Skis: 185 Cochise with Look Pivot 14's, 183 Stockli Stormrider 95 with Mojo 15's. Everybody in the universe knows all about the Cochise's. Flipcore and all that. The Stormriders are, surprisingly, Stocklis with real, albeit mild, front and rear rocker; 220 mm in front, 120 mm in back.
Me: Advanced old guy, 6', 165 lbs, technical style, bad knees, deep into Masters' racing, currently working on letting my bases see uphill. Also enjoy trees, trying to keep up with my kids in terrain parks, and steep tight places. Mostly like moderate speeds off the course, but strongly believe you can rip without being a "power" skier.
Other skis I like: I'm mainly a Kastle guy (RX12's, MX88's, FX94's, BMX98's), also have owned and enjoyed some Stocklis (Xl's, SS's, CX's, Rotors), and Blizzards (G-Powers, Titan Atlas's, Titan 9's, Ones, Cronus's). Race on Rossi's, also like the S7 and Super7. So smooth seems a theme here.
Place/conditions: Several weeks at Lake Louise, Canada and Killington VT. Everything from 10" of overnight fresh to scratchy hardpack with bumps.
Executive summary: Was prepared to love both these, based on reviews and previous demos. In fact, was looking forward to hurling a changeup at the Start Haus crew by championing a Blizzie flipcore. But at the end of the day, the Cochise's were puzzling, wonderful at some things, meh at others, and oddly picky about style. The Stormriders, OTOH, were weirdly nimble and forgiving for a Stockli, but just lighter than a 99 passenger school bus. Obviously, YMMV. And probably will.
Specifics: In steep untracked powder up to my boot tops, the Cochise's were unusually quick, easy to initiate, although not particularly fast to plane. Not a powder ski, after all. They preferred a neutral stance, and tended to dive if I applied tip pressure. The Stormriders were predictable, smoother than the Cochises, and unfazed by changes in consistency or terrain underneath, but not as quick or light from edge to edge. Obviously, less float, but pretty decent at coming up at speed.
In steep chop, trees here and there, and piles of light crud, the Cochise's were superb - think "turn," and they did - as long as I stayed neutral or even a touch on the heels, and let the ski do the work. Preferably with some rotary initiation and a slide finish. For a ski with very low splay and mild rocker, these felt like they had a ton of rocker in the tail. They were happy at speed, not so happy if I tried to force a traditional up-on-the-edge-right-now turn in response to a feature. "Just go for it," they seemed to be saying, "and stop trying to be refined."
The Stormriders liked a more traditional style of entry, with more edge angle. If given same, they were - to borrow Real Skier's phrase - a fullback with the moves of a halfback. Or I could just forget about turning and demolish anything in their path. If I mounted a flashlight on the tips, Stormrider 95's would work well after closing in place of a groomer on steeper pitches. Yet they were quicker and more fun in this terrain than my old, lamented MX98's, similar length.
In consolidated crud with firm bumps a few inches underneath, the Cochises began to get very particular about turn style. They wanted to be skied with low angles, with plenty of sliding and smearing. More new school than I expected, more than than say a pair of S7's that behave predictably except for fore-aft balance points. The Stormriders continued to just smash through lumpy or bumpy terrain, rather than come up, and preferred a more traditional entry and exit. They pivoted and slid respectably, but these are not a new school ski, and they could act their weight if you tried to goof on them. "Just pick a line and forget about the conditions," they said. "We'll get you through."
On hardpack with scattered ruts and crud, the Cochises felt uncertain. Thinking that this was a problem of F=M x a - after all, everyone agrees these like speed - I let them run. Not a solution; as the speed increased the tip and tail felt less stable, and as I increased edge angle for stability, the skis became harsh underfoot. Playing with my COM didn't noticeably help. To my surprise, then, they didn't charge in an enjoyable way, whether with front pressure or neutral, well up on edge or flat. Weird. I don't blame the ski; just not a design I can work with at speed, I guess.
On the Stormriders, I kept pace with some coaches freeskiing a closed course sans gates on FIS spec GS skis. The GPS said 52 mph, and these felt nowhere near their speed limit. But after a half day, tipping them on edge began to feel like my knees were hauling logs. By contrast, the Cochises always felt light and quick, even if they didn't really reward getting up there.
Conclusions: The Cochise is a really nice ski that just didn't work for me in enough ways. If I only wanted a ski for steep new chop and crud, this would be the best out there IMO. But for me, it's a big mountain ski that's happiest maching at low edge angles and neutral COM, which is counterintuitive to what my body knows about going fast. It seems to have one turn shape it prefers. I like to work a ski into a variety of turn shapes. As beefy as it was, I could do this on the Stockli. I could not on the Blizzard.
Thought about it some, tried to channel Sierra Jim, checked Fri Flyt flex charts, came to the conclusion that 1) Blizzies all tend to have relatively more longitudinal stiffness in front than many other brands, which probably helps them smash crud, but may make a rockered design less pliant initiating to decent edge angles unless you really mash the fronts. Which I'm too light and technical to do to a ski 2 cm above my head. (Although I have no issues with FIS WC GS skis of similar length, so ) By contrast, the Stormriders felt like they were somewhat softer in the tips and tails than earlier iterations although just as beefy in the middle.
2) I have a hunch Cochises (and prolly Bones etc.) are very stiff laterally, compared to their longitudinal flex and to comparable brands. This may make them seem harsh, rather than damp, on edge if you're lighter. Marshalolson said something like this about the carbon design on Wailer 99's, drawing a contrast between skis that are stiffer when running flat and skis that are stiffer when on edge. This also may reflect a comment SJ made a year or so back, about balancing longitudinal and torsional resistance to bending. IMHO, the Cochise likely doesn't squirm enough on edge for lighter skiers. I'd be interested in the new all wood version except that reviewers tend to say the woodies are just as stiff, just lighter.
The Stormrider 95 is a great ski that mostly did work for me as a finesse skier, and it manages to marry Stockli smoothness with actual, not marketing, rocker. But they weigh over a half pound per ski more than the not-light MX88. Which at my size makes for hard work after a few hours of variable snow. So if you want to, ah, storm through anything, even hardpack, at silly speeds, and still be able to wiggle through bumps or trees, this is your ski. Just remember to eat your third desert and then hit the gym for a quick 10 sets of squats at 400 lbs.