2023/24 New Model Round-Up

Rossignol Essential

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 of any real innovation in Rossi’s 2024 collection lasted until the moment I was heading downhill on a pair.   Not only did the Essential immediately announce itself as the real deal, to celebrate its debut on snow it set off a string of firecracker slalom turns that were more accurate and responsive than any arcs issuing from any of the best all-mountain skis being made today.

Beneath its retro cosmetics, the Essential turns out to be a Non-FIS Slalom, with a sidecut and on-hill demeanor closely modeled on Rossi’s Hero Elite ST Ti (123/68/104). It’s a very interesting choice, given that presumably Rossi could have achieved a similar level of recyclability using any model in its line as the prototype. Surely, if any brand wanted to lure an American skier onto a recyclable ski, they’d be fishing with better bait if they used some sort of all-terrain model.

But Rossi’s intent with the Essential is multi-tiered. The choice of a race-caliber slalom ski makes sense if one of the goals is to show that recyclability doesn’t have to come at the cost of quality. (Like most European brands, Rossi places a premium on race-ski design.)  One of the unique angles of the Essential program is that Rossignol has offered to open-source its construction particulars, so competitors can achieve a similar level of recyclability. Every major manufacturer has a slalom race ski template in its inventory, to which the Rossi formula could presumably be applied.

Read the full review here

Blizzard Rustler 10

There are three balancing acts that a Big Mountain ski needs to pull off in order to rise to the top of the ranks. One, it has to make the transition from firm snow to soft and back again feel so smooth it’s barely perceptible. Two, it has to execute short turns and long turns without an obvious bias for one or the other. And three, the ski itself needs to feel balanced, with a round, even flex that allows the skier to always feel on center. I’m sharing this nugget of wisdom here because if the essence of the new Rustler 10 could be distilled to a single word, it would be “balanced.”

The testimony of a couple of our elite testers allude to this attribute in their rave reviews. Level 3 instructor Lara Hughes-Allen found the 180cm Rustler 10 to be “light and playful, especially off-piste. A well-balanced ski that makes for fun short turns and bump skiing. For a 102cm underfoot ski, it’s fairly quick edge to edge. Overall, this is a very comfortable ski that performs well in a variety of conditions.”

The erstwhile owner of Start Haus in Truckee, California, a longtime Realskiers Test Center, Jim Schaffner is also a world-class bootfitter and race coach. His thumbnail portrait of the Rustler 10 dovetails nicely with Lara’s assessment: “Balanced and very comfortable to ski in all conditions. It felt seamless to move from firmer to softer to broken pow. Predictable and smooth, with surprising power and rebound when you stomp on it.

Read the full review here

Salomon Stance 90

To understand where the updated Salomon Stance 90 fits in the All-Mountain East pantheon of Recommended models, it’s helpful to first understand its role within Salomon’s line, where it is cagily categorized as All-Mountain Frontside, a mash-up of two adjacent Realskiers categories.  The blended genre succinctly captures the intent of the Stance series, to create what are essentially Frontside skis with wanderlust, always interested in what lies off-trail yet easily persuaded to lay down a neatly carved turn on corduroy.  It’s the Frontside orientation that differentiates the three Stance models from Salomon’s other all-terrain series, QST, with its decidedly off-trail bias.

Within the cross-brand context of the All-Mountain East genre, the Stance 90 stands apart from the crowd in several respects. While its twin Titanal laminates put it toe-to-toe with the eminent Power players in the genre (think: Blizzard Brahma 88, Völkl Kendo 88), it responds to a light rein, emphasizing ease over brute force. While it’s positioned as having a Frontside bias, unlike other carving-centric AME skis – such as the Fischer RC One 86 GT, for example – it isn’t built on a Frontside chassis, but an all-mountain, double-rockered foundation

Read the full review here

Salomon Stance 102

When Salomon launched the first edition of the Stance series in the 20/21 season, they were well aware that they were entering all-mountain categories already brimming with options. Most of the established image leaders in the pivotal All-Mountain West genre were Power models loaded stem to stern with dual Titanal laminates. To create some space for Stance in this crowd, Salomon had to both match what the category leaders were doing yet somehow be different from them. The solution was to replace swatches of Ti in the top sheet with its proprietary C/FX fibers, so the Stances would feel a bit less ponderous than the competition.

