Volkl 5-Star and AC4Searching for deals on the AC4, I found this forum and thought I'd pass along my experiences with Volkl's AC4 and 5-Star. I'm 5' - 9", 180 pounds, advanced to expert depending on how my back is treating me, and ski mostly at Mammoth Mtn in a mix from off-piste to groomers -- trees, powder, packed, crud, ... anything except the steepest stuff (which is very steep at Mammoth). Loved Volkls for years beginning with the yellow Renntigers in the 80s; presently on 175 cm 5-Stars I bought last season. Awesome ski with very fast response, edge hold and rebound, great in bumps and at high speeds, too. The more you put into the ski, the more it gives you. Slice and dice. Probably not for everyone, but when you do it right this ski does almost all the work. And it's pretty easy to do it right. An advanced to expert who likes the Volkl feel will love this ski. AND it's forgiving due to its fairly soft tail.
But, being narrow under foot, the ski can be tricky in very deep snow and crud due to its inherent quickness. So 2 weeks ago I demo'd some wider boards that should be better in those conditions and hopefully fun on the packed. I thought the AC4 (170 cm) was great. Very stable and calm in powder and crud, with the characteristic Volkl edgehold, quickness (less than the 5-stars of course), and rebound. A lot of fun on groomers when you're slicing turns and drawing two lines in the snow. I thought this is a wide ski I can have fun with when the powder is chopped up and the snow is packed. Thinking longer would probably be better due to greater flotation and longer turn radius, I tried the 177 cm model (next size up) the next day. It felt like a totally different ski. Much stiffer and I couldn't get it to bend into a nice arc with good edge hold at moderate speeds (the 170s were great at this). All my turns were skidded unless I had very high speed and strong angulation to get the edge to work. A heavier skier wouldn't have this problem. So try before you buy.
Other skis I demo'd recently. Volkl All-star 175, EXTREMELY stiff, lots of skidding, no fun. Salomon Scrambler Hot 177, fore-ski and shovel too stiff for me, made the ski prefer to skid rather than carve, I've almost always thought this about Salomon skis, shorter may have been better. K2 Outlaw 167, very wide but pretty good all around ski, not too short, reassuring skidded turns on steep slopes when you don't want anything to go wrong. K2 Crossfire, good recommendations as an all-around ski from a friend, but couldn't find a pair to demo.