EpicSki › The Barking Bear Forums › On the Snow (Skiing Forums) › Member Gear Reviews › 7 Ski Reviews: Elan M777, M999, Magfire 10 & 12, Volkl AC3, Head i.M88 & i.Supershape
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7 Ski Reviews: Elan M777, M999, Magfire 10 & 12, Volkl AC3, Head i.M88 & i.Supershape

post #1 of 21
Thread Starter 
Random stats: 17 runs, ~20,000 vertical feet, 7 pairs of skis

Conditions: I'd say it was about 6" of new snow on top of already great conditions. If you're hesitant about a possible Colorado trip please don't be! We are having the best snow season in years. It was pretty much soft all day long with only a little bit of hard stuff off of the top of Chair 1.

My specs: 5’ 7", 175lbs. 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: Elan M777 (176cm)
Comments: I started my day and ended my day on these skis. When I was lazy and not warmed up these skis were running away on me and I found myself in the back seat (it's a big beefy ski). So I'm glad I decided to run them again at the end of the day. They actually came around into turns very nicely for a 22m radius ski. They provide plenty of float for the soft stuff and are hardly deflected in the chop. This is a ski that doesn't feel heavy or overly damp, but at the same time is very stable with good energy. I believe that for such a wide ski it would probably hold well on harder stuff, but the tune on this ski (and all of the Elans) was questionable. The Elan guys just weren't caring for the skis and even though I was the first skier on these for the day they didn't have a fresh tune on them. Overall I could see myself using these skis quite a lot if the snow keeps up this season in Colorado. I will buy these.

Ski: Elan Magfire 12 Fusion (168cm)
Comments: I was surprised at just how "light and lively" these skis felt after hearing so much about how Elan makes heavy/damp/stable skis. These skis just had absolutely no "hook up" on their turn initiation and were prone to washing out. I have to think this was due to the tune. Note that I own the M666 which has the same dimensions, but I haven't ridden them yet. I had to think long and hard about whether I was going to keep the M666 after riding the M12, but I really think that a properly setup ski with these dimensions should ride better. Note that I have the flat version of the M666 - I'm not really sure what effect the Fusion system had on these skis since they weren't riding well for me.

Ski: Elan M999 (181cm)
Comments: These are the fattest skis I've ever ridden (by 5mm) and so obviously they have tremendous float. They really are a deep snow tool and aren't at home on the hardpack. I loved the feel of them in the deep stuff. That's the one place where I really prefer a softer ski. The M999 can practically be bent into a complete "U". I noticed that when ssh was riding them that they definitely were losing an edge when he tried to push them on hardpack. If you're looking for a powder specific ski then I can certainly recommend this one. I am and I'll buy these.

Ski: Head i.Supershape (170cm)
Comments: I knew that this length was probably going to be a bit too long for me in this ski. This ski has a similar sidecut to an Atomic B5 (actually it's slightly more sidecut in the tail), but it's more narrow than the Atomic (by 11mm). Although the tails never got caught up on each other (the problem I was having with the B5), these skis felt "squirrely" to me every step of the way. The jaunt into the powder that ssh took me on was an exercise in futility with these skis - with such a radical sidecut the tip and tail wanted to float, but the middle of the ski was a far below the surface (weird feeling). I just never felt confident laying into turns on these skis even on the hardpack.

Ski: Head i.M88 (175cm)
Comments: These were the skis I was trying to get on most of the day and finally they were available. These skis immediately became my number 1 favorite for the day (until I re-rode the M777) as they were super stable with fairly large sweet spot. For such a big ski that are not an unforgiving ski. They really plowed through the cut up snow well, but they are not a very energetic ski. They feel heavy on the snow and you can't really "bully" them. Ski them right and they will reward. These are skis that I would put into the "hero skis" category. They inspire confidence to tackle anything and they have enough sidecut to still be fun on the hardpack.

After I rode the M777 again I decided that the M88 is just a bit too heavy and stable for even my needs. The M777 was stable enough, but still light enough that I could "bully" it if needed on the steeps. I was worried that I wouldn't have the skills to keep the M88 "happy" on the tougher stuff. I didn't feel that way about the M777.

Ski: Volkl Unimited AC3 (170cm)
Comments: Let me say this first - the Volkl guys were really on top of the tunes for all of their skis. They were regularly checking every pair that came in (when they could) and they were spot tuning them with moonflex stones. I don't think I had a bad tune on any of the Volkls I rode out of the 2 demo days and I wish all of the reps would be so diligent.

So the Unlimted AC3 is another great ski in the Unlimited series from Volkl. I really liked this ski - a lot. It had a great hookup in the turn initiation and held extremely well. I felt very at home on these skis and could rip nice quick turns on them. These skis have the same construction as the Unlimited AC4 and are just a bit narrower in all dimensions. I can see an AC3 & AC4 as a great 2 ski quiver for any Volkl fan. With those 2 skis you could cover most conditions very well.

