Spitfire 76 RB

If you don’t know how to engage a ski at the top of the turn, and don’t care to know, you might as well stop reading about the Nordica Dobermann Spitfire 76 RB right now. It has the cleanest, highest, earliest connection to the next turn in a category in which this particular trait is prized. But if you’re still lingering on the downhill edge when you should already be tilting in the other direction, you’ll miss the moment. Don’t worry if you do, for the Spitfire 76 will find the edge as soon as you give it a chance. But part of what makes this review an unblushing rave will pass you by.

If you’re hooked on the G’s generated in a short turn, you’ll feel right at home on this cobra-quick stick. It has the reflexes of a fencer, moving unerringly into the center of the arc where it ignites and, as it says in its name, fires the skier across the fall line. The Dobermann Spitfire 76 RB has all the qualities a strong skier expects in a race ski, just de-tuned a red hair so it’s more fun for freeskiing. Jim Schaffner from Start Haus, a big man with an engrained race technique for which the term “powerful” seems inadequate, wrote of the Spitfire 76, “I felt like I could do anything on this ski. It’s fun, lively, snappy, with a dash of the Dobermann race heritage feel.”

Thunderbird R15 WB

In the fat ski genres where Americans buy the vast majority of their skis, Blizzard is riding a decade-long hot streak. If you only look at skis over 85mm at the waist, it seems like Blizzard hasn’t missed a beat since the launch of its Flipcore baseline. But if you take a step back and look at the world market, there’s a category or two of carvers, skis meant to execute perfect, technical turns on hard snow, where Blizzard is all but invisible, at least in the U.S. For whatever reasons, its Quattro series never captured the imagination of the American carving public. The only way Blizzard was able to penetrate the Frontside segment stateside was with a tiny-waisted, off-trail model (Brahma 82), which is sort of like entering the category via the service entrance.

Consider the problem solved. The Thunderbird R15 WB, introduced just last year, doesn’t try to mask its racing pedigree with a carbon overdose; the communication with the angled edge is crisp and clear. The Thunderbird’s snow feel is like HDTV compared to the Quattro’s low-def reception. One reason the T-bird R15 WB feels so sublimely connected is its TrueBlend core has been modified to fit the hard-snow environment. By re-positioning tendrils of high-density beech within strata of lighter poplar, TrueBlend creates a perfectly balanced flex for each size. This may sound like esoterica only an expert can feel, but it’s palpable, and it’s wonderful.

Complementing TrueBlend is a carbon platform underfoot to help muffle shocks without losing the precision of the ski/snow connection. Called Active Carbon Armor, it’s essentially the carbon inlay under the topskin of the Blizzard Firebird race skis brought to the surface, where it can free up the core to bend more freely. With this combination of wood and carbon, Blizzard has finally found a way to make a carver that is both quiet on the edge and explosive off it. And boy, is it fun to drive.

Supershape e-Titan

Of the four Supershape models, the one that underwent the most telling transformation two years ago was the e-Titan. In previous generations, the Titan and Rally were very close in every respect. In the current Supershape family, the e-Titan has put more distance between it and its thinner sibling.

It’s not just that the e-Titan plumped up to an 84mm waist; it also was trimmed down at tip and tail. By taking some of the shape out of the sidecut, the e-Titan became more adapted to irregular terrain and even powder, while the e-Rally remained a purebred carver. To put it more plainly, the e-Titan is more at home in a big-bellied GS arc while the e-Rally is genetically inclined to SL turns.

Comparing the 22/23 e-Titan to the Titans of yore, the latest issue feels smoother flexing and easier to compress at less than rocket speeds. This is due in part to how Head takes advantage of Graphene’s ridiculous strength-to-weight ratio to re-distribute heavier materials so they’re not all concentrated underfoot. Reducing the core profile underfoot and making the middle of the ski softer allows it bend more fully, unleashing the e-Titan’s flawless grip. The flex pattern is matched to the sidecut and baseline of each length to achieve a more fluid, balanced flex pattern that makes skiing feel as natural as walking.

Head’s deep roots in race ski design has honed a keen interest and expertise in exotic damping methods, a tradition continued in the e-Titan. Gone are the previous KERS piezos in the tail of the i.Titan. Head’s new form of shock therapy, Energy Management Circuit (EMC), is located in key vibrational nodes on either side of the binding. The EMC system is pre-set to nullify vibrations when they hit 80Hz, which you won’t hit unless you’re cooking, but if you do hit this threshold it will become an addiction. You won’t be able to stop hitting it. Jim Schaffner of Start Haus, who still attacks every run like it was race course, called the e-Titan, “Awesome! Playful yet powerful! A home run!”

Supershape e-Rally

Head didn’t invent the shaped ski, but when the Carving Revolution was in its infancy it was the first major brand to commit to the concept with its Cyber series. Over the last quarter century its commitment hasn’t wavered, consistently offering several skis in its collection with curvaceous sidecuts. For the last decade, the focus of Head’s non-race carving models has been the Supershape series, a family that remains intact in 22/23, returning unchanged from the incarnations introduced just two years ago.

In light of its long history of making category-crushing carvers, it’s saying something to assert that the latest batch of Supershapes is the best ever and that among them the e-Rally hits the sweetspot. As it approaches a new turn, the e-Rally is like the smarty pants in class who is practically jumping out of his seat because he knows the right answer. At the first hint of recognition that its pilot wants to change direction, it dips and tugs into the turn; all it needs is a little more encouragement in the form of a tilted edge and it’s cutting a short-radius arc you couldn’t bobble if you tried. As the skier’s energy shifts to the tail at arc’s end, the e-Rally provides an earthquake-proof platform for transitioning to the next exhilarating turn.

With its 54mm-drop between tip and waist width along with two thick, end-to-end, wall-to-wall sheets of Titanal, you’d surmise the e-Rally isn’t open to suggestion about turn shape. But you’d be wrong. Sure, if you take full advantage of its sidecut you can cut a world-class slalom turn, but back off the edge angle and you can extract whatever shape you want.

A parallel point can be made about the e-Rally’s attitude about speed: it’s not mandatory to go 40 mph, but you’ll never discover the amazing effect of Head’s Energy Management Circuit (EMC) if you don’t give it some gas. When you have sufficient energy coursing through its system, the e-Rally becomes both calmer and more responsive, reacting to a jolt of added pressure with palpable forward propulsion.