We've had a pretty good snow season this year out on the East Coast compared to recent seasons. With the Winter winding down now, I've had a few good months to research, check out and ponder my next ski set as I'm not so sure how much more my current decks can handle. There was a lot of new equipment released this year but the following are some the more interesting planks we found. Hard gear accessories and soft gear will follow shortly:
I was surprised and excited to see the return of Kästle this year. Big in the '80s and '90s, largely due to the success of sponsored downhill and world cup athletes, Kästle stopped production in the late '90s. Now under new ownership, the Austrian company came back with four new models this year, my favorite being the MX88. An all-mountain ski, its simple but attractive design caught my eye. Not just built on looks, Kästle's Hollowtech technology features an oval space of fiberglass at the tip of the ski to reduce weight therefore reducing vibrations and making the ski more stable when turning. They come mounted with top-end bindings and go for around $1,400.
If sticking to hardpack and going fast is your thing, you might want to try out Volkl's new Tigershark. Although I haven't gotten on them yet, the innovation here lies in the "power switch," a dial located on the back of the ski that allows you to stiffen the ski according to the conditions or your desired riding style. This gives you the versatility to take on the whole mountain. Priced at around $1,300, more info and a dealer locator at Volkl.
At 12 pounds, I doubt these are the best performing skis on the market, but they sure look nice and they are first to be made out of stone (granite). The Spada (roman word for sword) skis manufactured by Zai, a swiss brand well known for making high end equipment, came out with these Simon Jacomet designed skis late last year. Limited to only 500 pairs worldwide, they say the mix of carbon fiber and stone technologies make this ski strong, agile and smooth. I especially like the translucent Zai bindings. Price available upon request at Zai.
Possibly the best all around plank of the group, Atomic's Snoop Daddy is wide enough to float on powder but the 88mm sidecut facilitates easy turns on groomers, moguls and even ice. I could do without the faux wood graphics but If you're going to have one ski, starting at around $850, this is a great choice. More info on the whole Daddy series at Atomic.
A newer company that specializes in carbon fiber skis, DPS offers the Lotus series, progressively shaped powder skis that aim to change the game of powder skiing. Especially fat at the waist and more oval like in shape, the tip and tail have an accentuated arch that keeps you high in the snow pack. I especially like the monotone simple graphics. Purchase the Lotus 138 at DPS for $970 and be sure to check out their "design notes."