With fresh snow falling all week long over the 4,200 acres of intricate, steep terrain at Red Mountain, British Columbia, 30 ski companies gathered to showcase their top skis for 2019 before the 33 skiers who make up the Powder Union. With zero influence from attending brands, the Union spent a collective 1,500 hours determining the best all mountain skis of the year, with more than 100mm underfoot, found in the 2019 Buyer's Guide.
(Click on ski to skip down to review):
ARMADA Tracer 108
ARMADA Trace 108
ATOMIC Vantage 107 C W
BLACK CROWS Atris
BLACK CROWS Atris Birdie
BLACK DIAMOND Boundary Pro 115
COALITION SNOW SOS
DYNASTAR Legend X96
DYNASTAR Legend W 96
ELAN Ripstick 96
FACTION Candide CT 4.0
FISCHER Ranger 108 Ti
HEAD Kore 105
ICELANTIC Maiden 111
ICELANTIC Nomad 105
INSTINCT SKI CO Seeker
J SKIS The Metal
J SKIS The Vacation
K2 Gottaluvit 105 Ti
LIB TECH Wreckcreate 110
LINE Pandora 104
MAJESTY Supernova SL
NORDICA Enforcer 110
NORDICA Santa Ana 110
ROSSIGNOL Super 7 HD
SALOMON QST 106
SALOMON QST Stella 106
SEGO Cleaver 102
SEGO Gnarwhal 102
FISCHER Ranger 102 FR
KASTLE BMX 105 HP
K2 Pinnacle 105 TI
L: 164, 172, 180, 188cm
The Armada Tracer is the stick to take out on 98 percent of your days. A rockered tip and tail combined with traditional camber underfoot provide incredible flotation in soft snow and crud. It also has great edge hold and control on harder snow. This is a ski that's easy to find the sweet spot.
"It skis longer than you'd think," says Julie Brown. "It has a long effective edge and it's stable--but not heavy. The 172 was fast and sturdy, but I could pop it around tight turns in the trees really well. It's an all-around ski that I'd recommend to anyone, anywhere."
For the Tracer 108, and its women's version, the Trace, Armada chose a Hybrid Ultra-Lite Core, which blends a combination of lightweight woods and hardwood laminates underfoot. This kind of construction keeps the ski agile, without sacrificing its power.
In addition to the profile of the Tracer, the directional layering of fiberglass makes for a sweet flex pattern and torsional rigidity for that great edge hold. At first, I thought the ski was going to be a bit pivoty, but after a couple turns I found it to be a flat-out, hard-charging powder slayer.
L: 159, 167, 175cm
R: 17.4 m (@175cm)
The Atomic Vantage 107 C W is not for the faint-hearted. With these on my feet, I felt like I could charge through anything. The purple-to-red fade on the top sheet made me feel sleek and powerful with a minimalist type design.
Inside the ski, Atomic placed its new Prolite, a central layer of Titanium Tank Mesh, and additional reinforcement on each edge to create a lighter weight ski for women that instills confidence and strength in even the roughest conditions.
When I took the Vantage 107 C W out for a spin, I thought it handled well in the fresh and soft snow. The 136-millimeter tip and 107-millimeter waist give good floatation and a desire to slash through your turns.
Traveling over to the mogul fields, the stiff tail could be a bit of a hindrance and I could feel myself catching on my turns when not executing them with precision.
Coming out of the moguls and onto the groomers, I could feel what these skis excelled at, high speed, confident carving.
With a 17.4-meter turning radius, the Vantage handles like a GS ski and can make sure-fire sweeping turns on the corduroy while not sacrificing their agility elsewhere. But be warned, this is a ski that wants to move. It's not for the lazy days.
These skis are made for an aggressive go-getter and will keep you on your toes and over your boots. If you like to be the first down the mountain, you've found the right instrument for you.
D: 13.9-10.8-12.6cm (@ 184.2 cm) (Atris)
D: 12.3-10.8-13.6cm (Atris Birdie)
L: 178.3, 184.2, 189.7cm (Atris)
L: 160.1, 169.1, 178.3cm (Atris Birdie)
R: 20m (Atris)
R: 20m (Atris Birdie)
This fun, versatile ski has helped the Chamonix-born Black Crows brand soar rapidly across North America. Semi-cap construction, rocker in the tip and tail, camber, and a poplar core produce a lively vibe in just about any snow condition. Aggressive skiers may experience tip deflection in the chunder, so it's best to just chill out and feel the flow.
The women's version, the Atris Birdie (pictured), is the same ski as the Atris but in shorter lengths.
L: 175, 185cm
For three years, Black Diamond has been producing their ski line at the Blizzard factory in Austria, and in my opinion, the overall product is significantly more refined.
