The RX12 SL is built on traditional bones, with a classic, metal/glass sandwich around a poplar/ash core, to which Kästle adds its special ingredient, the colorful Hollowtech tip, to keep its fully cambered baseline in contact with the snow. A continuous-radius sidecut extends all the way into the tip, so as soon as it’s tipped, it’s engaged. Unfettered by FIS restrictions on sidecut radius, Kästle went tighter, pinching the RX12 SL’s radius down to 12.5m in a 165cm.
That both Kästle RX12’s sit atop our Power rankings proves that our testers prefer the more forgiving branch of the race ski family tree. The RX12 GS behaves less like a true race GS than a narrow-waisted carver. It’s unadorned by any plate or interface except what may come with a given race binding, so it isn’t as tippy as a ski with more standheight. Being closer to the snow gives it a more all-mountain feel and allows the skier to roll gradually to the edge. The absence of extra hardware not only makes the RX12 lighter than category average, it helps to keep it supple and easy to bend.
That a race-bred GS ski from Atomic can charge the fall line with the unleashed fury of a feral cat on the tail of its prey won’t come as news to anyone who’s ever stepped into an Atomic race ski, but would you believe an Atomic GS that will also dice short turns like a Veg-O-Matic? The ski isn’t naturally intrigued by short turns, but it’s so narrow and quick the pilot can snap off a flush of unfinished slalom turns at will.
Sometimes it seems every new model in the Age of Lighter is Better is being made for some pixie who can’t bend a real ski. Put a big man who knows how to motivate down the hill on one of these weak reeds and it will fold like a $5 lawn chair. So it was interesting to read the comments of Corty Lawrence, a full-sized dude (and one of the best boot fitters of his, or any other, generation) when we pried him off the i.Speed Pro after several scorching runs. To compress Corty’s impressions into an aphorism Yoda might utter, “Total commitment yields total reward.” If you know where the accelerator is and aren’t afraid to stomp on it, you’re the target pro for the i.Speed Pro.
How many turns can you make in a run, in a day, in a season? It doesn’t matter what the answers are, for the Atomic Redster S9 has a bottomless well of SL arcs packed into its short and shapely frame. To the S9, every run must look like a racecourse. Its instinct for high-speed turning is so engrained it practically issues instructions to its pilot rather than takes them. If the S9’s desires were audible, the first prod to its pilot would be, “Go faster.” The types of whiplash turns it relishes need energy, so poking down the hill isn’t an option.
We usually judge a race ski for its Power properties and let the Finesse chips fall where they may, but the new Rossignol Hero Elite ST Ti stands out for its easy-going temperament in a field of more finicky rides. For example, both the Hero ST Ti and Atomic S9 can be described as “quick” and “agile,” but they go about their business in different ways. The S9 practically detonates at the end of the turn, while the Hero is more mellow, even allowing a little drift between turns. The Hero ST operates comfortably from a centered stance, slinging short turns side to side with the reliability of a metronome.
The SLX is one of the rare slalom skis with a open mind about turn shape, defying the notion that SL skis are too specialized to serve as free skis. All it takes to produce a liquid, long turn is lay off the edge angle. But you don’t buy an SLX to make big turns but to link together a string of pearl-round turns that never feel rushed. Note the SLX’s especially high Finesse score, backed by above-the-category-average marks for Forgiveness and Low-Speed Turning. Few slalom skis are as easy as they are powerful. The SLX belongs to this exclusive fraternity of friendly SL’s.
The 2019 Rossignol Hero Elite LT Ti is a new ski in several significant ways, but it remains the same model in spirit. The new elements begin with a deeper sidecut and a wider chassis overall, making the ski less true race-like and easier to tip into a tidy turn. The new model’s tighter sidecut radius feels all the quicker due to a lighter poplar core and most importantly, Line Control Technology (LCT), that uses far less Titanal than the usual two sheets to maintain snow contact. LCT consists of a central, vertical Ti laminate in a viscoelastic shell that runs end-to-end, resisting the ski’s natural tendency to counterflex.
Beneath the SRC’s burly Marker WC Piston Plate is an edge-to-edge layer of bi-directional carbon Blizzard calls C-Armor that turbo charges the ski’s power and stability through the middle of the turn. To augment acceleration across the fall line, two vertical carbon laminates, dubbed C-Spine, trisect the core from end to end. Working in unison with the Firebird SRC’s traditionally cambered baseline, C-Spine generates propulsive rebound that translates the dissipating energy of one turn into an aggressive entry into the next. “It’s very quick edge to edge” confirms one of the California Ski Company crew.