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Intermediate's all mountain ski test

post #1 of 18
Thread Starter 
58 year old, 6'1", 175 lb. NOT an expert skier or ski expert!
Intermediate Skier who did not start skiing until my mid-30s.
Resort-vacation skier 12 – 15 days per year – take a few lessons – read a few books.

Skis I’ve owned and liked: Volant PowerKarve 180cm, K2 Axis X 174cm, Head iXRC 1100 chip 163cm.
Skis demoed: Volkl AC4 170cm, Dynastar 8000 165cm, K2 Recon 167cm

Conditions: Park City 2/6/06, Great Base, High in the low 20s, 36 hours since a 4 inch snowfall and following a busy weekend. I believe this was a very typical day. We did not have two feet of “fresh powder” or soft spring conditions.

Skiing style: Steadily motoring. Probably average speed (as measured by how many people I pass) for most black runs above average for most blues, but never at high speed carver/racer speeds. No jumps, no cornices, no hikes, no helicopters, no back country. Preferred terrain: trees, big soft bumps and groomers. The demo store only offered 1, 2 or 3 skier ratings and we agreed I was a 2. I tried to ski all demos in a balanced, two footed stance with a light pressure on the tongue of the boot like I ski my iXRC Chips. In retrospect, this may have been a mistake.

Started the day with the AC4s because they were available. The snow was cold and hard which may not the best conditions for this ski. We started on a blue cruiser (Payday). Few skiers, other than racers running laps, were carving this run and I didn’t either. Maybe not enough speed or not enough edge angle or pressure on the tips. All I know is it wasn’t working for me so we went to the top of the mountain and tried some bumps that had been fun the day before. Later in the day or with a few inches of fresh snow it may have been different but after about 3 runs I decided the AC4’s were just too stiff for me and traded them in for 165cm Dynastar 8000.

We moved to a different chair (McConkey’s) and softer snow. I enjoyed the 8000’s but I had skied the same bumps and trees with my iXRC’s the day before and did not see any benefit from the wider Dynastars. In the bumps they required more thought and effort. I think with a few more runs I would have adjusted to the extra input required by the extra width. Both the Dynastars and the much narrower Heads handled the trees and the cut up snow equally well at the speed I was skiing.

We went back to get something different with more sidecut. The clerk steered me away from the 176cm Magfire 12 & 10, Rossignol Z9 and the Atomic B5 as being too stiff. I tried another all mountain ski, the K2 Recon in a 167 (only length available). That didn’t add much to my base of knowledge. It worked fine in the soft snow and did not have enough edge for me in the harder afternoon bumps and skied off cruisers. Three years ago on a warm spring day the K2-XP was my favorite demo but with colder/harder conditions it wasn’t as much fun.

Conclusions: The all mountain style ski did not allow me to go anywhere I could not go just as easily (with my ability) on my ski-cross style Heads. I had hoped these wider, higher performance skis would help me enjoy the ungroomed blacks and trees more but what I found was they did not have much impact there but they sure made the slicker bumps and and blue cruisers less fun. I do not know the economics of the ski industry. Maybe young, aggressive skiers buy most of the new skis. Certainly most of the ads are directed toward them. After this week’s experience I’m convinced that although I do not spend much time on Intermediate Runs I probably need to be looking at skis that are marketed toward Intermediate Skiers. This seems somewhat of a disconnect but then everything is not always logical. My guess is the three skis I tried this week are the right ski (ability & terrain) for about 10% of the folks on the hill but they account for a large % of their company’s advertising dollars.

I wonder if those of you who are instructors find your adult students buying skis that fit their egos better than their skiing style/ability, but that’s another thread.
post #2 of 18
I think you're on the right track - there's nothing wrong with skis "marketed" a couple rungs down in a manufacturers line (you'll get a better bang for your buck too). I'm just glad you demoed and didn't get hung up on the mystique of a ski that's been marketed to you as the perfect ski.

