A number of ski manufacturers were pleasantly surprised by the sales numbers their wide and shaped skis generated in 1998. After several seasons of lackluster slalom sales, it was a much-needed shot in the arm. Now a number of those same manufacturers are taking shaped skis and incorporating side-cut designs. The result is a category of easy-riding skis with performance that is showing the potential to rival that of traditional competition slaloms. The revival at the highest end of the slalom market comes in the form of new carbon and graphite composite designs, along with a growing trend toward hard-shell bindings.
Connelly. The Carbon Course and Course GS might sound half-familiar. Connelly took the Course, which was introduced last year, and spawned it into two new versions. The Carbon Course has a carbon graphite top layer, creating a stiffer ski for high-end tournament skiers. The GS is basically a fiberglass version of the Course, giving it softer flex for the advanced recreational skier.
Goode. Using its high-tech training center in Orlando as a testing ground, Goode has come up with a competition carbon fiber ski with an equally high-tech name, the 9200C. The ski is made with pure aerospace carbon fiber, weighs less than half of the traditional carbon/graphite ski and features patented construction technology and a dampening layer. Each length of the 9200C is available with flex patterns suited to each skier based on height, weight, and preferred boat speed and line length.
HO Sports. No company has put more time and resources into its shaped or sport-performance series of skis than HO. This year the company introduces the FreeRide Series, which makes the SST Series obsolete after one successful year. The FreeRide skis are trimmed down for better edging through turns with all the control and ease of a shaped ski. There are three skis in the series, all with prominent graphics: the 65-inch Venture, 67-inch Burner and 69-inch Charger.
HO also introduces its version of a hard-shell binding, the Animal. The boot has a little more give than a true hard boot and conforms to the foot with more comfort.
Iconn. Less than two years ago Iconn came out with the Power Carv, which quickly became the standard for performance-oriented shaped skis. Next came the Power Curv designed for women. Now comes the Super Carv, which Iconn calls the highest-performance shaped ski to date.
Jobe. Jobe’s research team has spent the past two years trying to perfect its own version of a 100-percent graphite slalom. The result is the Edge, light on the scales and fast through the wakes. Jobe is also unveiling the EVA Flexon Plate System for slalom bindings, with a new zipper entry/exit.
KD. The Apex is the latest entry into the shaped-ski category from KD. It will be at the forefront of KD’s previously released line of parabolics. On the high-end side, a new pivoting-plate soft-boot binding will be available on KD’s revised 7000. The binding is made of stiff EVA foam with lateral support stiffeners, combining the support of a hard shell but the release of a soft boot.
O’Brien. In the past, manufacturers have put new names on old skis. The Mapple Siege, however, is an established name but a new ski. It has 1999 features like the Piezo Vibration Damper System that dissipates vibration over rough water and allows you to monitor impact by looking at a red light mounted in the forebody, and Torsion Box Construction, which improves lateral stiffness. The TBC is also used in O’Brien’s first entry in the competition-level shaped-ski category, the Vision GT.