The Boundary Pro 115 has a voracious appetite and is intended to consume soft snow at high speeds. A proven recipe of tip/tail rocker combined with camber underfoot yields dependable and responsive handling.
The 115 features a pre-peg fiberglass layup construction and a poplar core. I found the ski to have an incredible amount of torsional rigidity, which translates into lighting fast edge-to-edge performance and a high degree of stability.
This ski really complimented my personal style and right out of the gates I felt completely at home on it. It's only offered in a 175 and 185, which may leave out a few people who prefer a longer ski, like I do.
However, when I took out the 185, I never felt under gunned at speed. This is a ski that you want in your arsenal for storm days at the hill or a day tour.
It's also a great choice for those fortunate enough to have the opportunity to cat or heli ski and want a companion underfoot they won't have to think twice about.
L: 157, 166, 173, 180cm
Coalition Snow is a women's ski company. What does that mean? Women make the skis for women to ski them. But that doesn't mean men can't ski them, too. A ski is a ski is a ski. There's nothing in the guts that makes Coalition's skis gendered.
Their brand is about messaging. To every woman who loves the snow, Coalition is looking right at you and making skis for you.
The SOS is Coalition's flagship ski. Its sidecut is the tried-and-true rocker tip and tail with camber underfoot. The birch wood core packs a stiff punch, but only as much as you really need to give the mountain all you've got.
The SOS's might be a tad skinny for my taste on the deepest days (if you're looking for something fatter, check out their Abyss). But these checked all the boxes for a legit all-mountain ski: fast, good edge hold, medium torsional rigidity, versatile, responsive, and a middle-of-the-road turning radius.
I got lucky and got to take the SOS's out on a beautiful powder morning. I chased Jess Leahey, an artist from Revelstoke, through the untracked, smokey snow in the woods.
When we caught up with each other, all we could do was explode with laughter. I could hardly contain the joy. Skiing with other women is absolutely the best. And that's why I love Coalition and all that they stand for.
L: 158, 165, 171, 178cm
R: 15 m (@178cm)
Thank God for ski companies that have been in the business for more than 50 years and know how to make a fine ski. Because my legs would have been toast, otherwise. Caput. Nada. Noodles. Useless.
Especially in the afternoon when I followed Rachael Burks on a powder hunt, I gave thanks for the Legend W 96.
I mean, have you tried to keep up with a bunch of hooting and hollering pro skiers on a steep-ass mountain in powder, with trees? For a regular human like me, it's a lot of huffing and puffing. It's also the most fun ever.
The Legend X96 and its sister are stable skis made with a paulownia wood core, a long effective edge, and just the right amount of tip and tail rocker to make it easy to swish through deep snow and pop around trees.
They were fast and carved well, and with a five-point sidecut, their turn shape was versatile. I felt confident making quick turns in steep terrain above cliffs, but I could also open them up when the trees cleared.
They swiveled easily on the trails through the trees and kept pace on the cat track back to the lift. Even at 96 underfoot, they felt like a ski I could get on day after day, no matter the snow conditions.
Revelstoke artist Jess Leahey agreed. "I charged on this ski and it held all the power I could muster all over the mountain."
Burks found the stash. It was on a shoulder that swooped down and around a bunch of finger-like cliffs. The trees got taller as the terrain got steeper. She smoked me, but I traced her tracks and followed the bright sound of her laugh.
When I caught up, my chest was heaving, my legs were burning, and all I wanted was more, more, more.
L: 167, 174, 181, 188cm
Forged in the Slovenian Alps, the Ripstick 106 is back again this year with its left-ski, right-ski Amphibio technology. The outer edge of each ski is rockered while the inside edge has camber. So when Powder Union skier Eric Gerrmann made his first turns under the Motherlode chair, he noted how the downhill edge had camber to grip the snow while his uphill edge had rocker to release.
Other skiers appreciated the easy turn initiation in Red's tight trees. A TubeLite wood core uses carbon runners from tip to tail, keeping this ski light, while tip inserts offer a smooth ride.
L: 176, 182, 188, 194cm
After you ride the Candide CT 4.0 from Faction, you'll find yourself wishing you were capable of huge double backs and butters off of everything. Unfortunately, you probably won't be able to, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't ski on a pair.
With a balsa, flax, and poplar core, the 4.0 is incredibly lightweight and nimble; perfect for getting playful all around the mountain.
This combination may be lacking in the way of durability and strength, but Faction incorporates a Titanal sheet for some added stiffness underfoot and improved binding retention.
Honestly, though, you're not going to be thinking about the durability of the ski when you're floating through a couple feet of fresh snow. Just don't find any hidden treasures.
