For years, ski racing's technology hierarchy went like this: There was the race department; then there was everybody else. Racing engineers all over the world would develop exotic, classified ways of going fast-and keep it to themselves. All we amateur racers could do was to tap our feet and wait-or pray that a pair of race stock GS skis would fall out of the Austrian sky and land in our locker up at Burke or Buck Hill or Steamboat. And consumer design? It was little more than "softened" (read: emasculated) race engineering.
Then the tide turned. Consumer technology began to guide the thinking in the race rooms. Shaped skis had arrived and were allowing average skiers to carve flawless turns on nearly any kind of snow. Racers dismissed the skis at first. They were new and, well, a little too easy. So the last to accept the shorter, shapelier designs were the racers and engineers at the top of the World Cup food chain.
But today, the tide has turned again: Now that they've had time to experiment with shaped race skis, race engineers are once again creating technology that is stunningly fast and furious. Here are the greatest race skis ever made, which SKI testers put through their paces on hard morning snow at Beaver Creek, Colo., last April. There are full-bore race models as well as slightly more forgiving animals for those of us who won't be winning World Cup races anytime soon. From any of them, however, expect uncompromising performance at whatever speeds you care-or dare-to hit.
Check out Slalom and GS skis for the 2002 season at the link to the right.