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Review: 2021 Ski Design: You Say You Want a Revolution

Every year we have transitions in product lines and collections and, in most cases, these changes are evolutions. Changes are as minute as a different topsheet material or maybe a lighter core. Changes we will discuss here are revolutions to the point that a brand will not only start with a clean sheet of paper or a new CAD screen but in most cases completely throw away an established model name to start fresh. The skis in this article are all completely different from the models they replaced. Like in our Cage Matches, we are not saying this is good or bad, but different. What you thought you may have liked or disliked about the outgoing model will now require a completely fresh take to decide if the new model is or is it not what you are looking for in a ski.

We will start alphabetically with some of the models or collections that are 90° to 180° departures from the models they replace. I will talk about the attributes from the outgoing model and what to expect from the new one. From there you will need to decide if you want to start scouring the clearance racks and discount sites or think, “They finally got it right! This is what I have been looking for all along.”

Armanda-Declivity-Revolution.jpg

Armada
Out with the Invictus and in with the Declivity series. This change happened for a few reasons. First, the Invictus series was around for a solid time frame and was getting long in tooth and second, with Armada coming under the Amer umbrella and bringing their ski building in house, they had a chance to change gears. So, out with the Invictus, a line that has received numerous awards from our testers, and in with the Declivity line. The Declivity series has a much more balanced shape than the Invictus which was a hybrid of a few of their past collections. That worked well together but the Invictus were almost binary in on-snow feel. Some felt they were either on or off. The new Declivity tip is relaxed and gradual into the turn and the tail locks in. The Declivity has a playfulness and balance that the Invictus was missing.
  • What you will miss: Power and a solid finish of the turn​
  • What you will gain: A more centered feel on a playful ski​
  • Insider tip: The women’s Victa is still in the line, expect the same revolution next season.​
Blizzard-Bonafide-Black-Pearl-Revolution.jpg

Blizzard
There is no question the Blizzard Bonafide and women’s Black Pearl 88 (and 97) are recognizable skis, and are the skis in their respective categories to which all others are compared. To make a revolutionary change to skis that have had this much success is always a risk. Did Blizzard do the right thing? Well, the outgoing model of both the Bonafide and Black Pearls were the epitome of those “old comfortable jeans." They just worked. They were tried and true, even through their slight evolutions over the past decade. For this season Blizzard abandoned everything we have come to love with these skis including the tried and true lengths in which they were offered. Where before if you matched up with the offerings, great. Conversely, if you fell between sizes, game on. Out is “Flipcore” and in is a entirely new scaled core design that takes the size of the ski skier into account. The new Bonafide and Black Pearl 88 and 97 are much more serious in feel and not as forgiving as their predecessors. Where you could put almost anyone from a solid intermediate with a reasonable skill set on the old versions, the new ones are more for the advanced/expert skier. Remember back in the 'Future Products We Would Like to See' thread we asked for a high performance version of the Black Pearl? Well, this is it.
  • What you will miss: Compliance and playfulness​
  • What you will gain: Strength, better scaled sizing​
  • Insider tip: Check sizing, these do ski true to their new lengths.​
Dynastar-M:Pro-Revolution.jpg

Dynastar
For 2021 Dynastar abandoned the extremely adequate Legend series for the M-Pro/M-Free collection that has more of a backbone to it. This is where this article grew legs: the change that Dynastar is making in the very important All-mountain/freeride segment. Maybe it isn’t fair to call the Legends “adequate" but, in my defense, I did say extremely adequate. The Legends were fall off the bone easy to ski which actually was part of their shortcoming. Skiers didn’t take them seriously, which is a shame because part of their best attributes was they were actually so easy to ski that most better skiers didn’t take them seriously enough. Enter the new M-Pro and M-Free. The Pros are the the titanal infused models 105mm and below and the Frees use the same Poplar core but are more off piste oriented. Dynastar is sticking to their longer gradual tip design that started back with the Chams but with a more modern take. There is much more of a Legendary feel to the new skis but I can see the need for a name change.
  • What you will miss: Just the pure ease of all of the skis​
  • What you will gain: To quote Tim Taylor, “More Power” even in the wider M/Free​
  • Insider tip: the M/Pro 84 is just a graphic change; it is the old Legend 84​
Head-Kore87-Revolution.jpg

