Me: 5’9” 140lb, skied 40+ years, but never competed or worked in industry
Skis I use the most:
- Kästle MX 83 173
- Blizzard The Crush 177
- Blizzard Dakota 177
Skis I use less often:
- Dynastar Speed Course 172
- DPS Wailer 112RP Hybrid 184
- Volkl Aura 177 (w/Dynafits)
Home areas: Copper Mountain and ABasin
Having the demo at my home mountain was helpful because I could get off the basic demo groomer and hit some of my favorite little haunts in order to ski familiar lines on unfamiliar skis. I stuck to all-mountain skis between 85 and 108 underfoot, the majority being in the 95-100 range. I am not an expert on all the little specifics of ski shape and construction and other particulars, and I won’t pretend to be. Instead, this review is a narrative of my impressions during the two on-snow days at SIA.
I posted elsewhere that my top favorite skis (ie, I would buy them in a second) were the Fischer Motive 95ti, Kästle FX85 and FX95, and Nordica Santa Ana. But first things first….
Ski 1 on Day 1 was the Blizzard Cochise (177). I have always been a fan of the Flipcore series; from the get-go it was a seamless adjustment to ski them. I own a second-generation Dakota, which is the kinder, gentler version of the OG Cochise but still eats crud like a boss. Upon hearing about the new carbon tips and tails and increased camber in the latest version of the Cochise, my ears perked up for sure. That first run consisted of 4 in. of untracked powder on top of fresh groomed, aka fun and easy on pretty much any ski (or vaguely ski-shaped object, for that matter). Groomers were noticeably more interesting than on the original shape; it was a lot easier to bend into something tighter and poppier than a 25-m radius. It isn’t soft, though: I definitely had to stay on top of it; if I spaced out I would occasionally lose that outside ski. Never found a speed limit. I went for a second run because I was curious about how it would perform in pushed-up piles. It blasted through most everything, but I’m not going to lie, once or twice the tip did hang up just a tiny little bit — but it wasn’t a deal breaker, like with the Soul 7.
The next run saw the K2 FulLUVit 98ti (170), which was one of only two women’s-specific skis I demoed. I have only limited experience on the venerable K2 Luvs of the past, but I think I can safely say that the new Luv series bears little resemblance to those heavy, damp, safe skis. I really enjoyed this one. It was very smooth on edge and super easy to pop off quick little turns. I was on a size too small, so I found it a little bumpy when trying to book it through chopped snow, and I never had it on an especially firm surface, but overall I think this is going to be a very popular ski. I would be happy to spend more time on the 177 version!
K2 Pinnacle 95 (177). Phil did a longer review on this so I won’t go into too much detail, especially because I only skied it on the groomer, although I did find a few moguls on the side of the run. My initial comments were “tips a bit bouncy unless you stayed forward but super solid through turn, smooth, very comfortable. Didn’t feel 95 edge to edge. Length was perfect for me.” Again, K2 has done a great job with this ski; shops should stock up.
Other skis I had for only one run were the DPS Cassiar 95 (178), Head Monster 98 (177), Line Supernatural 100 (179), and RAMP Groundhog 100 (179).
When I first skied to the lift on the DPS, it felt rather insubstantial. It was so light, and the ski in front of the binding seemed really short, sort of like when I skied the Soul Rider a few seasons back. We headed to a blue groomer for some photos, and I was a bit apprehensive because I had no idea how they would ski and didn’t really want my flailing captured for posterity. But wow — that was fun! They were smooth and fast and powerful. Then we ducked into some trees, and consistent with my first impression, they were nimble and fun; I think this is the first time I have ever smiled in a photograph while skiing, a notable accomplishment.
It was time for lunch, but I fully intended on spending some more time on this ski, then on the 185 to compare, and then I was going to switch into my AT boots to test some of the touring line. However, I was sidetracked and never made it back -- regrettably, because I might have moved the Cassiar 95 into my pull-out-the-credit-card-now group of skis. Several of us were on different DPSes that run, and we were all very impressed. The color is … borderline. It’s almost a really cool blue sprucey green, but with certain goggle lenses, it turned kind of icky like the inside of a hospital. Minor point, but…
The Head Monster 98 was an absolute truck on the choppy end-of-day groomer. Totally smoothed everything out, had a bit of that MX feel to it. In fact, it was so solid I was a little nervous about taking it into tighter spaces, but after skiing through about 50 yards of bumped-out trees, in fact I did not die. It pivoted easily when needed, and while I wouldn’t call it nimble, it skied much easier than I expected it to. I would like more time on this one as well, although I am pretty sure that for me personally, the Kästle or Fischer would be the wiser choice.
The Line Supernatural 100 was a nice ski, felt solid on the groomed, and I did take it into some untracked trees. It didn’t blow me away like some of the others did, but then again, this was the last run of the day (yes, in untracked trees … like I said, skiing your home mountain has its benefits ). Speaking of last run of the day, the previous day’s last ski was the RAMP Groundhog (179). I don’t know if it was me or the ski, or the sheer unfairness of skiing this one after four Kästles in a row, but while snow feel was good, I found it fairly imprecise into the turn. Once on edge it was fine, but getting there was at times an adventure.
