You can’t fake it on an Atomic Redster G9. Posers will know they’re in trouble in about 50 feet. Your boots will suddenly feel eerily loose. As if sensing your weakness, the G9 will hit the afterburners and if you don’t catch up with it pronto and press into the front of your 130-flex boots, you could be in for a wild ride, as if riding in the back of a cartoon cab on the set of Who Shot Roger Rabbit?
But if you show it proper respect in the first place and stand on it with controlled aggression, its acceleration will feel as smooth as the finest German sedan. You’re not just in control; you’re in charge of a speed-generating machine that feels capable of carving up the Hahnenkamm.
There’s no doubt that part of the G9’s inspiring tranquility at speed is due to Servotec, a slender carbon rod running down the center of the ski that actively pushes the shovel back on the snow. The change that validated the G9’s claim to being “Ultra Titanium Powered” is the addition of third .3mm-thick Titanal laminate in its guts. With all this metal on board, you might expect the G9 to steer like a battleship, but its slender profile and firecracker response to pressure makes it feel as nimble as Nureyev.
Not since Alexander the Great has world conquest seemed so simple. All Michaela Shiffrin has to do is step into her magic Redster S9’s and a couple of minutes later she’s standing on top of a podium, wearing another gold medal.
It’s clear at this juncture in Shiffrin’s journey that she is likely to shatter every record for World Cup victories, leaving legendary talents like Stenmark and Hirscher and Vonn in her wake. The possibility that she’s dominating her sport solely because she uses the best skis is as remote as Tiger Woods’ supremacy is due primarily to his choice of golf ball.
Yet it’s precisely because of her incandescent talent that her choice of gear must be as meticulously managed as every other part of her skiing life. I’m not trying to suggest that you should cop a pair of S9’s just like Michaela’s, because for one thing, you can’t. Her skis are sui generis, their specs a more closely guarded secret than any dossier in Austria’s foreign ministry. But you can get the closest thing a civilian can find to Ms. Shiffrin’s S9’s, and they won’t disappoint.
Against the backdrop of the other GS race skis in this genre, the Kästle RX12 GS stands out like a ballerina among lumberjacks. Some of its superior fluidity has to be attributable to its lack of a racing plate or binding interface of any kind. The skier is closer to the snow, giving the RX12 GS a living pulse when pressured, unfiltered by extra layers of elastomers and metal.
By elevating the skier on what amounts to a taller tower, a race plate takes the subtlety out of turning; once you tip the tower over, you’re committed to the ensuing high edge angle. The lower altitude of the RX12 GS makes it easier for the skier to feather the edge throughout the turn, rather than relying on the brusque, all-in style elevation encourages.
It’s this suppleness that makes the RX12 GS so versatile in terms of both turn shape and terrain adaptability, traits not usually found in a GS race ski. All of its attributes considered in toto, the RX12 GS behaves more like a luxury cruiser than a brute gate basher. It requires less energy to guide, less force to bend and a less aggro stance to engage.
GS race skis rule the open slopes, and they do so mercilessly, running as hot as they can. They oblige the skier to see things their way, rather than submit to some half-ass effort at arcing. They don’t show much interest in deviating from the fall line until they reach Mach One, and even then they don’t bow into fat, round arcs but barely deflect off their beeline course.
Like many gross generalities, the statements above don’t pertain to every member of the GS family. True, several non-FIS GS skis behave like über-specialists that only respond to well-trained technique, but Völkl got the memo that GS skis ought to be generalists, not specialists. The Racetiger GS can tuck into almost any shape of turn, grab it by the throat and ping off the edge with the energy normally associated with a slalom ski. Far from being finicky, it earned the best aggregate Finesse score among all the GS entries in the genre.
Why do I bother to round up every Non-FIS Race model I can rustle, along with the talent required to rate them? Practically no one in America could give a damn about the category, much less what I have to say about it. In the modern world, there are myriad definitions of what constitutes an all-purpose ski, and not one of them fits the profile of a NFR model. Quite the opposite, in fact: race skis are used as the prime example of what an all-terrain ski isn’t.
The world has indeed gone mad. In the halcyon days of my youth, the best all-terrain skis were race skis because all the best skis were race skis. A lot has happened to race skis since I was wearing long thongs, but one thing hasn’t changed: the best of them are still miraculous all-terrain tools. The best of them, exemplified by the Völkl Racetiger SL, feel limitless.
Corty Lawrence, whose normal turn radius is on the long side, called the Racetiger SL “the most versatile of the genre, with a broad range of uses. It has a traditional Teutonic feel and demeanor, and alters turn shape/radius without a problem. Good at low speed and great at high speed,” said the son of skiing legend Andrea Mead Lawrence.