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.
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2011 Elan Spire

Rating: / 5
Price: $1075.00
Year: 2011
Level: 2
Gender: Male
Waist Width:
Tip/Tail/Waist: 130/98/120
Lengths: 181

Stability at speed: 2.98 / 5
Hard snow performance: 2.85 / 5
Crud performance: 3.40 / 5
Forgiveness: 2.48 / 5

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Salomon Enduro

Salomon Enduro (2011)

Salomon blazed a trail with subtly rockered frontside skis, and the new, refined Enduro is a shining example of the benefits. One of the favorites in the category, it blends hard-snow excellence (vertical sidewalls, metal laminates, grippy construction) with an 84-mm waist and a touch of tip rocker. The result is a supremely smooth and versatile ski that trenches on the groomed but loves soft snow, too. Testers praised its confidence in crud and gave it the No. 1 ranking for Flotation, too. “Versatile in seemingly all conditions,” said Garrett.

2011 Elan Apex

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.

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 Girish

Nordica Girish (2011)

Girish—Sanskrit for “lord of the mountains”—is an apt name for this versatile multitool. Every other ski in the category has one weakness, usually lack of quickness or hard-snow grip. The Girish puts up high scores across the board. A wood-core, metal-reinforced laminate layup gives it power and stability (and a No. 2 ranking in Hard-Snow Grip), while a touch of tip rocker—40 cm long, up to 4 mm high—gives it a nice looseness and creamy flotation in powder (and a No. 2 ranking in Quickness). There are bigger, stronger skis, but none more versatile. “An all-mountain fat super-G ski with the godsend of rocker; perfect combination,” said Elling.

2011 Volkl Gotma

Volkl Gotama (2011)

The original backcountry twin-tip returns with minor modification this year. It’s fully, but subtly, rockered, with a long, gradual tip-to-tail bend. Völkl takes care to make sure rocker and sidecut work together: Tip a Gotama up on groomers, and there’s plenty of edge-to-snow contact for easy carving. But it’s built for soft snow. It surfs and smears readily in powder and smoothly manages crud. There were more dynamic skis in the test, but the Gotama won accolades for versatility and mellow user-friendliness. “A versatile tool for powder and crud—even carves on hardpack; fun and easy,” said Casey.

2011 K2 Rictor

K2 Rictor (2011)

Where the After Shock (see No. 5) features K2’s “all-terrain” rocker, its little brother the Rictor gets “speed rocker.” Just the forward 10 percent is rockered—the rest is traditionally cambered. K2 pairs that profile with a huge tip and aggressive sidecut for an 80-mm ski that carves with enthusiasm but never talks back. It gets excellent marks in Forgiveness—truly an everyday frontside ski and a worthy successor to the late, great Apache Recon. “The tip rocker loosens up the front of the ski, making it just plain easy to turn and more versatile off–piste for such a narrow ski,” said Elling.

Rosignol S86

Rossignol S86 Freeride (2011)

Rossignol had a great test this year, and here’s the poster child of the Rooster’s fully fledged return to relevance. The S86 is an accomplished generalist. Sidecut and traditional camber underfoot combined with a wood-core, metal-reinforced construction make it surefooted on hard snow. But rocker and reverse camber tip-and-tail make it fun and easy in powder, crud, even bumps. It pivots, skids, smears, carves—whatever is asked of it—making it a great choice for anything but the deepest powder or hardest ice. “Hungry for fun in all conditions, especially crud and bumps,” said Scholey.

K2 Aftershock

K2 After Shock (2011)

K2 goes deep with rocker. Almost every ski in the line gets some, from huge helpings in powder skis to subtle tip rocker that makes hard-snow skis easier for skidders to pivot. In an all-mountain ski like the After Shock, a 15-cm section of tip rocker gives it float in powder, smooth shock-absorption and quickness in bumps and crud, and forgiving maneuverability on hard snow. That left our 174 cm test length with about 160 cm of traditional camber—plus two sheets of metal—with which to carve trenches as deep as we cared to. “Fun, lively, quick and easy. A true one-ski-quiver ski,” said Garrett.