I love gear. And this is a very long post.
Both my husband and I are on the hunt for new skis to replace our aging groomers and so our last few ski days have been spent stalking ski shops and ogling their high-performance demos. This is mostly review and but part request for input.
Me: 5'6", 160lbs, female, level 8/9 aggressive skier but who now also has a baby to snowplow with for hours to consider :) Current skis are my scrumptious pair of Dynastar LP's for the pow, 176cm, circa 2007?, and a now tortured pair of Volkl G2's, 168cm, circa 2001. Old.
Hubby: 5'10", 200lbs, level 9/10 extremely aggressive, annoyingly technically proficient, ski instructor know-it-all. Who thankfully doesn't read his wifes' posts. Current skis are a demonic pair of Head 103 team skis, 184cm, that try to kill almost anyone who dares ski them, and a very beat up pair of Volkl G3's, 177cm, that are the same age as mine.
Location: we live in Vancouver and mostly ski Whistler and Mount Baker, try for about 30 days a year. Both mountains excel at thick 'west-coast powder', but the vast majority of days are 2-5cms of fresh that rapidly turns into crud and piles of snow-sludge over sort of a scraped down hardpack. Occasional trips up to the interior (Silver Star, Big White and Sun Peaks) always emphasize how badly powder skis perform on beautiful, unoccupied, groomers.
Since both of us have noticed a certain lack of enthusiasm emanating from our groomer skis we are now officially on the search for replacements. Our desires are a bit different though - Hubby would like a hard charging groomer ski that's mostly a tuned down race ski, but not as much work as the Volkl Tigershark (which he tried last year) since he also has snowplow duties. He prefers 68-80mm underfoot, quite stiff, capable of high speed, but with some limited off-road capabilities considering our whereabouts and the proliferation of cruddy snow. I am looking for something a little more all-mountain since I enjoy the additional square footage underfoot in the crud. But by all mountain I'm thinking something around the 78-88mm ski since I know that the definition of all mountain seems to have changed a bit :) and I love my LP's for anything seriously snowy. We both tend to value dampness, edge grip and liveliness in our skis over most other attributes.
Tests at Mount Baker - conditions were 10cm of fresh snow-concrete. It was so thick that you could literally watch carnage below as you rode the lift as people were attacked by snow that looked fresh and inviting. Visibility was pretty much nil which contributed to said carnage since you couldn't tell where the grooming ended on the margins of the run until you hit it.
Skis tested by me:
Atomic Blackeye Ti, 167cm
The Blackeye was too much ski for me. It felt very heavy and a little dead. Short radius was a lot of work, long radius a bit easier, but for me it lacked snap coming out of the turns unless my angulation and aggressiveness were extreme - which was difficult to maintain in the conditions. What I did like, and was surprised by, was how FAST it was. It took no time at all for it to pick up and go, and was excellent at maintaining the line so long as I was on top of it constantly. This would probably be a great all-mountain ski for someone heavier than I, but is definitely not what I'm looking for. Was going to try the Crimson after I tried this, but I have to say that the overall feeling of this ski didn't inspire me to try anything else in the line. Fortunately lots of reviews on this ski on here already by people who belong on it.
Volkl AC30, 170cm
Now THIS is more my shtick. Considering how bad the conditions were this ski performed admirably. It's a mighty friendly ski for a Volkl (although I might be living in the land of old-Volkl and not K2-Volkl) with the traditional Volkl edge grip. Short, medium and long radius turns were easy to initiate although it definitely preferred medium radius. This ski seemed to be exactly what it's billed for - advanced (and athletic or advancing intermediates) who want a relaxed ride without losing too much by way of performance. Unfortunately seemed to suffer from all-mountain-itis - okay at everything, good at nothing. I would like something that truly excels at something if possible - but that may prove to be unattainable in an all-mountain ski. They actually felt just like my old G2's when they were young spring chickens....but I think because of that I won't buy them....I enjoyed my G2's, but I'd like something different to play around on for a bit.
Skis tested by hubby:
Rossi Avenger 76Ti, 160cm (because that's the only length they had for him)
He reports that these were a lot more fun than he was expecting. Very easy, large shovel made them very easy to initiate, they preferred a very short radius turn but with some thought could be coaxed into some medium radius, long radius was pretty hard unless you are pretty relaxed on the shovel, relatively smooth ski even in the crud, medium life and snappiness. He thinks that they'd be an excellent intermediate-low advanced ski for someone who largely skis groomers and who traditionally likes Rossi skis.
Volkl AC50, 177cm
Hubby reports that, funnily enough, these felt exactly like his old G3's. Good for medium and long radius turns, short radius requires some effort but nothing ridiculous. Larger waist (85 compared to 72mm) than his old G3's meant that they were easier in the crud and says that they were overall quite accommodating. Since large open spaces suitable for ripping were hard to come by he says that he can't report on it's ability to do that, but since it feels that it's so similar to the G3's that they're likely able to hold a solid line and moderate to high speeds with little difficulty. Final report: good all mountain ski appropriate for an advanced to expert who's buying for a one ski quiver, but that it doesn't excel in any given category.
Tests at Sun Peaks - day 1, trace snow with excellent grooming. day 2, freeze/thaw left quite a bit of ice and some rough grooming.
Skis tested by me:
Elan WaveFlex 78Ti, 168cm.
