For most of the 1970’s, 80’s and into the 90’s, Rossignol was king of the roost, the most recognized trademark in a market crammed with brands that did not survive this epoch. It built a race department that was the envy of all, with stars like Alberto Tomba and what seemed like every significant female racer in the world. Eventually, maintaining its race stable became too expensive, other companies innovated while Rossi held eroding ground and Quicksilver’s brief flirtation with ownership did neither brand any favors.
To recover from the Quicksilver debacle, Rossi needed a star product or two to restore the brand to retail relevance. The rebound began with the core of the line, the Experience series, led technically by the ultra-powerful E98 and in sales by a model that remained a mainstay until its recent retirement, the E88. In 2013, the French brand re-staked its claim to carving excellence with the HP Pursuit. In 2014, it knocked the cover off the ball with the Super 7, Squad 7 and Soul 7.
It’s rare for skis as forgiving as the 7 Series to also deliver OMG performance, but Rossi found a fresh way to deliver the stability only length provides without making a Big Mountain ski feel big when flipping edge to edge. With the Super 7, Rossignol restored the word “playful” to the Powder ski lexicon, a nearly forgotten attribute among these tanker-sized skis.
No sooner did the Soul 7 set every sales record for a Big Mountain ski than Rossi set about improving it, not just every few years, but every season. It followed its game-changing Carbon Alloy Matrix by reconfiguring its alluring Air Tip, integrating Air Tip 2.0 into the forebody and moving the contact point further forward.
Five seasons ago, this impulse to innovate was channeled into Rossi’s cornerstone Experience series. The Experience collection was made more homogeneous, in both technology and graphic presentation, than the line it replaced. To review, the previous Experience generation altered construction with every step down the price ladder. In contrast, the 2019 Experience 94 Ti and 88 Ti shared the same story, Line Control Technology (LCT). LCT is a vertical, central ribbon of Titanal, shrouded in a shock-sucking elastomer and embedded between wood laminates. It’s called “Line Control” because its role is to keep the ski from counterflexing, thereby maintaining snow contact and trajectory.
In 2021, Rossi again took a scalpel to the forebody of the Experience flagships, trimming down the sidecut dimensions so the ski behaves more like a sedan than a sports car, particularly at the top of the turn. The Experience 92 Ti Basalt and Experience 88 Ti Basalt retained the same technology package, so the choice between them was more about terrain ratios (e.g., 60/40 on-trail/off-trail) than skier talent level. The Experience 84 AI was made for a less skilled skier, substituting ABS for Titanal in its version of LCT.
The big story three years ago was the debut of Blackops as a full-fledged family and the concomitant conclusion of the legendary 7 series. We may never again see a Big Mountain model dominate sales the way the Soul 7 did, but you can’t ride the same horse forever. The Blackops collection represented a clean break with the past, but to tell its tale properly requires a quick review of recent history.
The Blackops project began in 2016/17 in response to athletes’ requests for a powder ski that didn’t oblige them to charge the fall line at warp speed. They asked for something more playful, supple and above all, twin-tipped; the ability to land backwards was essential. Another key component was a deeper sidecut that would allow a 118 to cut a short radius turn if it were laid over. Thus was born the Blackops 118, later to be rechristened as the Gamer.
The next step in the 3-year development of the Blackops clan was the creation of the Blackops 98, renamed the HolyShred for its public unveiling. Like its big bro the 118, the Blackops 98 was a twin-tip, but to upgrade its in-bounds behavior a Ti platform was added underfoot. Altering the length and width of the Ti plate allowed Rossi engineers to dial in the ideal flex for each size of the new Blackops. (Sidecut and baseline are also re-modeled for each length.) The development process that began with the secretive, athlete-driven Blackops 118 and the underground Blackops 98 led to the expanded lineup that materialized three years ago.
