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Nov

19

2015

The Best Women’s Skis 2016

Cait Morgan

Skier: Cait Morgan | Location: Mineral Basin, Snowbird | photograph Lee Cohen

We’ve been saying that women-specific skis have come of age for six years, but this time we really mean it. As with the unisex skis, they’re easier than ever to handle, but without sacrificing stability.

by Olivia Dwyer

<pure frontside 100 percent on-trail>

Elan-Insomnia-Fusion_HR

#1 Elan Insomnia Fusion
Elan designed the Insomnia asymmetrically—like your feet, there’s a dedicated left and a right. On the hill, the inside edges offer traditional camber for reliable grip. But the rockered, and less powerful, outside edge of the ski makes for a loose and forgiving feel. Our women testers dug the design: “The supple tip engages easily, and follow through is progressive and clean,” said one. But the left/right layup isn’t the only tech feature worth noting. The Insomnia shovel is convex for still easier turn initiation, and the tail is subtly convex—more edge contact—for a powerful finish. A women’s-specific lightweight wood core completes the build. Swami gripe: Bigger skiers thought it bucked in variable snow. Swami like: The Slovenians get high marks for a velvety feel on groomers. 121/73/104; $1,050 (includes bindings); elanskis.com

<all mountain frontside: 70 percent on-trail/ 30 percent off-trail>

Atomic_Vantage90CTIW

#1 Atomic Vantage 90 CTI W

This brand new Atomic won the category by pairing on-piste performance with off-trail chops. Camber underfoot and an energetic poplar core backed by vibration-damping metal ramps up carving power. A new carbon mesh—it peeks through the topsheet window—saves weight. Tip them on edge in a GS turn, and the Vantage remains “stable and powerful, without a speed limit,” said a tester. Heading off trail? A hint of tip and tail rocker make for intuitive handling when snow piles up to your third buckle. Swami gripe: The 90mm waist makes slalom turns taxing. Swami like: A daily driver for East Coasters and Summit County, Colorado, skiers. 130.5/90/114; $725; atomic.com

Salomon_Gemma

#2 Salomon Gemma

The brand new Gemma debuts with a 15 percent lighter wood core, and the category’s deepest sidecut. Paired with just the right amount of rocker, we whipped them from short–swing turns in the fall line to sweeping cross-trail carves with hardly an extraneous muscle twitch. Vertical sidewalls underfoot make for powerful edging. But cap construction in the tip and tail keeps swing weight low and the ride buttery. Full-length basalt fibers absorb chatter and help the Gemma contour the terrain. “The Gemma is predictable, but so versatile it’s never boring,” said a tester. Swami gripe: Stay centered to find the sweet spot. Swami like: Top “Carving Pleasure” scores in the category. 131/85/112; $950; salomon.com

BLIZZARD_BLACK-PEARL

#3 Blizzard Black Pearl

Need a ski with some punch for hard snow days? The Black Pearl packs more muscle than Jersey Cross Fit. The weird part? It’s no heavyweight, due to bamboo and Isocore (foam and glass fibers) internals, which make for a stable ride and impressive edge penetration—minus the leg-deadening weight. Blizzard’s proven Flipcore construction—it works better with rockered shapes—also eliminates that annoying tip flutter endemic to reverse camber skis. “The Black Pearl grabs onto a turn and holds it,” a tester wrote. Swami gripe: Favors long-radius GS carves over slalom turns. Swami like: Camber underfoot and vertical sidewalls mean our testers happily cut groomers to shreds. 123/88/108; $720; blizzardsportusa.com

k2 OooLaLuv_85Ti

#4 K2 OoolaLuv 85 Ti

K2 brought back the Luv name for their recently launched line of women’s all mountain skis. The flagship OoolaLuv feels exceptionally light underfoot, thanks to a thinner aspen and paulownia core reinforced with bamboo stringers. K2 milled grooves through the ski’s center to trim more ounces, but left solid wood on the flanks for bombproof edgehold. More channels cut weight from the vibration-eating layer of titanal. All those tweaks lower swing weight, so testers could easily throw the 85mm-waisted skis around in close spaces. Camber through 70 percent of the ski ably navigates hard snow, while tip and tail rocker surf through light chop, aided by taper (a narrowing of the ski) up front to eliminate tip deflection. “Feels smooth and playful,” writes a tester who sprinkled her test lap with bumps and glades. “Easy to maneuver and stable through the turn on groomers.” Swami gripe: There’s a speed limit here. Swami like: Due to a generous sweet spot, testers dubbed this the most user-friendly ski in the category. 125/85/114; $850; k2skis.com

