Junior Achievers - Ski Mag

Junior Achievers

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Taylor, an avid 10-year-old racer,

had a question at the end of each run she took: "How many more before we have to stop?" she'd ask, kicking off the skis she'd just finished testing and hurrying in to write her review. "As many as you can," we'd yell after her. "There are 72 pairs waiting for you!"

That's a lot of skis to test, but Taylor and 15 comrades from the Green Mountain Valley School and Mad River Glen race teams got it done, putting the latest high-performance kids skis through their paces over a late-winter weekend at Sugarbush, Vt. And they took their work seriously. Moguls, trees, gates, kickers, carving on the groomed, skidding in the crud—they tried everything. Two testers even braved the Sugarbush pond-skimming contest (presumably to test each ski's flotation properties).

After each run, the kids pulled off gloves, picked up pencils and wrote down their thoughts—the good and the bad. It was our fourth year using Vermont racers as testers for the SKI Magazine junior ski test, and to be honest, we expected the usual results. To our surprise, this test had a different tune. Here's what we found.

Fast Fun: Race skis are becoming more versatile—more adept at going from the racecourse to playing on the mountain. That makes them realistic options for young experts who don't race but are looking for all-mountain performance.

Dueling Dualies: For younger racers allowed only one pair of skis, slaloms are no longer the obvious choice. Many of this year's GS skis proved just as versatile.

Depth of Field: Last year, just four skis hogged all the first-place votes. This year, there were 11 that earned at least one.The Friendly Size Length played more of a role. When testers tried two lengths of the same ski, the results were often very different. A ski that lacked energy in the longer size was suddenly quite lively in the next size down. Don't make a huge jump up in length just because all the other kids are doing it.

Today's junior all-mountain skis continue to morph into a single category that really can handle every aspect of the mountain. The twin-tips perform better outside the parks, and the tuned-down race skis can do it all—even rails and kickers. The differences to look for are width underfoot (wider is more forgiving, skinnier is more precise) and weight (heavier is more stable and comfortable, while lighter means more energy—and risk). We've narrowed it down to 23 good choices. The rest is up to you.

ALL MOUNTAIN/PARK

ATOMIC SX:11
Grade: A+
MSRP: $299
Ability: INT/ADV
This tester favorite "dominates the whole mountain," testers report. And they'd know. The SX:11 is easy to control, easier to turn and ready for anything: bumps, trees, steeps, powder and ice. Even its park performance is acceptable. It's very lightweight, yet its specialty is holding an edge and generating race-ready speeds.

Atomic Deviant
Grade: A+
MSRP: $299
Ability: ALL
The Deviant, which quietly masters whatever terrain it encounters, is obedient and quick, never wobbles at speed and is most at home in the park, where takeoffs and landings are balanced and predictable. But it happily cruises the groomers, too. "Smooth" was the byword. Testers agree: It'll make you a better skier.

Salomon Teneighty
Grade: A+
MSRP: $325—$425
Ability: ALL
"When the conditions were rough, this ski was tough," testers say. It's a park ski that loves to bounce, spin and fly, but it'll carve through anything, too. Ample width and double tips make it perfect for gnarlin' in the park, but what surprised testers was how well it tackled the rest of the mountain with energy and ease.

Elan M Tribe
Grade: A
MSRP: $375
Ability: ALL
The versatile M Series has all the elements of a great all-mountain ski: a wide, sturdy feel underfoot for tackling bumps and crud; the righamount of sidecut for carving and cruising the groomers; and easy maneuverability for bumps and park sessions. It lets you be the boss, wherever you ski, whatever wild trick you attempt.

Head XRC 125
Grade: A
MSRP: $260
Ability: ALL
The XRC is a lion: supremely confident, and it never backs down. But it has a forgiving side, too, so anyone can use and abuse it. Take it from the trees into the NASTAR course and bring home a medal. It's not a twin-tip, so keep those tips pointed downhill when you air the gaps.

K2 Apache Jr.
Grade: A
MSRP: $165
Ability: NOV/INT
This ski is "crazy quick" in all conditions and all terrain, testers concur. It's light and easy to turn, which is great for learning. But it also handles everything on the mountain. The Apache might not have the best hold on ice, but if used within its limits, it keeps skiers safe and smiling all day long.

Rossignol Scratch Jr.
Grade: A
MSRP: $259
Ability: ALL
If you like to go big, go backward or go build kickers in the woods and never go home, this is your ride. It's easy to handle in every situation—gentle on beginners but capable of keeping up as they progress. It's not a hard-snow carver, but who has time for that when the park is calling?

Dynamic Slayer Jr.
Grade: B+
MSRP: $299
Ability: INT/ADV
The Slayer rocks the moguls, carves a mean arc and handles crud with ease. Confidence is the key for both ski and skier—if you trust it, this ski will tackle any trouble and see its pilot safely through. As a bonus, it's also energetic enough to rip the park.

