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Gear Review: Renoun Z-90 Skis

Ulysses S. Grant

Ulysses S. Grant

The great Civil War general, Ulysses S. Grant, was famous for being unnaturally calm under pressure; the hotter the action, the cooler he became.

Today I’d like to introduce you to the Ulysses S. Grant of skis: Renoun’s Z-90.

A strange comparison, I know. So perhaps I better explain.

Renoun is the only company that makes its skis using a non-Newtonian polymer, incorporating it into a patented technology: HDT™, or Hyper Damping Technology™.  HDT doesn’t follow Sir Issac Newton’s Third Law of Motion, which states that for every action, there’s an equal or greater reaction. Instead, the HDT core minimizes chatter by constantly changing its density, adjusting in real time to the skier and snow conditions. So if you ski on hard snow, the ski actually becomes stiffer, more damp. And if you’re in soft conditions, it becomes softer, more flexible, and less damp. And it does all this in real time.

Hence the Ulysses S. Grant comparison: As the pressure amps up, the Z-90’s become steadier and more stable. Pretty cool, right?

Last year I tried Renoun’s Z-77’s, and I was sold. I believe the word I used was ‘exceptional.’ Here’s a recap of what I said in my review:

“These are skis that will make your ski day better than it’d be if you were skiing something else. Skis that will make you grin. Skis that will make you fall in love with skiing all over again. And really, you can’t beat that.”

Fast forward to this year. Renoun offered to send me the Z-90’s, and believe me, I was excited.

First, a bit about me:

Size: 5’1″, 112 lbs
Skier type: Advanced
Where I ski: Mostly in Vermont. Which means I see it all: a lot of ice (AKA hard pack), packed powder, sometimes powder on top of ice , and once in a while — but not too often — some actual powder.

And now, the Z-90’s:

157 mm, 136/90/124
Core: Canadian Maple and 8-layers of HDT™ inlays (15% core volume).
Reinforcement: Carbon fiber, metal and tri-axial fiberglass


So do these skis deliver?

You know what I said about the Z-77’s? I could do a cut and paste here. The Z-90’s provide the same smooth, stable, smile-inducing ride I enjoyed before, without being dull and damp. The condition of the snow doesn’t matter. They transition smoothly from hard snow to soft in a heartbeat, without either bucking you around or feeling dead. The company says HDT reduces vibration by 300%. I don’t know if that’s the exact number, but I will say this: these are skis that will make you fall in love with skiing all over again.

How are they different from the Z-77’s?

It’s a matter of dimensions. The Z-77’s are narrower, measuring 123/77/111. So their ride is a bit different. Let me put it this way: the 77 is a sports car, perfect for groomer zoomers when you want to carve, carve, carve. Sure, you can take it off piste or into the powder. But it’s still a 77-waist ski, and it behaves like one. The 90’s are dimensionally larger, so they’re more of an SUV.  You can take them anywhere, though they’re still easy to turn and get on edge. I had them on hard pack, in 6 inches of powder,  in pushed up piles, in powder with ice underneath — it didn’t matter. Wherever these skis go, whatever they do, they perform.

I’m actually smiling as I write this. They’re that good.

An unmatched guarantee.

No, you can’t get the Z-90’s in a store. Actually, you can’t get any Renoun ski in any store. They’re only available on line at the company’s website. And though Renoun used to hold demos at ski resorts from time to time, they’ve decided to concentrate their efforts on getting skis out the door instead of schlepping them from one ski resort to another.

So what’s a skier to do?

Order them. Because if you don’t like them for any reason — and you have 100 days to decide if that’s the case — you can send them back and Renoun will give you a full refund. I don’t know any other ski company that does this. You have absolutely nothing to lose.

So what’d you think, Ski Diva?

I hereby pronounce The Z-90’s the perfect East Coast ski. They can rip the corduroy, handle the ice, take you through chopped up stuff, powder, trees, you name it, like a champ. They’re agile yet stable, lively yet smooth. The Z-90 is a one-ski quiver any eastern Ski Diva would be happy to own — and I’ll bet a lot of western Ski Divas, too. Take a look at the picture below. My smile says it all.

Me and my new best friends, the Renoun Z-90's.

Me and my new best friends, the Renoun Z-90’s.


© 2018,  TheSkiDiva.com. All rights reserved. Any use or publication of content, including photos, requires express permission.

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Renoun Skis: The Best Ski You May Not Have Heard Of.

Cyrus Schenck doesn’t let any grass grow beneath his feet. Or snow pile up, for that matter. That’s because he’s too busy traveling from here to there to here again, holding demos and spreading the word about the small ski company he founded in 2011: RENOUN skis.

Cyrus Schenck, RENOUN Skis

Cyrus Schenck, RENOUN Skis

Back then, he and his friends were engineering students at Clarkson University in Potsdam, NY, driving back and forth to ski at Jay Peak, and talking about what they could do to build a better ski than the big guys. Then one day, while sitting in an engineering class, Cyrus learned about a non-Newtonian polymer — a polymer that doesn’t follow Isaac Newton’s third law of motion, which states that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Instead, the polymer responds to an action — in this case, impact — by becoming stiffer; more rigid. It’s the basis for RENOUN’s hyper-dampening, or HDT Technology, which RENOUN uses in the core of its skis.

For a small company, this is creating some pretty big buzz. In 2015, RENOUN  captured the coveted world-class ISPO GOLD Award in Munich, Germany, in recognition of its pioneering technological design. And in December, 2015, the New York Times put it on its list of the year’s hottest ski gear.

Sounds like a gimmick, right? Does it actually work?

First, let me tell you more about HDT. All skis tend to chatter at high speeds, or over terrain that’s unforgiving, such as ice and hardpack. According to Schenck, the HDT core minimizes that by constantly changing its density, adjusting in real time to the skier and snow conditions. Put simply, when you ski on a stiffer surface, the ski becomes more rigid and damp. And when conditions become more forgiving, such as powder, the ski becomes softer, less damp. Instantly.

Here’s how the NY Times put it: “The more the skis get deflected because of uneven terrain or a high speed, the damper they become, allowing them to absorb the vibrations. At lower speeds or in powder, the core remains lively and flexible for quick turning.”

RENOUN has two lines: the Z’s, which are performance carvers, and the Endurance, which are freeride skis. Both come in two different widths: the Z’s in 77 and 90 mm, the Endurance in 98 and 104 mm.

RENOUN sent me the Z-77 to review. And yeah, I was pretty excited to try them out. So here goes.



First, a bit about me:

Size: 5’1″, 112 lbs
Skier type: Advanced
Where I ski: Mostly in Vermont. Which means I see it all: a lot of ice (aka hard pack), packed powder, sometimes powder on top of ice , and once in a while — but not too often — some actual powder.

And now, the skis:

157 mm, 123-77-111
Core: Canadian Maple and 8-layers of HDT™ inlays (15% core volume).
Reinforcement: Carbon fiber, metal and tri-axial fiberglass

So how do they ski?

My first day on them was ideal for putting them to the test: 2-3 inches of fresh powder that was eventually scraped away to reveal a surface of alternately packed powder and ice. This was great; I got to try them in everything from the sublime to the miserable. And in every instance, these skis rocked.

If I had to reduce it to one word, I’d say they were smooth. No, let me change that to two words: smooth and stable. No, let me change once again: smooth, stable, and OMIGOD THESE ARE SO MUCH FUN.

Okay. I got carried away. But it’s true. These are frickin’ great skis.

Seriously, they didn’t feel like any other ski I’ve ever skied before.

I’ve tried to put my finger on a way to describe them, and it hasn’t been easy. They’re just that different. But here goes, anyway: You know the feeling you get when you transition from one type of surface to another — like from ice to packed powder to hard pack to fluff? It’s not really a jolt; it’s more like a measure of vibration that travels from the ski to your feet to your legs, depending on the surface you’re on. In general, it’s not a bad thing — unless there’s too much of it. Then you get thrown around and your ride can be somewhat uncomfortable.

