Comparison Ski Review by Faripour Forouhar March 2011,
I am 5’8’’, 145lb, level >9, moderately aggressive skier. Spend 65% of my time off piste (back side) and 35% on piste (front side) on the groomers and bumps. My present skis are Volkl Mantra (177, 4 yrs old 130/94/116) mostly for west and Blizzard Magnum 8.7 (174, 128/87/113) for east coast skiing. I also use racing slalom and GS skies (volkl) and Rossi bump skis, on occasion.
Last week I demoed three pair of skis in snow mass. Volkl Kendo (170cm, 127/88/109mm; R19.9), Salomon Sentinel (170cm- 129, 95,121mm) and KastleMX 88, 168cm length (128,88,113mm; R17.5m). I skied each pair for approximately 2 hours and did exactly the same thing with all three: starting with groomers, then wind packed crud, then frozen chunky crud, then steep densely packed bumps with zipper lines of descend and then super steep EX-EX tree runs off Sheer Bliss lift to the right. And, last week I demoed Dynastar Sultan 94 in Killington Vermont. Below are the results of my experience:
Volkl Kendo 170 cm: very precise, surgical, “treading the needle” ski; light and nimble feeling; quick on edge. Versatile and well balanced. Felt shorter than 170 cm. Felt much like Blizzard Magnum 8.7 except it was lighter, quicker and softer which made it more versatile, better in bumps and irregular turny tree runs but a bit less solid feeling under the foot on high speed GS turns on groomers or in crud. Softer, more forgiving and quicker than Mantra (177cm). Very comfortable and quick on bumps, stable and solid in crud and in high (40-50 mph) speeds on groomers (I typically ski with high degree of angulation and skis are on high edge angle), it makes clean carve, if you want that. Any radius is good, you can change turn shape and radius at will. The demo skis were a bit over tuned and sharpened so that the edges were a bit grippy on side-slips and skids/smears (necessary for steep tree skiing ). I did not try them in significant amount of power; however, with the flexible shovel I would think they would be better than most of the stiffer verity such as my Blizzard Magnum 8.7 with very close dimensions. All and all, excellent all mountain skis except perhaps in deep deep pow where you may want something wider or longer like Mantra 177. I talked to some of experienced instructors in Snow Mass who own them they raved about how well they skied the powder.
Footnote; generally all Volkl skis and most Austrian skis, are designed so that the skier got to load the shovel at turn initiation and be forward and on top of the ski and do not sit back to get proper performance out of ski. Trust the shovel and ski will do for you what ever you want.
Kastle 88, 168cm: I am not sure if I should write this because the pair I demoed were so badly tunes: super sharp from tip to tail that I had to constantly be concerned with catching edges. It won’t do ski justice for me to express my opinion. However, here are a few things unrelated to tune that I noticed especially in comparison to Kendo: these were heavier, felt damper/less lively, skied longer than 168 cm. and had a different flex pattern. Kendo seemed softer in the front third, the shovel area, and then stiffened under the foot. Kastle felt stiffer in the shovel and evenly flexed more or less like a bow. I noticed exceptional quickness edge to edge in little quick turns. Clean carve on groomer, good on crud. Because of dangerous catchiness of the edges (bad tune) I did not risk it into steep tree runs. It could have pitched me in the worst time. I liked Kendo better but again I do not know how accurately discount the bad tune. Also, my familiarity with Mantra and Blizzard biases my senses especially the different feeling that different flex pattern produces.
Salomon Sentinel 170 cm (129,95,121mm; R17.8m ): They are really up to something with rockers. These skis are slightly rockered in the shovel area and have flat squared conventional tail. The immediate feeling was as though I had a block of wet soap under my heels. They felt very slipper. Very very easy to skid/smear it around in any direction at any moment. I had heard that rockers don’t catch edges, it is true! I couldn’t make the edges catch regardless of how or in what direction I projected my core, at any part of the turn. To me this makes them very forgiving of technical mistakes – something that skis like Mantra, Kendo, Kastle and Blizz won’t forgive. They were superb in bumps: more suitable flex; they felt somewhat like my Rossignol bump skis in their flex pattern but much slower edge to edge -more like Mantras (with comparable width)- compared to Kendo. In bumps, they felt slightly heavier (95 under the foot rather than 88) and slower edge to edge compared to Kendo but lighter and more nimble compared to Kastle. They have surfy feeling and forgiving in the crud as opposed to “cutting like a knife” feeling of Kendo, Mantra or Blizz. which I am more used to and enjoy. I am sure they would be superior to all the above in deep pow and trees especially if the space between them were filled with cut up snow and irregular bumps which in the west they often are. On the groomers they function with ease with a bit of slipper feeling, if snow got hard under the foot. For reasons not clear to me I felt they worked better for me, if I kept my skis closer to each other and weighed them more evenly. Any turn radius was fine and you did not seem to need to load the shovels much to start the turn because they would slip” into it with slightest persuasion, perhaps too easily. In short, these skis slip and slide, forgive your technical mistakes and off balance moves and get you where you want safely. But they are not precision tools like Kendo is. You got to try them!
Dynastar Sultan 94; 172 cm ( 132, 94,118mm; R17 m) slightly rockered tip
I rented these skis for a day in Killington, last week - different conditions than the where I tested the other 3 skis: Kendo, Sentinel and Kastle. Conditions were typical every day New England hard pack with a bit of leftover wind blow snow off piste from a couple days ago. Here is my impression: this is a forgiving, soft ski that skis shorter than its length (expected because of the rockered tip). Very much like Salomon Sentinel but a bit softer and lighter, and similarly very maneuverable and easy to sideslips with slightest suggestion but with less “slippery” feeling. Good turn initiation and control especially on softer surfaces. Where ever there was loose snow/sugar it maneuvers well with control and made nice turns with stability at high (30-35 mph) speed. It can make nice tight semi carve and semi sideslip turns with good control and it is quick on edge for its width. Better than Mantra in tight spots and trees and perhaps powder. Furthermore, it is nice soft and forgiving in hard bumps; It absorbs the shock well and doesn’t kick from underneath of you, even if you ended up in the back seat.
There is however, one significant flaw in this ski. The edge hold on slick surfaces like typical Killington hard pack or some thing that one might call “a bit icy” (not truly icy) is very poor. There is no edge hold, period. Slips and slides out of control easily. Please consider that first, anticipating this possibility, I asked the shop to sharpened the edges before I took the skis out and second, I am an experienced ice skier grew up on East Coast ice and had no problem skiing the same exact condition, the same day, with my own skis, Blizzard Magnum 87. Similar conditions in other day were quite fine with Vokl Mantras (94cm under the foot with R23m). Folks, in my humble opinion, this is not an insignificant flaw. Because even in back country, on occasion, I have encountered very slick condition unexpectedly for example in a steep couloir, or between trees even in a place like Jackson Hole, or Ajax where I have been happy to be on my Mantras. You can’t afford a bad slip in a place like that. Now, this surprised me because the reviews that I had read on this ski ranked “edge hold” very high. I strongly disagree with that ranking. The skis must have been tested in soft snow, packed powder or such.
Short of this flaw this is a great ski, otherwise. If this flaw could be remedied by Dynastar Co. without compromising forgiveness and maneuverability, it could become an ideal ski! I would think the ski would have to become a bit stiffer torsionally but hopefully not in its longitudinal flex.
Edited by faripour - 4/4/11 at 12:50pm