Just got back from a Demo Day at Seven Springs, PA and figured I would post my thoughts on the skis I demoed.
Conditions: Mostly hardpack, some loose fresh snow here and there, patches of loose hard granular
Me: 6'2'', 180 lbs, level 7 or 8 depending on the day, ski pretty aggressively, like to mix up my skiing but love railing groomers. Ski Rossi WC SL's most of the time.
Skis Tested: Head Titan 170cm, Line Prophet 90 179cm, Atomic Theory 186cm, Volkl Mantra 177cm, Nordica Hell and Back 177cm
Head Titan: Demoed these in a 170. Was hoping to try a 177 but the rep didn't bring any. A lot of these reviews will echo things that have already been said, and this ski is no exception to that. These things flat out rip. When really charging, the amount of energy generated by these skis is incredible (I too, like many others, could feel the KERS chip's effect). I literally felt like I had rockets attached to my feet. I would initiate a new turn, and a half second later be starting to almost head UP the hill, that's how tight the radius is. Aside from their carving ability, what really impressed me with these was their versatility. They were more than compliant at slow speeds, and were completely OK with skidding some short radius turns on the steeps. I was worried about the KERS chip being a problem in bumps and steeps, but it stays out of the way really nicely when you don't want it, but is more than ready to kick in when carving. I didn't really have any complaints with the ski, but again, it is extremely energetic and has an extremely small radius. I tend to prefer a bit more of a damp feel and a bit bigger radius, so I found myself pondering whether or not the ski has TOO MUCH energy/ shape. I'm sure that if given a bit more time, I would adjust to the ski, but it was quite a change coming from a Rossi. I also would love to demo these in a 177, as I think that that could help my concerns about the radius and whatnot.
Line Prophet 90: Demoed these in a 179. Was initially surprised at just how stiff they were. Felt a little planky to me of all things. Good all-arounder. Seemed to be at home making skidded turns, especially short to medium radius. Relatively quick, predictable, consistent, good edge hold. Didn't really seem to have a whole lot of energy. When letting them run in some medium to GS carved turns, you really had to be patient with them. They will get on an edge and hold fairly well, but it takes a while to get them there. Definitely a very solid ski, just not a whole lot of "WOW" factor for me. Probably best for people who prefer shorter turns and are looking for a one ski quiver.
Atomic Theory: Demoed these in a 186. Not much said about these on this site and I can see why. Basically they felt kind of similar to the Prophet 90's, just with worse edge hold, a little softer, maybe a little more intermediate-friendly. Not a bad ski by any means, but there are just so many better options in the width range. I definitely wouldn't recommend this for any carving, nor as a frontside ski. I would recommend these probably for an intermediate to advanced skier looking for a cheap wider ski or western daily driver.
Volkl Mantra: Demoed these in a 177. No real surprises here. Extremely stiff ski, one of the stiffest I've ever been on. Great ski on the groomers, lots of fun, great edge hold, damp but exciting at the same time. In carved turns there's a very strong "locked in" feeling. Not downright slow, but not quick either. Awful in bumps, OK in tight spaces. I've always just been kind of bewildered by this ski. It's a pretty one dimensional ski, in that it really only wants to be railing long turns on groomers (it can do other things but that is its clear preference). It does that very well, but if you wanted to own a ski whose sole purpose is to do that, why would you go for something that's 98 underfoot? To me a 98 should be either pretty versatile or even have a strong soft snow bias, depending on whose driving it. The Mantras just don't have that versatility IMO. I'm always confused as to why people will buy these as a frontside or everyday ski when there's so many great carvers out there that are better on piste and more versatile as well. I could see these being very good in crud, but I've heard mixed reviews.
Nordica Hell and Back: Demoed these in a 177 as well. I absolutely loved these skis. By far my favorite ski of the day. I had heard lots of great reviews about these but somewhat ignored them as I had my sights set on its metal brother the Enforcer. Really, really special ski. Really fun in short radius turns, easy to get around, with a good amount of pop but not too much. Held very well on the hardpack I was skiing on and initiated and released very easily, buttery smooth release with great grip when in the turn. With my SL's I will sometimes feel that the skis will get held up in short radius turns (skidded ones) and will not jump right into the next turn as much as I would like them to. No such problems with the H&B's. I just kept moving downhill and they followed right along. I also liked how easy it was to change turn types and radiuses with these things. Very easy to switch from high speed GS turns one moment to skidded short radius ones the next. I quite frankly am amazed that these have no metal in them, as they are a very fun/ powerful yet precise groomer tool. Weren't nearly as hard to get on edge as the P90's or Theory's, with an almost equal edge hold to the Mantras. I would say that they are maybe 80 or 90 percent of the groomer ski that the Mantra is, with so much more versatility. They are not a great bump ski, but they are certainly doable (much more so than the Mantras). My horrible bump technique surely didn't help their cause. After skiing them, I am very curious about the 185 length, as part of me is thinking that the 177 is just a tad short for VT, though I'm not sure because I will be spending some time in the trees and bumps. I think that ultimately the 177 would probably be better for me, but I nevertheless would like to get on 185's to see. I also am even more intrigued by the Enforcers now. The Nordy rep said that he thought that I might like them even more than the H&B. I wonder just how much liveliness and quickness I would lose by going to the Enforcer.
I'm bummed that I wasn't able to get on E98's, Bones, or Enforcers, but getting on the H&B's was certainly awesome. My list is probably down to E98's, Bones, H&B's, Enforcers, or MX88's (I know that the MX88 is a much different ski, but I'm torn between 88 vs. 98 for a wider half of an EC quiver. I'm probably leaning towards the Nordicas right now, at least in the 98mm slot, just because I've been on a pair. I'm thinking that I would like the Nordicas better than the Bones, and am not sure about the E98's. As for the MX88, I know it's a great ski that I almost surely will like, it's just a question of whether that or a 98 is a better wider option for VT.
Those are my reviews. If anyone has any comments, thoughts, or suggestions about the reviews or about my quiver situation, please post.