To help give the 4.0 a more "traditional" feel when making a turn, there is 1 millimeter of camber underfoot. Surfy, but not quite to the full flat or full rocker category.
That small bit of camber just helps the ski snap in and out of turns and keeps you feeling solid when you're on the groomers.
With this in mind, consider the mounting position. The 4.0 has two different recommended mounting points: Candide's and traditional. I would meet somewhere in the middle as I spend more time skiing forward than switch, but I still have the option to turn around.
Realistically, this is a powder ski. You could have fun on a daily basis with the 4.0, but I definitely had that euphoric moment of pure love for a ski when I was cruising down a hallway of untouched snow in the trees of Red Mountain Resort with little poppers presenting themselves left and right. #oneofthosedays.
L: 174, 182, 188cm
R: 19 m (@182cm)
The Fischer Ranger 108 Ti made me feel like I was in a three-piece suit driving a Porsche 911 Carrera. All business.
For a 108-millimeter ski, it rails as if glued to the surface on the harder snow conditions. The nimbleness was evident for how strong the ski felt which only complimented the intuitive initiation and the super strong grip. This comes from the Air Tec Ti build where the wood core is milled down on the sides to reduce the weight but has Titanal on top to dampen things up. This made slicing through the tight pow trees and stashes in Poochie's and War Eagle easier than usual even at high speed.
However, the business suit started to get a little tight when wearing it all day and you can't exactly take the 911 Carrera off-roading. The 108 Ti felt a little too serious when I tried to get playful with the terrain or a bit lax with the technique. It just wants to be pushed all the time, which is great for someone who likes that in a ski but I felt that the dampness and intensity could've been ratcheted back to get the most out of the ski.
Also, it didn't float as well as some skis that have smaller dimensions. The same stuff that keeps the ski glued to the snow kept it there too much and a big storm would bog it down unless you super powered it out of each turn.
The Ranger 108 Ti is a great ski for the intense hard snow skier that occasionally forays off of the groomed for some light pow turns.
L: 171, 180, 189cm
R: 17.8 m (@180cm)
The construction layup for the Head Kore 105 sounds like it's the build-out for some kind of sexy robot: Graphene, Koroyd, Karuba, Topless Tech. Ski engineering can be full of buzzwords and gimmicky materials, but don't let any sense of future fear turn you off to this ski. Thanks to that technology, the Kore 105, our ski of the year last year, is a highly versatile stick that's shockingly light but still stable.
It shines in a range of conditions. We were just as comfortable railing groomers as we were pivoting through the steep, snowy trees on the backside of Red Mountain. "It has the ability to adapt and contour to any terrain," says Powder Union skier Dylan Hall. Topless Tech--slightly less spicy than it sounds--is a layer of bonded polyester fleece that replaces a traditional top sheet.
The core, a sandwich of Koroyd, a honeycombed material that's both strong and flexible and karuba wood, give it dampness without sacrificing torsional rigidity. Superlight Graphene in the tips and tails reduces swing weight and adds float. But it's easy to forget about science once you're on your skis, and the Kore 105, makes that easy. It's one of the most high energy skis we skied this year: it's hyper-fast from edge to edge, but it never feels squirrely.
"It held a firm edge for a lighter ski and came out of turns snappy. Lots of natural pop with a damp feel for dumping speed and bumps," says Powder Union skier Nick Pontarolo. "Overall one of the best skis I have ever been on." At a reasonable 105 underfoot, is a quiver-killing go anywhere ski for western skiers. Maybe the future isn't so bad after all.
L: 162, 169, 177cm
When you click into this ski, you're not just clicking into a tool, you're also clicking into a piece of art. That's a huge part of skiing a pair of Icelantic skis. All of the graphics are pieces of art by co-founder Travis Parr. But the art is just the first impression. By the end of the day, I got a full picture of the Maidens and the one-ski-quiver they are.
Lucking out with a 10-inch powder day, I was glad I had this freeride pow ski underfoot. The wide 146-millimeter shovel paired with the tip and tail rocker allowed for amazing floatation in the deep snow and felt easily maneuverable through the dense trees of Interior B.C. Transitioning from the dreamy steep deep lines to the mogul crud off the cat track, that's so typical of a pow day, the Maidens held their own and offered stability and plenty of stiffness to charge through the chunder unaffected.
The Fly-Weight core kept the ski light and the 2-millimeters of camber kept the ski playful and gave you the pop you wanted. Ranging in lengths from 162 to 177 centimeters means that ladies of all heights and shapes have a ski to shred. The Maiden can be your go-to skis on any day and they live up to their reputation as a "hard-charging powslayer." Not only do these skis look good, but they enable you to dominate the mountain as well.
