K2 Merlin IV

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1998 All-Mountain Expert-Gold Medal Winner

Size: 168-198 cm
Price: $699
Details: If the Merlin V feels a bit too rambunctious for your taste, consider the agile, effortless Merlin IV. "An energized ski," said McKinney, "yet it stays nicely on the snow. It's great for an all-mountain adventurer who likes the short- and medium-radius arc." Morgan enjoyed his Merlin IV served up "very gentle and light," noting that it needs just a whiff of ankle pressure. One key: The piezoelectric device in the IV makes the ski a hot-tuned short turner with a high-tech edge on ice. "Spunky on hard snow," said Lyons, "but also nicely damp, with the ability to follow the contours of the hill."

Positives: Fun, easy and quick
Negatives: Shaky in big, fast GS turns