I had a chance to ski both of these today, in good (but thin) snow conditions. Mostly lumpy groomers, a few small bumps (more of a bobsleigh course than a true bump run, damn snowboarders....), some steeper off-piste grippy snow.
About me: 5 foot 9, 155lbs, solid all-mountain skier, can ski most anything reasonably well, tend to like powerful frontside skis, and less powerful, more crud oriented big-mountain skis. Ski 30-50 days a year. Fairly athletic, technically oriented style.
2012 Blizzard 8.1 Magnum: new slight rockered tip for 2012, otherwise unchanged. 81mm underfoot, skied in 172cm. 2012 Rossignol Experience 88: skied in 170cm. 88mm underfoot, no metal, a slight rocker profile (supposedly; glancing at it, it looked pretty traditional).
(other skis tested this day: ON3P Vicik, Rossi Exp. 98, Elan Apex, Volkl Kendo; reviews to follow)
Lumpy, soft groomers: both skis were an absolute blast to ski. It was like running a bucking-bull slalom course on these in the rough snow: I could easily work the skis, let momentum carry me out of the old turn and down the fall line, and put my feet exactly where they needed to be to keep snow contact. Very powerful skis; not demanding, but high performance. I felt the 88 hooked up a bit earlier and more powerfully than the 8.1, but the 8.1 was stronger underfoot and more at home in medium radius and larger turns at speed. The Rossi wanted to be more fall-line; it stayed locked into the shorter radius turn more, and was hardier to vary the radius. Also, the Rossi felt more on/off, whereas the 8.1 was a bit more easily feathered and pressured. Both were a hoot to ski in those conditions: they aren't pure carvers, but close enough for western conditions, although I would want something narrower for ice and hard snow. The shorter lengths allowed me to work on some skill stuff as well, things I hadn't been able to do with my bigger, less responsive skis, stuff like the "dolphin turn" in the cruddy groomers, really aggressively releasing and attempting to be more dynamic. If you want to improve as a skier, you owe it to yourself to get a high-end frontside all-mountain ski to work on skill building. It will pay off later in the year when skiing a hairy, steep, cruddy chute. Both of these fit the bill.
Longer turns on smoother snow: 8.1 has the slight edge. I felt I was a bit closer to overpowering the 88 at speed. The 8.1 held up just a bit better, and tracked well in GS turns, certainly better than the 88. I think the 88 would have been better in that longer length, but that is not really apples to apples.
Edge grip: hard to say, the snow was really soft. Logic dictates the 8.1, with metal and being narrower, will be better, but I wasn't able to verify.
Bumps: both were nice here. Fairly soft flex on the 88 is key. I liked the smoother tail on the 8.1 though on the release; again, the 88 was more on/off in feel, a bit more aggressive. The 8.1 was butter in comparison: it is a really progressively engaging and releasing ski. I liked it a bit better here, but if I was looking to actually "carve" the bumps (instead of more of a pivot flow, that is typical) the 88 may have been better.
Semi-Steep off-piste. Again, very close. The 8.1 was a little easier to engage and release, the 88 was a touch more powerful. If the snow was funkier, I would probably take the 8.1: for easier snow, the 88 was more exciting though, so probably better for the easy to ski stuff.
Overall: I really enjoyed both skis. The lengths are tough: these are great for "carvers" but are less than ideal for skiing big GS arcs at speed, especially when snow gets pushed around. I could size up on either, and they would ski much differently. For skill building, working on what I have been focusing on (fore-aft movements) and slower-speed drills, one-footed release drills, and the like, this is a great length. For guys like me, the high 170's can be a bit long (depending on the ski) for learning and refining movements; the skis can run away if you aren't careful. Both of these 2 are technical skis, and very rewarding, so if you make "good" movements, you will be rewarded with a nice feeling, powerful turn. Blizzard was a touch more progressive tip and tail, and a bit more stable and smooth; 88 had a slightly more aggressive feel, more bite early, slightly more aggressive release and more of a pre-determined turn shape, but overall, they are similar. Probably the best turns of the year so far came on these. They out-performed the other skis on this day, no doubt.
Edited by dawgcatching - 12/18/11 at 11:54am