to find a ski as wide underfoot (82 mm) and as versatile as the AC4. It's loaded with extra tail energy that lets you pop quick fall-line turns. But it really shines when you're heading for first-chair powder. Powerful hookup in the beginning of the turn and extra grip belie the girth. GRIPES: Favors powerful riders with the muscle to handle its energy. PROPS: Hard to believe a ski could carve and float this well, but it does. TESTER'S TAKE: "A slalom ski for the trees and powder." -Charlie Gaylord

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