SKIS TRIED, 2013-14 SEASON (23 models, 25 skis total)
[N.B.: this list is comprehensive -- these are the only skis I tried this season; these, plus the six I demoed last year (Volkl RTM84 & Kendo, Head Titan & Rev 85, Line Prophet, K2 Bolt), are the only skis I've been on in the past decade -- other than my old Atomic SL & GS boards.]
Skis are listed in order of waist width, and arbitrarily divided into four groups. Those I bought for or during this season are listed in blue. Testing was mostly done at Mammoth. Opinions subject to change, as I get more time on these and other skis, and emerge more fully from under my cabbage leaf .
< 80 MM
170 cm 2014 Head Mya 7 (66 mm, 14.3 m). This is a woman's version of the iSupershape Speed -- same sidecut, same two sheets of metal -- but with a somewhat softer flex, which is supposed to make it a more versatile for all-mountain use by lighter men (I've not been on the Speed). I risked buying it without demoing, based on strong recommendations found elsewhere, but fortunately I like the ski. Damned if it wasn't a hard ski to find -- I'd be surprised if Head imported more than a dozen in this length into the entire country, and it's been discontinued. Rarer than owning a pair of Stocklis! :)
Interestingly, compared to my Laser SC, the Mya's more even flex pattern (discussed last post) didn't seem to cause a difference in overall behavior -- they both drove about the same on freshly groomed snow (didn't get a chance to compare them on hard snow or ice). Both carve very well in medium- to short-radius turns (though the Mya perhaps favors a slightly shorter radius than the SCs). However, at the same time (and I think is where the difference in flex has its effect for me), my preliminary reaction was that the Mya 7 felt somewhat easier and less exacting than the SCs -- I noticed that I felt less worn out than I would have after pushing equivalently hard on the latter -- and also somewhat more stable at speed. I say preliminary because I only had a half-day on the Myas. Plus I need to get them onto ice and moguls.
On freshly groomed snow (soft, after a storm), The Myas did appear to have two downsides vs. the SCs. First, the Myas sometimes felt like they were close to breaking loose, a sensation I didn't experience on the SCs. I attribute this to the difference in width -- I was likely closer to over-skiing the soft conditions on the 66 mm Myas than on the 72 mm SCs. Second, I (for the first time in my life) had tip dive on a groomer. I was transitioning from soft packed powder to very soft packed powder, and the forebody of my outside ski dove under the snow, causing a hard fall when the ski stopped short. Don't know why this happened -- I've certainly been on skis narrower than the Mya. Maybe it was the binding delta (4 mm for skis + bindings, which tipped me further forward than I like -- I prefer 2 mm or less), maybe I was charging too hard for the conditions, or maybe it was a freak accident. I should mention I also had another one of these freak accidents on the 116 mm Volkl One, where the tip suddenly dove when crossing a snowfield, sending me spearing helmet-first into snow.
170 cm 2012 Head X-Shape STX (68 mm, 12.1 m). My initial impression was very favorable, but I only had two short runs on them (I was borrowing them from another skier, who had to wait at the bottom of the hill while I was on them). I got the sense they would work well in soft snow (like my old slalom skis), but didn't get a chance to test in those conditions. OTOH, they might be a bit too soft for me -- I didn't get enough time on them to reach a comfort level where I could really lay them over.
170 cm 2012 Stockli Laser SC (72 mm, 14.9 m). Discussed above
I like skis with specialized skills. Consequently, I'm coming to realize that skis in this range are generally lower-performing for me, because they lack the firm-snow performance of the narrower skis, yet don't have enough width to give me any particular benefit in powder. I suspect I would only prefer them in conditions for which they were specialized, say spring corn, but didn't have a chance to try them in that.
177 cm 2014 Head Rev 80 (81 mm, 14.8 m). Disappointing groomer performance for a relatively narrow ski.
168 cm 2013 Kastle MX88 (88 mm, 17.5 m). Good groomer performance relative to its width, but too stiff to work well for someone my weight in powder. Sold them after the season. Full review here: http://www.epicski.com/t/81158/kastle-mx88-review/180#post_1724651
177 cm 2014 Salomon Q90 (89 mm, 17.4 m). A fun and easy ski, but performance on the groomers is of course not up to carving (< 75 mm) ski standards, and it's likely not the right width to work well for me in challenging off-piste conditions (as I explained in the previous post, it seems I need either a quick, soft slalom ski or a true powder ski).
