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Demo day: Nordica Hot Rod Afterburner, Volkl Mantra, Volkl AC4

post #1 of 15
Thread Starter 
Had the chance to try out a couple of skis last week. Reason for the demo: looking for an all-mountain ski for Tag Jr to replace his old twin tips.

First, skiing at Copper after a couple of days of fresh snow with high winds shutting down 1-70, so the crowds were low and the freshies were lasting for a while. Great skiing on the Super Bee and Resolution lifts. 6 - 10 inches of new snow, some places a bit deeper where the winds had blown it in. Groomed runs with great packed powder, enough skiers to make for some cut-up crud in other places, and a few runs, such as Andy's Encore that were actually scraped back to the hardpack. In short, a great day to try out a couple of real go-anywhere skis.

Me: 50, 5'-11", 190 lbs, level 8 skier, been skiing for 46 years.

Skis used - my Volkl AC 4's (two season's old), Nordica Hot Rod Afterburner, Volkl Mantra - all 170's.

Started the day on my AC 4's. Won't go into great detail about them as I reviewed them some time ago, and they aren't current. Not sure just what has changed from the AC 4 to the AC 40 for this year. It appears that the sidecut has not changed, but the sales rep said Volkl put some carbon in the tip. Anyway, I love my AC 4's. They have become my everyday ski at Copper. In typical Volkl fashion, they are rock solid, lay down great GS arcs on the pack powder, have great edge grip on the hardpack, and have enough float for the few powder days that I get to see. I would put them as a better front side ski than bowl ski. They do OK in powder, but they are a bit heavy and seem to dive a bit for my liking.

I had never tried Nordica skis before, so didn't know what to expect. I was very pleasantly surprised. I found the ski to nearly the equal of the AC 4 in the crud and hardpack. Surprisingly for being a bit wider underfoot than the AC 4, I found the Afterburner quicker side to side. At slow to moderate speeds, it was the equal of AC 4 in carving out turns. Only when I got up to higher speeds did the Afterburner feel a bit unsteady, with a bit more chatter in the tips, and the feeling that it could be deflective by the heavier crud. It was also a bit better in the powder than the AC 4. Good float and the quickness to be responsive in tight quarters.

Last ski I tried was the Mantra. I would not have thought of the Mantra, btu the sales rep said I really needed to give it a try (it's his everyday ski!). I also know that the ski is very popular amongst the skiers here as a good all-mountain ski, but I wasn't all that impressed. I found the ski fantastic in the powder, by far the best of the three, but really struggled with it on the hardpack and the groomers. In comparison to the Nordica's, it wasn't nearly as responsive. Like my AC 4's, it felt very solid when I got it up to speed, but it really needed some soft snow to work well.

I would have picked up a pair of the AFterburners execpt that Tag jr. is much shorter and lighter than I am, and Nordica doensn't make the Afterburnere below a 170 in length. Would like to ski the AC 40 and AC 30 for additional comparisons. Anyone tried the AC 30? Also looking at the Bridge as another ski to try.
post #2 of 15
I know you weren't shopping for yourself but I'm exactly your size and ski the ABs in 178. Not unstable at that length at all.
post #3 of 15
I have the Afterburners in 186. To me the weight and stablity feel similar to an Atomic GS ski, but more versatile, capable of shorter turns. I couldn't get it up to top speed yet given the conditions and runs open.
post #4 of 15
Try the Jet Fuel. Its the same dimensions as the Afterburner, but with two sheets of metal. I don't think you will find them unstable at any speed.
post #5 of 15
With Jr. being much shorter and lighter than you, your impressions need to be filtered a bit in order to be much use in choosing something for him. If you think that you need something shorter than the AB for him then looking at stiffer skis (AC 30/40) in a shorter length may not be the answer.

Depending upon how short and light he is.....here are a couple of other options to condier.

Nordie Nitrous....same build as the AB but 78mm underfoot and available in a 162
Solly Fury.....similar shape to the AB but a bit lighter and avail. in 164
Rossi B83......soft and light enough to be very easy for a light but good skier and available in a 160 or 168.

post #6 of 15
Thread Starter 

A couple of other comments

I should clarify a bit that the AB's were stable at most speeds. They just didn't feel as rock solid as my AC 4's when laying down the big GS arcs that I prefer. I would also add that the AB's quickness side to side and willingness to make a shorter turn than the AC 4's also gave the AB's an edge in the bumps. If the AC 4's have a weakness, it's bump skiing. I'm not a big fan of mogul skiing and will generally ski bumps only when they've been filled in by powder, but the AB's handled them better than the AC 4's. The Mantra's were also a bit better in the bumps than my AC 4's, but only marginally so.

Tag Jr. is about 5' - 6", but more importantly, he is a good 50 lbs lighter than I am. Balance that with the fact that he is a top-flight, aggressive skier, and currently skis Atomic GS 11's and Fischer World Cup RC4's in a 170 and 173 and handles both quite well. My sense was that he should step down in length from the 170 when moving to a wider, all-mountain ski, but perhaps with his being lighter than me, the 170 AB would work for him.

