ALPINE OVERVIEW

Every February our team of testers gets to demo next year's skis. We always hope for a mix of snow conditions so that we can have a really thorough test. This is very important, as we feel that versatility is the single most important trait in any ski, especially for skiing on Mammoth Mountain. Of course, we expect a mid fat like the Volkl Mantra to be pretty good in just about any snow condition, but we like to see how well a 112mm waisted rockered K2 Shreditor holds up on ice, or a Blizzard Brahma does in mush.

  Alpine Overview Table of Contents:

     •  Alpine Skis
     •  Alpine Boots
     •  Boot Fitting
     •  Backcountry Gear
     •  Quiver of One
     •  Alpine Ski Categories
     •  Alpine & Alpine Touring Bindings
     •  Ski Poles

Our test took place in North Lake Tahoe at Alpine Meadows and here at Mammoth Mountain. Conditions were mostly firm, with just enough soft snow and to make for great testing. At Alpine we spent most of our time skiing top-to bottom laps on the Summit Six Pack, with occasional side trips up the West facing Scott Chair. Here in Mammoth we rode up Chair 2 to Chair 3, Gondola 2 or Chair 23 depending on our mood. Especially here at home, we were able to ski a great variety of conditions; groomers, bumps, windbuff and even some powdery crud in a secret lower mountain stash.

Quiver of One

A one-ski quiver is an oxymoron, but most of us have a budget, so here it is. We like the versatility of a ski with a waist width of around 90-100mm, moderate rocker and metal laminate construction. This width is a good compromise between on and off piste skiing. The metal keeps it grippy on hard snow, and gives it a smooth powerful feel. A ski without metal layers is more playful and forgiving, but has its limits at speed on firm snow. At the 90ish side, you get a ski that carves well on the groomed, but is also quite apt at moguls and crud. The wider end of the spectrum is not as nimble or carvey, but has better crud and powder performance. Of course, if you rarely leave the groomed runs, prefer quick turns or just live for moguls your choice may lean towards a carve ski with a waist in the 85mm range. Conversely, if you spend all day in search of off piste adventures your ski of choice might be over 100mm wide underfoot. Either way, you may want to travel with one versatile pair of skis, and demo others if conditions warrant.

Two Skis Get It Done
Things get better when we have two skis. Most of our team prefers to complement their all-mountain (90-100mm) ski with a more rockered fat (110+mm) ski. This gives us a very versatile main ski, with a true powder ski to maximize the fun factor on those epic freshies. Some of us ski our fat skis as often as our all-mountain skis, while some just break them out for the big days. The rockered fat ski is also very useful in soft spring conditions and backcountry skiing. Some testers, especially those who love moguls or carving would go for a narrower (<90mm underfoot) ski to complement their rockered fat ski. Three skis are really where a real quiver begins. This is where most testers would add a carve ski, or an all-mountain twin tip.

The Quiver
A true quiver begins at three or four skis. This allows you to be prepared for any condition or situation, and can give you some serious bragging rights. Let’s look at one employee’s quiver and see what happens when you work at a ski shop and have an extra room in the house.
165cm K2 Charger 74mm waist carve ski
169cm K2 Press 85mm waist twin tip
163cm K2 Rictor 90 xTi all mountain ski
165cm K2 Sidestash 90mm waist all mountain/ alpine touring ski (soon to be rock ski)
179cm K2 Shreditor 112 versatile powder ski
179cm K2 obSethed 117mm waist powder ski
167cm K2 Backlash 92mm waist alpine touring ski
165cm Rossignol BC 90 waxless telemark ski
Yes, there is a glaring lack of a 98mm underfoot ski in this quiver, but since the quiver covers just about everything else, the lack of a ultra versatile ski is not really an issue. There you have it, just remind your spouse of all the bad things you are not spending money on, and build your quiver!


All Mountain Skis (under 90mm wide underfoot)

Most people spend more time on the groomed runs than off, and enjoy the edge-to-edge quickness of a narrower ski. Others just have more fun on a narrower ski no matter what the conditions. In the past this has been considered a very versatile category of ski, but these days more skiers are looking to go a bit wider for that one ski to do everything. This does not mean that these skis are not really fun most days, but every ski is compromise, and if a ski is under 90mm underfoot, its performance in biased towards firmer conditions, or maybe 50/50 off/on piste performance at best. Of course this is still a hugely popular category, and a typical two-ski quiver probably includes an all-mountain ski for most days and a powder ski for storm cycles.

