2011 Big Mountain Ski Reviews: 100mm and Bigger Waists
- Blizzard The Answer IQ
- Blizzard The One IQ
- Kastle MX98
- Dynastar 6th Sense Slicer
- Dynastar 6th Sense Huge
- Dynastar Legend Pro 115
- Volkl Katana
- Volkl Mantra
- Volkl Gotama
- Elan Spire
- Elan Olympus
- Elan Boomerang
- Salomon Shogun
- Rossignol S7
- K2 Sidestash
- Head Jerry
- Fischer Watea 98
- Skis to Re-review
I was able to ski a bunch of skis this past spring, unfortunately not all on the same day, but at least was able to use a point of reference on all of the skis tested. Some of the days were more conductive to good testing than others: I got on the Legend Pro 115mm on a day with minimal new snow, which reinforced the idea that a ski 115mm underfoot and with a bit tip rocker is out of it's element there. But, at least I was able to get a feel for the ski, if nothing else, and can get an idea of what it is all about when the conditions are more suitable. I did get a day on some really heavy snow (great conditions for a wide, softer ski, as they really make a difference) as well as some good quality, moderately deep snow days, and even one quite deep, blower pow day, which isn't as good of testing grounds. On those days, any ski feels great. The best conditions are likely the challenging ones, where a good ski can make the day enjoyable, and a poor ski (or the wrong ski) can have you heading for the car or bar at 11am.
Skis tested ranged from wider, traditional camber skis, to essentially flat camber skis with a rockered tip and tail, to camber underfoot and rocker tip and tail. Also, metal, no metal, stiff, soft, you name it. One thing testing these shows is that there is more to a ski than whether it is rockered or not. The shape is one part of the equation, but yet much more important is the layup and stiffness of the ski. Skis that skied similarly typically shared a similar construction, whether it was a 2-sheet of metal and laminate, or simply a softer, more forgiving wood core.
I wasn't able to test skis from smaller boutique brands, as they were only present at the Winter Park show. I was skiing primarily hard snow skis and midfats at Winter Park, as the snow was mostly frozen and manmade, and have skied enough wide skis on hardpack to know a pointless demo exercise when I see one.
About me: 5 foot 9, 155lbs, competent all-mountain skier, and could zipper-line expert-level bumps for the first time in my life by early spring. Probably ski 40-50 days per year. I tend to enjoy big open, high speed bowls, bumps, trees, fast groomers. My skiing speed is fast to full-on. Overall fitness is high, as I am on my road bike 15+ hours a week 9 months of the year, and race pro-level races as a Cat1.
Tested in 184cm. 110mm underfoot, rockered tip (probably around 20cm, although I didn't measure it).
This ski has a reputation as a big-mountain charger, and I found nothing to change that view. It skied identical to the 2010 model, and I don't believe there is any change to it. Very solid at speed, very stable, no speed limit. It feels like you expect a Blizzard to ski: heavy, damp, powerful, beefy, get outta my way stability. I had this in 6” of new snow, and it excelled in the bigger turns. When I got down into the trees and the bumped-out run-out, it was less fun, as this ski is a lot of work to get it to come around quickly, and is too stiff for bumps. The tip surfs well in soft snow, but doesn't particularly ease the ski into the next turn, and this definitely requires some user input to get it flat and onto edge. It favored an aggressive release: I felt that at my weight, I had to ski cleanly on this ski, with quality releases and getting my body down the fall line if I wanted it to come around quickly in tighter spots. I would say that 6” of new snow really isn't enough for this ski: it likes more fresh snow than that. This is one of the top big-mountain skis around, but is not the last word in versatility. Groomer performance was adequate to get back to the lift, but nothing more. I would recommend it for deeper days and big, Western skiing, perferrably for heavier and/or more aggressive skiers.
98mm underfoot, camber underfoot with a rockered tip and tail. More moderate flex than the Answer: I don't believe this ski has much, if any metal, inside.
