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6 Ski Reviews: Unlimited AC4, Mantra, M:EX, M:B5, Legend 8000, Blizzard Titan Eight

post #1 of 46
Thread Starter 
(It's late and I'm lazy - apologies to Steve for lifting his format )

Random stats: 15 runs, 14,000+ vertical feet, 6 pairs of skis

Conditions: Loveland reported 5-8” of new snow. The conditions were manmade hardpack under powder and crud, with soft snow bumps and loose snow especially at the trails' edges. The “lap” was two times up chair 1, down Spillway, either Mambo (for arcing) or Richard's (for more blue with bumps), swap skis.

My stats: 5' 7", 175 lbs. Male, 30th season skiing.

My current equipment: Kneissl Flexon boots, Stockli Stormrider DP (186), Stockli Stormrider XL (174), Volant Machete Sin (165 & 175), Volant Machete Soul (165), Volant Machete FB (175), Volkl Supersport 5-Star (175)
- note that I'm not listing my Elans since I haven't ridden them yet!

In general I prefer skis that are stiffer and damper. I like a ski that takes direction from the pilot, but then gets you where you want to be without requiring a lot of input. I find skis billed as "light and lively" generally require input every step of the way (if that makes any sense) and tend to feel "nervous" to me.

Skis are listed in order tested. Dimensions were not recorded, since they are readily available.

Ski: Volkl Unlimited AC4 (170cm)
Comments: My skis had a fresh tune and wax job (first person on them for the day). I loved these skis - they ski the way I ski. They were stable without being overly heavy, they held a great edge, they really responded to high edge angles, but they allowed the pilot to have great control of the turn radius. They really excelled in the day's conditions due to their wider width. They aren't nearly as stiff as many other Volkls and I didn't find them punishing at all (unlike the 6-stars).

Ski: Dynastar Legend 8000 (172cm)
Comments: I found the 8000 to be light, lively, and not my cup of tea. I could push them around and "bully" them and basically use really crappy technique and get away with it. They had a tough time powering through crud and chopped up old snow (they just provided too much "feedback" to the pilot). I guess I like a beefier "shock absorber" under my feet. I just didn't like the feel of them - they weren't confidence inspiring for me.

Ski: Volkl Mantra (177cm)
Comments: All I can say is WOW. Volkl really has a winner with this ski. It absolultely amazed me that a ski this wide could be so responsive and quick. The super wide shovel just feeds you into the turns so easily and the narrow tail allows the turns to release easily and doesn't dictate the turn radius. They weren't quite as stable as the AC4 or the M:EX, but they had great float (obviously) and were a ton of fun. I could make some fairly tight carved turns on these skis and that really surprised me. The only thing that really bugged me was the clanging sound they make if the tips hit each other - a bit disconcerting.

Ski: Atomic Metron M:EX (175cm)
Comments: I went into the demo of these skis not expecting much. They sure are heavy (heavier than my Volants!). I sure was surprised at how much I liked them (so much so that I'm looking at some of last seasons models for purchase). These skis gave me the "glued to the slope" feeling that I really like. They held an edge very well, but I wouldn't call them ice machines. I was able to barrel through moguls without them bucking me and they just kind of flowed through uneven terrain liked it wasn't even there. Definitely my "find" of the day considering I didn't think I was going to like them.

Ski: Atomic Metron B5 (162cm)
Comments: Considering all of the hype I just had to try this ski. Everything that has been said about this ski is certainly true (both the pros and the cons). All I can say is this is a ski you definitely want to demo before you make a purchase decision - it's just that different from everything else out there. The radical sidecut will be loved by some and hated by others. For me the skis just didn't suit my style and I felt they were piloting me more than I was piloting them.

Ski: Blizzard Titan Eight (169cm)
Comments: After all of the "bigger" (it's all relative) beefier skis I had ridden, the Titan Eights felt like toys. They were more stable than the Legend 8000s, but they just didn't have much rebound and energy. I found them uninspiring (and I was a big Blizzard fan when I was in my twenties).

So here are the skis I demoed in my order of preference for the day: AC4, M:EX, Mantra, B5, Titan Eight, Legend 8000
post #2 of 46
Thanks for the reviews!
post #3 of 46
Quote:
Originally Posted by Rsknight1
Thanks for the reviews!
Ditto!

Great job Steve.
post #4 of 46
Quote:
Originally Posted by Coach13
Ditto!

Great job Steve.
This thread is Noodler's... and he's not another Steve...

