Piste Performance

As far as the latest technologies go, this is the cream of the crop. With these latest performance skis the manufacturers have thrown everything at them to make them well equipped to deal with the rigors of maintaining great edge grip, stability and maintaining a smooth ride while making high speed turns. It’s a category that recently seems to be making a bit of a resurgence, many skiers have tried All Mountain skis, but have realized that sometimes there is too much of a compromise to give a true adrenaline fuelled run on the groomers. Many of these piste skis deliver a performance which is close to race, and will guarantee maximum fun out of every turn.

Technically there have been many modifications and tweaks to these skis from last year, many of them utilizing lighter materials and design methods. Its well worth reflecting on what sort of skiing you enjoy on the piste before making a choice within this category, there is quite a range of performance and some skis will definitely favor a certain turn shape due to their sidecut and profile.

For female skiers, a lot of the design and construction of the skis within this category will mirror the men’s version, but often with tighter sidecuts and swapping heavier layers of reinforcement with a lighter material. Some skis tested here are super light underfoot, yet still manage to rip it up when skied hard. There is more choice of shorter lengths while many of them will have design features like a raised heel, different placement of the binding and lighter tip and tails to work with the difference in morphology between men and women.

All Mountain

All Mountain skis have in the past been the go to ski for skiers who want something for everything, being equally as good on the groomers as in the powder. The reality is that most skis in this group are actually more suited to all round use on the piste.

Their profiles, flex patterns and sidecut makes life easier for a quick session in deeper off piste, however if you want a big day in deep pow, then it's worth stepping up to something bigger to give more instant float.

Essentially this is the right place to be for great piste performance while having the ability to cope with the odd foray into powder and cruddy conditions. The vast majority of these skis use some mild rocker to help give lift in trickier conditions, while using a waist width which gives enough snappiness from edge to edge on the piste. This year see's new materials and construction methods giving lighter weights and ease of use, while still increasing the level of high end carving performance these skis can deliver. A great example of this would be the new Salomon X-Drive and Scott’s The Ski.

Freeride

Freeride skis are still evolving - the industry has been going crazy over the last ten years with various combinations of rocker and camber profiles. This has now slowed down to a pace where there are now small refinements rather than radical changes, which is great news for the humble skier. Essentially all the manufacturers have figured out what works best and we now have skis that are amazing in their surfing capabilities in the powder, while combining that with surprisingly high levels of performance on the piste.

One of the big changes this year is that the growing popularity of ski touring has made a big impact on how these skis are designed. Lighter materials and construction methods are being used, all of these skis are now being tested with one eye on how they will perform with a lightweight tech binding and touring boot, many of them have tip and tail profiles which will work really effectively with a pair of skins.

The result is that if you buy a bang up to date freeride ski, rather than being a one trick powder pony it will give you genuine all mountain performance and access. This could be the one ski quiver that you need!

Free-Tour

This is the new breed of touring kit. It is where most British skiers who are interested in touring will find something suitable. That is why these are the skis we focus on in the ski tests.

A free-tour combination is good for day tours that include a couple of fair-sized ascents, while giving you more confidence and greater stability on the ski down. The difference here is that you can use a binding that is more substantial than the more technical pin set up.

The new breed of free-tour ‘pintech’ bindings offers a great combination of downhill performance, safety and weight. They have a greater range of release settings and feel more solid underfoot than traditional pin bindings.

When matched with a more performance-orientated touring boot and a free-tour ski, this set-up can be good enough to give a great touring experience. The increase in weight does have an effect on the speed of your ascent, but the ski down is easier to handle and more fun.