Kästle’s current MX83, now in its fourth season, is both typical of a current trend and atypical in a way all its own.  The trend it’s party to is how a series of modest modifications amount to a significant change, especially in Finesse qualities.  It’s unique among such upgraded models in that the name it’s re-assuming happens to be the legendary MX83, inarguably one of the greatest Frontside models ever made.

Unlike many Frontside models, the MX83 has no shock-sucking binding interface to muffle snow feel. If purchased as a system, the Tyrolia binding it’s mated with connects toe and heel but remains relatively close to the ski. This gives the MX83 a sensitive feel for the snow surface that would be smothered by heavy plates and lifters. “This ski has great feel for the snow,” confirms Bobo’s Theron Lee.

The reason the revival of the MX83 ought to interest experts everywhere is because it responds so intuitively to technical commands. All you have to do is look where you want to go, and you’re there. Its fully cambered baseline feels super-glued to the snow, inviting speeds that would cause lesser lights to shake loose. Most skis this torsionally rigid don’t flow over and around moguls too well, but the MX83 has an almost liquid flow bred into its bones. Cautionary note: if mogul performance really matters to you, stay away from the 182cm length, as it’s not too nifty a drifter, and it’s too long for troughs cut by shorter skis and boards.

One of the best indicators of a great ski is how well it performs in conditions for which it wasn’t made.  By this measure, the MX83 remains an all-time great. Sure, it’s a gas to make deep trenches in corduroy at speeds that on another ski would be terrifying, but the MX83 adopts the same attitude towards all terrain. It doesn’t care where you point it because it’s confident in its abilities, a self-assurance that invariably rubs off on its pilot.

Forza 70o V-Ti

Unlike some of the power-obsessed avatars of the Carving clan that dominate the Technical and Frontside Power rankings, the Forza 70o V-Ti has a refreshingly open mind about turn radius. True, it’s 14m sidecut is made to cut a tidy corner when laid on edge, but a deeper dive into its sidecut dimensions reveals how its shape enhances the skier’s perception of its versatility.

Shape is the defining design feature of every ski in the carving class; of course, how the ski is constructed matters, too, but all the best carvers share a rich construction. Take a closer look at the sidecut dimensions cited at the top of this review.  Note that there’s a 58mm differential between the widest point in the tip and the narrowest point at the waist. That’s a huge number, more than you’ll find on a World Cup Slalom race ski, and the main reason the Forza 70 impressed every tester with its ability to latch onto an edge at the tippy-top of the turn.

By maximizing its pull into the turn and the facility at which it releases the edge, the Forza gives its pilot a lot of choices in turn shape. Because it begins on a tight trajectory, it’s easy to keep it on that path, but just as easy to let it fire back into the fall line. Veteran ski and boot tester Jim Schaffner was dazzled by the Forza’s range: “Precise, accurate, lively: what a fantastic tool! Balanced well fore/aft, so it has a large sweet spot.  This ski would have a spot in my quiver,” he concludes.

I found the Forza to be as easy to steer as it is accurate on edge, nailing that elusive, balanced blend of Finesse and Power properties. Of course, it won’t float or drift as well as a ski with more surface area and less sidecut, but these limitations are inherent in all the best carvers in its category. For the easy manner in which it rolls on and off a steeply angled edge, we confer upon the Forza 70o V-Ti a Silver Skier Selection.

Deacon 80

There’s a trail of clues that would lead a ski behavioral therapist to believe that the Völkl Deacon 80 is the inferior in the relationship with its bigger brother, the Deacon 84.  For starters, there’s its price, which works out to $100 less at retail. Price is usually an indicator of the cost of goods, and sure enough, the Deacon 80 uses glass for its 3-piece top laminate instead of the Titanal in the 84. And the Deacon 80 is, of course, narrower, which among carving skis can sometimes indicate that it’s geared slightly lower.

While these indicators are all true enough, the reality on snow is that the Deacon 80 is definitely in its brother’s league but it offers a different bundle of sensations. It’s more of a step laterally than down the product quality ladder. It uses the same structure as the 84’s Titanal Frame, with glass and a slice of spring steel in lieu of Titanal. The 80 copies the 3D.Ridge and 3D.Glass construction of the 84, it has exactly the same size splits (ranging from 162cm to 182cm) and while it’s slimmer, it’s thinner by the same 4mm everywhere, so its sidecut radii are also identical to the 84’s.

Alert readers will note the reference to “radii” in the last sentence, for the Deacon 80 also mimics the 3D Radius Sidecut of its big bro. The multi-radius shape is what gives the Deacon 80 the ability to make short turns or long on a whim; when the skier applies the additional edge angle needed to execute a tidy turn, it automatically activates the tighter-radius mid-section. Flatten out the ski and it reverts to a comfortable, long-radius cruiser.

According to our results, the Deacon 80 performs just a hair below its beefier bro in all technical criteria except the all-important one of continuous carving, the defining characteristic of the Frontside genre. While it’s not quite as lively coming off the edge as the 84, for this very reason it’s easier to move edge to edge without breaking contact with the snow. 

evolv 84

If you assembled a personality profile of the Liberty evolv 84 based on appearances, you could be excused for thinking it’s some variety of all-mountain ski. Which I’m sure it’s intended to be, but it behaves more like a GS ski with a fall-line fixation. Its sunny cosmetics suggest a free spirit that will float over anything fluffy; in reality, the evolv 84 is one of the most connected carvers in the Frontside genre.

The reason the evolv 84 is so well planted on planet Earth is its triple-ribbed core. A little background: Liberty grew up as a brand building bamboo and carbon skis that would bring both lightweight and stability to wide-body skis. Then designer and co-owner Dan Chalfant conceived of Vertical Metal Technology (VMT), aluminum ribs placed vertically in the core so they would resist deflection more than the putty-soft horizontal Titanal sheets that are the norm.

As embodied in the evolv 84, VMT creates a ski with a fall-line disposition. Short turns tend to be shallow, keeping close to the shortest path downhill. If you want it to head cross-hill, get forward and drive the evolv 84 as you would a race ski. Its tail provides a platform you can trust, so while its turn finish isn’t explosive, it’s totally trustworthy.

Because it’s not a system ski – there’s no plate or other interface between the skier and the snow – the evolv 84 has a clarity of snow feel that most carvers with its tenacity lack.  John Beesley, erstwhile head of the Mt. Rose Ski School,” praised the evolv 84 for its “great snow-ski feedback.”

Disruption 78 Ti

As is often the case in the world ski market, K2’s carving collection straddles the Technical/Frontside divide, with the vector models landing on the skinny side (in K2’s case, 71m-74mm waists), and the more versatile, less demanding (and often less expensive) 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.

While the Disruption 78 Ti is a departure from K2’s twin obsessions with Freeride and Freestyle designs, it’s pure K2 in its emphasis on ease of use. You don’t have to have perfect timing or Navy Seal fitness, just point, tip, repeat, and look Ma!, you’re carving! Okay, it’s not quite that simple, but damn near. Anyone buying his/her first pair of skis who anticipates staying on groomers for the foreseeable future will discover that the Disruption 78Ti encourages proper edging skills without requiring them.