Good job, Noodler! Even if you're wrong. (Just kiddin'!)
post #5 of 46
No rebound for the Titan 8's? Do you think that in inherant in the Blizzard line? How do you think the 9 will ski? How would you compare the Blizzard to a V2 Volant?
post #6 of 46
My current equipment: Kneissl Flexon boots, Stockli Stormrider DP (186), Stockli Stormrider XL (174), Volant Machete Sin (165 & 175), Volant Machete Soul (165), Volant Machete FB (175), Volkl Supersport 5-Star (175)
- note that I'm not listing my Elans since I haven't ridden them yet!

Ski: Atomic Metron M:EX (175cm)
Comments: I went into the demo of these skis not expecting much. They sure are heavy (heavier than my Volants!). I sure was surprised at how much I liked them (so much so that I'm looking at some of last seasons models for purchase).

Geez, I'd say you've got enough skis already I'm contemplating the purchase of one pair of $500 skis and you've got 7 or 8 sets of quality skis. BTW, why do you have 2 different sizes of the same skis?
post #7 of 46
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Phil Pugliese
No rebound for the Titan 8's? Do you think that in inherant in the Blizzard line? How do you think the 9 will ski? How would you compare the Blizzard to a V2 Volant?
Phil - I don't think that the Blizzard Eight (or Seven) is indicative of the entire line. I'm not 100% positive, but I believe that the Seven and Eight are wood core skis without any metal layers (at least according to the rep that was there). The Titan Nine and Titan Pro do have titanium layers and I bet they're much more of the kind of ski I like, but unfortunately they didn't have my size available (the rep offered me his own personal pair, but they didn't have demo bindings on them and we didn't have compatible boot sole lengths).

I would compare the Titan Eight to the Machete Sin (very similar dimensions and sidecut). The Eight is a bit livelier and easier to throw around. The Sin is much more stable and a smoother feel on the snow (no surprise there). I bet lighter skiers would really like the Titan Eight as a nice all-terrain ski.
post #8 of 46
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by northeasterner
Geez, I'd say you've got enough skis already I'm contemplating the purchase of one pair of $500 skis and you've got 7 or 8 sets of quality skis. BTW, why do you have 2 different sizes of the same skis?
I'm a self-confessed gear whore. When I don't have the chance to demo skis I sometimes will buy 2 different lengths and keep the one I like better (this is very rare though). Part of the fun of skiing for me is the quest for the ultimate quiver that works best for me.

Regarding the Sin in 165 and 175. The 10cm difference is huge and completely changes where this ski will fit in a quiver.
post #9 of 46
Just out of curiosity, how would you review the 186 DP?
post #10 of 46
Great review Noodler. Concise and good comparisons. When comparing AC4 and M:EX can you elaborate just a bit on turn initiation? Do you feel these skis want to track rather than ski turns? Any difference in upper end speed stability? You talked about the M:EX handling in bumps, any comparison in that condition with the AC4?
post #11 of 46
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Highway Star
Just out of curiosity, how would you review the 186 DP?
Honestly I've only had my DPs out about handful of times in the past 2 seasons. I just haven't ended up in conditions where I felt they were the right pick for the day many times. I do vividly remember a day last season at Copper with about 12" of fresh that got tracked up fairly quickly. The DPs are firm without being stiff (this is the 2003 model). I actually find my XLs to be more of a challenge (a bit stiffer through the tail - don't get caught in the back seat). The DPs are stable as a rock (my most stable skis), cut through most anything without bucking the driver, but they certainly are a challenge for me through the trees (I have to think quicker due to the extra length). Amazingly enough, these are the skis that proved to me that I can run pretty much anything through moguls and still get style points . They're 94mm in the waist and I didn't have any problem snaking them through the soft moguls that formed later in the day. The main problem I had was that I was always stuck waiting around at the bottom of the mountain for my friends - I just could never find a speed limit on these things.

