Quick reviews by Greg and others…
The Carvers –
Elan Amphibio Porsche Design Black Edition (pkg w/ bindings) Like to go fast? Like Porsche 911 fast? This is the carving machine for fast GS skiing. It is stable, beautiful, powerful, and surprisingly forgiving of errors. But one thing it will not forgive is a desire to stay under the speed limit. That is simply verboten!
Who is it for? Fast skiers on groomed runs.
CalSki Price: $1100
Laser AX – We test a lot of skis. We meet people at the tests that also test a lot of skis. More than one employee and several other industry professionals we know and trust have said that the Laser AX is simply the best ski they have ever skied. Let’s leave it at that.
CalSki Price: $1249
Volkl V.Werks Deacon– Volkl has a list of technologies that is long. They also have a robust race history. Put thise two characteristics together and you get the V.Werks Deacon. At 84 under foot this ski is a shocker. It looks so beautiful and technical that you think it is a show ski to illustrate what skis will be like in 20 years. Made up primarily of carbon fiber and paper thin, the first thought when you ski it is LIGHT! This is soo light! Almost all other skis in this category of high end carvers is really heavy, But then you find it is also all Volkl and then some. The use of Carbon Fiber gives it the power and dampness of metal without the weight. Volkl’s best carver. That means a lot… Greg
Who is it for? Frontside technical carvers that prefer an easier, lighter weight ski.
Deacon V-Werks – 177cm –
Here’s a quick list of words that came to mind: easy, nimble, light, stable, user-friendly. The ski is smoother than any carbon fiber-centric ski that I know, and I casually pushed it up to ~48 mph without discernible chatter. Of particular note, the V-Werks did not shudder for me, the way some of the other Titanal frame skis seem to. It’s amazingly nimble and fun, and this is skiing on fairly old snow (albeit freshly groomed). I felt the 3D radius more here than in other Volkl skis, although admittedly the variable radius felt a little strange, almost disconcerting. By the third run, I had forgotten about it and was just skiing. Easy, almost effortless. I liked the experience a lot.
- As you know, I’m not a huge carbon fiber fan, so criticizing a carbon fiber ski for being too light and thus lacking edge hold is fairly predictable. I nevertheless came away with a positive impression of the ski, so I think that’s reasonably strong praise considering the source.
- A couple of weird things: there is almost no camber to this ski. Like, maybe 2-3mm. You will not boing from one turn to the next, but you are able to be very nimble on this ski. Also, the low stack height system binding feels like a potential mismatch to me, maybe? I think you get more leverage with a higher stack, and thus better edge hold. These types of critique probably are more oriented around an expert skier.
- Who is the ski for? It’s for the guy with money, who likes carbon fiber, who can carve or wants to improve, but is not expert enough to risk a more technically demanding ski. This is an easier ski IMO than a Laser AX or an SR88, but holds up remarkably well at high speeds. I found it to be surprisingly forgiving. I would still prefer an SR88 (also a $1000 retail ski) over the Deacon V-Werks or me, but for a less technical skier, this one might do the trick.
- Let me say it again: this is a light ski that is yet really stable and fast, while still being easy relative to skis in this range. Erik P
Who is it for? The discriminating carver that values light weight more than sheer power.
The High 80’s (no not stories from college) –
Stockli Stormrider 88- Once upon a time Stockli was a brand mainly for those that wanted to work hard at high speeds to get the full benefit of a ski. Now things have changed. Stockli has lightened and softened their Stormriders while maintaining the amazing solid feel and confidence that only a Stockli can deliver. The Stormrider 88 has been a best seller here for years. A vicious carver that is wide enough for some off piste work too, this may be the top choice for a very good skier who wants a ski that matches his/her ability to combine touch with power. Champagne colored as an homage to the quality of its construction.