178 cm 2014 Nordica Steadfast (90 mm, 18 m). I liked this ski (notwithstanding the groomer performance issues mentioned above). Similar in behavior to the Q90, though I think I somewhat preferred this ski to the Q90, since IIRC it felt somewhat stronger. Some have described this ski as too stiff and thus a handful, but I didn't have that reaction at all. I've seen demo versions of these for cheap on Ebay, and I might pick up a pair for use as a rock ski at Baldy, where they might work well in the the corn-like late- (and early-) season conditions.
91 - 110 MM
Some of these I've reviewed earlier. Unfortunately the only ones from this group I was able to evaluate in deep snow were the Rock n Rolls, Sick Day 95, and Vagabond. The Sick Days were evaluated in a foot of fresh Sierra cement, on an intermediate trail only (for reasons apparent from the capsule review below). Both RnRs were evaluated in 2 feet of fresh Sierra snow in Avalanche No. 2 The Vagabond was evaluated in about 3' of fresh in the tree runs in Dragon's Tail, 2' of fresh in the trees off chair 12, and a foot of fresh in the trees off chair 8. See pics below for terrain and conditions. Note that I missed the critical 99 mm - 103 mm segment :
173 cm 2013 Head Rock n Roll (93 mm, 17.9 m). As mentioned above, borderline short for me. Mounted at -0.5 cm, with 3 mm of delta, I had horrible tip dive in 2' of fresh Sierra Cement. Moving the mount point back to -1.3 cm, and reducing the delta to 1.5 mm, helped, but tip dive was still far too much to be a good powder ski for me .... so I bought a used pair of the 180s. Strong, above-average groomer performance for its width. Might make a good corn ski.
180 cm 2013 Head Rock n Roll (94 mm, 19.5 m). Less tip dive than the 173, but still too much. The 3 mm delta may be the problem (or maybe not). Strong, above-average groomer performance for its width. Might make a good corn ski. I didn't get to do a direct comparison -- skied these a week or two or three apart -- but if forced to guesstimate I'd rank the groomer performance of those from 89 mm - 95 mm as: Sick Day 95 << Watea 96 << Q90 < Steadfast < Rock n Roll < Stormrider 95.
174 cm 2014 Stockli Stormrider 95 (95 mm, 19.7 m). Impressive groomer performance relative to its width (though cranking turns on a 95 is not something I'd want to do all day -- it's fatiguing). Didn't get to try in deep snow, but my guess is that it would be a bit too stiff to work well for me in those conditions.
179 cm 2014 Line Sick Day 95 (95 mm, 18 m). Tried these in a foot of fresh Sierra cement. Skiing Magazine's Ski Of The Year, but I have to say I hated them -- they were absolutely wrong for my skiing style. I like to have my hips ahead of my feet, but as soon as I did this with the Sick Day it felt like entire forebody just folded on me, in one case sending me head-over-heels. There's just not enough ski (flex pattern is way too soft) in front of the bindings to support me. I swapped these out quickly, rather than risking myself on them in more serious terrain.
178 cm 2014 Fischer Watea 96 (96 mm, 22 m). Reviewed earlier this thread.
172 cm 2014 Dynastar Cham 97 (97 mm, ~16 m). Reviewed earlier this thread.
170 cm 2014 Volkl Mantra (98 mm, 22 m). Too stiff.
173 cm 2014 Blizzard Bonafide (98 mm, ~20 m). Reviewed earlier this thread.
180 cm 2014 Blizzard Bonafide (98 mm, 21 m). Reviewed earlier this thread.
179 cm 2014 Blizzard Peacemaker (104 mm, ~20 m). Reviewed earlier; unskiable because of extreme forward binding position
180 cm 2014 Rossi Soul 7 (106 mm, 17 m). Reviewed earlier this thread.