Most people spend more time on the groomed runs than off, and enjoy the edge-to-edge quickness of a narrower ski. Others just have more fun on a narrower ski no matter what the conditions. In the past this has been considered a very versatile category of ski, but these days more skiers are looking to go a bit wider for that one ski to do everything. This does not mean that these skis are not really fun most days, but every ski is compromise, and if a ski is under 90mm underfoot, its performance in biased towards firmer conditions, or maybe 50/50 off/on piste performance at best. Of course this is still a hugely popular category, and a typical two-ski quiver probably includes an all-mountain ski for most days and a powder ski for storm cycles.

All-mountain skis range from grippy carvers like the Volkl V-Werks to the playful Line Prophet Flite. If you ski the whole mountain or just wish you could, there is a ski here for you. Boards like the Blizzard Brahma and Volkl Kendo excel in any terrain and can handle most snow conditions except for deep powder and tricky wind affected snow. K2 has updated their All Mountain Performance (AMP) line and the new AMP Rictor 82xTi is a serious arcing machine that easily handles off piste terrain and snow. The Rossi Experience 88 the strong silent type with smooth handling and good manners.

There is an amazing range of skis for women in the all mountain category. Women are generally smaller than men, and find more versatility in narrow skis. The quickest ski on the wall is the Superburnin’ from K2; a precise carver with a playful rockered tip.. At the wider side of the category we start seeing more versatility off the groomed, and some of the most popular skis around. The defining all mountain ski is the K2 Superstitious. Slightly wider than the old Lotta Luv, 'stitous has sidewall construction that makes this tip rockered "quiver of one" more responsive than ever. Blizzard has really stepped up, and the Black Pearl is a great example of where this category is headed. The Pearl has a slightly wider waist, and moderate tip and tail rocker, making it perhaps the most versatile ski of the bunch. The Volkle Kenja is the same width, but with metal laminate construction and hooky tip is much more of a carver. Volkl’s new Yumi is a touch narrower (83mm vs. 87) and ditches the metal for a livelier ride. Line’s Celebrity 85 is the most playful ski of the bunch with smooth and forgiving performance.


Big Mountain Skis (90-100 mm wide underfoot)

Big mountain skis are true go-anywhere/do-anything tools for big mountains with plentiful natural snow, and for skiers who ski the mountain, not the trail map. For many Mammoth skiers, this is the "go to" category. While not as nimble as narrower skis, they excel in changing snow conditions where grooming machines fear to tread. If you spend most of your ski time on Chair 22 and up Top, but still carve up the groomed, this may be the category for you. All of these skis are very competent in the powder, and make a great quiver of one for Mammoth. Volkl's Mantra has defined this category for years. The Mantra mix of 98mm waist metal laminate construction and moderate tip rocker is a much emulated formula for maximum versatility. In a nutshell the Mantra is a wide carving ski. Blizzard’s Bonafide is a bit less of a “tip-n-rip” carving machine and more freeride oriented than the Mantra. This is largely due to Blizzards filpcore construction with moderate tip and tail rocker and and a less hooky tip. Bonafide has been our best selling ski for the last two years, so check it out! The Prophet 98 from Line uses this same formula, but it’s metal matrix construction of die cut aluminum cuts down on weight and makes it the liveliest and most playful of the metal skis. For a quicker yet still ultra versatile ski check out the K2 Rictor 90xTi; the 90mm waist is nimble while the tapered tip and metal laminate construction make it both powder and carve friendly. Rossi’s Sin 7 is 98mm wide underfoot, but without metal layers, and with more rocker it is the most playful and the best soft snow ski of the pack. The Sick Day 95 from Line is a less rockered metal-free ski that loves to slash and carve on or off piste.

The ladies big mountain category gets a few upgrades, and some sweet new skis for 13/14. Volkl’s Aura returns unchanged; with a 96mm waist metal laminate construction and plenty of sidecut, it is the carver of the pack. The new Saffron 7 from Rossi takes over for the old S3w. Saffron is 98mm wide underfoot, and with plenty of rocker and lively feel is a great tool for exploring any terrain or snow condition. K2’s Superbright 90 is very quick and responsive with metal laminate construction and narrow (for the category) waist. The new Soulmate skis from Line were a huge hit with our test team. The Soulmate 98 and 90 both use Line’s metal matrix construction to get the smooth performance and power of metal but with a light and nimble feel. The 90 is quick and carvey on piste, while the 98 takes you comfortably into any snow condition, including deep powder. The Dakota from Blizzard gets updated graphics, but is otherwise unchanged. The “Ladies Bonafide” offers tons of performance for strong skiers who rip the whole mountain, but is not as forgiving as other skis in the category.


Versatile Powder Skis (100 mm wide or more underfoot)

We are calling skis with a waist over 100mm “Powder Skis”, but don't think they are one trick ponies only good in fresh snow; each plank in this category is great every day, especially for good skiers looking for off-piste adventures.