This ski was a surprising ski: I expected to find a similar ski to the Dynastar Sixth Sense Slicer, but they were quite different, even though they look to be nearly identical on paper. The One was a great carver: it rolled onto edge nicely, and held once there, surprisingly well for a ski without metal. It had some spring underfoot, as there is quite a bit of camber there. The running length felt short, as one would expect, and it wasn't a terribly stable ski, especially in crud at speed, but it floated well and turned on a dime, assuming the speed wasn't outrageous. It had a similar damp feel to other Blizzards I have skied, yet not being as stiff or heavy, there was a lot of playfulness in this ski that is missing from most of the line, save the Supersonic. With the rockered tip, it comes around quickly and likes to be turning or on edge. I found it does well with a direct, dynamic skiing style, but those who prefer lazier turns, as well as those who are sliders and pivot-style skiers, will really warm to it. It was a capable bump ski with it's soft tip and not too much sidecut, although there are better bump skis around. I didn't take it into deep snow, but with it's width, rocker profile, and softer flex, it should shine. I would recommend this ski for all but very aggressive skiers, who are likely to find the speed and performance limit on it rather quickly. For those skiers, the Atlas is the better all-mountain crusher.
New ski, re-designed for 2011. I reviewed this ski elsewhere, but it is part of this group. It is 98mm underfoot, but the metal is gone. Weight of each ski in 178cm is right at 2000g per ski, which makes it 40g lighter than the MX88 in the same size, and 80g heavier than the FX94, again in the similar size. The ski now has a bit of a rockered/early rise tip. About the same as the Elan Spire, although again, I haven't measured it. <
I found the MX98 to be much, much different than the outgoing model, which was a wider MX88, with squared off-tail. The new 178cm skis the same length or a bit shorter than the 174cm. With the softer flex, it is now a bit more soft-snow focused. I had it on some boilerplate, and the edgehold was more than adequate (comparable to a Mantra-style ski) but the ski had little of the energy typically contained in a ski with hard-snow performance in mind. It was a big-turn, low-energy carver, and reminded me a bit of the Legend Pro from 2 generations ago, but a bit stiffer laterally. In bumps, it was solid, direct, and the soft tip was a good match. The overall feel of the ski was that it had quite a bit of forgiveness: this is more of an everyman's ski than the old MX98 was. IMO, the old MX98 was more of an expert-level ski: the new MX98 has a huge performance envelope. The feel of the ski is damp, smooth, large sweet spot, snow-hugging, low to moderate energy, and the very refined feel of a well-made wood core ski. Based on the flex, this is going to be an excellent crud, off-piste, and new snow ski, with plenty of stability and few surprises. I would say it has a little more going for it than many of the other skis on this list, especially for the more aggressive skier out there. This is one that I can't wait to get on in some more suitable condition. I have it's big brother, the MX108, on order as my soft-snow ski for the coming season. The MX98 may be just the ticket for cruddy and crappy snow days when something a bit more nimble is on order. Then again, I already have a Stockli VXL on order: do I really need anotherski? The VXL is as good of an all-around ski as any ski available today.
98mm underfoot, wood core (no metal) construction, tip and tail rocker, new for 2011. This ski is targeting the same audience as The One from Blizzard, as a softer all-mountain twin tip. This, along with the Gotama, might be the softest ski tested here.