I have to admit that I was very excited to actually find a shop that had some Elan's available. If any of you Elan reps are on here (or you know any) please explain to me why you have an excellent product that no-one can find and no-one sells. I had so much fun on these skis. Were they difficult? Not in the least, but the waveflex technology actually seemed to be something more than a gimmick - they were extremely forgiving longitudinally, but surprisingly torsionally rigid. I had a very hard time trusting them to some serious groomer ripping at first considering how forgiving they were - I was expecting shuddering and jittering any moment, but they were fantastic. Cautiously started putting them on edge and hauling and in no time was ripping down some very nice groomer runs at mach schnell. The name of the game was easy, easy, easy, BUT SO MUCH FUN! Not a wobble or shudder in sight. Nice life and snap coming out of the turns. Edge hold in the small amount of ice around on day 1 was average to poor. Not a super crudbuster either, felt more like a finesse ski than a power ski and that it would rather prance around the crud than blow through it. I also should mention that I was running a bunch of drills for myself on this ski and was relieved that all my monkeying around earned me no unhappiness....it just kind of went along with whatever I was doing. Excellent ski for just about anyone who doesn't want to work too hard (or hard at all) or an intermediate looking for a ski to grow with. Definitely not enough of a challenge for some, but a very nice product with a very large group that it would/should be appropriate for. I have to say that my snow-plowing duties have me considering this ski for the shear fact that it can do everything that I want to do, although not the best, but with a lot of enthusiasm and with minimal effort.
Blizzard Magnum 8.7, 168cm
Yeah....this goes up there with the Blackeye. That's too much ski for me. Haul ass? Oh yes. Edge hold. Yup. Long radius. Yes. Medium. Sure. Short....maybe....Have an excellent morning of skiing? you bet. Be able to ski all afternoon? Not a chance. I did like this a lot more than the Blackeye though. Although it was too much ski for me I felt that it had a lot more life and snap to it, it didn't instantaneously go as fast as the Blackeye did, but certainly would have been able to keep up once on the move. Heavy, mean, solid. Very damp, no chatter, no nonsense....felt like a very superior ski. No drills for me on this ski....would have spent a lot of time staring up at the sky. Another great all-mountain ski for the one quiver advanced and experts and one that I think would be much more interesting than the Volkl AC50.
Elan WaveFlex 82Ti, 168cm
Considering my success with the WaveFlex78, I figured I'd try the next one in the line. I think this is probably my front-runner at the moment. Although it was not nearly as much outright FUN as the 78 (did I mention that the 78 is FUN?!), it does have a little more heft to it. If I wanted to effortlessly ride groomers all day and that's what my home mountains were like then I think I'd get the 78 (well, actually, I'd probably get a proper groomer, but you know what I mean) but they're not. We have so much crud generally that I think that I'd just like something with a little more square-footage (or millimetre-age, or whatever). The 82 feels more....solid. More like a power ski, less like a finesse. More like a horse and less like a deer. Stuff like that. Edge hold on ice was average but improved over the 78, the ease of initiation was less than the 78 but was still quite mellow considering the torsional rigidity. Excellent carving hold in anything other than ice and definitely an ability to blow through what crud there was. Again I was doing drills on this ski, I got a little more "don't be doing that" feedback from this ski as I jimmied my stance and balance, but not so much that I was actively getting bucked off. Overall, nice ski. Again not necessarily excelling at anything in particular but doing everything well enough that it's enjoyable and doesn't feel like it's going to leave you hanging anywhere. More enjoyable that the AC30 - ice grip was poorer, but crud handling was better, and felt a little more lively and interesting as a ski.
Blizzard Magnum 8.7, 176cm
This was his front-runner until he tried the next ski. Really enjoyed it even though he was prepared to be really unhappy on it since he doesn't want an all mountain ski and generally is too much of a ski snob for them. Any available crud was blasted, excellent edge grip for an all-mountain, similarly the edge-to-edge was surprisingly quick, he agrees with my assessment that this is a better ski than the AC50 overall in the same category and that this would be a lovely one quiver ski for an expert or a big/aggressive advanced skier. If you're a smaller skier though he thinks you may want to demo before you buy and you may like the AC50 more. Very fast for an all-mountain too.
Blizzard G-Power FS 7.2, 167cm (would like to have tried 176cm)
Favourite. Very much fun. Excellent groomer ski, excellent short and medium radius, long radius would have been improved by a longer length, but was still excellent. Stiff, VERY smooth, excellent edge grip, very quick edge to edge (understandable given the waist), tracked through hard-pack 'like a knife though butter' he says. After reading some of the reviews on here he disagrees with the view that these skis are heavy, but he notes that a lot of the testers were smaller than him....says that they felt of average weight to him. I did actually hear him give a 'Woooooo' as he went swooshing by at one point, which is high praise :)
Elan SpeedWave12, 168cm (last years' ski)
Suffered heavily from coming after the Blizzard I suspect. He says it was "pththththhhhhthhh". When pressed for real details he says: good short radius, decent medium radius, seriously lacking in edge hold, something akin to a wet noodle was mentioned. Since his wife was keeping up on her WaveFlex82's he is very unimpressed. He says he was disappointed and was expecting more from them. To be fair they were last years' model so we know nothing about this years' product.
Sorry for the long post....what're we missing that people would recommend? I'm still waiting to try the Sultan 80 and 85, Hubby would love to try the Progressor 9 and 10 if only we could find a %$#&* place that has them for rent or demo. Was intrigued by the Fischer Motive 80 but can't find it anywhere to demo. I tried a few skis in the Nordica Olympia line last year (only one I can remember was the Victory, but there were a couple others), but wasn't thrilled about them....suggestions folks?