I've been on my current daily drivers, the Dynastar Course Pro, for a little over a year now or about 80 days of skiing them pretty hard. When they were new, they had so much edge grip that it was almost scary - they just didn't want to slide at all, they'd lock into a pure carve and just go fast. Lately, they've been feeling a lot more slidey and my conjecture was that the skis were starting to lose their torsional rigidity and maybe it is time to think about replacing them after this season. So, yesterday I took the opportunity to demo some replacement candidates.
Since most of my time on the hill is spent ripping groomers I am looking for a dedicated tool for that purpose. Compromise or all- mountain skis need not apply. (I've got other skis for the soft snow days). Also, since my home hill is in the midwest and kinda small, I prefer skis with a shorter turning radius - something around 15 meters seems to suit me best.
Dynastar Course Pro 172cm 125-74-106 r=16 This is the replacement for the course TI, so I thought I'd hit that first. It's very similar, although it didn't seem to have any more edge hold than my current aging pair. Did they tone it down, or am i just remembering wrong? Anyway, a good solid frontside carver - a little less lively and a bit more damp than the course TI, but basically the same ski with an ever so slightly longer turn radius. Certainly a replacement candidate, but it didn't make me want to go out and buy a pair right now.
Volkl Code Speedwall S UVO 173cm 122-74-104 Volkl's frontside carver had everything you would expect from volkl - precise, stable, smooth, and lots of edge grip. But at ~17m nominal radius it's too wide a turn for my 425' home hill. I'd feel cheated out a couple turns every run if I skied on these. If my home hill was a bit bigger with more area to roam, these would be a good choice, but they're not the ski for me.
Blizzard X-POWER 770 TI IQ 174cm 123-77-105 This has Blizzard's variable turn radius where the tips and tails have a different nominal turn radius than the middle. I was skeptical about this, but it's a great ski. Very turny, very lively, excellent edge grip (on par with the Course Ti), light weight and easy to ski. This was a lot of fun on the groomers - pressure the tips and the ~13m tip sidecut predominates, get a bit more centered and the turn stretches out as the ~17m radius of the middle comes in to play. The lightweight, playful nature of these skis makes me wonder how they'd do in crud (I like my carvers to be able to power through six inches of cut up crud without bouncing me out of the bindings) I'd need to demo them again under those conditions before
Blizzard X-POWER 810 TI IQ 174cm 125-81-108 Another variable radius sidecut ski, but with bigger radii. Also much wider under foot. This really wasn't what I was looking for, but thought I'd try it anyway. It felt much "beefier" and more substantial than the 770 - it had that "Volkl smoothness" while easily cranking shorter radius turns than the Code.But definitely not as quick edge-to-edge as the Course TI or 770. I could see buying this and compromising a little bit on my carve-centric criteria to gain a lot more versatility. I might have to give this one a second look.
Nordica Fire Arrow 76 Ti 176cm 126-76-109 This may be the best of the bunch. It seemed much more turny than it's 15.5m sidecut would imply. Great edge grip, on par with my Course Ti. This was just a fun ripper. Would need to ski it in crud before pulling the trigger.
Head i.supershape Rally 170cm 131-76-109 These were pretty darn slidey in comparison to all the other skis I tried. Like the Course Ti's, all the other skis just need a bit of tipping and they'd immediately hook up and carve an arc. The Rally needed a bit of finesse to keep the tails following the tips - it could be done, but the default for this ski seems to be skidding rather than carving. Might be a good choice if you're looking for a ski that's easy to slide or "slarve". With all the slideyness and a nominal radius of 13.6m, this was definitely the easiest ski to maintain speed control on the steeps. Not the ski for me though.
Postscript: At the end of the day I went back to the Course Ti (which had seen a fresh wax and tune while I was demoing). None of the skis I tried had any better edge hold than my current skis, so I'm starting to think that I'm either mis-remembering how grippy they were when new or I've just gotten used to skiing them. Anyway, of all the skis I tried that day, I liked the Course Ti the best - maybe it's the "old shoe" phenomenon, but I think I'm going to plan on getting a third season out of them.