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Gear Guide 2019: Trends Report

Lighter, faster, more comfortable, and longer lasting. Across the board, ski technology has never been better, and it’s easier than ever to get a perfectly tailored set-up to suit your style.

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Easy Bake, Lightweight, High Performance Alpine Boots

2019 Ski Boots
Photo credit: Keri Bascetta

Ski boot technology took a step forward this season with super light, easy-to-fit boots that perform phenomenally well. K2’s Recon and Luv series and Salomon’s S/MAX line were certainly different than any other boot tested in their respective categories, but the fact that they are easy to get on, easy to customize (the shell and the liner get baked at your local shop) and skied so well put them right up there with the old guard brands of the ski boot world. Forget punching and grinding, just bake ’em and go.

SHOWN: K2 Recon 130, K2 Luv 110, and Salomon S/MAX 130 Carbon.

Wax On, Wax Off

DPS Phantom
Photo credit: Keri Bascetta

How many times a season do you hear “I have the wrong wax,” or “these skis haven’t been waxed in years!” We hear it a lot, and DPS hopes to eliminate these problems by eliminating wax all together. DPS Phantom is a liquid compound that permeates your ski bases and provides a glide that is almost as good as wax, and is significantly better than no wax at all. Because Phantom permeates the base, the lubricant is permanent after a single application. Install it correctly or go to a Phantom Cure Station at your local shop, and you’ll never have to worry about waxing your skis again. We don’t think it’ll replace wax entirely, but for lazy skiers, backcountry tourers, and more, it is a solid option to keep glide year-round. [$100,]

You can read our initial review of DPS Phantom here.

One Binding for Everything

Salomon SHIFT
Photo credit: Keri Bascetta

Salomon and Atomic, two companies owned by the sporting-goods conglomerate Amer, released a new binding this year that is the ultimate solution for 50/50 backcountry/resort skiers. In ski mode, the SHIFT MNC functions like a normal step-in binding, is compatible with any type of boot sole, and performs more smoothly than any backcountry tech binding on hard snow. Flip a switch in the toe piece, and the SHIFT MNC 13 transforms into a touring binding if your boots have tech inserts. Considering the super-light alpine skis and high-performing backcountry boots of recent years, the SHIFT is the last puzzle piece for many in creating a true one-ski quiver for rippers who split equal time between the resort and the backcountry. [$549,]

Read our initial review of the Salomon S/LAB SHIFT binding here.

Material Only Where You Need It

Völkl M5 Mantra 2018/2019 All-Mountain Wide ski
Photo courtesy of Völkl

This year, Völkl and Atomic redesigned classic skis that are now missing something. Namely, material right down the middle of the ski. The Völkl M5 Mantra and Secret have a modified upper layer of Titanal, which the brand calls a “Titanal Frame,” that breathes playful life into formerly notoriously damp skis. Atomic’s Vantage series was fully redesigned with its Prolite construction, a method that involves building the ski on a foundation of super thin Titanium or carbon, and reinforcing edge control with its Energy Backbone. The result? Lightweight skis with translucent centers that are enjoyable everywhere you take them.

SHOWN: Völkl M5 Mantra (BUY NOW)

The Return of Hard-Snow Fun

2018/2019 Blizzard Firebird WRC
Photo courtesy of Blizzard

The past few years have seen the Groomed category go from a bit of a yawn to a hot rod exhibit. Blizzard, Stöckli, Atomic, Völkl, and others are taking technology from their World Cup race skis and putting them into serious carvers with turn-friendly sidecuts. Add in World Cup binding race plates, and the top skis in the category are all rockets that will drive the yellow jackets nuts while they plaster a smile on your face. All this race tech comes with a high price, but as winters become less predictable and skiers spend more time on early season, man-made snow, these skis are going to be hot quiver additions for years to come. (Look out for more super carvers in the October 2018 issue.)

SHOWN: Blizzard Firebird WRC (BUY NOW)

Value Skis


It’s always refreshing to find a good pair of skis at an unbeatable price. That’s why, in addition to awarding Best Value in each category, we also try out skis under a certain price during our annual SKI test. This year, the Dynastar Slicer ($600) and the Armada Victa 93 ($600) deserve special recognition, as they both ranked among the top three performing skis in their respective All-Mountain Narrow categories, despite their low price points. You can find our full Value Category results in the November 2018 issue, and remember: While the average ski price is ticking up, you can still find great deals without four-digits price tags.

SHOWN: Armada Victa 93

How did all of this fancy tech do in our SKI Test? Check out: