Discover the kit that will help you deliver speed, power and control on-piste.

There are few better feelings than laying down a perfect flat-out carve in fresh corduroy. Getting low, close to the newly groomed snow, you feel yourself being sucked down into the turn and fired out of the other side ready for another, and another, and another…

Equipment and technology have trickled down from the World Cup race circuit to improve the two-way interface a skier has with the snow. This allows a skier to maximise the energy they can push through their legs and into the snow but also increases the feedback a skier receives, allowing them to make adjustments on the fly. Efficient power transfer is key with performance piste skiing where it is all about accelerating through the turn and leaving it faster than when you arrived.

Don’t be fooled into thinking that piste equipment is only suited to one type of snow. Top piste performance gear must grip well on the iciest runs first thing in the morning but also be comfortable ploughing through slush on a spring afternoon.

Find out more about finding the perfect piste performance setup with our 2020 buying guide, in association with Snow+Rock.

Like to get your turns in away from the pistes? Check out our buying guide for this season’s best Freeride and All-mountain gear.

Skis

The demands of a modern piste ski are simple, easy turning and absolute power transfer, however, achieving these two goals is anything but. Innovative constructions, exotic materials and out-there technologies are released year-on-year, as brands compete for the piste performance crown.

In general, piste performance skis will have almost total camber, this is to maintain edge pressure along the entire length of the ski. Better contact with the snow and higher edge pressure mean more control. The ski will be stiff underfoot for power in the turn but soften slightly at the top to allow for easy turn initiation, a small amount of rocker, or early rise, is also commonplace in the tip to further aid this.

The sidecut of piste ski is particularly important. The hourglass shape from tip to tail is what makes the ski turn on edge. In general, a more aggressive sidecut, where the hourglass shape is exaggerated, yields a ski more suited to shorter, slalom like turns, with a less aggressive shape giving a ski more suited to longer turns and one that will be more stable at speed.

However, there is a new design ethos within the piste performance category this year, wide-bodied skis. The wider construction and oversize sidecut give more contact with the snow, this gives better stability at speed and with it more accessibility for a range of ski abilities. You would have thought that a wide-bodied ski would lose out to a more traditional piste ski when transferring quickly for edge-to-edge, but after riding the skis, this did not seem to be a concern for our testers.

A ski that is leading this charge of this new wave of wide-bodied piste skis is the Rossignol React. Our testers reviewed the R8 Ti version and were enchanted by the ski’s performance over any terrain. The French ski achieved a perfect score in all aspects of piste skiing apart from in bumps where it was docked just one point.

The testers stated, “This is a very strong all-rounder that feels fast and grippy in all turn shapes, it works really well on the piste but also has the width that it can easily cope with more chopped up softer conditions.”

Rossignol’s flex tip construction coupled with a small amount of tip rocker gave easy turn initiation while the titanium construction packed plenty of juice when pushing the ski to its limits. “The shovel of the ski drives you into the turn while the shape delivers a beautifully sweet arc,” said the test team.

The wider construction was certainly a hit. Testing on a spring week in Pila, the team encountered a variety of snow conditions and the extra width paid dividends in more variable conditions where the stability was appreciated.

A different version of the Men’s Rossignol React R8 is available in Snow+Rock stores and online for £515 including binding, read the full review here. View Snow+Rock’s entire range of Rossignol skis here.

“The perfect ski for every woman”, high praise indeed for this year’s Salomon S/Max W 10. While there is no notable upgrade other than a new top-sheet, the S/Max W has remained at the top of the women’s field for a second year in succession, hardly surprising after its rave reviews last winter.

The S/Max W is the same construction as the men’s S/Max ski, the only difference being the top sheet and the shorter length. It is a ski that gives as much as you need it to, making it hugely accessible for several different ability levels. The relatively soft flex allows for easy cruising, but, ignite the afterburners and you can get the most from this ski. Increasing the speed and pushing the ski on all piste conditions in the endless hunt for the perfect turn is the S/Max W’s MO, as Salomon puts it “the S/Max will have you laying down fast, precise turns from day one”.

The Women’s Salomon S/Max W 10 is available in Snow+Rock stores and online for £530 including binding, read the full review here. View Snow+Rock’s entire range of Salomon skis here.

Boots

Often inspired by the boots you see at the elite level, a good piste performance boot delivers a secure, comfortable fit inside a strong chassis designed around maximum energy transfer from skier to snow.

The majority of on-piste boots stick with the traditional alpine construction, which has been refined over the years and adapted by brands in their signature styles. As materials and construction methods have evolved, brands are pushing the discipline forward with innovative solutions tested on the world stage and delivered to consumers.