Ski: Elan Magfire 10 Fusion (168cm)
Comments: This ski is Elans answer to the Metron B5 phenomenon. It's not a detuned version of the Magfire 12 - they are 2 very different skis. These skis have about 5mm less sidecut than the B5 (or Supershape), but a lot more sidecut than anything else in the Elan line. Once again I have to believe that the tune on these were letting me down. On the harder stuff these skis had trouble hooking up, but on the softer snow they were great and fed cleanly into every turn. They just didn't have as much "pop" as the AC3 and I think they are probably more suitable to some who likes a gentler ride.

----------------------

The next phase will be to "demo" my own skis since I need to "thin out the herd" (I have 4 pairs I haven't even ridden yet). Of course my skis will have an "unfair" advantage since they'll have a great tune and be setup for me (without crappy demo bindings). I'll post my thoughts on them as the season progresses. I hope that my reviews will be useful in helping you narrow down your own demo/purchasing choices.
post #2 of 21
Well done, Noodler! Great reviews and excellent insights.

You are far more knowledgeable about the facts and specs than I am, and I would never have imagined that the Supershape and B5 are the same sidecut. In fact, I had to go check the specs to be sure you were right! Just goes to show that it's not all about the geometry.
post #3 of 21
Noodler is a very accomplished skier with a more traditional bias to his skill blend. His fairly narrow stance is functional, and he is comfortable on a broad range of terrain and snow conditions. Those who are long-time skiers who have adjusted to shaped skis but have not had coaching on their technique will likely have a very similar approach to their skiing and will benefit greatly from Noodler's insights.

As I mentioned earlier, he's also amazingly well-versed on the specs for the equipment he tests, and is a very knowledgeable consumer. Pay attention to his comments on gear!
post #4 of 21

Two ski quiver?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Noodler
Ski: Volkl Unimited AC3 (170cm)
Comments: Let me say this first - the Volkl guys were really on top of the tunes for all of their skis. They were regularly checking every pair that came in (when they could) and they were spot tuning them with moonflex stones. I don't think I had a bad tune on any of the Volkls I rode out of the 2 demo days and I wish all of the reps would be so diligent.

So the Unlimted AC3 is another great ski in the Unlimited series from Volkl. I really liked this ski - a lot. It had a great hookup in the turn initiation and held extremely well. I felt very at home on these skis and could rip nice quick turns on them. These skis have the same construction as the Unlimited AC4 and are just a bit narrower in all dimensions. I can see an AC3 & AC4 as a great 2 ski quiver for any Volkl fan. With those 2 skis you could cover most conditions very well.
Noodler, my experience with the AC3 is very similar. I found the ski a great improvement from the 724 EXP which I had demoed over 3 days last year. Last year I skiied the EXP in a 177 (for reference I'm 6'1" & 200lb, 46 y/o level 8). I found the EXP a stable crud buster, but slow edge to edge. Following input from the Bears (Max Capacity in particular), I brought the AC3 for this (OZ season) and also went for a much shorter length at 170 cm.

Your comments on the AC3 and AC4 being a potential 2 ski quiver interest me. The AC3 at 170 works brilliantly in Oz where the conditions can be quite variable (boilerplate ice to slush all in the one 800 metre descent!) and as we rarely get powder, there is little need for a phat ski. However, Im heading to Hakuba (Japan) in February and was definately thinking that a ski with greater off-piste performance would be worthwhile, say a AC4 in 177cm.

Noodler, given that you have just skiied the AC3 and the AC4, do you think the step up to the AC4 would be worthwhile for the expected conditions (think west coast v east coast) and should I be looking at a longer length ie 177 v 170 for better fore/aft balance when skiing powder?
post #5 of 21
Thread Starter 
Taxman - I'm not sure how to answer your question since I'm not familiar with what you might run into in Hakuba. If it's truly like the U.S. Rockies and there's a chance of a larger dump (12"+) then rent a great pair of fatties (Gotama, M999, Supermojo, etc.) in Hakuba and have fun. If you're traveling and only want to take one pair of skis to handle whatever you may run into then the AC4 would be a great choice. It has enough sidecut to be fun on the groomers and enough width to handle the soft stuff. I'm having a tough time deciding on whether to pull the trigger on the M777 or the AC4 myself. I didn't get to ride the AC4 in 177cm where it is an 18m sidecut ski and more in line with a "big mountain" ride (but not quite a 22m like the M777). I would definitely go with the 177cm to fit into in my quiver and I plan on riding it in that length in another demo.
post #6 of 21
Noodler, what would you think about adding the Mantra to the AC3 for an interesting quiver?
post #7 of 21
Thanks for your prompt reply Noodler. Hakuba does not quite get the quality of powder snow that Sapporo gets, but with over 10m of snowfall and over 1,000 metres of vertical at Happo-One and Hakuba 47, there should be plenty of opportunity to get into some steep and deep (Happo-One hosted a number of alpine events, including the downhill and slalom during the 1998 Nagano winter Olympics).