And speaking of the Kästles ... it's not news, but their feel truly is something special: someone described them as being lined with the skin of baby seals; at times I felt I was just gliding about on rivers of chocolate ganache like Willy Wonka. They made me want to ski as fast as I possibly could.
First from this tent was the Kästle FX85 (173), which I took to the top of mountain. I found no deep snow, but did manage some minor crud and chalk on a steep pitch or two that I regularly ski. This one was so easy to ski, my initial comment was “it’s like cheating.” Possibly the most fun I’ve had in moguls, ever. Just super quick and slithery, but still held like a champ on the groomed. I suspect it has a speed limit compared to the others, but I didn’t test it.
I wanted to ski this back to back with the HP (metal) version, but it wasn’t available at the tent, so I took the Kästle FX95 (181) on the same lap. When I brought it back, I said “That’s my ski.” This is an absolute do-it-all Western ski. I spent the day on a 176 FX94 last spring, and while I loved it, the 95 is even more versatile; it has a more playful feel but still let me charge when I wanted to. I didn’t get on the metal version, but I am pretty sure that for my size, it would be a little too stiff in tight spaces and bumps. But maybe not; all the Kästles were remarkably nimble.
After lunch I did get on the Kästle FX85HP (173), which was predictably similar to the nonmetal 85, but not as slithery in bumps. It was more zoom-zoom race car quick than jackrabbit quick. I would have liked to ski it next to my MX83. I think some of you who are a little scared off by the seriousness of the MX would really enjoy the FX85. (And no, I have never skied the FX84, so I'm no help in comparing.)
I skied the Kästle BMX105 (181) back to back with a second turn on the Cochise, and although the new Cochise is quicker than the old one, the BMX was quicker still. In fact, I really need more time to get a good handle on it; it was so much more agile than I expected, I was overturning at first. And I didn’t have it in exactly the right conditions (those came on Wednesday), so my review for this one is a bit incomplete.
On the second day, we woke up again to more new snow. I grabbed the Fischer Motive 95ti in a 174 and we headed up to the top of the mountain for some extended testing. Our timing was impeccable as we approached the top of the T-bar and patrol dropped ropes on Spaulding Bowl. Spaulding faces east and collects all the snow during winds from the west, ie, most of them. After a few turns, I was thinking I should have grabbed the 180, not the 174, but I still enjoyed myself. The snow feel was most similar to that silky Kästle smoothness, but at half the price. Still, I felt a little bit off and wasn’t sure if it was me or the ski; I decided to try the 180 next.
Well. It wasn’t quite night and day, but the 180 was absolutely the right call. “Perfect” was what I wrote down. It did whatever I wanted it to do, and felt really good doing it. It seems to have a wider performance range than similar all-mountain skis that need speed to come alive, or fold up when pushed too hard. It’s not a new ski this season, so I won’t prolong the review, but I was certain that this ski had a future spot in my closet.
That is, until I took out the Nordica Santa Ana (177). I believe this is the same shape as the Enforcer but without metal. It was really light and easy on my feet, much like the K2 FulLUVit, the only other women’s ski I tried. It was the afternoon of the last day, so I decided to keep this one a little longer. I went to the top and headed toward Sierra, which involves a mildly sketchy traverse with rocks and dippity-do’s and switchbacks and the like. I was immediately comfortable hitting it at a good clip, because I could skate, pivot, scrub speed, straightline, whatever you need to do in those conditions, all with total confidence.
I headed up Sierra and took my usual line consisting of mild moguls, steep short chalky face, log drop into steep trees and a gully playground, and back to the lift. I’ve done this line about 50,000 times in my life, and this was as fun and comfortable as it ever had been. From the lift I could see that there was still some deep snow up in the shady parts of Union, so up farther I went. There was thick, shin- to knee-deep snow where the wind puts it, and Ms Santa Ana was absolutely nonplussed.
At the end of the previous day, I was skiing the BMX105, Cochise, and Groundhog. I started feeling tired and a bit clunky with those skis once we got into moguls. But at the same point on this second day, the Santa Anas were just pouring on the energy. I really can’t believe such a quick, light, playful ski could also power through deep snow with speed and hold an edge like it did.
It’s worth noting that I didn’t ski the Santa Ana in particularly difficult snow, such as wind-compacted or heavy crud, but the snow up top on Union was fairly dense and tracked, albeit dry. Also, I should have asked to try Phil’s Enforcer the next day; I am interested in comparing the two.
Postscript: When clicking into my trusty Dakotas that next morning, I was a bit worried that after skiing all those shiny new toys, the bloom would be off the rose — but no problem, I still love those things. Whew. (I think the days are numbered for the Crush as my all-arounder, though.)
Edited by segbrown - 2/12/15 at 8:01pm