The changes instituted in the new Stance series took this effort at differentiation a step further, slightly disengaging the Ti top layer from the core, creating the sensation of a softer-flexing ski that’s still torsionally rigid enough to bite into boilerplate. Sally also lightened up the core by adding Karuba to what had been an all-poplar affair.  The net effect is a high octane ski that is simplicity itself to steer. As incarnated in the Stance 102, the new changes transformed what had been a back-of-the-pack wannabe into one of the very best Finesse skis in the over-served Big Mountain market. Its nickname should be Crud Lite, for it excels in soft snow, where it maintains a mellow, fall-line orientation through thick and thin.

Read the full review here

Rossignol Forza 70o V-Ti

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 carving class; of course, how the ski is constructed matters, too, but all the best carvers share a rich construction. Take a closer look at the sidecut dimensions cited at the top of this review.  Note that there’s a 58mm differential between the widest point in the tip and the narrowest point at the waist. That’s a huge number, more than you’ll find on a World Cup Slalom race ski, and the main reason the Forza 70 impressed every tester with its ability to latch onto an edge at the tippy-top of the turn.

By maximizing its pull into the turn and the facility at which it releases the edge, the Forza gives its pilot a lot of choices in turn shape. Because it begins on a tight trajectory, it’s easy to keep it on that path, but just as easy to let it fire back into the fall line. Veteran ski and boot tester Jim Schaffner was dazzled by the Forza’s range: “Precise, accurate, lively: what a fantastic tool! Balanced well fore/aft, so it has a large sweet spot.  This ski would have a spot in my quiver,” he concludes.

I found the Forza to be as easy to steer as it is accurate on edge, nailing that elusive, balanced blend of Finesse and Power properties. Of course, it won’t float or drift as well as a ski with more surface area and less sidecut, but these limitations are inherent in all the best carvers in its category. For the easy manner in which it rolls on and off a steeply angled edge, we confer upon the Forza 70o V-Ti a Silver Skier Selection.

Read the full review here

Blizzard Sheeva 9

No new ski model made as significant an improvement in its performance range as Blizzard’s Sheeva 9.  A longtime member of the Blizzard Freeride collection, the Sheeva 9 – along with its men’s  counterpart, the Rustler 9 – went through a significant re-design this year, boosting its abilities in any terrain it’s likely to encounter during its lifetime. In Realskiers’ terminology, the Sheeva 9 shifted from a Finesse ski to a Power ski, albeit a Power ski with the highest Finesse score in the genre.

Driving up the new Sheeva 9’s fab Finesse scores were two principal drivers: the adoption of Blizzard’s TrueBlend core concept, and a palpable increase in overall width dimensions. TrueBlend is a precise allocation of sturdy beech stringers interspersed with lighter weight poplar in the mid-section and a dose of lighter-still Paulownia at the tip and tail.

Read the full review here

Blizzard Sheeva 10

Blizzard’s Sheeva 10 optimizes the best qualities of Blizzard’s latest freeride technology, FluxForm. Introduced across six new models, 3 Rustlers for men and 3 corresponding Sheevas for women, Fluxform deploys Titanal in a different fashion than was last used in these models’ 2023 iterations. Instead of a single, truncated top sheet of Ti, FluxForm concentrates its Ti laminates directly over the edges, in strips that run nearly tip to tail. In the center of the Sheeva 10, roughly where the Ti plate was last season, is a women’s-specific platform that helps distribute force evenly underfoot without the heft of metal.

This redeployment of Titanal is the major reason the new Sheeva 10 feels more stable from end to end, but it isn’t the only reason the latest version feels at once smoother and more powerful. The other major contributor to the Sheeva 10’s stellar handling is the switch to Blizzard’s carefully crafted TrueBlend core. TrueBlend combines slender tendrils of dense beech interspersed with lightweight poplar and Paulownia in a precise pattern that is adjusted for every size.  Note that the new Sheeva 10 offers six different sizes on 6mm splits, so women can dial in exactly the right length, which is key for maneuverability in off-trail conditions.

Read the full review here

Montero AS

Read the full review here

Blizzard Rustler 9

The new Rustler 9 from Blizzard isn’t a little bit better than its predecessor; it’s much, much better than its namesake.  Among its myriad changes is a slight boost in its overall width, which tipped the new Rustler 9 into the hotly competitive All-Mountain West genre.  Instead of slipping in the standings, it rose from a middle-of-the-pack position among All-Mountain East models to near the top of the All-Mountain West category. No other new ski in the 2023/24 season made as great a leap up the performance ladder as the Rustler 9.

