piste performance

It seems skiers are gradually reawakening to the draw of piste-focused skis. The reality is that for most people, conditions dictate that you will spend most of your time on the groomed runs. If that’s the case then the difference between a focused piste ski, compared to something more all-mountain or freeride orientated is simply enormous. The step up in performance and therefore fun is huge, it’s liking stepping out of a tractor and getting in a Ferrari….

Piste skis have the advantage in that they can focus on one simple goal, high performance in a relatively controlled environment of groomed runs. These means that you can beef up the construction go for integrated binding systems, while having a sidecut that can really give you something back when the ski is put on its edge. These types of skis can transform a relatively benign set of everyday conditions into something really addictive.

This year, for both women’s and men’s it was really difficult picking out winners, the overall level of quality was so high, which tells you everything you need to know about the contenders that got on the podium. If you yet haven’t tried a pair of the latest weapons grade piste skis, you better go for it, you’ve been missing out!

ALL-Mountain

For most manufacturers this is the big one, this is the area where most skiers tend to make their choices, one ski for everything, a jack of all trades, an all mountain ski. Just filling that remit is a huge challenge; how do you balance out the needs of powder which requires a wide platform, soft flex and rockered profile, with the needs of piste performance where narrow platforms, stiffer flex and minimal rocker are the basics? It’s a tough one, and as in many things in life there is no one cure-all solution. The main trend we have seen this year is a greater usage of the latest materials which allow for lightweight, soft longitudinal flex, while remaining torsionally stiff, all wrapped up in some cool graphics with a modicum of rocker thrown in. Results wise, it’s actually a resounding success with the winners in this test being able to pull off the impossible act of delivering exciting carving performance on the groomers, while still being playful and easy in the soft stuff. If your in the market for an all mountain ski, there’s never been a better time, however there are big variations in the conditions and terrain that suit each ski, they vary from high speed, piste screamers through to laid back powder junkies. Think about what your preferred tipple is, and make your choice!

Freeride

The test team hit the jackpot this winter, with an incredible array of conditions on our annual test week in Kuhtai, which ranged from fast, groomed pistes through to waist deep powder. We managed to test these freeride skis just at the end of a two day storm, which gave us a unique opportunity to try them out in the conditions they are really designed for. If you love powder, this is the place to be….

Within freeride skis the move towards using the latest lightweight materials really made an impact a couple of years ago. Now it seems that the adding of these materials has been better integrated with the overall construction, flex and profile of the skis. The result is that there are skis out there than can give you that lightness of touch in powder, but also have the all round balance to still deliver a strong performance on harder groomed runs as well. This means that if you love powder, these skis will give you an amazing ride, however, they can also offer up some genuine all mountain performance!

Free-tour

Touring is still unfamiliar to most British skiers, but demand is growing fast as more of us forgo lifts to hike up the hill. There is a huge range of free-tour gear, and the choice can be daunting. Before setting your heart on a ski, consider boots and binding, as well three need to work together effectively. This is why we don't give free-tour skis top performance awards, as we do for freeride, all-mountain and piste skis. A light ski needs to be paired with a light binding and a light boot. A heavy duty freeride boot will overpower the ski and binding and will feel unbalanced. Light does with light, heavy with heavy. To decide which is the right set-up for you, ask yourself what sort of touring you do. If you climb for two hours at a time, and are not super confident in mixed, tricky snow conditions go for a stronger, heavier boot and a wider ski, and a binding with a good range of release options. If you go on hut-to-hut tours, and are confident in your skiing, you will be able to handle lightweight combos that will be a job on those long ascents. In the search for the holy grail of a ski that is light yet has great use-ability in all conditions, brands have created many skis listed here that are a delight to use in powder, while being effortless on the top.