Hey guys, first post here but I hope a nice review will be well received. I have been looking into getting some ~100mm all mountain / big mountain skis for a couple of weeks, and I really needed to demo a few to narrow it down. Conveniently I live in Denver, so I hopped over to keystone today and tried out a couple skis I had been eyeing (rephrase, I tried out the skis they had in demos....)
Anyways, I got to try out the 4 skis listed in the title. I passed up on demoing the Volkl Mantra b/c I have skied one before and it was too stiff, chattery, and un-playful for me. No fresh snow today, but everything I tried was ~100mm under waist and had at the very least an early rise tip, so I figured they would all be plenty good for me in powder. What I really wanted to find out was how they held up on the groomers, b/c even though I love skiing powder, I also love bombing a groomer, and I can't afford to have multiple skis in my quiver at the moment. Therefore, I need a mid-fat powder / all mountain ski that will hold an edge on cord, and plow through some afternoon chop at high speeds. Here's the lowdown:
BTW I am 5'9" 145, and consider myself to be a fairly aggressive skier.
I started with the Kung Fujas in a 179 b/c I was the most stoked on them. My enthusiasm may have influenced this first trial. However, I went back at the end of the day and tried them once more to be sure. THEY KICK ASS. They were the widest ski I demo'd (at 105mm), so as a result their turn initiation was a little slower / required more effort. However, I could still easily make tight quick turns. Let me say now that these ski fairly short. I was a bit worried that the 179 might be long for me, but I had no trouble controlling these, and was truly glad I had the 179 and not a bit shorter. This is undoubtedly due to the tip and tail rocker. I was very impressed with how well they held up at high speeds. I was cutting HARD, across chopped up groomers, and they still blasted through it. I know people say this is a flexible ski, and it is, but also keep in mind that I am 5'9", 145 lbs, and I was demoing a 179, and this ski has some GIRTH to it. Therefore, I don't think my small size could overpower this ski like some others who may say it's too flexible. If you are heavier, you may have this problem. That said, the rockered tips and tailed flapped a bit at speed, but surprisingly this did not affect their ability to hold an edge at all. Also, they did wobble and give just a bit when I hit some chop at speed, but when you consider how well this is supposed to ski pow, this is a negligible downside. Let's put it this way, I bombed it and never felt like I couldn't trust the ski.
Next I tried the Volkl Bridge in a 171. Granted, this is a bit shorter, but I could still tell that it was an instant NO. Although it's advertised as being able to ski the hard stuff, the ELP full rocker is not the way to go. Also, this ski is much thinner (not referring to the width (~95mm), but the thickness of the sidewall). Combine the full rocker with a lightweight thin ski, and it felt like skiing on a piece of cardboard. This thing was squirrelly as SH*T. Having the tip and tail elevated that much off the slope, I couldn't keep the skis from moving all around under me. Definitely not the way to go if you want to hit the groomers at all. Therefore, I'm steering clear of the new Gotama and Katana with their ELP as well. (This was really why I tried the bridge, b/c I was interested in the Goat but they didn't have one in demo. So I just tried this to get a feel for the ELP rocker).
Next I tried the ski that impressed me the most, even more than the Kung Fujas. We are talking about the Rossignol S3 in a 178. This thing was basically the kung fujas with just a tad more stiffness, and a little thinner in the waist (98mm). It had the same girth to it, allowing it to hold a solid edge (no chatter), and power through chopped up groomers. This ski handled everything I could throw at it. In addition, this ski is 98mm under waist, as opposed to the Kung Fujas 105mm, so this allowed it to be quicker edge to edge, and the tail not being as wide allowed for better turn initiation. With tip and tail rocker, I can also assume it will also hold it's own on powder. The Kung Fujas may be slightly better than it on powder though, and this could tip the scale back and make them basically even.
Finally, I tried the Atomic Access (100mm) in a 171. This one doesn't ski too much shorter, b/c all it has is an early rise tip. This one is "thin" like the Bridge, and therefore got pretty chattery when hitting chop at speeds. Overall I felt sort of neutral about this ski. It just didn't seem to shine in any aspect. If you're not getting rockered tips and tails, then why sacrifice stability on groomers? IMO this ski doesn't do anything better than the Kung Fujas or the S3.
So, the takeaway is that I love the S3, but I really don't want to pay for a brand new set up! I was hoping that a last years model w/ bindings might pop up on ebay for ~500, but I'm thinking that might be a long shot. So, I may need to expand my options a bit. I'm looking for something with tip and tail rocker and camber under foot, ~100mm, and with similar flex / girth of the S3. Any suggestions would be great
Here's a couple I'm interested in but didn't get to demo:
Dynastar Slicer Salomon Shogun Blizzard The One 2008 Seth Ski or pre-117mm obsethed
Any advice on how these stack up to the S3 (flex / playfulness, power / stability, etc)?