Demo Day at Crystal Mountain, Saturday, March 26.
I’m interested to find a new middle ski for my quiver, in the 85 - 90 mm wide range. A 50-50 ski for on and off piste. I love damp skis that have camber, a little tip rocker, medium stiffness, and a round flex (as opposed to the common freeride design, sometimes called “5 point”, that has some combination of softer, narrower, or rockered tips and tails, such as the Head Venturi 95, Rossignol Soul 7, Atomic Alibi, Blizzard Cochise, etc.).
I’m 5-10 and 155 pounds. And being over 60 now, I’m not able to drive skis as strongly as I used to.
It was a cool and sunny day, we had some recently deposited snow, and the conditions were very good for demo-ing. One long run (2500 vertical feet) started with soft, cut-up, never-sun-struck, day old former powder in Powder Bowl, then followed by the same sort of snow, but melted and refrozen in Bear Pits (over the sunny day this went from very rugged, hard chunks to melted-but-stiff chunks with some surface softness), and ending with the steep groomer of Lower Bull Run which was firm early, but loose later.
In the order in which they appeared on my feet:
Fischer Motive 86: Nope. They quit making them. Blister thinks they were about the best all-mountain ski in this width, and I figured the same since the Motive 95 is the best one ski quiver I’ve ever tried, but Fischer thought differently. They’ve been replaced by…
Fisher Pro Mtn 86 Ti, 182cm: Another light, amiable, crowd-pleasing ski that has good edge grip and is easy to maneuver off-piste. Sort of like the Salomon, K2, Kastle (!), and Nordica nice, middle-of-the-piste skis I tried to two weeks ago ( http://www.epicski.com/t/146239/demo-day-just-mid-width-skis ). But it’s not quite the terrific carver that some of the other of these skis are, and not damped enough for my taste.
Head Monster 88, 177cm: After my experience two weeks ago I think this is the ski to beat. So I skied on it again to renew my impression and to make comparisons in conditions as similar as possible. Once again, it’s equal to the most damped ski I’ve been on since the all-steel Volants of the 1990’s. Very smooth in rough conditions off piste, and it even adds some smoothness to carving on piste in comparison to some of the other skis. It isn’t a quick-turner. It’s the only GS ski of the day, all others reacting quicker and turning more sharply, whether carving on piste or bending into turns off piste. But nothing could beat it for making rough chop skiable at high speed, although, as you’ll read, the Volkl Kendo, Rossignol E88, and maybe Dynastar Powertrack 89 came close.
LibTech Wreckreate 90, 177cm: Light and cheesy-feeling on piste. I didn’t bother to take the third chair up to get to the powder and crud. This pair must’ve had dull edges (not that the conditions were hard).
Armada Invictus 89, 179cm: It’s got a nice metal feel, and about my favorite flex, but not much stability on piste. In the future they might work on this ski some more and make it an equal to those of the big ski manufacturers.
Volkl Kendo, 177cm: It’s been about 10 years since I’ve been on them. Since then Volkl kept the dampness and good edge grip, then added a bit of tip rocker. They seem easier in the crud than they used to be. I’d call them “medium” in stiffness. They’re much quicker than the Monsters, both on piste and off, and just a little less damp. These are my close second favorites to the Monsters. Unfortunately, as the sun softened the crud in Bear Pits, the conditions were improving, making all of these later skis seem better than the earlier ones. If I were to buy new skis this year, I’d want to do an all-day A vs. B comparison with the Monsters.
Kastle BMX 105 HD, 181cm: None of the skis I wanted were available at this point, so what the heck. They are remarkably light and easy. Tips and tails don’t engage on piste due to taper and rocker. The snow was pretty soft nearly everywhere at this point, so they felt fine. I wish I had tried them in a longer length. Their extra width made the crud feel better than it did when I was on the earlier 80’s-width skis, but the carving was worse, of course. And supposedly there’s a non-HD version that’s even softer. Yikes.
Rossignol E88 HD, 180cm: Their carving reputation is deserved! These were the most exciting skis of the day on piste. More quick than the GS-ey Monsters, but just as powerful and stable. Probably a little stiffer— I’d call them “medium plus” in stiffness. Unfortunately their proclivity to only carve, and their lack of forgiveness, carries over into the soft snow, where they are more difficult than the Monsters and Kendos. If I were 180 lbs, they might be my favorite.
Dynastar PowerTrack 89Ti, 179cm: Unlike most of the day’s skis, these have some tip and tail taper, and more rocker, both fore and aft. But not a lot. They carve nicely, but the 179’s ski like 172’s when on piste. They were easy in the sun-softened crud. I should have tried the longer length. Even if I did like the longer ones better, I’m a bit skeptical that they’d be my faves. I still haven’t kindled to the 5-point design, which these have in small amount.
It’s too bad that Elan and Stockli didn’t come. They’re both known to produce damp carving skis. And maybe some of their models have other virtues, too.
How well you are able to ski is related to how hard you are willing to fall.