Every brand, large and small, foreign or domestic, has to make a choice about how they want to build a ski. Once they settle on a construction and the equipment to execute it is on premises, they tend to stay with it for the long haul. Head’s wheelhouse construction could not be more fundamental or more sound: while other brands have obsessed with making a cheaper, higher margin ski, Head has stayed with what it knows will never fail them: a stout wood core, two sheets of titanal and carefully calibrated, pre-impregnated fiberglass to wrap it all up. To those who might quibble some of Head’s skis are over-built, we would counter, wouldn’t you rather own a brand that errs on the side of excellence?
As an Austrian brand, Head has always placed a premium on race results, and its investments in this area have paid impressive dividends. In a sport where wins can be measured in the thousandth of a second, who comes out on top may appear serendipitous; when athlete after athlete is holding up a crystal globe recognizing a season of superiority, something other than serendipity is afoot.
While Head’s victories on the World Cup can’t be discounted, translating gold medals into dollars hasn’t been easy. The American market is not race-driven, to put it mildly. Americans want to go where they wanna go, do what they wanna, wanna do; we’re all about freeride, dude! Head, to its great credit, is first and foremost about technique. Head was the first major brand to treat the Carving trend seriously and make it part of its identity. Hooking into the top of a turn is part of the brand’s essential make-up. Even its recently retired off-trail Monster series had a baseline and tail design more like a carving ski than the typical smear sticks found in the Big Mountain genre. It shouldn’t surprise that Head’s off-trail skis once languished in anonymity in the U.S.
Until the 2017/18 season, when Head unveiled the Kore series. Three years earlier, in 2014/15, Head had changed its entire women’s collection, centering the new series on its use of Graphene, carbon in a matrix one-atom thick. Since then, Graphene has spread through every product category, finally reaching the off-trail Kore collection. Capitalizing on Graphene’s obscene strength-to-weight ratio, Head matched it with Koroyd honeycomb, a triaxial weave of carbon and ultralight Karuba wood to build the Kore’s core, topping it with fleece to minimize mass.
It’s no exaggeration to say the Kore series has catapulted Head into hitherto unknown sales territory for its All-Mountain, Big Mountain and Powder models. Head attempted another coup three years ago with a new lightweight series of system carving skis called V-Series (for its high taper ratio between tip width and tail width). The V-Series uses Graphene in a construction it calls LYT Tech, applying the same materials used in Kore models to make exceptionally lightweight carving skis. Paired commercially with the Nexo-LYT boot – also built with Graphene and made to be as light as possible – Head pioneered a new generation of skis that don’t require as much mass to be stable at speed.
Head is betting heavily that the LIB trend isn’t a fad but a here-to-stay reality. The V-Series of (mostly) Frontside skis, featuring LYT Tech, replaced the Instinct system skis that were built along the same Old School lines as the Monsters. The Monsters have followed the Instincts into retirement, yielding their spot in Head’s line-up to the narrowest Kore, the 87.
The contrast between Head’s two carving collections, Supershape and. V-Shape, couldn’t be starker. When Head added Graphene to the Supershapes a few seasons ago, it used the weight savings to add more metal to the mix. The V-Shapes eliminate metal everywhere but in the edges. The Supershapes aim exclusively at skiers with elite skills; the V-Shapes hit every price point from coach to first class. The V-Shapes also have companion LYT Tech boots, a high degree of product integration often seen in backcountry ensembles but not much elsewhere in the current market.
Another major differentiator of the V-Series is part of its name: compared to Supershapes, the V-Series tail is considerably narrower, allowing the less skilled skier to scrub the end of the turn with impunity. The gulf between the two carving families grew wider last year, as the 2021 Supershapes raised their collective game with a new damping system that gave them a fifth gear.
That Head should continue to offer two families of carving skis with contrasting personalities speaks to both the popularity of on-trail skiing in Europe and the brand’s long-standing commitment to carving as the cornerstone of the recreational market. Since the advent of shaped skis, no other brand has been as invested in the carving category, both financially and philosophically, as Head. Its 4-model Supershape series has been the benchmark for dual-track carving tools for a decade.
Last season, the Supershapes received a new electronic damping system called Energy Management Circuit (EMC). Unlike the KERS technology it replaced, EMC operates both fore and aft of the binding, where it intercepts and neutralizes shock waves when they hit 80Hz. At speeds when many other skis begin to wobble, the latest Supershapes purr contentedly along.
While the returning Supershape e-Speed and e-Magnum retained their 2020 dimensions, the e-Rally plumped up to 78mm underfoot and the e-Titan is now 84mm. The change more clearly differentiates the Rally and Titan, with the former the pure carver and the latter a more versatile all-terrain tool. Head has once again re-set the performance bar for classic carving instruments.
Head is the only major brand to have made an entire women’s collection from scratch, without reference to a single unisex template. Head refreshed its original Joy collection two seasons ago, beefing up their construction with more wood in the core to go along with its Graphene-infused glass. In 2021, Head created a new Joy at the top of the series, the aptly named Power Joy, that uses Head’s premium Worldcup Sandwich Cap construction, embellished with EMC to ensure it has no top end. Women who prefer to travel off-trail have the option of the Kore 87 W, which to all intents and purposes is the same as the unisex Kore 87.
The 2022 Season
The big news at Head is a series of small but significant tweaks to every one of Head’s popular Kore series, including the introduction of a new model, the Kore 111. The main structural change is the elimination of synthetic Koroyd in favor of a full dose of Karuba and poplar in its now all-wood core. The flex pattern has also been fiddled with, creating a stiffer stick in the thinner widths that will spend more time on hard snow, while the wider versions are softer and more responsive.
Another small change with a big effect is how the top edge has been rounded off, so the ski can slide sideways almost without resistance. On a Big Mountain model with the girth of the new Kore 111, this makes a huge difference in how easy it is to swivel the bottom of the turn, a labor-saver that will prolong your powder day.
The new Kore line comes in more sizes, at 7cm increments, so skiers can find the length that’s tailored to their specifications. Taken in toto, the various modifications made to all the Kore models, men’s and women’s alike, have improved the skis’ snow feel to the point that, light weight aside, it’s indistinguishable from a well-made traditional ski.