The last, or fit, of these boots, has also been fine-tuned over seasons to create sporty, secure and comfortable boots that hold your foot securely. Manufacturers will also produce different fits to make their lines more accessible for different abilities and foot shapes. Gone are the days where performance and comfort were mutually exclusive.

When choosing piste performance boots, skiers will generally pick a flex that is suitable to their ability, the flex rating increasing with ability level. Intermediate male skiers will start at around 100 flex, topping out at 130-140 for experts, while female skiers will start at 70, moving up to 100-110 as they progress.

A familiar silhouette on the boot rack is the Salomon S/Max, available for both men and women. With a rich heritage and solid reputation, the boot has long been a favourite with boot fitters and piste skiers alike. Over the years Salomon has fine-tuned the S/Max into a piste skiing machine. Based research carried out by their World Cup racing department, this latest iteration features a core frame construction built into the thinner shell to give a lighter, more agile and more sensitive boot.

The boot comes in several flex options and is fully customisable, with a mouldable shell and liner, allowing you to find the perfect fit and performance level in the range. If the S/Max is a little too sporty and you are in search of a slightly more accessible boot, then try on the S/Pro for size, the sister range offers a wider last for a more comfortable fit.

Another renowned on-piste boot in Snow+Rock’s lineup is the Atomic Hawx. With gender-specific fits built for men and women, the boot comes in two ranges, the Hawx Ultra, for top-end, high-performance piste skiing, and the Prime, for skiers looking for an extremely accessible boot. Each range is available in several flex models, some of which are adjustable, to suit skiers from intermediate level and up.

Just like the Salomon range, these Atomic boots are fully customisable and adaptable for virtually all foot shapes. Historically, Atomic has always had a more accommodating fit, so if you have a high instep then the Hawx could be a better option for you. However, it’s best not to try and figure this out at home, visit a specialist boot fitter, like Snow+Rock to get find a set of boots that matches your foot shape perfectly before setting your heart on a set.

The Salomon S/Max and Atomic Hawx Ultra boots are available in Snow+Rock stores and online from £340 and £310 respectively. View Snow+Rock’s entire range of ski boots here.

The best way to ensure your boots fit you well for seasons to come is to spend time with an experienced boot fitter, like those at Snow+Rock, where the retailer offers a comfort guarantee. Find out more about the boot fitting process here.

Bindings

Every set of piste ski comes with system mount bindings, which rather limits your choice, but these key items of equipment should be more than an afterthought when buying your new skis. A well set on-piste binding will offer predictable, safe release during a crash but also hold firm when you are within control, whether that be on bumps, piste or otherwise.

Both the Salomon and Rossignol mentioned above are packaged with excellent bindings produced in house. Each is mounted via a plate that is produced in house, specifically engineered for each ski to maximise power transfer. Salomon’s piste skis have gone beyond this by building an angled flare up from each sidewall of the ski so the binding sits within the ski, dubbed the “Edge-Amplifier”. This aptly titled technology maximises the amount of power transferred from the skier through the edge of the ski, giving unrivalled edge grip across a range of conditions.

Check out Snow+Rock’s full range of bindings online or head in-store to chat with one of their in-house experts.

Remember, to ensure your bindings are fitted safely and to the correct settings according to your weight, height and ability level, it is best to consult one of Snow+Rock’s qualified in-store experts.

Poles

Lightweight, aerodynamic poles are key in the piste performance category. Lighter poles are generally used, with riders valuing low weight and drag over out-and-out strength. Generally, aluminium is used but if you don’t mind splashing out then a carbon pole will offer the lightest construction and provide optimal vibration dampening.

The Leki Spark Lite poles offer many of the features found on Leki’s top-end models but for a fraction of the price. A lightweight aluminium shaft is topped by a soft touch grip and Leki’s signature Trigger-S system which automatically releases the strap in the case of a fall. Leki also produces fantastic quality carbon options, available for ultimate performance on the pistes.

If you are looking for an entry-level piste pole then Salomon’s Shiva pole for women is a great option from the French company. Featuring a 16mm aluminium shaft, the pole offers good value and good strength in a relatively lightweight package, it’s easy to see why the pole is so popular.

The Leki Spark Lite and Salomon Shiva poles are available in Snow+Rock stores and online for £27 and £26 respectively. View Snow+Rock’s entire range of ski poles here.

Find out more about Snow+Rock and view their entire range on their website at www.snowandrock.com