As Rossi considered its options for a full line of Blackops to replace the 7 series, it became clear that not every advanced, all-terrain skier expected to be landing his or her airs in reverse, so the twin-tip feature wasn’t found elsewhere in the 2022 Blackops collection. The emerging star of the Blackops squad was the Sender Ti (106mm @ 187cm), that’s more powerful than the Soul 7 HD it replaces without being any harder to ski. The Sender Ti would indeed become the prototype for an entire Sender (and Rallybird) series of off-trail skis in 2023.
The Blackops series represented a calculated choice to make a clean break with the recent past. Relatively speaking, the Experience series changed very little in 2021, but this was the proverbial calm before the storm. In 2022, Rossi would steer the Experience clan in an entirely new direction.
Rossi had been tinkering with its Experience series for several years, but what the legendary French brand did two years ago was totally redefine it and redesign it from top to bottom. Rossignol identified a new skier type and built the new Experience (EXP, for short) series around him and her. Rossi used the rubric “All-Resort” in lieu of “All-Mountain,” to underscore that this skier is a new breed. (Actually, Salomon used the term, “All-Mountain Resort” to define its XDR collection a few years ago, but the XDR models never had the market impact of the EXP’s, and Salomon wasn’t trying to define a new skier type.)
To understand what Rossi did with its EXP skis, you must first grok that they’re made for a resort visitor who doesn’t intend to ski every day of his or her precious vacation. Skiing is on the agenda, of course, but the modern resort offers so much more, starting with an app that lets you record every Instagram-worthy second.
With so much to do and so little time, the skiing part needs to be simple. All EXP baselines are double-rockered, so they’re all equally able to swivel. Viscoelastic elements in the forebody keep the center section calm, imparting a sense of perpetual security. It’s telling that the flagship ski, the EXP 86 Ti, is an All-Mountain East model, and all the narrower and/or lighter EXP’s reside in the Frontside genre, which is groomer country.
Rossignol is doubtless correct that a great many skiers engage with the sport for reasons that have nothing to do with tearing à toute vitesse straight down the fall line. Skiing with friends and family, being outdoors in the clean, winter air, enjoying the sunshine and soft snow is sufficient motivation for them. These are recreational skiers in the truest sense of that term.
Given how Rossi has defined the target skiers for the latest Experience series, the line is a perfect fit for where and how they ski. Skiers who long for the E98 of yore can find their more developed skill set rewarded somewhere in Rossi’s massive Hero collection; the new Experience series has shifted its focus to serve the resort visitor who just wants to have fun.
As I just laid out in copious detail, Rossi’s 2022 Blackops collection was an amalgamation of different designs and unrelated model names. For 2023, Rossi decided to reorganize its assets into two distinct, albeit related, families: Sender Ti and Blackops. As the best of the 2022 hodgepodge, the Sender Ti deserved to become the focal point of the new collection. Just to be sure its star product was unmistakable, Rossi made the flagship Sender 106 Ti+ from a richer recipe than was used in the Sender 104 Ti and Sender 94 Ti. The head of the Sender Ti family is a real-deal Power ski, while the 104 Ti and 94 Ti share the same, Finesse-oriented construction. Complementing the unisex Sender Ti clan is a quartet of Rallybird models made for women.
The Sender Ti/Rallybird family are targeted at mainstream, directional skiers, which is all well and good, except that Blackops always stood for New School freeride antics, including riding switch. So Rossi kept the Blackops name to designate a pair of twintips it culled from the old Blackops clan: the 2022 Holy Shred became the 2023 (and 2024) Blackops 98, in two artsy, alternative cosmetics, while the erstwhile Gamer returned in the twin guise of the Blackops 118 Swamp or River, that take full advantage of their surface area to create lovely nature tableaux. To further capitalize on the Blackops mystique, Rossi created a 92mm-waisted option, with the youth-market-friendly MSRP of $529.
The 2024 Season
The most important ski to debut this year is both on the cutting edge of current ski design and an homage to the most popular ski design of yesteryear, a race slalom ski adapted for recreational use. What makes the new Rossignol Essential so innovative is its laser focus on recyclability and reducing the environmental impact of making a pair of skis. The justifiable fanfare over the initial successes of this project – detailed in our Realskiers’ review – tends to distract one’s attention from the usual matter of how well it performs on snow.
