Atomic D2 VF75W (2011)

Our testers were shocked by this ski: It was so heavy they had to drag it to the lift, but it zipped playfully—joyfully—down the hill. Atomic’s “double deck” construction is responsible: Two independently flexing decks are stacked on top of each other. The lower deck absorbs the shock, and the upper deck distributes your power to stiffen the tip and tail as needed at higher speeds (hence the energetic pop). The end result is a ski that’s both damp and stable and snappy and lively. It is still an Atomic, though, so you’d better be in for a race-like ride. “A great hard-snow and crud-buster ski,” said Gibbons.
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2011 Atomic VF75W

Rating: / 5
Price: $999.00
Year: 2011
Level: 3
Gender: Female
Waist Width:
Tip/Tail/Waist: 126/75/111
Lengths: 166

Stability at speed: 4.05 / 5
Hard snow performance: 4.04 / 5
Crud performance: 3.01 / 5
Forgiveness: 2.88 / 5

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2011 Atomic D2 VF 82

Atomic D2 VF82 (2011)

Was it the biggest, baddest carver in the test? Yes it was: No. 1 in Stability at Speed and Hard-Snow Grip. D2 stands for “double deck”: It has a primary core plus a secondary structure on top. The second core’s shearing action insulates skiers from vibrations and beefs up tip and tail stiffness when the ski is flexed at speed (hence the VF, for “vario flex”). Testers kept trying to find its speed limit, but chickened out every time. Nothing shakes its quiet stability, and yet for all its raciness, it’s wide enough for soft snow. Beware, it’s the least forgiving among winners. “As long as I was willing to go way too fast, this ski lit it up,” said Elling.

2011 Atomic Seventh Heaven 79

Atomic Seventh Heaven 79 (2011)

The Seventh Heaven has a quick, racy feel that’s ideally suited for harder snow. (Not surprising, given that it has the narrowest waist of the group.) Most testers wrote “good frontside ski,” or “great for an East Coast everyday ski,” which means it’s the least versatile in the group. But what it does—carve—it does well. (Atomic edge-grip? Check.) A slight rise in the tip (Atomic calls it “adaptive camber”) makes it easy to pivot in transitions between turns, which accounts for a high score in Forgiveness (No. 4), but otherwise it’s built like a traditional groomer ski. “Feels powerful underfoot, but easy to initiate,” said Moscarella.

2011 Atomic Elysian

Atomic Elysian (2011)

Atomic has two winners in this category. The wider-waisted Elysian shined in soft snow; the narrower Seventh Heaven (see No. 10) in hard. A twin-tip with traditional camber—one of the few in the category with no rocker—the Elysian lays its whole edge on the snow, making it supremely stable at speed. Try to rein it in, though, and it will groan and drag, feeling sluggish underfoot. Nothing flashy here; just a simple, solid ski that performs. For Westerners skiing mostly off-piste, it’s a great ski. “Very solid base without feeling heavy or damp,” said Wilde. (Easterners: Look to the right. The Seventh Heaven is a better bet.)

Atomic Crimson TI

Atomic Crimson TI (2011)

No. 1 in Stability at Speed, No. 2 in Hard-Snow Grip…. Yeah, it’s an Atomic. And a No. 2 Overall Impression ranking shows that testers were more than willing to overlook the tradeoffs in forgiveness and quickness. The Crimson­—traditionally cambered, metal- reinforced and a perennial tester favorite—loves to go fast, and doesn’t seem to care what the snow conditions are like. That big tip hooks up with ease, and thrilling rebound propels you from one turn to the next. It’s not for sissies, though. “Rewards those willing to set an edge an stand on it,” said Casey.

2011 Kastle LX

Kastle LX82 (2011)

This one should come with a helmet. A damp powerhouse that insists on speed, the LX 82 goaded our testers to the edges of their comfort levels. We should have expected as much from the only unisex ski entered in the category (see also: Men’s Hard Snow) but its lightweight construction—the trademark of the new LX line—had us fooled. The secret is a light, soft wood core sandwiched in metal then wrapped in fiberglass, giving it the torsional rigidity to bite on ice. It only has one speed, though: hauling butt. “Good for someone who charges all the time,” said Gillet.

2011 Blizzard The Crush

Blizzard The Crush (2011)

Let’s hope the still-small, reemergent Blizzard factory is fully staffed: These skis are going to sell. The redesigned Crush blows through everything in its path. All you have to do is look down your line, and this ski will take you there. Steep, tight trees? Chuck yourself in. Chopped up crud? Ditto. Groomers? It rips. A rockered tip and tail work with its sidecut for supreme contact on hard snow, making it the most versatile in the category—tops in Hard-Snow Grip, Crud, Rebound and Stability. And yes, it smears lusciously through pow. “I couldn’t go as fast as this ski wanted to,” said Beale. “What a standout.”

2011 Solomon Lady

Salomon Lady (2011)

One of our testers had “so much $%^&%^* fun” on this ski, her comments were anything but ladylike. A winner in last year’s test, too, the Lady is a floaty, fun, playful and forgiving ride that surfs through powder and sucks up bumps. (Salomon’s early-rise tip is the key in both instances.) With a softer, easier flex that rewards finesse over power, it’s not a hard-snow specialist, but it is beautifully balanced for soft and variable snow. The sweet spot is huge—you can get back on your tails and it gently corrects you—but it’s not a pushover: As Beale, its strongest proponent, put it, “It may be a Lady, but it’s got grit.”

2011 Kastle FX94

Kastle FX94 (2011)

Chris Davenport is a cool dude, being one of the world’s greatest big mountain skiers and all that. So it follows that the ski he inspired, as one tester put it, “RULES!” The FX94—the newest in Kastle’s freeski/mountaineering line—eats up the fall line regardless of what lies beneath: powder, trees, crud, cord, bumps. It’s ravenous for speed and can never get enough. Two sheets of metal sandwich a wood core—the sturdiest in the category. (It’s also the only unisex model; Kastle’s women’s line is in the works.) “Crushed the chop, great float, and could still carve way out from under me,” said Schultz.