DOWN ‘N DIRTY: SALOMON SKI SET-UP FOR WOMEN

Powder days are amazing. The problem is, my Boulder residence and strong aversion to white-knuckle driving (particularly on I-70) mean I don’t get to enjoy very many of them. With this (sad) fact in mind, I was eager to test out Salomon’s Stance 88, a ski designed for shredding groomers on the frontside. Pair them with the brand’s Warden MNC 11 bindings and their S/MAX 70 W boots, and you’ll have a powerful ski set-up ideal for groomer days while still able to handle both powder and late-season corn.

The Skis: Stance 88 W
Price: $725
Intended Use: All-mountain
Skill range: Intermediate/advanced
Tail Profile: Flared
Core Material: Wood with metal laminate
Available lengths (cm): 154, 161, 168, 174

A member of Salomon’s newest line-up of all-mountain skis, the Stance 88 W is one powerful set of sticks. I loved how reliable they felt when maxing out my speed on groomer days and how gracefully they carved when soaring down an open run in a series of S turns. The skis are clearly designed for on-piste ripping thanks to their stiffness and progressive sidecut.

Construction

The Stance 88 is built with a sandwich metal-wood-metal construction. Inside, Salomon has included a karuba/poplar full woodcore, which makes this ski slightly lighter than the unisex Stance 90. The Stance 88 W also features Salomon’s C/FX technology, a proprietary recipe of carbon (which offers power and performance in a lightweight package) and flax for added dampening. The exterior metal twinframe offers stability and strength on piste, while two cut-outs in the upper metal sheet, one in front of the ski and one in the back, reduce the weight and help the ski move a bit more naturally.

Turning

It’s no surprise that the Stance 88 W excels at carving given its top-down silhouette. Ranging from 100 mm at the tail to 88 mm at the waist and out to 118 mm at the tip, the ski’s hour-glass-esque sidecut offers a respectable 17 m turning radius. Importantly, though, the Stance 88 W’s sidecut isn’t so deep that you would flounder in powder. So while the ski is made for frontside groomers, it can hold its own when you hit the deep.

The Boots: S/MAX 70 W
Price: $480
Width: Narrow
Weight: 1740 grams
Alpine Boot Last: 98
Flex: 70

With its lightweight construction and proprietary, agility-enhancing technology, the S/MAX 70 W is designed to be a no-nonsense power-transferring boot that doesn’t skimp on comfort. And it delivers. 

Technology 

With its four burly buckles and mid-range flex level, the S/MAX 70 W is an excellent intermediate/advanced boot. It features Salomon’s proprietary Sense Amplifier, which aims to elevate precision at the beginning of your turn, provide quicker edge-to-edge transfer while turning, and boost acceleration at the end of the turn. It also features a women’s-specific cuff that’s slightly lower than on men’s boots and a calf adjuster that allows you to turn a screw to enlarge the upper cuff up to 1 cm, resulting in a better fit for a wider range of calf sizes. I especially liked the pre-shaped Perf liner that’s made without internal or external stitches, thereby improving the liner’s ability to hold the foot stable—and it has the added bonus of making for a warmer boot.

Fit

Obviously a boot needs to ski well (which these absolutely do), but let’s be real. They also need to be comfortable. And after multiple full days of skiing, I was incredibly impressed that my feet felt nearly as comfortable at the end of the day as they did at the beginning. And that’s a tall order.

Notably, I was worried when I first got the boots. Slipping them on for the first time was a challenge in itself given how stiff they were. But when I put them on and could feel my toes kissing the edge of the boot, I was worried I’d gotten the wrong size. Yes, I know ski boots (like climbing shoes) are supposed to fit snugly for optimum performance, but I’ve spent way too many days in too-small boots that leave my toes painfully cramped and so, so cold. I was worried I’d made that mistake yet again. But after talking with a former racer who clearly knows her stuff, I spent a few days clunking around my house in those boots and packing them out. That effective (albeit noisy) strategy combined with a few full days on the slopes had them fitting perfectly.

The Bindings: Warden MNC 11
Price: $240
Weight: 995 grams for 1/2 pair
Adjustment range in US sizes: 4
Din Scale: 3, 5-11
Height: 26.5

Bindings are definitely not the sexiest part of the ski set-up. And often, they seem like an afterthought. But as the connection point between the power in your body (via the boot) and the actual ski, bindings are an integral part of your kit. Salomon’s Warden MNC 11 earns points for its ability to provide precise power transmission, while also ensuring key shock absorption. Plus, they’re compatible with most boots on the market.

Overall

Pros: There’s a lot to love about this set-up, but it all boils down to performance and comfort. This women’s-specific kit from Salomon allows for front-side shredding and impressive carving in a package that’s comfortable enough to let you rip all day long.

Cons: The main con for me was the ease with which the Stance 88’s topsheet got scuffed. In the process of corralling a new-to-skiing four-year-old and getting my skis tangled with his a time or two, the topsheets lost some of their purple gloss. It’s also worth noting that while the Stance 88 is lighter than other models out there, it’s not the lightest. Make sure to do some pre-season lunges. As for the boots, some might be disappointed that the S/MAX 70 W doesn’t have a moldable liner.

Where I took them: About 15 days at Eldora, Copper Mountain, and Steamboat Ski Resort in conditions varying from 8 inches of fresh powder to hard pack and and spring slush.

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