K2 Merlin V

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1998 All-Mountain Expert-Gold Medal Winner

Size: 178-198 cm
Price: $759
Details: We skied the Merlin V in three lengths and found three different personalities. At 198 cm, the ski is a pure-bred race sled with an overdrive gear-the piezoelectric modules literally calm the ski down as it gains speed. "Likes to go fast, and loves to go faster," said Palmer. The Merlin V also earned a gold medal in our Race Shape GS ski test. At 188 cm, it's perhaps the most versatile All-Mountain Expert ski in the test, carving trenches on the groomed and perfect powder S's with equal ease. "Whip-quick, but also stable in crud," said McKinney. And at any length, it's at home at speed.

Positives: Ultraversatile, ultraquiet
Negatives: At 198 cm, bump runs are minefields