Hero Elite ST Ti

The Rossignol Hero Elite ST Ti is the mellowest member of the Non-FIS Race cast we assembled last spring at Mammoth. It behaves as if all the demanding, my-way-or-the-highway traits of true race skis had been polished off, leaving a ski with race aptitude without the attitude.

The Rossi Hero Elite ST’s high overall score is driven in large part by its unusually high rating for Finesse properties, including low-speed turning, forgiveness, drift-ability and Finesse/Power Balance. Its facility at drifting could be attributable to its Titanal Power Rail, a vertical band of Titanal that bisects the ski. This reduces torsional rigidity – ergo the extra permissiveness when not on edge – but reinforces contact along the long axis. The result is a smooth ride that doesn’t demand aggression to be appreciated.

Hero Elite LT Ti

The Hero Elite LT Ti isn’t a watered-down race ski, just one that’s been domesticated. It still uses the race-room fabrication called Line Control Technology (LCT) comprised of a central rib of Ti wrapped in a viscoelastic shell that keeps the ski from counterflexing. The sense of contact throughout the turn is clean and accurate with a finish that focuses on maintaining its solid snow connection.

A close inspection of its tech specs reveals a tip that’s as wide across the beam as a race slalom, with a waist and tail that are also a tad plumper than the norm for a GS race ski.  Its shape helps the Hero Elite LT Ti tuck into a tighter arc than it likes to finish, so it doesn’t lose momentum as it barrels downhill.  Within the fraternity of Non-FIS Race GS skis, the Hero Elite LT Ti comes closest to being a recreational cruiser, and we don’t mean that in a dismissive way. As a freeskiing tool, it holds its own against all comers.

Firebird WRC

Remember those inflatable punching bags made so kids can work out their juvenile aggressions? They had a round, weighted bottom that allowed Mr. Binky to take the most vicious blow and bound right back up, ready to roll with the next haymaker.  That’s sort of how it feels to descend on the Blizzard Firebird WRC, a slippery yet solid foundation that seems impossible to fall off of.

The Firebird WRC is a beast of s GS ski that is easily tamed, as long as you meet a couple of prerequisites. First, stop asking it to turn at slow speeds, a total waste of its talents. The WRC solves this problem for you by continuing to accelerate until it feels inspired to take the top off its first turn at around 30mph. Second, keep it on trail. If you take it into soft snow it will burrow into it until it finds the bottom, where it will stay until you get a crane to extract it.

Third, don’t ski it passively. Presumably you’re contemplating a race ski because you already know how to drive one, so get after it, for therein lies the reward.

Firebird SRC

The Blizzard Firebird SRC feels like a GS ski trapped in an SL’s body.  The slalom shape dictates a short-radius turn whenever it’s raked on edge, but its serenity at speed and willingness to open up its natural radius make it feel like a GS ski. Jim Schaffner’s staccato commentary reflects the SRC’s dual personality: “SL to GS to SL to GS, etc, etc, etc…” all those et ceteras plus an ellipsis to emphasize a string that never ends. “Best all-rounder SL,” Coach Schaffner concludes.

Two key features that Blizzard added last year to its traditional wood and Titanal construction contribute to the SRC’s Zen-like serenity on edge.  Carbon Armor is an extra slab of bi-directional carbon under the binding that amplifies force in the heart of the arc. To keep the ski planted like it had roots in the snow, two vertical carbon struts, called Carbon Spine, tri-sect the laminated wood core.  Carbon Spine kicks in at the bottom of the turn, sending the skier off into the next arc as if fired from a crossbow.

Dobermann GSR RB

The Nordica Dobermann GSR isn’t interested in bolstering your self-esteem. Its attitude is, if you want to feel better about yourself, take a lesson. Or better yet, hire a coach. For the Dobermann GSR is like a street-legal race car: it’s been detuned for civilian use, but not by much. If you don’t take control of it, the GSR will most definitely take control of you.

When you look at the Non-FIS Race category as a whole, most models have been defanged to the point that they could serve an expert as an all-terrain ski.  Not the Dobermann GSR, which could care less about pandering to non-racers. It’s built on the straightforward assumption that it’s as elite a race ski as any blessed by the FIS, it just doesn’t conform to the dimensional limitations imposed by racing’s sanctioning body.