Posted on June 13 2016
It seems like many every ski manufacture under the sun is coming out with a ski mountaineering race ski for the 2016-2017 season. Even companies known for the downhill performance such as Salomon, Atomic and Fischer have thrown their hat in the rink. Next year we are carrying a staggering 8 different race skis in the shop and it seems imperative that that we take some time to review each one.
Building a race ski is not as easy as stripping the guts out of an already light ski and making it thinner (although thats what Voile has attempted with the WSP and WSG). Each company has developed their own proprietary constructions that just barely holds the edges on and keeps it as light as possible. You can do endless research before buying your first pair, but we are here to give you guidelines on the major objective categories of weight and price and the completely subjective categories of skiablity and durability. The skiability depends a lot on style and how aggressive you push it. Some people prefer a very stiff ski that will definitely hold an edge when charging over hard snow. Although this would be great for an expert level racer, the newer racer just getting used to skinny sticks is going to get bucked around by a stiff ski they can't camber out at lower speeds. A softer ski is better for newer or even just lighter skiers and the sweet spot tends to be much bigger to feel like you are in control.
Ski Trab Gara World Cup: SkiTrab is the name associated with craftsmanship when it comes to light weight touring skis and race skis specifically. They use a 12 layer system for hand building their skis and you can even find the initials of the ski technicians on every pair of the Gara World Cup. This gives the ski unparalleled ski ability and durability. Distributed by La Sportiva for the 2016 season in the United States, the Gara comes in at $1099 putting it on the upper end of race skis, but it is the prefect ski for the podium racer or the serious racer ready to take their downhill to the next level.
Hagan X-Race- The Hagan X-Race is the Cripple Creek Backcountry Staff favorite for value and performance. At an incredible 680 grams for the $850 price tag, the Hagan is a world cup level ski but hundreds of dollars cheaper than the other in its class. It has added rocker from older X-Race designs so it is ready to float if the snow is soft, but it is incredibly stiff for holding and edge on hard pack. We recommend this for skiers that are prepared to push their skinny sticks fast and at speed for the more advanced ski racer.
Voile Wasatch Speed Project (WSP)- Squeaking in under 800 grams this ski is the first North American made race ski. Not only is it affordable, but because you are getting more wood than air it makes the WSP way more forgiving to ski. For the WSP and the WSG (the Wasatch Speed Girl) a women's specific ski, Voile took the popular Vector ski and took out the meet in the middle. Although this does not pack the same amount of tech into a ski as the more expensive competition, you are getting an affordable race ski with a time tested construction that will hold up over time.
Dynafit PDG- In 2015 the PDG got a facelift, even if it was a pink and green one. The PDG went from the mouse grey work horse to a ski whose colors are as bright and bold as the geometry it is designed with. The new construction allowed it to sneak under its old listed weight and break the 800 gram barrier at 795 grams. At only $699 it is great price for race day and has great durability to make it your everyday training ski.
Atomic Backland UL 65- The Ultimate has gone away and Backland has absorbed the whole ski touring category for Atomic. The Ultralight 65 is the race version and boast the awesome $699 price of an intro ski with the ski performance that is far from beginner. Atomic is proud to make durable skis that can bust crud and we should see even more of this with the new and improved UL 65. It has a new Fiber Grid layer under the top sheet and has added a slimmer tip so it won't get caught in the curd.
Salomon S-Lab- Salomon finally brings their race ski to North America. The ski comes in at a super competitive 720 grams and features a Karuba wood core and a full length carbon fiber sheet to give it optimal stiffness and performance. An ABS sidewall and reinforced mounting zone are two of the coolest new features provide what will hopefully be a durable ski. This ski is going to be made for racers that push hard on the down hill and still want to stay competitive on the uphill.