88m Ski test:
Rossignol Experience 88 178cm
Head Peak 90 177cm
Elan Apex 177cm
Volkl Kendo 177cm
Kastle MX88 178cm
Blizzard Magnum 8.7 174cm
Blizzard Bushwacker 180cm
About me: 5 foot 9, 155lbs, ski 30-50 days a year, tend to prefer mostly off-piste terrain. Get a lot of big, wide open off-piste skiing here, rarely bumps, but I do enjoy tight spaces. Can ski the whole mountain, but try to stay away from big air.
Testing conditions: a couple of different days on this group (thanks to Mt. Bachelor Sport Shop for the loaners from Rossi. We don't sell the Kendo, this is my personal pair). Others are my shop demos. Skis were tested on a soft snow, sunny day in the mid-40's. A couple of inches new overnight. 2nd day was some newer snow off-piste (heavy snow that came in a few inches deep in a few spots) on this more recent system (that is now all rain-yuk). Wish the weather gods would let us bank some snow from “good” years, like last season. Tired of this great year/crappy year cycle.
Instead of reviewing each ski individually, I will just group them in various conditions. Somewhat grouped based on performance, but often many of the skis come down to personal preference and a group is similar in performance, just different in feel. Ties aren't mentioned, so don't worry about the rankings too much.
Hard snow and groomers,
The E88 was a very thrilling carver. Plenty of stability here in the 178cm length. Turn radius wasn't quite as variable as I would like: it seemed to lock into a turn shape more than the others. With that said, it was stable and powerful, and held a great edge.
The MX88 was different in feel: edge grip was probably better, but as a carver, it was a little more damp and not as energetic in the tail. More of a GS feel, similar to the Apex and Kendo, but with more stability and grip than those 2, and more stable than the E88 as well. It liked any radius turn more than the E88, but wants to run in big arcs and at speed.
The Magnum 8.7 was a real powerhouse on groomers. It is built somewhat similar to the E88 in purpose: great groomer ski, solid all-mountain performance. Lots of metal, and it is powerful in the tip and tail. A little stiff though, but other than that, great grip, tons of stability. It was a thrilling carver if you set up the turn well; I could really trust the ski at the top of the turn. The finish was very powerful as well. Great carver for a “wider” ski: it skis narrower than the footprint.
The Apex was great in mid-radius turns: the new rockered tip really makes the ski quicker and more nimble when skiing fall-line. Plenty stable in bigger arcs too; super damp and powerful. Edge grip was not quite up to the MX88's standard, but close, and as good as the E88. Great ability to vary turn radius; probably the best of the group here, as it is a touch softer and allows me to flex it as needed, both tip and tail.
Kendo: a little less damp than the Apex, light and lively, muscular on the snow. Stability was similar to the others, it had more of an aggressive initiation at the tip than the Apex or MX88, so a bit more thrilling top of the turn. More of a GS ski; I couldn't bend it into smaller arcs as well as the others, or butter the ski. Likes speed, as stable as the MX88. Feels very GS. They should have named this ski the Katana, as it is as stiff as a steel sword. Very precise, just be ready to ski it.
Head Peak 90: also a solid frontside ride. Lots of pop in the tail, good stability for not having metal. Tip is nice and soft; I could work the ski well tip to tail, and found it grippy yet not too aggressive. Nice blend of performance. Stability is above that of the Bushwacker, slightly below the others, in rough snow.
Bushwacker: probably the only ski that was only OK on these conditions. Much better groomer ski than the Bonafide (probably due to low tip and tail rise) but still bothered by the lack of tip at the top of the turn. When doing a “weighted release/White Pass Turn”, I have trouble trusting the ski and rolling quickly onto edge; I feel I have to weight/unweight upward more on this ski, and rely on outside ski/big toe engagement early on, due to the fact I can't flex an inside ski to get the tip into the snow early enough. Would prefer a ski that supported a smoother 2-footed transition and equal pressure/edge angles at the top. Once on edge, it is OK, but lacks metal, and does get bounced at 25mph or so (others are much more stable up to 35-40mph). The inside ski tracks funny as well, for the same reason I mentioned before: when you are flexing and tipping that inside knee to get more angulation, the inside ski bounces more than it tracks (again, no tip). I felt it was an OK groomer ski as long as I kept things low-energy and the feet under the hips, and didn't really try to ski too dynamically with an aggressive release to keep my COM moving down the fall line, but skiing dynamically is pretty much part of the definition of carving, so that isn't great. If you are a low energy skier who is more or less cruising, you will probably think this is just fine on the groomers: I would recommend the 8.7 for a high-performance groomer ski from Blizzard.
