2015 Ski reviews from the SIA show at Copper Basin
About me: 5 foot 9, 155lbs. I am a little rusty this year, 22 hours on the snow prior to this show (blame poor weather at my home hill). In a normal year, I probably get maybe 30 days on the hill, around 100-125 hours of skiing, as many of my days are on lunch breaks for 2 hours at a time. Still, I am a strong skier, and tend to ski off-piste, bumps, crud, trees, and also groomers when they are good. I like skis that give me edge engagement early if I ask for it, are progressive in flex (can be bent up when given edge angle, aren’t so stiff that I am just skiing the sidecut, or so soft that they fold), and a tail that finishes the turn so that I can move into the next turn on balance.
Conditions: mostly softer snow, softer bumps, some crud. It had snowed a couple of feet a few days prior, so overall conditions were soft yet skied out.
General demo impressions: have ski designs hit a wall? It certainly seems that way. Skis are changing a bit from year to year, but I am not convinced they are necessarily getting better. Sure, here and there, things are improving, but elsewhere, some older designs (see the MX series, which has been only sightly modified since 2008) still is at the top of the heap. Some brands took a step backwards, or at least changed their focus from high performance to more relaxing. Then again, there is a ski that comes out of nowhere (the Blizzard Power 800s) and absolutely rips. The Kastle FX is a ski that is “traditional” and outperforms most other skis off-piste. A ski with a fairly neutral design (the Fischer Ranger 88) skis really well, but there is nothing revolutionary about the design; just a great package that works. It’s technology could be circa 2009. Other designs (the Bushwacker) are headed into their 4th year: the Cochise is reverting back to the original 1st gen design. When looking at skis, we see a lot of early rise, some very minimal early rise, or no early rise, but a softer tip that functions the same way. Some skis have taper at the tip, some have taper at the tail, some have early rise tail, some have flat tails. Flex is all across the board.
I do wonder if ski designs are at a point where they can be changed (for change’s sake) but that the improvements year over year have plateaued.
The nice thing is that I can compare all new skis to the MX88, which really hasn’t changed over the years. It gives me a nice baseline.
Frontside-groomer. Conditions were actually pretty good for these types of skis. Runs were cut up, varying between soft snow crud piles and firm manmade setup snow underneath.
Head i-Magnum 170cm: no real changes for 2014: ERA 3.0 sidecut, KERS system.
Quick review: only 1 run spent on this ski: feels again like a typical Head. Classic Monster IM series feel; damp, smooth, powerful, no surprises. It is a quick turner, wants to rip of slalom radius arcs, but without the slalom ski finishing kick, which makes it a great cruiser as well, also a great ski for doing drills and working on skills. Bumps: quite easy, tip is pliable, fun ski there. It didn’t have quite the edge bite of the more specialized carving machines: this is more of a narrow all-mountain tool than a pure carver. Loading it on firm snow, it didn’t quite bite as early, nor did the Magnum hold on that scrubbed off snow quite as well as the specialist skis. It was more than adequate though, and in choppy snows, excelled with it’s blend of more mellow tip and tail. There wasn’t any sort of hooky characteristics on the Magnum: true to it’s roots as a narrower frontside ride, it handled variable snow well. A great choice for those wanting a versatile frontside ski; the epitome of a good teaching ski, that can do most anything you ask of it, at most any speed.
Who would buy this ski: skier who wants versatile frontside performance, good carving ability, and a wide speed as well as performance range.
Head i-Speed 177cm;
no real changes for 2014: ERA 3.0 sidecut, KERS system. It is grippy, smooth, powerful: feels damp and SOLID, just like most any high performance Head laminate titanium ski. No surprises.
I liked the grip on this one, out of all the Supershapes, the best. Likewise, stability is really high. It has a quick feel, tight radius, easy to engage tip, but feels super solid once on edge. Moderate power out of the turn. No real top end, although it wasn’t quite as stable as the Blizzard or Stockli tested here. Easy to ski: like the Magnum and also Progressor, could be handled by a wide range of skiers. Nice release, very powerful yet refined.
Who would buy this ski: a frontside skier looking for something a bit more slower speed friendly and tighter radius than the 800s.
Blizzard Power 800s 174cm
72mm underfoot, slight early rise tip, 2 sheets of metal. NOT flip core, very traditional construction, softer than the SLR and GSR IQ (I have owned both). Lighter and as responsive as the Supersonic, but has GSR-like stability. 18m dual radius.
