Men's Ski Of The Year 2019
Every season, Ellis Brigham enlist as many staff as possible to be part of our extensive ski test. This gives us a real understanding of the collection, meaning we can select exactly the right pair for your ability and terrain choice.
During this week-long test staff get to try all the skis we sell and discover what skis they think really stand out from the rest as something special.
The Atomic Vantage X 86 Ti is a new and exclusive ski; a powerful all mountain model that impressed all our testers.On piste it’s firm, precise and grippy, enjoying speed and responding well to power. Take it into the softer, choppier stuff at the sides and it’s balanced and stable ride boosts confidence. It’s no slouch in powder either, with the kind of shape and construction that aids float and turn initiation. If you enjoy skiing pistes with pace and control but also like to ski other terrain too then this is the ski to beat this year.
It’s stable and smooth, the condition of the snow doesn’t seem to affect the handling and it encourages speed. It doesn’t take long to realise that adding a little more energy to the turns brings big rewards and the ski shows a livelier side that sees even more speed creeping in and still no loss of stability.
Mark (Staff Trainer)
“This is a one ski solution for all mountain skiers who want it all, without compromise. Fast and precise on-piste, stable and powerful off-piste.”
Steve (Head Ski Buyer)
“Nice and stable at any speed, it loves to be pushed and responds with extra power and life, but doesn’t penalize you if you aren’t going full gas. Will smash through rough snow like a bulldozer.”
Benj (Castleford Ski Expert)
“Suits upper intermediate to advanced skiers. It’s hugely versatile and doesn’t require high levels of precision but it still offers strong skiers good performance. Gives great floatation but doesn’t flap around when skiing hardpack fast.”
- Radius: 18.2m (173)
- Waist: 86mm (173)
- Rocker: Tip
Prolite is series of manufacturing techniques that result in a ski that is light, yet with no loss of strength or power. It uses lighter weight materials and thinner construction in specific areas and beefs up key zones using special reinforcements (see below).
Titantium Tank Mesh
This a layer of super rigid Titanal material that replaces more traditional fibreglass weaves in a ski. It adds strength without adding weight, with the result being increased grip but the ski is less tiring to use than models that offer similar performance. To flex the ski by hand it feels firm, though not overly stiff; but thanks to this Mesh it has the edge hold like that of a ski much stiffer.
Atomic use an ultralight Titanal sheet that runs the length of the ski. Much like the Tank Mesh, this improves performance while being lighter than comparative technology. The result is boosted stability and less unwanted flap, making for a more comfortable ride at all speeds, without the ski becoming heavy or hard to handle.
The ski comes complete with a high-end MNC binding. This means it will take boots from various categories, adding the versatility of this ski. Models with Alpine, WTR, Gripwalk and even Tour standard soles will all fit in thanks to the height adjustment in the toe piece.
Pros and Cons
It performs on piste like a thoroughbred, with precision and grip. It will carve up groomed snow all day long in medium and long radius turns, but it will also deal with every other type of condition.
If you’re lucky enough to get fresh snow then the 88mm waist has the width to offer good float and the All Mountain Rocker on the nose will aid turn initiation and keep the tip up to aid overall float.
Once the good conditions are tracked out the Vantage X 86 Ti has the power to deal with heavier and chopped conditions. The full wood core is powerful and firm, without ever feeling over-stiff, and the 18.2m radius (173cm) helps with the stability in difficult conditions.
Much like last year’s winner, it’ll encourage less confident all mountain skiers to explore further and faster, and it won’t disappoint stronger, more experienced skiers either.
All mountain skis tend to fall into two fairly distinct families, those that prioritise piste and still work off-piste, and those that rip off-piste but still handle groomed snow well.
The Vantage X 86 Ti walks a path between the two camps but it is still essentially a wide-bodied piste ski using an all mountain construction. And like any all rounder it can’t shine as bright as the true specialists.
So, on the hardest snow it won’t grip and feel as precise as the pure piste models and in soft snow, it can’t float and handle like the wider more rockered skis. But, if like many skiers, you need something that has versatility then it’s going to be hard to beat the all-round skills it offers to a piste based skier who also wants to ski beyond the trail markers.
Materials and Assembly
As with every good ski, the core of the Vantage X 86 Ti is wood, helping the ski achieve its lightweight and sporty feel whilst also contributing to stability. The previously described Titanium Tank Mesh and the Energy Backbone build on the lighter, performance focus, keeping weight down and power up.
A Structure Topsheet continues the weight saving, but is still highly resistant; the edges are made from steel five times more wear resistant than standard steel, for strength and perfect grip. On the bottom of the ski, you’ll find a high-density sintered base for speed on any snow, as well as toughness and ease of repair.
The ski has a well-proven sandwich sidewall, with the layers built up in the ski press. It’s the most traditional way and still the best, producing skis that are tough and performance orientated.
Prolite ensures the right amount of material and correct construction technique is used in exactly the right area. This builds the ski up towards the edges and through the centre of the ski underfoot but creates a much thinner area out towards the tips and tails along the centre of the ski. The result is a pronounced 3D shape that adds strength where it is needed with no unnecessary weight.
The profile is 15% tip rocker, 80% camber underfoot and a fairly flat tail. This adds to the versatile nature of the ski. Turn initiation and completion is easy thanks to the tapered shape and rocker at the tip, but the solid construction and decent camber ensure the ski has the power to hold edge. This profile also ensures excellent control in all conditions without ever feeling hooky and delivers good floatation if you strike it lucky with fresh snow.
Performance and Feel
On-piste, it is exactly as you would expect, stable and grippy, and happy to make smooth carves of various sizes at various speeds and it’ll hold an edge well, even on the firmest snow.
As mentioned previously it does respond well to a bit of speed and energy from the skier, rewarding this input with the kind of liveliness you might not have expected from a ski that looks more like a bruiser than a responsive, piste model. It does feel light to ski, and given its dimensions, it is relatively nimble too.
The shape and construction mean that it excels in choppy and mixed conditions, absolutely destroying messed up pistes. When other skiers might be slowing because conditions on the runs are getting tricky, the Vantage X 86 Ti is zipping around as if the runs have just been groomed.
This stability and response perfectly transfer to skiing side piste, whether it’s fresh and soft or bumpy, hard and tracked. It’s also a very capable ski when the snow does get softer and deeper; the rocker nose and the wide-ish waist work well together to offer decent float and good handling.
It certainly isn’t a soft ski, but neither is it over stiff, what it is, is a great balance of enough flex to not be intimidating and the kind of firmness that means it will grip and offer power when called on.
Who is it Designed For?
It’s for skiers who will be doing all their skiing from lift access, with a good proportion if that based on the pistes. But they will still want to tackle the side pistes at any opportunity and will always have an eye on exploring a bit further; whether that’s through trees or searching out some fresh tracks a bit further afield.
It’s happy cruising with the family and racking up some miles on smooth groomers, or smashing crud and chasing friends all over the mountain. This is a great ski for a British skier who doesn’t know what they’re going to get on their next trip and needs versatility both to suit the conditions and who they’re skiing with.
Basically, it will perform wherever you want and not punish you when it’s time to ski slower, or when you open it up and push some speed.
The perfect piste based all mountain ski. It’s happy to clock up miles on the groomers all day long but always ready, willing and able to nip off the side and find some more adventure.
A relatively easy to ski control and never tiresome; it’ll push the corners of your grin that bit further when you do put the energy in and request more performance. And, to top it all off, it’d be hard to ignore just how good it looks.