Time out...here's what I understand happened at Head. Yep, lots more money for top-ranked, WC athletes. I dunno how Head is doing vs. every other MFR in the current economy, but I did hear a story that there is someone at Head who really wants Head and its skiers to do well on the WC, so he or she cut sufficient money loose to pay the stars what they're worth and, more importantly, to cough up more $$$ than the competition. So, yeah, money is definitely a big factor.
However, Head's presence on the WC has been a developing process over the last 3 or 4 years. Everybody knows that when a skier switches brands for money...but really liked the way the old brand skied...the new brand can simply buy or make identical versions of the old brand skis and essentially rebrand them...new topskins, basically. However, I heard that this is not what Head did. Essentially, they already had Dider Couche, and were making pretty good speed event skis. When Bode signed with Head, the designers and engineers sat down with Bode and Didier and whoever else they had on the WC at that point and asked the athletes to tell them, the Head ski company, what the athletes wanted in a ski. If you remember, when Bode was on Rossi, there were all kinds of weird modifications going on, including to bindings, to get the set up the way Bode wanted and it was never optimal. Same deal, I think, at Atomic. They had fast speed skis, which is why I believe he switched to Atomic, but I don't think they listened to what he wanted for tech skis. Which, apparently, Head did.
I've been on mostly Atomic forever for most of my Masters race career, but in 2006-2007, I tried Head for GS. Really good ski, and I loved the way it felt in a GS course, but something happened to the 2 pairs of 183 I GSs I had, and both either lost their camber or somehow developed too much bevel, because they stopped holding on ice. I'm not criticizing Head, it might have been just those two pairs, because I believe they can make a great ski. At that time, although I didn't ski on them, I heard the SLs would stick like glue but were kind of doggy. I hear that's all changed, and Head is now making a great SL ski, maybe because of the input they got from Bode and the other WC skiers. And you know Lindsey was taking a long chance by switching to Head, but she and the company obviously made it work. I believe she is on a true Head ski and boot, and the Head designers, engineers, fabricators, and on slope guys have obviously jumped through whatever hoops they had to to help make her a, well, Olympic champion.
I'm skiing on this year's Atomic D2 GSs and SLs, and they're easily the best tech skis I've ever been on. I also love Atomic bindings, if for no other reason than you can move them all over the place on the ski, which is really, really useful. I also really like the whole range of plates that come on Atomic race skis. I've also got 2 pairs of 201 SGs, 2 pairs of 205 SGs, and a pair of 210 SGs, all from the 2006-2009 era, that have the best manufacturing quality and fastest bases I've ever seen. I'm also in this year's Atomic RaceTech CS 130 boots, which are even better, IMHO, than the two-year old pair of RaceTech CS 130s I still use for free skiing, due to the improved plastic and better liner. One of the top racers in Rocky Mountain Masters just switched from Fischer to Atomic just for the boots...but he loves the skis, too.
Having said all that good stuff, I think that Head is currently making some great skis, not just race skis. So if somebody held a gun to my head (joke, ha ha) and said "No more Atomics, Richard...see that room over there? It's chock full o' boots and skis, so go pick out a bunch of stuff, because we are now your Hardgoods Supplier for the rest of your race career..." I'd say "Great...just point me in the right direction and show me where to sign..."