Head
Where the Dynastar Legend was the inspiration for this article, replacement of the Monster 83 and 88 was the catalyst. The Monster’s days were numbered when Head introduced the wildly successful Kore series of skis. First to go in recent seasons were the Monster 98 and 108. This made sense as the market for a (nearly) fully cambered traditional shaped 98 and 108 was near null. I agree there, but the Monster 83 and 88 were still class leaders. In performance they were the skis to which others were compared. These were skis for skiers, good skiers. The volume of sales might have been dwindling but the quality was still there. I understand the need to streamline collections and having a two ski collection can be confusing to some ski buyers. So, let's replace two extremely purposeful skis for the sake of versatility.

For 2021 Head replaced the 80mm Head iTitan with the 84mm eTitan. Vowels aside, the eTitan is now a very wide carver and, with the 7/8ths version 85mm V-Shape V10 also in the Head line, the Monster 83 could be perceived as superfluous. I will give Head points because they will also be offering the eTitan flat, sans bindings, something that has never been offered on a Supershape ski in the past. As far as replacing the well loved Monster 88 with the Kore 87? Will the Kore 87 be a better ski for more skiers? Probably, but the Monster 88 was a great skier for select skiers. With all this said, the Kore 87 will probably outsell the Monster 88 by a significant margin.
  • What you will miss: The Monster 83 was a really good frontside ski that could play all over the mountain. The Monster 88 was the reference 88 ski with a hard snow bias.​
  • What you will gain: With the eTitan, a better hard snow ski with more purpose and the Kore 87, a ski that you can relax on and not have to think.​
  • Insider tip: You can get the eTitan flat. For Nth degree fun, consider a race plate and Freeflex FT.​
Kästle-MX88-Revolution.jpg

Kästle
It’s a whole new world at Kästle with new ownership, a new facility for building skis and, as the subject here, an entirely new MX collection of skis. When Kästle was reintroduced as a brand in the mid 2000s the MX, or “Mountain Cross”, was the cornerstone of the brand. Through the years there have been glacier like evolutions to the series for good reason; they were arguably the best skis in almost every class they had an offering. For 2021 Kästle’s MX series is all new. While some of the widths are familiar, the skis have been completely redesigned. Gone is the need to be the best skier on the hill skier to enjoy an MX. Now it is only the desire to be better that is required. The old models were really just for the upper eschelon of skiers who could get the most out of the MX experience. Now it is a ski for the qualified masses. Kästle was willing to forgo the top 5% of performance to gain 10% more in obtainability. Common sense here is prevailing with the powers that be at Kästle. Even the best of the best skiers redlined the ski on very few occasions and by making the acceptable power-band more inviting, the new skis are much friendlier at only a slight top-end performance cost.
  • What you will miss: The top 5% of performance that you accessed 1-2% of your ski day​
  • What you will gain: More versatility.​
  • Insider tip: The finish of these skis is the best they have ever been, jewel like.​
K2-Disruption-Revolution.jpg

K2
I have been saying “Welcome to the new K2” for so long they are now on the second generation of “new” K2s. Already gone is the stellar Charger collection that has been a favorite of all of our testers and very well the most underrated collection of skis offered anywhere. Also gone are the Ikonic upper 70 to mid-80mm collection of solid frontside skis. Welcome the the age of Disruption. The all new Disruption collection replaces both of the outgoing Charger and Ikonic collections with one encompassing series that starts in the low 70mm range to 82mm. Just looking at the shape of the new skis indicates they are hell bent on being one of the more technically oriented collections offered…anywhere.