I skied this (along with several others in my group) and we all came away with similar conclusions. This ski is definitely built for the skier who tends to take turns in a fairly relaxed manner. Those aggressive on and off the edge will find they overpower it: it likes to slowly, deliberately, and smoothly be coaxed onto edge. I found it to be predictable and reliable, but soft, and favoring more of a moderate speed, moderate energy skiing style. It was super easy to ski and to get onto edge: an intermediate is going to feel like a rock star on this ski. It loves the more “slarvy” style of turn, instead of the more dynamic, high-energy turn that you see ex-racers making, and a very round, smooth transition turn. If you are on and off your edges aggressively, it may not be the ticket. In bumps, the ski was again predictable, but could have been a bit stiffer when motoring. This ski was made for crud: it has the correct flex, and follows terrain really, really well. On harder snow, it wasn't a great ski, as it reminded me somewhat of a Head Mojo 90-style laterally soft ski. I would expect this, as the Slicer is more geared to the all-mountain twin-tip crowd, not the aggressive big-mountain skier. I think this will really be a great ski for many intermediate to advanced-level resort skiers, looking for a softer snow ski and a ski that isn't a whole lot of energy, or a ski that loves to turn. If you like a ski to constantly be looking to find an edge and come around, this is a great choice for a wide ski. The more aggressive skiers who are running things out a bit should move up the line, and check out the Sultan 94, the Huge, and the Legend Pro 115.
Redesigned for 2011. Still 115mm underfoot, but there is now tip and tail rocker (probably about 7cm on either end over the old model) and now has camber underfoot. I tested this in 175cm (only length available) although I ski the old Huge in 185cm. Therefore, I can't really compare last year's to this at this time, as well all know that skis skied in the wrong length are pretty worthless to review.
With that said, the new design has changed the character of the ski. Before, with a flat camber and stiff flex, the Huge lent itself to big-mountain charging and minimal turning. It would turn, and wasn't a bear, but it mostly liked bigger terrain and ate up anything in the way. The new Huge, at least in the 175cm, is a much more versatile ski. I couldn't believe how fun this short ski was! It still had plenty of heft (2 sheets of metal still) but with the new design, I was getting tons of pop out of the ski, both on groomers, in crud, and in bumps. I was ripping around all over the place. This ski seemingly had the power on edge that many funshapes lack: it felt much more substantial and beefier than a lot of those skis do, which frankly can be pretty underwhelming in the wrong conditions (new Gotama, anyone?) But, the Huge was a powerhouse underfoot, and having the short running length didn't seem to compromise stability much, if at all. On edge, on harder snow, it was very stable, provided I stayed neutral and didn't try to drive the ski too hard. In bumps, it was easily able to dive through the troughs without complaint, and was extremely easy to gauge what was going to happen. In crud, it floated well, released well, and had, if not great stability, at least enough, considering the rather short running surface and overall length. It was damp, yet as noted, playful, and liked to be turning and diving in and out of turns. In the trees, it was so easy to pilot, but didn't have a mind of it's own. Float was great in softer snow. I imagine that the 185cm is the more big-mountain length, but if it still has a bit of the energy of this ski, it will be extremely versatile.
This ski is what I was thinking of when mentioning that there is a lot more to a ski than how much rocker it has: construction is so much more important to a ski's overall feel, whereas the tip/tail shape and camber is more along the lines of fine-tuning how the ski should feel. A lot of people who are less technical skiers and more the slide and pivot-around style of skiing weren't as stoked on the new Huge: I rate it as a near-perfect all-mountain, deeper snow day weapon.
New 115mm underfoot ski, BIG tip rocker (more than the Answer), traditional camber underfoot, tested in 184cm, which is my regular Legend Pro size.
This ski feel huge! I was able to test this on a less than perfect day (for this ski at least) and had to be content to get an overall feel of it in groomers and in bumps. With that said, this ski feels somewhat similar to the Answer, but a more straightline, power ski for deep snow and crud. It is really strong, and anything but nimble, at least on hard snow. In the conditions that I am speaking of (clearly not made for the LP115) it was bulky, had a short running surface, was sluggish, and I had to ski very conservatively on it, as it took a lot of energy to get onto edge, and once there, you just didn't have much ski to work with, so not much stability to be had when you are skiing what is effectively the equivalent of a 150cm ski. I could ski bumps on it: make that, I could survive bumps on it; clearly, this is no bump ski, with a pretty stiff tip and huge rocker. If piloting a speedboat around is what the other skis felt like, this one is more akin to a 520 foot freighter. Then again, who cares? Nobody aside from poseurs would consider buying this ski for hard snow or bumps while there are infinitely better choices to be had. The LP was designed to be a no-holds-barred, high speed ski for big-mountain skiing, with a huge platform for crappy and unpredictable snow, and based on what I felt, it will deliver in spades. Although, it is probably one of the most specialized skis I have tried in this regard. I am excited to get more time on it when conditions are more suitable.