You might consider demoing one of the all-mountain skis (70-80mm waist) in conjunction with a lesson to make sure that your dissatisfaction isn't linked to a technique issue. I'm sure that my satisfaction with my new Elan M777s has a lot to do with the fact that my first full 3 days on them were guided by some of the best instructors available. I'm not sure what I would have thought of them if left to myself.
post #3 of 18
if you ever have the chance try out the Rossignol Axium T power with the super twin deck binding plate.

I love these ski's. I can go litterly anywhere on them except real hardpack and ice. They will do this but it's not their strong point.

I ski pretty hard and these did let me down occasionaly when one really puts the pedal down, but for a intermediate looking to improve these are great and did wonders for my skiing.

They even are a pretty decent pow ski once you dial into them. some float and consistent easy flex. 70 mm waist

I ride the 8800's now and they are just that little bit stiffer when it counts, but I still like to take some runs on my Rossi's cause they just make skiing so easy.
post #4 of 18
The margins are highest on the agressive skis. So they spend the marketing on the highest end of the line and hope for a trickle down effect. Our top ski is amazing it will even warm your boots at night. our next model while almost as good doesn't make your buldge in your pants seem any bigger.....

That's basically all marketing is anyway. You don't spend big dollars extolling the workman-like virtues of the mass market ski. You spend it on the sleek/sexy elite product. Just ask ford who spent $2.2m on an ad for the Ford GT a couple superbowls ago when the thing was $150,000+ and they only planned to sell like 200 or so a year. While they sell 300,000 taurus/fusion models for $20,000 for much more gross - it's not sexy to talk about a 6 cylander mid sized sedan rather than a v8 supercar.
post #5 of 18

props to the "intermediate" ski

i picked up the X-Scream 9, the smaller step-brother of the hugely successful orange-yellow X-Scream Series from a few years ago. this was marketed as an intermediate ski (it IS forgiving), and every now and then, when I take it out, I remember how much I love it while also finding something more in it than I had before. As my technique has improved, I think I am going to put down the Odyssey E-Max midfats I have been on and get back on the Salomons. I have a very strong feeling it will be like re-meeting an old girlfriend; we've been separated for awhile but are coming back together, bringing something new to each other.

needless to say, i paid a few-hundred dollars less than what the "advanced/expert" Scream Series skis were going for.

and - pardon my gearage - with the Sally S912's on my 9's, they turn as soon as I think it.
post #6 of 18
I think there are a couple of things at work here. First, by your own admission, you are not an expert, and I think you demoed some skis that might have been a little over your head. The AC4 and the 8000 are wider than what you're used to, and you felt the AC4 was too stiff. The wider skis will be more work in bumps, but the payoff is improved ability in powder and cutup crud. Sounds like you didn't get to experience that. Second thing I would say is don't conflate trail ratings with ski ratings. Many intermediates (especially in the east) will try to "ski" the toughest trail (I'm thinking White Heat at Sunday River) at a resort so they can say they skied it, even if they didn't link 3 turns. A lesson on the wider skis might have helped you get used to them. Those same folks (and to blatantly stereotype, we're talking mainly about younger guys here...) will sometimes over-buy the ski that's marketed as the elite product, only to find that it doesn't change their technique, and has no noticeable impact on their ability/enjoyment. Glad you were smart enough to figure this out in a demo. You might try some of those same lines, but a model or two down, maybe the Volkl AC2 or AC3(might still be too much, not sure), Dynastar Legend 4800 etc...
post #7 of 18
Addendum to Tumbler's comments: Mid-fats are marketed these days as the "one ski quiver," but they're more like a "one ski compromise." They won't beat a thinner cross/carver on the kind of terrain you describe. They're going to be superior in pow, crud - although nothing like a true fatty. They're designed more for skiers who are oriented more toward soft stuff, but want to hit the groomers too. If you don't fit that description, why bother with a floatier ski? If you do, but it wasn't the day, then why use bumps and trees as your criteria for whether they're better than your Heads?

Also agree that the 8000 may be a wonderful ski, but you'd be happier on the 4800. It's not the poor cousin; I've seen very good skiers on it out west. Just a little quicker and more forgiving in front. Some reviews of it here if you search.
post #8 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by steveturner
58 year old, 6'1", 175 lb. NOT an expert skier or ski expert!...

