Every so often we receive a digital test card from a citizen that is detailed, accurate and composed with an obvious affection for the subject ski. These notes from Skip Ely read like an exceptionally well-informed ode to what makes the Stöckli Stormrider 105 the Power potentate of its category. Skip begins with the standard observation of all who essay the Stormrider 105. “No speed limit,” he declares. “They will scrub speed and smear in pow and crud but they really want to be on edge at speed, even in off-piste crud – or especially then. For a ski that can be pushed hard without faltering it’s surprisingly forgiving when the operator chooses to relax for a bit. Easily transitions from G-force Super G style arcs to rapid (for a 105 wide) edge-to-edge GS radius turns. Can be slid around well-formed bumps effectively. But in the end they reward the
The Big Mountain design playbook calls for tips and tails that are both rockered and tapered so they won’t interfere with the smearing action that takes the travail out of off-trail travel, and the Rustler 10 is typical in this regard. Where it deviates from the norm is through its midsection, which is capped by a Titanal plate that’s edge-to-edge underfoot and narrows to a nub that stops halfway up the forebody and tail. The Titanal delivers discernibly more power and deflection resistance than the carbon-reinforced extremities. Testers appreciated the lighter weight that helped the Rustler 10 feel quicker than most Big Mountain models.
The Cochise skier needs a full skill set to rein in its appetite for hellbent descents. The Cochise’s 27m-sidecut radius won’t cut across the fall line unless its pilot knows how to drive it from a high edge angle, and it practically prohibits turning at a plodding pace. The Cochise regards slow skiing as a sign of weakness and finds short turns as palatable as spinach ice cream. Experts who understand that the first rule of skiing crud is to charge it need a tool as stout as their style, one that will stand up to a full-on, fall-line assault. “A strong ski for strong skiers,” as Greg from Footloose sums up the crud-killing Cochise.
The story behind the 2019 edition of K2’s Pinnacle 105 Ti is a tale of error correction, optimization and resurrection. The first generation Pinnacle 105 was on the soft side, super easy to steer but showed its frailty at speed. In 2018, K2 powered up the Pinnacle 105 Ti by increasing the Titanal dosage over the edge by 20% and pumping up the camber underfoot. The resulting stability significantly improved both calm on edge and responsiveness. It’s amazing what a little more mass will do: the new Pinnacle 105 Ti now behaves more like a Power ski than a docile cruiser, although it hasn’t lost touch with the Finesse side of its personality.
The core that the Kore name is meant to call attention to is made from Koroyd, a synthetic honeycomb, and Karuba, a bantamweight wood often found in AT skis. Graphene is used in the tip and tail, making the extremities not only lighter, but inherently stronger and stiffer. This allows the center of the Kore 105 to bow more easily, a benefit when skiing on a surface that gives way when you press against it. You expect the Kore 105 to be light. But you don’t expect it be this strong. It smoothes out chunder that would treat most non-metal skis like a rented mule. Its relatively straight-waisted mid-body facilitates foot swiveling, a godsend in the trees where there’s neither time nor space to execute a carved turn. Its tapered tip isn’t itching to carve, either, but it can bank into a wind berm with the cornering confidence of a
The Kästle BMX105 HP can carve if it must, but carving usually means hard snow, and hard snow isn’t its preferred milieu. The BMX105 HP is nearly the opposite of a carving tool despite being built from the same ingredients, contorting Kästle’s customary wood/glass/Titanal sandwich into a double-rockered baseline with only a hint of sidecut. Tapered tips and tails connected by a straighter sidecut create a platform that planes evenly though deep, uneven snow, but be prepared to exert more effort if you want to initiate a tight line on hard snow. It can get away with liking its turns long and fast because its classic construction ensures that no powder on earth can withstand it.
The Völkl 100 Eight didn’t change between last season and whenever you’re reading this sentence, but it did the year before, and therein lies the tale. Prior to its transformation, the 100 Eight already was sculpted into Völkl’s signature 3D.Ridge shape that seems to pare away every extra atom of ski. 3D.Ridge first appeared on the V-Werks Katana, where it was – and continues to be – pressed from layer upon layer of carbon. As applied to the 100 Eight, 3D.Ridge is formed from fiberglass, with carbon relegated to the role of stringers through the wood core. The original 100 Eight mimicked the Katana’s structure, but didn’t match its gripping power. Last year Völkl added 3D.Glass to 3D.Ridge and a perfect union was formed. The transformation couldn’t be more dramatic, like the nerd in high school who overnight evolves into a rock star.
The Enforcer 110 has taken possession of the top spot in the Big Mountain class, and not just based on its metal-charged power. Its edge is so stable that even at low edge angles the skier never has to fight to hold on, a common woe on hard snow with double-rockered, super-wide skis. Its performance envelope is as big as your imagination. It has the strength to batter through the stiffest crud, edge grip that can cope with hard snow and a shape that moves with ease through the deep stuff. “True to the Enforcer line, the 110 has an uncanny blend of big-ski float and directional fortitude, with a quickness and rebound that will have you tap dancing in the tight spots,” notes Boot Doctors’ indefatigable Bob Gleason.
All the qualities that made the original QST 106 such a fabulous off-trail ski remain intact in the 2019 edition. It still has a smeary smoothness that makes skiing powder and crud idiot-proof. What changed for this year is the QST 106’s comportment on hard snow, which now has more bite and energy. The componentry that adds an aggressive side to the QST’s personality include a shock-dampening layer of basalt and a cross-weave of carbon and flax (C/FX) fibers that reinforce the original’s longitudinal C/FX. The latest improvements fill the only gaps in the QST 106’s resume. It was always better than expected on hard snow; now it’s just plain better. If you have any concerns about the new QST 106’s stability, try the 188cm out for size. It will change your mind about what skis without metal in their make-up can do.
The Sick Day 104 acts avant-garde and rebellious, but it’s actually a retro design that uses fiberglass to dictate flex pattern – soft tip, stiff tail – and rebound (4mm of camber). The energy the Sick Day 104 releases as it crosses the fall line lends the impression it’s quicker to the edge than most skis its size. As befits a ski with a name about slacking, the Sick Day would rather drift than carve, a skill that’s essential in the wildly variable conditions that prevail off trail. Short turns are okay, but they’re a lot like work, so the Sick Day 104 prefers a longer, lazier radius.
The original Soul 7 debuted to instant stardom and it’s only gotten better since. We should say “better and better,” because the Soul 7 HD of today is the product of more than one makeover. Last season Rossi reconfigured the forebody into a structure it christened Air Tip 2.0. Add Air Tip 2.0 to Rossi’s long history of eye-catching visuals tied to compelling technical stories. Air Tip 2.0 has the same hypnotic effect as the first Soul 7’s translucent Koroyd tip, but it’s different in a couple of important ways. The 2019 Soul 7 HD’s shorter front rocker lets it roll on edge so quickly there’s barely time to notice that Air Tip 2.0 is calmer than its predecessors. The elongated camber pocket underfoot puts more edge in the snow for greater security in all snow conditions.
Dynastar’s Legend X 106 bears a family resemblance to the Cham 2.0 107 that preceded it. Its tip and tail rocker, 5-point sidecut and relatively skinny tail are all traits of the Cham clan, but it’s the new addition to the gene pool, Powerdrive, that elevates the Legend X 106 above its ancestors. Powerdrive is a 3-piece sidewall that extends into the core in the forebody. The TPU section closest to the core isn’t bonded to it, allowing the laminates in the Legend X 106’s sandwich construction to shear, or move relative to one another. The easy-bowing action of the forebody allows the Legend X 106 to follow terrain instead of fight it.
Women and men aren’t so different, at least when it comes to what they need in a powder ski. The Sheeva 10 and wider Sheeva 11 (112mm underfoot @ 172cm, $840) deliver what both genders are after: a stable foundation that won’t wilt in a crisis and a forgiveness that masks small errors so they don’t become big ones. The imperturbable center of the Sheevas is a top laminate of Titanal that runs nearly edge-to-edge underfoot but tapers to a blunt tongue that doesn’t quite reach either tip or tail. The extremities are deliberately left loose so they can roll with the punches that crud skiing delivers.
The Gottaluvit 105 Ti is the embodiment of K2’s core competence in three arenas that fall in the brand’s wheelhouse: fat skis, double doses of rocker and skis tailored for women, each directed to the same goal: make all-condition skiing easier. K2 was the first major brand to shift its focus to recreational off-trail skiing and earliest adopter of rocker to improve ease in every snow condition. The extra stability provided by the ribbon of Titanal around its perimeter gives the Gottaluvit the juice to plunder chunder and the edge grip needed to keep a wide ski calm on hardpack.
A woman’s first turns on a Big Mountain model can feel like steering a tanker. Some have a way of swimming around when flat, others seem to wander all the time. Then there are skis like the Rossi Soul 7 HD W that provide all the benefits of extra buoyancy without feeling fat or sluggish. The reason the Rossi feels narrower than it measures is the energy housed in the glass and carbon that arches over the camber pocket underfoot. From a loaded position at the bottom of the turn, the Soul 7 HD W rebounds up and out of whatever off-piste porridge you’re in, ferrying the skier across the fall line and into another energized arc.
The 2018 QST Stella 106 was already a superior women’s powder ski when Salomon sent it to the gym to lose weight and put on some muscle. The 2019 Stella shed 60g’s thanks to a two design modifications that made it more powerful and precise. A new base layer of basalt runs the full length of the ski, helping to maintain snow contact, while side-to-side strands of C/FX fiber magnify the effects of the longitudinal carbon/flax braids already in the core. The additions make the new Stella so strong it doesn’t need extra mass to calm it down.