According to Realskiers.com, the question of which are the best skis of 2018 was answered when this year’s reviews were posted two months ago. In each of seven categories we listed our Recommended skis in order of their finish for either Finesse or Power properties. We consider any Recommended ski to be a potentially perfect match for the skier defined by the genre in question. In the spirit of identifying the outstanding rides of the current season, here are some of the brightest stars in the 2018 cosmos of alpine skis.
Wave of the Future Award: Head Kore
The Lighter is Better market trend shows no signs of slowing down. There’s no better embodiment of this movement than the Head Kore series that has completely transformed the brand’s identity in the Big Mountain arena. The Old School wood-and-lots-of-metal era is over, displaced by Graphene, Koroyd and Karuba.
Best Brand-within-a-brand Extension: Nordica Enforcer 110
When Nordica added the 110 to its growing Enforcer family, it didn’t just make a bigger 100; it built a new core with two sheets of Titanal that didn’t weigh any more than the old Patron it replaced. Bravo! Nordica pulled off a similar trick with the latest Santa Anas, vaulting these women’s models into the first rank.
Best Technical Upgrade: Völkl 3D.Glass
Ski makers are always on the lookout for a technical modification that will reinvigorate the product without requiring all new tooling. Völkl hit the jackpot with 3D.Glass, a seemingly simple addition of a glass bottom layer with a nifty tweak that turned it into the bottom half of a torsion box. Every ski that got the 3D.Glass treatment measurably improved edge grip and rebound.
America’s Sweetheart: Blizzard Black Pearl 88
One measure of the best ski of the year is how well it sells to the target skier. Blizzard’s Black Pearl is the reigning top seller in America, a unique distinction in the annals of women’s ski sales. The secret to the breadth of its appeal? There’s almost no question that begins, “Is it good for…” to which the correct answer is “no.” Women from intermediate to advanced, on hard snow or soft, find a companion who suits their style.
Peppiest Powder Ski: Rossignol Super 7 HD
In the Golden Age of Rocker, finding a baseline that delivers an elastic spring off the edge is a challenge. Beneath its dazzling exterior, the heart of the Super 7 HD is a reinforced fiberglass arch that reacts to loading like a damp slingshot, sending the skier sailing across the fall line and into the next arc while the skier stays centered, grinning, and tries not to choke on the snow flying over both shoulders.
Pure Silk for the Purist: Kästle MX89
If you think rocker is a crutch and long for the days of tip-to-tail camber, Kästle makes an exquisite time capsule that will transport you back to the days of total connection to the snow. The MX89 isn’t trying to be ultralight, or smeary or God forbid, double rockered and twin-tipped. It’s a technical skier’s ski with all-mountain dimensions, like a Ferrari with an off-road suspension. Bring your skill set and give it the gas.
Best Value On-Trail: Nordica Navigator 80
By the time most ski lines hit the $399 price point, most of what makes a $699 ski worth the extra simoleans has been jettisoned from the design. The Nordica Navigator series, defying conventional wisdom, retains the same essential construction as it drops from price point to price point down to the $399 floor. The Navigator 80 is a softer-flexing ski than its beefier brothers, but this is more help than hindrance to the target skier, who gets a Titanal layer in a category normally bereft of this valuable material.
In the current American market, more skiers are looking for a versatile all-mountain ski instead of Frontside model like the Navigator 80. Atomic has the all-terrain bargain hunter covered with the Vantage 95 C and Vantage 95 C W for women. The relationship between their normal retail price of $499 and their on-snow performance is weighted heavily in the skier’s favor.
Rest for the Weary: K2 Pinnacle 95
K2 has always understood that skiing is hard enough without your gear making it harder. The Pinnacle 95 is the latest incarnation of this attitude, an all-terrain ski that comes as close to auto-driving as we’re likely to get until Elon Musk takes an interest in the sport. In a category bristling with choices for the aggressive Power skier, the Pinnacle 95 stands out as a refuge for the skilled skier who wants to extend his ski day, not cut it short due to fatigue.
Best Indie Ski: Faction Dictator 3.0
Our methods aren’t designed to capture data on every small-batch producer, but we do look for emerging brands with sustainable quality. We love what we see at Faction, particularly in the Dictator series of all-mountain skis. The Dictator 3.0 has two sheets of Titanal around a Paulownia/poplar core, with a baseline that seems to conform to whatever it’s rolling over at any moment. A terrific blend of agility, float and easily accessible power.
Favorite non-FIS Race Model: Atomic G9
Right out the gate, I confess I have no business picking a favorite race model, as there could not be a less authoritative resource on the subject. This selection is based solely on a bond between man and ski that seemed to blossom on the first turn and only grow more intense the more fuel I added to its fire. The immediate sensation of trust inspired a center-of-the-storm calm as velocities climbed well outside the recreational realm. You step off the G9 feeling renewed, elated, awed.
I could try to break down into little, analytical tidbits exactly what it is I find so appealing about this duet of skis, but it’s akin to attempting to parse the human heart. We understand what it’s made of and how it works, but no one can ever fully explain it. Over a period of time, a relationship develops and one day you wake up in love. Suffice it to say when on hard snow or crud, I want unlimited power, and when in powder or lightly tracked conditions I prefer ease.