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Gear Sneak Peek: 2016 Women’s Skis

I recently attended the Western Winter Sports Rep Association ski demo at Snowbasin Resort in Huntsville, Utah. A two-day ski gear extravaganza, the WWSRA demo was a chance to investigate the hottest gear for women that will hit shelves in the early autumn of 2015. Here are some of my initial impressions about the women’s skis that stood out on the racks; look for these skis to launch on Backcountry in August and September of 2015!

To put my reviews in context, I am 5’3” and weigh 120 lbs (on a good day). I am an expert skier who likes steeps, deeps, and speed. I have a casual (beer league) racing background and began skiing around the age of three in Utah. I typically ski at Snowbird ski resort and I also dabble in the backcountry.

DPS Nina 99

DPS Nina 99
DPS Nina 99
Radius: 18m
Dimensions: 125/99/111 mm
Length tested: 168cm
Weight of 168cm: 1445g (3.2lb)

DPS Skis (Drake Powderworks) was formed in Salt Lake City in 2005 with a commitment to creating skis that skiers would be proud to ride. Backcountry.com is delighted to begin offering DPS planks next winter. I tested the women’s Nina 99, a 168cm ski with camber underfoot, rockered tips and tails, and an aspen core. DPS has been working with carbon for over a decade, and the Nina features a carbon fiber laminate to dampen vibrations and reduce weight. I immediately noticed how much lighter they were than anything else I’d ever skied. I found the Nina responsive and noticed the great support provided by the tails when exiting turns and busting through frozen ice balls. The Nina was best on short-radius turns but I did find I wanted more length than the 168cm for longer radius turns; I would grab the 176cm length next time. The wide paddle shape helped the Nina float over the two inches of powder that had fallen overnight and I imagine this ski would be a hoot in deeper snow. Overall a versatile, stable and reliable ski, I would absolutely add this to my quiver. Fun fact: the gentleman who adjusted my bindings and DIN, Spencer, was actually one of the guys who helped manufacture these skis right here in Salt Lake City … I love shopping local!

Fischer Ranger W 98

Ranger 3
Fischer Ranger W 98
Radius: 17m
Dimensions: 130/96/120 mm
Length tested: 172cm

The Fischer Ranger W 98 is a poplar wood core ski with a tapered shape, tip and tail rocker, and reduced camber that is suited to both frontside and touring applications. The coolest thing about the Ranger series was the carbon tip and Aeroshape technology. Looking down the length of the ski, you don’t notice traditional sidewalls, but rather a gently convex shape that tapers down towards the edges. There’s a little more heft underfoot, but it thins out significantly towards the tips and tails. This decreases weight without sacrificing the energy transfer between edges when arcing. Having only ever tried Fischer racing skis in my college days, I was actually really surprised how poppy and surfy this Ranger W felt. They were far more playful than the DPS Ninas but I did notice they were sluggish to turn over in tight turns at slow speed. I found them rock-solid on crud and chunder. I would say this Ranger W is business up front with a party in the back; they felt loose and buttery in the tails once I hit softer snow, which was a riot! This is a lightweight freeride ski with a smooth ride that can easily be used to tackle backcountry. My dream one-quiver ski for next year would be this Ranger W 98 paired with the new Kingpin binding by Marker.

Kastle CPM82

Kastle 1
Kastle CPM82
Radius: 16m
Dimensions: 127/82/109 mm
Length tested: 172cm
Weight: 1170g (2.6lb)

The Kastle CPM82 is a lightweight, ultra responsive frontside ski with a century of ski design philosophy behind its sleek, murdered-out appearance. Crafted in Austria with layers of carbon fiber and titanal metal, and a silver fir wood core, the CPM82 has camber underfoot and a more traditional build without any rocker or tip rise. I immediately noticed the simple and snappy turn initiation and effortless turn release at both slow and fast speeds. This ski wants to be skied forward in a more traditional stance and it absolutely charged through slush, chunder, and frozen ice. I found no speed limit on the CMP82 and there was zero chatter or instability. These were just as fun and fast as my old GS skis, but easily half the weight–WOW! The CPM82 would be a formidable weapon for any woman looking for the perfect tool to test G forces on the frontside, an awesome everyday ski for East Coasters or the ultimate dreamboat carving ski for those with a quiver.

4FRNT HojiW

4FRNT Hoji
4FRNT HojiW
Radius: 30m
4FRNT Hoji W
Dimensions: 127/112/119 mm
Length tested: 171cm
Weight of 171cm: 2015g (4.4lb)

Ladies everywhere were clamoring for 4FRNT to manufacture a female-friendly equivalent of the extremely popular men’s Hoji ski, and 4FRNT finally heeded the demand. With their women’s line, 4FRNT doesn’t water down its skis to make a pathetic noodle splattered in pink, oh no … the women’s Hoji is essentially the same as the men’s model, but the actual core of the ski is set back 5cm to adjust for the fact that women have a lower center of gravity and ski more from their hips. The result is a solid, fully rockered, slarvy Hoji that I believe freeride female skiers will love! I found I needed to adjust my stance a bit back to really drive this ski—it couldn’t be skied like the more traditionally shaped skis I tried, the Volkl Charisma and the Kastle CPM82. The Hoji fared best at higher speeds on groomers and felt very poppy and confident over airs. I expect these skis would be insane fun in pow. Playful and surfy, the women’s Hoji could be the ideal ski for your diet if you can’t get enough butter in your life.

Here’s the Hoji W in action:

Volkl Charisma

Volkl 2
Volkl Charisma
Radius: 16.8 m
Dimensions: 127/79/100 mm
Length tested: 163 cm

Manufactured in Germany with a paulownia wood core, the Volkl Charisma features traditional camber with an early-rise tip. A wide tip and narrower, softer tails are meant to reduce fatigue, making this ski perfect for intermediate skiers looking to dial up their game or gals who live for carving. I found the Charisma springy, peppy and energetic, with an overall forgiving ride. The Charisma didn’t have a speed limit, but seemed to fare better in tighter turns than huge GS-style turns. I tested the 163cm version, but found I wanted more length at speed; less aggressive skiers shouldn’t need to size up on this model. I must admit the sparkly black topsheet and matching bindings were a bit much for my taste, but that’s simply a cosmetic preference. This is a solid choice for ladies in need of a frontside carving ski that is forgiving, yet playful and lively.

Icelantic Maiden

Maiden 4
Icelantic Maiden
Radius: 16 m
Dimensions: 136/101/169 mm
Length Tested: 169 cm
Weight of 169cm: 3266g (3.6lb)

The Icelantic Maiden is brand new for 2016 and is based on Icelantic’s top-selling freeride Nomad ski. Handmade in Colorado, this ski features camber underfoot and early-rise tip and tail. What most resonated with me was Icelantic’s inclusion of the Norse Goddess Skaði on the topsheet of the Maiden as part of their Mountain Cultures series for 2016. The Norwegian goddess of winter, skiing, and bow hunting, Skaði has always been a favorite of mine so I was starstruck when I recognized her on a pair of women’s freeride skis! The Maiden is a very solid ski, though it took some adjusting of my stance to find its sweet spot. It was fun and playful, though not very poppy or chargy in cruddy snow. The ski loved speed and was the smeariest, butteriest ski of the day. You should call the muffin man, because Skaði wants to smear those turns something fierce!

If you’ve had a chance to try any new ski equipment for 2016 please share your initial impressions and thoughts with our female skiing community in the comment section below!

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