L: 161, 171, 181, 191cm
A ski with 105 millimeters underfoot is not exactly the ideal choice on a powder day. So it's magical to discover that the Nomad--a soft all-mountain ride that amusingly pops and butters on the average day--is right at home when it dumps a foot overnight.
With a large shovel, poplar core, 2 millimeters of camber, and a cushy flex on the rockered tips and tails that generate lots of gentle rebound, the Nomad is a powder surfing sensation. With original artwork on the topsheet evoking scenes of a woodland wilderness, it's the most attractive graphic on the rack.
L: 176, 183, 188, 193cm
R: 17.5 m (@183cm)
Al Eagleton, the founder of Instinct Ski Company in Rossland, British Columbia, is what the surfboard shaper is to his home break. He knows the mountain well because he skis there every day. He knows the snow, the angle of the terrain, the tightness of the trees, and the bliss of skiing a mountain so well it becomes second nature. He knows Red Mountain so well, he made skis just for it.
The Seeker is a lightweight all-mountain ski, and the lucky members on the Powder Union who skied with Eagleton followed him out of the boundary and were treated to his own special stash of powder in the woods. They all came back to the tent raving.
"The Seeker is a Rossland ski," says Wally Phillips. "It molds to the Red Mountain conditions very well. Treed pow lines and more nimble lines make this ski sing. The tip is a bit over reactive when flexed hard, so a more centered stance is best. And you have to stay active. There isn't as much pop out of the turn as other skis."
Added Rossland local Josh Solomon: "Just plain fun. Inspires you to ride fast into tight spaces and enjoy the deep pow within."
So what goes into a ski specifically made for Red Mountain? Eagleton cut down aspen in his backyard for the wood core, and brings in spurce and white oak from nearby. It weighs 1,650 grams, but a seven-layer build-up of carbon, Kevlar, and S-glass make it tortionally stiff. It's a wide enough platform to carve trenches, but it's soft enough to be forgiving. Finally, Eagleton pays tribute to local artists with limited edition topsheets.
L: 173, 180, 186cm
R: 17m (@180cm)
I didn't exactly need new skis, but I liked the J Skis so much I bought a pair anyway. They're the ideal balance between stiff, damp, playful, and forgiving. That's because the Titanal strips sandwiching a maple wood core don't run through the tail, making it easier to get out of turns and squirrelly landings. A rocker geometry that matches the sidecut helps the balance between smooth, chatterless turns and good float through powder. The skis are my everyday choice, and a favorite with the Powder Union.
"This is my favorite ski for all mountain fun times," said Maggie Kaiserman. "They're a buttery, charging ski that has great pop in and out of turns."
One would want more ski for a big powder day--The Metal had a tendency to sink in the deeper pockets--but for zipping through open lanes in the trees or sending it off the many snags and waterfalls throughout Red, they're quick and sporty across the mountain.
"My favorite of the J Skis lineup," said Clare Menzel. "These were well-rounded and versatile for hill-banging and groomer carving."
Added Sara Vanderbeek, "I loved these. They have the perfect flex, flotation, and maneuverability for bumps, trees, and the great wide open."
It wasn't all glowing. The big turned up tails feel like a bit much for a more traditional skier, and Mike Davies thought they were powerful and gripped groomers, but didn't think they shaped a turn well. "They need to be flat to scrub speeds," he said.
Still, with a 100 percent money back guarantee from J, you don't have much to lose with The Metal and plenty to gain.
--John Clary Davies
L: 173, 180, 186cm
R: 18.5m (@180cm)
Do you want some butter for that toast? If so then it's time for a Vacation. This offering from J Skis bridges the gap from everyday ski to park ski. At 104 millimeter underfoot, The Vacation is a very versatile width that can handle everything from groomer days to full on pow days. As you may have guessed, one thing The Vacation excels at is buttering.
The overall soft flex of the ski matched with the rocker profile in the tip and tail allows you to lean into these suckers and whip them around. If you're not into buttering (or don't know what it is) The Vacation is still a great option for you. The rocker profile is carefully shaped to match the sidecut of the ski to give you a longer effective edge.
With a longer effective edge, you get smoother edge transitions paired with 3 millimeters of camber underfoot to maintain solid edge hold on your turns. Overall you get a very fun ski that is easy to turn.
If you're really keen on using The Vacation as a park ski, the maple core allows the ski to be energetic and absorb impact when you're repeatedly landing on rails. Furthermore, the edges are built up to be thicker and stronger than conventional ones.
The Vacation also brings a very cool/unique presence with it. J is all about making your skis different from others on the market. He does this by producing very limited numbers of batches of his skis. So, you get a unique piece of equipment that is not going to be repeated over and over again. Chances are you will only see one or two of your same Vacation when you are, well, on vacation.
