And the winner is:
#1 Rossignol Super 7
Not only did the Super 7 win the Powder Freak category, it was also the highest scoring ski (a 4.9 out of 5) in the entire test. In soft snow, you simply ski with less effort-and a big powder-eating grin on your face. How? For starters, there's a spoon shaped shovel (reverse sidecut and rockered), a similar rockered pintail, and traditional camber and sidecut under the bindings. None of which is entirely new. But all great designs are incremental, and that's the case here. When Rossi added two layers of metal to the wood laminate construction they not only improved the fore/aft balance of the ski (it doesn't wash out or hinge), but they improved hard snow edging, high-speed stability, and dampened the ride quality, too. Swami Gripe: None. The Super 7 is one of the best skis of all time. Swami like: Anyone from a struggling intermediate to a hard-charging expert will love this ski.
Overall: 4.9; $900; 145/115/123; rossignol.com
#2 Black Diamond Gigawatt
Although they're some of the fattest skis we've ever tested, Black Diamond claims the Gigawatts ski easier than their size would imply. At first our testers were frightened by the girth of this brand new ski. At 163mm in the shovel, it's monstrous. But the Giga is less sinkable than that old broad from the Titanic. It immediately pops to the surface and stays there, and, incredibly, you can pivot it at will, even in tight trees. Swami gripe: Despite the fact that you can eke out carved turns, this is really a pure powder or glop ski. Swami like: Effortless to sluff around in a surfy turn. "It's unbelievably maneuverable in the trees," wrote one mustache-wearing tester.
Overall: 4.5; $950; 163/135/141; blackdiamondequipment.com
#3 Völkl Shiro
Völkl is legendary for its race-quality, damp, and stable skis, but they were missing an all-around surfy powder ski in their lineup. The Shiro fills that gap with just the right amount of rocker (tip and tail) for all the inbounds flotation you'll ever need without overdoing it. Even the 119mm waist width lends itself to resort versatility. We took the Shiro through its paces on a powder day that saw everything from untracked blower to lumpy tracked out snow. Swami gripe: The narrow tail makes it feel a bit shorter than it is. Swami like: There's enough Völkl oomph to ski it fast from tip to tail through the turn on open slopes (groomed or otherwise), but it loosens up and pivots in trees and bottomless snow like no Völkl before it.
Overall: 4.2; $825; 151/119/135; volkl.com
#4 Salomon Rocker 2
Thanks to its shorter turn radius (26 meters as opposed to 48.5 with the regular Rocker), the Rocker 2 is a fat powder ski that you could ski every soft snow day out West. Most of the rocker is in the front 40 percent of this full wood core ski. But because the tail of the ski isn't totally banana shaped, you can drive it through the end of turns, too. (No inadvertent wheelies.) We never thought we'd see the day when a ski this fat (122mm under foot) could be this versatile. Swami gripe: The elastomer layer above the edges seems to rob a little edging power on hard snow. But then that same layer helps smooth the ride. Swami like: You can rail turns on soft-packed groomers, sluff it around in the forest, or just flat out charge.
Overall: 4.0; $935; 142/122/132; salomon.com
#5 Nordica Radict
Traditional sidecut and camber between the bindings, a rockered tip and tail, and Nordica's history of producing durable wood core skis without speed limits makes for a versatile powder ski. Nowadays, skis this fat typically feature tapered (reverse sidecut) tips and tails, but Nordica went with a more traditional silhouette on the Radict. That translates to more surface area which, when combined with rocker makes for a very floaty ski. Luckily we had 16 inches of new snow and a gathering storm to see how it stood up. Swami gripe: Our small testers found it stiff and tough to pivot. Plan your buy accordingly (there's only one size, a 185cm). Swami like: Our bigger testers-anyone over 170 pounds-called it maneuverable, surfy, and playful.
Overall: 4.0; $950; 157/127/146; nordica.com
From the Early Winter 2011 issue