Is the difference between the AB and the Jet Fuel just the metal? Does the AB not have any metal at all? Nordica's web site is very lacking in detail. Wondering if the AB more closely matches the AC 30 while the Jet Fuel would compete with the AC 40?
post #7 of 15
You should try the Mantras in at least a 177 before passing judgment. I'm a bit smaller than you (5'9''; 170) and really enjoy skiing the 177 - the added length lends stability yet it is still remarkably nimble. And its groomer / carving performance was really surprising to me. For reference, I too have the AC4 in a 170.
post #8 of 15
Yes, the difference between the ABs and the JF is the metal. I will also say that they (like many high-end skis) are very tune-sensitive. I have to wonder if some of what you felt was due to the tune towards the tip; I do not notice that instability you mention. I ski the 170 AB as my "most days" ski, and can amp it up quite high on the speed meter.
post #9 of 15
Thread Starter 

Well, one never knows about the tune. Took these skis out from the Christy's shop at the base of the Super Bee. If you ask them, they will always say that they keep the demo skis in top shape, but I've had a few demo's where the skis were clearly not in any condition to go out. It is certainly possible that the AB's were not at their best tune, espcially since their weakest showing was on the scraped snow on Andy's, which, even on a powder day, can get scraped down to icy hardpack conditions.

Let me try once more to clarify things here. First, I liked the Afterburner's a LOT! I was very impressed with the ski. In fact, I was sorely tempted after skiing them to say "Bag Tag Jr. I'm getting a pair of these for ME!" The AB's were as close to a 1-ski quiver as I have found. They were solid at speed, carving both long and short turns, were surprisingly quick edge to edge, were soft enough and had enough float to get through the freshies, and were also soft enough to go through the bumps nicely. However, they were not as solid on the groomed and hardpack as my AC4's. Given the nearly identical sidecut and the two sheets of metal in the AC4's, it isn't surprising that the Volkl's have a bit of an edge in the stability department while the Noridca's work better in the bumps and soft snow. Since Tag Jr. is so much lighter than I am, he may find the AB's at 170 to be just the right stiffness to be that perfect go-anywhere ski. After this discussion, I'm tempted to go back and try them again, but in the 178 length just to see what difference that makes. Just trying to find that bit of Nirvana: a ski that goes from the groomed to the hardpack to the bumps and powder and does it all well. Is that too much to ask?
post #10 of 15
Tag, I hear ya. I actually bought a pair of Mach 3 Powers to compliment my ABs on days when the snow is hard. Thing is, I find myself grabbing the ABs every day. I'll take both to Aspen next week, but care to bet what my usage will be?

I do find that the ABs arc it up on hard snow well when the tune is very fresh and good. Even the second day, they aren't the same, and feel more like you described here. I did ski the AC4 and AB back-to-back last year, and ended up buying the Afterburner because I felt they did everything just a bit better than the AC4. A bit. Almost imperceptible. But, given their position in the Nordica line, they are a better deal, too.

As always, YMMV, but I thought I'd share my observation about the tune. I don't know what factory is on them, but I have them tuned to 1/3 and no detune.
post #11 of 15
Afterburner is a great ski! It has a bit more stability that the Nitrous lacks. I wouldn't mind owning a pair!
post #12 of 15
Thread Starter 

Other 80 - 85 models to try?

Thanks, Dawg, and SSH,

Wondering if anyone has skied the Cold Heat and the Watea 84? Just wondering how those skis would compare to each other and the Afterburner's. (Dawg, sent you a PM on this too). Have read the Cold Heat reviews here, but don't find much on the Watea 84's.
post #13 of 15
I'm going to join the After Burner lovefest and add my thanks to SierraJim who suggested them to me last April.
post #14 of 15
I picked up the 186 Afterburners from SierraJim for $300 last summer.

I got back from Mammoth Sat. and really had a chance to try out these skis.

At this length they were not unstable at all. I hit Mach light speed on these babies. I carved the groomers, I skiddided the steeps. I was with several multi year Steam Boat race camp graduates (I'm not one) and hung right in there.

My only complaint is that after 2 complete agressive days of Mammoth, I was very fatigued.

I demoed the Apache Recons 174. I would pick the Afterburners over the Recon, maybe something shorter than 186 though.

I'm wondering if the instabilty issue isn't from skiing them flat? They like to be up on edge.
post #15 of 15
Final score: Mach 3 Power 2 days, Afterburner 2 days at the ESA. I would have been on the Afterburner again today, but Max offered me some Edelwisers, so I rode them instead. Afterburners at Copper tomorrow, and all weekend, too. So, out of the 7 days that I'll be on my own skis this week, 5 of them will be on the Afterburners.
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EpicSki › The Barking Bear Forums › On the Snow (Skiing Forums) › Member Gear Reviews › Demo day: Nordica Hot Rod Afterburner, Volkl Mantra, Volkl AC4