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Stöckli

Our spider sense tingles when we hear the term “handmade” applied to skis, as the implication is that such slats will receive extraordinary care in manufacture no mass-produced ski can hope to receive.  One reason we look sideways at the “handmade” adjective is that all quality skis are to some degree handmade and some processes—even at “handmade” plants—are best managed robotically. In fact, there’s no obligatory reason a “handmade” ski should be superior, and likewise a “mass produced” model can be exquisite. While the “handmade” handle hopes to convey scrupulous craftsmanship, it’s just as likely to be a euphemism for “outdated, inefficient production technology with slack quality control.” 

Of all the brands that hang their hats on a handmade reputation, Stöckli represents the best of what we associate with the term and avoids all the potential pitfalls. Perhaps all we need to say is that they are Swiss to the core. If they are inefficient, it’s because they choose to be; who else changes their production several times mid-season as new ideas are tested and adopted?  Sure, other brands are also refining their products throughout the year, but they don’t usually make such midstream improvements available to the public. But if Stöckli concocts a faster race ski and their athletes confirm it, the next model they make—whether for a racer or a consumer—will incorporate those improvements. If that sounds special, it is. 

Stöckli doesn’t kowtow to its buying public. They assume if you want their race skis, you want the same race skis the amazing Tina Maze deploys, and so that’s what you get. They don’t compromise on construction and the finishing steps applied to all Stöckli skis are state-of-the-art and beyond meticulous. Most companies would fire any engineer who recommended a method that took a week to produce a finished ski; at Stöckli, they’d probably promote him.

The only downside to Stöckli’s no-compromises approach is they have a habit of investing racing genes in every ski they make. They don’t try to pamper the clueless but reward the highly evolved.

Thankfully for all concerned, Stöckli has finally figured out that freeride, all-terrain skiers have other, legitimate needs besides fierce grip at rocket speeds. New subtle changes, such as adding rocker and softening extremities, have expanded what we might call the “comfort range” of the latest series of Stormriders. 

You’ll notice that one consequence of being Swiss and being crafted with the care of a Rolex is that they cost about the same as a Rolex. And, as with Rolex, with Stöckli you get what you pay for.

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2016 Addendum

For 2016, Stöckli has rechristened Stormrider 100 as the Stormrider Motion 100, repositioning the model from a backcountry ski to a made-for-women’s model.  Its Titanal topsheet has inlaid polyamide strips in the tip and tail to adapt the torsion to 3-D terrain; otherwise, the ski is technically unchanged.

A more significant move—at least in the central European market that is Stöckli’s home turf—is the inauguration of a 4-model fleet meant to match precisely any skier’s terrain, turn and speed preferences.  In the US we’d call every model in the new Scale series a Frontside ski, and any hope of choosing from among all four of them at one shop is nil, so as a system the “Scale 4 You” method is unlikely to fly, at least here. Nevertheless, the individual models can stand on their own merits as less demanding versions of Stöckli’s nuclear powered Laser series of carvers.  You could call the Scale models “Laser Lite,” offering Stöckli’s legendarily smooth ride in a package recreational skiers can control.

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In-depth reviews of 11 models—with key performance ratings ( ? ) and genre model comparisons ( ? ) —are in our member section

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Laser SL

traditional

Power:  A

Finesse:  A

Sidecut:  119/66/97
Radius: 13.6m @ 165cm
Lengths:  150.155,160,165,170
Weight:  n.a.
MSRP:  $1199

laser sl

The Stöckli Laser SL doesn’t suffer from an identity crisis.  It was born a slalom, it lives to make slalom turns and because it’s a Stöckli, it will probably never die.

A test card from South Lake Tahoe’s Powder House paints a telling portrait of the Laser SL’s strengths and limitations.  The written remarks could not have been more complimentary: “Awesome! Best ski I’ve ever skied.”  But the accompanying scores were deeply divided between Finesse and Power properties, with no score above 3 for off-piste performance, low-speed turning, forgiveness and drift and no score below 9 for carving accuracy, rebound, stability at speed, short turns and Finesse/Power balance. 

Considering how strong Stöckli’s carving skis (e.g. Laser AX) are, one might imagine their citizen race slalom to be a tough ride to tame without world-class skills.  Like the low test scores cited above, such fears are over-inflated.  It’s perfectly pegged as the ultimate “beer league” slalom, just the sort of crisp, clean turn generator you’d expect from the famously precise Swiss.

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Laser SX

traditional

Power:  A+

Finesse:  B

Sidecut:  120/70/99
Radius:  15.6m @ 170cm
Lengths:  154,162,170,178
Weight:  n.a.
MSRP:  $1199

laser sx

Competing against Stöckli in the Technical category is almost unfair.  They are obsessed with carving accuracy that can be maintained at any speed (but low) over any surface (except fluffy).

Ask Stöckli to build a ski that will hold on hard snow and be prepared for bliss, provided you know how to hang on.  The Laser SX accelerates to 40mph so fast you’ll forget what slow skiing feels like.   This may deter the meek, but Stöckli doesn’t condescend.  So what if the Laser SX likes to run at high revs?  That’s when the ski comes alive, leaping explosively edge to edge with rebound energy that’s a gas to ignite.

