Elan Apex (2011)

In a category where versatility is prized above all else, the Apex gets the job done with a pleasing blend of power and forgiveness. Testers gave it high marks for its hard-snow performance. Yet with plenty of taper (i.e., relatively narrow tail in relation to tip), it releases readily at the end of each arc, so you’ll never feel overmatched. It’s a no-gimmicks, unrockered, wood-core, vertical-sidewall, metal-reinforced construction with a smooth, supple feel—plenty of fun at speed. “Direction changes are quick, stability is super high—it does everything well,” said Preston.
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Publish date:
2011 Elan Apex

Rating: / 5
Price: $1000.00
Year: 2011
Level: 3
Gender: Male
Waist Width:
Tip/Tail/Waist: 128/88/108
Lengths: 177

Stability at speed: 2.96 / 5
Hard snow performance: 3.42 / 5
Crud performance: 2.96 / 5
Forgiveness: 2.30 / 5

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2011 Elan Spire

Elan Spire (2011)

As the fattest ski in the category, the Spire was at a disadvantage in terms of quickness and hard-snow grip, but it held its own nevertheless. It’s fluid, supple, strong and surprisingly agreeable in bumps. And with that 98-mm waist, no one doubts its powder-day capabilities—especially with its touch of tip rocker. Flotation won’t be a problem. Aside from the rocker and width, it’s the same as the Apex (see No. 13), which testers liked for all-mountain, all-conditions applications. But if you ski lots of powder, the Spire will satisfy. “Easygoing, balanced, round and smooth in longer turns,” said Casey.

Volkl Mantra 2011

Volkl Mantra (2011)

At 96 mm, the Mantra was second-fattest in the category. That put it at a disadvantage in terms of quickness and all-mountain versatility, but it will rock those powder days. It’s a traditional-camber, wood-core, laminate construction—built for racy edge-grip that belies its girth; demanding, but also rewarding. It was No. 3 in Flotation, yet still in the middle of the pack for Hard-Snow Grip. It loves long arcs and high speeds, erring on the side of power over finesse. Among all the rockered skis, it feels especially long and burly, which skilled traditionalists will love. “A dynamic one-ski-quiver gem for experts,” said Malone.

2011 Nordica Radict

Nordica Radict (2011)

The first thing you notice is how huge it is. Then the scary clown. Then the tip profile: There’s almost no upward curve to it. The new Radict has traditional camber underfoot—about 60 percent of its length—with pronounced rocker tip and tail. The tip rocker starts 40 cm back and rises almost a full 3 cm—so high there’s no need for much additional tip curvature. The combination of width and rocker adds up to supreme flotation in the deepest pow. Testers had to punish it for lack of versatility, but still gave it the No. 2 ranking for Overall Impression. “Surprisingly maneuverable for its size; super fun,” said a tester.

2011 Volkl Kenja

Volkl Kenja (2011)

Völkl’s got a thing for Japan. We suspect it’s because they craft skis as fine as samurai swords—and the graphics are cool, besides. Enter Kenja (“wise one”). It has the same hip freeride feel as the wider Aura and Kiku—plus Völkl’s classic edge-grip to rail on the groomed. It’s No. 1 in Stability and Rebound and last in Quickness/Bumps, which tells you it likes speed and power. It’s stiff, too, but a tapered tail scrubs speed in powder and releases relatively easily on groomed, earning it respectable scores in Forgiveness. Still, its talents are best suited for experts. “Stable, yet not heavy,” said Gibbons. “Performs best when pushed.”V

Fischer Watea 94

Fischer Watea 94 (2011)

Fischer has gone to great lengths to lighten up the 94-mm Watea, milling out parallel channels in the core, then filling them with reinforcing carbon-fiber I-beams. Then it gives the tip a unique shape—a 3D prow like the hull of a speedboat—the better to slice through soft snow. The result: The Watea 94 was No. 1 for Flotation and No. 2 in Crud Performance. As testers pointed out, there are quicker and more energetic skis in the category, but the Watea loves cruising in long, fast arcs on the groomed while waiting for the next powder day. “Fun at high speeds; awesome in crud; all-mountain versatile,” said Boller.

Blizzard M-Power

Blizzard M-Power (2011)

It’s built like a race ski in some respects—wood core, metal laminates, vertical side walls. Blizzard’s new Power System—a carbon reinforcement bar connected to an oil-filled piston underfoot—adds tip and tail pressure at speed while quieting the ski between turns. Blizzard softens the flex and adds tip rocker for manageability and soft-snow versatility, but it’s still very much a go-fast ski: No. 2 in Stability at Speed, No. 1 in Hard-Snow Grip. It’s thrilling, but it expects you to know what you’re doing. Easterners will love the tenaciousness. “Give it the gas; it gives back,” said Malone.

Dynastar Course TI

Dynastar Course TI (2011)

We said “hard snow,” and Dynastar took us at our word. Straight out of the race collection comes the Course Ti. It’s a full-on, metal-reinforced, square-sidewalled speed demon with an ice-biting 72-mm waist. Flotation and Crud Performance? Not its bag. But it’s so good at what it does—medium-radius arcs on hard snow, the faster the better—that testers loved it. (Check out the Overall Impression ranking: No. 3.) Forgiving? Only compared to FIS-level race skis. But carve technicians and citizen racers will rip the groomed with confidence. “Exemplifies the best attributes of the ‘cheater race ski,’” said Garrett.

Dynastar Sultan 94

Dynastar Legend Sultan 94 (2011)

Here’s a super-sized version of the Sultan 85 (see No. 2). Dynastar gives it the same burly construction (it scored a shade higher in Stability); the differences are simply width (94 mm instead of 85) and rocker (about 23 cm in the tip instead of 18), plus a slightly longer sidecut radius that prefers going down the hill instead of across it. The result is a surfier, floatier feel that’s more at home in soft snow and a little less versatile for frontside applications, though it’s still among the favorites. Testers gave it the top score in Crud Performance. “Strong, well balanced; perfect for rooting out the last pockets of powder,” said Elling.