2021 Technical Skis
Technical skis are invariably high performance, hard-snow carving models that have race ski properties and similar dimensions yet aren’t actually intended as gate skis but as hard snow toys for people who probably had race training in the misty past.
In today’s fat-crazed market, the popularity of Technical skis in America has dwindled to the point of near-invisibility. Fortunately, Europe is awash with good skiers and the carving cult that incubated in the 1990’s has remained relevant, thanks to a ski culture that congregates mostly on the groom. That’s a long way of saying American skiers don’t deserve all the goodies in the Technical category, but the wisest – and most skilled – among us know what treasures they hold.
The 2021 Technical Field
The Technical category isn’t completely dead, but it’s not exactly alive and kicking, either. Let’s call it suspended animation: last year, every 2019/20 Recommended model was a replica of its predecessor. To honor the category’s undisturbed tranquility, all but one of the unisex reviews below are likewise retreads of our 19/20 coverage.
The category’s frozen-in-amber status was disturbed in 20/21 by major new model introductions from K2 and Head. The flagship of K2’s all-new Disruption series, the Disruption MTi, is reviewed below as we were fortunate to capture enough data to patch together a Recommended review of this welcome addition to the Technical fold.
We weren’t so lucky with Head’s new Supershape e-Speed and e-Magnum, the narrower half of the rejuvenated, 4-model Supershape series. During our limited testing window, the wider e-Rally and e-Titan hogged all the testers’ time as the Frontside pair is more commercially viable than the skinnier Technical models.
The only difference between the old and new Speed and Magnum is the damping system; the rest of the construction, including sidecut and baseline, remains intact. The retired KERS was focused on the rear of the ski, stiffening the tail when engaged. The new Electronic Management Circuit (EMC) has nodes in both the front and rear of the ski that muffle vibration throughout the ski when it vibrates at 80Hz.
There’s no doubt the EMC technology is more palpable than KERS, but otherwise the essential character of the Speed and Magnum remains intact whether preceded by an “i.” or an “e-.” For the edification of skiers unfamiliar with either model, I’ve reprised the reviews of last year’s i.Magnum and i.Speed, lest our readers forget these benchmark models are still in play.
To maintain some consistency in how all categories are presented, we’re not showing detailed scores or Power/Finesse ratings; the only residue of our testing is the narrative and the order in which the reviews are ranked, which is based on total score. Note that even skis that earned high marks for Finesse properties, like the new K2 Disruption MTi, are essentially Power skis in that they require elite technique to extract their best qualities.
America is a nation of optimists. How else to explain why we buy wide skis on the faint hope we’ll encounter fresh snow, when Technical skis perform so much better on the groomed runs we ski every day? If skiers in the market for a second pair bought a precise carver instead of a fat swiveler, they’d not only be acquiring a more useful tool, they’ll be far more likely to improve their skills.
I realize it’s delusional to hope for Technical skis to make a swift return to market relevance, but if we fail to celebrate the best of them, how will the U.S. skier ever know they even exist? It’s in this spirit that we present the finest Technical skis in our market, listed in order of total score. Realskiers members who want to check out last year’s data will find our 2020 reviews – and their scoring details – in our Review Archives.
Head Supershape i.Magnum
[This retread review pertains to a prior iteration of the e-Supershape Magnum in the 2021 collection. The new iteration shares many of its predecessor’s attributes, which is why the latter is included here.]
Head was the first major manufacturer to embrace carving skis when they were still in their infancy, and the brand has never lost its commitment to perfecting the genre. The Supershape series is an unmatched collection of carving machines, and the i.Magnum is the shapeliest of them all, with a 59mm drop between its tip and waist dimensions, creating a turn radius (13.1m @ 170cm) tighter than that of World Cup slalom.
Read the full review here
Head Supershape i.Speed
[This retread review pertains to a prior iteration of the e-Supershape Speed in the 2021 collection. The new iteration shares many of its predecessor’s attributes, which is why the latter is included here.]
The Head Supershape i.Speed should be called the i.Quick, for while it probably isn’t the fastest ski, it’s certainly the quickest edge-to-edge, superiority it’s itching to flaunt. Point the i.Speed down the fall line, tilt, pressure and repeat. You expect it to make short-radius turns at the expense of all others, but the i.Speed only executes its tightest turns when raked up to a high edge. Relax the edge angle and you’ll discover the i.Speed’s stability in a long-radius arc is underrated.
Head uses Graphene, carbon in a matrix one-atom thick, to manage flex distribution. In the i.Speed, this means applying Graphene to the ski’s midsection so the reinforced center doesn’t have to be so thick. By apportioning more material to the tip and tail, the flex is not only rounder, it’s achievable with less pressure. This is one reason the i.Speed makes a better mogul manipulator than you might expect for ski with so much shape: the tip conforms to sudden terrain changes and the tail won’t wilt under any circumstances.
Read the full review here
K2 Disruption MTi
Based on its brand marketing over the last twenty years, you don’t expect K2 to show much interest in the Technical genre, much less produce a first-rate entrant. But the headliner of the new Disruption series, the MTi (the M stands for Mid-radius) shot to the top of a genre K2 has been successfully ignoring for decades.
Not only is the Disruption MTi a graceful carver, its slightly softer edge gives it a forgiving quality that’s a K2 hallmark. The main reason the Disruption MTi feels different on edge from, say, an e-Magnum, is because its Ti I-Beam metal laminate is only as wide as the thinnest section of the ski. As the ski widens at tip and tail, a gap grows between the Ti sheet and the edge. This allows the edge to give a little, which creates a cushioned ride on a firm surface.
Read the full review here
Atomic Redster X9
How is it possible to make a better Technical ski than Atomic’s Redster X9? It has the stability of a sumo wrestler and the reflexes of a fencer. If there’s a speed at which the edge breaks loose, chances are you’ll never touch it. Its imperturbable hold is amplified by a feature called Servotec, a long, thin rod embedded in an elastomer under the binding at one end and attached on the other end at a point just behind the shovel. The interaction of the rod and the elastomer during flexion both absorbs shock and actively restores ski/snow contact.
Servotec’s effects are noticeable both in straight running and especially in energized turns, where the X9’s rebound qualities are off the charts. “Really great for a ‘beer league’ ski!” raves one of The Sport Loft faithful. “Lots of fun, if a little stout.” To this tester’s point, one has to be able to impart energy in order for Servotec to kick in, but any athletic expert should be up to this challenge.