Dynastar Team Trouble
Grade: B+
MSRP: $250
Ability: ALL
"Freedom" was the word best used to describe this light and energetic ski. It has a balanced, forgiving feel that gives a skier confidence to try new things. Easy to maneuver in tight situations, the Trouble begs to go deep into the woods, but it's even more at home in the park, where its easy feel builds confidence.

Fischer Riu Jr.
Grade: B+
MSRP: $250—$295
Ability: INT/ADV
One tester calls it a "turbo-charged Hummer," which is apt, as the ski requires a level of skill to drive. Stable in all conditions, the wide, sturdy Riu lets you worry about which trick to do instead of whether you can land it. Older and heavier skiers will be able to get some pop out of it if they work it hard.

VERSATILE RACE

Atomic SL:11
Grade: A+
MSRP: $439
Ability: INT/ADV
The SL:11 has the energy and power of a hurricane under its topsheet. Put it on edge and hold on for powerful carves and thrilling rebound. It's designed as a slalom ski, but its quickness dares you to take it on any double black the mountain throws at you. Its above-average smoothness gives it acceptable stability at GS race speeds.

Rossignol 9X Racing Jr.
Grade: A+
MSRP: $499
Ability: INT/ADV
The 9X blew testers away with the way it holds a clean edge throughout every turn, even on hard snow and ice. Its heavier weight and stable feel translate into long, smooth arcs that build speed. It's best reserved for kids with some race experience, but testers loved its versatility. "A dual-event monster that rips GS and slalom turns equally well."

Volkl Jr. Racetiger GS
Grade: A+
MSRP: $600
Ability: INT/ADV
The Racetiger's edges claw and hold on any surface, in any terrain. It responds quickly and accurately to input and builds speed with ease. It's especially lightweight and energetic for a GS ski and, in its shorter lengths, handles slalom surprisingly well. Testers liked "how easy this ski rolls into the new turn."

Elan RCX
Grade: A
MSRP: $410
Ability: ALL
The RCX's remarkably versatile dual-event design has it all—energy, power and forgiveness—for beginners all the way up to Junior Olympians. What sets the RCX apart is how easy it is to turn in all conditions and terrain. A young racer can trust it to hold in nasty ruts, and it'll get the expert freeskier down a ravine unscathed.

Nordica Dobermann SLJ
Grade: A
MSRP: $485
Ability: INT/ADV
Rip the gates before lunch, then rip the whole mountain all afternoon on this wild, wicked ride. The SLJ's lightweight feel comes with a stable platform. Experienced racers who know how to stand on a ski will love its quick response, clean carves and easy speed. One tester says, "It could handle the Mad River slalom at its iciest!"

Dynastar Team Omeglass
Grade: B+
MSRP: $325
Ability: ALL
Experienced racers will appreciate this ski's intensity and energy; less aggressive ones will like its lightweight, easy feel. Bring on both slalom and GS courses, and while you're at it, bring on the trees and the double blacks. "It has a wicked sidecut," which enables the ski to do almost anything at any time.

Fischer Worldcup SL Jr.
Grade: B+
MSRP: $500
Ability: INT/ADV
One tester calls it the "ultimate dual-event ski," because its versatile sidecut works equally well in slalom and GS. Its energy is intense—so much so that only capable skiers will be able to stay forward and in control as it carves clean, tight arcs. But those who can harness the power will be pleased with its aggressiveness.

Salomon Equipe 10T 3V
Grade: B+
MSRP: $495
Ability: ALL
Think "turn" and the 3V responds. It's smooth and easy to control, even in difficult conditions, and it'll help novice racers learn to carve. But it also lets intermediates and experts get away with mistakes as they build speed in the course. "This ski put a smile on my face the whole way down," says one tester.

Dynamic VR27 GS Jr.
Grade: B
MSRP: $399
Ability: NOV/INT
Younger or less experienced racers will gain confidence with the VR27, a lightweight, manageable and very forgiving ski. It carves readily, but is content to make skidded turns, too. It's always happy to cruise the blues, patiently allowing its master to try new things comfortably.

Head GS Team CP14
Grade: B
MSRP: $400
Ability: ALL
Properly pressure the front of this ski and it'll hold through the turn and then release automatically into the next one. You can't relax on the GS Team because it likes to take off and build speed. It prefers long turns, especially on groomers, managing high speeds with little vibration. Slalom turns? Not its forte.

PURE RACE

Atomic GS:11
Grade: A+
MSRP: $439
Ability: INT/ADV
Stability and speed are the GS:11's key attributes, thanks to a race-ready construction tailored for juniors. With a continuous, solid feel underfoot, it dives into icy ruts and comes out unscathed, never chattering. But only skilled skiers can unlock its secret chamber of speed.

Stockli Laser GSJ
Grade: A+
MSRP: $649
Ability: ADV
This thoroughbred race ski handles all race conditions with ease. We put it through the wringer—ice, slush, groomed, ruts, crud—and it kept carving clean arcs. Only advanced racers will be able to appreciate and control its perfect sidecut, sturdy construction and fast feel, but testers loved its powerful performance.

