New gear for 2016: new season’s skis on test
Last March I went on a week-long test of the new skis for 2015/16 in Kühtai, at 2020m one of Austria’s highest resorts. The test was organised by the trade body Snowsports Industries of Great Britain, and there were almost 900 pairs of skis available from 23 different manufacturers. I was part of the Telegraph media group test team and you can see the results of their test on their website telegraph.co.uk and in copies of Telegraph Ski and Snowboard magazine. Conditions were ideal for testing with pistes hard and firm at the start of the week and lots of snow during it (as you can see in the photo of the test site, above).
The main trend seems to be skis getting lighter and lighter without losing their strength or performance. Manufacturers are doing this by using new materials and construction techniques. For example, Atomic have their Carbon Tank Mesh in their Vantage all-mountain skis, Rossignol has extended its Air Tip technology to more skis in its range and Fischer has an Air Tec wood core which is 25% lighter than its traditional core.
More and more lightweight touring skis are also being produced, many aimed not at dedicated tourers but at people who want a lightweight pair of skis for short off-piste tours that perform as well as a conventional downhill ski in the powder and crud. Almost 100 touring skis were available to test, including Salomon’s new MTN range with a matching lightweight touring boot. Blizzard have a new Zero G range and Scott has its new Cascade hike and ride ski.
The ranges of skis on test included freeride, all-mountain, on-piste, park and pipe, and big mountain. I’d advise anyone who fancies even a dabble in ungroomed terrain between pistes to go for an all-mountain ski because, in general, they work just as well as piste skis on groomed runs but are more versatile. The waists on these were generally in the 80mm to 90mm range – which is wide enough to give you a good solid platform in powder and crud as well as performing well on-piste. My favourites in the all-mountain category were the Rossignol Experience 88, Head Strong Instinct Ti, Kästle FX 85, Nordica NRG 90 and Scott The Ski.
In the freeride category (with waists generally in the 85mm to 110mm range) the Rossignol Sin 7 and Soul 7 and the Volkl 100 Eight and Mantra came out tops. And in the on-piste category the Rossignol Pursuit and Fischer Progressor ranges did well.
Women-specific skis were on test in abundance, with nearly all the major manufacturers having ranges in all the test categories. Our women testers particularly liked the K2 and Volkl ranges across the board as well as the Scott Luna and Rossignol Temptation all-mountain skis, the Atomic Vantage 95 CW and Movement Believe freeride skis, and the Atomic Cloud 9 piste ski.
Find your sweet spot
Two years ago at the Kühtai ski test I also tried SkiA’s new Sweetspot Ski Trainer – designed to help you improve your balance. I now have a set to use at home. When you are skiing, your centre of balance should be near the centre of the arch of your foot not, as many people think, on the balls of your feet. The idea is that the trainer gets you used to balancing correctly, and you then try to replicate the same feeling whenever you are skiing.
The trainer comes with blocks that you fix under the centre of your ski boots. You then try to balance on them on a hard surface while making various movements such as bending, stretching and tilting your legs as if edging. It is surprisingly difficult at first, but when you are in balance you can certainly feel the sweet spot. There are four pairs of blocks; you start with the widest (green) and move on to progressively narrower ones (blue, red and black – just like piste classifications of difficulty). The trainer comes with special exercises designed by Hugh Monney, founder of the British Alpine Ski School – who highly recommends it, as do other leading instructors, race coaches and competitors, including Britain’s best-ever Olympic downhiller Martin Bell and current UK skicross racer Emily Sarsfield. Britain’s fastest racer, speed skier Jan Farrell, is using them to help prepare for World Cup speed skiing events.
Go to skia.com for more details.