L: 156, 163, 170, 177cm
R: 16m (@170cm)
Reinvented from K2, the Gottaluvit 105 Ti is reliable ski ideal for a strong but less aggressive skier who likes to keep in on piste in the resort but occasionally ventures into the bowls or dances along the edge of the trees.
New Nano BIOkonic technology developed for women's specific skis evens out the bell curve of the ski's stiffness profile as it relates to the more forward mountain point, allowing the driver to max out on hard pack or take the Gottaluvit 105 Ti through the bumps and chunder.
All-terrain rocker allowed the Powder Union to get playful with their powder turns when 16 inches of snow fell overnight at Red Mountain. I found the Gottaluvit105 Ti easy to roll over and arc big, wide turns but struggled to thread it through the tight trees off the Motherlode Chair.
Overall, the Powder Union found this ski springy and lightweight with high energy, thanks to its aspen and paulownia wood makeup. A metal laminate gives it added structure and durability. If you're a skier looking to comfortably bump to from a lower intermediate ski to something more substantial, the Gottaluvit 105 Ti is a ski to consider.
"The construction of the Gottaluvit makes it agile and fun to hit bumps and carve turns in powder and on groomers," says Driggs, Idaho-dweller Michelle Nicholson. "I could take it anywhere any day, but I would have sized down for a tight-tree mountain like Red."
L: 158, 168, 178, 188cm
It felt too good to be true. The rest of my party had dropped in elsewhere and I stood above a wide open, untracked powder field full of snow-covered boulders below me. It had been storming hard all morning. All I could hear were the flakes hitting my jacket. I didn't see any other skiers. On my feet were the Lib Tech Wreckcreate 110s, a ski with camber and tip to tail elliptical rocker, Lib's serrated Magne-Traction base, and a basalt construction. The ski rides more directional and less pivoty than the brand's other offerings, though with no metal it still lives on the playful side of the spectrum.
Union member Christie Cunneyworth thought it was floaty, surfy, and solid, while Sara Verbeek said they were stiff and versatile. Local Sam Woodward considered them to be damp and edgeable. "They're a great all mountain ski," he said. "They like to go fast, but work at lower speeds, too, and are fun on groomers."
For me, somewhere off the backside of Red's Gray Mountain in the middle of a powder day, the Wreckcreate 110s were just right. I dropped in, built up speed, then slashed a big left-hand turn, covering myself with snow. The skis felt responsive and adept. I aired off one of the boulders and the big surface area and rocker made the landing easy. I wiggled through some trees, dumping speed by slashing turns in pockets of powder and made it back to the lift with the pure rapture of having one of the best runs of my year.
L: 158, 165, 172cm
Do you ever get girl crushes? Like, how does some chick happen to be smart, and effortlessly good at skiing, and still able, somehow, to pull off hats? That's how I feel about Jackson Hole loc-dog and TGR skier Hadley Hammer, and Line must feel the same, because they turned to her to help design the new, updated Pandora collection, their women's freeride skis.
The 104--a new size and shape in the range--is her go-to stick, and she says she skies it in all conditions. An all-wood Aspenlite™ core keeps it light and nimble, while tip-to-tail carbon filaments, which they call Magic Fingers, give it stability without adding weight. At 104 underfoot, with a 16-meter turn radius, testers found it versatile and capable in a variety of turn shapes and terrain.
"Great all mountain ski, does everything well," says Canadian crusher Jess Leahey, who also called it a "crud charmer." Some testers found it skittery on groomers and at high speeds, so if you're railing GS turns it might not be your daily driver, but for intermediate to advanced skiers who tackle a range of conditions and want to crush like Hadley, the Pandora is a solid ski to help you step up, especially if you're searching out soft snow and floaty turns.
"This is a surfy, playful pow ski," says tester Abigail Barronian. "It's not super damp, but the tip rocker keeps it rising above the mess." Plus its sparkly, green, marbleized top sheet, which is made of a material that sheds snow, stands out for being feminine without being overly girly. Crush-worthy on the rack and on your feet.
L: 169, 177, 185cm
R: 19.6m (@177cm)
Majesty built the Supernova, with the combination of traditional poplar and ash wood core and carbon and Kevlar fiber, to be a true high-performance, all-mountain ski. What I liked about the Supernova is that it has a flat tail, rockered tip, full carbon fiber layup, semi-cap construction, this allowed the Supernova to float quite nicely for a carbon fiber built ski.
By reducing the tail length and moving the skier back a bit on the ski helped created quicker turning ski, and it was noticeable. I wish I was able to test the longer version of this ski, but I did get a pretty good feel about how they “shorten” the ski without really shortening the ski and with the carbon fiber build take some weight out with keeping the longer edge contact feel on firmer snow.