111mm underfoot, basically zero camber underfoot, slight tip and tail rocker. This ski is a carryover from 2010, no changes that I am aware of. I reviewed it earlier, in comparison to the Olympus, and found that these skis were basically identical.
The Katana is a big feeling Western ski for softer snow and variable conditions. I found it to be very agreeable in cut-up and heavy snow, and it follows both the snow and terrain well: stiffness is moderate, and the tip isn't too stiff for getting out of the old turn. It is fairly quick for a big ski, and just a bit stiffer than the Olympus, so it is a touch slower in the steeps and when releasing from a turn. I was on the Katana in a couple of narrow chutes that really have little room to maneuver, and it came around fairly easily for such a wide ski. In some heavy, choppy almost frozen crud, the Katana really came into it's own: it is exceptionally predictable in bad snow, and keeps from punching through layers of rotten snow. At speed, in bigger spaces, the Katana really has no speed limit. Due to the fairly stiff flex (for a ski this wide), it does like speed and larger turns, like any big-mountain ski does. In comparison to the Olympus, with doesn't have a slight rocker that the Katana does, it was tough to distinguish what effect the rocker had on the ski, as the Katana was a bit tougher to initiate than the non-rocker Olympus; the overall feel is of a traditionally flat-cambered ski, like an Olympus, 1010, or Huge Trouble. In fact, the Volkl guy was deriding the Olympus as the “K-Mart” Katana. The Katana's feel was like a bigger and bit softer Mantra, which puts it squarely on the stiffer side of the spectrum. On the groomers, it wasn't great, but was manageable. Again, I didn't ski like the typical tip-flapping rocker ski here, which is a great thing, but it was wide, heavy, and limited to big arcs. Above all, I would call this ski “reliable” in any sort of soft snow condition: it really does everything pretty well, and if I had it in conditions that were even more suitable (more than 6” of new, heavy snow) then I would really expect it to impress.
106mm underfoot, lots of tip and tail rocker, not much flat surface underfoot.
Having skied this before, I didn't find a reason to change my opinion of it. What Volkl do to the old Gotama? This ski, if you are trying to ski aggressive lines, does nothing to enhance confidence, unless the snow is uncut or basically pristine. The Gotama doesn't want to grip on icy or variable surfaces, not like the Katana at least. It slides and doesn't like to be aggressively driven. It floats well, but that is about it; this ski feels way too soft for aggressive skiing in all but the deepest snow. Forget mixed conditions. The Katana feels infinitely more versatile, and don't even ask about bump or groomer performance. At least not if you like to lay them over. Unless I am on a heli-skiing tour, I am looking elsewhere for a big ski. None of our group's skiers (all experts and 35+ day per year skiers) found this to be an acceptable resort big-mountain ski, unless we felt like stepping back in time to our intermediate training-wheel ski past. Save it for the deep days, or just buy the Katana and be done with it.
Not changed for 2011, 96mm underfoot, lengths tested 170 and 177cm. Designed to be a wider all-mountain ski, more of a Western wide 1-ski quiver than a wider zippy groomer ski.
