Environment & Conditions
Location of Test: Crystal Mt, WA
Number of Runs: 2-3 each
Snow Conditions: Soft boot+ deep snow that got mostly cut up quickly at the top, transitioning to heavy wet packable snow transitioning to a little slush at the bottom by the end of the day.
Demo or Own: Demo
Height/Weight: 6' 200lb.
Ski Days/Season: 20-25
Years Skiing: 28
Current Quiver: Elan Spire (999) & Praxis Concept. In general, I don't like stiff skis. Keep that in mind when reading my thoughts.
Home Area: Stevens Pass, WA
Preferred Terrain bumps, off-piste, trees
My review disclaimer: I'm not the best at identifying the nuances in skis. This is very much a layman's review, and is not going to be as good as what you get from some of the excellent reviewers on this site. I still bother to type it up because it helps me remember what I think of the skis and hey, maybe it'll help someone else. That said, what I aim to do first and foremost is decide if I like the ski, and then try to determine what characteristics about it make me either like or not like it. Sometimes I can figure it out, sometimes I can't.
Note: This is the order I skied them in. I know that often, especially if you only get a few runs on a ski, your perceptions can be affected by the ski you were just on even if you don't realize it. So, keep that in mind.
Nordica Nrgy 100 (177)
I was surprised at how much splay the tips and tails have in this ski. That, combined with the 177 length, had me a little apprehensive about how it would perform for me. Well, I'm not sure how they managed to do it with this shape, but this was plenty of ski for me. It felt very stable and responsive on the groomers, not squirrely like I was worried about, and stable at speed in the crud too. Definitely has less pop than what I recall from the Hell and Back, and definitely more forgiving than the old Enforcer. In the fresh snow, it had a very nice predictable feel, it simply did exactly what I expected. The only place I didn't care for it as much was in some bumps that I got in to. There, it showed that it was a little stiffer than I'd prefer. It was perfectly manageable, but I'd prefer a little softer flex personally (which you can probably tell from my daily driver choice noted above). Overall, a very nice ski, I think a lot of people are gonna be really happy on this one.
Salomon Q98 (180)
Very different feel from the Nrgy. Very nimble, light, playful. In the fresh snow and chop, it would come around very quickly and smoothly. Very big sweet spot, and very forgiving. Much more compliant in the bumps. When I was skiing at the top of the mountain (nice soft snow), this had me grinning non-stop as this is simply a very easy-to-ski ski than handles the soft snow very well. On the way down the hill, where things were transitioning into not so nice snow due to warm temps at the base, things didn't go quite as well. In the bumpy crud, this definitely got knocked around a little more than I'd like, definitely more than the nordica. Overall, if you ski a lot of soft snow and don't like overly demanding skis, this would be a great choice.
Armada ARV Ti (178)
This is the ARV with a layer of metal in it. You can definitely feel the dampness the metal provides, as this is a nice, stable ski. I was a little worried about the length being a twin, but it was the only length they had and in the end, didn't seem to be a problem. This is probably my worst review of the 6 skis, because I never managed to put my finger on this ski. It felt like it did everything *fine*. I had no complaints at all, but never figured out "what does this ski do really well?" I also kinda feel like when you only have a few of runs on a ski, if you don't get it right away, you gotta just move on. Given more time, this could turn out to really shine but I didn't have time to figure that out.
K2 Shreditor 102 (184)
So, the good first. Very lively. In the very soft snow, it was quick, nimble, easy. Also very turny, which is good or bad depending on what you like. Personally, it felt way more turny than what I'd like or expect in a ski this wide. I had assumed the big tip and tail taper would keep it from feeling hooky, but that wasn't the case. I definitely felt it catch and come around harder than I expected in some of the stiffer crud. Also on the groomers, it really wanted to make short turns, it didn't like medium or longer turns as much. The bad. For my tastes, this ski is seriously under-damped. The bottom half of the mountain where the snow wasn't as forgiving was just brutal. I couldn't wait to get off this ski by the time I got to the base.
Fischer Big Stix 100 (186)
I was told by the rep that there isn't a major construction difference between this ski and the old Big Stix 98. Then again he also told me the main difference was that they got rid of the boat hull, and I don't remember that being on the Big Stix, just the Watea. Either way, it didn't feel that way to me. This feels like a much beefier ski than the 98 of 2 years ago. Again, it could be that I just came off the K2, I don't know. Overall, it doesn't seem to have the lighter playful feel that the older Wateas and Big Stix had. It also had a surprising amount of camber, looked like the most of anything I skied that day. All that said, it was still a very nice ski, handle the crud and fresh snow quite well, did well in the bumps, very nice on (soft) groomers. It wasn't quite as nimble as the K2 or Salomon, but also didn't punch through things quite like the Nordica or Armada. This is a very middle of the road ski, but in a good way. Some energy and rebound, but not ovely so. Some dampness, but not dead. A very solid, predictable ski but I couldn't quite shake the feeling that it didn't have the fun factor I thought the older Big Stix had.
Atomic Automatic 102 (180)
This was a surprisingly fun ski. I know based on the price point ($499) it's being pitched as a value ski, and I never know what that really means, so I wasn't sure what to expect. This ski was superb in the soft snow an bumps, the perfect blend of playfulness and stability. It would come around quickly, smoothly and predictably, and didn't get shaken as much by the transitions in some of the stiffer crud like the K2 did. Best ski of the day for me in the bumps. Very willing to make a wide variety of turn shapes on the groomers (unlike the K2 that felt like it had 1 shape). There wasn't much untouched snow by this point in the day, but in the little bit I found, it seemed to be a tad surfier/floatier in feel compared to some of the other skis. It even did relatively well on the chunkier, packable crud towards the bottom of the hill.