Who is it for? Rippers of groomed runs that want about 20% of there time off piste
CalSki Price: $999
Blizzard Brahma – A powerfully built ski with enough rocker to make it quick, and enough stiffness to really hold an edge when you are carving. More rockered than most skis we carry in the catagory, the Brahma is adept at multiple types of turns. A Swiss Army knife of skis for those that never know what is around the next bend. The skier that likes a full carved turn will not love these. The “sweet spot” is smaller than on the Volkl Kendo so an upright centered stance works well.
Who is it for? A rowdy all mountain skier that carves and plays off piste equally. Unfortunately he cannot call in sick every Pow day so he gets 70% groomed days.
CalSki Price: $699.95
Volkl Kendo 88 – We loved this ski from first turn. We skied it against the category best selling Brahma and traded back and forth. This is a ski that is designed for skiers that like carving. Turn initiation is helped with just a bit of rocker. The turn exit is crisp and the Kendo likes to finish properly without too much skid. In between turn initiation and finish the Kendo really responds to changes in edge angle. This is a really fun ski to rip on groomers and play with turn shapes. Volkl has a fancy name for their unique side cut. The name doesn’t matter. We just like the way it works.
Who is it for? Frontside carvers that are pretty solid on technique. Still wanting some versatility but prefer to focus on firm snow performance.
CalSki Price: $649.99
Elan Wingman 86 – The wingman is a versatile mid 80’s carver. The wingman uses several technologies to help keep form and work less doing so. This is a great ski for someone that wants to be on a ski to “take them to the next level”. Easy for an intermediate, still satisfying for an expert. The Wingman is built with a shorter radius and a bit less power than some of the more stout skis that are in this category. This makes the wingman easy to ski at slower speeds but a bit more nervous at high speeds. Learn about what amphibious does. It really works. This is an important technology when understanding Elan skis.
Who is it for? Aspiring intermediates or advanced skiers looking to get some help with their form. Good to expert skiers that like to stay at slower speeds.
CalSki Price: $649.99
Fischer RC One 86 – Are you a very strong skier that loves to rip the groomers most of your day? Love the feel of wind in your face? Well buckle up my friends. Fischer brings a whole bunch of their race heritage to the 86. Overall ski of the year in skiing magazine last year and that didn’t surprise us one bit.
Who is it for? Someone who feels that turning is only done when absolutely necessary, but smiles should abound!
CalSki Price: $899.99
Fischer Ranger 85 – Don’t let the price fool you. This is a super fun ski that will not disappoint. The price category of this ski is always very competitive. These “value” skis can give you 95% what you get for several hundred dollars more- or they can be very mediocre. So we ski all of them and choose the best. Greg travelled to meet a Fischer Executive and ski this ski. Boy are we glad he did. This ski is a winner! The Ranger has not cut any corners to bring down the price and is in a word “fun”. Isn’t that why you ski in the first place?
MSRP: $ ?
CalSki Price: $ ?
The mid 90’s
Elan Ripstick 96 – Employee Ty came back from an industry demo in Colorado and could not stop talking about this ski. Then Kim was invited to a steering group test and skied all the Elan models plus helped with graphics on some models. She also could not stop talking about them. What is the big deal? They are super easy to ski. Light and predictable. With impeccable manners on groomed runs that use theAmphibio technology to help you hold your form effortlessly. Due to their weight and easy flex they do have an attainable speed limit, but that speed limit is high. Also they are surprisingly good in junky snow for their weight. In powder they are sublime. This is a ski you can tour on. A ski you still feel fresh on while riding the last chair at the resort. A ski that may help a plateaued learning curve of a solid intermediate. Only the most physical, aggressive, and athletic skiers will be able to out power the Ripsticks.
Who is it for? Crossover touring setups. Any intermediate or a lighter advanced to expert all mountain skier.
CalSki Price: $649.99
Elan Ripstick 96 Black Edition: Wow. What a ski. I skied it and bought it on the spot. The standard Ripstick is a truly great and refined ski. The only things it lacks are power and dampness. The Black edition adds more carbon tubes and sheets and stuff like that. This adds a tremendous amount to the ski. The Black Edition has power to spare and is incredibly damp for how light it is. Another example of how technology is moving forward to build more and more incredible skis. This is my current favorite ski!
