Test Report 09/10 – Skis

by Don Portman

October 10, 2009 – Manufacturers introduced new 2010 gear at the Outdoor Retailer (OR) winter show in Utah in January and at the Ski and Snowboard Industries of America (SIA) event in Las Vegas, its last year there, as the SIA will debut in Denver, Colo. in 2010. SkiTrax began its testing process in Utah, followed up with more in Leavenworth, Wash., then at Methow Valley, Wash. and finally finishing up at Whistler Olympic Park, B.C. in April. Here is some of the best cross-country skis we tested for 2009-2010.

Racing Skate Skis

With the Winter Olympics in Vancouver, top-end skate skis focus on performance in the softer, warmer and often deeper snows of the B.C. Coast Range.

Rossignol Xium World Cup (WCS)
This Xium is an evolutionary step forward from the well-regarded Xium S1. A more compliant forebody, less material in the tip and tail and more carbon fibre throughout make the WCS a lighter, quicker ski. Testers found the ski well-balanced, light and lively. Although designed for soft snow, we were impressed with hard-track performance too. The WCS was stable and handled turns with precision. We found that adjusting the binding placement had noticeable effect on speed. Luckily, they come with the NIS system, so finding the right place for the binding is a snap.

Rossi’s WCS Skate ski

Salomon Equipe 10 S-Lab Skate
All new from Salomon, the S-Lab is nothing like the Equipe 10 of last year. Careful attention to what Salomon calls its “power distribution camber” allows this ski to perform in a wide range of snow conditions. Even in soft, slow snow, testers could not bog down the smooth floating tip. The S-Lab felt stable and fast-gliding in all conditions. The skis were perky on the uphills and turns were fun, even and predictable on the downhills.

Salomon’s Equipe 10 S-Lab Skate ski

Fischer RCS Carbonlite “Hole” Ski
Although the strangest-looking ski in the test, the “Hole” was well-behaved. The tip actually has a hole the size and shape of an egg. The idea came from downhill skiing to help dampen vibrations at very high speed. On the RCS Carbonlite skate ski, vibration is not an issue, and these are fast skis. The hole just makes an incredibly light ski even lighter. Testers could not discern any significant performance differences between the Hole and a regular RCS. Hole or not, the RCS Carbonlite is a top performer.

Recreational Skate Skis

Delightful skis at a great price for non-Olympians.

Fischer CR Skating Vasa
CR Skating Vasa’s have Fischer’s Air Core construction, World Cup sidecut and World Cup Pro base, all for a price less than half of that of the RCS Carbonlite. Sure, this ski is heavier and not as supple as the RCS, but we found the ski to be a nice performer. It was easy to ski, very stable and held well on hard snow — a favourite for rocket-fast early-morning icy trails.

Atomic Team Skate
Here is another great performer at a great price. This ski shares the mold with Atomic’s World Cup (Red Cheetah) ski that SkiTrax testers liked so much in last season’s test. Using a less-expensive core and base material make the Team Skate heavier and less responsive. Otherwise, the ski is easy to stand on, turns well, feels lively and is reasonably fast.

Atomic’s Team Skate

Zero Skis

Anticipation of warm falling snow (typical of the Coast Range) has ramped up interest in “zero” skis — skis with a roughed-up or rubbery substance underfoot to grip the snow instead of wax. Their range is wider than just 0°C, and we found very little difference in grip and glide between brands. The subtle differences we did find reflect the characteristics of each brand’s top classic wax ski.

Fischer RCS Classic Zero
A beautifully finished ski, the Fischer Zero comes with glide zones pre-waxed with Swix fluoro. The base is smooth and fast. Like all zero skis, the grip zone may need to be roughened and then treated with some anti-icing liquid such as the new Swix Zero spray. Fischer’s Zero material is well-placed. It stopped just where the rear end of the wax pocket would end. This made the Fischer’s easy to ride and the fastest skis right out of the box.

Fischer RCS Classic Zero

Rossignol Rubber
Testers could climb anything with the great grip of the Rossignol Rubber. Excellent glide was achieved once we adjusted the binding placement back to get the grip zone off the snow. We also spent some time prepping the tips and tails. Like the Xium classic waxable ski, the Rubbers felt light, lively and fun.

Madshus Nanosonic Zero and Birkebeiner Zero
The silky-smooth and supple ride gave these skis away. Even blindfolded, testers could tell they were riding Madshus. The Nanosonic, Madshus’ top-of-the-line race ski, was very fast and had adequate grip. But speed came only after adjusting the binding placement back and prepping the tips and tails. Recreational skiers would like the more-forgiving Birkebeiner. It’s a little wider and softer. Hence, it has more grip, is easier to ski, but has less speed.

On- and Off-track Recreational Skis

Alpina Red Bird
Made for skiing on- and off-track, the full-metal-edged Alpina Red Bird caught our attention with the striking Northwest Native graphics. Alpina’s positive-profiled Posi-grip base matched up with an all-wood core, and a narrow 60-50-55 sidecut resulted in admirable in-track performance. The skis tracked and climbed well off the groomed, making travel through the snowy woods a joy. If turns are what you want, we recommend mounting the binding ahead of balance to ease turn initiation. Once turning, the Red Birds arc nicely.

Rossignol Evo Tour
Evo Tours, a favourite, have been in Rossignol’s line for a number of seasons. But last year they changed factories, and we were eager to see what the factory change did to their Evos. Good news! The Evos still rock. They still grip well and glide smoothly in groomed trails. The 60-50-55 sidecut combined with a very soft forebody make these skis some of the easiest-turning cross-country skis ever made. Beginners love them. I use them for high mountain tours in the spring. Bottom line: the new Evos are nopw lighter and even better than the old ones.

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