Most skis have some vibration, and that’s fine. It keeps you on your toes and provides the feedback you need to adjust your skiing to the conditions at hand. The skis that don’t are generally quite damp, and can have a dead, heavy feeling to match.

This isn’t the case with the RENOUN Z-77.  The company says its HDT Technology reduces vibration by 300%. I don’t know if that’s the exact number, but I will say this: the vibration is gone. Yet the skis don’t feel dead, heavy or plank-y. Instead, the Z-77 is responsive, fun, and quick edge to edge. These babies carve. Take them on the groomers and you’ll feel like Lindsey Vonn. But what happens when you slow them down? Do they start to chatter? In a word, no. They’re still very, very fun.

So what else did I find about these skis?
Turn initiation: easy
Long turns: no problem
Short turns: ditto
Smeared turns: why not

In short, these skis do whatever you want them to, and they’ll do it so easily that you’ll wonder how your skiing improved so fast.

Any cons, Ski Diva?

Yeah, a few.

The first is pretty minor — and you could chalk it up to a matter of taste — but I think the graphics are sort of meh. If RENOUN is going after a subtle look, well, they’ve succeeded. And I guess that appeals to a lot of people. But this ski is so super cool that I think it should have some super cool graphics, too. Not that I get skis based on graphics — I don’t — but still, it’d be nice.

Second, yes, you get what you pay for, and these skis are a bit pricey. They do come with a 100-day back guarantee, which is pretty awesome. But still, the price is a bit steep. I’m hoping that’ll come down, as time goes by.

Three, they’re not easy to find. You have to get them directly from the company right now. So if you want to give them a try, you’ll have to catch them at one of their many demo days across the country. Follow them on Facebook and you’ll see where they are when.

And four, I wish they were available in shorter lengths. I know, I’m a pipsqueak. But just so you know, Cyrus is 6’6″, so he’s coming at this from a totally different perspective. Hey, look down here, Cyrus! We may be little, but we need skis, too!

Bottom Line:

Awesome is a word that gets tossed around a lot for just about anything these days (‘Man, that’s an awesome cheeseburger.’ ‘Oh, your shirt is so awesome.‘). So let’s not go there. Instead, let’s call these skis something else: exceptional. These are skis that will make your ski day better than it’d be if you were skiing something else. Skis that will make you grin. Skis that will make you fall in love with skiing all over again. And really, you can’t beat that.

I can’t wait to try to Z-90’s.

Final rating: Two ski poles up!


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A review on ski reviews.

Two of the many sources for gear reviews.

Two of the many sources
for gear reviews.

This is the time of year when a lot of ski and outdoor magazines and websites come out with their reviews on the new season’s equipment. I don’t know about you, but I love reading them. It’s a great way to get psyched for the coming year. And besides, it never hurts to look. :)

All the same, there are oh-so-many skis. And oh-so-many reviews. It can  get pretty confusing. So before you rush off and buy the ski that a review says is best, here’s something important to keep in mind:

Gear reviews are subjective. So much depends on the reviewers’ ski level, the way they ski, their own personal likes and dislikes, snow conditions, biomechanics, ski length, even mood.

So please — keep in mind that reviews are strictly the opinions of a specific skier (or a very small group of select skiers). They’re a great place to start. But the best way to tell if a ski is right for you is to:

1) Learn as much as you can about the ski you’re interested in — which includes getting opinions from a variety of sources. You might want to check out the Gear Review section of TheSkiDiva.com, where members of the site evaluate skis they’ve tried. The best thing about it is that it’s interactive, so you can actually ask questions of someone who’s tried the ski. Try doing that with a magazine.

2) Assess your abilities honestly and fairly. You don’t do yourself any favors getting a ski that’s above or below your level, so give yourself a fair assessment.

3) Keep in mind the conditions under which you want the ski to handle.  If you ordinarily ski under boilerplate conditions in the east, it may not do you any good to only look at powder skis. Or if you want something for powder skiing, well, then a groomer probably won’t cut it.