L: 174, 184, 190cm
The Moment Deathwish has seen little change over the years. It always maintains the feature that gives the ski its identity: the unique Triple Camber profile. With separate sections of modest camber in front and behind the binding combined with smaller camber underfoot, the Deathwish has properties of a stiff ski full of camber, contrary to the relatively forgiving flex from the aspen/pine core.
When tipped on edge, the camber pockets change the ski's effective edge ultimately providing more bite. A relatively unorthodox solution that has developed favoritism from the hard-charging skiers looking for a playful ski.
The biggest change in recent years comes for the 18/19 season, stiffening up the tip and tail past the contact points to help in variable conditions. Not all skiers want rocker in the tail, or taper for that matter either. The added stiffness and improved ride when conditions can't make up their mind should appeal to those who once looked past it on the ski wall.
Skiing around Red in between storms the Deathwish was stable on the open steeps, inspiring confidence in edge hold at high speed. It was a good blend of stability and flex and I actually preferred it's versatility over Moment's renamed Wildcat. I did find myself looking for more-open lanes when things got tight though. What can I say, the ski likes to go fast and it was a lot easier to open up than to shut down. I can really see skiers liking the updated Deathwish in Jackson, Tahoe, LCC and Whistler where they can get the ski up to the kind of speed that gives it its name.
D: 140-110-129mm (Enforcer 110)
D: 140-110-129mm (Santa Ana 110)
L: 169, 177, 185, 191cm (Enforcer 110)
L: 161, 169, 177cm (Santa Ana 110)
R: 18.5m (Enforcer 110)
R: 16.5m (Santa Ana 100)
In a head-to-head comparison between the Enforcer 110 and the Blizzard Rustler 11, both of which occupy the upper echelons of the big mountain freeride category, the Enforcer wins out as the faster, more aggressive option (not necessarily the better ski for everyone). With two sheets of Titanal over a core of balsa and carbon, the Enforcer will be too much to handle for some skiers (the more forgiving Rustler has just one sheet of metal).
But in the hands of a capable driver, the Enforcer dominates in the steep and deep, pivots when needed, and shows no speed limit on hardpack.
L: 178, 185, 191cm
I was able to ski this ski in pretty incredible conditions and found that the 106 underfoot, was not quite enough for how deep the snow was. This is a super light ski with a full carbon build with the Renoun patented HDT technology to aid in dampening the ski on hard snow. Now I can't speak for the dampness, as it wasn't needed in deep pow, but I can speak to the weight.
The Citadel was/is a super light ski, which made it easy to ski in powder, and this lightness made up for not having a tip that would easily float in the deepest of days. I could feel that the ski is fairly stiff, which I really liked, especially in the tail giving the ski a nice pop coming out of turns, and I can really see how this ski would rail on hard snow.
I was told it was built for a target audience, and I feel they did hit the mark for that skier who may own a second home at a resort, is pretty athletic who skis 20-30 days a year.
L: 172, 180, 188cm
R: 21 m (@188cm)
Completely redesigned from previous iterations of this all-mountain ski, the Rossignol Super 7 HD is built to take into softer snow at high speeds. Built on a lightweight paulownia wood core sandwiched between carbon alloy lightens the ski by 30 percent without sacrificing stability.
Air Tip 2.0 technology gives this ski a soft nose that keeps the Super 7 HD from diving in the deep stuff, while a 116mm waist engineered to plane through powder makes this ski soar.
Several skiers on the Powder Union found it difficult to engage their turns in tight situations like trees or bumps, but in spacious terrain with room for arcing wide, fast turns, the Super 7 HD shines.
"Long revered as the do-it-all ski, I'd call this version charging for experts in big terrain, but it requires a lot of energy," says Canadian Matt Cote, eh?
L: 167, 174, 181, 188cm
The tight trees and soft pillows of Red Mountain are the perfect playground for the QST 106. The ski is light and nimble and pivots like a dream. You can change direction on this ski without even thinking, and when you are trying to follow the locals, that is a must.
This year Salomon adjusted the construction layup of the ski by thickening the layers of carbon fiber and flax and adding a layer of crushed up rocks (basalt) underfoot. This didn't add much weight or take away the lively feeling but it did take some of the nervousness out of the ski when you really started to let them run by adding stability where you need it most. With the introduction of the Shift this season this ski upgrade was a necessity. The binding can hold up to anything so the ski better have qualities that match.
My only qualm with the ski is that it doesn't favor a boot with an aggressive forward lean. This is a freeride ski and skis best with a more upright boot and a more ski from the foot style. If you want a ski that you can really leave some train tracks down the mountain you might want to head in a different direction. If you want to make the mountain your playground with slashes and jibs while not having to be on a center-mounted twin tip this is the ticket.
