It was the start of my sixth season of skiing (not counting a disastrous two-day false start during a blizzard at Sugarloaf in earlier years), though admittedly we only get to ski five to eight days a season or so. I had purchased my own equipment at the beginning of my second year of skiing, so my skiis and boots were now five years old. My boots were still perfectly servicable; they were the softest of the high-end women's models Rossi made the year I bought them, and I think in general a good ski boot has a much longer lifespan (in seasons, at least, if not also in number of days skiied) than an equally good ski. Still, the year I bought my skiis was the year that Elan introduced on an extremely limited scale its very first side-cut ski, an early version of the SCX that was much shorter and more exaggerated than even the first mainstream SCXs which were introduced the following year. My current skiis, the well-built, mid-range Elan DRC, were clearly related to the new shaped skiis; they actually have an extremely slight, barely noticable, sidecut, and with their sloped sides and cap construction they employed some of the new technologies in ski-making which led to the shaped ski revolution.
And, the year after I bought and first skiied on my trusty DRCs, there truly was a revolution. Robert purchased his current ski, the Volkl Carver Plus, two years after I got mine, and his skiis are clearly of a different, radical breed. Nearly all skiis made today are shaped, to some degree; nearly all instructors ski on shaped skiis in their classes and for fun; and almost all rental packages (even for children), from basic through high-end performance, feature shaped skiis of one kind or another. Of course, there are always going to be new features on skiis from year to year: that K2 light, the "smart ski" technology of a few seasons ago, and this year, the new double-tipped skiis. But, more than any other single advance in ski technology, shaped skiis have fundamentally changed the way people learn to ski, not to mention the way people ski for fun, or the way people ski in less-than-ideal conditions.
So, after a disappointing first day on the slopes this season, in a lesson I felt did not help me at all and in difficult snow conditions (eighteen inches of famous Steamboat Springs powder, which I am still not experienced enough in to find enjoyable or, actually, anything but exhausting), I was discouraged. I've been teetering on the brink between a Level 6 and a Level 7 (according to the standardized PSIA ranking system) for over a year now; I want to ski bumps and steeps, but my classes don't take me there enough for me to improve, and I don't have enough confidence to ski them alone. I felt at a stand-still with the whole sport, which was depressing, because skiing is really the only sport I've ever been any good at at all (you may think this is an exaggeration. It is not. Ask any of my gym teachers from elementary school or high school, all of whom despaired and several of whom, shocked at my level of unathleticism, called in my parents for parent-teacher conferences.), or, more importantly, the only sport I've ever enjoyed or wanted to improve at.
I talked to the supervisor at the Steamboat ski school and was able to switch instructors the following day; though I technically dropped a level (from the 7 class to the 6 class), I went from a class of 5 to a class of 2, so personal attention went through the roof, and I went from an instructor content to "just ski" with his students rather than really teach them to an instructor who would challenge his class and take them places they wouldn't dare to go on their own. Skiing that second day at Steamboat I felt much better, though my instructor said I kept skidding and rushing my turns and that was holding me back. I mentioned I was thinking of buying new skiis at the end of this season, and did he think a change of equipment would help me. He said that without a doubt I should be skiing on shaped skiis, and that they would certainly help me advance to a higher level. So, right after my lesson, I went in to the SportStalker at the base of the mountain and arranged for a demo of some shaped skiis.
I demoed and by Thursday purchased the Dynastar Venus 9. Between Wednesday and Friday of that week, I skiied it in deep powder, push piles, packed powder, hard crusty stuff, small and large bumps, and a little bit of ice. I liked the ski a lot--I felt peppy and mobile on my skiis, not dragged down and slow. I was able to get up a little more speed than I had been used to, and yet I was also more balanced, more able to hold an edge when I needed to, and more confident. It was especially great for making huge carved turns on groomed runs, and was a lot of fun wherever I took it. One peculiar thing about the ski, however, is that almost no one (at least at Steamboat, at least this January) had ever heard of it or had any idea what it was like. I never once saw another person skiing on it, and most instructors didn't have any idea about the model. Perhaps this is just because it is so new, and perhaps because Dynastar for a long time wasn't one of the big-name ski companies. Still, though I didn't read the review until after I demoed and actually bought my new skiis, the Venus 9 got an excellent review this season from Skiing Magazine. In any case, I highly recommend the Venus 9 to any advancing intermediate woman skiier who wants to carve more and skid less. I think, by the end of the week on my new skiis, that's exactly what I was doing.
Note: I also demoed and briefly considered buying the K2 X14W; a nice enough ski, with not too much difference that I could feel from the Venus 9. Still, my instructor said he'd read a little bit about the Venus 9 and from observing my skiing, thought that was a better choice for me. As it was also $100 cheaper, and a nicer color combination which better coordinated with my ski outfit, I agreed.