K2 proclaimed 2011 the "Year of the Rocker." It turns out they were right, but two years early. 2013 ski collections consist primarily of rockers and early rise skis. While most companies do continue to offer technical skis, and several are placing more emphasis on the front side, core marketing strategies—including shop availability—continue to be focused on non-traditional camber models and 80mm+ skis.
We'll have more to say about that as the season evolves, but now, here's a quick overview of the top 13 major brand highlights.
Atomic Highlight Preview
The newly re-named "All Mountain" Vantage series features two new models in addition to carry over skis Theory and Panic. The Ritual and Alibi are serious big freeride guns incorporating what Atomic calls a Titanium Backbone within the core itself, a technology said to provide superior stability. The skis are aimed at high end off piste and backside riders. We'd have thought Big Mountain rather than All Mountain might be more accurate.
Nomads, now all early rise designs, appear to be relatively unchanged from 2012, save for cosmetics. Among the Freeski collection, Bent Chetler, Access, Punx and Trooper continue; the Blog is updated and a new ski called the Automatic debuts. All except the Punx and Trooper, designed mostly for Park, are fully rockered but do retain some camber.
Blizzard Highlight Preview
The Blizzard headline is the addition of Flipcore technology (the core is actually upside down in the mold, offering more shape to the bottom of the ski) to some members of the hugely successful Magnum series; the Magnum 7.6 IQ and 7.4 IQ remain traditional, albeit with some early rise, and are suitable for resort skiers who spend most of the time on groomed or hard snow.
New models Magnum 8.5Ti, 8.0Ti and 8.0 Ca employ mild true rocker and are designed, according to Blizzard, “to improve performance while being even easier and more fun to use” than 2012 Magnums
The female-specific Viva group includes the new Viva 8.0, which is a Flipcore design, and essentially slightly or unchanged models similar to 2011 iterations.
Magnum 8.5Ti Flipcore
Dynastar Highlight Preview
The big news from Dynastar is addition of an entire collection of big mountain free ride skis, dubbed the Chams (for Chamonix, where Dynastars are made and home to Mont Blanc, one of the biggest of big mountains). They employ a new sidecut profile, which Dynastar calls the Levitation profile and which appears to be somewhat similar to Salomon's BBR design. Available in underfoot widths ranging 87 to 107mm and turn radii from 22m at the high end to 16m at the low. We're especially looking forward to testing these skis; the on-paper specs are interesting and we've never skied a bad Dynastar.
Elan Highlight Preview
Elan has broadened its Amphibio group, 2012 members of which were among the highest scoring skis in the 2011 test. There are now six mainstream models and two female-specific versions. The Amphibio design is unique and features early rise on the lateral (outside) edges and conventional camber profile on inside, or medial, edges.
Fischer Highlight Preview
Fischer offers as many race and technical skis of any company and RC4's and Progressors have been among the most highly rated frontside skis over the years.
The "new news" is the arrival of the innovative 5-model Hybrid Technology series, skis that can have camber profile transformed from modest to severe early rise with the flip of a switch. In Fischer's words, "All Mountain Ripper to Powder Slayer at the click of a switch."
Head Highlight Preview
The story at this World Cup podium-dominating company is replacement of the controversial Peak line with an entirely new 7-member group of all mountain tools known as REV era 3.0 skis, which Head likes to call "All Ride" skis.
Head calls this technology "Rocker done right." It's signature features include early rise tips labelled "Allride Rocker," a progressive side cut radius with aggressive tip for better carving contact at the top of the turn than was possible with Flow Ride and, in trademark style, an electronic energy management system similar to Intelligence or KERS but functional at the tip.
K2 Highlight Preview
While Volant and the late Shane McConkey (who shortly thereafter switched to ride for K2) invented rocker technology, it was K2 who turned the initial trickle into a torrent and today there isn't a conventional camber ski in the K2 line.
There are early rise skis that are effective on the groomed, in the Speed Rocker group, all new. They include the Backup, Bolt, Charger and Velocity.
The All Terrain collection includes the Aftershock, Rictor, Impact and Photon. A group called Catch-Free Rocker, whatever that is (we suspect relatively low level groomer cruisers), includes the Force and Stinger.
The Pon2oon, Darkside and one new ski, the Sideseth, comprise what K2 is calling the Powder Rocker line. Then, of course, there are the Sidestash, Hardside, Sideshow, new Backdrop and familiar Coomback and Wayback, all known as All Terrain Rockers.
Confused? We understand! Companies seem to be making up rocker descriptions willy nilly and we will be able to make sense of it all only during testing. At this point we place little trust in all these names and will decide how to describe skis after testing them to determine actual on-snow performance.
Frankly, we wish there were standard and more accurate descriptions of rockers, differentiation of early rise models from actual rockers and greater clarity in general. Perhaps it will come in time, but for now, leave it to us at realskiers.com to bring some order out of the labeling chaos.
Kästle Highlight Preview
New for 2013: RX RS, a 69mm, 27m all but real GS ski, 3 new and revamped MX models, The Colby James West 3-model free ride collection and the TX four ski touring group. All skis are available either flat or pre mounted.
XX 80 Colby
Nordica Highlight Preview
Technical skiers, take heart. Nordica is all in with the proven Firearrow frontside skis, now including the new Firearrow 84 EDT bringing the model total to 4. A new design, Transfire, rockered with camber, aims at blending the hard snow prowess of the Firearrows with the all mountain user-friendliness of a modest but real tip and tail rockered camber profile; six models, including 3 female-specific skis.
Transfire 78 Ti ECO CT
Rossignol Highlight Preview
The new Pursuit series, according to Rossi marketing materials, "brings excitement back to the hardpack."
Frankly, we never knew it was gone, but the new HP, 18 and 16 look great on paper: modest early rise tips, which Rossignol calls "Power Turn Rocker" design, underfoot widths of 76, 78 and 81mm, turn radii (@170 cm) of 16m, 18m and 16.8m
Pursuit HP Ti
Salomon Highlight Preview
Where once there were 2 BBR models, now we have seven, including 3 female-specific versions. Apparently Salomon is betting big on the unconventional, to say the least, BBR design. Last year, the 8.9 and 7.9 (now replaced by the 8.0) received mixed reviews from our test skiers. They either loved them or vehemently not. We'll reserve judgement pending this year's test results, but clearly Salomon believes this all mountain design will be more loved by skiers than not.
Stöckli Highlight Preview
Overall, there are few major changes in the Stöckli lineup other than two new YY models, application of what the company is calling "soft rocker" to a number of Stormrider models, a now fully rockered Stormrider 95 and a conventionally cambered Stormrider Light.
The YY 77 and 85, with dimensions @ 176cm of 77mm underfoot/14 meter turn radius and 85/15.6 (@177) respectively are billed as versatile all mountain skis.
Völkl Highlight Preview
This K2 corporate sibling shows restraint for 2013, introducing or upgrading but seven models.
The company emphasizes two new V-Werks models that they describe as, with a bit of hyperbole, "The Power of Perfection," claiming that they are "truly incredible in every aspect."
Our test skiers will render final judgement on that statement, but the intent clearly is to develop skis with a high order of versatility.
V-Werks RTM 84
More detail on individual models and our conclusions about 2013—including whether it makes sense to buy skis at end-of-season sales now or wait until new models arrive in the fall—is available on our subscriptions site.
We'll post 2013 catalogs on the subscription site in next couple of weeks, along with early reviews for select models. And, of course, we will respond to subscriber questions about 2013.