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.
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2011 Atomic Seventh Heaven 79

Rating: / 5
Price: $879.00
Year: 2011
Level: 2
Gender: Female
Waist Width:
Tip/Tail/Waist: 118.5/79/104.5
Lengths: 164

Stability at speed: 3.15 / 5
Hard snow performance: 3.31 / 5
Crud performance: 2.34 / 5
Forgiveness: 3.35 / 5

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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.)

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 VF75W

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.

2011 Fischer KOA84

Fischer KOA84 (2011)

We’re still scratching our heads: A tank that plows through crud like this one does shouldn’t be able to effortlessly dice up tight trees, too. The Koa 84 is a standout for striking the perfect balance: a solid powerhouse that’s ridiculously easy to ski. Its hallmark is a glued-to-the-snow feel (it’s No. 1 in Hard-Snow Grip), which lends the driver the assurance to send it into the trees without checking speed. It’s predictable, stable, and has a ripping, racy feel. Its heavier weight is comforting, but it sinks more than most in powder. “A stable ski that rips in all conditions,” said Beale. “I was a charging animal on this ski!”

2011 K2 Lotta Luv

K2 Lotta Luv (2011)

Typical. K2 has another ski that’s fun, versatile, playful—and did we already mention fun? Like all the K2s we tested, the Lotta Luv is suited for the broadest range of ability levels. A huge sweet spot makes it forgiving enough (No. 2) for advanced intermediates, and two sheets of Titanal give it enough spine for experts. A bit of tip lift makes it easy to pivot, and yet the edge engages so easily, carving feels automatic. No. 1 in Quickness, it’s a lightweight, easygoing ride that won’t give you attitude—even if you’re not on your game. “Ski it aggressively or ski it easily,” said Humes. “It’s just plain fun.”

2011 K2 Free Luv

K2 Free Luv (2011)

For years we’ve been saying nothing smears better in powder than rocker, but get on groomed and, well, good luck steering around those lift towers. So imagine our curiosity about K2’s new line, in which every ski—even carvers—incorporates reverse camber. The verdict? K2 wins—again. The Free Luv’s elevated tip effortlessly scouts lines through variable snow. It initiates and releases with ease, earning it No. 1 in Forgiveness. Testers admired its versatility, but found it to be a standout in no one criterion. Racer types will want more grip. “Perfect meat-of-the-market ski; forgiving and easy,” said Shultz.

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.

Blizzard Viva

Blizzard Viva 8.1 (2011)

Every ski has character traits. This ski has personality. It’s snappy, lively, bubbly—and so responsive, it seems to read your mind. Just think about turning, and you’re ripping perfect GS turns down the steeps. Powerful, yes, but polite, too—patiently skidding when you need to scrub speed. Though most at home on hardpack, its 81-mm waist is wide enough to bust crud and float though pow. Are we gushing? Absolutely: It was No. 1 in Rebound Energy, Forgiveness, Hard-Snow Grip and Balance of Skills. “This ski blew my mind,” said Humes. “Quick, stable, snappy—everything I love in a carver.”