With the new Laser AR, Stöckli has bridged the gap between its Laser and Stormrider collections, moving its widest carver within 5mm (waist width) of its narrowest all-mountain model. At 83mm underfoot, the Laser AR is one of a cluster of new models that blur the distinction between on-trail and all-terrain models. In theory, an all-terrain ski would have more accommodations for powder-like conditions, but in practice a great many skiers with all-mountain skills spend upwards of 70% of their time on groomers. For them, a great carver like the Laser AR that won’t wilt in the face of a little loose snow is a more sensible option than a double-rockered fatty.
But even a large dose of reality won’t pry Americans away from their double-rockered fat boys, which is why Stöckli makes the Stormrider 95 and 105, both of which return in 2020 with two tweaks. The top Titanal sheet gets the same Tritec tapering as was applied two seasons ago to the bottom sheet, making these models a tad lighter, with a lower swingweight and slightly softer flex. The sidewalls switch to a more durable polymer called Polywall, which also provides an extra measure of damping to smooth the ride on hard snow.
An interesting development is unfolding on the system front, where bindings and skis must operate as a set. Traditionally, the ski maker develops the binding interface but uses the housing and brakes of its binding partner (which may or may not have a common ownership). To make a better binding interface, Stöckli wanted more control over the rest of the package, and so was born a collaboration between Stöckli and Salomon to develop not just new plates, but new bindings, as well. I suspect this commercial alliance will prove immediately beneficial in the race theater; how far it infiltrates into the consumer market, beyond demo bindings, will be fascinating to watch.