By David Schissler
(March 2013) Followers of The White Blog know that all season long I’ve been on a mission to find myself the perfect all mountain ski (see The White Blog, February,Rocker vs. Traditional Cambered Skis). I’ve demoed skis at every mountain I visited this season which allowed me to test a wide variety of manufacturers. I’ve tested skis from Head, Rossignol, Volkl, Nordica, K2, Line,Salomon, Fischer and Atomic.
My goal? Find a ski that holds well on hard pack and ice, floats well in soft snow and powder, is stable at higher speeds and can react like a slalom ski when in the fall line and a GS ski for wider turns on groomed runs. It’s no small order to find a ski that can perform well in such a variety of circumstances yet that’s what ski makers claim their all mountain skis can do, hence the “all mountain” label.
I made a point of skiing the same runs and conditions as much as possible for each ski and generally rode that ski for several hours to allow for a reasonable assessment of its capabilities. One thing became clear from the start. The more “rocker” a ski had the less I liked it. Rockers simply give up too much performance for the “ease of turning” they deliver. Their best attribute? Extremely good edge hold under foot on hard pack surfaces. Their worst attribute? Unstable at relatively modest speeds.
All of this being considered, the skis I found that most met my criteria were the Head Rev, the Salomon Enduro 800XT and the Rossignol Avenger (Avenger is a 2012 model, now the Experience line). These three skis by far out-performed the rest of the pack tested by applying rocker design while still retaining much of the performance of a traditionally cambered ski. They carved like crazy no matter the surface, terrain or speed. It was pure fun to ski them because whatever conditions I encountered, they performed. I skied with confidence from loose powder to ice, on groomed and un-groomed trails and at slow and fast speeds. The Head and the Rossignol models were skis I could be happy skiing everyday, everywhere. By no coincidence, each of these skis had very little rocker built into them.
The Snowsports Industry of America (SIA), an industry association that regularly researches ski and snowboard trends, has recently reported skiers are not totally happy with rockers. The trend for next year is toward a hybrid of a traditionally cambered design with less rocker than current models. This will mean changes in product lines for the 2013-2014 season.
If you’re a competent skier searching for a new pair of skis I highly recommend demoing performance models. They’re available at nearly every mountain and well worth the cost of $40 or $50 dollars a day to test multiple models and determine which ski is best for you.