Quick review: a very, very impressive ski. I also own a pair, and am constantly impressed with the best-in-class stability yet nimble feel of this ski. It feels more like a 15m radius on the snow. Super quick, a great ski for drills, or going REALLY fast. Not many skis can boast that. Flex is moderate: not overbearing like some metal laminate Blizzard skis, easy to bend if you know what you are doing, easy to generate power, easy to arc in slalom turns as well as big GS. Not a park and ride ski: needs skills to come alive, but a great tool for building those release and feet movement skills. It is basically a G-power without the IQ reinforcement, and as a result, lacks a touch of it’s power and stability, but is easier at slow speeds, more versatile, still a great hard snow ski. Still crazy stable: smooth for a Blizzard, which can be a bit unyielding on their other skis. EASY to ski though for such a big stick. I think for most people, it is a better choice than the G-Power; it can ski slower, it isn’t as demanding, with very little shaved off the top. Compared to others in it’s class, it is a superb choice. The RX12 matches it, is even more versatile but not quite as laterally stiff, but feels very different on the snow.
Who would buy this ski: a technical skier wanting a versatile turn radius, great stability, and surprising forgiveness out of a carver.
Blizzard G-power 174cm
75mm underfoot, variable radius (stated is 18m, actual is more like 15-16m), very slight early rise tip. Laterally stiff, similar layup to the Power 800s, but with an added carbon bonded section to stiffen the ski underfoot.
Quick review: a downright thrilling ski. If the Laser GS is a Maserati Quattroporte, a refined high speed power ski, the G-power is a Ferrari 451 Italia. More demanding, but ever more rewarding. This thing was ridiculous in stability for “only” a 174cm. Super quick, has no equal in power. Edge grip was off the charts for a 75mm waist ski: I hit some “blue snow” underneath the new stuff (scraped off mid-day groomers) and the ski would just hook up and sling me. I had to ski it well: that means no park and ride! Get into the belly of the turn, relax (or pull your knees up), pull your feet back, move down the hill with your COM, get tipping that inside foot early. Otherwise, the ski is plunky and unresponsive, feels like a long radius ski. If you ski it actively, you can arc out tight turns with incredible power. If you can’t make those moves though, look at a different ski, but if you can, this may be your ride. FWIW, I spent 3 groomer runs on it, loved every second, but it was a lot of ski, even skiing it cleanly. I was kind of happy to move on (it was a bit tiring ski), but this is a ski I would not hesitate to own, as long as I was skiing on top of my game.
Who would buy this ski: a skilled skier looking for a supremely stable and powerful GS cheater carver. Not for the timid or less skilled.
Stockli Laser GS (non FiS) 180cm
I don’t think this ski has changed much from previous years. Skied in 180cm: 18m radius, fairly stiff flex.
Quick review: did 2 laps: a series of steep bumps, the rest groomers. The ski was surprisingly nimble in the bumps! I followed a friend down a steep bump line (he is an excellent bump skier, grew up in the East) and stayed with him the whole time. The key on this ski is dorsi-flexion and pushing those tips down. Once in the trough, it has a predictable flex and is easy to release. You can’t be timid though, gotta keep the torso fall line and commit. On groomers, it is what one would expect. No speed limit, awesome edge hold. It was also easy to ski, much easier than one would expect, easier than the G-Power in a shorter length. More of a high speed cruiser than a pure race carver. With that said, commit to the turn (a recurring theme of this ski) and watch it hurtle you across the fall line once you set those edge and load the ski. A boat load of fun. Not tiring whatsoever. Easy to get your ticket pulled.
Who would buy this ski: skier looking for a ripping frontside ride that is a good Master’s GS ride but also a capable freeski.
Fischer Progressor 900 170cm
This was the first ski I got on that was on the narrower frontside size. I have owned the 10+, the 9+, and the 900 in the past. This pair is wider, at 75mm underfoot, features a new early-rise tip, 2 sheets of metal, but is softer than previous versions, which was close to the WC RC in flex. This ski is 15% softer, I would think, based on both flexing it on the wall and on the snow.
Quick review: I had a solid 4 runs on this; 2 backside steep bump runs, and 2 groomer runs. Quickness and agility have definitely increased on this ski; it gets onto and off edge quickly. With the softer flex and easy to bend tip, it has more of a slalom characteristic than the previous generation, making it more approachable and snappier. Characteristic damp and solid Fischer feel. It has, however, lost a bit of top-end power. Bump performance was very good: the tip handles the extension well, the tail is not too aggressive. Edge hold was what one would expect: not overpowering, but solid. I found the ski to be very fun, but at really high speeds in GS arcs, not burly enough. It felt like a hybrid of the old Progressor 8+ and 9+, but with a modern design. If you aren’t skiing warp speed, the 170cm length is a good choice for someone my size. For GS turns, get the 175cm. This is a more approachable ski than the old, super stiff 9+.
Who would buy this ski? Someone looking for a fairly versatile, quick and snappy frontside ride that also is decent in bumps.