I’ve been waiting to write up my review of the Elan Apex ski. 88 mm underfoot, I ski them in the 177cm length. I am 6’1”, 175 pounds. I used to say that I was a level 8 skier, but runs through the trees and bumps on some of the hard, icy days we’ve had this winter conspire to convince me that I’m closer to level 3. I ski 50+ days a season in Utah, mostly at Alta and sometimes at Solitude. Keep in mind that most of my skiing is done off-piste and I mostly view groomers as a way to get back to the lift. I know that there are other reviews of this ski on this site, but I know that the real key to reading a review is deciding if the conclusions tell you more about the ski or the skier; this review is by a regular recreational skier after an extended trial.
Last year I bought a pair of Elan 1010s, 110 underfoot, and I love them. I can take them anywhere and they do surprising well on groomers for a ski with a 110 mm waist, but they really need 6 or more inches of powder to shine. That said, I will take them anywhere on the mountain and feel more confident on these skis than with any others. However, I found that when there is little new snow, they weren’t the best ski to ride. I also have a pair of Stockli XLs, 76 mm under foot, that were my only option for the days when there really wasn’t any powder to ski. And contrary to most folks’ beliefs about Utah, this happens far too often.
I initially looked around at the various ski shops to see what mid-80 skis I could demo and was amazed to find that there wasn’t much to try in these widths. Most shops said that skiers want to demo fatter skis and there was no call to have anything so narrow available as part of their demo fleet. So after researching here on Epic and a few other sites on the web, I contacted Dawgcatching and asked Scott about the Elan Apex. He told me that it was a great ski that would probably fit best with my other skis, and since I liked the 1010 so much, would probably be a ski that I would like to ride. So I took a chance and bought a pair. Let me throw in here that this is the second pair of skis that I’ve bought from Dawgcatching and I recommend this site and the way Scott does business.
Now after riding the Apex for a couple of months in all sorts of conditions, I want to give my impressions of this ski. The first time I rode them I came away convinced that the bindings were set about 1 cm too far back on the ski and I didn’t really like them—oh no, I really, really should have demoed them! I then made myself ride them again and came away convinced that maybe this was only true on one of the skis. I made myself ride them again and I figured out that they were probably mounted in the right position. After the next time that I rode them, I realized that they worked well when the snow was soft even if there wasn’t too much of it. The next time I also figured out that they could really handle the hard/icy snow that we’ve had a bit of here this winter, though not quite as well as my XLs. Today I can tell you that they handle most every condition I’ve found on the mountain so far this season very well. Once you get over a half a foot of powder they aren’t my first choice to ride, but they can handle that condition, too. These skis do everything I want them to do.
When it comes to skiing, I adapt my style to the conditions and the ski I’m riding. I know plenty of other skiers who don’t do this and ski the same way all of the time. They keep their feet the same width apart, make the same turn shapes and want a ski that matches their style. For this type of skier, you really have to demo. These skis took some getting used to by me and I have had to adapt my style to the ski. For example, they like middle radius turns better than short or long and they like going semi-fast. How I turn them in soft snow is different than how I turn them in hard moguls. Now that I know how to ski them, I won’t hesitate to ride them anywhere on the mountain from a steep chute to an icy mogul field or big bumps through the trees. They are the best ski for most conditions that I’ve seen, but not the best for each one individually. They are good at many things, but the master of none. That’s probably why they are the ski that I now turn to most often and they give me the best ride for those variable conditions that I see most often on the mountain. No, they’re not a great ski like everyone says that the Kästles are (I’ve never ridden them), but the Apex happens to be the most competent, usable and best ski for most of what I see most every day on the mountain. I have no doubt that you can probably find a better ski for any specific condition, but am not sure you could find anything better for all of the conditions you’ll find most days in the mountains of Utah. A couple of Sundays ago I rode them in the rain at Alta and all around that mountain. The visibility was so bad that for much of the day I was skiing by feel, letting the skis tell me where to turn since I couldn’t see the contours. At first I was a little reluctant to rely on these skis so much, but by the end of the day (and after demoing some DPS skis—I’m writing another review on them) I realized that the Apex was exactly the right ski for this kind of day whether going down the cliff run under Supreme or in Wildcat bowl.
I am torn up about the length: the 177s are at best a compromise for me. The length is great in the trees and moguls, but a bit short much of the rest of the time. Ideally, I think I’d like these even more in a 181, but that’s not offered and for where I usually ski them, the 177 is probably the best length for me. These are not the skis I would choose for a long run through an open bowl with cut up cruddy snow. I find them a little too light and a little too short to really do well in these conditions, my 1010s are a far better choice. And I do wish they were longer on many of the traverses that are part of the Alta experience. I don’t agree with the reviewers who say that the Apex is not a very good ski in bumps. Probably for the same reason that I would like a longer ski in an open bowl, at the shorter 177 length, I find that these skis can be very precise in bumps and let me choose my line in most every condition I’ve seen this year.
If I don’t know what conditions I’ll find on the mountain, the Elan Apex is the ski that I’ll choose and I can be sure that they’ll be able to handle whatever I ski. I can't tell you if you're better off spending double the money for a pair of Kästle MX88s, but for the price (~$600), I don't see how you can buy a better ski than the Elan Apex; they are a very good ride.