Phoenix R13 Ti

Blizzard applied its well-honed knack for morphing a unisex template into a genuine women’s model to its new Thunderbird/Phoenix series of mostly Frontside rides.  The flagship Phoenix R13 Ti cuts a women’s specific (W.S.D.) TrueBlend core into a unique sidecut that shifts the entire shape forward 1cm, then moves the mount point to match it.

The Phoenix R13 Ti isn’t a watered-down design, but a brilliant, high-energy carver meant for women who know how to arc it and spark it. The international team of women who fined tuned its design are technical masters who log hundreds of test runs in pursuit of a better ski. When one of our female testers essayed the men’s Thunderbird R15 WB, she gave it perfect scores for technical merit; since the Phoenix R13 Ti is made along the same lines, it’s highly probable the women’s skis can rip just as well.

Yumi 84

The Völkl Yumi 84 is what we in the retail trade refer to a “step-up” ski. It isn’t a top-of-the-line charger but neither is it as frail as fettuccine, like so many entry-level package skis.  It’s called a step-up ski because it’s bound to be an improvement over whatever is serving this skier at the moment, be a rental ski, a hand-me-down, a buying mistake or something fished out of a bargain bin at a ski swap.

Equipped with an all-wood core and partial topsheet of Titanal, the Yumi 84 has the intestinal fortitude to cope with life on groomers, where its gift for short-radius turns encourages intermediates to get their act together. At 84mm underfoot, the Yumi 84 is fat for a Frontside ski, so it can manage its business in a foot of fluff without becoming verklemmt.

As befits a mid-market model, the Yumi prefers everything in moderation: speed that’s not too fast, groomers that aren’t too hard, loose snow that isn’t too heavy. Its 3D Radius sidecut is adept at any turn shape, but is biased towards short-radius turns.

The need to have a transitional ski as one’s skills develop isn’t restricted to youth. For its gentle demeanor and relatively soft flex, we award the Völkl Yumi a Silver Skier Selection. 

Kanjo 84

The mid-priced Kanjo 84 can’t compete, performance-wise, with Völkl’s top-of-the-line offerings like the M6 Mantra, but it isn’t meant to. The Kanjo 84 is meant for a Frontside skier who resides somewhere in the vast expanse between raw beginner and accomplished...

Thunderbird R15 WB

Compared to other elite carvers in the Frontside genre, the R15 W stands out for its rebound energy. If you give it a little jab in the belly of the turn, it will lift you off the snow – a dual-track carving heresy – and air mail you across the fall line. The energetic response is largely due to the R15 WB’s fully cambered baseline; Blizzard alleges there’s 2mm of rocker at the tip and tail, but I defy anyone to feel it. If you want to corner like a cutting horse, get forward on the R15 WB and you can slingshot yourself cross hill to your heart’s content.

One reason its grip is so secure is the T-Bird R15 WB takes it two sheets of Titanal all the way to the edge, so it never wimps out, even when the snow is adamantium hard. Three millimeters of the topsheet are exposed, to help reduce chipping and dings. Strong enough to race on and even more fun to free-ski, the R15 WB will become a daily driver for a lot of proficient skiers.

BTW, while not many are likely to find rack space on American shop walls, there’s an R15 with a 70mm waist that makes a 13.5m arc in a 165cm, roughly the radius of a FIS slalom. There’s also a 4-model family of lower-energy, lower-priced Thunderbirds for all the Frontside skiers who are still developing their edging skills.

Disruption 78 Ti

As befits the brand that made “rocker” an enduring entry in the ski design lexicon, K2 hasn’t paid much attention to the ski market below an 80mm waist width – where cambered baselines still dwell – since the brand lost interest in racing around the turn of the millennium. In 20/21, K2 error corrected with a vengeance by launching the 10-model Disruption series of carving skis.

As is often the case in the world ski market, K2’s new carving collection straddles the Technical/Frontside divide, with the vector models landing on the skinny side, and the more versatile, less demanding models populating the slightly wider Frontside domain. In the Disruption series, the 78 Ti isn’t a watered-down carver, just a wider one, as it borrows the same construction and almost fully cambered baseline of the flagship Disruption MTi.

Both the power and forgiveness inherent in the Disruption 78 Ti derive from the same source, a single band of Titanal the runs nearly the entire length of the ski in a uniform width that matches the waist dimension. This creates an edge that holds firmly yet softly, as if its aluminum alloy guts were wrapped in velvet. On soft groomers, it feels like the edge is cushioned yet never loses contact, thanks in large part to a baseline that has zero tail elevation and only a smidgeon of early rise at the tip.