The Volkl Gotama is the most venerable name here, but it was upgrade last season with a touch more width, and less rocker under foot. The Goat is well known for offering amazingly sweet powder turns, but now it’s hard snow performance is downright impressive. K2 new Shreditor skis were unanimously loved by our testers. The Shred 102 is ultra versatile, while the 112 combines versatility with powder domination. Line’s new Sick Day 110 is wide body with a huge sweet spot that you can ski day in day out. Rossignol’s new Soul 7 takes the S7 concept to a more versatile width and tones down the rocker for great every day all mountain performance.

Women’s powder skis have also become more versatile. The Volkl Kiku returns with new graphics but it’s perfectly balanced performance is unchanged. The Blizzard Dakota loses its metal construction this season and gains a ton of user friendliness, but is still a hard charger. Rossignol’s new Savory 7 still rules in the powder, but is much more versatile than the old S7w. The Remedy from K2 may be the most versatile and user friendly ski in the category; buy it for powder and ski it every day.

Twin Tips

Twin Tips are any skis with a prominent turned up tail. This allows backwards (called switch or fakie) skiing, and helps the ski release at the end of the turn. Twins range from all-mountain to powder ski in girth, and are often great every day skis. Mounting twins is very dependent on user preference. Most twin tips will have a traditional mounting point, and a park point. In general the more time you spend park and pipe or just going backwards, the more centered your mount should be. We break up our ski categories by width, not tail shape, as many skis especially from Line blur the twin-tip/all mountain ski boundaries. They look like twins, but are really just all mountain skis with a slightly turned up tail. The K2 Shred 102 and Remedy 102 are both twin tips with park capabilities but all mountain preference. The Armada Cantika is a lightweight twin with a quick and nimble feel. If you want a more park specific ski check out our sister store P3. They are just up the road, and carry twins from Line, Armada, and K2.


Junior Skis

Junior skis have finally caught up with modern ski design in terms of width, rocker and all mountain capabilities. The K2 Bad Seed has been around for a couple seasons, and is still the most versatile junior ski around. With an 85mm waist and plenty of sidecut, the twin tipped Bad Seed excels in all over the mountain. Volkl's take on the rockered junior twin is the narrower (80mm) and more rockered Gotama Jr. When the going gets deep, be sure to put your young ripper on a more rockered and wider ski like the K2 Bad Apple (100mm) or Volkl Shiro Jr. (100mm). Good luck keeping up dad!


Alpine and Alpine Touring Bindings

Bindings are the least appreciated piece of ski gear. We ask a lot of them, but only notice them when they do something that we don't like (even if it may have saved us from injury). At their best, bindings keep us in when we want, and let us out when we need it. But bindings have a greater impact on our ski day than you may realize, and they have dramatically improved in recent years.

The least obvious trend in bindings is a more neutral stance. Basically this means the height of the heel and toe has become more equal, keeping your boot flatter or more neutral on the ski. This can be a hugely important, especially skiing a modern ski where we want to be able to ski with a tall efficient stance, rather than standing in a pronounced pre-flexed position where your quads are firing just from standing in the lift line. This effect is of course more noticeable with smaller feet, where the toe and heel pieces are closer together. Certain bindings like the Rossi/Look FKS turntable heel bindings have had this stance for many years and deservedly have a dedicated following who have no idea that the reason they love their bindings is not the turntable itself, but the efficient balanced stance it provides. More recently, the Marker Royal Family of Duke/Jester/Barron/Griffon/Squire offers a very similar stance, and is hugely popular. Other Rossi/Look bindings have gone the same route; with thicker plates under the toes pieces to even out the binding delta as us techies call it. The real point here is that if you liked our demo ski with say a Marker Griffon, you probably want to buy the same binding so that your skis perform just like the ones you tried.

Another slightly more noticeable trend is wider Anti Friction Devices (AFD). This is the platform that the toe of your boot rests on. It may be a mechanical sliding plate like Marker or most Rossi's, or just a Teflon plate. Either way, wider is better, especially on wider skis. More surface area equals more contact equals more control; simple. Marker was the first to go there a few years back when the Royal bindings were released, but other companies like Rossi/Look have followed suit.

The most obvious, and for sure the most sexy feature is the crossover alpine/alpine touring binding. Marker really started this when they introduced the Duke/Barron bindings about five years ago. These bindings ski like a super solid alpine binding, but have the ability to release the heel for touring with climbing skins on the skis. A few seasons back Marker also released the Tour series of lighter and more touring friendly bindings. Both the Tours and Duke/Barron got a makeover last season, mainly to help minimize icing on the plate of the binding while skinning. This year the Duke gets upgrade to Duke EPF and gets beefed up with a wider plate and mounting pattern


Ski Poles

Poles are poles right? Maybe, but there are some differences you might want to be aware of so read on.