The Swiss are well known for their precision, and if there’s a single trait that defines the Laser SX, it’s accuracy.  It can be forced to scrub a turn, but you can tell the ski questions your judgment as you attempt to release the edge.  This ski expects to be driven, and by its definition, driven means carving on a tilted edge. 

A perfectly balanced ski, the Laser SX will make any turn shape in your repertoire as long as your precision matches its own.  If you can meet this lofty standard, you’re in for a special experience.

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Laser SC

traditional

Power:  A

Finesse:  C

Sidecut:  122/72/103
Radius:  14.9m @ 170cm
Lengths:  149,156,163,170,177
Weight:  n.a.
MSRP:  $1099

laser sc

The Laser SC loves its turns short, its accelerator pegged, its runs smooth and its pilot skilled.  You can’t fault the Laser SC for knowing what it likes for what it enjoys it does very, very well. 

Its passion is carving, with an old-fashioned camber line that sniffs out a connection to the snow at the very top of the turn.  The Laser SC proves the adage that the modern SL sidecut will make a long turn with far more facility than a shallow, GS shape can slip into a short one.  Still, if the SC could tell you what to do instead of vice versa, it would ask for more medium to short turns, bitte.

The Laser SC and SX are so similar they’re bound to invite comparison, which comes down to this: the SC feels a little softer, so it bows into a slightly tighter arc under a little less pressure at modestly slower speeds.  Note all the qualifying adverbs – like brothers, the skis have more similarities than they’re likely to admit to.

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Laser AX

early rise

Power:  A+

Finesse:  A+

Sidecut:  123/78/110
Radius:  15.8m in 175cm
Lengths:  159,167,175.183
Weight:  n.a.
MSRP:  $1149

laser ax

The Stöckli Laser AX won’t take no for an answer.  Whatever fears you may have about racing down the hill mach schnell, the Laser AX doesn’t want to hear them. It doesn’t share your concerns about getting kicked around in heavy snow and certainly isn’t going to tolerate a defeatist attitude in the face of glistening boilerplate.  The Laser AX has plenty of confidence for the both of you.

The AX can be so aggressive because it insulates its master from the consequences of its actions.  The ride remains smooth and calm, regardless of the condition of the terrain beneath your feet.  The Laser AX is the consummate servant; it strives to make you look good and let’s you take all the credit while it does all the work.

Any worthy ski tester is always looking for the perfect adjective that captures a ski’s essence.  Rich from The Sport Loft nailed the Laser AX when he penned, “Solid, predictable, plush.”  We love the “plush.” It conveys the sense of luxury with a whiff of decadence that the pilot experiences while the Laser AX imposes its will on whatever snow it is asked to subdue. 

BTW, if you want to outfit the Laser AX with its own plate and (Salomon) binding, the tariff will run you $1,419.  If that strikes you as an appalling sum, take solace in the thought that it’s worth it.

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Stormrider 88

early rise

Power:  A+

Finesse:  B+

Sidecut:  127/88/113
Radius:  19m @ 177cm
Lengths:  168,177,186
Weight:  1840g @ 177cm
MSRP:  $1269

stormrider 88

Like prescription medicines, Stöcklis should come with a warning label, something along the lines of, “Requires skill, effort and commitment.”  In lieu of this development, their price tag will have to serve as sufficient deterrent to prevent posers from accidentally acquiring a ski that will run the unskilled ragged. 

“A pure skier’s ski,” summarizes Winks from California Ski Company. “Do not let it take control for a second, as this thing was built for one purpose: raw power skiing.  But if you can handle it, it does everything you need it to.”

The trick to mastering Stöcklis is submitting to the fact that they want to go fast and you must learn that resistance is futile.  “You need speed to feel the power,” affirms Beau from Footloose.  Once the Stormrider 88 is rolling under a full head of steam, it’s like driving a Mercedes S Class at 120mph: inside the cabin the ride is so tranquil the speed feels inconsequential. 

“Silky smooth, like 1942 Don Julio tequila.  Happy, happy; Joy, joy. I felt like a super hero,” penned another ecstatic pilot after experiencing the Stormrider 88.  Happy. Happy. Joy. Joy.  Isn’t that what everyone wants from a truly great ski?  Isn’t that why we ski in the first place?

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Stormrider Motion

early rise

Power:  A+

Finesse:  A+

Sidecut:  128/85/110
Radius:  17m @ 175cm
Lengths:  159,167,175
Weight:  1695g @ 175cm
MSRP:  $999

stormrider motion

Stöckli’s main focus was, is and shall remain performance on hard snow, so even the relatively soft Motion with its lighter core and rockered baseline – all against-the-grain concessions for the race-obsessed Swiss – holds with such precision that it earned near-perfect scores for carving accuracy. 

“What’s not to like?” inquired Lisa from Footloose. “The Rolls Royce of skis, it instills confidence.”  Several testers commented on how solid and stable the Motion felt, and indeed while Stöckli considers the Motion to be a lightweight, you might think there’s something off with their gram scale. 