Oh, there is not one, but two women’s Disruption Alliance skis, the MTi and SC, and trust us when we say these are not your mom’s Burnin’ Luvs.
  • What you will miss: With the Chargers, you will miss a solid technical ski with race-ski like tenacity. With the Ikonics…Well the Chargers were really good and will be missed.​
  • What you will gain: A great hard snow ski that will lay trenches and expect you to be on board​
  • Insider tip: K2 sold tens of Charger skis in the US and most were from our reviews. You keep asking for narrow hard charging frontside skis and K2 is building them. You better start buying them otherwise they will stop making them!​
Renoun-Endurance88-Revolution.jpg

Renoun
We can’t help but take some credit for putting Renoun and the HDT (now called VibeStop™) infused skis on the map and that all started because of the revolutionary Z90. The Z90 is a 90mm wide carver that changed people's perception of how good a ski could be. I referred to the Z90 as a once a decade ski. I was that smitten by it. When Renoun introduced the Endurance 98 V3.0 I immediately told Cyrus, owner of Renoun, “the Endurance’s shape would be good as an 88 wide ski. It could give Renoun a good one two punch with that collection.” I never meant for it to be a replacement for the Z90. In fact, I referred to it being a good compliment for it. Like many of the revolutions mentioned here, the Endurance 88 is so different in feel from the Z90 they could coexist in the same quiver. Where the Z90 stood out in this range with a unique set of skills, the Endurance 88 jumped into a sea of “me too” skis.
  • What you will miss: The hard snow feel, quick turn in and grin factor like few skis can provide.​
  • What you will gain: Off piste and mixed snow performance.​
  • Insider tip: Lets hope that we will see a limited run of Z90 Classics​

Rossignol-BlackOps-Sender-Revolution.jpg

Rossignol
Few skis took the industry by storm like the yellow and black Rossignol Soul 7 when it arrived a few seasons ago. The Soul 7 was part of a merry band of skis that included the Sin 7, Super 7, and Squad 7 along with their women’s counterparts. These skis ended up being a victim of their own success. They were light, playful, and opened up the mountain to many, many skiers. Over the seasons the sales did dwindle and with the ski's age, even with some construction and name changes, the series got long in tooth. Over the past two seasons Rossi has been testing the waters with the “Black Ops” skis. These started off being available just for athletes, shop guys, and influencers. Rossi made just enough buzz and peaking of interest to bring the Black Ops public as their own collection. Where the Soul 7 was the focal ski of the outgoing collection, the Sender Ti and women’s Rallybird Ti are the new king and queen of the prom and definitely worthy of the accolades they have been receiving. These new skis are not anything like the outgoing models in performance, on snow feel, or even looks. While graphics can be subjective, they are the only thing anyone who has had the luck to get on the new skis questions.
  • What you will miss: The puppy dog playfulness…and the attention span to match.​
  • What you will gain: A much more planted feel on the snow and a mature feeling ski.​
  • Insider tip: A refreshing change in sizing, width is measured in centimeters not millimeters and the length in meters not centimeters. So the Sender Ti is a 1.82 m in length and 10.2 cm wide. Not that it matters, just that it is different. Oh, and the ski's sizings are scaled, so each rider gets the same experience, no matter their size.​
The one constant in ski design is change and we are seeing significant change in the models mentioned above. In some cases the changes are calculated. For others, they are throwing a design against the wall to see if the dog will hunt. Again, it is not for us to say if these changes are for the best or not but to help you as a reader to decide if these changes were indeed for you. More and more we cannot say, “I will always ski an Abcd” or "I will never ski a Wxyz”. Now is a great time to explore your options.
About author
Philpug
I started skiing in the mid-70s in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania; from then on, I found myself entrenched in the industry. I have worked in various ski shops from suburban to ski town to resort, giving me a well-rounded perspective on what skiers want from their gear. That experience was parlayed into my time as a Gear Review Editor and also consulting with manufacturers as a product tester. Along with being a Masterfit-trained bootfitter I am a fully certified self proclaimed Gear Guru. Not only do I keep up with the cutting edge of ski gear technology, but I am an avid gear collector and have an extensive array of bindings as well as many vintage skis.