Who is it for? Anyone that thinks the Ripstick 96 (see above) sounds great but want just a little more horsepower. Amazing damping is an added bonus.
Calski Price: $799.99
Head Kore 93 – Ready to ride a unicorn? This is your chance. It is too solid and damp for its weight. It is too easy to ski for how stiff it is. The Kore 93 is easy fun and playful. But when the going gets tough it rises to the occasion. How does it do what other skis cannot? Space age materials are the key for Head when it comes to the Kore series. Amazing.
Who is it for? You like a stiff powerful ski at times. You just wish they were lighter!
CalSki Price: $649.99
Stockli Stormrider 95-A ski this powerful should be described by comparing it to things like battle axes or V8 motors. Instead it reminds you of a scalpel or a V12 Ferrari engine. So strong and yet refined. So refined. This is a finely tuned instrument.
Who is it for? A surgical skier that likes Porsches…
Volkl Mantra M6 – A perennial favorite, the 6th generation of the Mantra is probably the best. New carbon tecnology in the tip and the 3D sidecut I liked so much in Kendo have been added this go around. It is certainly the most balanced Mantra yet. Not too stiff nor too soft. Not too much rocker but enough. The Mantra’s best trait is that it does everything pretty darn good. If you truly ski “all mountain in all conditions” these planks are the ones you will find yo be equally adept at “all” things. Greg
Mantra M6 – 177cm – 3 runs and ~3000 vertical feet
Against my better judgment, and at the recommendation of the Volkl sales rep, I took out the 177cm model. The big change (to my eyes) is the addition of 3D radius, with some carbon strengthening in the tip. The M6 has become a lot more user-friendly, but even in the 177cm, I felt like I had plenty of stability. After racing around on the 84mm Deacon, I definitely noticed that the M6 is less crisp edge-to-edge, but stability and consistent carving were very much on display in a good way. I also found this ski to be remarkably easy, especially compared to the M5. I do have a complaint here: the M6 had some of the shudder that I attribute to the Titanal frame and remember experiencing in two lengths of the Kendo. This is most noticeable when edging hard on firm surfaces, but it’s not something that I particularly enjoy. That being said, I think the big takeaway is that the M6 is much more fun and forgiving than the M5, while still providing plenty of stability at speed, even in this shorter model. It’s a compelling option in the mid-90s.
Who is it for? Someone who is a good to great skier looking for an extremely balanced and versatile all mountain ski.
CalSki Price: $699.99
Nordica Enforcer 100 – We are going to have to group this with the mid 90’s skis. That’s because most skis we carry this wide or wider have a more “free ride” design. The enforcer 100 is true to its all mountain heritage and unlike its 104 waisted brother it has no use for tail rocker. So this baby doesn’t swivel its turns. Instead it wants to carve hard and finish turns or use the tail for braking This creates a huge sweet spot. Lot’s of skis are still made this way but we only picked one. Why? Overall ski of the year for multiple years in a row was well deserved and nothing in this category has come close yet. Nordica is killing it here!
Who is it for? A, aggressive and fearless all mountain skier that likes a lot of horsepower.
CalSki Price: $749.99
All Mountain Freeride Skis (One oh something skis)
Blizzard Rustler 10 – The Rustler 10 is 102mm but easy. First time on it I thought “wow- this is Blizzards best ski ever”. That was because it was being skied against the Bonifide which had been ski of the year the previous winter. I thought it did pretty much everything the Bonifide did but was way more fun and playful. It turned out that a lot of people still liked the Bonifide better. You could just point the Bonifide and follow along through any snow type. I prefer the playfulness of the freeride ski. It has some tail rocker. The metal laminate ends before the tip and tail to soften them. There is still metal mid ski so it carves hard. It’s like a bigger softer Bonifide and this waist is where freeride designs really start working well for me. I love the Rustler 10. She was my first freeride sweetheart!