177 cm 2014 Nordica Vagabond (107 mm, 23 m). I liked this ski, felt right on it from the start, and had one of my best days of the year on it, skiing the trees under chair 12 during a midweek storm. Because I had the trees nearly to myself (midweek + windy storm + less-frequented corner of the mountain + trees), the storm was able to substantially refresh the snow for each run. Nevertheless, after trying the Volkl One I decided to buy the latter instead. Yes, the Vagabond is better on the groomers than the Volkl One. But to my mind that doesn't make it more versatile, since that's just the difference between mediocre (Vagabond) and cafeteria tray (Volkl One) -- with either ski I'm just making my way to the next off-piste run. The difference that *is* important to me is that the Vagabond is good in 3D snow, while the Volkl One is great. This goes back to my theme of liking more specialized skis. Physically, the Vagabond is longer than its listed size (measures out at 180+) (I liked it at this size).
The only skis from this group I got to try in fresh soft snow were the Volkl One (Dragon's Tail, Hangman's) and Aramada JJ (intermediate run only, for reasons apparent from the capsule below). All the others, including the Volk One, I tried in cut-up and wind-blown pow, soft moguls, and breakable crust two days after a 2-foot storm. In particular, I spent a focused day directly comparing the Volkl One, Volkl Two, Q115, and Super 7 -- taking all four on the same series of off-piste runs at Mammoth, a couple of days after a heavy storm, to facilitate a direct comparison: (1) the chute that's skier's left off Climax (2) Monument to Paranoid 2; (3) the trees under 12. Pictures of most of the runs and conditions used for evaluation are attached below.
178 cm 2014 Salomon Q115 (113 mm, 16.4 m). A nice wood-core ski with a good feel, but it was not quick-turning enough for me in the moguls and tight chutes (though a bit better than the Super 7). Decent but not great solidity when going fast through broken snow.
175 cm 2014 Armada JJ (115 mm, 14 m). A popular ski, but not the right ski for me -- as soon as I got on it I felt uncomfortable, like there wasn't enough ski there (felt too short and unstable). Accordingly, I didn't take it into any serious terrain and swapped it out immediately.
176 cm 2014 Volkl One (116 mm, 23.5 m). I bought this ski. It felt right as soon as I got on it (in soft snow). It felt solid, but at the same time highly maneuverable, which gave me a lot of confidence. And it encourages playfulness -- I found myself looking for terrain features to bounce off of, which was a lot of fun. It also worked quite well in the large but soft moguls that were just beginning to form out of the recent storm. For me, their only downside in 3D snow is that they aren't great at handling rough, cut-up snow at high speed. In fact, none of the skis I tried were good at this. It would be interesting to find a pair that is -- something that allows me to really charge in those conditions. It would be fun to try a competition ski.
180 cm 2014 Rossi Super 7 (116 mm, ~20 m). This is a popular ski, but I didn't care for it -- it felt brittle and glassy to me, which was a problem when trying to make fast GS turns through broken snow -- it didn't absorb surface irregularities well, and didn't feel solid. At the same time, it was hard to make short, fast turns with this ski. So, at least for me, it was both slow-turning and lacking in solidity.
183 cm 2014 Atomic Bent Chetler (123 mm, 19 m). As mentioned above, I found it unskiable because of the crazy-forward binding position.
176 cm 2014 Volkl Two (124 mm, 24.2 m). Volkl One on steriods. I didn't need the extra width vs. the One (at least in Sierra powder), and it made the ski literally painful when on edge on the groomers, because of how hard they made my boot top press into the medial side of my outside leg (because of the substantial moment arm created by the width of the ski). Also stiffer than the One, which for me actually made the ski a bit rougher on rough snow. And they're slower-turning than the One, principally because of the added width. They may work better with a heavier skier. [I read somewhere than their added beefiness makes them a better charger than the Volkl One, but it didn't work quite that way for me -- I think for a charger I'd want something comparable in flex to the One, but longer and damper.]
PROVING GROUNDS FOR SOFT SNOW TESTING AT MAMMOTH (conditions accurately pictured for Chair 12 trees, Dragon's Tail, and Avalanche Chute No. 2; snow was deeper than that shown in all other photos):
[Should be "Avalanche," not worth correcting photo :). ]
Edited by chemist - 10/12/14 at 9:01pm