Describing a slalom ski in terms of speed is difficult. Skiers like the idea of a fast ski, but a definition of what “fast” is varies from skier to skier.
A ski that does not hold angle from the buoy to the wake or from the edge change the buoy will “feel” fast. A ski that bites off too much angle and puts the skier in a compromised position might also “feel” fast. These examples are negative attributes that give the skier the impression of speed.
My definition of a fast ski is based on the amount of effort that I have to exert to be wide and early. If after six passes, I am exhausted; that is a slow ski. If after eight passes, I feel like I can keep going; that is a fast ski. The question remains: is a fast ski better than a slow ski? I do not think so. Defining a ski based on speed disguises and masks other attributes.
I divide ski stability into two sub descriptions: front to back stability and side to side stability (a.k.a. roll stability).
Front to back stability is relatively consistent across most high end skis and is something I do not expect to say much about throughout the reviews.
On the other hand roll stability varies quite a bit from ski to ski. The most simplistic explanation of roll stability is how easily the ski rolls onto its edge. A very wide ski would generally be more stable in terms of roll than a very narrow ski.
If a ski is excessively unstable or “loose” in roll, it may overturn or turn unpredictably. A ski that is excessively stable in roll may feel very predictable but may not achieve enough angle exiting the turn. Roll stability can be a matter of preference. With the right skill set, a ski that is looser in roll, is possibly more nimble and reactive. The current trend for high end skis is for more roll stability.
Offside turn (a.k.a. toe side turn):
Offside turn is defined as a 1/3/5 turn for a right foot forward skier or a 2/4/6 turn for a left foot forward skier. Most skiers apply more weight to their front foot for this turn than on their onside and move their center of mass toward the wakes less. In this turn, it is biomechanically more difficult to counter rotate your pelvis and move your lower body to the inside. The result is that turning is more of a function of how flat the ski rides the in the water, this is because of front foot pressure and not as much of a result of how much the ski is rolled on to edge.
Onside turn(a.k.a. heel side turn):
Onside turn is defined as a 2/4/6 turn for a right foot forward skier or a 1/3/5 turn for a left foot forward skier. It is much more natural for a skier to rotate their hips away from the wakes and bring their center of mass to the inside at their onside turn. This means that the ski is rolled further on edge allowing for a smoother carve back to the middle. For many skiers, weight distribution at onside turn is slightly back from offside turn.
In 2009 Bruce Butterfield wrote the following article explaining Handle Control: http://ow.ly/4UX2M
As defined above handle control is important to the ski review process because some skis are more or less forgiving in this regard. Handle control and speed are interconnected. A ski that sits deeper in the water will decelerate faster after edge change and will require the skier to have better handle control skills in order to achieve adequate width. As with all basic skills, the more technically correct the skier is the better the results will be on any ski.
It is hard to define forgiveness. At some boat speed or rope length we all meet the limit of our skills and begin to make mistakes. Some skis are more tolerant of mistakes than others. Some would argue that some skis that are very forgiving have a lower high score potential.