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Yes, yet another "what intermediate skis should I demo/buy?" thread

post #1 of 15
Thread Starter 
I'm new around here, but I've been trying to catch up.

The semi-brief rundown:

Male skier, age 26.
Height: 6'6" (195cm)
Weight: ~275-285lbs (~125-130kg)

Experience: Okay, maybe this won't be so brief. The short version is I'm probably a level 5, maybe closer to a 6 on a good day. I can carve -- mostly -- in green and easier blue terrain. When I get on very steep and/or icy terrain I have a tendency lean into the hill, wind up in the back seat, and muscle my way through everything, which 1) doesn't work very well and 2) wears me out after about two runs. Lessons are (slowly) helping, I think.

Background: I started learning on "straight" skis about 12 years ago, and skied semi-regularly in high school in MA (we had a group that went up to Wachusett every week and to some places in NH every month or so.) My parents had bought me some passable gear, but then I went away to college and became a broke college student, and the rest of my family decided they weren't really into skiing anymore. Expensive ski trips -- not so much.

Now that I'm gainfully employed and have paid off the student loans, I'm trying to get back into skiing. I have been on "shaped" skis (renting/demoing) for the last season and a half (maybe 10 or 12 days total on "new" skis at this point.) I'm looking to buy something, because renting gets expensive and my height makes it hard to consistently find rental/demo skis when I go to different mountains. Also, trying to take lessons on a different pair of skis every time is probably not helping the learning process.

Terrain: Eastern, with occasional forays out West when budget/time allows. Ice -- gotta learn to love it, I guess. I would like to get something that could handle some level of off-trail terrain as I get better, but I'm not expecting to be in two feet of fresh powder anytime soon (and if I am, it will be with lessons and rented skis.) I ski most frequently at Wachusett; this season I've also been to Stowe (VT) and Loon (NH) for overnight trips.

What I've done so far:

1) I got new boots. I wear size 17 (US) -- don't know the metric sizing, but think "really, insanely large" and then add some more for good measure (my new ski boots' sole length is 364mm.) I got fit for some really nice new Strolz boots with custom footbeds, and they are infinitely more comfortable than my old ones. They currently don't have custom-molded foam liners, but I can go back for those if I want to (this will apparently stiffen the boots considerably over the "flow foam" liner they have now, and I'm not sure that would help me much.)

2) I got some recommendations from the shop that did my boots (Strand's, in Worcester, MA. It's full of grizzled, bitter-sounding ski vets -- of course, they also offered me a nice Hefeweizen while I was getting fitted, so they're not all bad. ) I'm a really big, tall guy, and the employees at Strand's said I should probably look at stiffer "advanced/expert" skis (despite my non-expertness) because of my size, and should look at things with more length and width for stability. They recommended things like:

Head Monster im78
Elan Magfire 12/14
higher-end Volkl (like the AC40) or Stockli (not sure which model)

and that I stay away from "cheap Chinese-manufactured synthetic crap" like Atomic/Salomon (description may have varied somewhat, but was along those lines.)

3) I started demoing things. Of course, a fairly significant problem is that very, very few places seem to stock demo skis over ~175cm, or they'll only have one model in a 181/183. So I've often ended up demoing things in what are (for me, at 195cm tall) moderately short lengths. Or maybe the "don't go more than -15cm" thing is just out the window for me?

I'm going to try to describe the skis I've demoed. Bear with me, as I don't have all the technical jargon. This is all on-piste greens and blues (and some blacks at Wachusett), with conditions as denoted.

Rossignol Bandit B3 (181cm?, 07/08 model, Wachusett, packed to icy powder) -- I had been on Bandit B2s for a couple days last season, and remembered liking them. I actually demoed these the first day I was out this season, before I had my new boots; I may try them again. Seemed okay, but nothing special.

Salomon X-Wing Fury (174cm?, probably 06/07 model, Loon, packed powder to slight slush) -- I had been on these last year, on my old boots, and I didn't like them much. They were all I could get my first day at Loon (all the demo gear was out at a demo day -- not that they could, say, put this on the website or anything...) Still not a fan. Had a hell of a time controlling any kind of turn, even on fairly tame slopes. Felt like mush.

Volkl AC30 (183cm, 07/08 model, Loon, packed to slushy powder) -- got these my second/third day at Loon from a rental place in town. They handled okay, but felt... sluggish, maybe, is the right word? Heavy? I felt like I had to work harder at initiating turns. They held turns okay, but didn't seem particularly "fun" to me.

