Top 5 Skis For 2020- From An East Coast Ski Shops Standpoint
These reviews are based on our on-snow testing, discussions with brand reps, and years of experience.
Basin Sports is a ski shop in Killington, Vermont. With access to the largest east coast ski resort at our door, we are able to provide accurate and intelligent insight to the state of the ski industry as it reflects our specific market.
K2 Mindbender Series
You’ve probably heard about the K2 Mindbender and Alliance-benders by now. The replacement of the Pinnacle and LuvIt Series skis. K2 spent a lot of time testing and designing these skis to make them what they are. They wanted something stiff torsional but soft and floaty too. So what makes the Mindbenders so amazing? They’re incredibly light, yet stiff, yet powerful. The 90ti in particular for both men and women is stiff yet not. In our on snow test the ski was phenomenal on groomers and comfortable and controllable in the bumps. It didn’t feel like you had to overcompensate to make a turn. It didn’t feel too heavy or bulky either. One moment you’d be making beautiful racer carves on groomers, the next you’d be navigating tight New England trees. The Mindbenders want to float and dance over terrain- not bash and brawl their way down the mountain.
The Mindbender Series comes in many lengths. The men’s is 116C, 108Ti, 99Ti, 90Ti, 90C and 85. The Women’s or Alliance Series is available in 115C, 106C, 98Ti, 88Ti, 90C and 85. Yes, the Alliance series is a different mold. Everything is going to be the same about these skis except for the core. The main difference between the two is that the Men’s Mindbenders have full wood cores and the ladies Alliance have Aspen Vanier Core. Yes, that’s still technically wood- it just flexes differently than the full single wood core.
We’re on the east coast here, so we’re biased to the 99 and 90Ti (Or 98Ti and 88Ti) options. When we demoed these skis it was hero snow. Or at least what us east coasters call Hero Snow. Firm yet soft groomers, with plenty of packed powder in the trees. We’ve been slimming down what the optimal waist width is for the East Coast and was planning on ordering more 90’s instead of 99’s. That’s not to say one was better than the other. Both skied excellently. By this point, it’s more personal preference.
We’ve been asked a lot to compare the Mindbenders against the Nordica Enforcers, and we’ll probably end up doing a blog and video comparing the two, but for now, we’ll give you this. The Enforcer Series is a great All-Mountain ski. It does everything well and is incredibly fun to ski on. One main difference between the two is the rocker profile. The Enforcer is going to want to power through everything- we refer to the Enforcer as a brawler ski. It’s fun, enjoyable and strong- but it would rather power into snow than float. The Mindbender is going to feel more familiar to skiers who maybe raced or spent a chunk of time on groomers- expect the Mindbenders allow you to ski off trail comfortable. You can go really fast on the Mindbenders and not feel out of control with twitchy rocker in your tips. The Mindbenders carve, they don’t smear. You know that famous quote, “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee”? That pretty much sums up the Mindbenders. They float and dance, they didn’t come to muscle their way through. They’re precise, agile and responsive.
Nordica Enforcer 88 & 104
Speaking of Nordica, There are some new additions to the Enforcer Family. The Nordica Enforcer 88 and the Enforcer 104. Both skis come with new technology and so far, our staff have been raving about the changes. The 88 was designed with us East Coasters in mind. It’s a true on-piste carver. You can read our review on these skis here. The 104 is a wider option but not overly cumbersome like the 110.
What Makes the 88 So Great? It’s different than it’s big brothers because It has less ABS sidewall. The ABS Sidewall is essentially plastic. Plastic is damp and non-responsive on impact. Nordica reduces the amount of Sidewall and filled it in with more wood to make the ski more snappy and powerful. Then they added a carbon grid to increase snap. It makes the ski much more maneuverable at speed and not quite as unstable.
