On test in Bormio

8th March 2010, by Editor Watts

The test centre where the manufacturers exhibit their wares

The test centre where the manufacturers exhibit their wares

Editor Dave Watts spent last week in Bormio in Italy, trying all the new skis for the 20010/11 season at the annual test organised by the Snowsports Industry of Great Britain for retailers and media. He reports:

Snow conditions were perfect for ski testing. It was snowing as we drove into Bormio on the Sunday. Monday dawned sunny with lots of fresh snow – perfect for testing Freeride skis (designed for people who want to ski off-piste most of the time but on piste too) and All Mountain skis (designed for people who want to ski roughly half the time on-piste and half off). The rest of the week was a mixture of sun and clouds but the off-piste stayed powdery while the pistes were perfect and ideal for testing piste skis.

Altogether there were over 600 pairs of skis to test, provided by 17 manufacturers. And which were the best? You’ll have to wait for the next edition of Where to Ski and Snowboard to find that out. But among my personal favourites in the versatile All Mountain group were the Rossignol Zenith Z82 (I’ve borrowed a pair of these to test intensively on my forthcoming Austrian and Swiss trips), Salomon Enduro, Dynastar Legend Sultan 85 and K2 A.M.P. Aftershock.

Snowy rooftops seen from Dave’s hotel bedroom on Monday

The big trend this year is that more and more skis now have ‘Rockers’ – basically this means that the tips of the skis (and sometimes the tails as well) are lifted up from the snow. This has a twofold effect: first it improves flotation in powder and crud (and makes landing jumps easier too) and second, it makes turning easier (on-piste as well as off) because less of the ski is in contact with the snow and so pressure is concentrated in the centre section of the ski.

Manufacturers are also trying to persuade us that we should buy boots and skis designed to ‘Hike and Ride’ – ie walk up from the top of the lift system to find virgin snow to ride down. To this end they are launching high-performance ski boots that have a ‘walk’ mode – usually a clip that you undo to make the boot easier to hike up the mountain in; you move the clip back when you want to ski down. The Salomon Quest is a high profile example. Some lighter, wide freeride skis have also been launched which are obviously easier to carry when you are hiking – such as the Scott Crus’Air, Atomic Charter and K2 Backup.

And Tecnica has a new Air Shell boot, which has won awards at the major trade shows. There’s an inflatable air bladder between shell and liner that gives a better fit and insulates the foot – you can pump it up in a restaurant to get warm air.

Much more about all the new kit in the next edition of Where to Ski and Snowboard. Meanwhile, Chris Gill and I are off on our annual editorial trip together – this time to various resorts in Salzburgerland. Watch out for blogs from there starting on Thursday.

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