I haven't been on this in 3 years, but it doesn't feel to have changed much, if at all. Why mess with something that works and sells well? The Mantra is relatively conventional in approach, and has the reputation of a very solid and powerful ski. I tried 2 lengths, both 170cm and 177cm, in the same crappy snow that I was skiing in for the Volkl tests. 170cm: a really fun ski, very lively, quite nimble. It will charge and have a good amount of stability, but it does pretty well in bumps, is a very manageable length, and I could see this being a great ski for days back East where there is quite a bit of new snow, but not a lot of terrain to allow a big ski to run in. On groomers, this thing held like glue, and was very aggressive for such a wide ski. It has a lot of metal in it. I did notice it was a bit stiff, and bounced around a lot in crud. It doesn't have the terrain-smothering feel of the Elan Spire or Kastle MX98; the Mantra feels stiffer than either of those, sort of like a Stockli XXXL, which really has no speed limit and is a freakin' cruise missile, but a bit more of a handful. The Mantra is in that same boat. Downsides: not many, but I could see this being too much ski for people my weight if they aren't really skiing at a high level. Also, 170cm is a bit short when you get into deeper snow. I would personally want something a bit longer for those conditions. Overall, though I was impressed. I would say it compared well to some of the beefier mid-fats I have skied. This would be a great “wide” ski for those who ski on smaller hills, or in tight trees, and need something wider, but not necessarily long.
177cm: a completely different beast. This ski was less maneuverable, less manageable, and more of a bruiser. It really came across similar to the Atlas, which is a big-time power ski. The “fun” was really gone out of the ski: instead, it meant business. This still held like glue on the icier steeps (there are several short, yet steep no-fall pitches at Mission Ridge, and they were slippery and a bit dicey) but this ski slows down considerably, and can also punish you for backseat driving. It isn't “forgiving”, but give it accurate input, and it is a no-compromises all-mountain machine. At my weight, I found it too stiff: it was a bit of work to get it to relax out of the end of the turn, tough to pilot in bumps and tight spaces, and not as smooth as I would like. It was lacking a bit of energy that I can get from my favorite all-mountain rides (such as the MX88 and Apex) and was just a little too much work. Much of that has to do with my light weight: bigger guys love this ski. Overall, no complaints. FWIW, the new Kendo is a bit softer, and if they made the Mantra to match the flex of the Kendo (I know they are the same layup, but more ski=stiffer in execution), they would have as good of a wide mid-fat that exists, IMO.
Overall, the 170cm was really fun (I wouldn't buy it due to the short length, though) and the 177cm was a bit too stiff and planky in feel.
Basically a slightly refined 999: overall fairly soft flex, rocker tip, 98mm underfoot, 23m ski in 181cm. I found the old 999 to be one of the best wider all-mountain, with emphasis on off-piste performance, skis around.
The new Spire is slightly different, but only with regards to the updated tip rocker. This ski was always soft: it is now even easier to release out of the turn. This surfs on soft and crappy snow as well as any ~100mm ski I have yet tried. I was on this immediately after the Olympus and Katana demo, and found that, in between 4 and 6” of heavy, wet snow, the Spire was the best of the 3. This was mainly due to a couple of factors: 1) snow not too deep, 2) tight chutes where a 100mm ski's quickness is appreciated, 3) mogul fields are pretty typical toward the lower parts of the mountain. With the new soft tip and the overall soft, light profile, this ski was a star in crappy snow, and with the 2 sheets of metal, it held almost as well as the stiffer Mantra. No question that it floated and handled the soft snow better than the Mantra, and was also much better in the bumps, as well as more manageable in the longer length. The rocker tip doesn't do anything to hurt mogul performance. It is a smooth, damp, soft-snow oriented ski. I could ski it aggressively, but it really didn't have the aggressive feel of, say, a Mantra or Atlas. Instead, it was more of a stable, yet mid-energy ski that has a mellow character, but amps up the stability when you are skiing hard. The downside of that is lack of energy, especially on groomers. It holds well and does big arcs at any speed, but really isn't much for power, pop, and energy out the backside of the turn. The Mantra is a better groomer ski. The Spire is no doubt a soft-snow oriented ski, really an all-conditions type of ski. You could think of it similar to the Fischer Watea series, but a little more damp, due to the metal and wood thin profile construction. Also, this would make a great touring ski. The Spire is actually the same weight as the AT-oriented Kastle FX 94, and the flex is very good for either telemark or softer AT boots. I was thinking of going with an AT setup on a 174cm, but Elan is currently sold out of that ski. If you want a “wide race ski” then perhaps this isn't your choice, but if a capable soft snow ski that won't beat you up but is extremely reliable in any condition sounds like your ski, the Spire is worth a good look. It is really the antithesis of the Mantra.
