2014 Ski PreviewWritten by Dan Morgan, Monday, 11 February 2013
Regular readers will know that every year, the ski preview tends to deliver a common theme. Most notably recently was the introduction of rocker (be it a shape, a camber idealogy or a construction – you choose) followed closely by the rockerisation of absolutely everything in sight. Next came hike and ride – the industry fixation (French readers excuse the pub) with hiking (either bootpacking or skinning) up the hill for your turns via the (re)introduction and (re)glamorisation of boots with a hike mode. Not to mention the mainstream availability of beefy touring bindings from someone other than Marker. Touring ranges have either been introduced, or have swelled in number at the heavy weight brands while smaller indy houses have mostly introduced something light enough that they can call or sticker a touring ski to their ranges.
The 2013 – 2014 season doesn’t deviate much from that theme. Big and light is the name of the game – recognizing the need for skis that are both light to skin up the hill but also wide and strong enough so the journey down, doesn’t, well, suck so much.
Elsewhere, more brands are now offering their own boot ranges than ever before (Scott being a notable entrant) and overall it seems like more and more brands are offering the entire package of skis, boots, sticks, goggles, helmets, gloves and outerwear in an attempt to get a bigger piece of the pie. Salomon has a mind-boggling array of softgoods lined up for 2014.
Volkl Ski 2014
Volkl are making a big splash on the big and light front, by introducing a VWERKS model of the Katana, it’s already titanal reinforced freeride ski. VWERKS is Volkl speak for light, premium and strong, with RTM and Code versions already available in the wild. Physically the VWERKS Katana is the same 143-112-132 dimension wise as it’s doughboy brother, albeit sensibly only available in 184 and 191.
In the One and Two, Volkl introduce a new sub-category to their freeride range. In addition to the workhorse staple freeriders like the Shuro, Kuro & Gotama, and the titanal power freeriding Katana & Mantra, the One and Two offer “playful freeriding” or the colloquial backcountry freestyle and are positioned as easy-peasy powder skiing while not being a noodle. Notably dimensionally unique within the freeride range (e.g. not rehashes of proven shapes), the Two comes in at 146-124-138 (from 176 through 196) and the smaller One at 138-116-130 (from 156 through 186).
Non-innovative, but sneaks in to our preview : If you are an RTM fan, Volkl have, by frequent request, added an 81mm wide version of their all mountain ripper to bridge the gap between the RTM 80 and RTM 84. If the RTM 84 is too wide for you, and the RTM 80 too skinny, it’s your time to smile.
Rossignol Ski 2014
Rossignol have attacked the same strategy but from a slight different angle. The previous S7 big mountain/freeride range (including the S7, Super 7 and Squad 7 in ascending order of stiffness) have all been rejigged to line up as the ISPO award winning Squad 7, Super 7, Soul 7, Sin 7, Smash 7 and the tiny yet confusingly named S7 Pro (biggest available size is a 160) in descending order of size in the middle.
The visually toned-down-yet-still-bright and progressively sized Squad, Super and Soul 7 all feature Rossignol’s Air Tip (tip and tail) which reduces weight, traps air and provides an interesting see through aesthetic to the ski.
Squad 7: 145-120-126
Super 7: 140-116-130
Soul 7: 136-106-126
Salomon Ski 2014
Salomon seem keen to keep tinkering with their freeride setup too. A year after the Rocker2 swept away it’s predecessors to monopolise the range, it’s time for Q to split the range.
Not new, but the BBR? Yep, still here and intact, with the BBR 10.0 and BBR 9.0 supporting a multi ski ski lineup with something for everyone. Gone is the launch colour blue. To be replaced with a take it or leave it purple for the 10.0 or burgundy for the 9.0. Despite now being a very ubiquitous ski, the BBR 10.0’s shovel still looks like an absolute beast of a thing up close.
K2 Ski 2014
Over at K2, the big news is that the factory series is no more. As a result, at first glance, K2’s lineup starts looking distinctly average, given the cornerstone of the offering were the popular pop-culture inspired skis. Not to panic however…watch this space.