Im not sure yet of the opportunity to rent quality skis in Hakuba. If Im able to rent good skis there and pre book them, I will probably do so. However, if Im travelling from Oz with only 1 pair of skis, I would be looking to take the most versatile.

I was considering the M777, but the reviews of the AC4 tend to indicate the AC4 might be an easier ski; lighter, tighter radius and more forgiving. Going from a 170cm AC3, I wouldn't want to be jumping onto a juggernaut and the AC4 at 177cm rather than the M777 seems more appropriate. Your thoughts are appreciated.
post #8 of 21
Noodler, great reviews.
I see that you own the Stormrider XL/ How does it compare to the AC3 and 4? The AC3 has virtually the same dimensions, but should be a tad softer?
Also, i liked the Legend 8000 all around, but would like something that carves and holds an edge better on ice. I ski in Europe, so i can ski 30 cm of fresh snow at the top to exit on a narrow icy bump rut, which of the AC's do you fell is more suited for these conditions?
post #9 of 21
Taxman, I would almost recommend you take the AC4 in 170cm to Japan. When I demoed the AC3 in 170cm in the trees with 8" of fresh they had nice float compared to my AX3. The AC4 that I demoed the same day did everything the AC3 did only with more float. The AC4 170cm was my X racer sons pick of the day. Granted were not as big as you. But you like the AC3 in 170cm the AC4 in 170cm should serve you well. If you get into real deep stuff you may want something longer or fatter. But for what you normally ski the 170 may be the best chioce.

Max,

psy, IMO the AC4
post #10 of 21
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by psy
Noodler, great reviews.
I see that you own the Stormrider XL/ How does it compare to the AC3 and 4? The AC3 has virtually the same dimensions, but should be a tad softer?
Also, i liked the Legend 8000 all around, but would like something that carves and holds an edge better on ice. I ski in Europe, so i can ski 30 cm of fresh snow at the top to exit on a narrow icy bump rut, which of the AC's do you fell is more suited for these conditions?
Ya know, I didn't even realize just how similar the specs were between the AC3 and the Stormrider XL until you mentioned it. That's really surprising because these skis definitely feel a lot different. You'll hear that the XL skis "long" and this is certainly true. My 174cm skis feel like a ski in the 180s. Stockli's construction through the tip & tails isn't exceptionally stiff (you can find consumer level Volkls that are much stiffer), but it does have a huge amount of pop/rebound since the mid-section is extremely "firm" (my XLs have 3 layers of titanium). The XL isn't an easy cruising ski (at least for me) - I find that I have to stay on top of them or they run away from me. I didn't have that feeling at all with the AC3, but hopefully I'll get a chance soon to directly compare them (depending on snow conditions - the Stocklis don't see any slope time until the rock gardens are well buried).

If you don't get into conditions much beyond 6" (15cm) very often then I think you would enjoy the AC3 more than the AC4 since it's quicker edge-to-edge. I don't recall one feeling any softer than the other. According to Volkl the constructions are identical with different dimensions.

Addedum: I compared the AC3 to the AC4 hand flexing them in the shop and they don't feel any different to me flex-wise. They seem like they're the same ski with identical construction, but different dimensions.
post #11 of 21
Thanks Max, your previous advice on the AC3 was great and im very happy with the skis. I know about the usual Bear mantra of demo, demo, demo and I will if I can. However, on a flying 1 week visit (can't complain about skiing in our off season), I want to land with the right gear, ready to ski.

I think the AC4 is the right ski, my only dilema is 170 v 177 cm. I skiied the AC3 in boot deep Oz powder in August. They worked fine, but as I said, it was only boot deep. When the off-piste areas got heavy and tracked up, the 170 were okay, but got thrown around a fair bit (not as stable as the 724 EXP in 177). Hence my thinking that the 177 cm may be a better choice. Your thoughts are appreciated.
post #12 of 21
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Taxman
Thanks Max, your previous advice on the AC3 was great and im very happy with the skis. I know about the usual Bear mantra of demo, demo, demo and I will if I can. However, on a flying 1 week visit (can't complain about skiing in our off season), I want to land with the right gear, ready to ski.

