My body is still buzzing from the past three days. We took it to Snowbird on the last day of the OnTheSnow Ski Test '10. Six trams runs, six big skis and sick snow. Untracked everywhere. It wasn't bottomless but the conditions were just the kind to help us assess our last batch of next season's skis in true-type skiing.
People must not have thought the storm system that came in overnight did much (and the snow report said only 1 new inch) but it did. We had at least six inches everywhere and the mountain to ourselves. Silly guestimators. I drove through 4 inches of fresh as I left my driveway so I knew Snowbird would be in great shape for us.
Greg had Atomic in his truck; I had Surface in my Chevy. We met up with Rossignol and Icelantic in the parking lot to get everyone set, then off we went. Did I mention walk-on trams? No line anywhere. The whole day! The first run was a hike up Baldy. We felt the sun-baked stuff underfoot but the big planks on our feet seemed not to care.
Joey took the Surface One Life's out first. They use what they call a ‘three stage rocker' system to keep the tips from flapping on the snow like other rockers. They look like someone had a bad crash or bent the crap out of the tips and tails. The dramatic rise (rather than the gradual arc everyone else has) is supposed to chill the hooky feeling you might get when you lay a rockered ski on edge.
Joey's a big guy with perfect form. He makes any ski look good. It was only when we asked him what he thought did he wrinkle his nose. But he's not a fan of rockers in general. Most traditional skiers like the sensation of having the whole ski work for you. With that much tip and tail off the snow, you might as well be skiing a snowblade (mini ski) to them. Tyler, our Rossi liason, took the One Life's out and though he wasn't a 100 percent convinced, he commented that Surface was heading in the right direction. He liked the tail but thought the tip angle needed to be less abrupt. I tried the Surface Wasatch Life's. Someone forgot to mention to me that these are just a fat park and pipe ski with some sidecut. The bindings were so far up the ski (probably because people ride these switch or backward) that when I went to hike with them over my shoulder, my hands had nothing to drape over. And skiing them. Well, I wound up so far in the backseat, every turn was pure survival. Make sure you know where the true center on any ski is before you mount up. The others moved the binding back and although they felt some of what I did it wasn't nearly as scary for them. The Watch Life has a nice shape and the ability to ski anything on the hill. Surface is a small local Utah company working hard to swim in the bigboy pool. They're definitely making a splash with the 20 somethings; especially with their lower price points.
The Rossi S7 and the women's version - the S110- did as expected- hit a homerun with all of us. They floated, forgave us when we were sloppy and buttered our turns. Even us shorter folks could handle the longer lengths. The biggest surprise of the day, however, was the Atomic Access. As the Bird day got deeper from the constant light snowfall, these ‘intermediate' labeled all-mountain skis proved beefy enough for everyone. It's a rockered ski, 100mm waist, that can do it all. And it will retail for $499. Can you say appealing? The twintip has camber underfoot so it will carve as well as float. It turned easily in the fluff on Great Scott and the bumps in Anderson's. We couldn't praise it enough.
I never got a chance to ride the Icelantic Oracle at the Bird. Everyone else hogged them. Though marketed as a women's ski, it really isn't. It's an amazing addition to Colorado-based company's wild, crazy, artsy and well-made lineup of skis. The only thing that really makes the Oracle a ladies' ski is the lighter core. Everything else about it is pure fun. Stable, early rise tip for easy turning and a graphic even the men dig.
After three days of constant ski switching, assessing and smiling here's what can be said about next year's lineup - you won't be disappointed with anything you choose. Just make sure when you're ready to buy, you research the heck out of it online (including our equipment guide and ski test reviews to be posted in the spring), shop around for pricing and TRY IT FIRST whether it's at a local demo day before the end of this season or through a shop at the beginning of next.
If you want the biggest bargain, go back and study our guide for this season. Next year's skis aren't that much different from those out now. If you purchase a 2009/10 model this summer it's guaranteed to be a smoking deal. Be careful though. Ski manufacturers never have an unlimited supply. If there's something you have an eye on and dream of at night, you better buy it now. It will most likely be out of stock if it's not already.