First Tracks - Testing the Rossignol Xium WCS

Three pairs of the new '09/'10 Rossignol Xium WCS skate skis arrived at Nordic Ultratune last week.

Here are a couple of pics (click 'em to make 'em biggy-sized). To see some in person, stop by the shop.

Rossignol has trimmed weight from the tip - that's the most noticeable structural difference. The tip is pared down to the carbon layer with reinforcing remaining around the perimeter. Compared with the Xium S1, some fiberglass in the top-sheet was replaced with carbon fiber. The intent was to make the front end of the skis more compliant; a bit softer. In addition, some weight has been removed from the tail (not visible, but that's the story). The result is a lighter tip that will swing more easily ("reduced moment of inertia" in tech-speak) and with a quicker feel.

The WCS will be available in three lengths - 181, 187, and 193. Interestingly, the sidecut on the 187cm version will remain the same as the profile of the Xium S1, but there will be minor changes to the sidecut on the 181 and 193. Each size is being specially tweaked for best performance in that particular length.

The bases of the new skis are flat and very easy to work on. A racing grind will go on the pairs from Ultratune, of course, and it's nice for me that I won't have to work too hard to make them fast. They're nice, very nice.

Of course, there are some minor cosmetic changes too. My favorite thing is the old-school red circle with the R in it. It's about 6 inches in front of the binding plate, and I think it's perfect. I like that.

Um, also a new font for the big ROSSIGNOL on the front, but will anyone really notice that but me? Good for podium shots, though.

Cosmetics were already great on the Xium, and people are liking the orange color more and more. I think Rossignol was about a year ahead of the curve on color sensibility. It's just hard to write a poem about orange Rossignols.

I finally got a pair on the snow. The skis have the familiar feel of the newer generation of Xium, but they definitely do feel a bit more lively in the front. During accelerations and energetic skating with the legs, they feel quicker in the front (I'm at a loss for a high quality adjective!). They don't feel "loose" or unstable, but just a bit more light and snappy. The skis are stable. They turn predictably and respond especially well to confident assertive maneuvering. They handle firm tracks well for a ski with a compliant front end - very well, in fact.

It's a winner. I think the change is an evolutionary step from the Xium. They've tweaked a good thing to make it even a little better, rather than bringing out an entirely new ski design. I think that it's not only smart, but will allow racers to improve their quiver with a new pair of skis, rather than having a new pair that have an entirely different feel from the rest.

Rossignol gets high marks from me for the Xium WCS. Now I'll just have to wait to get a pair of 193's...