Sizing has come down in pole land. The old “hand under basket/ elbow at 90” rule is not worth following anymore unless you are racing. We tend to go about one size or 2” under that, even shorter for dedicated park or mogul use. If you are unsure, take out a pair of our adjustable Leki demo poles and see what works best for you. We are pretty big on adjustable poles in general, especially the K2 Party Pole with the adjustment up high on the shaft for easy adjustment, low swing weight, and a clean shaft.

The big difference in poles is material. Aluminum has been around forever, and is still the most popular. A good alu pole has a stiff strong feel that is great for long traverses and skating. Aluminum poles can be bent, especially the cheap ones, but most companies will warranty their poles for a year, and alu rarely breaks. If you bend a pole, bring it in, and we can help you fix it. Composite poles are made out of fiberglass and reinforced with carbon. The cheap ones can feel bendy and weak, but the nice models are stiff and solid. The more carbon you have the stiffer it feels, and the stronger it is. These poles will not hold a bend, but will eventually break with enough abuse. Of course warranties are very strong on these poles too. A good carbon/composite pole is light and strong, with plenty of stiffness for extended skates. Either way, alu or composite/carbon, you get what you pay for and a nice pole is worth the money.

Baskets size is worth considering. A large basket is great for powder days, especially when you have to traverse to the goods. Of course that big basket can get in the way, especially when skiing moguls or on hard snow where it can keep the tip from biting into the snow. Small disk baskets are great for hard snow and bumping, but can be hugely frustrating on a powder traverse, or steep skiing in softer snow. Few things can ruin your rhythm like submerging your pole into the snow at the crux of a steep run. Many skiers own a couple pairs of poles with different size baskets for different snow conditions, while some get poles that allow for a quick basket change. A medium size basket is a pretty good compromise, and we can upgrade or replace your existing basket for about $10.

It's nice to have a good grip with an adjustable strap. The material of the grip is not as important as its size. You are wearing gloves right? But if you change from a thick warm glove to a light spring one, you probably want to adjust your straps so that they are snug. You are using your straps correctly right? Bring your hand up through the strap loop and grab the grip with the strap palmed between your thumb and forefinger. This provides a nice "spring effect" when pole tapping, and enables you to reach with the pole efficiently.
Leki solves the whole strap issue with a unique design. Essentially their strap is attached to your glove, and loop inserted into the grip to attach the strap/glove combo to the pole. It's a terrific system and Lindsay Vonn may owe a gold medal to it. If you struggle with straps, or are a racer this is a great system. The only downside is that you may need to get more straps for multiple pairs of gloves, as changing the straps is a bit of a PITA. Leki also offers a very nice line of gloves with the attachment loop built in. Leki also makes a great line of adjustable pole that you can also use for summer trekking.

Scott pretty much invented the modern ski pole, and they make a huge range of poles: aluminum, composite, race, and hit every price. Our favorite Scott poles are the Series 4 aluminum shaft poles. Light, stiff and strong, they just work
.
K2 stormed into the pole market a few years back really shook things up with their blingy composite poles. More recently they brought some of the best adjustable backcountry poles, and a great adjustable resort pole: the Party Pole.


Click Here  for a quick look at our testers and their favorite skis for 13-14.

A note about ski prices, and why we don't put our prices on this website:

Ski pricing is just about as bad as car pricing. Every ski manufacturer has several prices for their skis; MSRP (Manufacturer Suggested Retail Price) is a very high price that nobody ever pays, MAP (Minimum Advertised Price) is the lowest price that a retailer can advertise, display on the sales floor, or quote over the phone. This includes the Internet. MAP expires around the end of February, and then anything goes. There are ways for shops to get around these pricing policies, the most common being a package price with a binding, or other gear. However, the bottom line is that the ski companies cannot tell us at what price to sell our skis, only what we can advertise. Also, be sure that when you are shopping for skis to compare apples to apples, as ski lines can be confusing. All K2 AMPs are not created equal, nor are all Volkl RTMs. Also, some skis like K2 AMPs can be sold with or without an integrated binding system. Having said all that, please come in the shop and ask us for prices. You will find our prices to be extremely competitive, even more so if you plan on demoing before purchase.

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Contact Us / Store Hours

Hours: Monday - Thursday: 7am to 8pm
                         Friday: 7am to 9pm
                         Saturday: 7am to 9pm
                         Sunday: 7am to 8pm

Address: 3218 Main St.
                         PO Box 598
                         Mammoth Lakes, CA 93546
Telephone: (760) 934-7566
FAX: (760) 934-6391
E-mail: info@kittredge.net