The end of the season means the staff ski test to the Tirol in Austria, and this year saw us once more in Hintertux. 16 testers plus guests and 80+ pairs of 2015/16 skis – it was always going to be five days of standout product and memories.
1. The K2 Pinnacle 95
A completely new model for next season and what a great ski it is. It appeals to many different types of skier who all enjoy the playful feel and the fact it's so effective in a variety of conditions and terrain. This is going to be one of THE hot skis of next season and a potential Ski-of-the-Year for Ellis Brigham.
2. Salomon X Max
This was a very pleasant surprise at the Kuhtai Ski Test in February, and taking it out again in Hintertux with a new set of testers only reinforced our initial thoughts. Flattering, smooth and effortless, but also precise and with just the right amount of kick. This is a high-class piste machine for advanced skiers who want to cruise as well as power down clean carves. Forgiving enough that you can happily take it through bumps and down the side of pistes. Another Ski-of-the-Year contender.
3. The Tirol, and Tux in particular
An unforgettable skiing and all-round experience. Everything from the infrastructure to the scenery; the people, the food, we could go on. Whether you're a first-timer or more experienced well-travelled skier, the Tirol and Tux has something for you. It's the place we choose every year, and always we can't wait to get back.
4. Returning champions
If it ain't broke don't fix it. There are plenty of winning skis from previous seasons and testing proved that they're just as good as ever. Blizzard Black Pearl, Salomon X-Drives, Nordica NRGY 90, Atomic Affinity Storm and Head Supershapes to name just a few. They may have had a makeover but the brands know that these models are at the top of their class already – so you can buy with the confidence that comes from backing a proven winner.
5 . Atomic Cloud 11
As a new ski for 15/16 the Cloud 11 didn't go into the testing with any previous 'baggage', though looking at its stats we had a fair idea it would be fun women's-ski. And what fun! This was a favourite of quite a few of the female and male testers, a real rocket on piste with lightening response and a good 'kick' out of the turn. A proper piste ski. So good in fact that New Generation Ski School will be recommending it as the ideal ski for students joining them for Gap Courses next year and BASI level 1 and 2 training programmes.
6. New Generation Ski School
Our friends at New Gen have been working in partnership with us for over 10 years now and the ski test proved to us why it's so important to tie-in with professionals such as them. Instructor Gareth Shelbourne joined us for 3 days to go through our range, deliver coaching for the staff and help choose the New Gen picks for students on their Gap Courses and BASI level 1 and 2 training programmes. The choice for the ladies is above, and for the men they're super happy with the Nordica Dobermann Spitfire Ti, recommending it as exactly the right ski for their students.
7. Tour Boots
Specifically the new offerings from Atomic, the Backland in its various guises. These boots have more support, a better range of motion and walk mode, feel lighter and fit better than you might ever imagine. The phrase game-changer is over used, but these boots are worthy of that kind of utterance.
8. Off Season Skiing
We often test skis in late Spring and we're always left wondering why more Brits aren't in the mountains at this time of year. Stay high and the snow is reliable (last week of April and we could still ski top to bottom if wanted, 3250m-1500m = 1750m vertical!); the sun is gloriously warm when it comes out; fresh snow is much more common than you might think; and, the valleys look spectacular as the plants start to bloom (also see point 12, below).
9. Volkl Kendo and Kenja
They've been upgraded and improved beyond all expectation. They now have proper tip and tail rocker (not too much), but still with plenty of camber under foot. The waist has grown to 90mm, the radius has sneaked down a tiny bit and the tip and tail shape is much more progressive. The result is more floatation, better handling, increased manoeuvrability and all the same power and grip you expect. Another very strong contender for the Ellis Brigham Ski-of-the-Year.
10. Apex Ski Boots
We won't explain in detail here (see www.apexskiboots.com for that) except to say that they are aimed at skiers who are tired of the problems that can come with a full plastic boot. These revolutionary models use something similar to a snowboard boot that is then placed into a plastic skeleton or cradle when you want to ski. They hit their target audience perfectly and will make many skiers very happy.
Comfort was above and beyond what we expected, but the surprise was that they actually ski very nicely, sure they don't have the power of the stiffest full plastic boots, but they aren't meant to. Foot hold is excellent, as is general comfort and shock absorption. We can also confirm that once out of the skeleton the inner boot is perfect for standing / walking around in – making it the ideal choice for manning the test site (just jump in the frames when it's time to ski)!
11. Oakley Prizm
Oakley's new lens series was a big success last winter and with new additions to the line for 15/16 the staff were keen to get testing. Definition is good, clarity is spot on and the queue for trying the new Torch and Emerald verifies they look as good as they perform.
After a day on the snow nothing beats coming down the gondola to a warm, sunny valley and sitting outside with a cold Radler. Taking in the views while your face glows and the tall tales begin.