Who is it for? A well balanced skier that likes to pick their way through technical terrain and like to be playful on groomers too.
CalSki Price: $699.95
Fischer FR 102 – This was only the second freeride ski around 100mm I ever skied. It was the same year the Rustler 10 came out and I was on a next years prototype with the head of Fischer Alpine Skis. My comment was that they should make it ASAP instead of waiting a year. Otherwise the Rustler would have a year head start and Fischer would be accused of copying the Rustler 10 design. I was stoked. I had loved the Blizzard Rustler and Fischer had made a similar ski but more “Fischery”. That means light, great snow feel, less damp, poppy and fun yet powerful. It has taken the masses a few seasons to discover this gem but we aren’t the only ones that love it any more. The Freeride 102 had created a cult like following. New for this year, a sizzling hot pink and a bright blue colorway (not pictured) give it the outer pizazz it already had inside!
Who is it for? A skier that likes a strong powerful ski that has a lively streak that will keep you smiling all day long!
CalSki Price: $699.99
Nordica Enforcer 104 Free – A freeride ski that brings THE BEEF. Nordica was already on top of the heap with the Enforcer 100. It has dethroned the Blizzard Bonifide as ski of the year in the magazines and had a huge following. Now they joined the freeride crowd with the 104. Instead of making the ski lighter, softer, and dual rockered, they just did the rockered part. Wow. Everyone was blown away. A story to illustrate: After the Snow Basin demo several of the Cal Ski crew and a few others hit Deer Valley for a groomapalooza shred fest. World Cup Slalom skis for me. Erik had his Laser AX’s. It was that kind of day. Tyler Lockard, the head of hardgoods for a national buying group showed up with the Nordica 104FR. He was curious how they would stand up to the carvers. In the soft corduroy of Deer Valley he was laying them over until his hip was hitting the snow. He was typically at the lift waiting when I showed up. Fast skis! Power in crud, power in carve. A killer ski for those that love power but want a true “freeride” ski instead of a fat GS ski.
Who is it for? An aggressive and confident all mountain skier that likes to explore whatever is around the next corner without slowing down.
CalSki Price: $799.99
The Big Boys – 105+
Stockli Stormrider 105 – I’m not sure how Stockli does it sometimes. Not too much rocker, yet you don’t miss it. It carves, is incredibly stable, rips through crud, and is not too hard to ski in any conditions. The radius is tight for a ski of this size which I always like. It is torsionally stiff enough to carve hard. It is moderately planky in powder might be my one complaint. A great wide all mountain ski for someone just a bit old school. Most folks at 105mm expect more rocker. Some don’t. For them it is the Stockli.
Who is it for? A big mountain skier that is still technical at all speeds and in all terrain. Or a technical skier that simply wants a lot of float.
CalSki Price: $1199
Elan Ripstick 106 – she is light, she is easy, she is wonderful in powder. A smaller skier will love her on the groomers compared to other skis in the category. Some of the big boys that are hard charging may find it a bit soft in torsion. Still the 106 handles crud really well and has great manners. She is also just “easy to ski” and tied with the Salomon QST as tops for feeling fresh after 8 hours of skiing a ski this wide. Also great for touring as evidenced by the tail being notched for skins.
Who is it for? A great ski to add to your quiver for those fluffier days without taking on “too much ski”. Any touring skier.
CalSki Price: $699.99
Rustler 11 – at about 110 under foot, I don’t know how it could be much better. While the Rustler 10 came first the the party, over time I think the 11 has become the bell of the ball. The design just works in this width perfectly. Carve, float, smear, or hit the speed trap. This is very balanced in all categories. Like other great skis I would not shy away if I was an intermediate with an attitude and already owned a narrower ski. Yet experts will love it too!
