Mid-performance skis to master the entire hill. Key attributes: versatility, fun.
"These skis should perform well in all terrain: powder, bumps, groomers, woods, even the race course," says Hedda. For 2002-03, the category has grown to include twin-tip terrain-park skis as well as the usual "detuned" (lighter, softer) race skis. Testers value versatility above all, then look for the "fun factor." Length and weight are key: Generally, the shorter and lighter, the better.
Dynastar Team Omeglass 64
Dynastar's junior slalom race ski goes anywhere. Its energy, quickness and control make skiing fun and exciting. It's lightweight, and its deep sidecut enables testers to get in and out of tight situations. Beginners and intermediates might find it hard to handle.
"The only way to describe it is to make up a word: rockus!" -Emma
"It's an ATS: all-terrain ski!" -Staige
Rossignol RPM Jr.
Rossi's right on target with its RPM, which combines confidence-building control with enjoyable energy. Testers felt comfortable in every situation, except for the highest speeds, describing the RPM as bouncy, light and fun. In short, controlled chaos in a ski that tames the entire mountain.
"Fun with a capital F! Maybe I could get used to this freestyle thing." -Sasha
"One surprise after another. This ski must drink Red Bull." -David
Atomic GS:9 J
Along with World Cup looks and feel, the GS:9 appeals to testers with its stability and control. With the Atomic binding, it's one of the heaviest systems available and sticks to the snow like glue. But the testers felt safe and were extremely pleased with its ability to hold and edge on anything.
"It felt like I was going to carve the mountain in half." -Hedda
"It's like a vending machine: full of variety." -Pete
(* Dimensions vary by length; these are for 130 cm.)
The adventurous MinEnemy will surprise those who think of it as only a park ski. Look beyond its twin tips: It has the shape to carve on groomed, the width to float through powder with ease and the stability to go fast in all but the iciest race courses.
"With these skis on, I want woods, I want powder, I want bumps." -Sasha
"Has two personalities: conservative carving and insane tricks." -David
Salomon Teneighty T
The Teneighty's light and energetic feel lets jibbers invent moves in the park but can also take it to every corner of the mountain. High speeds and crud aren't its strong suit, but the twin-tip maneuvers easily in tight trees and carves surprisingly well.
"It loves the woods. It hears the call of the wild, and boy, does it answer." -Jim
"This ride is fearless." -Tyler
Fischer Big Stix Jr.
The powerful Big Stix takes all the quality from its racing cousins and adds a little funk for fun and functional all-mountain skiing. For the bigger, stronger skiers, it plows through the crud with ease and then rips perfect carves on the groomers.
"I loved how it floats in freshies and how comfortable it is in the air." -Tyler
"I like the soft but powerful ride; it maintains control in bad snow." -David
Head Worldcup Team
The Team did especially well with J4s, who loved the control and confidence it gave them. It's lightweight and lively-too much so for heavier testers-yet well-balanced for use in all kinds of terrain.
"Flies above the powder for an awesome ride. A crazy skier would become even crazier on this ski." -Caroline
"I loved it. I can carve big or small turns with ease." -Pete
Volant Machete GXS
The Volant Machete looks cool, turns easily and is at home on the ground or in the air. It rates especially well among younger, lighter testers, who like its bounce; heavier, stronger skiers find it less stable.
"Turns like my barrel-racing horses. Dad, buy this ski for me." -Blaire
"I can control it easily. I give it a gold medal." -Suzi
Kneissl White Star Team
The White Star doesn't have the flash or bells and whistles of other skis, but still handles all types of terrain with ease. Some testers complain that it feels a little slow, but it proves efficient in all criteria.
"Can do it all. It's an anywhere, anytime, anything type of ski." -Tyler
"Such nice turns, so little work. Great for narrow trails, moguls and air." - David
Elan Mantis Jr.
Though our test model was only 123 cm, the Mantis surprised testers with its versatility and control. It lacks hard-snow edge-hold, but comes alive off the groomed trails, especially in bumps and in the park.
"Fun in the air, woods or bumps. For the ripping thrill-seeker without fear." -Tyler
"This ski is best at having fun. It jumps, spins, flies and laughs with you." -David
Blizzard SL Junior
The SL gives testers confidence and control in powder and crud. Though not especially energetic or easy to carve, they were light enough to respond quickly and reliably, yet stable enough to handle tough conditions.
"These are the skis that you want to take runs under the chair on." -Sasha
"I like how it's both lightweight and stable in turns." -Caroline
Völkl Supersport Jr.
The Supersport lives up to its name: It's super everywhere. It received no top three votes, but the comments were positive for this "do-all" ski. Strong and stable enough to hold well on hard snow, it rolls over easily and carves through any conditions.
"What a nice carve. Look at my tracks! Sweet edges are hard to resist." -Sasha
"Makes you grin, in trees, crud or groomed. Very maneuverable." -Tyler