4) Get out there and demo! You may find that a ski that gets awful reviews is one that suits you perfectly. Hey, they make tons of different skis for a reason. What’s great for one person may be awful for you, and vice versa. The best way to find out is to give them a try.

Bottom line: Keep in mind that reviews are only a small part of ski selection process. The rest is up to you!

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2014 Mountain Top Picks: TheSkiDiva’s Third Annual Best-Of Awards


The Ski Divas are a passionate group. When it comes to skiing, we don’t hold back. Anyone who goes to our forum knows they can find lively discussions about ski gear, apparel, resorts, and any number of things related to skiing. And while there are as many opinions as there are Divas (we’re more than 4,000 strong), we can usually find a lot of common ground.

That’s where our Mountain Top Picks come in. Each year, we vote on the best of the best from the past season. And though there’s no awards ceremony, no fancy statuette, not even a cheesy certificate, the winners get the honor of being named a Diva favorite (they can even use this neat little logo, if they like). And really, isn’t that enough?

So now, for your reading pleasure, here are TheSkidiva.com’s selections for this year’s Mountain Top Picks.

[Drum roll here]

The winners are as follows:

Ski Gear
Favorite ski for hard snow: Volkl Charisma
Favorite ski for powder: Rossignol Savory 7
Favorite All Mountain Ski: Blizzard Black Pearl*
Favorite Ski Boot Brand: Dalbello
Favorite Ski Goggle: Smith IO/S*
Favorite Helmet Brand: Smith

Ski Apparel
Favorite Brand of Baselayers:  Icebreaker*
Favorite Brand of Socks: Smartwool*
Favorite Jacket Brand: Arcteryx
Favorite Brand of Ski Pants: Mountain Hardwear
Favorite glove or mitten: Hestra Heli Mitt

Ski Resorts
Favorite Eastern Resort: Sunday River
Favorite Western Resort: Powder Mountain
Favorite Midwestern Resort: Nubs Nob*
Favorite Resort, eastern Canada: Le Massif
Favorite Resort, western Canada: Whistler-Blackcomb
Favorite European Resort: Val Gardena
Favorite Women’s Clinic: Rippin’ Chix

*Second year in a row! For a list of our 2013 Mountain Top Picks, go here.

Congratulations to all!



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A sneak peek at the 2015’s.

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.

Lucky me.

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.

Demo Days at Stratton, VT

Demo Days at Stratton, VT

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 Sheeva

Blizzard Sheeva

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:

Blizzard Black Pearl

Blizzard Black Pearl








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.


Nordica Wild Belle

Nordica Wild Belle


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:

Volkl Aura


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.

Head Joy Series (photo from powder7.com)

Head Joy Series
(photo from powder7.com)


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.

Salomon Myriad

Salomon Myriad


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.

Rossi's Saffron 7

Rossi’s Saffron 7

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:

Ramp Beaver

Ramp Beaver




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2013 Mountain Top Picks: TheSkiDiva.com’s Annual Best-Of Awards

Get any group of women together, and you’re liable to get as many opinions as the number of women present.

So imagine the hundreds of opinions you’ll find on TheSkiDiva.com, the largest online community of women skiers. Yep, with 3,600 members, there are loads of viewpoints on gear, clothing, resorts, and so on.

Still, as they say, the cream will rise to the top. So this year, once again, we asked our members what they consider the best of the best. The result is our 2013 Mountain Top Picks. And the results are interesting; a number of returning favorites, but some brand new choices, as well.