New ski for 2011, very similar to the 1010 from last year, with addition of the new channeled-out milling of the core and rocker tip. Still 110mm underfoot, same dimensions as before.
I have always felt this to be one of the most versatile big skis around, in that it does so many things adequately, and a few things very, very well. The new version is really a small refinement on the old ski. It now feels a bit lighter on the snow, perhaps more nimble due to the tip, but still retains the solid, damp, stable, yet mid-weight feel of the old 1010. In comparison to it's closest competitor, the Volkl Katana, I found the Olympus to feel slightly quicker (it does weigh less) and want to initiate the turn sooner. Other than that, they basically ski the same. The Olympus is great in bumps, floats so well through soft snow, and has a real surfing-the-top feel that all softer wide skis seem to do well. However, the Olympus, like the Katana, has a lot of versatility going for it that you won't find in many of the big backcountry rockers out there. It only needs a few inches of snow to come alive, and the crappier the snow, the more this ski makes sense to be on. For me, the width of ski I need to really ski well on soft snow is around 95mm or wider, so I have plenty of width on that ski. What really impresses me is the performance in moguls, as the soft tip absorbs the mogul very well, and the tail isn't too aggressive if you do get a bit into the back seat. Also, groomer performance is actually quite decent, considering what this ski is really built for. I wouldn't choose it as a groomer ski, but if you were stuck on groomers for a day and had only the Olympus in the car, it wouldn't be a total waste. Still, this ski is slow to get onto edge, and also lacks any sort of energy. The speed limit is very high exceeded by nothing I have yet skied. I mount mine back of center, as Elan's mounting points seem to be way off. I usually hold it side-by-side with a similar length Kastle and mount at that point. With it's huge performance window, the Olympus is made for new snow resort skiing. In the morning, in 12” of new snow, you will find the Olympus allows you to attack the mountain with confidence that I have rarely experienced. The ski allows the skier to attack the mountain, and doesn't get in the way or have a mind of it's own. There is no real speed limit to worry about. Skiing KT22 underneath Olympic Lady chute, 1st run in the morning with about 8” of new snow was simply heaven on the Olympus. Later in the day, when the snow gets cut up (doesn't take long at Squaw these days, not with the 40,000 season pass holders), the 1010 is reliable and straightforward in bumpy, steep terrain, and any chutes you may want to tackle later in the day. This is one of my favorite big-mountain, but versatile skis, and was made for modern off-piste skiing. I figure if you are purchasing a resort ski, you need a ski that is geared toward the conditions you are looking to ski, but it also has to do many things right. The Olympus does as many things right as most any ski around. Highly recommended.
Camber underfoot, lots of tip and tail rocker, 120mm width underfoot, and 190cm in length. This ski is unchanged for 2011, and based on the profile and also skiing characteristics, is a deep snow ski. It has a bit more versatility than, say the Volkl Gotama, as the rocker profile is shorter, and there is a bit more camber underfoot.
On the snow, it feels long, big, and a bit unwieldy. This ski, as noted earlier, really needs some deep snow to come alive. As long as the snow is at least a few inches deep, it works well, and you can make any radius turn on it. Once you get it into crud, the short camber surface does you no favors, as it takes a lot of core strength to keep the ski on track and glued to the snow. Skiing this in high-speed crud will give you an awesome abdominal workout! I get bounced around a lot, and don't feel totally confident in those kind of conditions. Same with bumps and groomers: stay away! In deeper snow, it makes short work of any sort of heavy, moist conditions, and can rip around from turn to turn with minimal effort. But, this ski lacks the ability to really be a good ski in all but a few conditions, and is pretty lame in everything else. Skiing this at the typical Bachelor resort day is like taking a road bike on a technical 5-hour singletrack ride. Sure, it can be done, but doing so will limit one's enjoyment of the ride, and there are vastly superior tools for the job. Leave this one to deep (and heavy) days.
