Snow Conditions: Firm groomers in the morning, some relatively nasty crud and small bumps off trail. As the day wore on, the sun came out and things softened up a lot, and some of the bumps started getting bigger as they softened. Never really got warm enough that things really slushed up.
Nordica Hell n Back (177): Flat tail ski with a little tip rocker, no metal, but a relatively stiff construction. Definitely one of the lighter skis I tried this day. This was the best ski of the day on groomers; it was ok making longer turns, but really was at home making shorter radius turns. Lots of energy, without a ton of dampening, and really good edge hold. I have to say, that I'm not sure I like the combination of stiffness and lack of dampness. It wasn't as good in the crud (which was admittedly nasty crud) because of that, it really made for a rough ride at times. A good ski, but I don't think it suits my style or preferences as much as some of the others of the day.
Line Prophet 98 (186): No changes for this year other than graphics. Fairly conventional shape with a little tip and tail rocker, not a whole lot of splay, just enough to make a difference. This was a nice stable, predictable ski. Holds very well on the groomers, nice dampness while still providing some energy out of the turns. A little stiff for my tastes in the bumps, they really forced me to stay on top of things and not get lazy. If you do, they can definitely launch you a little bit. Note, this wasn't a problem for my anywhere other than in the bumps. Overall, a very nice mixture of dampness and energy, but probably a touch stiffer than I like. Or at least that was my perception of it. Despite that, it was still one of my favorite skis of the day. Enough so that I took them out again at the end of the day to get a second take on them.
Dynastar Slicer (181): No changes for this year I suppose, and either the graphics haven't changed or the rep simply brought the '12 version instead since the ski is identical. I didn't bother to ask so I don't know which is the case. This was my favorite ski of the demo day last year, and one I was considering purchasing, so I wanted to ski it as a baseline. No review of it this year, unfortunately, because something had to be off on the tune. The ski was incredible unstable in any and all turns, it didn't even want to snowplow smoothly. I brought it back after one run.
Fischer Watea 96 (178?): New ski for this year, flat tail (*slight* upturn actually), with some fairly noticeable tip rocker. It actually has more splay than any of the other skis I was on this day except perhaps the Atomic Alibi. This ski has a fairly light and lively feel, ok on the groomers, but the tip feels a little vague probably because of the larger rocker? However, this was an absolutely superb ski in the bumps. Incredibly nimble and quick edge to edge. In the firmer crud, this ski got bounced around a little too much, and didn't have the stability most would probably like on runouts. This is definitely a soft snow oriented ski, and really shines in the right conditions. Honestly, this was probably the most fun ski of the day, but only when it was in the right conditions. I don't think I'd own one because of the limitations, but it was super fun nonetheless.
Elan 999 (181): Another ski with a little bit of rocker, but otherwise a fairly conventional shape. This was a real eye opener for me. I've never skied an elan, but because of some of the reviews and comments I've read I always expected them to be stiffer than I'd like. I was mistaken. Don't get me wrong; this is a beefy, damp, heavy ski, but it turned out to be quite easy to ski with a bigger sweet spot than I expected. Super stable, by far the most stable ski of the day, and really fun just about everywhere. Good hold on groomers, actually quite decent on the bumps, and much better than anything else in the nasty crud. The only thing I wasn't sure about was just how damp it is. In the bumps, for example, it really doesn't give anything back. No pop, no energy, nothing. It makes for a very smooth ride, but it's a different feel than I'm used to, by far. I had a ton of fun on them, and they might change the way I look at skis, but I don't think I'd buy a pair without getting a chance to ski them more. They might also be a bad ski for me because they encourage me to ski far faster than is probably good for my health.
Atomic Alibi (180): Total 180 after skiing the elan. This is a twin tip with more pronounced rocker than the other skis I had been on. Because of that, the 180 probably skied too short for me, but it was what they had. This is a very turny, swively, loose feeling ski that was very nimble and quick in the bumps. Not quite as good as the watea 96, but still quite good. A little unstable on firmer snow because of that loose feeling. You had to take a little care because as you put it over on edge and more of the ski engages, it would change how it would respond in mid-turn. It also got bounced around a little too much in the firm crud. Overall it was a fun ski, that is definitely best suited to soft snow.
Fischer Big Stix 98 (186): This appears to be the replacement for the watea 98, I'm not sure what changes they made to it from the watea 98. This is a twin tip with both tip and tail rocker, but not a huge amount. This ski was probably the best all-around mix (at least for my tastes), from everything I skied. I know there are a lot of people that denigrate all-mountain skis because they try to do a little of everything, and end up not being great at any one thing. The counterpoint to that is that they can, if done right, end up being good at everything. This ski wasn't as crisp on groomers as the nordica, lackes the stability of the elan, and wasn't quite as good in bumps as the watea. However, it was the best mix of a little bit of everything. The feel is fairly lively, as you would expect from a fischer, but still a decent amount of stability. Much more-so than the watea, for example. It's definitely a more soft-snow oriented ski, and lacks the stiffness and dampness that some might want. Overall, I don't think this ski was the best at anything today, however it was good enough at everything that it ended up being my favorite of the day... I think.