Replies

It's a weird year with Covid, but I am not really excited to even try any of the new 2021 skis. Nothing seems to even capture my imagination. The revamped Black Pearl on the women's side sounds the most interesting to me. Maybe the Rossi Black Ops but they haven't captured my imagination just yet. Lots of good skis out there but nothing seems really all that new and inspiring. All evolution.

I liked your comment about the k2 ikonics. This came up in another thread, but I had the misfortune of getting a great deal on the first generation k2 ikonic 85ti and bought without demoing. It is the only ski I've tried in the last 5 years that I thought stunk. To me that ski was worse in every way than the amp rictor which I did enjoy. Maybe the subsequent ikonics were better, but wow, that first gen ikonic was disappointing. A couple days on them is all and they are my rock skis. Blech.
 
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I heard that about the first gen Ikonic 85ti. I spent 2 days demoing the second gen Ikonic 84ti and it was an excellent ski. Basically perfect for a East Coast front side daily driver. I skied a K2 supercharger and really liked it also, Phil described it well. The 84ti was the supercharger with more width, and slightly toned down. Perfect for a ski that could really handle groomers with some off piste or glades thrown in. Probably a little narrow for Western conditions, but nailed it for East Coast conditions. I decided to buy a Stockli Laser AX, but I think I made the wrong choice.
 
The first gen IKonic 85Ti was the last ski in this class with the easy Recon feeling. This gets to the point that I have referenced many times. A customer comes in and says "My buddy has a Mantra and said it's the best ski and I should get it"
This is usually how it goes from there...
Me: Which Mantra?
Him: What do you mean, the Volkl Mantra
Me: I know you said Mantra but there have been numerous generations of Mantra, all skied differently.
Him: Well, his are about 5 or years old.
Me: About?
Him: Maybe 7
Me: OK, tell me about your buddy and the way he skis...
Him: He is 6'2" 230lb, ex racer, skis bell to bell every day.
Me: And you?
Him: 5'9" 160lb, two knee replacements and ski 10 days a year.
Me: With that said....Do you really think you and him should be on the same ski?
 
Is the MX as easy to ski as the monster was? I could never ski the MX 88 due to the tail being too grippy off piste but loooove the monster 88
 
@Philpug I think it may have been last year where the manufacturers were going to focus on getting a bit narrower but I don't really see that happening. Looks like consumers are still leaning on the wider side and the manufacturers acquiesce and are not fighting this trend.

Whereas I think most 88-90 widths still works great as an all mountain ski most days in Utah, many consider that a front side ski. Maybe it's because most have only have one ski versus a quiver? Thoughts??
 
@Philpug I think it may have been last year where the manufacturers were going to focus on getting a bit narrower but I don't really see that happening. Looks like consumers are still leaning on the wider side and the manufacturers acquiesce and are not fighting this trend.

Whereas I think most 88-90 widths still works great as an all mountain ski most days in Utah, many consider that a front side ski. Maybe it's because most have only have one ski versus a quiver? Thoughts??
9 of the 11 skis referenced here are narrower than the outgoing model. But I see your point. If you have seen the recent "major" publication "Buyers Guide"? 3 of the 13 skis in the Frontside category were over 90mm underfoot. I did a search on the skis that have frontside attributes on our site, of the 39 skis...NONE were over 90mm. I relate ski design to car design here is the U.S. where SUV's have all but replaced cars. It truly is sad.
 
Is the MX as easy to ski as the monster was? I could never ski the MX 88 due to the tail being too grippy off piste but loooove the monster 88
It is a lot easier to ski, more like the most recent Monster 88, not the earlier ones. With the higher price tag, you get a good amount of refinement for the extra money you will be spending.
 
Thanks, Phil. All those total changes were a bit overwhelming when they appeared, so good sort out. I appreciate it, fun to read.

