*Location of review: Loveland
*Runs Taken: Blue groomers with a single short pitch of ~black steepness, probably similar to EC-style runs
*Snow Conditions: snowed 1-2" throughout the entire day, groomed snow, scraped off in areas, piled up in other areas, a few minor spots of hard CO ice, but mostly soft, perhaps similar to EC conditions with back-to-back days of fresh snowfall that has been groomed down, with light snowfall throughout the day
*Demo or Purchase: Demo
Me: 5'10, 170lbs, 30 yrs/old, 28 years skiing, expert skier with an athletic, dynamic powerful style. Parents were both pro bump skiers. Prefer damp, charging skis with good high-speed stability.
194 Dynastar Big Dumps
186 ON3P Billygoats
183 Head Monster m103s
183 Head Monster 82s
181 Atomic Rec Race GS Ski (not sure what model)
183 Volkl Gotamas ('05/06)
178 Volkl Pro 724s
178 Dynastar Troublemakers
I went out to Loveland on Sunday to demo a bunch of skinnier sticks (80-85mm) for high pressure periods without snow, and to hop on a couple of lighter-weight touring-oriented 90-100mm skis for spring touring (corn to 4-8" of powder).
I didn't try Lines, Atomics, Nordicas, or Icelandics, as they didn't have any skinny sticks at the booth. I don't know why these companies only bring out fat skis for people to demo when there isn't any soft snow around (especially Nordica - they definitely have a solid lineup of skinnier sticks, like the Fire Arrow).
Salomon Enduro XT 850 177cm
The first thing I noticed is that this ski is VERY heavy. It might have been the demo bindings, or it could have been just the ski itself, but it was significantly heavier than any of the other skis I tried. Damp and stable ski but with some good energy at the end of the turn. The ski felt like it had a mediocre tune, as it gripped nowhere near as good as the rest of the skis (even the wider ones). It was a decent ski, but not my favorite, as it was just too heavy. This ski was the most damp, snow-hugging ski of the day - likely due to weight.
Blizzard Magnum 8.0 CA 179cm
Lightweight ski that has some liveliness to it, but still feels a bit damp or stable compared to other skis with carbon that I've tried. Fun ski with a lot of playful energy, but it's too lively for my tastes - liked to be in the air.
Blizzard Magnum 8.5 Ti 174cm
Great ski. Probably my favorite of the bunch. I definitely would prefer the longer length, but this ski was no slouch in the shorter length. More stable than the Magnum 8.0 CA. A little less energy than the Enduro XT for my weight, but more light on the feet (not less damp, just quicker). Great grip on CO ice and the scraped off areas. Very precise ski.
Rossignol Experience 83 184cm
Felt very similar to the Blizzard Magnum 8.5 Ti. Maybe a tad stiffer in the tip, so maybe not as good in the bumps? The length was significantly longer though, so I'm not sure. This was another really great ski. Slightly less grip than the Magnum 8.5 Ti, but it was close enough that I'd be 100% happy with either ski. Also a very precise ski. This ski felt a nose heavier than the Magnum, but it's hard to tell without having a comparable length.
Dynastar Outland 80 Pro 178cm
You could tell this ski had a smidge of tip rocker. It was a bit less precise than the Magnum/Experience - it took a split second longer to hook up. Still a very solid ski at speed. Has less energy than the Magnum/Experience, and feels a little bit stiffer. I'm curious if it would be more difficult or less difficult to ski in bumps with the extra stiffness paired with the rocker. Feels just as stable and damp, if not more so, but since it has less precision I didn't quite trust it as much. I felt that the rocker did not compromise the edgehold, once it was locked in. Great ski, and for fresh snowfall of around 3" or more, I'd probably prefer it due to the rocker.
Volkl RTM 80 176cm
Ugh. I hated this ski. I'm not sure why Volkl is adding full rocker to skis this skinny, but it makes absolutely no sense. I guess it'd be ok for a beginner-intermediate skidder who is on the heaver side, but for someone that likes to get their skis on edge, it's a POS. You have absolutely no stability when moving onto your edges, and you really have to get a high edge angle going before the stability kicks in. The full rocker ruins this ski. You really need to slam onto a high edge angle to get any type of stability out of it, and when transitioning from one edge to the other it just feels sloppy and unstable. I can understand this design in a ski that's 90mm+ underfoot, but for an 80mm underfoot ski, it's a poor application. Don't even bother. It's unfortunate the Volkl booth didn't have a more suitable ski, like their Code series.
Overall, my favorite was the Magnum 8.5 Ti for hard snow, and the Outland 80 Pro for days with a few inches of fresh over hard snow. The Experience 83 was right behind the Magnum 8.5 Ti. I felt that the stiffer tip wouldn't do as well in the bumps. And in every category (edge grip, energy, forgiveness, etc.), it feels just a slight tad bit less of a ski than the Magnum. I'd be absolutely 100% happy with either ski though, and I'd buy whatever I could find a better deal on. The heavier binding (Rossi/Look) on the Experience 83, or the slightly longer length might have been the difference between it and the Magnum (Marker), however.
Dynastar High Mountain Cham 97 178cm
This ski was actually pretty good in the conditions, except for one thing. The tip rocker. It's a bit large and soft for spring skiing. It's definitely a powder off-piste ski. Even then, though, based on experience, the tip rocker is just a bit too soft for hard charging. It feels close to the S7 tip, where I believe it might plow and get pushed around at high speeds. This would be a decent ski for an intermediate-advanced skier for powder off-piste, but it's really not an expert's ski for someone who likes to ski fast. I'm not 100% sold on this opinion, but based on my experiences, it's a good possibility. I feel that this would make a great long-distance powder touring ski for someone who skis a bit more mellow. If I were to think of a ski that is similar, it'd probably be the Voile Vector 180cm.
Dynastar Cham 97 178cm
Slightly more stability than the Dynastar Cham 97, but a lot closer than I would have thought. I was expecting more stability, but the design of the ski is really what's holding it back. That tip rocker is just a bit too large and soft for hard charging, even for the 'burlier' model.
K2 Sideshow 181cm
This ski surprised me. It reminded me of a fatter Magnum 8.5 Ti, but with less dampness, energy and more width. It held well on the CO ice patches and the scraped off sections. I had almost as much confidence in this ski as I did the Magnum 8.5 Ti and Experience 83. I really liked this ski. I'd be curious to see how it skied with a more progressive tip rocker - it's shaped like a traditional ski, with the tip bent up just a tad bit, rather than a smooth mellow rocker like the Dynastar. I think if it had a more progressive tip rocker, I'd be all over the ski, as long as it continued to ski the same. As of now, I'm not so sure.
Overall, I really liked the K2 Sideshow. I wish there were more skis in this category at the demo, but alas. I'm wondering, post-demo, if a longer-sized Cham would have worked better for me, but I'm not 100% sold on that idea, as I'm pretty sure the soft rockered tip would still lead to the same problems. Oh well. Conditions weren't great for testing these sorts of skis, so soft-snow performance is mostly speculation based on how they felt in the conditions we did have.
Finally... a rant... WHY the F* are demo days in November? It's BS that we can only demo skis in crappy conditions. I think it's frickin hilarious people are demo'ing skis like the Megawatt and Gigawatt when all we have is hardpack groomers. What we need is these demo days to be bumped into at least January. /endrant