So hold on to your ski poles! Without further ado, here are the results of our annual poll:

Ski Gear:

Favorite Front Side Carver: Volkl Kenja* 
Favorite Powder Ski: Rossignol S7W* 
Favorite All-Mountain Ski: Blizzard Black Pearls
Favorite Ski Boot: Dalbello Krypton Storm
Favorite Goggle: Smith IO/S*
Favorite Helmet: Giro Sheer

Ski Apparel:

Favorite Baselayer brand: Icebreaker
Favorite Ski Sock Brand: Smartwool* 
Favorite Jacket Brand: The North Face* 
Favorite Ski Pant Brand: The North Face* 
Favorite Glove or Mitten Brand: Black Diamond

Ski Resorts:

Favorite Eastern Resort: Stowe
Favorite Western Resort: Steamboat
Favorite Midwestern Resort: Nub’s Nob*
Favorite Eastern Canada Resort: Mont Tremblant* 
Favorite Western Canada Resort: Sunshine
Favorite European Resort:  Val d’Isere* 
Favorite Women’s Ski Clinic: Women’s Alpine Adventures, Okemo 

* Second year in a row!

Big congratulations to all the winners!


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I must have. Broken the curse,  I mean.

It’s obvious — last week I wrote about the severe snow deficit we’re facing throughout the country, and then, look what happens: it snows like crazy in the Midwest and New England,  and the forecast looks good in Colorado, Tahoe, Colorado, and the Pacific Northwest.

Behold! All bow before the power of The Ski Diva!


Yeah, right. :)

Regardless, I’m more than a little pleased that winter has decided to finally make an appearance. And just in time for Martin Luther King Weekend, when ski areas rely on big crowds to rake in the dough. I mean, as  much as I hate skiing in crowds and won’t go out over holidays and weekends, ski resorts depend on attracting loads of people  to keep the lifts running. (If you skied then, my undying gratitude.)

So what did I do last Thursday, during the first round of decent snowfall, here in the Green Mountain State?

I hauled out my Atomic Century skis for the very first time. Okay, I’ll admit it. I did something very, very bad — and uncharacteristic, for me. I got these skis without benefit of demoing (phew, confession is good for the soul). This is something I always advise against, but I went ahead and did it anyway. I figured if I didn’t like them, I could always turn around and sell them.

Well, that ain’t gonna happen.

These babies rock. First, just give them a gander:

Way cool, right?

First, let me tell you about me: I’m an advanced eastern skier, 5’1″ (and a half!), 110 lbs.

And let me tell you about them:

Length: 166
Dimensions: 128.5-100-100.5
Turning Radius: 18

The Atomic Century has an early rise tip with traditional camber in the middle. This allows it to float in the powder, while giving you the edge control you’ll need in the hard pack. This is really good in the east, where you can encounter all sorts of conditions on the same day — everything from deep snow to bare ice. The day I’m talking about here had loads of nice powder, but the wind had scoured all the snow off the top of the mountain, leaving behind, as they say, “dust on crust.” No matter: the Atomic Century handled it all quite happily. I found them poppy, light, stable, and willing to go, go, go, no matter where I took them: fresh tracks, cut up crud, and yes, even ice. Pretty cool looking, too.

Though my go-to skis (Volkl Tierras) are 156, I went 10 mm longer with these — alllllllllllll the way up to 166, which is longer than any ski I’ve owned in many, many years. Why? The early rise decreases the point of contact with the snow. And in powder, you want a longer length for greater stability, anyway. I have to say I had no problem at all.

So now we have the snow. I have the skis. Keep it coming, Ullr. I’m ready!



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A peek at the class of ’11/’12

So many skis, so little time.

That was pretty much my mantra during the ski industry on-snow demo days, held this week at Loon Mountain, New Hampshire. For two days I got to try as many skis as I wanted. The problem: what to try, and what to leave out.

Poor me. 

Just the same, I gave it my best shot. It was absolutely dizzying. To fit in as many as possible, I could only spend a couple runs per ski. So it’s almost unfair to call this a demo. Think of it as speed dating with skis. Still, first impressions can be revealing. Then again, just as in real life, sometimes not. You never know.

On the whole, most of the skis I tried were quite good. IMHO, it’s almost difficult these days to find a ski that’s really bad. I think it mostly comes down to a matter of taste and what works best for (insert condition & level of skier here). For me it’s either “man, this is nice” or “meh, this is fine, just nothing to get excited about.” Maybe I’m not a sophisticated enough reviewer; that could easily be the case. For me, the bottom line is this: if it makes me smile, it’s a good ski.