For a skier who is primarily into big mountain style and speed I definitely would put them at the top of the list. I just don't find myself in that situation very often (unfortunately).
post #12 of 46
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Cirquerider
Great review Noodler. Concise and good comparisons. When comparing AC4 and M:EX can you elaborate just a bit on turn initiation? Do you feel these skis want to track rather than ski turns? Any difference in upper end speed stability? You talked about the M:EX handling in bumps, any comparison in that condition with the AC4?
The AC4 was definitely the quicker ski for me over the M:EX, but the M:EX was more stable and bit better at crud busting (probably due to the weight and length difference). They both initiated turns easily and that surprised me considering I mount most of my skis forward about 20-25mm to improve turn initiation (this is impossible with the demo bindings). I'm not sure what you mean regarding "track" vs. "ski" turns. I would say that the M:EX was also stronger in upper end speed stability, but once again that's probably due to the length and weight difference. For the bumps my personal preference would be the AC4 due to it's lighter weight and shorter length, but the bumps we had yesterday were all mostly soft and not too large so they were easy to handle. I'll hold off on a complete opinion about these skis in the bumps until I get them in some "real" bumps.
post #13 of 46
Noodler,

When you qualified your review with:

"In general I prefer skis that are stiffer and damper. I like a ski that takes direction from the pilot, but then gets you where you want to be without requiring a lot of input. I find skis billed as "light and lively" generally require input every step of the way (if that makes any sense) and tend to feel "nervous" to me."

I beleive this provides fantastic insight into the review. Allowing readers to understand where the tester stands in his desired traits in skiis, makes the reviews much more functional. Good job .


Can you compare and contrast the AC4 to the M:ex? I am wondering which one you believe would make a better all mountain board for a person choosing only one pair of skiis? These are two of the skiis that I had narrowed my choices down to so was quite pleased when you had skiied them back to back. Can the M:ex be made to bang out tighter turns, for example narrow chutes when needed or would it be too unwieldy? Was the AC4 noticeably less damp than the M;ex's? I'm like you in that I like my skiis to bulldoze through stuff and prefer a damp ski (Even at a girly 140 pounds the 8000 and Rossi early Bandits don't suit my preference).

Once again great reveiws!
post #14 of 46
Thanks for the reply Noodler. Your review was very informative, and I enjoyed the comparisons. "ski" was supposed to be skid. Dyslexia, and all that ya know.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Noodler
The AC4 was definitely the quicker ski for me over the M:EX, but the M:EX was more stable and bit better at crud busting (probably due to the weight and length difference). They both initiated turns easily and that surprised me considering I mount most of my skis forward about 20-25mm to improve turn initiation (this is impossible with the demo bindings). I'm not sure what you mean regarding "track" vs. "ski" turns. I would say that the M:EX was also stronger in upper end speed stability, but once again that's probably due to the length and weight difference. For the bumps my personal preference would be the AC4 due to it's lighter weight and shorter length, but the bumps we had yesterday were all mostly soft and not too large so they were easy to handle. I'll hold off on a complete opinion about these skis in the bumps until I get them in some "real" bumps.
post #15 of 46
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Cirquerider
Thanks for the reply Noodler. Your review was very informative, and I enjoyed the comparisons. "ski" was supposed to be skid. Dyslexia, and all that ya know.
OK - skid - that makes much more sense. I didn't really directly test either skis ability to skid, but I certainly did do some "skarved" turns. Both skis have almost identical "tail cuts" and they don't cross the magic 30 boundary (everyone together now - huh? what's this guy smokin'?). Remember that I'm a gear whore and an engineer - I tend to over analyze - I'll admit it. I've developed some measurements that I call the tip cut and the tail cut. They're simply the difference between the dimensions of the tip to the waist and the tail to the waist. As I've tracked these numbers through the past few seasons along with my personal preferences, I've found that a ski with a tail cut over 30 is generally too much "tail" for me.

So let's look at these 2 skis specifically. The M:EX has a "tip cut/tail cut" of 37/27. I also look at the ratio of these numbers in what I call a "profile ratio" - so the M:EX gets a 1.37 (more on this later). The AC4 has a tip cut/tail cut of 43/28 and a profile ratio of 1.54. These numbers just give me a way to quickly numerically compare a bunch of skis (but they certainly don't tell the whole story since they don't take into account the flex characteristics, etc.).

From the numbers we see that the AC4 has quite a bit more tip cut, but an almost identical tail cut. The profile ratio shows that the AC4 is more of a "pintail" design (term stolen from Dynastar). The higher the ratio the wider the tip is to the waist than the tail is to the waist. The Mantra has the highest ratio I've recorded yet at 1.89 (with the Stormrider DP not far behind). Twin tips are generally in the 1.2 range (a much more symmetrical sidecut - makes sense if you're going to ride them switch) and interestingly enough last year's M:EX was 1.26 (it had a narrower tip).

