I just posted some thoughts about Skis and what it really means to be an 'All-Mountain' East coast skier up on another forum. As it seemed relevant here, I've cut and pasted a portion of it below. It's sort of a half finished thought, but there is always something not quite right in any magazine's or website's evaluation of 'east coast all mountain skis' and I'm trying to get a handle on that. Jus something to share:
What does an East Coast all a rounder Need? I think first you need to figure out what EAST COAST ALL_MOUNTAIN actually means and if there is more than one way to view this category:
First-the majority of East coast 'experts', or at least East coast active ski enthusiasts (maybe we ought to save the ever troublesome 'expert' label for another thread), are what I'd call 'Front-side' Enthusiasts. You might think you know what I mean, but let me add a few very specific qualifications:
1. Front Side Enthusiasts: Skiers who ski all of the 'on-the map' trails, in all-conditions: This includes Groomers (duh), Bumps (especially bumps on a snow-making based trail-something almost every resort in the east has and maintains, some more than others). They like powder, but will typically stick to the variety that falls on top of previously groomed trails or snow-making based bump runs. To them, expert 'off-piste' largely means ungroomed (but often with snow making snow as a base)-such as Outer-limits or Cascade/ Down Draft at Killington, or the Front Four at Stowe (undoubtedly legit expert terrain mind you), Ripcord at Mt. Snow. They also like good groomers, and want to ski 'steep' groomers like Avalanche at Cannon. If they are real east coast enthusiasts, they'll ski all surface conditions without too much complaint.
2. The Second category of East Coast All mountain enthusiast, and by far the smaller group, yet they are a significant minority) are EAST COAST Off-Pisters. In a word, what they want are 'Glades.' And that is, all manner of East coast glades-from Chutes and Gully Narrow passages, to dense hemlocks with their oh-so rocky soils to wider Birch and Beech forests to those labyrinthine thickets of bramble and branches. They'll push the boundaries of 'In Bounds' (often linking turns along a long line of Blue National Forest/ Resort boundary markers). Occasionally, they'll ski out to roads. They'll use every bit of James Bond subterfuge to discern local's only 'enhancements' at every resort. They'll do a little boot packing as well. They wouldn't think of going to Cannon and Not skiing the Mittersill area or Kinsman Glades. Mostly, they want those long-lasting, hidden stashes, of soft or unbroken snow…and yes, they are willing to swish and slash through quite a bit of off-piste crap just to get the chance to make 10-20 turns in soft snow, while most are scraping around on groomers.
They are rarely bothered by 'thin-cover'; and have learned to ski across 'wet dirt' and grass or to hop when necessary (or to just accept that all All P-Tex is ephemeral but also replaceable!). They like bumps, and they like groomers-but they want a ski that plays to the varied difficult eastern glades more than to front side ripping. Not that they mind groomers and man-made snow moguls, but the ideal day is spent exclusively in the Glades of Jay Peak, or the Single Chair at Mad River (Or The Kennabago area at Saddleback to The New massive off-piste gladed areas at Sugarloaf) only hitting the run outs back to the lift. They're the sorts who say things like 'You know, Mt. Snow has way better glades than you'd think' and mean it.
They haunt questionable lift line runs everywhere: From Magic to Berkshire East.
Edited by Liam - 12/30/14 at 5:51am
There are a number of commonalities in both groups, both will and do contend with precarious weather and the low-altitude surface issues endemic to the east from Jay Peak to Ski Sundown. Both groups know that you need good edges to enjoy a ski day anywhere in the east on any day.
So, here what I've come up with thinking about this relationship between all mountain east coast enthusiasts and skis:
The one ski quiver is only possible for the former group, the Front-Side enthusiasts. There are actually quite a lot of skis that handle hard snow well, navigate bumps without beating the shit out of the pilot (assuming a base level of 3D ski skills), and will excel in average glades…which are usually so well traveled in the east that they are usually just enhanced, semi-scraped bump runs with obstacles (I think of all of the Glades that dump into the Canyon Chair at Killington as the prime example of this) and will easily churn through power and crud that sets up on typically groomed-snow making trails. Skis that fit this mold: K2 Rictor 82xti, K2 Rictor 90xti, Kastle MX83 (and probably also the MX88), The Blizzard Brahma's and latigos, the Head Rev's, etc. Actually, for Front-side all mountain enthusiasts, the slight retraction towards capable 'modest' width skis away from chunkier models, while still retaining some early rise/ rocker, softer or more forgiving tails, plus top-flight, near race room construction throughout whole model lines all adds up to the halcyon days of ski gear, I would think. Truthfully, you almost can't miss with any skis in this category, and the biggest challenge is getting the right size.
The second group is not-so-lucky, and will always face compromises every day. Yes, The Real East Coast Off-Pister will appreciate a ski that doesn't fall apart in brutally hard snow, and Bumps are probably the biggest commonality between the two groups. But, there is a bit of danger added to their pursuits that means they won't want skis that buck or refuse to bend when sudden logs, gully, firm unidentified mounds of snow, deep pocket of heavy snow followed by firm snow seize up the front of their skis. They want to turn, on a dime, away from sudden immoveable danger. And, Float is non-negotiable, they just cannot afford to sink as crap and danger lies only a few inches below their ski bases.
They hit the trees when it has only snowed 8 inches on a base of cold dirt ('Don't worry man, this stuff is really dense!' Ever heard that one?). Yes, some pivoting is in the cards, as is hopping, conforming to funky terrain and the aforementioned float. The real truth is, to get these abilities, you are going to have to trade up, in some cases, significantly trade up on front side expert abilities.
Personally, I'd like to find a Sub 100mm ski that plays more to the Off-Pister side of the spectrum, but still makes coming and going around a Big VT hill enjoyable, even after the day-tripper hordes have 'Polished' the hills. I'm intrigued by the 'Finesse' models listed by Realskiers.com in this category, but I am not sure any would really stand up as the off-piste end of a two ski East Coast quiver and definitely not as 1 ski quiver.