Hey kids! Want to be the first on your block to have the latest, greatest skis? For the past few seasons, ski manufacturers have been rolling out a few early models from the next season's line -- what the industry calls "midseason entries" -- in December or January. So if you want to get a gear jump on 2001-2002, now's the time to lay down your plastic.Judging by this year's midseason entries, skis are continuing to get shorter, fatter, and more technologically tricked out. Here's what's already available at selected dealers:
DYNASTAR INSTINCT 69C (right)
This is Dynastar's first all-mountain freeride ski featuring the AutoDrive technology it introduced for 2000 in a pair of race carvers. Modified for the Instinct 69C, the technology involves a slightly longer cap in the forebody and a shorter sidewall section for more maneuverability, plus a smaller, lighter shock-absorbing plate underfoot -- all of which is aimed at making skiing "effortless and natural," according to Dynastar. The new ski has a high-taper geometry (106/69/94 mm) similar to that of Dynastar's 4x4 Powertrac and Salomon's X Scream Series, but it also has a carbon-reinforced laminate for added flex control. Lengths: 157, 167, 175, 182, 188 cm. $650
K2 MACH S
K2 has applied its antichatter Mod suspension system to a short new carver for upper-level skiers. The bottom line? The Mach S (far left) is built to go fast. It's a quick-turning tool designed for tearing up the front side of the mountain, though its chunky dimensions (106/64/95 mm) should make it more versatile than most carving skis. Lengths: 160, 167, 174 cm. $795
K2 JERRY LAUNCHER (left)
K2 has also stamped out 1,000 pairs of this collector's edition powder ski commemorating the fifth anniversary of the death of ex-Grateful Dead front man Jerry Garcia. The ski's construction and dimensions (119/88/105 mm) are identical to K2's wide-body AK Launcher, but its top-sheet graphics include a replication of a Garcia watercolor ("Blue Ice Crystals") and a ghostlike image of the late wide-body performer. Lengths: 165, 180, 190, 195 cm. $670
K2 and Dynastar were first out of the blocks, but several other manufacturers will have a sampling of 2001-2002 skis available at selected dealers by late winter. Details were sketchy at press time, but we expect them to include entries from Rossignol, Salomon (look for second-generation Pilot systems), Atomic (new Beta technology), and possibly Head (a twin-tip Jonny Moseley pro model).
LEATHER BOOTS REVISITED
No joke. After five years of development, Rossignol is releasing its revolutionary Soft boot for limited demo use this season.
Misdirected nostalgia? A new Nava system? Nope. The Soft takes the bicomponent shell construction currently used in many boots to its logical, high-tech conclusion: It has a rigid but minimalist plastic frame that transfers energy to the ski, but the rest of the plastic shell is replaced by a soft inner bootie made with leather or a soft synthetic, depending on the model. That construction, combined with a cushy inner bonding material, an elastomer flex-control thingy, strange new buckles, and a host of other innovations, will lead to a new world of skier comfort and warmth, says Rossignol. The boot is targeted at everyone save racers and aggressive experts. You should be able to buy yours by summertime.