So based on the numbers I would say that both of these skis are "skid-able", but the M:EX is probably more "relaxed" in this comparison since it has less sidecut overall. I'm hoping to get a few more rides on them at the next demo day on Saturday. I too need to refine my critique and figure out which one is the better match. The Head i.M88 and the Elan M777 will also be added to the mix since they will be available.

Boy was that a long-winded response - a lot more than you bargained for.
post #16 of 46

Goood Reviews

Hi Noodler:

Thanks for the reviews!

Your perspective is well defined, and based on your specific style parameters, very helpful to convey ski qualities to someone who has not been on them yet.


Loking forward to the next "release"!!
post #17 of 46
Quote:
Originally Posted by Noodler
I mount most of my skis forward about 20-25mm to improve turn initiation.
That's weird.....why did you start doing that? Are your stocklis mounted like that? I can't imagine mounting that far forward on any freesking ski. You have to keep your weight in the back seat when standing on the ski in a carve if you want to hit the sweet spot.

I mount either on the mark or -1cm, and have disliked any forward mounts I've tried. Depending on the demo binding, you can adjust fore/aft....for example I tried some 185 PR's one time at -1cm and liked them much better.

By the way, stockli DP's, SS's and asteroids were all 91mm at the waist until this year.
post #18 of 46
Highway Star, your experience seems to be counter to the vast majority of skiers. I am consistently surprised by your statements. I would be very interested in discovered what it is about the way that you like to ski that causes such an alternative set of opinions from those expressed by so many of us. Any idea what that might be?
post #19 of 46
Mounting +25mm (ONE INCH!) is not normal or the vast majority of skiers. That's really, really weird, and only promotes back seat driving.

Only reason to mount forward is if you are a jibber and you regularly spin on twin tip ski. Ever watch jibbers freeski....major backseat action. Otherwise, you should buy a ski apropriately sized for your abilty and size, and learn how to initiate a turn, through angulation, forward pressure, pivoting or a combination thereof.
post #20 of 46
By the way, my opinions are derived from my own experience and analysis, observation of other good skiers, and talking to other good skiers about their gear and skiing style.

My opinions are NOT based on manufacturers marketing efforts, ski mag advice, shop employee advice, and epicski conventional wisdom.
post #21 of 46
Thread Starter 
I don't want to "pollute" this review thread with a discussion of fore/aft binding mount position. I'm too lazy to search on this, but I bet HS has a bigger foot and therefore a longer boot sole length than I do. HS - do a search on this issue and you'll find in-depth discussions on determining a good binding mount position (I use the BoF method - on German/Austrian skis the BoF method's position is typically 20-25mm forward of the manufacturer's midsole mark for me).

BTW - My DPs are NOT mounted forward they are on the midsole mark from Stockli. My XLs have been re-mounted 25mm forward and I'll reserve judgement on what that means until I get to ride them this season.
post #22 of 46
I'm actually 6'1, and have skied in 25 mondopoint boots for about 12 years....my current boots have a 293mm boot sole. So technically, I'm even further back from chord center than normal. I will have a look at that BOF method though, thanks.
post #23 of 46
Quote:
Originally Posted by Highway Star
Mounting +25mm (ONE INCH!) is not normal or the vast majority of skiers. That's really, really weird, and only promotes back seat driving.
Well, 25mm is at the extreme, but most folks do prefer skis a bit forward of the midsole mark, in my experience. Even on pencil skis, I mounted my bindings a bit forward for SL. Last year, I skied my b5s with the Neox on the first position, but I skied my RX8s centered.

FWIW, you and I ski about the same size boot (my XTs are 294mm), I'm 6' tall, though, so a bit shorter than you...

I aim for balance neutral at mounting. In other words, standing on my boots in the skis, I want the balance point of the ski to be right under my arch, just behind my metatarsals. There are a number of ways to get it there, but sliding the binding is one. Boot balancing makes a big difference, too.
post #24 of 46
Noodler, after reading your reply above on ((tip-waist)/(tail-waist)) ratios I think you have hit on an interesting mathmatical expression for tail release characteristics. I would guess that higher ratios of tip/waist also yield more aggressive turn initiation. Well, we know how you got your name.

Expanding on this, the Atomic B5 (133-76-115) has a ratio of 1.46, which is surprisingly similar to the Volkl six star (114-68-99) ratio of 1.48. In spite of the fact these are radically different size skis, their carver intentions and tail release are similar.
post #25 of 46
Quote:
Originally Posted by ssh
but most folks do prefer skis a bit forward of the midsole mark, in my experience.
Well, most folks ski in the backseat and don't carve turns......sorta makes you think, doesn't it?
post #26 of 46
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Highway Star
Well, most folks ski in the backseat and don't carve turns......sorta makes you think, doesn't it?
HS - you lost me on this issue. I'm not following why a more forward mount would result in more backseat driving on a ski? Please explain the physics and the skiing issues so that I can understand where you're coming from.

