Features, stories, and reported articles written by Julie Brown.

The 2016 POWDER Buyer's Guide

Skis That Matter

Published in POWDER Magazine (44.1) | September 2016

I wrote reviews, directed content, edited gear reviews, and managed the digital translation of the Buyer's Guide to Powder.com

Intro to All-Mountain Skis:

Go skiing every day

Ski resorts are getting tracked out faster than ever, thanks to high-speed chairlifts, droughts, and all the half-committed skiers who only show up when it snows six inches or more. But that’s not you. You ski every day. You know the best days can be found lapping chalky wind-buff and hitting kickers in the trees. The good news is that ski companies are making more skis than ever just for you. The pendulum swung from way too skinny to way too fat, and has now settled on the sweet spot of 108 millimeters underfoot. Of the 30 skis in this section, nine share a 108 waist. But no two are the same. Each company used that benchmark to fine-tune a ski to fit a unique persona. For hard-core directional, look to the Armada Invictus. For those who see the resort as their playground, channel the Faction Candide 3.0. For skiers heading beyond the boundary, Dynafit entered the all-mountain department with the new Chugach. One-oh-eight, it’s a mystical number in astrology and religion. It’s also the perfect number for skiers.

Intro to Women's Skis: 

What a Woman wants

What makes this women’s ski different than the men’s? The answer is nearly always the same: lighter-weight materials and a softer flex. Here’s the thing: Lightweight, soft skis are not better suited for a woman’s body type. Rather, they are qualities applied to equipment made for intermediate skiers. The industry assumes—and market trends support them—that, generally speaking, there are fewer aggressive female skiers than men. As a result, many of the best female skiers are on men’s skis. But it doesn't have to be that way. What follows are the women’s skis that stood out at Powder Week. The Powder Queens skied full throttle across all of Big Sky, and they held edges, turned without too much tip flop, rammed through crud, and floated on pow—just the way we wanted.


Armada VJJ 2.0

The day I took this ski out for a ride, I followed Armada co-founder Hans Smith on a snow hunt. At the top of a rocky chute in Big Sky’s Headwaters, I pledged faith in Hans, who swore we would find soft snow hiding somewhere below the pepper. Starting at the rockered tip, the VJJ 2.0 features Armada’s patented five-dimensional sidecut and a gradual taper, making this ski nimble and quick, a good thing for tight hop turns like the ones I made at the top of the chute. Positive camber underfoot gives you peace of mind that your turns will hold. And a rockered tail grants you access to fun times and smear turns when you find the soft snow you are looking for. After a mixed bag of conditions, which this ski handled with ease, my trust in Hans was rewarded and we skied blower pow all the way to the bottom. It was the best run of Powder Week. 

4FRNT Hoji w

Redesigned this year, the Hoji W features a more relaxed tip profile and VibeVeil, an elastic membrane 4FRNT put in the tip of the ski to reduce chatter. It works. This ski is quiet, even at the fastest of speeds. 4FRNT likes a girl with hips and power thighs, so they moved the weight of the core back five centimeters to make the ski naturally more centered. Reverse camber throughout, with a sidecut profile to match, plus a poplar and beech core, the Hoji W is equipped to respond to the terrain at hand. Although, fair warning, with a 30-meter turn radius, this stick is built for big lines.

K2 Fulluvit 98ti

This year, K2 completely overhauled its women’s line and brought back the Luv Series. For the FulLUVit 98Ti, the ladies at K2 handpicked a core made with aspen, paulownia, and bamboo that was developed specifically with women in mind. Grooved channels in the core keep weight down and give the ski a smooth and even flex. A metal perimeter adds snap to whip around trees and bumps and cut through chalk. A low-rise rockered tip and a flatter tail keep turns honest. The mountain landscape on the topsheet seals the deal on a graceful ski built for women, by women. 

Salomon Warden MNC 13

The Warden MNC is approved to fit most alpine, WTR, and touring boots. A sliding pedal on the toepiece compensates for the added friction caused by rubber or rockered soles, and the toe height can be adjusted, via a Pozidrive, to fit such discrepancies. Some minimalist touring slippers aren’t compatible with this binding, so check with your local shop first. The U Power Toe and an oversized platform work together to leverage maximum power to lean in and steer turns. Heel Flex Interface fits with a ski’s natural bend, and pads under the toe and heel pieces provide shock absorption. As the buffet of boot options expands, the Warden MNC keeps pace. 

Nordica GPX 105 w

Nordica built the new GPX 105 W for aggressive skiers, skipping things like a walk mode to focus on the important stuff: fit and function. The GPX 105 W shell is the same size as the men’s version, offering women the support they need to dig in, while a slight curve in the top rear edge of the liner fits a woman’s calf. It features Nordica’s full-motion pivot technology, which allows cuff adjustments in two directions, giving you more options to fit this boot according to your own individual stance. The boot fits snug and narrow, but a dense, hand-stitched liner made with Primaloft will keep blood flowing to your toes. Finally, speaking on behalf of women who want stiff boots, don’t overlook this one for the 105 flex—it skis more like a 115.