The 104 has the same technology as the 88 and made many of our employees who own the 100 consider upgrading to the 104. A positive aspect of the 104 is that it offers more drive and stability at speed without increasing extra weight. The 104 allows you to explore more of the mountain with stability and control. One of the positives in the new designs is the power in and out of turns. One thing I’ve found in the older designs is that due to its shape I often feel like I lose a lot of my speed in and out of turns. The 104 certainly does not have that problem. Same goes for the 88. Both are responsive and power out of the turns effortlessly.
These skis are great for one ski quiver shredders or enforcer series collectors. Honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if the 20/21 series of Enforcers don’t all have the new carbon technology incorporated into their design.
Salomon QST 92
The Salomon QST 92 has got it’s S—t together this year. In it’s first iterations it was one the softer side of all-mountain skis. Now it’s back and in it’s series (so the 92, 99 and 106) have the same technology throughout. But it’s an entirely new ski. So new tip design, new sidewalls and new core construction. I’m generalizing but all three waist widths will be the same construction. We’re digging the 92 because it’s probably the lightest All-Mountain ski that’s isn’t made of foam, fiberglass or unicorn dust. It’s rocker profile would make it great for a east coast skinning ski but also as a weekend warriors ski.
If you ski anything like me you may have thought that the QST was a fun ski but it was a bit soft and chattery on harder snow. Beefed up sidewalls have eliminated this chatter to a minimum and torsionally increased stability in turns. Win, Win!
The carbon, basalt, and flax are blended together in the new models from tip to tail, and there’s an extra layer of flax plus cork tips to optimize dampness at a lower swingweight. This is translated onto the women’s Lux, Lumen series too. The tip shape is new too and this reduced taper. The cork in the tip and tail makes the skis less chattery, and reduces swing weight making turns pretty darn fun. The graphics aren’t half bad either on these skis. Sticking with solid tones and less flair. Mounted up with the oh so toted Salomon Shift Bindings and you’ve got one heck of a ski set-up.
Black Crow Camox & Camox Birdie
We also are going to talk about Black Crow. They’ve been around for a while but really have exploded onto American markets more recently. The Camox is the showcase twin ski and has really stayed tried and true to its roots. It’s a true twin tip ski with classic rocker, camber, rocker profile. Nothing overly fancy or technical, just the stuff that works- which is why it’s one of their bestselling skis.
But, the Camox is on the heavy side. So this year Black Crows reduced the weight of the ski and shortened the taper without overly changing the performance of the ski on snow. It does have a shorter turn radius- which can just mean it will get edge to edge quicker. An Advantage here is that as a true twin tip ski the Black Crow Camox and Camox Birdie will have an increased playfulness feel on snow. This will make for more a lighter, but tried and true ski that anyone can have fun on.
Atomic Redster X Series
An honorable mention and one ski that’s not really getting a whole lot of attention is the Atomic Redster X series. This skis was redeveloped last season and can be distinguished from its World Cup counterparts by it’s lack of red coloration. We’ve been jokingly calling it the greenster since the 18-19 skis was bright neon green. This year It’s not as bright but still a gunmetal grey with green highlights. Of the Redster X series the one that caught our eye the most was the Atomic Redster X WB (WB= Wide Body). The Redster is a series no F-ing around ski. The Redster X WB is the same nutty ski but minus the servotec. At 75 underfoot (versus 65) the WB is just a bit more forgiving. With true race camber underfoot the Atomic Redster X WB is still an extremely powerful ski. It’s just nicer to play with.
Coming in 152, 160, 168 and 176 you have a few options to choose from. The WB still has the multi-radius sidecut, full sidewall (hence 0/100/0 camber to rocker), Powder Woodcore, Titanium Powered, Structured Topsheet, and World Cup Base Finish. It still has all of those goodies. The reason we’re mentioning this ski is not that we enjoy it (I mean we do, we wouldn’t be writing this review otherwise) but because it enables you to still carve aggressive groomers, but still be able to walk the next day. We will be pushing this ski towards our Ski Bum Race Series competitors who want a fast ski for race day, but a comfortable ski for groomer days.
We’re Ready To Shred, Are you?
- We can be reached 7 days a week at 802-422-3234