Volkl Jr. Racetiger SL
Grade: A+
MSRP: $600
Ability: INT/ADV
Ease of control is all to often missing in slalom skis, but the testers could handle this lightweight slalom ski and relax at the same time. It's super smooth, it manages crud well, and it builds confidence. But its users should already know how to pressure and carve a ski before attempting to tame this tiger.

September 2005

Captions:
Testers: Staige Davis, Cole Deiveness—for beginners all the way up to Junior Olympians. What sets the RCX apart is how easy it is to turn in all conditions and terrain. A young racer can trust it to hold in nasty ruts, and it'll get the expert freeskier down a ravine unscathed.

Nordica Dobermann SLJ
Grade: A
MSRP: $485
Ability: INT/ADV
Rip the gates before lunch, then rip the whole mountain all afternoon on this wild, wicked ride. The SLJ's lightweight feel comes with a stable platform. Experienced racers who know how to stand on a ski will love its quick response, clean carves and easy speed. One tester says, "It could handle the Mad River slalom at its iciest!"

Dynastar Team Omeglass
Grade: B+
MSRP: $325
Ability: ALL
Experienced racers will appreciate this ski's intensity and energy; less aggressive ones will like its lightweight, easy feel. Bring on both slalom and GS courses, and while you're at it, bring on the trees and the double blacks. "It has a wicked sidecut," which enables the ski to do almost anything at any time.

Fischer Worldcup SL Jr.
Grade: B+
MSRP: $500
Ability: INT/ADV
One tester calls it the "ultimate dual-event ski," because its versatile sidecut works equally well in slalom and GS. Its energy is intense—so much so that only capable skiers will be able to stay forward and in control as it carves clean, tight arcs. But those who can harness the power will be pleased with its aggressiveness.

Salomon Equipe 10T 3V
Grade: B+
MSRP: $495
Ability: ALL
Think "turn" and the 3V responds. It's smooth and easy to control, even in difficult conditions, and it'll help novice racers learn to carve. But it also lets intermediates and experts get away with mistakes as they build speed in the course. "This ski put a smile on my face the whole way down," says one tester.

Dynamic VR27 GS Jr.
Grade: B
MSRP: $399
Ability: NOV/INT
Younger or less experienced racers will gain confidence with the VR27, a lightweight, manageable and very forgiving ski. It carves readily, but is content to make skidded turns, too. It's always happy to cruise the blues, patiently allowing its master to try new things comfortably.

Head GS Team CP14
Grade: B
MSRP: $400
Ability: ALL
Properly pressure the front of this ski and it'll hold through the turn and then release automatically into the next one. You can't relax on the GS Team because it likes to take off and build speed. It prefers long turns, especially on groomers, managing high speeds with little vibration. Slalom turns? Not its forte.

PURE RACE

Atomic GS:11
Grade: A+
MSRP: $439
Ability: INT/ADV
Stability and speed are the GS:11's key attributes, thanks to a race-ready construction tailored for juniors. With a continuous, solid feel underfoot, it dives into icy ruts and comes out unscathed, never chattering. But only skilled skiers can unlock its secret chamber of speed.

Stockli Laser GSJ
Grade: A+
MSRP: $649
Ability: ADV
This thoroughbred race ski handles all race conditions with ease. We put it through the wringer—ice, slush, groomed, ruts, crud—and it kept carving clean arcs. Only advanced racers will be able to appreciate and control its perfect sidecut, sturdy construction and fast feel, but testers loved its powerful performance.

Volkl Jr. Racetiger SL
Grade: A+
MSRP: $600
Ability: INT/ADV
Ease of control is all to often missing in slalom skis, but the testers could handle this lightweight slalom ski and relax at the same time. It's super smooth, it manages crud well, and it builds confidence. But its users should already know how to pressure and carve a ski before attempting to tame this tiger.

September 2005

Captions:
Testers: Staige Davis, Cole Derrick, Noah Johnson, Anna Kikut, Ava Kikut, Sara Kikut, Sarah McHugh, Alex Osgood, Bobby Osgood, Aniken Palola, Tristan Palola, Cody Putre, Sarah Rutter, Cassie Smith, Taylor Spillane, Faye Wexler.

Coaches: Andy Peters, Jess Reigle, Megan Travis.

Technicians: Chris Downing, Rick Mcallister.

Support: Sugarbush Resort, Green Mountain Valley School, Paradise Deli.e Derrick, Noah Johnson, Anna Kikut, Ava Kikut, Sara Kikut, Sarah McHugh, Alex Osgood, Bobby Osgood, Aniken Palola, Tristan Palola, Cody Putre, Sarah Rutter, Cassie Smith, Taylor Spillane, Faye Wexler.

Coaches: Andy Peters, Jess Reigle, Megan Travis.

Technicians: Chris Downing, Rick Mcallister.

Support: Sugarbush Resort, Green Mountain Valley School, Paradise Deli.

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