"A bad tune can hide a good ski," said Brian from Fisher Skis. I was griping about how I wanted to like a ski from his competitor but I just couldn't get the right feel for it. The Hart Cheetah would not roll up on its edge, the tail kept grabbing in the snow and basically I couldn't wait to get off of it.
It doesn't matter how expensive, how radical the design, how killer the graphics. A ski is only as good as its tune. In Utah, even though razor sharp edges are not a requirement, they still need something. The tips and tails should be "de-tuned" so they can flow into and out of a turn and the bases should be even with the metal edges for a flat ski on the snow. This isn't usually a problem when you're demo-ing skis from a shop. Skiers return rentals, the techs tune them up, put on a fresh coat of wax, and off you go in the morning.
With hundreds of skis to mount with bindings and tune, some pairs were neglected during the two-day WWSRA on-snow demo at Snowbasin this week. Boy, could we tell. If you ever come across a ski you really hate, 90 percent chance it's the ski tune. Conditioning is that important. A beginning or intermediate may not know exactly what's wrong with the ski and, yes, maybe they have trouble turning in general, but when your gut tells you there's something not quite right, believe it and take them back to the shop.
Outside of tune issues, we've already discovered there are no bad skis for next season and no one ski that stands out above all the rest. Many manufacturers have focused on graphics rather than radically changing their line or adding a fleet of new skis. Everything is looking so cool; bright colors and interesting visuals that often tell a story (if you have a creative mind).
Most of the women's skis will be adorned with flowers, but not in a bad way. Skis from Dynastar, Salomon, Head are vibrant and feminine without being "girly." K2 has put rocker (where the tip and tail curve up dramatically for easier turn initiation and exit) in everything and there's an odd ski called Anton that will sell for nearly $3,000 at Christy Sport. That will get its own write up/explanation.
The big news in skis for 2010/11 is that the smaller companies like Surface, Icelantic, and Movement are making technically comparable skis to the big boys and selling them for (sometimes) half the price. Volkl, Dynastar, and others, too, have created models for next year with good price points and worthy specs so you won't have to refinance the house to afford new sticks. You'll still be spending around $800 for a pair, but at least they haven't gone up dramatically in price.
The all mountain category for skis has grown. This season, your freeride or fat ski generally started with 88mm under your foot and went all the way up to 130mm. Next season, expect to find retailers calling a ski with a 100mm waist an "all mountain ski." The ski shape, position of the rise in the tip, and camber of the ski has been tweaked to make a fat ski cruise just about everywhere on the hill, including bumps.
We're getting closer to saying that a fat rockered ski can be your one and only ski. Good news for those in the west. If you're in the east, you'll still want a narrower ski as your everyday, all- around mountain tool. A fat ski is heavy and generally slower to turn. The pluses of using one to ski crud, slush and powder are outweighed if you ski hardpack and bumps 50 percent of the time.
Gotta run. One more day to check out what's new and report back to you.