BTW - Wow you have a short boot sole length for your height (ssh too!).

P.S. After thinking about this issue a bit more I realized that if you consider the extreme case (with bindings mounted on the shovels of the skis) then I can understand the backseat driving issue. You'd be so concerned about going head over heels that you would lean back to compensate. That's not really the case here since we're only talking about an inch. An inch is extreme in the world of fore/aft adjustments, but taken into consideration within the overall length of most skis, an inch really isn't going to cripple your ability to pressure the shovels more if needed. Understand that I didn't come by this knowledge without personal experience. It was only last season that I started figuring out why I liked some skis more than others - until then I hadn't put much thought into the issue. Say what you will about my skiing abilities (which just about no one on this board has seen), but it works for me and I'm happy that I've discovered how critical the binding mount position is for the performance of skis.

P.S.S. I thought I should also mention that I like to turn... a lot. My skiing style is mostly short to medium size turns. I prefer a ski that will initiate the turn quickly over a ski that is more stable, but not as quick to get into the turn when put on edge. That's probably why I like the stiffer, damper skis if you think about it (I'm having a self-revelation here). I want a ski that can turn quickly, but still be stable as a rock. I don't want to get that "extra" stability from a more rearward mount.
post #27 of 46
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Cirquerider
Noodler, after reading your reply above on ((tip-waist)/(tail-waist)) ratios I think you have hit on an interesting mathmatical expression for tail release characteristics. I would guess that higher ratios of tip/waist also yield more aggressive turn initiation. Well, we know how you got your name.

Expanding on this, the Atomic B5 (133-76-115) has a ratio of 1.46, which is surprisingly similar to the Volkl six star (114-68-99) ratio of 1.48. In spite of the fact these are radically different size skis, their carver intentions and tail release are similar.
I'm glad someone appreciates my insanity . I guess I just got to the point where I wanted to know WHY I enjoy some skis more than others - and then use that information to help evaluate and select new gear. I sometimes worry that it causes me to "pre-judge" a ski and that I would be better off not doing this, but it's all just a fun hobby to me - nothing too serious. Why not then. I do my best to keep an open mind, but Mike_m said on one of our lift rides at Loveland "you sure have some strong opinions about ski gear". I guess I do.
post #28 of 46
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Highway Star
By the way, stockli DP's, SS's and asteroids were all 91mm at the waist until this year.
Yes, you're right - I must have been thinking about the this year's version or my Machete FBs when I wrote 94mm. Honestly, it's funny how this season those skis don't look all that fat to me anymore. I can easily see how I could ski an 80mm - 90mm ski as my main ride all season. The technology has just made it possible to get these wide skis now without losing the torsional stiffness. The mindset is changing - you're obviously just way ahead of the curve - much more so than most of us at Epic.
post #29 of 46
I'll chime in here.
I used to like a stiff ski. But about 4 years ago, when I began to work on my skills and begin the ski better, I find I like a softer ski. May be this is why I'm so in love with Volkl's All Mountain skis. My AX3's are such a joy to ski. I have found that when I ski on Atomic skis they seem to give me a ruff ride, the Volkl's are smoother over the same trail. I used to like Atomic until I got on Volkl's. I have been on Volkl's since the G30. I have also had Atomics during this same time. I haven't skied my 10EX's much in the last two years.
I find the softer Volkl's quicker and easier to ski.
post #30 of 46
Quote:
Originally Posted by Highway Star
Well, most folks ski in the backseat and don't carve turns......sorta makes you think, doesn't it?
...that a vast majority of americans have poor skiing technique in terms of their body position?

i mounted some explosives forward and they carved it up really nicely on hardpack. they were less than ideal in tight trees and deep deep snow with the forward mount - but boy did they rage on hardpack

i don't think i'd mount bindings forward again for all mountain, but it can help on big tough skis where one wants to ski a longer length for additional stability with a lot of body height....
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EpicSki › The Barking Bear Forums › On the Snow (Skiing Forums) › Member Gear Reviews › 6 Ski Reviews: Unlimited AC4, Mantra, M:EX, M:B5, Legend 8000, Blizzard Titan Eight