The ones I registered mostly in my dim awareness, even as I demo skied many of them, were the Dynastars (very good, worth considering), the Rossis (mostly head scratchers, though a few standouts), the K2s (mostly confusion, for me, but the Mindbenders made up for that totally, still), the Blizzards (descent to sameness?) and more dimly, the Kastles. (But those Kastle folks were still riding on the breakthrough of their stellar FX106.) I didn't even notice the new MX88. (But the new MX98, that replaced the amazing MX99 bomber ski, I did try: wish it were the 99. So, meh, for a guy like me. No longer a performance charger. What gives? You cleared that up, for both the 88 and 98, seems like: a ski that is more accessible.

The Armadas I hadn't registered, and the Heads I'd only noticed as mostly a loss - of the Monsters; except for the slightly redesigned and shifted forward mounting point of the improved Kore 117. So Head is still on course, steadied by how recently the Head Kores appeared - hooray Kore 93, for me. And Kore 105 for many. And yet, the big loss was the Monster 83. I'll have to try the new Kore 88, to see if it's all that and a bag of chips. (And there's always the new Titan to sneak in.)

I especially appreciated what you said about the Dynastars, just spot on accurate. The new skis do remind me of an improvement on the older, stronger Legends, learning from the skis in between, rather than being versions of the recent and more recent. I'd liked those more powerful Legends, but not so much the Chams, that pivot ski, in spite of how dang restful it was. To me, the fat Dynastars (Frees) and the all mountain Dynastars (Pros) are now on a par with the other skis of their widths, at least, and well worth being included in any demo comparison.
 
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It is a lot easier to ski, more like the most recent Monster 88, not the earlier ones. With the higher price tag, you get a good amount of refinement for the extra money you will be spending.
I have the original monster and find it super easy to ski in all conditions. The MX 88s tail too grippy for me in bumps and off piste. I think the difference in the 2 skis highlights the subtlety in ski design. Bother stiff and damp w no rocker. one super easy to ski, the other not so.
 
Great summary! Wondering if the comments above for the Bonafide apply to the new Brahma?
 
Fun topic....though I might argue that the head examples are a discontinue and an evolution rather than revolution: The Kore and iTitans have been evolving for quite a while (this is, what, the 4rth version of the iTitan, maybe 3rd?) and the Kore 87 is just an expansion of a now pretty established Head ski.

The Death of the Monsters maybe signals the end of the Revolution (last gasp of powerhouse technical skis for all mountain pursuits--heck even the MX 88 has been made friendlier!)---Napoleon is Gone and Louis the XVII is on the throne.

Question: Of these Revolutions--which is the step in the best direction and will influence future ski designs the most?
 
Fun topic....though I might argue that the head examples are a discontinue and an evolution rather than revolution: The Kore and iTitans have been evolving for quite a while (this is, what, the 4rth version of the iTitan, maybe 3rd?) and the Kore 87 is just an expansion of a now pretty established Head ski.

The Death of the Monsters maybe signals the end of the Revolution (last gasp of powerhouse technical skis for all mountain pursuits--heck even the MX 88 has been made friendlier!)---Napoleon is Gone and Louis the XVII is on the throne.

Question: Of these Revolutions--which is the step in the best direction and will influence future ski designs the most?
Great question. It comes down to two schools of thought. Do does a brand want a me too ski that blends with every other ski and does not offend anyone or do they want to stand apart from the crowd and with a distinct personality? Personally, I prefer the latter, but the former is the safe bet. With that said, I like what K2 is doing and I think Rossi is on the right track with the new Black Ops. I am excited to see what is coming down the road to replace the Experience collection.
 
@Philpug I think it may have been last year where the manufacturers were going to focus on getting a bit narrower but I don't really see that happening. Looks like consumers are still leaning on the wider side and the manufacturers acquiesce and are not fighting this trend.

Whereas I think most 88-90 widths still works great as an all mountain ski most days in Utah, many consider that a front side ski. Maybe it's because most have only have one ski versus a quiver? Thoughts??
Endorse. The enforcer 88 is my daily driver for Utah. Front, back, inside, and out. Unless it’s snowing bananas it’s a great all mountain ski and the narrower waist really lends itself to being agile all over the mountain.
 

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