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2006 Gear Guide

posted: 10/27/2005

Do you hunt untracked snow a week after the storm? Crank Alaska-size turns-whether you're in Alaksa or not? Then these loose and playful powder skis are for you. They're wide enough to float on the big days (epic dump, heli trip, European vacation), but responsive enough for the home hill (four-turn chute, hardwood glade, blown-in gully).

$750; 116/80/106; 16 M

A slalom-like turning radius plus an 80-mm waist equals the category's most versatile ski. Testers loved how it arced on hard snow, and then danced down treed steeps and powder. GRIPES: Doesn't float in heavy crud as well as the wider big mountain boards. PROPS: An ideal resort ski-it's quick, it floats in shin-deep powder, and you can arc turns on firm groomers. TESTER'S TAKE: "These Eights will give you total turn-shape control." -Aleisha Cline

$925; 117/89/110; 27 M

This is a big robust ski with plenty of top-end stability for wide-open bowls. But thanks to a noticeable lightness underfoot, it won't hang up when you dive into the trees or chutes. GRIPES: Don't overpower the front-it can get squirrelly. PROPS: As long as you're balanced, it never wobbles at any speed. And it initiates with authority as soon as pressure is applied. TESTER'S TAKE: "So easy to read that it's as comfortable as hanging out with your best college bud." -Reggie Crist

3) ELAN: M 777
$785; 117/87/107; 26.1 M

The triple-7's narrow cut makes it nimble, but it's solid enough to slice through three-day-old leftovers. The laminate construction gives it a damp feel, and it packs plenty of edge grip and power underfoot. GRIPES: Not as lively as its swirly graphics suggest. PROPS: Despite its narrow profile, it has enough heft to make it a great all-arounder. TESTER'S TAKE: "Jackpot on these 7's, baby-crud busters extraordinaire." -Hilaree O'Neill

$1,075 (WITH BINDING);129/96/119; 22 M

This new twin tip comes in just one size, 186 cm. It's light for such a wide, floaty crud-buster, but still has Fischer's trademark carving genes. The Kehua, a smaller (177 cm), slimmer (92-mm waist) version, is a bit more versatile. GRIPES: Single lengths are limiting; a shorter Atua would be an ideal powder ski for smaller folks. PROPS: Sturdy enough for the all-mountain skier, but easy-flexing enough for an aspiring jibber. TESTER'S TAKE: "Smooth, first class ride." -Jessica Sobolowski

$900; 126/88/112; 21.7 M

The damp Monster offers one of the smoothest rides in this category. And although its flex isn't overpowering, it has enough strength to blow through crud. The tight turn radius means you don't have to shy away from small spaces. GRIPES: Stable and sure, yes, but not very lively at lower speeds. PROPS: Turn up the gas: The faster you go, the more responsive it gets. TESTER'S TAKE: "Skiing is full of surprises, but the secure feedback loop of this giant will uncomplicate your day." -Hilaree O'Neill

$700; 131/98/116; 24 M

Don't be put off by the extreme width of the Chief's 131-mm tip. It has a mellow flex, just enough shape to keep it controllable, and lots of power for such an easy-skiing ski. GRIPES: The width makes it feel a bit lethargic at slower speeds. PROPS: The widest of the bunch and a perfect transition ski to the pro category. TESTER'S TAKE: "Handles the steepest and deepest on the mountain." -Zach Crist

$1,175; 124/88/111; 19 M

This Outlaw is an outrageously quick ski given its chubby 88-mm waist. Credit the powerful glass-wrapped wood core and a generously deep sidecut. The progressive flex lets the tip float and initiate easily, while the aft section dishes oout stable muscle at super G speeds. GRIPES: Bigger, heavier folks may feel it get hooky in crud. PROPS: Audacious blend of geometry and flex lets you move up in width while still having fun on the packed stuff. TESTER'S TAKE: "Rock solid with the responsiveness of a dog to food." -Matt Ross

$879; 122/94/112; 23.6 M

Big, strong guys will love the sheer heft of the new B4. The trademark Rossi dampness is there too. And in this width (94 mm) with a medium sidecut, it's extra smooth in the heaviest mashed snow. GRIPES: A bit sluggish when you're looking for quick edge changes. PROPS: It excels under pressure-predictable on landings, and it gets more ener-getic the harder it's pushed. TESTER'S TAKE: "The meek won't inherit shit if they're on this powder charger." -Jenn Berg

$695; 124/87/115; 20.4 M

The Foil's swing weight and quickness are second to none. And an 87-mm waist gives it a great balance of flotation and maneuverability in the tightest crannies. GRIPES: The ski responds to subtle moves best. Hard chargers might find they overwhelm this feather. PROPS: So lively and playful, it makes big mountain skiing effortless and fun. It's easy to scrub speed in chutes and trees. TESTER'S TAKE: "Off-the-charts trickability." -Andi Malboeuf

$999; 122/89/112; 25.5 M

Scot Schmidt's signature ski is built more for how hard he charges than the slightness of his frame. This is one brawny stick with enough heavy metal and chunky wood layers to spank the meanest windslab into submission. GRIPES: Not much sidecut to amplify any quick maneuvers; planky feel that behaves only at highway speeds. PROPS: An old-school vibe that forces you to stand on it hard. Constant stability is a given. TESTER'S TAKE: "It's like an I-beam with P-tex." -Chris Davenport

$765; 130/94/113; 21 M

The Mantra replaces the Explosiv this year-and we didn't shed any tears. The vertical sidewalls and laminate construction make for a predictable and confidence-inspiring ride, while the wide (94-mm) waist belies its maneuverability in tight steeps. GRIPES: Some-times it feels like a GS race ski-which is nice on hard snow, but a challenge in tight trees. PROPS: The smooth-flexing tip and surface area give it mega flotation. TESTER'S TAKE: "I am in a state of big mountain bliss. Ommmmmm." -Mike Britt

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