The battle to make the best race skis never calls a ceasefire. Just because the ski in the catalog doesn’t change from one year to the next doesn’t mean the R&D department has hit the snooze button. It doesn’t make sense to re-tool every year for a market as slow-moving as the citizen race category, but reputations are built on innovation so it’s important to introduce fresh blood into the racing mainstream every few years.
Last season it was Atomic’s turn to launch a new technology with its G series. This year several brands are introducing fresh tech. Blizzard’s Firebird series takes wing, Rossignol introduces a new method of maintaining snow contact in its popular Hero collection, Nordica invests FIS-level power in citizen shapes and Völkl uncages two new Racetigers.
While the technologies continue to evolve, a couple of timeless verities still ring true. Truism number one is that there are more similarities among Non-FIS Race skis than differences. Truism two would beg to differ, noting that there are two clear sub-sets within the genre: skis that behave exactly like real, FIS-approved, race skis that beg to be skied with tireless aggression, and those that just want to have fun. Truism number three is that no matter if you’re on a slalom or a GS, you’ll have some of the most exhilarating runs of your life on a Non-FIS Race model.
You’d think it would be peaches and cream to get guys to try out race skis, but it again proved harder than I had imagined. Despite corralling quite a few 2019 models in one location, a lot of great skis got lost in the shuffle. The Head i.Race, Elan GSX, Blizzard Firebird WRC and Nordica Dobermann GSR and GSM eluded our grasp, and Non-FIS Race skis from Völkl and Fischer never made it to the test venue. Any notion that this survey is all-inclusive is ill informed.
What makes this shortfall in data collection particularly vexing is that every model we were able to essay we adored. This isn’t pandering – this category is reasonably pander-proof – but a reflection of the fact that race ski technology represents each brand’s best effort. Peripheral considerations such as Off-Piste Performance pale in comparison to a single determinant of excellence: the clock.
For our test purposes, it’s how the ski holds an edge at speed that matters. Our Recommended models are presented here in order of their Power scores. High Finesse scores are worth noting but it’s the Power score that drives the pecking order.
Regular readers of this space may note the absence of the Head Worldcup Rebels i.SL RD at the head of the model parade. Be reassured it’s still a category killer, but in the final analysis it doesn’t belong here but among its own, FIS-approved kind. It’s also a model that’s in constant re-development as Head engineers try to match the success they’ve had in speed events in slalom, so anything we test may not be representative of what’s found in the marketplace
The only ski here that wasn’t re-tested this season is the Kästle RX12 SL. Its review and scores are reprised from last season.