2014 K2 Rictor 82Xti 177cm: 2 sheets of titanium, 82mm underfoot, strong frontside type ski
2014 Blizzard Kabookie: 98mm, titanium re-inforcment, same design but softer than Bonafide
2014 Rossignol Soul 7: 180cm, new honeycomb tip and re-designed tail (the yellow ski)
Conditions: early season groomers (varying from loose to manmade concrete); set-up off-piste junk and crud, medium sized bumps. Good light conditions. No trees (not enough snow to venture off-piste).
Reviewer: 5 foot 9, 155lbs, fit, 36 y/o, skis 30-50 days a year. Likes to ski fast and primarily off-piste, technically oriented. Skis I like: Kastle MX, BMX, and FX lineup, Elan 888/999/1010, Fischer Progressor series, Rossi E88,
Overview: these are 3 skis that weren't really designed to compete with each other. One is a fairly narrow and stiff, designed as a frontside ski and groomer ripper: one is a 98mm do-everything model for good skiers; and one is a new-school 107mm ski with no metal, short sidecut, and huge tip.
All the more interesting for a comparo review. You will be able to find someone who says each of these skis can “do it all”: I wanted to find out if it were true, or just typical “my ski is better than yours” hyperbole.
Groomers: Groomers were challenging on this day. It had been warm the day before: the snow had set up overnight, and underneath, there was a nice slab of manmade concrete. It took some confidence to really lay it over, and some willingness to throw the COM down the hill. Wide skis can hook up, but they take much more commitment than narrower skis. Keep in mind, when I say carve, I mean skiing dynamically from turn to turn, getting extended in the belly of the turn, then letting the energy of the turn catapult me into the next turn. I am not talking about what most people consider “carving” to be: skiing lazy railroad tracks in big arcs. Any ski can do that, and that is how most skiers ski. Not any ski can be skied dynamically under a good, but not great, skier. Picture a racer: if I am saying a ski can “carve” then it can flow like a high performance or race ski.
The rictor holding well on sugar over ice:
With that said, the 82xti came out on top. No surprise. It tracked really well in the softer set up junk, and gripped unlike the others on the firm stuff. Very powerful. Also easily the most stable on groomers. It had a damp, but not dead feel: I don't know if this is classic K2, or more of a typical Head ski feel. I liked it a lot. Energy was about average, but grip was very good for an 82mm ski. At least as solid as the i-Titan I skied the day before, and more manageable in the same length, with an easier to engage tip. The tip especially was trustworthy; I was able to be more aggressive on the ski early in the turn. This is a very, very capable groomer ski, and definitely a ski that belongs up there with the best in this category.
The Kabookie was middling on groomers: it held well, but took more commitment to get that edge grip; wider skis always do. I really have to get aggressive in tipping that ski hard if I want it to actually carve, rather than just kind of stay in this skiddy, sort of carve arc. After a couple of runs, I had it arcing more confidently: it took more “down the fall line action” to get the tip hooked up and my body in the right spot to really get some edge angle, which was necessary for it not to slip, being wider. I could bend the tip (unlike the Bonafide, which is much stiffer in the tip and fights me): for my money, this is a much more suitable ski to how I ski and who I am than the Bone. Turn exit was solid, and confident; the tip was easy to engage. Ski was lacking in power, but on the other hand, it had grip if you had the commitment to find it. Turn arc: I could vary it nicely, which is important. Not really a great groomer ski, but a serviceable one. Would I take this on road trips and ski groomers now and then? Sure, it would be fine, and fun. Would I buy this ski if I skied a lot of groomers, or if groomers were a priority for me? No.
Kabookie on low angle soft groomers:
The Soul 7 was a ski that I was also interested in trying. I skied it exclusively off-piste previously, and was interested in how it carved. Being quite soft, with a pretty short sidecut and running length, I didn't know what to expect. Well, nothing to write home about. This was the only ski I had very little confidence on over concrete patches: I don't have the skill to get crazy edge angles and trust this ski enough to bite and not slide out. It kept wanting to cut loose from the edge: not enough stiffness, and fighting a ski that is a 107mm wide, only with a short running length and soft tip. Sure, I can ski low-angle railroad tracks on the ski, but see my definition of “carving” above for why that isn't what I am looking for here. Tip was flapping, ski was not that solid at speed either. I could trust it more on super low angle groomers, but on steeper, icier pitches, look elsewhere if you want to ski dynamically and don't have FIS racer commitment. I don't think this is an indictment of the ski itself: 107mm width skis are typically crap on groomers, more or less. Some are hyping this as a great carver on hard snow. I don't buy it. Either they are serious bad-ass skiers that are skiing with incredible commitment and edge angle, or we aren't talking about the same thing.
Crud: The crud pitch is short this time of year; 30 turns, so not too much to pull out of it. Most stable of the group was the 82xti: it was unshakable, very smooth, nimble, easy. I liked it a lot. The Kabookie was a bit less damp, less glued to the snow, which meant that I had to stay on the ski more: it wouldn't just do its thing and allow me to relax. In essence, a bit more nervous ride. Active with the feet was important, otherwise, I got kicked around if I stayed static. Provided I did stay on it, I could ski just as fast as the 82xti: it just took a bit more attention, which is true of Blizzard in general. They ski well, but are for people who know how to ski and don't want a luxury liner. I slightly prefer that feel: skis that make me ski well (and are rewarding) are typically the skis I like best. Finally, the Soul 7 got pushed around a bit; it isn't an earth mover. I had to keep it on edge. It was wonderfully playful, but had a definite speed limit. Great when I wanted to go “bop-bop-bop” down the fall line. Quick easy, light, nimble. Really fun. Not a ski that is a high speed crud buster; this ski likes to dance. It reminded me quite a bit of the REV 105 in that regard.
Rictor tip pivoting on small bumpity-bumps
Bumps: They all had their moments, but here, the 82xti was competent, but came across as the most work of the 3. It was a bit stiff, a bit hard to really force down into the trough. Width was nimble, but I did struggle on it a bit. I could adjust, but perhaps a bit softer ski would have been better. The Kabookie was solid in bumps: the tip profile and flex was working better in the bumps than the 82xti, and I felt more confident in being active with the feet, flowing more and keeping contact with the snow. The tail released well for bumps. I liked it. The Soul 7 was a real surprise: in keeping with the theme above: it was light, nimble, soft, and really a good bump ski. Wide for bumps, but easy to ski, not punishing, and if I had a day to figure it out, I think it would have felt right at home in any steep bump field. It was so easy to change direction, or to pressure the tip, with no fear of it being hung up in a trough. Looking at video we shot, the Soul 7 seems to have me looking the most comfortable. It isn't edgy either; there is not much risk if getting hung up. The attributes that make it a poor groomer ski really work well in bumps.
Soul 7 tip flex: check out the difference between pic 1 and 2. Great for bumps!
Conclusion: 3 different skis, 3 different goals. I would love to say there was a clear-cut winner, but that wouldn't be fair. Based on this demo, the 82xti is the fun, go-fast ski for groomers and crud. The Kabookie does everything pretty well and is strong. The Soul 7 has a more playful character that comes alive off-piste, and isn't looking for a meathead as a partner.