Here’s a quick answer to 2 of your questions, and then a longer response...
Answer #1: I myself just went from a 188cm K2 Mod-X to a 176cm Elan Mantis 662 for my off-piste skiing, and I definitely noticed a difference do to the shorter length. Its much easier to stay centered over the shorter ski. I now see myself improving again, where as I felt like my longer Mod-X were holding me back. As a result of this, bumps are now starting to seem bigger and steep slopes seem flatter.
Answer #2: I like Oboe’s & Gonzo's suggestion of a Rossi B2 in a 170cm for you.
While I’m not an advanced skier like yourself, I am an upper intermediate skier who recently demoed several mid-fat skis, and my opinions may be of value to you.
I’m 5'10" and 180#, 41 years old, ski black diamonds Oregon & Washington comfortably (but that doesn't need my technique is good...), and an occasional double black. My bumps and powder skiing need some work. I carve (not skid) my turns just fine on any groomed run.
I was recently looking for a new pair of skis, too. I decided for a 75mm waist to give me decent float in soft snow without losing edge to edge quickness for skiing bumps I wanted a moderate flex ski because I didn’t want a stiff ski for skiing bumps and some occasional powder. I also wanted a ski that lend itself to shorter radius turns to help with skiing trees, as I didn’t want to work too hard to do repeated shorter radius turns. And finally, it would be nice if these new skis were stable for bombing an occasional groomer and had good edge grip for when the top of steep slopes get icy.
I demoed 6 different skis on 3 different days (I demoed a couple of skis twice), and here’s a summary of what I found...
K2 Axis XP, 115-78-105, demoed in 174cm. Demoed these two different days when fresh snow was falling from the skis. Both days had 8 to 12 inches of fresh powder to be skied and I hated the XPs in it - they felt "planky". They’re stiff, and even at 174cm they tended towards long radius turns. Their 78mm waist felt slow going from edge to edge. Not what I’d call a "cheat ski".
Salomon Scream 10 Xtra Hot Pilot, 116-82-108, demoed in 175cm. Seems like for an off-piste ski, the 82mm waiste would make a lot of sense. But for me, it didn’t. I’m more likely to be skiing bumps than fresh powder because other people get to the fresh stuff while I’m stuck at work. Finally, what fresh powder I get to ski is usually only 10 to 12 inches deep, and a 75mm wide ski is just fine for that.
Demoed the Xtra Hots on snow 2 or 3 days old, and found them to be cumbersome in bumps, and noticeably slower than 75mm skis edge to edge on groomed slopes. They preferred longer radius turns and they were very stable when bombing groomed runs. So I decided that this ski didn’t make a lot of sense for me.
Salomon Scream 10 Hot Pilot, 110-75-100, demoed in 175cm in 2 or 3 day old snow. Okay in bumps, very stable, very forgiving (I really tested these and they kept forgiving my mistakes), great edge hold. I liked everything about this ski except that it preferred longer radius turns over shorter turns. Similar in stiffness to the Xtra Hot.
Salomon Scream 8 Pilot, 110-75-100, demoed in 175cm, once in 2 or 3 day old snow, and once on a day that had 10 to 12 inches of fresh powder. I loved these skis in the bumps, as I really felt that they were my ticket to improving my bump skiing. Unfortunately, that was the only place I liked them. They tended towards long radius turns in fresh powder, so I thought it was too much work to do shorter radius turns. (This really tells you where my powder skiing is, LOL!!!) Of all the skis I demoed, these were the only ones where I had no problems finding an upper speed limit on groomed snow, and I tried everything to try to ski faster on them. They’re softer flexing than the Hot and Xtra Hot Pilots.
Volkl 724 Pro, 115-77-104, demoed in 170cm on a day that had 10 to 12 inches of fresh snow. Would have liked to have tried the 177cms, but that is one very popular ski. Stopped by the Volkl tent several times looking for the 177cms, but they were always being demoed by someone else.
In a 170cm, they were surprisingly stable. I could ski these in powder, but they felt a bit stiff. They tended towards a moderate radius turn, but maybe that’s because I couldn’t bend them very well... hmmm... they were a bit stiff. The 724 Pros are a nice ski that I really liked, but I felt like I was a couple of years away from really being able to enjoy a ski like this. I need to improve some more, first.
Rossi B2, 113-76-103, demoed in a 176cm on a day that had 10 to 12 inches of fresh snow. I took immediate liking to these skis as I was tempted to buy a pair the day of the demo (the shop offered something like 15% off if you bought on demo day). They were what I was looking for. They were easy to do short radius turns in soft snow and still pretty stable for bombing groomed runs. However, I wanted to try these in harder snow before buying.
I missed my chance to demo the Elan Mantis 662 (116-76-102), so I sent the Elan rep an email message asking him to compare the 662 with the Rossi B2. Without telling him what I was looking for, he replied that he felt that the Rossi B2 was a little bit stiffer, a little lighter, and little faster edge to edge than the 662. However, he also said that the 662 has been edge grip and that the 662 is more stable.
I tried to find a shop in Oregon or Washington where I could demo the 662, but couldn’t. So I bought them on a leap of faith (LOL!) in a 176cm. I bought a light weight binding for them. I can’t tell you the difference between the B2 and the 662 in terms of weight, stiffness, edge to edge quickness, or stability. I’d have to ski them on the same day to be able to tell any difference. Like the B2s, the 662s are very friendly for short turns and in soft snow. Also, the first thing I noticed about my 662s in harder snow is the edge grip - very tenacious. I’ve also skied my 662s very fast on groomed runs (at faster speeds than I tested the B2s), so they’re a very fun all mountain ski for me.
[ January 16, 2004, 09:36 AM: Message edited by: Dave86 ]