Editor’s Choice: 2016 Skis of the Year
It’s time for your tireless Editor to unveil his favorite skis of 2016. These are my personal picks, so you won’t necessarily find them ensconced at the top of realskiers’ rankings.Realskiers reviews are based on hundreds of test cards; these selections were each based on one.
Völkl Racetiger Speedwall GS UVO
It’s pointless to pick a “best race ski” because all race skis, regardless of brand, represent the finest exemplars of the ski-maker’s art. A strong skier is bound to fall in love with whatever race model he or she regularly rides.
Our test criteria intrinsically favor a slalom sidecut, but your Editor prefers tranquility at lip-flapping speeds. When early morning groomage invites acceleration, I love how the Völkl GS, in turn, inspires the trust to reach maximum edge angles at maximum thrust.
Atomic Redster Doubledeck 3.0 XT
Most models in the Technical category seek to impress the pilot with how they can spool off an endless string of tight radius turns. This Atomic can make short turns, too (15.5m @ 175cm), but you won’t make many because it’s so damn much fun to cut big, whistling arcs at highway speeds.
A lot of race-bred skis are exhausting; the Redster Doubledeck 3.0 XT is exhilarating. From the moment you push off, the XT starts to coach you on how to extract its most intoxicating behaviors: “widen your stance,” it whispers, “get your body ahead of your feet.” Now, step on the gas and prepare to grin.
The Kästle MX83 belongs on anyone’s list of the best skis ever made. Virtually every ski in the Frontside category alleges to possess equal proficiency off-piste; the MX83 is one of the few that delivers. Of course it won’t float over 2 feet of fluff like a smear-stick with the surface area of a limo, but it can handle moguls, crud and knee-deep pow with equal aplomb.
Aim it at groomed terrain of any pitch and you’ll experience an epiphany. Its unbreakable grip rolls effortlessly edge to edge, as if riding rails of silk instead of steel. We’re leery of suggesting that any ski, by itself, can make you a better skier, but on the MX83 you’re sure to feel like one.
It wasn’t so long ago that the fully-cambered Kendo traveled off-trail with the same eagerness a cat anticipates a bath, but Völkl fiddled with the shape and baseline of the 2016 incarnation so it now slithers through moguls and slips seamlessly through battered, 3-D terrain.
The additions of tip and tail rocker and an elongated tip not only facilitate smoother riding off-piste, these features also increase the Kendo’s accessibility to skiers who haven’t yet earned their all-terrain merit badges. Underfoot, where the Kendo is still cambered, it grips as fiercely as its forebears, ensuring serenity on slick slopes.
Like pregnant women in their third trimester, the wider skis in the All-Mountain West genre have a hard time disguising their increased girth. Some take forever getting from edge to edge and don’t seem to grip until they’re tilted at a high angle. The Bonafide, however, rolls up on edge as soon as you send it the signal to head across hill, and never lets go.
There’s no reason to ski a board this wide unless you intend to ski ungroomed terrain, and it’s in the unpredictable conditions encountered off-piste that the Bonafide struts its stuff. Its baseline, sidecut, flex and construction combine to level out well-battered crud fields and smooth the wrinkles out of wind slab. The Bonafide might well be the most terrain-indifferent ski ever made.
Rossignol Soul 7
The Soul 7 isn’t just the most popular Big Mountain ski in America over the last few seasons; it’s the most popular, period. Skis in this genre fall into one of two archetypes: heavily rockered models meant to swivel and smear, and more technical tools responsive to traditional input. The Soul 7 is something else, a peppy lightweight that pops off powder as if the surface were firm instead of feathery.
The Soul 7’s agility and responsiveness are unique in its class, to the point where it could pass as an on-trail tool. But consigning the Soul 7 to groomers is like caging a wild animal, confining it in a drab, unnatural habitat. Only when dancing and dicing through powder, trees and crud can the Soul 7 put its total array of talents on display.
K2 Pinnacle 118
No doubt about it, any ultra-wide ski makes it easier to maneuver in deep snow. Many are made to assist the less adept by rockering the bejesus out of both ends so they’ll swivel sideways. While the Pinnacle 118 has the requisite rocker to reduce fatigue, it’s no swivel stick but a directional board responsive to traditional technique.
A loose Powder ski is lost on hard snow because it has no big pillows to push against, causing its extremities to flop like carp on a hot dock. The Pinnacle 118 doesn’t need to bank off a wind berm to turn; just a thimble-width of ski in the snow is enough to grip and guide you on a clean line. It’s just what the ski doctor ordered to soothe burning quads.