A Gear Junkie mea culpa: I’m a bit old school when it comes to downhill skiing equipment. Though I’m an expert skier, my gear of choice is almost a decade old.
So this year, in preparation for an early-season ski trip, I decided to step into 2005 with some new, high-end alpine skis and boots. Both the Volkl Supersport Superspeed ski and Tecnica Diablo Fire boot came with high recommendations from my more in-the-know skiing friends. Both also have price tags that forced some high expectations on my end.
The Volkl Supersport Superspeed ski, which comes with an integrated Marker binding system, retails for $1,115. It has a distinct shaped profile with a 115mm tip, a 70mm waist and a 99mm tail, and Volkl pitches it as an all-mountain ski that has good responsiveness on groomed snow and enough float for varied off-trail conditions.
Testing it out on groomed cruisers and steep hard-pack runs at Jackson Hole, Wyo., the Superspeed performed superbly. Its race-ski construction, which incorporates carbon fiber and titanium into a sturdy, grippy edge design, makes for a ski that inspires great confidence at high speeds.
The Marker Motion binding system adds to the ski’s overall solid feel. It uses Marker’s Piston Control Oil Suspension system, which the company says allows the binding to better suck up vibrations that may cause you to lose an edge.
But for all its control on the trail, I was not impressed with the ski’s handling in deep snow and crud. I tested the 175cm model, and its shorter length combined with its somewhat narrow midsection did not handle the off-trail runs as decisively as I’d hoped.
To accompany the Volkl skis, I wore Tecnica’s Diablo Fire boots ($675), a top-end, all-mountain model made to take on steep faces, bumps, powder and groomed cruisers.
Tecnica’s design incorporates a hard material on the heel and toe areas for efficient energy transfer to the ski and a medium-stiff material on the part of the boot that wraps your foot. Over the top of the instep, Tecnica uses a softer plastic for easier in and out. The boot cinches to the foot with four solid aluminum buckles and a strong Velcro strap on top.
For critical, fast turns on hard-pack steeps, I found the Diablo Fire to be powerful and precise. It also performed well off the groomed trail, as it was comfortable for jumping and bumping, yet responsive.
My first day on the slopes, the boot did not fit 100 percent right. Fortunately, the Diablo Fire has several adjustment features, including a flex adjustment plate, heel spacers, cuff and axis alignment, and a rear spoiler that can be switched to three height positions for various calf dimensions. After 30 minutes of tweaking in my hotel room that evening, the boot had better forward flex, a tighter heel and a cant that fit the angle of my lower leg like a glove.
Tecnica, 1-603-298-8032, www.tecnicausa.com.
Volkl, 1-603-298-0314, www.volkl.com.