Product: Rossignol Experience 100
Length Tested: 182
Dimensions/Turn Radius: 140-100-130 (but may be still 98 in the waist), 18m radius
Camber (select one, delete the rest): Early Rise Tip w/ camber
Mount point: Suggested (I ended up maybe 1-2 mm forward of the line)
Other Skis in Class:
* Blizzard Bonafide, Volkl Mantra, Stockli Stromrider 95, Nordica Hell&Back, Kastle MX98
Environment & Conditions:
Location of Test: Squaw Valley
Number of Runs: Most of the day
Snow Conditions: Firm and icy, with pockets of windblown snow
Demo or Own: Demo
Ski Days/Season: 50
Years Skiing: 36
Aggressiveness: (select one, delete the rest): Aggressive(Driver)
Current Quiver: 182 Rossignol Radical GS FIS, 187 Blizzard Bonafide, 190 DPS Wailer 112RP.
Home Area: Squaw Valley
Preferred Terrain (select one/all, delete the rest): off-piste
Experience 100 is a new incarnation of a fairly highly rated Rossi Experience 98. I have not been on the old model, so my reference points would be my day ski- 187 Blizzard Bonafide. This season I also put some hours (filled with some drills) on a "new for me" Rossi Radical GS race ski, so I think I have a pretty good reference for a real carving performance. The test ski that I took out had a fresh 1/2 base/side Starthaus tune, which undoubtedly contributed to the way the ski felt.
Camber profile and rocker profile:
The way this ski is built is fairly peculiar relative to the other 98 skis. First, as you can see from the photos it has a ton of camber. Moreover, when the ski is unloaded that camber extends all the way tip to tail. The rockered profile only appears when the ski is loaded flat ( again, see the pictures). Strangely, the rockered section is marked with an arrow on the base, it almost looks like Rossi was worried that people won't believe that the ski even has rocker, so they felt compelled to point it. The design may have some implication to the way the ski feels on groomers, more to that later. The base has also a rocker mark at the tail, but that's clearly a marketing decision, there is no tail rocker just a good old upturned tail. The tail is another distinct feature of the ski, it's wide, and unabashedly substantial. There is no trace of pintail or taper, the widest point of the tail is right where the upturn starts. The ski is fairly heavy, as befits a ski with metal. The flex feels a tad stiffer than the Bonafide but it may have to do more with the fact that my "Bones" are 3 years old and saw a fair number of days. The overall flex is fairly even, the tail feels stiff but not as stiff as the old Mantra tail. E100 is NOT a noodle by any measure. I ski my bonafides in 187, the 182 E100 was only a few cm shorter, and it was plenty of ski for my 6/190 frame. The top size E100 (190-something) would be a freight train.
Rocker marks (tip and tail) on the bases:
The day was fairly typical for sking Squaw in bad conditions- the upper mountain had plenty of coverage, but it felt mostly as wet snow and froze, so a lot of the off trail skiing was ice covers with some refrozen crud, and some wind packed snow if you are lucky. Overall, pretty challenging conditions for a ski test. I started with a few runs on the fresh corduroy, as I wanted to evaluate the carving performance. It was pretty impressive. The only other 95+mm ski I was on that gave me a comparable grip was the Stockli SR107. No doubt a fresh quality tune helped, but the ski was downright fun on the partially frozen groomers off Squaw Creek and Red Dog. Compared to my GS skis, E100 feels mellower, softer, and slower. But the attributes that make a Rossi GS ski fun are definitely there, there is plenty of grip, the ski feels dead solid and damp, and you can definitely feel that tail. There is no tip flap that I could feel and I went pretty fast. The camber rocker relationship leads to an interesting feeling, when the ski is unloaded it puts the tip right on the snow, so the transition feels nice and planted. That continues throghout the turn as the tip remains on the snow after you put the ski on the edge. So you feel the whole length of the ski throughout the turn. However, the rocker comes into play when the ski is loaded, so trying to modulate the turn shape by pressuring the tip does not quite feel the same as on a race ski. The tail has a good rebound, but noticeably less than a race ski does. But, as all mountain skis go the E100 is a pretty spectacular carver (again, the caveat is the fresh quality tune put in that ski). Bonafide is also a very competent carver, but if I had to ski groomers all day on a 98, I would choose the E100 over the Blizzard.
