The narrowest ski in the Gear Institute Carving category, at 65 mm underfoot, is considered narrow in the North American market. In Europe, carving skis are closer to race skis. The North American market trend for 2019—similar to last season—signals a pendulum swing from wider waist widths to more narrow widths, heading closer to a European taste for carve-friendly sidecuts. Call it realism for dealing with climate change, but having a carving ski in the quiver means you have a great tool for hardpack days and to work on your ski technique.
While evaluating Carving skis, testers looked for ski traits that contribute to accuracy and arcing turns, including Responsiveness, Stability, Edge-hold, Carving Pleasure and Turn Shape Variability. The narrower the ski, the tighter the turn radius, and it’s here that savvy skiers can look to turn radius designations to suit their skiing style of either tight slalom turns or fast, GS arcs. Built for speed, construction in this category is often inspired by World Cup racing skis, with design elements that reduce weight, increase edge grip and smooth out the flex. It’s common to find sandwich sidewall construction with full vertical sidewalls, a wood core, and a sheet of metal or some amount of metal integrated into the core. Many models have some type of dampening system to absorb bumps at speed. In terms of tip and tail design, some models have slight rocker in the tip for ease of entry into the turn, as well as a flat tail, which helps with quick turn exit.
All in all, testers feel that skis in this category are “fall line seekers” and “quick-turning workout tools.” They also consider skis here as “one-trick ponies,” meaning that they are designed specifically for the frontside, with very little all-mountain versatility. Some Carving skis feel stiffer than others, and some models may, in fact, be marketed as women-specific (with a women-oriented topsheet), but may come from the same mold and have the same layup as its unisex sibling. Other models have women-specific cores that are lighter and softer-flexing than the male counterparts, in terms of core construction. Adopting a “try before you buy” action plan is the best course of action before purchasing a high-performance carving ski.