2020 Technical

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 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 2020 Technical Field

The Technical category isn’t completely dead, but it’s not exactly alive and kicking, either. Let’s call it suspended animation, as every 2019/20 Recommended model is a replica of its predecessor. To honor the category’s undisturbed tranquility, all the unisex reviews below are likewise retreads of our 19/20 coverage.

While these reviews don’t include them, there were a couple of new entrants into the Technical fold this year. Kästle added Titanal to its previous LX73 to create the DX73 and Rossignol introduced a new series call React. It’s a sad measure of the commercial viability of the segment in America when neither the DX73 nor the React R8 Ti could attract a single tester to even try them.

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.

Head Supershape i.Magnum

[While there has been a slight shift in scores due to new data, both Supershape i.Magnum and this review are unchanged from last year.] 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. The slight early rise in its shovel is shallower than the same feature on the i.Rally or i.Titan, so the i.Magnum behaves more like a fully cambered ski than a rockered one. It doesn’t just like to carve; it insists on it. If you want to moderate its mongoose-quick reflexes, consider getting it in
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Stöckli Laser SX

[While there has been a slight shift in scores due to new data, both Laser SX and this review are unchanged from last year.] Stöckli has a knack for making perfect skis, then improving them. Judging by test cards from prior seasons, no one could imagine a better on-piste ski than the 2018 Laser SX. “Simply put, the best on-piste ski for the advanced skier,” proclaimed Cal Ski Company veteran Paul Jacobs. And that was before Stöckli improved its clever “turtle-shell” technology and subtly altered the Laser SX tip profile, a modification it calls Full Edge Contact, designed to enhance turn initiation. The Turtle Shell Racing feature widens the S-shaped fissure that roughly bisects the thicker, bottom laminate of Titanal. The gap is filled with an elastic material, similar to the polymer used in actual turtle shells. When the ski is loaded, the flexing action closes the gap, stiffening the
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Head Supershape i.Speed

[While there has been a slight shift in scores due to new data, both the Supershape i.Speed and this review are unchanged from last year.] 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,
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Atomic Redster X9

[While there has been a slight shift in scores due to new data, both the Redster X9 and this review are unchanged from last year.] 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
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Fischer RC4 The Curv DTX

[Neither the RC4 The Curv DTX nor its scores have changed since this review was posted last season.] It’s not unusual for ex-racers to participate in product testing, but it’s rare for a major brand to toss the keys to the R&D department to three former World Cup stars with instructions to build the best ski they can, unconstrained by FIS regulations. Built for high speed at high edge angles, The Curv DTX deploys a triple radius sidecut to accentuate turn entry and exit. This makes it exceptionally agile for such a strong, stable ski. While it’s unabashedly made for experts, The Curv DTX lacks the imposing Booster plate that adorns its stablemate and so is a bit easier to bend at subsonic speeds. The elimination of the Booster plate also opens up the versatility of the ski regarding turn shape and skier style. The Booster all but requires the
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Dynastar Speed Zone 12 Ti

[Neither the Speed Zone 12 Ti nor its scores have changed since this review was posted last season.] The singular obsession of carving skis is maintaining continuous snow contact. Any interruption to an otherwise seamless arc is an aberration to be avoided at all costs. Dynastar has found a unique way of keeping the forebody in contact by making it more supple longitudinally without compromising the torsional rigidity needed for edge grip. Called Powerdrive, it’s a 3-piece sidewall that dampens shock, accentuates edge pressure and effectively uncouples the core from the sidewall structure. This last function is particularly significant because it’s what allows the Speed Zone 12 Ti to stay smooth and accurate over rough terrain, flowing over irregularities instead of bouncing off them. “Hugs the snow,” one tester confirms, adding, “You don’t feel any deflections or minor bounces.” A full layer of Titanal works with the interior metal laminate
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2020 Women’s Technical

There are no women’s race skis made for consumers, only unisex skis in shorter lengths. Thus has it ever been so. If you calculated all the varieties of race models already being built at great expense by the brands committed to the category, you’d understand why creating another whole layer of duplication isn’t in the cards. Plus women who belong on these skis don’t require pandering, as anyone who has ever seen Michaela or Lindsay ski in person can attest.

Since Technical skis are usually direct spin-offs from a race design, little wonder there are so few carving skis being built specifically for women. That’s the bad news. The good news is that the few sticks being made for this elite female are all excellent.