Elan Apex: really nice in bumps; softer tip than most of the rest, forgiving tail, smooth, forgiving, easy to pilot. I can really work this ski. My favorite of the group
Head Peak 90: very close to the Apex: it has a soft tip that flexes well in bumps. Tail not aggressive, a very predictable release as well.. Quick edge to edge.
Rossi E88: close, a little stiffer in the tail made it more aggressive. Still a fun bump ski, I felt I had to really focus on an aggressive terrain absorption on this one, to keep the energy down and the ski on the snow.
Kastle MX88: a little stiff for bumps: good enough, but can get away from you in the tail just a little bit.
Volkl Kendo: similar to the MX88 here. Nice, but could be less aggressive, especially at the tail.
Blizzard Bushwacker: not a bad firm bump ski; a little vague in the tip, and the tail felt washy at times. Better in the soft bumps I skied last spring.
Blizzard 8.7: still decent in bumps, but a little aggressive when it is firm. A bit softer tip and less aggressive tail would be welcome.
Soft cruddy snow and trees:
Elan Apex: very good here as well. Nice, balanced ski; not overly edgy, which is awesome in steeps. You can release progressively if you really have to get an aggressive pole plant down the hill on a steep pitch. Easy to turn in the trees, releases with ease as well, tail has a great flex.
Kastle MX88: more stable than any other ski in bigger turns, able to butter it in tighter areas. Almost as easy to ski as the Apex.
Volkl Kendo: slightly more aggressive, a little more edge feel in short radius, fall line steeps. Great in bigger arcs, 2nd in stability only to the MX88. Quick, not as rapid-fire as the Apex, though. More of a GS feeling ski than most.
Blizzard Bushwacker: also very quick, easy to change edge sets, as easy as the Apex was. Lack of metal hurts it at speed in bigger turns. Very good at slower speeds and tight spaces, just more easily overpowered than the others. If beefed up, would be near the top of this group.
Rossi E88: lots of stability, but a bit catchy and edgy in steeps, when you need to make a turn in the space of a few feet; it can feel aggressive and not easy to butter and release smoothly. Still not bad, totally workable. Quick, and stable at speed.
Head Peak 90: about the same level of performance that the Rossi gave me here. These skis are similar in feel. The Peak, being a bit softer, seemed to change turn radius better and be less aggressive in fall line turns.. The E88 was a touch more stable in rough snow. Both are very solid all-mountain performers off-piste.
Blizzard Magnum 8.7: perhaps the most aggressive of the group. Fine in bigger arcs, but a little catchy in the tip in crud at speed. Shorter length seems to hurt it a bit too. Wants to be on edge more than the others, so can feel touchy in 3-D snow. Quick edge to edge. Not bad at all, but a little below the others.
I liked all of these skis, but they all had different feels. Listed in alphabetical order:
Blizzard Bushwacker: good off-piste ski, predictable as long as you aren't pushing it too hard..
Blizzard Magnum 8.7: powerhouse wide carver. More groomer oriented than off-piste.
Elan Apex: well balanced GS feel without being too stiff. Performs above average in most every condition. Good ski for lighter guys like me.
Head Peak 90: Mainly GS feel, but with a touch more pop in the tail. Tip is nice in crud and bumps. Not quite as grippy as the skis with metal, super fun in any other snow condition.
Kastle MX88: very good both frontside and back. The most refined feel in the group, also the most stable, with probably the best edge hold. Not a true carver.
Rossignol Experience 88: more akin to the carver feel of the 8.7, but more forgiving. Nice ski at speed, versatile, slightly more biased toward groomers.
Volkl Kendo: a GS feel, fairly stiff and aggressive, good edge hold, not really a carver. Competent in every condition, a true all-mountain ski.
I enjoyed all of these skis, and would probably happily own any of them, with the exception of the Bushwacker, which I found too soft at speed and not great on groomers, which is a requirement for me for a ski this narrow.