Let’s not lose sight of the fact that the Essential is a very good, if not great, ski. Back in the day, it might have been as popular as the legendary teal 4S K. Not too many Americans are still addicted to cobra-quick, close-to-the-fall-line carving that is the Essential’s wheelhouse, but I expect the early adapters who become Essential owners will be over-the-moon with its performance level. Selecting a classic slalom model as the harbinger of a new way of making – and re-making – skis seems a curious choice in today’s all-terrain-obsessed market… until you ski it.
Rossi’s other major project initiative this year is a new Frontside family of unabashed carvers called Forza, that replaces the retiring React series. The name of the flagship, the Forza 70o V-Ti, tells us that the target skier is a proficient, dual-track carver consistently capable of achieving a very high edge angle. Mercifully, one doesn’t have to achieve a full 70 degrees of tilt to extract a silken carve, and the high taper angle between tip and tail gives the pilot a lot of control over turn shape.
Despite the most abundant snow year in recent memory, we were never able to jump on a pair of the new Sender Free 110 Ti +, often because there was so much snow it was hard to move skis from point A to point B. We sincerely hope to get another shot at them at the earliest opportunity.
When I received Rossi’s first press release about the Essential, it sounded to me more like a publicity stunt than a product pitch. Demonstrating that the technology already exists to make a ski that is 77% recyclable sounds all eco-cuddly, but my jaded brain-filter filed the announcement under “Inflated Product Puffery” and turned its attention to concocting my next podcast. My blithe assumption that Rossignol’s new ski was designed to distract attention from the absence …READ MORE
Because the Frontside category comprises the most complete price/ability range in the ski market, its membership includes models meant for both end of the skills spectrum. In other words, some models are made to assist the uninitiated along the path to conscious competence, while others serve those who’ve already achieved total carving awareness. The Rossignol Experience 82 Basalt is the rare bird that can serve both initiates taking the next step along their journey and …READ MORE
Rossignol has re-dedicated its core, Experience series to fit the lifestyle of the modern resort visitor for whom skiing is just a part of his Instagram vacation. The top model in the EXP series is no longer aimed at an all-mountain expert, but someone who wants to savor a bouquet of experiences of which skiing is only one scent. The Experience 82 Ti will make the new, all-resort skier feel like a world-beater. It eases …READ MORE
The EXP 86 Basalt has been created to serve a new breed of in-bounds skier, which Rossi refers to as “All-Resort.” Skiing is an important part of the overall resort experience, but it’s not the whole ball of wax for this resort visitor. While this person is an avid participant, he’s not going to go wandering out of bounds and most of his powder runs will be on the side of the trail. It’s probably …READ MORE
The Experience W 86 Basalt from Rossignol is part of a tiny minority of Women’s All-Mountain East models that headlines a mostly Frontside collection. Rossi has completely re-imagined its Experience series, long the mainstay of its core recreational models, to fit what it perceives as a new skier type, the “All-Resort” skier. Skiing is still an important part of the overall resort experience, but it’s not the whole ball of wax for this resort visitor. …READ MORE
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 …READ MORE
The last few years have seen several off-trail series that have adopted a less-is-more approach to metal in their female model families. Rossignol’s carefully allocated measure of metal in its Rallybird 104 Ti fits neatly in this popular trend. When selecting the right metal dosage for the new Rallybird 104 Ti, Rossi elected to use the relatively shorter Ti plate of the new Sender 104 Ti, along with a bottom laminate of Carbon Alloy Matrix …READ MORE
There are several clear signals that the Rossignol Sender 104 Ti isn’t meant for the same skier as its big brother, the Sender 106 Ti+. While the only difference in their sidecut is the 104’s narrower waist, that’s about where the similarities end. The first hint that they aren’t equals is the plus symbol attached to the fatter ski. It’s meant to imply that there’s an extra dose of Titanal in the slightly more expensive …READ MORE