Life Punctuated by Skiing & Writing

Head Super Shape iRally: A Flat Out Ripping Ski!

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Slice, dice, won’t play nice…ah the descriptives I might use for this beloved arrow in my quiver! This implement in the battle against the frozen elements that we so love to conquer. The Head Super Shape iRally is a ski deserving high praise indeed!

If you’ve read my books you might remember that my “day-job” is as a supervising instructor with the Snowsports School at Ski Santa Fe. Its a labor of love that I engage in from early November when I start going to PSIA clinics till after we close in early-mid April, usually around one-hundred-days on snow give or take.

And while yes, I do have other ski’s in my quiver, the iRally is the one I  spend most of my time riding. Probably three-fourths of those hundred-days or so, and in varying terrain. Normally one might not think of a slalom sidecut and being fairly narrow under foot (76mm @ 170cm), as an all-mountain ski. But this Head Ski truly is.

As a ski instructor, I don’t put a lot of emphasis on the type of ski a student is on. The fact of the matter is a powder ski will carve and a slalom ski can be skied in pow. I will tell other instructors that if they are working on technical proficiency they should ski on something that is closer to the slalom spectrum, rather than the wider all-mountain, or mid-fat ski’s as they’re known. For technical skiing generally, a ski under eighty-five millimeters underfoot is desired. Skis in this range are responsive edge to edge and excel at carving given the right inputs.

And wow, does this ski love to carve! With a thirteen-meter radius, it’s very turn-ey,  which my editing program tells me is not a proper word that nonetheless skiers will recognize. Just tip your feet and feel the snow give way to their power, leaving trenches in your wake.

Something easier said than done.

This ski is definitely not for a novice, nor even for an advancing intermediate. The only way to unlock the pent-up urges this ski harbors inside Head’s Graphene Worldcup Sandwich Cap Construction and Road Race Structured UHM C Base is to be on top of it. 

This ski, like the rest of the Super Shapes, demands to be wielded by a skier worthy of its capabilities. Give a so-so effort and it will merely shrug and go meh, or whatever a ski would say if it could talk, then withhold the goodies.

I’m not talking just about not being in the “backseat.” I mean you need to be powerful, both in technique and strength. This ski likes to push back; a good thing if you know how to wield it. Load the ski and it will deliver, bringing a smile to your face. Hardpacked, icy conditions? The iRally grips like it’s on rails. Railroad-Tracks anyone?

If you’re new to skiing, or just not familiar with what I’m talking about, loading the ski is a term used primarily in racing but applicable to recreational skiing at the upper levels. In a nutshell it’s flexing your skis into reverse camber as you move laterally over them and into the direction of the next turn, bending them to your will so you are not just along for the ride like so many hapless souls.

Imagine your skis flat on the snow and you standing on the point between the toe and heel binding while you pull up on the tip and tails, bending the ski into a “C.” This is all hypothetical of course unless your arms are like tree trunks.

Add in G-forces, your weight and power as a skier, both in technique and strength and such a thing is not just possible but necessary to arc this ski through the snow. Having the physical ability to do that is one thing, skill is another, but equally important is the timing so that you are in perfect sync with your turns and with this thoroughbred of a ski.

That’s not to say a skier at the advanced level ought to be wary about mounting this ski, only to truly appreciate it, one should be skilled to start. Although if you are getting proper instruction and feedback, this is a ski an advanced skier can grow into. It’s a particularly good one for instructors training for and taking  exams.

Now before we go down the rabbit hole of what is technically proficient, if you are working on the certification process you will know what that means. It would take a whole other post to get into the fundamentals and how they translate into everything from pow to piste to bumps to a racecourse to the backcountry and everything in-between including the park-rats.

On-piste is but just one place this ski delivers. I have skied it in over a foot of fresh powder (on top of groomed snow). Float is not a word I would use to describe this ski, nor is it a boat anchor. A wide-ish shovel and early rise tip not only help initiate turns on packed snow they also help direct the ski back to the surface, or failing that the stiffness and weight will just blast through. In powder, I never had to work the ski to get it to respond, speed and staying in the fall line are important components, however. Make no mistake this is a very edgy ski. Throw the edges into the fall line in powder and yeah, you’ll piss the ski off, and rightly so. Heel-pushers may not feel the love and this ski will return the sentiment at a time and place of its choosing.

Moguls are another area this ski may surprise the skilled. Being stiff and heavy one might not expect it to be comfortable there, but oh it is.  Nimble and quick to turn its, in fact, a great bump ski in the right feet. The iRally doesn’t like to be pushed around, (yes I’m talking to you, heel pusher). A skilled, centered operator will be able to pivot it easily and gracefully. Carving down the backside of the bump, or along the banks will reward you with a controlled descent through any mogul field. Keep too much air under the tips and shovels, rather than driving them into the next turn, and you will be bashing those stiff heavy tips into the side of the next bump as you accelerate speeding toward disaster; you’ve been warned!

Spending most of my time on-piste or in the bumps, the iRally is a great choice. But in other areas I like it less than other ski’s that I own. In chopped up, heavier snow the things that make it hold so firmly on hard-packed-icy conditions can at times lock you into a turn longer than you might like, requiring greater effort and technique to get an edge release. In the trees, where there is a lot of chopped snow of varying consistency this is also true. It is also a heavy ski, taking a lot more effort to hop in tight, steep terrain. Lastly if you want to go out and have fun smearing and scarving, there are far better choices, and you won’t get into a fight that you can’t win…

If you teach skiing, the Head iRally is a great choice. It can make a variety of turn shapes, allowing a skilled instructor to demonstrate a given skill or task.  Having skied on my current pair the last three seasons, easily over two-hundred-days I just plain love them! They are rockets when you want them to be, they hold like a billygoat on a steep hillside when you need them to, and they are just flat out fun if you like to go out at mach-five and lay those edges over first thing in the morning on the corduroy. Just be ready, this ski, once loaded will propel you into the next turn at an ever-increasing speed. Is there anything better than that?

For the advanced-expert who is fit and able to keep up with it, the Head iRally rewards.

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