Conclusions: The all mountain style ski did not allow me to go anywhere I could not go just as easily (with my ability) on my ski-cross style Heads. I had hoped these wider, higher performance skis would help me enjoy the ungroomed blacks and trees more but what I found was they did not have much impact there but they sure made the slicker bumps and and blue cruisers less fun. I do not know the economics of the ski industry. Maybe young, aggressive skiers buy most of the new skis. Certainly most of the ads are directed toward them. After this week’s experience I’m convinced that although I do not spend much time on Intermediate Runs I probably need to be looking at skis that are marketed toward Intermediate Skiers. This seems somewhat of a disconnect but then everything is not always logical. My guess is the three skis I tried this week are the right ski (ability & terrain) for about 10% of the folks on the hill but they account for a large % of their company’s advertising dollars.

I wonder if those of you who are instructors find your adult students buying skis that fit their egos better than their skiing style/ability, but that’s another thread.
Definitely some people buy skis that suit their egos more than their abilities. Though you certainly didn't choose skis that would do well in the bumps, at least you do know what and how you like to ski and are willing to admit that the high performance expert ski is probably not right for you. There is nothing wrong with a more forgiving, fun-to-ski ski. There are a lot of intermediate to advanced skis that experts have reviewed and loved skiing. These are the ones you want to demo.

And you're right about the advertising dollars being used on the high end gear while the larger, general market is ignored in the ads. This used to aggravate us 30 years ago when every year the magazines would push the newest high end stuff as "must haves". We learned to ignore most of it : . I'm skiing on discontinued all-mountain Rossi Bandit Xs that I picked up last year, and as a lighter weight (140lb) level 7 skier I find these a blast for me, willing to go on wherever I choose. The more I ski 'em the more I like 'em. My heavier husband has the Dynastar Skicross 9s. The 10s were too stiff. There's nothing to be gained by choosing too much of a ski for yourself. Just my 2c's.
post #9 of 18
Agreed that the Dynastar Legend 4800 sounds like a much better choice IF you really want a wider ski. This is one of those slighly lower end models that's received great reviews. So has the Skicross 9, but it's discontinued (not a wide-waisted ski, though).
post #10 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by beyond
Addendum to Tumbler's comments: Mid-fats are marketed these days as the "one ski quiver," but they're more like a "one ski compromise."
I love that "one ski compromise" line - that's just so true - may I quote you?
post #11 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by tumbler
I think there are a couple of things at work here. First, by your own admission, you are not an expert, and I think you demoed some skis that might have been a little over your head. The AC4 and the 8000 are wider than what you're used to, and you felt the AC4 was too stiff. The wider skis will be more work in bumps, but the payoff is improved ability in powder and cutup crud. Sounds like you didn't get to experience that. Second thing I would say is don't conflate trail ratings with ski ratings. Many intermediates (especially in the east) will try to "ski" the toughest trail (I'm thinking White Heat at Sunday River) at a resort so they can say they skied it, even if they didn't link 3 turns. A lesson on the wider skis might have helped you get used to them. Those same folks (and to blatantly stereotype, we're talking mainly about younger guys here...) will sometimes over-buy the ski that's marketed as the elite product, only to find that it doesn't change their technique, and has no noticeable impact on their ability/enjoyment. Glad you were smart enough to figure this out in a demo. You might try some of those same lines, but a model or two down, maybe the Volkl AC2 or AC3(might still be too much, not sure), Dynastar Legend 4800 etc...
I don't know that this is entirely true. I've always fashioned myself a solid intermediate, maybe an advanced skiier at best (according to my instructor at Beck, a high 7). Over the past week, I too demoed the AC4, AC3, the Apache Recon, and the Atomic M9 (170, 170, 167, 171, respectively). My current ski is the Atomic C9, 180 cm, with a 64mm waist. I had never been on anything near as wide as the AC4, which was the first ski I demoed of the bunch, and had a blast on them. I'm also younger (27), heavier (200), and likely more athletic than the original poster, which likely contributed to my happier experience. My point is that it was likely skiier style that contributed to the originator's experience. I've only been at the sport for 5 or 6 years (only 4 of them averaging over 15 days a season), so I cut my teeth on newer, shaped skis. Therefore I learned with a wider stance, using edge angle to turn the skis rather than the foot-together, scarving technique more common to the older, straight skis.