Who is it for? As long as you are using it for powder days, I am not sure who would not love this ski?
CalSki Price: $749.95
Stockli Nela 80 – A lot of women have been waiting for this ski. Women have liked the single Stormrider that had a ladies color attached and titled Stormrider “motion”, but there was never a real ladies line of skis. Last year our female testers (pretty much all of them) liked the the Laser MX model designed by World Cup standout Tina Maze better than any other ski of the demo season. They pushed to stock it but at under 70mm at the waist this was way too narrow for the west coast American market. In the end we passed it over. This year Stockli pulled the trigger on more women’s specific skis. Boy was it worth the wait. The Nela 80 is the best ski of the year on the ladies side. The Nela has amazing edge grip. It loves to turn. It will fly at high speeds confidently. It is simply the most precise and well built ski available to ladies. There has never been such a great ladies ski! Probably the best ladies ski ever built!
Who is it for? All the lady rippers should have this in their quiver! Wanna be rippers should apply too!
CalSki Price: $949
Fischer RC One 82 – While not really a women’s ski, this is the little sister to the 86 in my mind. They went from .7mm of metal to .4mm. Other than that it has the Bafatex and everything else the 86 has. For a woman this is a medium/long radius carving ski that is all business. Not as playful as the stocklis (or as agile) the 82 is more of a rock solid and stable ski for high end skiers that just want to cruise fast. It can also be sold to men so keep that in mind!
Who is it for? Someone that is serious about a quality carving ski that wants to be skied well and rapidly.
CalSki Price: $899.99
Ladies All Mountain
Stockli Nela 88 – holy moly. They are light. They have incredible edge hold. They have singular quality of workmanship. Plus they seem to make any type of turn at any speed!Sound like the men’s Stormrider 88? Good- because it is very similar in character. Wide enough to be a true all mountain ski for those that still want a great carver that has enough float to handle all but the deepest days. More versatile than the narrower Nela, and not quite as quick. Just a bit less pist oriented. Fantastic!
If you ski well and want a ski that is as versatile as possible for both groomed and ungroomed situations, this is a weapon that will not disappoint.
CalSki Price: $999
Blizzard Black Pearl 88 – the best selling ski on the planet. The original Pearl is so good they make a whole collection of them now. Now on its 4th generation, the ski did change going into 20/21. With a different mixed wood core this version is a bit more ski. The older pearls dipped down into the “low intermediate can love it” zone. The trade off was ultimate horsepower for the aggressive expert woman. This version will please the experts but be less accessible to intermediate or lighter skiers. I am not super happy about that but it is still a great ski and it has a lot of momentum.
Who is it for? lot’s of people. If you ski well enough to be looking for new skis to replace your old ones you could consider this ski. If you want to start taking on some off piste terrain because you are good enough at groomers and getting a bit bored, you will be making a good choice here. If you are a very good skier and this will be your narrow ski, this is also a good choice, but not the only one…
CalSki Price: $649.95
Elan Ripstick 88 – if the new Pearl seems to be a bit much for the age, size, or athleticism of a skier, they can find a home here. The Elan is just so light and easy! Like the men’s 96mm version it seems incredible in its torsional hold and confidence at speed or crud where you would expect a lightweight ski to struggle. A great ski for a lot of ladies. Are you looking for easy but you are a very solid skier? Are you any improving intermediate looking at this waist category? Elan has you covered!
Who is it for? Improving intermediates will love it. Good to expert skiers that keep their speed below the ski patrols notice. Older skiers that still want to ski until 4:00 but their current skis tire them out by 2:00. This is a very good, very easy to control ski.
CalSki Price: $549.99
Head Kore 87w – see notes on the men’s Kore 93. She is a unicorn. Very light. Very stiff. Yet damp and smooth as well as quite playful when attached to the boots of a strong female skier!
Who is it for? You rip and you would like light weight skis. You use finesse when you can but can use power if you need to.
CalSki Price: $649.00