If you don’t know how to engage a ski at the top of the turn, and don’t care to know, you might as well stop reading about the Nordica Dobermann Spitfire 76 RB right now. It has the cleanest, highest, earliest connection to the next turn in a category in which this particular trait is prized. But if you’re still lingering on the downhill edge when you should already be tilting in the other direction, you’ll miss the moment. Don’t worry if you do, for the Spitfire 76 will find the edge as soon as you give it a chance. But part of what makes this review an unblushing rave will pass you by.
If you’re hooked on the G’s generated in a short turn, you’ll feel right at home on this cobra-quick stick. It has the reflexes of a fencer, moving unerringly into the center of the arc where it ignites and, as it says in its name, fires the skier across the fall line. The Dobermann Spitfire 76 RB has all the qualities a strong skier expects in a race ski, just de-tuned a red hair so it’s more fun for freeskiing. Jim Schaffner from Start Haus, a big man with an engrained race technique for which the term “powerful” seems inadequate, wrote of the Spitfire 76, “I felt like I could do anything on this ski. It’s fun, lively, snappy, with a dash of the Dobermann race heritage feel.”
The Kästle MX88 has been around long enough – over a decade – to be secure in its own identity. It does not lack for self-confidence. When confronted with a surface that would cause most double-rockered baselines to quake, the nearly fully cambered MX88 yawns. You can almost hear it say, “That all ya got?”
The MX88 never wavers because it has the bravado that comes from knowing it’s ready down to the last detail. Its constituent elements check all the boxes of elite design: an all-wood, poplar and beech core encased in a glass and Titanal sandwich, with a dash of extra damping. In Kästle’s case, it’s hard to miss the bonus shock-absorbing element, as its signature Hollowtech tip, now in its third iteration, can be ID’d from 100 meters.
There are some skis in the AME genre that do all they can to keep the tip off the snow; the MX88 is obsessed with the opposite concern, how to maintain contact over a rumpled surface that defies it. Its natural camber line extends almost to the shovel, where the Hollowtech insert suppresses low frequency shocks before they get any fancy ideas about disrupting edge contact at the top of the turn. There are a couple of other models in the All-Mountain East segment that belong to carving-centric clans – RC One 86 GT at Fischer and V-Shape 10 from Head come to mind – but these are outliers in a culture of loosey-goosey baselines.
If the MX88 has a character flaw, it’s that it can’t resist the urge to show off. It’s ability to stay blasé when other skis are getting buffeted around like a teacup in a typhoon can’t be evinced unless the pilot is willing to lay on the gas. So what if it’s not great at slow, short turns? That’s no way to ski crud and it’s certainly a boring means of consuming groomers. One pays a pretty penny for a MX88; what you’re paying for is its unperturbed ride when it kicks into a gear most skis in this genre don’t possess.
Little Liberty out of Avon, Colorado distinguished itself from scores of other small-batch brands when it made two momentous decisions a few years ago, one commercial, one technical. On the brand-building front, it opted to establish a viable network of specialty shops, despite all the hassle and expense compared to selling direct to the consumer. On the technical, ski-building side of the business, it created a new design that used vertical aluminum struts, in lieu of horizontal sheets of Titanal, to dampen vibration and maintain snow connection.
Vertical Metal Technology was first applied in a dual-strut format to a 3-model V Series for the 18/19 season. For a brand that had built a following for its lightweight, bamboo and carbon cores in fat, freeride dimensions, the slender V skis with their hard-snow, fall-line orientation were a considerable departure.
Leaping forward to this year, VMT is still an important part of the Liberty line, which is more than can be said for the V Series. While the pioneer VMT series had several admirable qualities, the market never embraced Liberty as a carving ski provider. So, the savvy lads who run Liberty applied a 3-strut VMT to the already established all-mountain series, evolv. The evolv 90 sits in the middle of the 3-model evolv series (the other evolv models are the 84 and 100) where it serves as the centerpiece, literally and figuratively, for the evolv family.