While I enjoyed each of the skis I tested, I liked the Atomic M9 the most. I even found it to be the most challenging of the group. Not challenging in turning the ski, mind you, as the M9 turned automatically. But boy did they wear my legs out more so than the Volkls and K2s! I'd never skied such a short radius (my C9's are 17m at 180cm, the M9's are 13.5m at 171), but I made the most beautiful arcs I've ever made on a pair of skis, never mind the fact that it felt like I was doing high-rep squats all day long!
post #12 of 18
Thread Starter 
Thanks for all the good feedback. Rereading my post I came across a little whiney. It was really a good experience. I learned something and that’s nearly always good. My wife and I avoid the smooth blue cruisers after midmorning because we think it’s the most dangerous part of the mountain. Once all the high speed cruisers come out we move on to steeper, ungroomed slopes. We’re not bombing down the blacks with the 20 year olds but we’re not side slipping them either. Linked turns in difficult conditions are a challenge and fun for both of us. I hoped that I might find a little magic in a bottle but maybe I was expecting too much from the equipment. The “higher end” skis are evidently designed with a different level of speed or aggressiveness in mind.

One other thought about wide skis. I do not live near snow. I’ve managed to ski 10 -15 vacation days a year in the west for most of the past 30 years. I’ve had one ski day with over 12 inches of fresh snow and never had untracked snow much deeper than my knees in the trees. I suspect you need to live close to the action so you can pick your days to get the most out of these wider skis. I now realize I don’t need an all mountain ski to enjoy a few inches of fresh snow. What most of us ski and what we see on videos are night and day different.

I rode a lot of dirt bikes in the 70’s. Back then the European bikes (Husky, Maco, etc.) were clearly better than the Japanese models. They were easier to ride fast but they were also easier to ride slow. Being better designs did not make them more difficult to ride. They had better engines, better suspensions and better transmissions. I hoped these high end skis offered similar advantages but I think I now understand why that is not possible.

My next trip I plan to try some Magfire 8’s and 10’s. Anyone care to compare them to the K2 Axis X or Head iXRC 1100 chips that I normally ski?
post #13 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by Forrester
I don't know that this is entirely true.... I'm also younger (27), heavier (200), and likely more athletic than the original poster,
You disagreed with me, but then proceeded to make my point for me.

I still think that the skis steveturner demoed were likely a stretch for him, and think he might be happy with the models one step down from those he tried. Good luck to you both!
post #14 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by steveturner
Thanks for all the good feedback. Rereading my post I came across a little whiney. It was really a good experience. I learned something and that’s nearly always good. My wife and I avoid the smooth blue cruisers after midmorning because we think it’s the most dangerous part of the mountain. Once all the high speed cruisers come out we move on to steeper, ungroomed slopes. We’re not bombing down the blacks with the 20 year olds but we’re not side slipping them either. Linked turns in difficult conditions are a challenge and fun for both of us. I hoped that I might find a little magic in a bottle but maybe I was expecting too much from the equipment. The “higher end” skis are evidently designed with a different level of speed or aggressiveness in mind.

One other thought about wide skis. I do not live near snow. I’ve managed to ski 10 -15 vacation days a year in the west for most of the past 30 years. I’ve had one ski day with over 12 inches of fresh snow and never had untracked snow much deeper than my knees in the trees. I suspect you need to live close to the action so you can pick your days to get the most out of these wider skis. I now realize I don’t need an all mountain ski to enjoy a few inches of fresh snow. What most of us ski and what we see on videos are night and day different.