The ski is so powerful it doesn’t need length to create an unshakable platform. Most of our testers tried a 159cm, and they still couldn’t shake it loose at speed.  “Powerful… wonderful,” is how Chris from The Sport Loft compressed the Motion’s considerable charms.

Like all ultra-accurate, brilliantly crafted skis, the Motion deserves an owner with commensurate charms.  Its leader-of-the-pack Power rating describes a ski that rewards technical skiing, and if there’s a fly in this exquisite ointment, it’s that the sweet spot is small.  But this should pose no obstacle to the skilled, for whom the Motion will feel easy to manage.

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Stormrider 95

early rise

Power:  A+

Finesse:  A

Sidecut:  131/95/120
Radius:  19.2m @ 183cm
Lengths:  174,183,192
Weight:  1845g in 183cm
MSRP:  $1099

stormrider 95

There are two distinct phases in every expert skier’s life:  before skiing a Stöckli and after.  Once you pass into phase two, you’re changed for life.  You’ve had a taste of absolute power and there’s no forgetting it.

Note we said expert skier.  It’s not just that intermediates would be paying for performance they’ll never use; the experience could actually be harrowing, like trying to stay on a stallion that’s been stung by a wasp.  The Stormrider 95 has been softened and lightened since it first appeared, but it still takes off every run as if it were being chased. If you can’t keep up, you aren’t going to like the ride.

But if you have the skills, get ready to grin so wide your jaw might fall off.  This is what it must be like to pilot a fighter jet; it seems like there’s no top end to the speed attainable yet one feels totally strapped in and under control.

The Stormrider 95 skis like a GS race ski that would rather decimate a powder field than a race course.  Because of its torsional rigidity, it takes a full dose of speed before it becomes tractable, but for the same reason once in high gear the Stormrider 95 can conquer any terrain on the mountain.  If a Humvee and a Ferrari had a love child, it would drive like the Stormrider 95. 

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new for 2016Stormrider 100 Motion

early rise

Power:  A+

Finesse:  A

Sidecut:  136/100/123
Radius:  17.8m @ 174cm
Lengths:  158,166,174
Weight:  1710g @ 174cm
MSRP:  $1199

stormrider motion 100

The Stormrider 100 has served for several seasons as Stöckli’s shot at a mountaineering ski;. For 2016, they’ve re-decorated its Titanal top sheet, slapped the Motion moniker on it and voilà, instant lightweight women’s ski with a 100 waist.

Stöckli isn’t the only brand to blur the boundary between backcountry designs and made-for-women models.  Both markets expect some measure of weight reduction, and the Stormrider 100 addresses their shared concern by making the core from balsa wood and dampening it with filaments of linen instead of slabs of rubber.

The core is featherweight, but everything else about this ski is muscular, with Titanal laminates top and bottom and fiberglass-reinforced sidewalls.  The net effect is a relatively agile 100 that cuts trenches on piste and blasts through set-up crud like it wasn’t there.

Like any Stöckli, the Motion 100 likes to find fifth gear in a hurry, but once up to cruising speed the Footloose femmes found feline reflexes.  “Nimble, quick, lively and fun,” underscored Lisa, who “enjoyed it so much I went out for a 2nd run.  Agile and easy.”  Nancy sang the same tune: “Maybe not very forgiving, but still easy to ski.  Super fun.  Fast,” she added unnecessarily, as Stöckli and speed are synonymous.

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new for 2016Stormrider 107

early rise

Power:  A+

Finesse:  A

Sidecut:  135/107/127
Radius:  19.2m @ 183cm
Lengths:  174,183,192
Weight:  1895g @ 183cm
MSRP:  $1199

stormrider 107

The 2016 version of the Stormrider 107 is just new enough to qualify for this modifier, but not too new.   A few strips of carbon and polyamide at tip and tail probably do contribute to dampening, weight reduction and torsional reinforcement, but the best news is this feature doesn’t detract from what makes the Stormrider 107 a perennial favorite of our test crew.

Stöckli figured out a while ago that they couldn’t make fat powder skis using the same formula as their race skis or they would sink instead of float. Since making a ski without wood and metal causes Stöckli designers to break out in hives, they used balsa and other light woods in the core, linen for a dampening agent and decorated their Titanal top sheet to avoid the weight of an extra layer.

The result is a ski that inspired two words I thought I might never read on a Stöckli test card: “Exceptionally easy.”   One shouldn’t read into this that the Stormrider 107 is particularly interested in dawdling; after all, it’s still a Stöckli.  But it rolls to an edge more readily than many other skis of this ilk and once on edge you can’t blow the Stöckli Stormrider 107 off line with a grenade.

Scored on 1.00 to 10.00 scale:

early to edge
continuous, accurate carve
rebound/turn finish
stable and accurate at speed
short-radius turns
low speed turns
drift and scrub
off-piste performance
forgiveness/ease
finesse vs. power balance
race
technical ( ♂ ~ ♀ )
frontside ( ♂ ~ ♀ )
all-mountain east ( ♂ ~ ♀ )
all-mountain west ( ♂ ~ ♀ )
big mountain ( ♂ ~ ♀ )
powder