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Review: Volkl AC4 (177) and Elan M777 (184)

post #1 of 6
Thread Starter 
Hey y'all,

I effectively destroyed my remnants of an all mt quiver this season... as such, I demoed an AC4 for a couple of days in utah, and bought the Elan 777 from Dawgcatching (Great purchase, by the way!) for a trip to jackson.

My ability:
6'0", 175-180lbs 22 yrs old, former hs/college racer, in the past 30-50 days a year, this year unfortunately only ~15 days. I ski everything and did ski everything on these skis. I'm used to race stock SL and GS skis; I own a pair of axis XPs (same as an apache recon) in a 174... the skis are fun but not nearly enough ski for me.

Volkl AC4 Unlimited:

2 days, one at Snowbird, the other at Alta. These were the only stout skis in a decent size for me that I could find to demo. Conditions were spring conditions: hard in the morning, soft and mushy in the afternoon.

These skis were fun in bowls and groomers. They feel like an oversize slalom ski with a slightly larger radius. I actually found the radius to be too tight; the skis were remarkably stable at speed, and they were able to hold tight arcs at higher speeds than I would have expected. They don't wash out and they have very good edge grip for their size. I also jumped off of some catwalks and cornices with them and they landed nicely. They are quite stable in soft snow, at least while arcing. I'm a bad judge of whether or not skis are forgiving, since I have skied almost exclusively on race skis the past few years. These skis didn't kick me around, so I guess that means they're forgiving.

The biggest flaws I found with these skis are

1) marker bindings. Seriously, I prereleased twice in one day on these skis with the dins at 9.5 (I run my FKS's on race skis at 9 most of the time and have NEVER ejected). Even if I adored these skis, I just couldn't tolerate Marker bindings. They are TERRIBLE. (Note: I don't know if the skis can come flat. If they can, someone correct me. It's my understanding that they come with the speedpoint bindings even on non-demo skis, and that's what I've seen on all the AC4s I've seen around. I may be wrong.)

2) These skis have a huge honkin' tail. Wide tails are great for slalom skis, but they were cumbersome in bumps and steeps when even racer ol' me wants to skid the tails around. This is something I've found with every ski I've owned with wide tails and a big sidecut: carving (and I do mean actual, honest carving) short or medium turns, the skis rip; however, if you want to tighten the arc beyond that point, the ski resists. It'll let you rotate and tighten the turn, but the ski does not deliver the same rebound that it does at its happier turn radii. Finally, I had never believed in the whole 'tip-tail hang' in narrow chutes... before I tried these skis. at several points during the day, I found myself suspended on two contact points, and with substantially less control than I would have had with the whole ski touching the snow. This was very disconcerting and possibly a deal-breaker.

Overall: Fun skis, but not enough rebound in general or ability to manage more traditional short turns. Really, as someone else described, a wide carving ski. If someone were giving them away, I'd take a pair, but they have too specific a turn radius for my tastes, and are unhappy making turns that are shorter or longer. I might have enjoyed the 184 more; a larger sidecut radius might have made me happier with the skis.

Elan 777s (184)

As I mentioned, I ordered these from dawgcatching and bought them with ELD14 bindings (set at 10). I only had 1 day on them at Jackson (didn't wnat to destroy them on rocks!), but what a day it was.

These skis look and feel small for a 184; I might have gone for a 192 had I known just how small! That said, they are more stable than the ac4s and they have a relatively large turn radius (~24m). On hard groomers, they're fun, fast, and have reasonable (though not unbelievable) edge grip, though they're noticably slower edge to edge than a dedicated hard snow ski (shocker, I know). In soft snow, they really move. They are happy going fast through cut up mush, making big GS turns. They allowed me to relax in choppy stuff at a much higher speed than the ac4s.

In short turns, their smaller tail snapped around quickly and easily. I found the skis happy to dance down the fall line, using whatever radius turns I wanted. It's a good thing they don't insist on carving, of course, since pure carved turns of the radius these skis like would be ridiculous in lots of situations.

I also had these skis up in rendevous bowl too early, when the bowl was one big death cookie. They are big and stable, and felt great to stand on in crappy snow. Where other skis would get deflected and flustered in the hard bumps, these smoothed out the ride. I like standing on big skis in general, and these were no exception!

finally, I've read here that some people find hte skis to be unforgiving. Maybe I just had a pact with these skis, but I had no problem with the skis biting me. They weren't bumpin' machines, but they're not intended to be. If these skis are 'unforgiving', I'm totally out of touch with the meaning of a 'forgiving' ski.

Overall: I'm pleased with the 777s. I might have gotten a larger size had I known just how small the 184s look and feel; that said, I did not find the 184s to be lacking in stability 95% of the time. These are substantially more versatile than hte ac4s, and they seem to be a great all mt ride for someone who skis fast and hard.

I know this is very late for a review, but hopefully it'll help someone out with a late season purchase!
post #2 of 6
I have no complaints about my AC4 skis, but I too have been disappointed in the Marker bindings. I have continually increased the din number on the heels, but if you get slightly forward in the bumps and the ski flexes just so, you step right out. Frustrating!
post #3 of 6
Did the 184 777 ski shorter than the 177 AC4?
I'm 5'8" 160lbs and was thinking about getting the 176cm 777 (I think it's the shortest they make). Now maybe even longer?
post #4 of 6
Thread Starter 
the 184 777 is definitely more stable than the 177 ac4, both on groomers and in cut up snow... at least that's my take. When I say it skis short, I mean that it pivots quickly and easily and deals well with short skidded turns. It has a very very high speed limit, but being that it's so manageable in the 184, I would have considered going longer just because I could (and I tend to ski big/fast). That said, I'm happy I didn't as I just ordered some giganto skis (see thread in gear discussion). Judging by the number of people who find the 777s to be a handful, I'd say that you're probably best off to go for the 176 unless you ski hard/fast all of the time. I like big skis.
post #5 of 6
I haven't skied the 777 but have demoed the 666 a few years back. I enjoyed it. I have the AC4 in 170cm as my everyday east coast ski. I tune them myself. Mine have no problem changing the radius of the turn. I can rip large arch's across the trail and instantly change to short radius turns. I agree the wide tail is a bit much in tight bumps.

The only thing I find demanding about the ski is the wide tip that I don't de-tune. If I don't pat attention and let the ski run flat as I'm coming to a stop. I will get launched over that down hill edge. Let me tell you, "you learn not to do that".

Granted there not a GS ski but they are more versatile. I can ski them slow and make nice easy short radius turns.
post #6 of 6
Originally Posted by SwamptoRocky View Post
Did the 184 777 ski shorter than the 177 AC4?
I'm 5'8" 160lbs and was thinking about getting the 176cm 777 (I think it's the shortest they make). Now maybe even longer?
Stick with the 176. Move the binding back 1-2cm if you need a little extra stability over manueverability. The 777 has a pretty narrow tip and has alot of stuff inside which keeps the ski damp terrain-hugging, so it tends to be very stable in cut-up snow, moreso than the length would indicate. I am your size and wouldn't reasonably need a longer ski, and wouldn't want one unless I was skiing some big mountain where I didn't need to turn. For high-speed all-mountain skiing, especially if shorter turns or tree skiing is present, the 176 is a better choice. Even with the new 888 coming out, the 777 still gets my vote as the best crud ski I have yet tried.
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EpicSki › The Barking Bear Forums › On the Snow (Skiing Forums) › Member Gear Reviews › Review: Volkl AC4 (177) and Elan M777 (184)