Partnered with WaterSki, an independent and diverse group of skiers evaluate nine high-end slalom skis.
For the 2008 independent Ski Test, 20 skiers met in Bakersfield, California, for five days of nonstop skiing. This motley crew traveled from all over the country for the opportunity to understand what makes each of the top skis different from the others on the market. With two lakes and nine superb skis to ride and rate, our team had their work cut out for them.
Our mission: to provide the masses with the lowdown on which ski might be right for them this season. After all was said and done, what did our test team find? More often than not, they found subtle differences between the skis. Other times, however, they discovered distinctions that were far from discreet.
Proper fin and binding settings can have as much impact on your skiing as which ski you buy. When you are contemplating the purchase of a new ski, it is a great time to consider going to a ski school to get your ski tuned up. At the 2008 Ski Tests, each factory provided a representative to assist with settings and advise the test team with the particulars of each high-end ski. After a week of skiing with professionals in the boat, it was clear to everyone that we would not have had the same impressions of the skis without the factory representatives on hand.
All of the manufacturers have a recommended weight range for each ski. This is a great starting place, but it may not lead you to your optimum ski. In situations where a ski is available in inch increments, the question of what size is as important as what brand or model. During the test, it wasn’t uncommon that a skier preferred a different size ski when conventional wisdom dictated. In one case, the 67-inch was said to be faster across the lake and turned better than the 68-inch of the same model. In another brand, the 68-inch was heralded over the 67-inch for its strikingly smoother but less aggressive turns. Sometimes, the factory develops one size first and then applies the design to other sizes. Each subsequent size requires additional development and does not necessarily have the exact personality of the original. The other sizes should not be viewed as better or worse, but simply as not identical.
How to Choose?
Without a bad ski in the group, choosing one can be a daunting task. All can easily be described as fast and most user-friendly and forgiving. With such unique personalities and such slight and subtle differences, choice should come down to the skier’s style. Just remember, a feeling of speed is not a good measure of how well the ski actually accelerates or how wide it will get on the other side of the course.
When it comes time to buy your new ski, try as many out as you possibly can. Most of the skis reviewed here are available with a performance guarantee or a demo program. It would be smart to take advantage of that before committing to the one you will inevitably bring home with you.