I think the AC4 is the right ski, my only dilema is 170 v 177 cm. I skiied the AC3 in boot deep Oz powder in August. They worked fine, but as I said, it was only boot deep. When the off-piste areas got heavy and tracked up, the 170 were okay, but got thrown around a fair bit (not as stable as the 724 EXP in 177). Hence my thinking that the 177 cm may be a better choice. Your thoughts are appreciated.
The 724 Pro & EXP were definitely stiffer than the new Unlimited stuff. I didn't like either ski (felt they rode like 2x4s), but Volkl has made the AC3 and AC4 much more accessible to the majority of skiers. For me at 5' 7" and 175 lbs. I think I would prefer the AC4 in a 177cm since I already have some front-side groomer skis. Even at 177cm the AC4 still has an 18m sidecut. This is a "shapely" ski, but I'm not sure right now if it will punish you if you go too long (like other more radically shaped skis do). I can't wait to ride it in a 177cm and see how it fits into my quiver picture.
post #13 of 21
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Max Capacity
Taxman, I would almost recommend you take the AC4 in 170cm to Japan. When I demoed the AC3 in 170cm in the trees with 8" of fresh they had nice float compared to my AX3. The AC4 that I demoed the same day did everything the AC3 did only with more float. The AC4 170cm was my X racer sons pick of the day. Granted were not as big as you. But you like the AC3 in 170cm the AC4 in 170cm should serve you well. If you get into real deep stuff you may want something longer or fatter. But for what you normally ski the 170 may be the best chioce.

Max,

psy, IMO the AC4
Max - just wondering, did you try the AC4 both in 170cm and 177cm? I'm hoping that there is someone around here who has and could comment on the difference.
post #14 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by Noodler
Max - just wondering, did you try the AC4 both in 170cm and 177cm? I'm hoping that there is someone around here who has and could comment on the difference.
Now that is a comparison I would like to hear about.
post #15 of 21
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by ssh
Noodler, what would you think about adding the Mantra to the AC3 for an interesting quiver?
Just realized I had never responded to this question...

Steve, I would call the 2 ski quiver, AC4 + Mantra, a "new schooler" quiver (add in the Gotama to round it out). Any self-respecting 20-something wouldn't ride anything narrower than the AC4 , so let's call that ski their frontside goomer ski and then take the Mantra for the backside stuff when there hasn't been any fresh in a week.

The AC3 + Mantra combo could work too, but I'd like to have that AC4 thrown in there to fill the gap.
post #16 of 21
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Taxman
Now that is a comparison I would like to hear about.
I'm definitely going to get on a 177cm AC4 in the next few weeks. If anyone knows of any good deals on AC4s (hard to find now that we're into the season) please PM me.
post #17 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by Noodler
Just realized I had never responded to this question...

Steve, I would call the 2 ski quiver, AC4 + Mantra, a "new schooler" quiver (add in the Gotama to round it out). Any self-respecting 20-something wouldn't ride anything narrower than the AC4 , so let's call that ski their frontside goomer ski and then take the Mantra for the backside stuff when there hasn't been any fresh in a week.

The AC3 + Mantra combo could work too, but I'd like to have that AC4 thrown in there to fill the gap.
Interesting. I find the Mantra a more front-side ski than the AC4, myself, probably due to its construction. But, I get your point.
post #18 of 21
Any comparisons of the Big Stix 86 to the IM88?
post #19 of 21

ELAN question

Noodle,
At the risk of bieing a little bit off topic, I was just wondering if you had a chance to ride the 666.
I tested them in March in Telluride in a mixed type snow (few inches of fresh powder over hard packed). They were a lot of fun : very easy and fast to initiate the turn, lot of edge control and lot of energy at the end of the turn. They also seemed to have a pretty large sweet spot and no tendency to send me in the back seat. The fun I had on them reminded me my first pair of ELAN : PSX TSI. The 666 seem as playfuk but with much more edge control and energy (I currently ski on K2 AXIS XT which I don't find playfull at all ).
As I did not get a chance to ride the 666 in real powder conditions, I am still wondering if they are as fun in soft and deep conditions...(are they fat enough?)
Any info would be helpful.
Thanks.
post #20 of 21
Thread Starter 
Pyrenees - I hate to admit it, but I still have not put the M666 on snow. I did mount them up last weekend though so at least they have bindings on them. I'll probably tune them up in the next week or so and they may see snow in December. I was at Mary Jane yesterday and I was amazed at how much of the moutain was open and how good the snow cover was. Originally I wasn't going to take out my new skis until January, but if the snow keeps up in Colorado (it's currently dumping on the mountains again right now) then I'll have a chance to "demo" my own new skis real soon.
post #21 of 21

Elan 666

I will stay tuned (I am considering a new pair as Xmas gift)

It is dumping here too in the Pyrénées (France) and I am planning on skiing tomorrow (with my not so fun K2 ).
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EpicSki › The Barking Bear Forums › On the Snow (Skiing Forums) › Member Gear Reviews › 7 Ski Reviews: Elan M777, M999, Magfire 10 & 12, Volkl AC3, Head i.M88 & i.Supershape