The 2020 Women’s Technical Field

Little by little, the women’s Technical category continues to add models to its lineup, offering a nearly full field of options to women who want elite hard snow performance. But expanding the market selection hasn’t substantially altered buyers’ interest, or lack thereof, at least in the American market. Our test team isn’t focused on the category and it shows in our spotty results.

Our hit-or-miss coverage includes three returning veterans and two newbies, the Kästle DX73 and a ski we haven’t had data on before, Elan’s Insomnia. As we did with the unisex Recommended models, the women’s field is listed in order of total score.

Atomic Cloud 12

[Neither the Cloud 12 nor its scores have changed since this review was posted two seasons ago.] There isn’t an ounce of condescension in Atomic’s Cloud 12. Of course it doesn’t meet FIS specs, but that’s the whole point of the Technical category, to apply race room production to more versatile shapes. It retains two game-changing features that separate it, behaviorally, from the rest of the field. The first feature to catch the eye is a rod that runs from under the binding, where it’s anchored in an elastomer base, to roughly the center of the forebody. Called Servotec, the rod is pre-stressed, so its rest position is already exerting down force on the front of the ski. When the ski is bowed during a turn, the tension on the rod relaxes; when the load on the ski is released, the rod’s recoil snaps the ski back on the snow,
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Dynastar Intense 12

[Neither the Intense 12 nor its scores have changed since this review was posted two seasons ago.] Powerdrive is Dynastar’s name for a 3-piece sidewall which functions as a unique damping system. Stacked on edge alongside the core, it consists of a soft inner layer, a hard center section and a dynamic outer wall. Any time a viscoelastic material, like that used in the inner piece of Powerdrive, is bonded to Titanal (center part), the resulting element will act as a natural shock absorber, so the forebody of the Intense 12, where the Powerdrive feature resides, should stay nice and quiet on hard snow. But Powerdrive serves another, more vital function: by un-coupling the core from the outer sidewall, the central laminates that dictate the ski’s behavior are allowed to shear, moving as the ski is pressured. This enhanced suppleness allows the ski to respond to subtle variations in the
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Stöckli Laser MX

[Neither the Laser MX nor its scores have changed since this review was posted last season.] Stöckli takes racing very, very seriously. Perhaps that’s why the Swiss brand has waited forever to make a women’s Laser; if making a women’s model entails a compromise on performance, forget it. To make sure the new Laser MX would be worthy, Stöckli teamed up with World Cup star Tina Maze to concoct it. The result of collaboration with the erstwhile world’s fastest woman is a bullet that whips in and out of the fall line as if it were impatient to be another two turns ahead. “A snappy ladies carver that finishes a turn with a happy snap that put a smile on everyone’s face,” writes one ecstatic evaluator. That the Laser MX is both lightning quick to the edge and comfortable at GS race speeds is a testament to its meticulous construction.
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Kästle DX73 W

For years, Kästle acted as if the women-specific ski market didn’t exist. Even its two-model LX series wasn’t made for women, per se, just for lighter skiers. If women wanted a Kästle, all they had to do was buy a shorter length, which, in Kästle’s defense, they did offer in all key models. For 20/20, Kästle has at last anointed three models as made expressly for women, of which the DX73 W is the narrowest. (The others are the DX85 W and FX96 W.) While the DX73 W inherits the shape of the LX73 it replaces, it isn’t a replica. Each of the new model’s deviations from the old is aimed to make it a better match for more women. First, the DX73 W has no metal in its lay-up, which results in a significant loss in weight and gain in flexibility. In another weight reducing move, the wood core
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Elan Insomnia

The Technical category is devoted to classic carving skis, a genre that remains robust in central Europe and is all but moribund in America. If you keep up with events in this obscure corner of our market, then you’re already aware that the mainstream European brands still take pride in their carving creations. No brand is more wedded to the concept of dual-track, continuous carving than Elan, and it shows in models like the Insomnia. Elan’s signature – and singular – carving feature is called Amphibio, an asymmetrical baseline that’s fully cambered on the inside edge and modestly rockered on the outside so that the two skis will remain in perfect parallel as they pirouette down the piste. Short-radius turns are a particular specialty, as it’s always easier to coax a long turn out of short-radius sidecut (by reducing the edge angle), than it is to short turn out of
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