182cm, basically flat-camber ski, with a small rockered tip. 101mm underfoot, and soft flex. This ski is very similar in feel an excecution to the Elan Spire.
I really liked this ski. It felt like a slightly narrower Elan 1010, which is a ski I owned last year and am very familiar with. Bit soft bear-hug tip, overall pretty soft feel, very soft snow oriented ski. In the heavy, cruddy snow (same conditions as most of these skis were tested in), it seemed more or less made for the conditions. This is a confidence-inspiring ride. It blasts crud at speed, floats well in soft snow, and has a very favorable feel to it: wood core laminate, smooth, damp. I would characterize it as stable and reliable, and it feels typical of the length. This ski does everything that I would ask of a soft-snow oriented all-mountain ski: bumps, crud, soft and new snow. It isn't great on groomers, but holds an edge well and doesn't feel like piloting a cruise ship. This is really a ski that could be the definition of a “wider all-mountain” ski. A little sluggish on steeps and in tight spaces, but no worse than any other 100mm ski I have tried. This style of ski (bit of camber, but not much, softer flex, softer tip, no excessive rocker) seems to be about perfect for today's wide all-mountain ride. Salomon has a winner here: again, this is a ski that ticks a whole lot of boxes, and does a lot of things right.
Well known deeper snow ski: 110mm underfoot, small radius sidecut, quite a bit rocker tip and tail (very similar to the Boomerang) This is the Dynastar Huge's little brother. Length tested, 176cm.
This ski is really quick: I thought the Huge was quick, but the S7 is even more playful. I would assume this has to do with the softer flex and shorter running length underfoot (when compared to the Huge). It just feels short if you are on harder surfaces or in bumps: too short, as it turns out. Whereas the Huge is more steady and feels more robust, the S7 is just jumping around all the time when it doesn't have soft snow to float in. Once in soft snow, it really comes into it's own. Still playful, but it doesn't get bounced in crud like the Boomerang, and likes to be turning and up on edge. I found I couldn't pressure the ski as much as I could a more standard camber ski: I had to let pressure build naturally, instead of extending into the belly of the turn. Release is very easy, smooth, and not aggressive. It doesn't sling you out of the turn and into the next one, so if you live for that aggressive release, it probably isn't the right ski. Overall, it is quite easygoing, especially in softer snow conditions, and it loves trees. The speed limit isn't as high as I was hoping: the Huge definitely offers more top-end and more beef for aggressive skiers. Overall, I would rate this closer to the Dynastar Slicer in terms of performance: as long as you don't expect too much on more typical frontside conditions, don't push it too hard, and like an easy-releasing ski that likes to turn, loves soft snow and trees, this is a great choice. Those who are more aggressive, and a bit more straight-line oriented, or those who consistently exceed “reasonable” speeds, probably should look at the big brother, the Huge. I liked this ski for certain conditions, but wasn't in love with it, as I was the Huge. It didn't fit my style of skiing that well.
181cm, 108mm underfoot, tip rocker. Very similar in profile to the Blizzard Answer, and with less tip rocker than the Dynastar Legend Pro 115. Fairly stiff flex.
The Sidestash is coming back unchanged for 2011, after a very popular rookie year. It has a stiff-ish flex and character. The tip rocker gives it some give in crappy snow, and it releases very well. This is maybe the most performance-driven ski in K2's lineup. It rips at speed, but takes a bit of speed to really come alive. I felt that it, in comparison to the Answer in crappy snow, it was even a touch stiffer in the tip, not quite as easy to release, and a bit less turny, which is saying a lot. This is quite a bit of ski, and is solid in crud, to say the least. As such, it is a handful in bumps, and not the greatest tight-space ski around. The feel of the ski is damp, smooth, and poweful: classic laminate/wood core construction, without much of a real speed limit. Skied in crappy snow, it made lousy snow really fun. There is nothing remotely playful about this ski: it means business, and feels somewhat like a wider Mantra with a rockered tip. The Sidestash feels like a premier big-mountain ripper, but not really a great ski for a place like Tahoe that gets tracked out and bumped up in the afternoons, and I didn't enjoy it in tight spaces, as it seemed a bit to eager to hold onto the last turn. It is more of a haul-ass when the snow is soft and not to packed in type of ski, or a ski for days it is snowing hard all day, when the conditions are deep and getting deeper. Perhaps not the most versatile ride, but one of the best big-turn, off-piste skis around.