<all mountain: 50 percent on-trail / 50 percent off-trail>

Rossignol Temptation

#1 Rossignol Temptation 100

Since 70 percent of the Temptation features traditional camber, we were expecting topnotch edgehold, directional stability, and a quality glide. But that other 30 percent of tip and tail rocker allows for smooth turn transitions on groomed snow and remarkable good handling in unconsolidated snow off trail. Intermediates can set the tip and find the belly of a turn. Experts are free to improvise. The Temptation is so capable in such a range of conditions that our ski test director skied the unisex version nine out of every 10 ski days last winter. Part of that is due to the honeycomb tips reducing swing weight and floating the tip in powder. Swami gripe: Too fat for rock-hard snow. Swami like: Never having to haul two pairs of skis to the hill. 140/100/130; $850; rossignol.com

k2-FulLuvIt_98

#2 K2 FulLuvit 98Ti

The wise use of aspen, paulownia, and bamboo inside the FulLuvit’s core lets K2 trim swing weight and finely tune ski thickness. Machined center grooves shed more grams. The resulting mid-fat is light on the knees and silky on the snow, but there’s ample power: The solid wood at the perimeters is reinforced with a metal and fiberglass laminate that transfers energy to the edges. And tip taper means the FulLuvit darts through soft snow. “Excellent float. Surfs the tops of pillows,” said a tester. Swami gripe: Maybe a little too much tip rocker for pure carving. Swami like: That same rocker earned the FulLuvit top marks for powder turns. 131/98/119; $850; k2skis.com

BLIZZARD_SAMBA

#3 Blizzard Samba

With the Samba, Blizzard starts with poplar, bamboo, vertical sidewalls, and titanal and marries that top-shelf construction to its Flipcore rocker design (no chatter in the tip or tail). We loved it on morning groomers, but at 98mm underfoot, there’s ample girth for off-trail explorations, too. “Slices and dices leftover crud and tree stashes,” said a tester. More tester feedback? Strong technique pays off here—you need to engage the whole length of the ski to unlock its full potential. It helps to bring it up to speed. Swami gripe: Tough to handle at slower speeds in new snow. Swami like: Divide your time evenly between soft corduroy and open bowls? This is the only ski you need. 131/98/116; $780; blizzardsportusa.com

<all mountain powder: 30 percent on-trail / 70 percent off-trail>

VOLKL_100Eight

#1 Völkl 100EIGHT W

This brand new Big Mountain Völkl was ideal for plundering soft snow up in the wide-open alpine at Snowbird. But the German engineers kept the 100EIGHT lightweight enough to explore tight trees, too. Full rocker and a 108mm waist kept testers atop thigh-deep powder and moving sluff at Snowbird. “Ready to charge the steep and deep,” read one test card. Taper up front cut cleanly through chop and let us feather turns in the trees. On hard snow, we tipped it over and found enough effective edge for long-radius cruise missile turns. Swami gripe: They ski better the harder you go. Swami like: They ski better the harder you go.  141/108/124; $825; volkl.com

Atomic_Century109

#2 Atomic Century 109

We expected the Century to ace the float test—at 109mm underfoot it’s the widest ski in our test. But as the Snowbird fresh got tracked out, testers discovered a stalwart all-arounder. Atomic divides rocker between the tip (25 percent) and the tail (10 percent), with camber in between. “Not over-rockered. Just right without losing total ski feel,” wrote a tester. A poplar core makes for a stable ride. Vertical sidewalls underfoot add edgehold for navigating groomers back to the lift, and a cap construction in the tip and tail keep swing weight down. “There’s a big sweet spot, so you can make errors without getting bucked,” said one tester. Swami gripe: Extra girth makes them slow turners on groomers. Swami like: Ideal for skiers who love to smear their turns. 133/109/123; $725; atomic.com

Nordica_SANTA-ANA

#3 Nordica Santa Ana

To shed ounces from the brand new Santa Ana, Nordica harvested sustainably grown balsa—the fastest growing hardwood available—and vertically laminated thin strips of it into the core. They claim it creates a “damp, metal-like” feel. Testers backed that up. “Solid, sturdy, and trustworthy,” said one. A wide, blunt tip with deep rocker (it extends 25 percent down the shovel) works with the 100mm waist to float through deep fluff. Traditional camber underfoot helped it win the category for best hard snow performance. More from the cards: “Confident yet easy flex. Light on my feet yet weighty enough that I don’t get bucked.” Swami gripe: Not as responsive as some skis we tried. Swami like: “Perfect for a western skier who loves to charge.” 133/100/121; $800; nordicausa.com

<pure powder: 100 percent powder>

Dynastar-702_CHAM

#1 Dynastar Cham 107 W 2.0

The backstory: The Cham series debuted in 2013 with tip and tail taper in a five-point sidecut. Rockered tips added float; paired with camber in the ski’s body it boosts hard-snow performance. A great ski—if you attack the hill like a French extremist. With the 2.0, Dynastar refines the taper shape for smoother turn entry and decreases the tip rocker angle, and reworks the flex for a deep, round arc. The result? A bigger sweet spot with no loss in top end performance and: “These skis sail through chop without hooking up.” Bonus: The revamped paulownia wood and fiberglass core drops weight by 25 percent. That feels better on the chairlift, but also when you’re hiking for turns. Swami gripe: The flat tail can get hung up in crud. Swami like: More fun with no speed limit. 137/107/122; $800; dynastar.com

From the Early Winter 2015 issue.

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