When you put the evolv 90 through its paces, its carving characteristics predominate. In a category chock full of skis with disconnected tips, its VMT struts keep it glued to the hill for nearly every cm of its length. If you look closely at its shape, its sidecut is very similar to that of the Kästle MX88, another AME anachronism that would rather carve than drift. Another similarity the evolv 90 shares with the MX88 is both need to be driven. It’s a powerful ski that strong, technical skiers can appreciate.
The Fischer RC One 86 GT is to all intents and purposes a hard-snow carving specialist with a waist just plump enough to put it in the company of a bunch of all-terrain generalists. In an effort to blend in, the RC One 86 GT has a tiny splay of tip rocker, and a tail rocker so tiny it should be called a rockette.
This masquerade lasts only as long as it takes to get the ski on the snow, where there’s no disguising its tip-to-tail connection. A 175cm seems like plenty of ski even at the upper reaches of the recreational speed range, which its ultra-supportive edge invites one to inhabit. You can set it to reel off medium-radius turns with the unalterable precision of a metronome. “Solid and rhythmic,” enthused Jan’s Jack Walzer after taking the RC One 86 GT for a spin.
Mark Rafferty of Peter Glenn filed this report after skiing the 86 GT in spring conditions at Squaw Valley. “A fun, strong entry in Fischer’s carve-oriented family of skis. I could feel the strength of the ski’s construction as I angled it for fast, high-g turns. It held great in icy conditions early in the morning and sliced through slushy snow after conditions softened. Fast or slow, the ski kept me in control in a most invigorating fashion.”
One unabashedly contrarian trait of the RC One 86 GT is its weight. Its shaped Titanal laminates are .8mm thick, twice the norm in off-trail skis that use metal. This mass is a blessing on boilerplate, or wherever the RC One 86 GT has some room to maneuver.
Another tip-off that Fischer envisions the RC One 86 GT in frontside environs is that it’s the head of a mostly Frontside (75mm-84mm underfoot) product family. Furthermore, its construction is all about maintaining snow connection, a classic Frontside obsession. The tip and tail are outfitted with Bafatex®, a synthetic compound meant to muffle shock and keep every cm of the 86 GT’s cambered baseline plastered on the snow. Not to mention all that Titanal to further cow hard snow into silence.
Head ran its entire Kore collection through the re-design wringer only last season, so it was a bit of a surprise when only a year later all the Kores were given another collection-wide enhancement, in the form of a urethane topsheet. Chosen primarily for its protective qualities, the urethane layer also added a noticeable dose of smoothness to what was already a fabulous ski.
A close examination of the cumulative scores for the 2023 Kore 93 compared to its immediate predecessor’s strongly suggests that the addition of a tip-to-tail shock silencer improved every trait we track. In light of the evidence, we’re anointing the 2023 Kore series as “new,” even though everything else about the 2022 and 2023 versions is identical.
We are fortunate to have as a regular contributor to Realskiers test program, Jim McGee of Peter Glenn’s, who was so impressed with the 2022 iteration that he bought a pair. So, McGee knows of what he speaks when he notes, “Head took an almost perfect ski and improved it. Even more grip and better dampening. I sold a bunch of my other skis because of the Kore 93.”
Fellow Peter Glenn stalwart Mark Rafferty was singing from the same hymnal when he mused, “Every now and then a perfect ski comes along. The Head Kore 93 was already almost there. This upcoming season’s model of the ski has nailed it. Strong, quick, comfortable, fast, grippy. All the things you hope for when you head down the hill. The latest Kore 93 comes though better than anything. And an intermediate skier would feel great on it but as that same skier improves, this ski would be right there to bring you to that higher level.”
If the Kore 93’s personality profile could be condensed to a single word it would be, “intuitive.” All the skier has to do is aim. The ski is so light, it feels effortless to steer, yet you can rev it up to the red line and it stays the course. “Great ski for the 85 to 95mm group,” crowed Jim Schaffner from Start Haus. “Did everything well with style and expertise! These skis will work well for a wide range of performance and snow conditions.