New ski for 2011, 104mm underfoot, fairly soft flex, all-mountain twin with a rocker tip.
This ski was tested on perhaps the best day of the year; bluebird with thigh-deep pow. As such, any ski would have been a great choice. I was able to swap between this ski, my Elan Olympus, Elan Apex, and a friend's X-wing Fury from Salomon. Out of those, I probably enjoyed the Apex the most, and the Fury #2, as the snow was very light, uncut, and having a solid, stable ski was more important than having a ski that floated well. The Jerry falls into the floaty, surfy category. I felt really on top of the ski, and turning was effortless, but it was lacking a bit of stability at really high speeds, in untracked snow, and there was very little feedback. I don't think there is any metal in this ski: it reminds me of the old Head Mojo 90. The feel was smooth, soft, turny, and playful, but lacking heft and confidence at big speeds. My buddy that was skiing with me (ex MBSEF junior racer, fellow Cat 1 bike racer and teammate) felt the same: his X-Wing had the metal and was a bit more stable than the Jerry, which was just a little soft for charging. I didn't get much of a chance to ski it in crud, as there was tons of snow and nobody on the hill. Every run was untracked until 2pm, which is a nice dilemma to have. For my style of skiing, I like a more powerful, stout ski. The Jerry is going to be more along the lines of those who prefer a Slicer or S7: bit softer and more turny.
New ski for Fischer this year, it fills in the rather large gap between the decidedly mid-fat Watea 94 and the huge radius, big length Watea 101. As noted, it is 98mm underfoot, with the powder tip hull, and early rise tip and tail. I am not sure the details of the construction, but it feels quite similar to the other Watea skis, which are well known on Epicski.
The Watea, once again, is quite a unique ski. It was skied in bumps and crappy, packed-in snow, which are challenging conditions for any ski. The carbon and wood laminate construction make for a light, yet damp ski. Other light skis, like some from Atomic for example, can feel a bit skittish in rough terrain, but the Watea tends to be a bit more grounded, yet light and “flickable”. Think of a 29er full suspension mountain bike, but instead of a big bike like a Turner Sultan, more of a 29er full suspension race bike such as a Fischer Superfly 100; a bike that is quick and nimble, yet can eat up any terrain. The 98mm is a great every-day width for those out West who like a wider ski. I would rate stability quite high; not amongst the best metal laminate skis, but not far behind. The shape, soft tip, and overall forgiving nature of the Watea gives it great bump performance for a wide ski. It hugs the snow as well as any ski on the market, and forgiveness is off the charts here. This is one of the most nimble ~100mm skis I have tried. Downsides: not the best ice grip, as the ski is quite soft laterally. It lacks punch on groomed snow, but no more than most skis in this category. Standouts (in terms of groomer performance) are limited to a few skis, such as the Legend 94 from Dynastar, Nordica Enforcer, Volkl Mantra....in all other conditions, the Watea 98 is one of the most well-rounded skis on the market right now. Another potential downside is the rather large jump between sizes. 176cm may seem a bit short for many big-mountain skiers, especially given the rather short running length of a early rise tip and tail ski. Yet, 186cm is a lot of ski in comparison. A shorter 181cm length in there would probably sell a few more skis, and be perfect for people such as myself. The Watea should be a very popular ski this year, and give the MX98 a run for it's money in terms of popularity.
- Dynastar Huge
- Kastle MX108