Bottom line, this ski won't let you carve like Cody Townsend but it is amazingly easy to ski and the new construction is definitely an upgrade that will add top-end performance while not adding more work to your day. It is a ski that a beginning intermediate will enjoy and an expert wouldn't be bummed to have in their quiver.
D: 136-106-124 mm
L: 159, 167, 174 cm
R: 20 m
Solid, swift, stable, strong. The women of Powder Week agree: Salomon's fleet-footed, hard-charging QST Stella 106 crushes.
The QST Stella has the same wood-core construction as the unisex QST, a beloved stallion in the Powder Union stable, but is available in lengths as short as 159. This season, the big update to the QST collections is a basalt layer added under the core, to reduce chatter and increase smoothness.
Plus, Salomon's C/FX³, a woven blend of carbon and flax, now debuts as a full-blown edge-to-edge layer, wherein previous QST models, it was an insert into the poplar core. C/FX³ is a proprietary blend developed to capitalize on carbon fiber's lightweight strength, with a bit of added dampness courtesy of the flax. So basically, smooth just got svelte. A full-ski Titanal insert brings the heat to this energetic, aggressive, dual-rockered ski. Clocking in with a 106 waist and 1,740 grams per ski, it's the widest option in the women's QST collection.
"Fucking wicked!" says Jess Leahy, a Revelstoke artist who joined the Powder Union this year. "It was way beefed up ski like a men's ski. Finally!"
Wydaho local Michelle Nichelson noted that, with a long effective, edge, she had to work a little harder in the tight trees. Still, she says she put the Stella to the test in all the terrain Red had to offer, and, across the board, "it dominated."
On a powder day, as I surfed down a deep, steep couloir, ducked into tight tree stands, and sidestepped to prime lines, I knew the Stella and I would be fast friends. They pivoted and floated so seamlessly I didn't give them a second thought.
"Not one point was off," says Abigail Barronian, whose daily driver is the 2017-18 version of the ski. So go ahead. Pop, lock, and drop it.
L: 157, 165, 171, 176cm (Gnarwhal 102)
R: 19m (Gnarwhal 102)
One word...FUN. The Gnarwhal 102 is an amazing all-around ski that loves to carve but also reacts when you need it to in tight situations. Edge to edge, this ski gives back so much energy it's almost silly. It loves to go fast and is stable and incredibly smooth at high speeds.
Maneuvering through variable conditions and obstacles at any speed felt effortless. The early rise tip, 3-millimeters of camber underfoot and flat, soft rockered tail allowed for easily initiated and powerful turns. The further I pushed them, the more power I felt. They railed when I wanted them to but were buttery where I needed it, allowing me to turn on a dime and ditch speed
quickly--a dream in the trees.
The light poplar core, coupled with a rubber dampening system and thick and beefy sidewall construction makes for an extremely low-vibration ride which made ripping at high speeds extremely stable and fun. I found them to be floaty in moderately deep powder, considering they aren’t super fat in the waist. Granted, I am quite light so that probably doesn't hurt. As far as the top sheet goes, the textured polyamide prevents snow from sticking to them so they stay nice and light, and the beveled sidewalls prevent chipping. I think the playfulness and colors of the graphics embrace the fun of skiing, graphics are important to me, I can't help it!
Overall, the Gnarwhal 102's were so easy to ski, they felt like my own the second I got on them, more fun than work, my favorite kind of ski. Although no ski can cover the entire range of conditions, the Gnarwhal 102 does a pretty bang-up job of it. As an advanced/expert skier who spends a lot of time in the bumpy trees and ripping high-speed groomers, I would definitely choose them as everyday resort sticks. A fantastic option if you don’t want to flog your 116-centimeter waisted beasts around the hill 24/7! That being said, I might reach for my fatter skis on a really deep day.
The following powder skis were among the 13 Best Skis of the Year. These skis received the highest marks across the board from skiers with a host of different backgrounds. See the complete list here.
L: 170, 177, 184cm
R: 18m (@177cm)
When I picked up the Fischer Ranger 102 FR, the first thing I noticed was how light and stiff they felt, especially in the tails. Normally, I'm a bit wary of light skis with stiff tails. They tend to go a little haywire in the chop and buck me in the bumps.
But the Ranger 102 skied much stronger than its weight would suggest. Immediately, they felt intuitive and effortless.
The Ranger 102 is made with a playful rocker and traditional camber underfoot, making for energetic turns. The almost weightless carbon tips and slightly tapered tails made turning seemed easy in almost all conditions, save for the exceptionally tight trees and deep moguls.
I traditionally favor a softer, more buttery ski for the Interior B.C. snowpack, where I live, so keep in mind that the Ranger 102 doesn’t let you get lazy. They require energy to flex, but give them a little bit and they give it back ten-fold.
Made with Fischer's signature Air Tec Ti and sandwich sidewall construction, the 102 is a new addition to the Ranger lineup. It's a middle-of-the-line ski that could accommodate most any skier in any condition. The Powder Union found it to be stable and maneuverable, though on the softer end of the spectrum for a do-it-all ski with similar specs.
I ripped on groomers in the Ranger 102s and they handled smooth terrain with a reasonable amount of chop beautifully. They're an aggressive ski built for a skier who charges, carves big sweeping turns, wants stability in fast run-outs, and also likes to get playful.
The graphics were a bit boring for me, but that's got nothing to do with the ski's performance. Bottom line: I thoroughly enjoyed the Ranger 102s. They are a great, agile resort ski that will have you covered in most conditions.
L: 165, 173, 181, 189cm
R: 21m (@181cm)
I didn't expect to be surprised by the Kastle BMX 105 HP. As a ski of the year last season--one preferred by ex-racers and others who thrive on two sheets of Titanal, flat tails, and subtle elliptical radius--I knew that it ripped. I did not think the BMX would be an effective ski at Red Mountain, a gladed playground.
I was wrong. They were incredibly smooth, predictable, precise, and energetic. I thought they were one of the best skis I've ever been on. Though stiff and strong, too, they didn't require Lindsey Vonn thighs to get them around bumps and trees. I wasn't the only one who felt that way.
"It handled so well in powder, but when we popped out to open big terrain, I could arc huge turns and go super fast," said Julie Brown. "I was intimidated by Kastle--I like to go fast, but I want a ski that can catch air, too, and also won’t kill my knees. This ski was surprisingly my favorite of the week."
Added Dane Weister: "I don’t like skis with metal as I feel they lose a sense of liveliness, but these are so playful and smooth turning. Two sheets of metal give you the right amount of stability in turns and landings."
Behind that metal is a silver fir/beech wood core. The skis have a low camber profile, hook free tips and tails, and the premium quality skiers have come to expect (and pay for) from Kastle. Everyone on the Union who skied them gave the skis a 9 or a 10, including Sam Cox, one of the biggest, strongest skiers of the group.
"Stable, powerful, damp, precise, I would suggest this ski to anybody who’s asking," he said. "For my style of skiing, it has no negative features."
--John Clary Davies
L: 170, 177, 184, 191cm
R: 19m (@184cm)
Sometimes you jump on a ski and everything falls into place on the first run. This was my experience with the K2 Pinnacle 105 Ti.
I hadn't synced up with K2 in a long time. Their rocker profiles, turn shapes, and flex hasn't resonated with me in a while, but the new Pinnacle is an entirely different animal. It instills confidence, literally at every turn. To sum it up quickly, this ski is full of snap, stability, positive energy, and rebound.
In order to realize the full potential of this ski, you need to get over the shovel and load it up. It is a traditional laminate construction, containing fir, Nano Konic, braided glass and metal under the hood.
The pintail shape and gradual rocker allow it to pivot easily and break out of the natural radius depending upon the terrain in front of you. Size range for skis can often be an issue, because chargers come in all shapes, sizes and genders.
The 105 should fit the bill for almost anyone on the market, because it's offered in a complete range from 170 to 191 centimeters in 7-centimeter increments.
Run after run I attempted to find a fault in the design, dimension and construction of this ski but ultimately was unable to. This is a perfect platform for anything from smooth chalk to overhead blower.
L: 174, 181cm
The Line Sakana was a personal project for Eric Pollard, several years in the making. It draws it's DNA from the Pescado, which is intended as a directional, powder specific ski. At 105-millimeters underfoot, the Sakana is aimed at being more versatile in variable conditions.
Immediately you notice the swallowtail or as Line calls it, a "Tail Knockout" and the low profile tips. The only offering in the tent was a 181-centimeter, but the mount point has been significantly shifted back, allowing the ski to have a substantial amount of effective edge to engage.
My experience on the ski was the ample camber provided suspension and pop, while the flex and radius were extremely complimentary and allowed you to actually carve the ski in different turn shapes instead of simply scrubbing or pivoting to adjust your turn size.
Initially, I was skeptical because of the aesthetics of the swallow tail and its penchant for being a gimmick. However, after several hours of skiing the trees at Red Mountain, I became a firm believer in the concept.
Fair warning, even though I loved it, this ski may not initially appeal to a segment of traditional-minded skiers. Given some exposure though, I think everyone can appreciate its attributes.
The Sakana is a laminate ski with a carbon/flax weave and a Partly Cloudy core (a lightweight blend of Paulownia and Maple). Bottom line, I'd love to have a pair of these skis in heavy rotation for soft conditions.