I have seen the future.
And no, I didn’t need a tarot reading, a crystal ball, or a time machine. I just went to the New England Winter Sports Representatives On-Snow Demo Days at Stratton, VT, where for three days, I oooohed, ahhhhed, and yes, even tried some of next year’s models.
Needless to say, the Demo Days are a ski lover’s paradise. There are rows and rows of tents, each manned by a different company. My husband goes so far as to call it “Wendy Fest.” That may be a little overstated, but it is damn cool.
So. Much. Fun.
For me, the problem is over choice. There are simply so many skis that you can’t possibly spend any meaningful time on any one to get a true feel for how it performs. It’s more like “speed dating days” than “demo days.” Nonetheless, the event is a great way to see what’s new, talk to the reps, and get an idea for what they’re doing — and not doing — for the upcoming season.
So here are a few things I learned. It’s not a lot, but it’s better than nothing.
Blizzard’s had a great lineup of women’s skis for the past few years. I was fortunate enough to spend some time with the company’s Marketing Director, so I got a bit more info on these than on some of the other skis at the event.
Blizzard is still making skis using the “Flip Core technology” it introduced a few years ago. The idea: the wood core of the ski is inserted upside-down, so that the downward-facing, convex side of the core creates a natural bend. This natural rocker-shape is already built into the construction of the ski, so no additional re-pressing is needed. The company says the result is a ski that’s smoother riding and easier to handle. (BTW, I found a very interesting article here about whether or not Flip Core technology is all Blizzard claims it to be. Check it out if you’re interested.)
Flip Core is available in the brand new Sheeva. This is 104 underfoot with tip and tail rocker. A fun ski for powder that can also handle the chop and bumps. Also new (and with Flipcore): the Cheyenne, a frontside ski that’s 78 underfoot (the much beloved Black Pearl has an 88 waist). I found it great for groomers, but also able to handle hardpack and a few inches of chop. Blizzard is also introducing the Viva 810, a frontside carver with a system binding. This is not made using Flip Core. Instead, it has a “Racer Tip,” which they say is 30% shorter for better stability and less vibration. The Viva 810 is a stiffer ski than the other skis mentioned here, with a construction that’s wood, titanium, and carbon. This is a groomer-zoomer that’ll hold an edge on the hardpack and make you fly. Very, very fun.
Oh, and don’t worry, Black Pearl lovers. It’s still available, but with different — and I think improved — graphics:
News flash: Nordica is discontinuing the Hell’s Belles! I got this ski this year and absolutely love it. According to the rep, Nordica is changing the widths of the rest of the Belle line, making the Hell’s Belles superfluous. And I guess I can see why. Next year’s Nemesis is 98 underfoot, the Wild Belle is 88, and the Belle to Belle is 78. Since the Hell’s Belles is 90 underfoot, I can understand why they decided it was unnecessary. The Belle series features wi-Core construction that reduces weight by about 25%, as well as camROCK technology, which pulls the traditional contact point of the tip back about 25%, creating slight tip rocker to aid the camber under foot. Nordica claims this provides increased floatation, velocity, and maneuverability in soft snow as well as easier turn initiation in any condition.
All I know is that these are fun skis. I skied the Wild Belle and the Nemesis, and I’d be happy with either one.
Volkl has redesigned its Aura, a longtime Diva favorite. It’s now completely rockered (no camber at all!), increased the waist width to 100 mm, and tapered the tail for better release out of the turn. To be honest, I’m concerned that the lack of camber is going to take away some of its hard snow performance. That was one of the things I loved about the ski. You could take it anywhere and it’d perform beautifully. But this could be circumvented by the metal inside. The Aura is still fairly stiff, so that could make it beefy enough to handle the hard stuff. I had it out in about a foot of heavy New England chop, and it cut through it like butter.
Volkl is also offering a new women-specific powder ski, the One. It’s 115 underfoot and features early taper in the tip and tail. Unlike the Aura, the One has no metal in it for a light, playful feel. I took it out for a spin, and yes, it really does float. I think this would be a great ski for fluffy, western powder.
That’s the Aura on the left, the One on the right:
Head has a completely new women’s ski line called the Joy series: The Big Joy (110mm), Great Joy (98mm), Total Joy (85mm), Super Joy (75mm). All feature Head’s balance-boosting Libra Technology, which is a blend of women’s-specific rocker and stability enhancing Intellifibers. The skis are made using a material called Graphene, which Head says is stronger and lighter than metal and reduces the weight of their skis by 20%. I tried the Total Joy and found it very impressive. The graphics are nice, too: simple and elegant.
Atomic has had its Cloud series for a number of years. The skis feature soft, lightweight foam cores, tip rocker to improve turn initiation, and a narrower tail for better turn release. In 2015 the company is introducing the Cloud 11, a frontside cruiser that’s 74 underfoot. I took it out for a spin on the hardpack, and found it quite pleasing.
Salomon has two new offerings in women’s skis for 2015:
The Quartz, a fully cambered ski with an 83 waist. It combines a lot of sidecut with a compliant tip and tail, and an “X-drive” carbon chassis under the foot for greater power when you ski on harder snow or when you’re in the apex of a turn.
Then there’s the Quest Myriad. This is a curvy, free ride ski with an elongated sidecut for enhanced carveability. It’s 83 underfoot, the shovel is rockered, and it’s cambered under the foot with a flat tail. A nice ski that busted through the chop I encountered when I gave it a try.
The only ski I managed to get on here was the Saffron 7, Rossi’s new powder ski for 2015. This is the women’s equivalent of the men’s Sin 7; just a bit lighter and in women’s sizes. The Saffron 7 has a tapered tip and tail for easy turn initiation and better turn release. What’s more, the tip and tail are honeycombed with air pockets that reduce swing weight by concentrating the mass of the ski underfoot. The ski has a 98 mm waist with camber underfoot and rocker in the tip. Though I found the ski quite impressive, I just can’t get behind the graphics. I dunno — too Barbie for me, I think. It’s enough to make me pass.
I tried some other skis over the course of the event, and though I made notes on my iPhone, I somehow managed to delete them all. OOPS! So in the interest of keeping this as accurate as possible, I’ve chosen not to post about them. Sorry ’bout that. You’ll just have to demo them yourself!
PS: Ain’t this a purty ski? The (unfortunately named) Ramp Beaver:
I was hoping to be in the market for a new pair of skis in the next few years… looks like I have a LOT of reading up to do! 🙂 Thanks for sharing this information.