After a quick lap on the Bones confirmed that the upper mountain had healthy coverage I headed up to the Siberia lift line and bumped into Xela, who told me - hey, National chute is open. So we headed to Palisades to find the National chute in pristine conditions and with no crowds (we even stopped to take pictures- not a normal way for a first run off Palisades). Nothing else off the Palisades was open (and nothing looked skiable - this year Palisades lines are more in the rock climbing mode). This is a low snow year, so the chute had a fairly gentle rollover entry, then a pretty steep choke mid-section with packed 40+ deg snow, and then a long soft chalky steep wider section dumping you on the runout across a frozen rutty traverse. E100 had no problem gripping in the choke section, but it was not particularly quick across the fall line, which is often a liability in these kinds of places. Snapping off turns in the soft lower section was pure delight. So, no problem with off trail competence. The rest of the day was at times futile search for the good snow across the mountain. E100 felt best in wide open spaces where you can run GS turns across the fall line and load that tail. The upturned tail is gentle enough and releases well not to create any problems in the steeps. Quick work in tight spaces was not E100 forte, but I can see a stronger technical skier than me making it work quite well. The telling moment was my second run down the National chute in the afternoon. I was a bit late shifting the weight on one of the turns in the steep section, and on my Bones I could still quickly pivot the skis across the fall line and get back onto the rhythm, on the E100 I had to wait a tiny bit to regain the balance and by that time I was to close to the rock wall and had to brake and hop-turn to get back into the line. So as the line gets harder, the E100 gets more demanding. Again probably not a problem for a really good technical skier. Generally, as the terrains gets sketchier the Bonafide tend smaller, but the E100 seems to get bigger. Nevertheless it's a very solid ski and I would not have a problem skiing it in any terrain ( that edge grip was also confidence- inspiring). There was no powder to be found, the snow never really became soft anywhere except the National Chute, so there was very little chance to evaluate float, but based on the width and the rocker shape, I don't anticipate any problems with that. As expected, the tail was a bit of a liability in hard frozen bumps, but nothing extreme. I was happy to ski on it all day and never felt the need to get back on my old ski.
Testing the E100 in the National Chute at Squaw, (image by @Xela)
So, who is this ski for and is it better than the Bonafide? The quick answer to the last question for the vast majority of people is generally "no", but a better answer is "it depends". The Bone is better off piste, is a more versatile ski by some margin and has this magic combination of rocker shape, stiffness and flex that comes handy in a lot of situations. On the other hand a skier who knows how to work a tail on a ski and likes to do that would find E100 a more exciting partner. I can see instructors going for E100 over the Bones (or someone who teaches carving turns in the morning and rips the off-piste in the afternoon). Anyone who regularly skis in icy conditions or spends a significant time on groomers, would really like that type of ski. The cliche of "wide GS ski" probably describes the E100 better than anything else. Someone here said that this is what the Mantra should have been in the first place, I fully agree. With the changes on the Mantra this year, I'd say that this is what the Mantra is this year and it may be the only normal price choice for the people who liked the original Mantra for the right reasons (with other pricier choices being Kastle and Stockli).
Which brings me to the reason why this ski IMO would not sell so well despite being a great ride. The graphics is just awful. It's bland and uninspiring to the point of you scratching your head and asking "what were they thinking". The old E98 was not a stunner, but had a confident restrained design that appealed to some people. The current design will appeal mostly to people who like to spray-paint their skis. The few design features on the ski are black on black and could only be seen under a certain angle. The honeycomb tip is dull yellowish grey, which gets totally lost on a black ski, same true for the Rossi logo, black on black does not work. The top sheet is a catalog of missed opportunities. Whoever designed the Soul 7 or the Rossi race line clearly went on vacation for the E100 design. Its a shame.
Bottom line: Real Mantra for real skiers. Not a Bonafide killer, but a great ski in its own right.
Other notes; This is my first time on the new Look heel, the click in is a lot more positive than before, it looks sleeker too. Good binding before, and still good binding.
Edited by alexzn - 2/27/14 at 12:14am