Head Monster 88 review
Ski reviewed: Head Monster 88 177cm; ERA 3.0 rocker (slight early rise at the tip, full tip taper, 2 sheets of metal with Graphene inlay). Mounted with an Attack 13 demo binding. 17M radius
Skier: 5 foot 9, 155-160lbs. Skis 10-30 days a year. See video for skill level and skiing style
The terrain: Copper Mountain soft snow, super cold pow, up to 12” deep; soft powder bumps, groomers, and some trees. Skied over 2 days. Mainly steeper bumps on Rendezvous and the far east side liftline; Spaulding Bowl and the steeper pitches off Sierra, random trees, and zippy Colorado Hero groomers.
First off, a disclaimer and a little bit about me: we are dawgcatching.com and have been a Head dealer for around 20 years now. They have usually made a great ski (although the REV wasn't my favorite and the Rock n' Roll was the best ski with a the worst graphic of all time). The original Monster was a bit of a standout in the category: a real “skiers ski” that was exceptional if you knew how to ski it. From there, the line evolved (some would say devolved) into the Peak series: some of which were very good to great skis, and some quite underwhelming. The REV worked for some, not for others; in steps the Monster reboot, in several key sizes. The 88 is reviewed here, although I have skied the 98 as well, and my comments would apply to the 98 as well.
Please give us a call if you would like more information about the skis we carry, and don't forget the Epicski member discount! 541-593-2453. We have these on mega blowout right now for $449. http://www.dawgcatching.com
I was able to ski this hard for 2 days and put it through it's paces. I found the 88mm width to be money for the conditions at Copper: just enough float for the bowl's new snow,, but just narrow enough for skiing bumps at speed, staying zipper line. Great do-everything width for Colorado, and this was just after a big dump of around 22” over 2 days. I would encourage anyone looking at a one-ski quiver for Colorado to check out an 88mm-ish ski: you give up bump performance and a lot of fun with a wide 105, only to gain some float which you will rarely use. Ski choices are always trade-offs, but I love that width for typical Rockies conditions where the snow doesn't fall 3 feet at a time. I apologize for the digression.
Review: the Monster 88 isn't what it first appears to be. Upon glancing at the ski, most observers would note a fairly stiff ski, 2 sheets of metal, basically full camber with a tiny bit of early rise, and a non-tapered tip. If it were 72mm wide it perhaps would be called a carver. So this is a wide carver, correct? As they say in sports “that's why they play the game”. It's also why we are here to review skis!
First few runs: groomers, fast and wide, buffed out. The Monster doesn't come across as a ripping groomer ride. It is somewhat deliberate when getting tipped into the turn: once there, it holds like glue, but there is little energy to speak of. An aggressive “down the fall line” release coming out of a big angulation will put some light between your skis and the slope, but only a bit. Overall, it is competent, but lacks energy here. I was feeling a bit “off” and did some one-footed release drills on it: the Monster is a very competent slow-speed ski, and suitable for groomers. I was trying to help my S.O. advance on her previous day's lesson (discretion highly advised) and puttering around at slow speeds, I found the Monster to be agreeable. Consider it a worthy teaching ski.
The original Monster was considered a superb all-mountain, do everything right board. A true all-terrain ski that could handle any condition and not suck anywhere. AKA road trip ski. That is where the Monster started to sing for me. Sure, the groomers were nothing to write home about, but groomers is a spot where you notice the zip, the power of certain skis. Those same skis often leave a lot to be desired when traveling off-piste. The Monster is slightly weighted toward off-piste performance; they have the typical resort expert covered very well in this regard. I spent probably 20 runs bashing bumps over on Rendezvous (9 minutes lift ride, 4 minutes back down) and the Monster did not disappoint. The top section has a fairly good steep section with widely spaced bumps: the Monster loved the slightly longer spacing in those bumps. The action I used was an aggressive down the hill pole plant when turning on the backside of a bump; a strong unweight by pulling the feet back and moving over the skis; tipping and turning the inside ski's tip; then getting the skis back onto edge when finishing the turn, allowing them to drift to the next bump. The initial steep section is about 10 turns long when skied direct fall line, and very fast. The Monster ate it up! I was extremely confident in each and every turn: I honestly couldn't ask for more. Once in the tighter, lower angle bumps down underneath the lift, I found the Monster to again be capable. With this ski, tipping the inside ski and moving down the fall line was the most important movement. The tail of the 88 was solid but not stout: I could recover from a backseat screwup well enough. Get over the skis and push them forward, and the 88 was again a very happy camper. Very easy for this level of performance. It seems that ski just keep growing in forgiveness while retaining their top end. Next, I got the ski over to the slow lift next to Super Bee. The bumps there are more spaced out, higher speeds, more like crud piles that you would see on an old-school ski movie from the 70's. On the Monster, I was able to emulate the high-speed float from long spaced bumps, the weightless transition and slower edge to edge changes. Again, stay on the tip of the ski, and you will be rewarded with hero turns. Wow.
I also got the ski into some new snow off Spaulding. Even 2 days after the storm, only a handful of tracks existed over there. It isn't exactly scary steep, but enough to put a ski through it's paces. What I learned about the Monster: it loves cut-up crud, and will blast through anything. It also isn't the floatiest ski: average for this width category. I didn't need any more float, but I wouldn't have wanted to spring for the Monster 83. It loved an aggressive release in the steeps: totally unlike a Rossi Soul 7, which almost seems to fold under countering and snappy releases. This isn't a skid and steer ski (not suitable for Texans I suppose) but a precision tool that delivers. It is quick, powerful, and comes around in a hurry. Same could be said for bashing tree openings and following tree bumps: it goes where you want, with the confidence to know it will turn on a dime. Not to mention the stability that comes with 2 sheets of metal, yet without the extra loss of sweet spot.
I loved this ski. If I were skiing the occasional groomer, doing drills on it, yet required a mid-width all-mountain ski, the Monster 88 would be at the top of my list. For those who spend a lot of time on the groomers, I would get something a little more snappy for that terrain, and likely pay a bit of a penalty off-piste (either a ski that is more grabby or stiffer). There are a whole lot of areas where an 88mm ski is the perfect everyday width, and this is one of the best models on the market. It was a superb partner for 2 days of off-piste skiing at Copper; it made me look better than I actually ski!