I rode a lot of dirt bikes in the 70’s. Back then the European bikes (Husky, Maco, etc.) were clearly better than the Japanese models. They were easier to ride fast but they were also easier to ride slow. Being better designs did not make them more difficult to ride. They had better engines, better suspensions and better transmissions. I hoped these high end skis offered similar advantages but I think I now understand why that is not possible.

My next trip I plan to try some Magfire 8’s and 10’s. Anyone care to compare them to the K2 Axis X or Head iXRC 1100 chips that I normally ski?
I really like what you said here.

I agree about the groomers and High speed skiers. you are much safer in ungroomed territory, the only skiers going fast on ungroomed snow are usualy highly skilled and are not a risk to others,on the other hand any clown can charge down groomed Blue and black runs.
post #15 of 18
Interesting thread. I recently returned from Telluride, during which time I used a couple of days to demo several different skis. As a side note, my last trip I demoed the Atomic M10, and really liked it alot. So the purpose of my demo experience this time was to try the M9 and M11, and possibly confirm my love for the M10. I tried the Rossi B2, Dynastar Legend 4800 and 8000, Volkl AC3, M9 and M11. I'm about 5'8", 145#, very athletic, skiing 35+ years, but would rate my curreny skiing ability only at a high 7 (moved to Florida 15 years ago - see what that does to your skiing).

My impressions are as follows:
B2- I really liked this ski. I also found it longitudinally soft and very foregiving. Seemed to "float" well in the little powder available. Pretty agile on the groomed snow, great in the crud, and suprisingly nimble in the bumps. Seemed to handle the speeds that I ski just fine. Comes "flat", so you can mount any binding your heart desires. I at one time skiied the Bandit XX, which I liked. This was even better.

Legend 8000- way too much ski for a person of my weight and age (read as middle-aged, unaggressive). No knock on this ski, just not for me.

Legend 4800- More appropriate for my weight and unaggressive skiing style. This is everything the B2 is, with a little more energy.

AC3- I currently ski the Volkl G3, which I really like. I expected to love this ski. I see a lot of people skiing this ski. I could not find the sweet spot on this ski. As you would expect from a Volkl it had a great grip on the groomed. Was tough in the bumps and crud. Just seemed like work. I felt a sense of relief when I traded it in for the M9.

M9- I demoed the M10 previously and thought it was really good. The M9 is better. I think the tendency with the Metron line is to think that the progression of skis is for progressively better skiers; this is probably the way Atomic intended it. I don't see it this way. I see them as different skis (based on the same principle) for different types of skiers. I think a lot of very advanced skiers who like the Metron idea, but want a softer, lighter ski should try this ski. Like it's brethren, great on the groomed, but soft enough to be fun in the bumps. Just fine at my speeds. I think many advanced skiers will shy away because Atomic has marketed this as the intermediate ski of the Metron line. I think if you want a little less radical sidecut than the M11 and B5, look at the M9 and M10. The M9 is just the softer, lighter version, good for us lightweights.

By the way, as much as I really liked the M9/M10 and the B2, I loved the 4800. So I bought it.
post #16 of 18
An "all mountain" ski is different things to different people. If one does not need the float of a wider (say 80-82mm) ski, then it makes little sense to buy one. A somewhat narrower ski (say 70-74mm) is often more nimble and easier to ski for one who does not usually tip the ski way up on edge. I personally own skis ranging from 67mm to 99mm. I find that I seldom dig out the wider stuff for less than 12" of snow. A narrower ski can really put the fun into a groomer zoomer day. Try the aforementioned 4800 or a Nordica Eliminator (both 74mm) or something like a Nordica SUV 12 (70mm)

SJ
post #17 of 18
ldrjax - you don't happen to remember what lengths you demoed for each ski do you? What length did you end up buying for the 4800?
post #18 of 18
tumbler - the M9 and M10 were 157 cm (I checked the "Metron Index" chart and it seemed the right length); I tried the B2 and Legends in 158 cm and 165cm; AC3 in a 156 cm. I was really wary of going so short, but after I decided on the 4800s I tried them in both lengths. I bought the 158 cm.
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