I'm a gear junkie. Almost all of my hobbies involve specialized and typically expensive gear of some sort: water skiing/inboard ski boats, guitar, cars, photography, computers, garage tinkering, etc. etc. I've never been fortunate enough to be enamored with a hobby like soccer or basketball where the gear is basically a couple of shoes and a ball.
When it comes to slalom skis, I typically want to try something new every couple years. In trying to rationalize this I came up with the following reasons for upgrading, at least in my case: 1. In skiing, I "am" the ball. Since I am the ball, and the ski is the only thing between my feet and the water, the ski is a very big deal. 2. It seems like even in our super-niche industry, innovation is driving every slalom ski manufacturer and truly game-changing designs seem to be the norm (either that or marketing has really gotten strong for these skis and brainwashed me properly). 3. The season is short for us, life is short in general, and I want to get better at this sport SO BADLY that I constantly want to ensure that I'm not leaving anything on the table with my equipment. It's not like I've been skiing 20 years and am happy with where I'm at in the course- I'm clawing and tearing with everything I've got to be better, sooner.
So what am I looking for in a ski at my level? I want a ski that 1) will help me do the right things and 2) will not punish me for doing the wrong things. Pretty tall order, right? My current ski, a D3 Custom X fits the bill well. It's not terribly fussy, turns well on both sides, and generally lets me push it around as needed. Wasn't cheap, either- 699.00 new, as I recall. I can ski well with it on a very consistent basis. Still, though, I want to make sure I'm not leaving anything on the table here, remember? More specifically I'd like a ski that comes through my off-side turn more consistently. I want to end up on the other side of that turn with the ski tip facing cross-course and with a minimal speed change/hit out of the ball. I want that part of the course to be less work. My spine wants that part of the course to be less work. I know I can do that with technique but remember- the season is short. I'll get there. In the mean time, why suffer as much? If a ski drops me right into the pocket and fires me into 2-ball with minimal fuss, I'll feel that feeling and know what to strive for because the ski hands it to me. "Here Joel, enjoy this shot out of your off-side turn- this is exactly what you should shoot for brother." Thanks, ski. Thanks. I recall telling my wife and ski buddies that "if the ski does not noticeably make me ski better in a fairly short period of time, it's going back". 1000+ dollars is a serious investment and from it I needed serious returns, even in this economy.
Since my current ski is technically a fairly high-end, mostly carbon ski, I wanted to shop for only the tip-top of the line skis out there. 100% carbon structure. In our sport, they really don't make high-end skis specifically for lower-skilled skiers. In other words, as an extreme example there's no such thing as a 30mph, 1000.00 ski. However, I've always had a hunch that the best high-end carbon skis for shortliners might in fact be the best skis for those of just just starting to cut line. I don't know if historically that's always been the case, but times are a changin'. I wanted to try out brand new skis for 2012, as well, such as the D3 Fusion and the HO S2. These skis carry a staggering price tag of roughly 1300.00 each, however, if I could get a full pass out of either of them I figured it would be worth it. Again, short season, you only live once, yadda yadda. For what we spend on boating/boats, club sets, tow vehicles, storage, etc., 1300.00 ain't bad for immediate improvement in the course.
Another reason I wanted to try out some new 2012 skis was because I wanted to share the experience with you. I thought it would be great content for the site and that I'd be bringing some unique perspective with my reviews because, quite frankly, I'm not great at slalom skiing. A skier who is already a great skier really can't tell you what a 1300.00 ski is going to do for you. I can. At the very least I can tell you what it's done for me and perhaps there's something there that you will be able to relate to. If I'm telling you how great the ski is doing at -35 and -38, I just don't know how relevant that is to you when you're struggling at -15 and looking for a new stick. If you're getting deep into -38, it's been a LONG, long time since you've struggled with and felt what a 15-offer has in the course. I suppose my weakness becomes a strength in this case.
Enter the guys at http://www.h2oproshop.com. As usual, they were happy to help me out with this endeavor and entered me into their "Ride before you Buy" program. In this program they let you try out skis until you find the one that suits you best. You pay shipping and a demo fee for each ski exchange, but it's well worth it, especially when you're talking about 1300.00 skis. My MasterCard will take a big hit with this, but at least I'll know that I got the right ski.
This experience has taught me a ton, including how important fin settings are and exactly what each adjustment does. I also came to the conclusion that the best high-end carbon skis ARE in fact the best skis for somebody at my level of skiing. My sets usually end with the speed control set at 34.2mph and the rope at -22, and a ski designed for people running impossibly short lines and in some cases faster speeds truly has helped me at my level.
Through the http://www.h2oproshop.com ride-before-you-buy program I ended up trying the 2012 D3 Fusion and the 2012 HO S2. You can find my reviews for each ski in the Reviews section and also by clicking the ski names in the previous sentence. As of now the Fusion review is complete and I'm still writing the S2 review. That should be released shortly. We're also going to have some dockside thoughts on the skis from Seth Stisher, as well. Stay tuned!