When all criteria are considered, the Rustler 9 remains a Finesse ski, but only by the slimmest of margins. It’s still a forgiving, easily steered ski, but it now has a reserve power supply accessible to any skier who can lay it on edge. A great all-terrain ski has to be able to smear or carve on command, a trick the Rustler 9 has down cold.  The tip is strong and connected enough to engage at the top of the turn, but the ski can also find the edge by smearing sideways, then tipping the ski so the edge latches onto a carve midway through the turn. This facility at finding an edge anywhere along a mid-radius arc is one of the qualities that distinguish the best all-terrain skis from the also-rans.


Read the full review here

Blizzard Rustler 11

I’m leery of recommending a Powder ski for all-terrain skiing, for if it’s equally adept at all conditions, why not ski it every day? A ski so polyvalent would not only render any notion of ski categories an absurd pretension, it would erode the very foundations of logic itself.  Well, the new Blizzard Rustler 11 comes pretty damn close to pulling down the twin pillars of logic and methodology, for it seems to transition from soft snow to firm without batting an eye.

If there’s a trick to this sleight of hand, it lies in the Rustler 11’s construction, beginning with its dimensions, which straddle the border between the Big Mountain and Powder genres, depending on which length one chooses from the five available sizes. The new Freeride Trueblend core ups the amount of Paulownia in its 3-wood matrix to keep the overall weight, and in particular mass beyond the binding area, from ballooning as the ski’s dimensions expand. To keep the Rustler 11 from feeling ponderous, Blizzard trims the percentage of Titanal used in its make-up compared to its skinnier siblings, the Rustler 10 and 9.

Aside from the Trueblend core, the biggest difference between this generation of Rustlers and the one that preceded it is how the new FluxForm design distributes its allocation of Titanal. A nearly full-length strip of metal rides over each edge, but stops short of rapping around the tip or tail. In the middle of the ski, a separate, disconnected swath of Ti fills the space between the outer bands, to lend additional strength and rigidity to the midsection. Fluxform creates a ski that feels secure on edge anywhere it travels, with just enough tolerance for twist at the tip and tail to allow the ski to flow over choppy terrain rather than fight it.

Read the full review here

Salomon Stance 96

Last winter I was able to ski all the new Stances from Salomon on several occasions, from a foot of fresh to manicured corduroy.  More by accident than design, I even skied them with two different boots. The more I skied them, the more I was led to a conclusion that, at first, I didn’t quite believe: they all ski remarkably alike.

That may sound like a particularly unremarkable observation: if they’re all built the same way, why shouldn’t they ski alike?  Fair enough, but it’s rarely the case that all members of a product family ski identically, and in the case of the new Stances, they don’t just ski kinda like their siblings: any two adjacent widths are all but indistinguishable on the snow, particularly in the off-trail conditions they were made for.

The obvious implication of this interchangeability is that the middle-of-the-range, All-Mountain West Stance 96 not only exhibits the same quickness to the edge as the All-Mountain East Stance 90 displays on a groomer, it also mimics the Big Mountain Stance 102’s Finesse properties in broken powder. That’s a great thumbnail description of what one hopes to find in any All-Mountain West model.

Skiers who want to smash through crud at max velocity have plenty of other options; the Stance 96 is more for the technician than the daredevil. It doesn’t rush through the turn, nor does it explode off the edge; its talent is for maintaining contact on a secure platform that adapts to terrain rather than trying to subdue it. Its defining trait is its predictability, moving confidently from turn to turn whether the snow surface is perfectly manicured or a hot mess that’s never seen a grooming machine.

Read the full review here

Nordica Steadfast 85 DC FTD

When Nordica was first finding its footing as a ski brand, it struggled to find a toe hold until it earned a following for its Fire Arrow carving skis. Over the course of the last decade, the runaway success of Nordica’s Enforcer and Santa Ana series has stolen the spotlight, relegating Nordica’s superb Dobermann Spitfire series to relative obscurity. For the 23/24 season, Nordica has adapted the Dual Core design – first debuted in the women’s skills-improvement model, the Wild Belle DC 84 – to a new suite of Spitfires and a spin-off series that hits lower price points, dubbed Steadfast.

In a market that treats high-octane carving skis like pariahs, shoehorning a Spitfire DC 74 Pro into an American retailer’s ski rack is a daunting challenge, but a ski that demonstrates a similar passion for carved turns on a chassis roughly 11mm wider everywhere hits a sweet spot in the U.S. market. Its carving-centric sidecut is ideally suited to groomers, but it has the requisite surface area to handle boot-top powder and side-of-the-trail chop. At only $800, with a more than adequate binding included in the price, the new Steadfast 85 DC FTD meets the needs and expectations of a broad cross-section of skiers.  It’s an ideal “step-up” ski for someone making the move from rental, relic or hand-me-down to ownership.

