Phil and I have both been commenting for maybe a couple of weeks now about the rather amazing proliferation of the 98mm waisted skis and how it appears that they will have a serious impact on other categories of skis (especially in the west) Without any extensive model commentary......this is how it seems to me to be shaking out.
80-90mm: There are absolutely great skis in here that will be perfect fits for the narrower end of the western all mountain skiers quiver OR for the western guy with only a moderate appetite for off trail skiing. These are also a great midpoint for the Eastie.
90-100mm: These are going to be the new OSQ for the western guy. There are so many options that you can get almost anything you want for any condition bias you want. Probably lost for a two ski guy but the definite centerpiece for the three ski guy.
100-108: Most makers have toned down the powder specific features in this range in order to create more of a big mountain ski than a powder ski. Some will ski these everyday. They know who they are.
So about dem dere 98's....................
I chose the second day of the SIA Winter Park demo to try some different types of 98mm skis. I didn't want to try every available model but rather to sample representative offerings of some of the very different types. The day was clear, cold with temps in the low single to negative digits. Snow was firm, chalky and great for testing.
Type one: Medium to firm overall flex, conventional camber.
The skis that I tested here were the Nordie Enforcer and Goode (ummmm....??) These feel just as one would expect, Roll the ski up, pressure the big toe and you feel "pull" from the the tip. These skis both offered grip and dampening at high levels and a great solid feel. For the skier prioritizing firm snow, stiff crud, and a general big ski feel, these are the call.
Type Two: Medium to firm overall flex, tip rise.
Here, I found a ton of choices. The picks were more or less arbitrary but what I chose were the Rossi Experience 98 (double metal, short tip rise) and the Nordie Steadfast (no metal, I-core, longer rise) The differences here were very much about the build. The Rossi is a no-nonsense, big bad ski with grip and power to spare. When edged up and engaged, the ski does not pull from the tip but it has enough power that it doesn't matter much. The tail is only medium stiff so it's not overbearing but this is a ski for bigger faster turns and for someone with skeels. The Steadfast is in Nordicas sidecountry collection and is very different. The flex is moderate and this ski is lighter and more nimble than the Rossi. I skied a 185 here and interestingly, even when edged up, there is not much going on at the front of the ski. This is a better choice for those that don't eat barbed wire for breakfast.
Type three: Flexes and builds all over the map, double rise.
A lot of choices here as well with most being carryovers from 2010-11. I chose the Fischer Watea 98 (No metal, medium-soft, noticeable rise) and the Blizzi Bonafide (2 1/2 metal sheets, medium firm, low double rise) Most of the DR skis in this group favor softer snow and maneuverability at the expense of stability and power. The Watea is similar to most others in that while it grips adequately underfoot and is very nimble, the extremities feel rather disconnected. The Watea (also the S3 and others) are going to be more focused toward the soft snow biased crowd. The Blizzi is somewhat of an anomaly among double rise skis and possibly among the whole category. The 2 1/2 sheets of metal would make one think that it is a powerhouse and sure enough it is. It is for sure firm enough to inspire confidence at "what-everdude" types of speeds yet it is manageable at lower speeds and quicker turns too. This ski is not overbearing at all.
So..............whatz a 98 about??
For the western skier, the 98mm ski can be almost anything you want it to be. It can be a groomer/crud bomber or it can be a near powder ski experience as well. It can feel like a tip directed conventional ski or it can feel like an underfoot steering oriented ski. The 98 can also be some varied combination of the two. If you choose the right one, these skis can be almost anything.