Although its rhaeto-romanic name translates to “tough,” new Swiss manufacturer Zai (970.925.3203, www.zai.ch) produces skis that exhibit a gentle side. Former Völkl and Salomon designer Simon Jacomet introduced the Zai line last winter, and he claims that his skis, which are built by hand with high-tech materials such as Dyneema (a lightweight fiber used in bullet-resistant clothing), are tenacious enough for experts yet sufficiently forgiving for beginners.
Zai’s four models—Sutsu, Vieneu, Siegiu, and Enado—vary in length and construction to suit different skiing styles. The company produces just 700 pairs per year at its factory in the small alpine town of Disentis, and the skis are available in the United States exclusively at Gorsuch shops in Aspen, Vail, Beaver Creek, and Keystone. Their $3,500 price includes Italian-made bindings, carbon poles, a protective bag, and, as an affirmation of Zai skis’ toughness, a two-year warranty.