The trend for next year can be summed up in three words: “Rocker” and “early rise.” These are everywhere, both in new models and in models that have been around for years. Call it a marketing ploy, call it a performance improvement, it’s the Next Big Thing. Used to be you only saw these in powder skis. Not anymore. According to the reps I spoke with, a raised tip has a couple of advantages, even when you’re not in a foot of freshies. First, shock absorption. It’s supposed to make the ski better in bumps. When the ski hits a bump, the raised tip keeps you from getting jolted around. Instead, there’s more of an up and over motion. And second, it makes the ski a bit more forgiving and turnable, since it’s a bit less grabby on the snow. Does it make a difference? I think so. The last change I remember this pervasive was when companies went from straight skis to shaped. So if you haven’t tried it yet, trust me — you probably will.

First, a little about me. I’m 5’1”, 110 lbs, an advanced New England skier. Which means I spend a fair amount of time on hard pack.

And second, conditions. The first day, the snow changed from hard pack to soft, as the temps warmed into the low thirties. The second day we had a couple inches of fresh snow. So no, I didn’t have the foot of fluffy powder which would have been ideal to try the fatter skis. What can I say – you work with what you have.

So here goes.


Cinnamon Girl: You know the song in which Neal Young sings “I could be happy the rest of my life with my Cinnamon Girl?” This might’ve been what he had in mind. The Cinnamon Girl is Nordica’s spicy new front side carver, based on the men’s Fire Arrow. A traditional camber ski with a 74 waist, designed for medium and large turns. And yes, it’s that good. The CG is a responsive, grippy ski that’s easy to turn. Think of it as your front-side sports car. Vroom!

Nemesis: I almost hate to reveal this so close to the beginning, but this was my absolute fave of the day. I’d take these home in a minute, and one of these days, I just might. The Nemesis isn’t new; the only change they made from this year’s model is the topsheet. But why mess with perfection? These skis do it all. Even though they’re 98 underfoot, they’re easy to get on edge. A beefy ski that’s solid and smooth, yet playful. These skis will take you through anything. Love.

I’ve always loved Fisher skis. Fishers are marvelous for eastern conditions, plus they’re reasonably priced. What’s not to love?

I tried the Fisher Koa 84, which is based on the men’s Watea. Again, not a new ski, though they’ve gone ahead and added some rocker and changed the top sheet (IMHO, they should have stuck with last year’s). The Koa will go through anything and make you feel like a champ. It’s incredibly stable and powerful, yet loads of fun, too. Great on the ice, and crud. I’d love to give these a shot in the powder. I demoed these in a 159. Another ski I’d definitely take tome.


Black Pearl: I don’t know what Blizzard was thinking, but these skis win the prize for the most schizo graphics. The tip features an evil looking purple bull’s head, with blazing hot pink eyes (Say in a Russian accent: “Unh. You are strong like bull!”) But picture this: you can’t tell from the photo, but a lot of the ski is sparkles and stars – the sort of thing that’d appeal to a third grade girl. Its bizarre. Be that as it may: these are fun skis. The Black Pearl features Blizzard’s new Flipcore technology. If I understand correctly, it works like this: most skis come out of the mold with a traditional cambered core. If they’re supposed to be rockered, they’re literally forced into that position. Blizzard doesn’t do this. Instead, it flips the core upside down to match the desired camber of a rockered ski. The ski is then pressed in a non-forced, natural way, which allows the rocker to be produced without bending or artificially shaping the ski in a press. According to the rep, the end result is a ski that’s more stable and easier to ski. All this is beyond me. All I know is that the Pearl is indeed a lot of fun and very responsive. 88 underfoot.

Blizzard Crush: I took these out because I’d heard great things about them, and I wasn’t disappointed. These skis can handle anything I threw at them. The 98 waist makes them great for deep conditions, but don’t let that fool you. These are crud busters, ice eaters, Plus they’re easy to turn, too. Here, too, not crazy about the graphics,. Skied in a 163.

