Every year ski companies adjust, tweak their current fleet and update, innovate new technology for what’s next. They try to out-do and one up each other; all the while the skier reaps the benefits of industry competition, skiing on lighter, faster, radder equipment. 2014 is no different. Today’s skier craves a ski experience with a wider range. One day of zipper lining bumps, one day of carving up groomers, one day of tree exploration, and the omnipresent and never ending search for the soul enriching untracked powder line. The all mountain desire has been greatly addressed by the ski industry over the last few years and 2014 is seeing those creative efforts with an explosion of new gear and refined classics. We here at The House have determined our Top Ten Ski Brands Industry Leaders. Here they are in no particular order:
K2 continues to be at the forefront of design and technology in 2014 focusing on the all mountain experience. Their lineage of innovation started with the introduction of fiberglass technology in the 60s and moves forward today with skis that can multitask. They have updated their big mountain men’s skis with the Shreditor 112 and 120 and the Annex 98, 108, and 118. These playful, hard charging skis have rocker and traditional camber, in different combinations, giving them extreme versatility. The Gotback is still a great big mountain option for the ladies while the Empress is K2′s newest park ski for the gals. K2 is pushing the Recoil for Men’s park skiing and the MissDemeanor for the Ladies who want to ski big all mountain lines with the option to throw down a slopestyle line. The K2 boot wizards have also created new boots reducing deadspace and jittery rides with the innovative Synchro Interlock Technology, which is engineered to be more energetic and efficient.
This more than 100 year old French ski company might be leading the pack as far as innovation goes in 2014. The new, highly anticipated, and award winning 7-Series features never before seen Air Tip Technology which is a honeycomb design that reduces the ski weight by 20% without sacrificing strength. The most notable among the series is the Soul 7 with a 106mm waist and aggressive sidecut making it 4 skis in 1. It has almost zero swing weight giving the ski the utmost maneuverability. All skiers will benefit from the new 7-Series with 5 different skis to choose from: Squad 7, Soul 7, Super 7, Sin 7, and Smash 7. Rossignol is fusing backcounty, big mountain, freeride, and on-piste. Pick your poison. Rossignol boots continue to have multiple flex and fit options for the multitude of skier types. Their Sensor Series of boots are great for on-piste while the AllTrack makes freeriding comfortable and solid. Rossi’s cutting edge 2014 line is redefining the industry and pushing beyond its boundaries.
Line began as a park only ski company but has expanded into the freeride big mountain area. They continue the tradition of playfulness and inventive riding style with the Sick Day series, which is a light, poppy, and very stable powder ski. Sir Francis Bacon and Mr. Pollard’s Opus are big powder skis for big days yet have very good edge control on the hardpack because of the active edge sidecut. These skis are light and explosive which give the rider the ability to bring park tricks, like presses and butters, to the powder. The Traveling Circus is a 1oo% symmetrical park ski and the Afterbang is built like a skateboard giving it great flex side to side as well as front to back. Both transform any trail from a uninspiring yawn fest to an endless butter session. Go Line and get your slopestyle on.
Traditionally a race oriented company, over the years Fischer has reached from the race gates further into the mountain. The downhill speed and GS turns can still be had by such Fischer classics as the Progressor and Super Race but on days when the Nastar course is covered with 8-12 inches of fresh reach for the Big Stix. These big mountain twin tips carve like a traditional box tail and the thick 120mm waist combined with rocker camber let the rider float light and free. The Motive 86 features an all mountain profile and an 86mm waist allowing the rider more versatility and an all terrain ski experience. Fisher skis are known for their lightweight, lively feel and 2014 continues this heritage.
Volkl has been pushing the ski industry since the dawn of the sport. Their skis are engineered with German precision and they can boast being the only company in the country still developing and manufacturing skis. The skier gets the benefit of this lineage with Volkl’s fusion of performance and fun. The all mountain Katana and Gotama are fun, fast, and technical. The V-Werks technology in 2014 reduces the total weight of the ski by 15% and, combined with the low profile and vertical sidewalls, the ski has an almost nonexistent swing weight. On the women’s side the Adora is a great groomer carver that is fast, technical, and easy on the knees with Rocker Tip technology for slight float and ease in turn initiation. For the Lady Park Gromlette Volkl’s twin tipped Gem, Pearl, and Pyra are light, responsive, and have great pop.