Read the full review here

Head Super Joy

Over the last decade, the Frontside field has evolved to such a degree that Head’s Super Joy, the consummate carving machine, now looks more like an outlier than the norm.  Over that time span, the Super Joy’s construction and shape have undergone a series of major alterations; it’s still focused on carving up groomers and it still enjoys the unique advantages of having Graphene in its make-up, but the last two upgrades have altered the Super Joy’s on-snow comportment considerably.

Just a few years ago, Head overhauled the Super Joy’s insides, kicking Koroyd to the curb and replacing it with an all-wood (Karuba and ash) core, supplemented by fiberglass for substance and snap, and more carbon for shock damping and snow contact.  Head also adorned the Super Joy with its Energy Management Circuit (EMC) that converts vibrations into electricity, which it uses to stifle high-frequency shocks. As significant as these construction changes were, the improvements made to the 2024 Super Joy have again raised its game to an entirely new level.

The most obvious change is in its skinnier sidecut, particularly at the tip, where Head has lopped off nearly a centimeter. The narrower forebody won’t insist on tucking into the tippy-top of every turn, which is a major change in how the ski routinely behaves. While the new sidecut also entails a longer turn radius, it still skews to the short-turn side of the turn spectrum.  It just cedes more control to the pilot regarding trajectory.  Perhaps most importantly, the new sidecut will make the Super Joy far more amenable to off-trail conditions, so they needn’t always stick to perfectly manicured corduroy.

Read the full review here

Head Total Joy

No one can accuse the Head Total Joy of being a copycat model. Fifteen years ago, it debuted as the centerpiece of new series of women’s skis built from scratch, without reference to any unisex model.  It was also the first time Head industrialized Graphene in a ski, a bold experiment that has paid off in spades.  At this stage of the Total Joy’s evolution, Head engineers have figured out how to optimize this unique material, blending it with classic features like an all wood (Karuba-Ash) core, fiberglass and carbon laminates. It’s a heady blend: the wood gives it great snow feel, fiberglass gives it liveliness and snap, the carbon and Graphene keep the weight in check and its piezo-electric EMC damping system maintains snow contact with the same security as much stouter models.

All these goodies were baked into the Total Joy before the latest alterations were added for the 2023/24 season. The most obvious change from the Total Joys of yore is a new tip shape that shaves away 6mm, trimming the forebody and diminishing its propensity for digging in hard at the top of a turn. The Total Joy remains the most carve-centric model in the All-Mountain East pantheon, but the narrower profile will improve its handling in off-trail conditions. Its slimmer silhouette opens up its sidecut radius, which in turn expands its receptivity to variable terrain and improves handling in deep snow.

Also new across the Joy collection for 23/24 is a softer-flexing mid-section that evenly distributes pressure along the full length of the ski.  This adaptation alone is worth the price of admission if you’re an AARP member who prizes energy conservation. While the change in forebody geometry has a profound effect on performance, the most significant change in the 2023 Joy series is in the plate that connects it to its integrated Tyrolia binding.

Read the full review here


Völkl Secret 102

As was the case with its men’s counterpart – the Mantra 102 – last year, the latest bundle of modifications to the Secret 102 has infused it with a complete personality transplant.  As succinctly summarized by former US Ski Team member Edie Thys Morgan in her review of the 2023 Secret 102, “This is not the ski for the faint of heart or of flex.” The 2024 Secret 102 has shed its hell-bent ways. It no longer seeks to subdue whatever gets in its way, instead responding to its pilot’s subtle suggestions with grace and poise.

What happened to turn a barely tamed bronco into a well-trained show pony?  Two factors did most of the heavy lifting, Tailored Titanal Frame and Tailored Carbon Tips.  In the original Secret 102, the forward section of the 3-piece Titanal Frame was a one-size-fits-all affair; in the 2024 iteration, each size gets its own part. This is of particular importance in the smaller sizes women prefer. Every aspect of the new Secret 102 is size-specific, so shorter skis aren’t saddled with over-sized components.

Part of the reason that the double-rockered Secret 102 rips groomers like a fully cambered ski is the manner in which Völkl applies an extra dose of carbon to the shovel. Most carbon that goes into skis are either thin stringers or weaves in a pre-set orientation. To get exactly the pattern they wanted, Volkl engineers created hundreds of prototypes, stitching carbon thread into a fleece matrix to arrive at just the right dosage to keep the tip quiet.

Read the full review here