BTW, didn’t try these, but the Viva Magnum’s, a great line that’s been out for a few years, all have rocker. I’d have loved to give these a try, but didn’t have the time.


Amphibio Insomnia: I don’t know who thought this up – based on the name, maybe someone with sleep issues — but this is one crazy ski. The inside edges are cambered, the outside edges are early rise. According to Elan, this gives you the edge grip and stability of a cambered ski but the versatility and ease of turning of an early rise. Yeah, yeah. I thought. What a gimmick. But does it work? Oddly enough, yes! The result is a great carver that’s loads of fun. I’d consider this a terrific front sider. They’re 74 underfoot. I tried them in a 152. Just be aware: these skis have a definite right and left ski. It says it right on the graphics so you don’t get mixed up. A good idea, I thought.

Zeal: This used to be the Free. They’ve changed the name and the top sheet and given it some rocker, but otherwise, it’s exactly the same. The Zeal isn’t as burly as some of the others I tried, so I think it’s better suited for in bounds skiing. Still, despite it’s width, this is a playful ski that’s nice and responsive. Fun. I think this was around 88 or 89 underfoot.


Kenja: These skis absolutely rock. According to the rep, the Kenja is a narrower the Aura (88 underfoot), with a thin profile so it’s “nice and flexy.” The Kenja is fully cambered so it carves a nice turn, yet versatile enough all conditions. I skied it in a 162(?). Steady, stable, with that great Volkl edge. And SOOOO much fun. I heart these skis.

Aura: Yes, they’ve changed the Aura a bit. First, the graphics: the busty geisha girl is gone (good riddance, I say). Instead, there’s a big green hummingbird. It’s —- okay. I think they could do better, but that’s just me. As for its construction, they’ve given it an early rise in the tip, and made it a bit wider (I think it’s 96 now). All in all, a great ski made even better. Dust off your credit cards, ladies. This one’s for you.

Yes, Volkl’s still have the Bio-Logic. No changes to the Tierra (as the rep said, “why mess with perfection?” I think I agree).


Elysian: This is a twin tip that’s 98 underfoot. It’s pretty burly, but it handles like a play thing. Turns like crazy, lively, and SOOOO much fun. You just float over the snow. I actually skied this in a 168 with no problem. Something I’d be happy taking home.

Affinity series: A step up from the popular Cloud series (which they incidentally still have). The Affinity Pure, with a 78 waist, is a more aggressive, a bit more turn-y. There’s also Affinity Storm, which is 84 underfoot. I thought the Pure was a great front side ski. Easy to get on edge, playful, responsive, a great carver. Skied the 160.


I’m just not feeling the love here. I tried the Attraxion 8, and the new Temptation, and just didn’t feel the kind of energy I felt with the other skis I demoed. Of all the skis I tried, these were my least favorite. That doesn’t mean they should be yours.

Another cool thing from the demo day: Helmets with an integrated goggle that slides up and down. What a great idea! The goggle snaps out, so you can replace it with varying tints. I slid one on and it was waay too big, but the range of vision was phenomenal. Definitely something to watch for over the next few years.

So there you go. There are many other skis I would’ve liked to try. Never got to the K2s, the Lines, the Dynastars, Heads, or Salomons (I wanted to try the BBR, but the smallest length was a 177. No thanks). I also would’ve loved to have tried the Icelantics, but they weren’t there, so no luck.

I think I need another Demo Day. 

Be sure to visit TheSkiDiva.com, an internet forum especially for women skiers, where women skiers can connect with one another to talk about everything and anything ski-related.

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A Peek at the 2010’s: Part 4

Nordica has made some modifications on the Drive, increasing its waist size from 74 to 76 and giving it an integrated binding. The Mint is also 74 vs. 72. I didn’t get around to skiing any of these.

They still have the Conquer, a ski I’ve demoed before and really like, but I’m not nuts about the new color scheme: black and white with chartreuse accents. Bleh.

The Lotta Luv has gone up to 82 in the waist, and they’ve replaced the One Luv with the Free Luv. I took the Lottas out because I know a lot of women like them, but I couldn’t get these off my feet fast enough. I just felt like I was all over the place, forcing them into the turns and not having any fun at all.

