Pros: Stability, edge hold, edge feel/communication, smoothness, responsiveness, exhilarating performance at speed.
Cons: Not much fun in bumps.
Ski Review: Atomic's black/green/orange, 2008/2009, SX12 PowerBridge, 183, 116-68-100, 16mm sidecut, 18m radius (see "Item Overview" images). This was the last year of production (Atomic subsequently abandoned beta construction for sandwich and doubledeck.) I bought them new on e-bay in 2010 (bundled with Atomic’s Neox 12 binding), and spent this past season on them. Bottom Line: Incredible, almost unbelievable ski. Well worth searching for new/used in shops or on the web.
Background (necessary for determining the relevancy of this review): Male, 5'9", 195 lbs. I am a life-long skier, but I've gone through numerous dry spells with little or no skiing. Though not raised in a racing program, I am a proficient skier (it's the only sport I can say I am truly good at.) I love speed and now that I'm older and no longer have the stamina/exuberance for bumps, I spend most of my time doing high-speed top to bottom groomers. The area I ski in Alaska does a great job grooming even steeper runs. For 30 years I skied various brands of 210 GS. The shaped/sidecut revolution kind of passed me by. In 2003 & 2004(?) I demo'd several Atomic, Volkl, Dynastar mid-fats (180-190) and a pair of 170 SX11's. The mid-fats seemed a little floppy at speed and didn't have the aggressive, torsionally stiff tip feel I prefer. The SX11's were both thrilling and confusing. How could a ski this short feel more stable than any GS or even SG I'd ever skied? I began renting 180 SX11's when I traveled and skied in the States. The skis I ended up buying were a used pair of 2003(?) 190 Dynastar Speed Course 64's. The Dynastars were nice, versatile, easy skiing, sort of shapely, were "GS ski of the Year" in Europe, but they have a definite speed limit and don't really lock into high-speed carves (soft tails?). In short, they're fast, forgiving, but easily "over-skied".
So, the SX12’s: Carving nirvana. During our first day together we were blasting through some old, crappy, chopped-up snow and I literally giggled out loud. Nothing knocks this ski off its appointed line. Initially I was trying to skid them into more of an old-style, carve-slide/unweight/turn (i.e. not truly carving), but as soon as you recognize this ski’s ability to dig a trench with little or no skid, skiing becomes almost a new sport. The SX12's seem to have no achievable top end, remaining absolutely smooth and stable at chest-flattening speed on everything from nearly glare ice to mushy, late afternoon spring corn. The only down-side is that instead of brushing off speed with your turns you actually accelerate out of every arc, which can be somewhat unsettling when encountering random patches of moguls or roaring down some slightly off fall-line chute between ridges. As for purposely skiing moguls all day, I don’t think the SX12 is the right ski. I haven't quite figured it out yet, but it seems attributes like the torsional/lateral stiff tip/tail, sidecut and length(?) all conspire to make moguls a lot more work than necessary (I've noticed modern, purpose-built, bump skis from Hart, Dynastar and Volkl have sidecut dimensions closer to those of my early/mid-90's, 208 K2 GS Race and 207 K2 R12's which were wonderful bump skis). But if you stick to the groomed, or at least the un-bumped-up, ungroomed, the SX12’s are exhilarating. They are also changing the way I ski, improving my technique. As you give in to the SX12's particular capabilities your body position, stance and edging simply fall into place, leaving you incredibly centered, balanced and bulletproof. I’ve spent about 12 days on the SX12’s, and continue to uncover additional, subtle, qualities. Complimenting their high-speed dexterity, the SX12’s are fine at slower speeds and can whip out some pretty small radius turns, though they are nothing like a modern slalom. I skied a pair of 165 Elan SLX’s (2008? 11 or 12 meter?) for three runs the other day, and they are a totally different animal. All the Elan’s wanted to do was turn, turn, turn, which is a lot of fun but exhausting (and a little squirrely running straight/flat at speed.) I was even happier with the SX12’s after skiing the slaloms, because they validated my personal choice of a non-FIS compliant GS ski over a non-FIS compliant slalom ski for everyday skiing.
A couple of caveats: I haven’t tried the SX12’s in any real powder, so I can’t speak to their abilities in deep snow. Also, I haven’t skied any of the new breed of wider (74-82mm waist) carving skis, so for all I know they perform as well as the SX12. It’s interesting to note, though, that with the exception of Rossignol’s Oversize line and the Dynastar Speed Course TI, non-FIS compliant, race construction, GS/speed skis for 2011/2012 haven’t gotten any fatter than the SX12, and in fact many have tips and tails a millimeter or three narrower, with a meter or more of additional turning radius. It’s also important to note that I’ve only skied modern sidecut/length “carving”" skis so my SX12 review is necessarily uninformed by any experience with current mid-fats, super-fats, twin-tips, rocker, non-traditional sidecut/camber, etc.
Binding note: The Atomic Neox 12 bindings seem to work well. I ski them just under 9 and haven't suffered any pre-release (Atomic claims the Neox "laser cut" setting numbers are very accurate). Before this purchase I skied progressive versions of LOOK’s or the Rossignol branded LOOK w/the Geze toe, so I've always had bindings with a lot of elasticity.
Warning: Atomic SX12's come in 162, 169, 176, 183. Beware "190" length SX12's advertised on the web. From the ad description, this seems to be a totally different ski, with dimensions closer to a 2008 FIS GS (which is fine if that is what you are looking for).