The French Alps birthed Salomon in 1947 and is considered by many to be the epicenter of the mountain experience. Salomon has many branches in mountain sports but the ski department is the heart of this industry leader. The exciting new Quest Series is made up of four different skis but the leader of the pack is the Q-105. It features Utility Rocker, which is early rise rocker shared throughout the line of the ski utilizing a bit more in the tip. This means a great float, almost “wheelie” effect, without sacrificing on-piste edge control and hard snow performance. For the ladies Salomon has served up the Q-88 which also features Utility Rocker and a full wood core. The Quest Series is very innovative and technically sound. Salomon’s Rocker2 is a dynamic pure powder ski. These big fatties will float and smear giving any powder hound a deep, guttural barbaric yulp. The Vamp and Temptress are Salomon’s swiss army knives for women’s specific skis. They allow the rider control on all mountain terrain; from powder, to crud, to corduroy. The Quest Max BC is a great alpine touring boot that’s lightweight, comfortable three buckle design does not sacrifice downhill performance.
Chamonix, with all its beauty and majesty, has been the testing ground for this French company. Though owned by the Rossignol Group, Dynastar has a look and feel all their own. The French love ski racing thus love speed, strength, power, and performance when it comes to the boards they click into. Dynastar continues to produce race specific skis to fall in line with this tradition but they have also designed performance based freeride skis. 2014′s Cham Series is their triumphant combination of performance and big mountain attitude. Featuring 5 point side cut, reverse camber at tip and tail, and traditional camber underfoot, the Cham’s have a “spoony” look. Yet the awkward geometry of the ski provide a surprisingly sporty and controlled line. The aggressive and strange side cut produces maximum edge control and the pin-tail gives power through the turn. The skier can lay it over and carve it up on the groomer then float and smear in the powder. This series is exceptionally versatile.
Yes, it’s mainly a snowboard company but let’s not hold that against them. Lib Tech revolutionized the snowboard industry with the introduction of Magne-traction and Banana technology and over the past few years they decided to cut the knuckle dragging boards down the middle and make skis. If you’re looking for creativity and innovation, look no further. Not to mention Lib Tech is one of the last American Owned Winter Sports companies to still manufacture in the good ole USA. Freeride, freestyle, and park are the beat the Nas Series bops its head to, most notably the Freeride Nas. Playful and creative, these skis give the rider 7 points of contact with Magne-Traction technology and a float and crud busting ability with Rocker Entry reCURVE technology.
This skier owned and operated company, founded in part by Tanner Hall and JP Auclair, works closely with world renowned skiers to change the perception of skiing as an upper class bourgeois old man sport to a rootsy, gritty form of self expression within a natural medium. They push the limits of the sport with creativity and progressive riding techniques which are integrated into their inventive ski design. The ARW is a nasty, rugged all-mountain ski for the lady park rat. It has been toted as the quintessential Women’s freeride ski, known for its pop, durability, and strength. On the Men’s side, the JJ dominates as a pure powder ski with surprising versatility due to tip and tail rocker as well as reverse camber. It is astonishingly able to carve for a ski of its size and has an incredibly low turning radius of 16m at 185cm. The El Rey has had rave reviews as a hybrid park and slopestyle ski that can explore on resort terrain. A lightweight fleet wood core makes it perfect for presses and jibs in the park or to give a tame run a little flavor. Armada will get you in touch with your inner Soul Bro.
A relatively young company, Icelantic has gained notoriety for their insane graphics and jaw dropping design. Handmade in Colorful Colorado, these skis have a boutique feel without the cost. Their performance is undeniable, pure, and fun. The Shaman has a massive, almost comical shovel but nothing is funny about the performance of the ski. It floats like no other and has a very low turning radius of 15m at 173cm due to its extreme sidecut. The Nomad RKR continues to be Icelantic’s most versatile and everyday ski in 2014. The tip and tail rocker combined with traditional camber underfoot allows for float in the deep and great edge control and fluidity from turn to turn on the groomers. It has a stiffer flex which gives it power and strength. The Da Nollie is a great option for the park rat. Soft flex and wood core give this twin tip undeniable control for any butter or rail session. As always the Icelantic top sheet art will make heads turn and drop jaws while crushing a line.
Updating your quiver or picking your first pair of skis is a highly personal and often spiritual endeavor. Plunge into the expanse of your riding spirit to determine your goals and expectations for the 2013/2014 season. Think hard on where you are going to ski, when you are going to ski, and why you are going to ski. Whether you are a backcountry bro or betty, a saggy pants butter loving park rat, a groomer killer, a sidecountry soldier, or a big mountain freestyle freeriding freakazoid; we at the House wish you a most bodacious, most triumphant, and most excellent season. Ski hard and rip mountain crumbling slashes. In Ullr we trust.