Rossi has an extensive line of women’s skis. At the low end is the Harmony, with a side-cut tail that’s supposed to make it easier to come out of a turn. A new ski that I found especially interesting is the Eco(sp.?), which they say is an environmentally friendly ski. The base is made of recycled plastic, and they say they used less petroleum products in its production. 75 underfoot. They’ve also replaced the top end of the Attraxion Series, the 11, with the Attraxion 12, and done away with the arms they used last year (these were supposed to allow you adjust the ski’s flex, depending on conditions and terrain. I thought they were pretty gimmicky) This is based on the men’s Classic 70.

I had to try the Eco, which turned out to be a really nice ski. Responsive, a good carver, light, quick. And I tried the Voodoo 80, which has a slightly turned up tail. I tried the Voodoo last year, but maybe in a different waist size (it comes in several). Whether it was the conditions or the waist size, I liked it this year a lot better. Very responsive, came out of the turn nicely. I’d like to get this in some off piste stuff. I liked this even better than the Eco. A very fun ski.

SO – in a nutshell, my favs of the skis I tried:

Favs of the two days I was there:

Volkl Aurora (yes, I still love these skis)
Volkl Aura
Fischer Koa 84
Rossi Voodoo 80
Elan Free Spice
Head Wild One
Rossi Ecco
Head Perfect One

Thumbs down:

Atomic Double Deck
K2 Lotta Luv (sorry)

The bottom line: there’s something for everyone, and everyone’s different. What appeals to me may not appeal to you. So be sure to try before you buy.

Be sure to visit TheSkiDiva.com, the online home especially for women skiers, where women skiers can connect with one another to talk about everything and anything ski-related.

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A Peek at the 2010’s: Part 3


Fisher has replaced its popular Vision series with the Koa. Available in a variety of widths (75, 78, and 84) the Koa has a sandwich vertical wood core instead of the glass fiber wood core found in the Visions. The rep says this makes it a lighter, stronger ski with better edge hold. The graphics of the Koa are a big departure from the Visions, too. Dark with a bold, abstract design that’s not at all girlie. I really liked it.

Fischer still has the Vapor, which I really wanted to demo, but since they only had it in a 165, I decided to pass. Instead, I took out the Koa in the 75 and 84. The 75 was nice – lively, good rebound, good edging, easy to ski. But I liked the 84 even better. For a wide waisted ski, this thing skis like a carver. I’d give this a big thumbs up.

Blizzard Skis

Blizzard has an addition to their Magnum Series: the Magnum Viva 7.4. They also plan to introduce the Viva Max in a Magnum 8.1 soon (81 underfoot), but they don’t have it yet. Some of you will also be pleased to hear that they’ve brought back the Eos this year (88 underfoot; the same ski as the men’s Chronus.)

Anyway, I took out the Magnum Viva 7.4’s, and what a nice ski! Good edging, easy to turn, nice rebound. I also took out the Viva 7.6’s just for comparison — a more advanced, all mountain ski with a wood core and an integrated binding system. This ski wants to go, yet it’s stable and smooth with good edging.


Dynastar is adding two new women’s skis to its line-up: the Exclusive Eden, with an 85 waist, a wood core, and a vertical side-wall, and the Exclusive Elite, which will be a high-end groomer with a 72 waist, wood core, and a straight side wall (this’ll be above the Exclusive Fluid). Unfortunately, they didn’t have either ski at the Demo Day, so I couldn’t give them a try.

They’re also discontinuing the Exclusive Legend Powder.

All the skis have new graphics. I took out the Exclusive Legend, a carry-over ski and their top seller, It’s a very nice, maneuverable ski that’s a jack of all trades. The 2010’s have a new graphic that’s white with a weird pastel image of a woman’s face, which I really didn’t like.

(To Be Continued…..)

Be sure to visit TheSkiDiva.com, the online home especially for women skiers, where women skiers can connect with one another to talk about everything and anything ski-related.

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