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“Playful” isn’ t what you expect from a ski this big, but the metal-free Patron is astonishingly light and snappy (No. 1 in Rebound) without-and this is the surprising part-any undue sacrifice of stability (No. 4). Credit the low profile of the rockered tip. It looks like a downhill race ski tip, and at first it’ s a bit unnerving. Will it dive in powder? Spear itself into the backside of a cruddy bump? No to both, and the low tip puts more edge on the snow when the ski is flexed. So let it run, but don’ t be afraid of tight spots, either.
First, everyone liked Mr. (Eric) Pollard’ s artwork. After that, stunning discrepancies of opinion. The Opus had highly vocal detractors; they disliked the soft flex and forward mount. But it’ s champions ranked it among the best. (Six of 11 put it in their top five). It feels small at first, but skis big. It’ s nimble, but not at the expense of power. The tapered tip and tail keep things loose in deep snow, making it one of the more forgiving fatties. And there’ s always something to stand on underfoot.
Testers praised the Shiro’s smooth and sturdy ride. It’s big, powerful, and best suited for open terrain and untouched snow, but it also makes quick turns in tight spots and surfs the chop nicely. Fully rockered in the tip and tail yet capable of locking into a carve, the Shiro is an ideal powder tool for a Western skier.
Redesigned for Winter 2011-12, Black Diamond’s Power Series is a collection of eight skis designed with the downhill experience–inbounds, slackcountry, heli, or cat–in mind. Power Series skis are built to hang during short skin missions, but the brand’s Efficient Series is better for full-day tours and overnights. The Gigawatt is the fattest of the bunch, made for maximum float and stability in the deepest powder. It incorporates full-length rocker and utilizes a glass-wrapped ” torsion box” wood core.
Built for the backcountry and unchanged from last year, the Mega-Dozer is a twin-tipped fat ski that touts the company’ s biggest rocker in both the tip and tail. Sandwich construction, a birch and poplar wood core, no metal and a 120 mm waist make it a burly ski meant for skiers who rip big powder lines whether facing downhill or up.
With a 29-meter turn radius and wide girth, the BMX 128, an exciting new offering from Kästle, is clearly built for surfing the deep, but it carves up hardpack in huge, sweeping turns. Despite its size and stiffness, its rockered forebody feels soft, making it easy to finesse in tight chutes. But don’t be fooled; it’s a burly ski that thrives under centered, expert feet. Testers voted it number one in this group for manning up to whatever they could throw at it.
” Surfy,” ” smeary,” and ” buttery” were the three most common adjectives testers used to describe the Rocker 2, followed closely by ” lightweight” and ” maneuverable.” Our most powerful testers found it a touch soft; for the rest of us, it responded better when skied in a centered and balanced manner. A few testers also said it handled with the nimbleness of a narrower ski and held up in hard-snow conditions.
New this season is the popular Super 7 in a more manageable 188-centimeter length. A layer of metal upped power output over the metal-free S7 and, combined with ample rocker, smoothed out bumps and chop. Testers loved the playful, pivoty turns it made through the trees. Because of its approachability and forgiving nature, the shorter Super 7 would even be a great pow ski for intermediates.
The Element epitomizes BD’s serious approach to fun and quality. It’s a soft-snow specialist (an über-rockered forebody doesn’t take well to hard snow) that’s easy to smear in steep, powder-choked trees and surf through deep back bowls. Western patrollers and off-trail chargers will love the stiff, wheelie-incapable tail for running wrecks or landing big airs.
Every model in K2′ s massive ski collection features one of five variations of the rocker concept: All Terrain (moderate tip rocker plus camber), Speed (very mild tip rocker plus camber), Catch Free (mild tip-and-tail rocker plus camber), Jib (mild tip-and-tail rocker plus a flat midsection), and Powder (rockered forebody plus cambered rear). At 117mm in the waist, the MissDirected is the widest women’ s model from K2′ s Factory Team series, which consists of skis used by K2′ s pro team athletes. Powder rocker helps it plane high in deep snow and ups maneuverability. Holes in the tip and tail accommodate pre-cut climbing skins (sold separately). This version is sold flat.
The Bodacious is a wider version of the Cochise, our 2012 Ski of the Year. A Colorado tester summed up the group’s opinion when he called it ” one hell of an enjoyable ride.” Playful, surfy, and versatile, the Bodacious knifed through snow-choked trees and mashed chutes with equal authority. And though its width places it among powder skis, it danced on Snowbird’s hardpack. We’d struggle to name a more usable powder ski.
“Versatile and well balanced,” said one tester of the Bent Chetler. ” If you can imagine it, this ski can do it.” Atomic’s blend of tip and tail rocker and underfoot camber turned every type of terrain into a playground–from tight trees and chutes to deep, buttery powder meadows. The 183 is a jibbier length, while the new 192 is savvier in big terrain.