Head Monster im78 (178cm?, 07/08 model, Wachusett, packed powder to slushy powder to icy packed conditions) -- tried these the last time I was at Wachusett. I actually really liked these -- very responsive, seemed easier to stay balanced on (based on specs, maybe the lower turning radius for the size is helping?) My issue is that they seemed to get skittish on icy crap. What I'm not sure about is if that will improve if I stop sucking overall when I get into icy conditions. The longer length (they come in a 183cm size) might also help with that, I think?

K2 Apache Recon (181cm?, 07/08 model, Stowe, slushy to icy with ongoing snowmaking in places) -- Conditions were less than ideal, but these seemed to hold up okay. The (semi-) steep, (very) icy runs were not working for me, but I doubt that any skis would have made me comfortable on that terrain right now. Seemed sort of between the AC30s and im78s to me. Not sure how the Apache Crossfire might compare?

Elan Magfire 14 "Magma" (178cm?, 07/08, Stowe, packed with crusty surface to slush) -- Seemed really, really stiff. Clearly a very responsive ski, and when I could actually edge it they held well. I actually kind of liked the overall feel of them, but I couldn't control them consistently. My instructor (who saw me on the Recons as well) said it seemed like they were getting ahead of me at the end of my turns. I took them back midday and went with the Recons again -- when I told the rental guy about it, his response was "yeah, they have a really stiff tail." I would have tried a Magfire 12, but the longest size they had was something like a 170cm.

That's everything I've been on this season. Based on some research and reading around here, I have a few more things I might want to try (assuming I can find them):

Elan Magfire (10/12?)
Elan Speedwave (10/12?)
Dynastar Contact (9/10?)
K2 Apache Crossfire

What I want to know:

If there's anything I'm overlooking, or people think I'm completely looking at the wrong skis, advice would be appreciated. Any suggestions on rental/demo shops in eastern Massachusetts would also help.

One problem I can see is that a lot of the "intermediate" skis (like the Contact 9) only go up to a 174cm/176cm size, whereas the "expert" ones often go to 181 or 183-185. Or is this even something I should be that worried about? Does actual "length" matter as much as width/sidecut/radius for an intermediate skier? Is being -20cm off my height going to completely screw me up as I get better?

I also see opinions here ranging from "demo like crazy until you find just the right ski" to "demos/rentals are worthless because they're badly worn/tuned and have different bindings/mounting". Should I just buy a pair of 183cm Monster im78s and keep taking lessons on them until I stop sucking? Or is there some value in trying three or four more different things?

Thanks much,
--Matt
post #2 of 15
Wow, you're on the right track!
It appears that you're looking for something on the low end of the midfat range, like hi 70's.
Your observations about the skis you've already tried are very telling as to your likes and dislikes.
Rossi's are a well built ski but quite damp. You say, "nothing special", I say, uninspirational.
Volkl's tend to have a lot of energy and feedback. You said, tough to initiate turns and heavy. I say, needs to be driven and stable.


You really can't go wrong with Head IM78 or the 82.
If you're looking for another option, I'd Highly recommend looking at the Nordica Hot rod line, probably the Nitrous or his big brother with the extra layer of metal, the Top Fuel.
Nordica has a sweeeet line in the Hot rods!

Looking forward to read what you think when you try those.
post #3 of 15
Trekchick got me at Hot Rods.

Matt,

The only reason I responded to that incredibly long first post is because you have been doing your research and are obviously digging on skiing. I get kinda stoked when I see that.

Trekchick brought up the Hot Rods as they are a line of mid-fats from Nordica that look like they fit what you are seeking. I would agree. I think the Head IMs would be sweet too. I think you didn't like the salomons or rossis because they were foam. The IM78 and the AC30 are wood with metal. You're a big guy, but the wood and metal needs speed to iniate.

However, back to the Hot Rods. Nordica lays out their Hot Rod line in two constructions, Wood/Metal or Wood/Carbon. I have the Jet Fuel (126-84-112 in a 186. Wood/Metal) It's carbon brother is the Afterburner. The narrower, 78-waisted versions are the Top Fuel (wood/metal) and the Nitrous (wood/carbon).

The Carbons will be easier to initate and will be lighter than the Metals that require speed but provide more edgehold at high speeds.

Hot Rods also have a system binding that can adjust where your boot center lies on the ski. Kind of like a demo binding. You may have been overstearing on the Elan Magfire because your foot was just .5cm ahead of center. The only reason I post this is because I reset my bindings .5cm behind my center on my Jet Fuels because they were overstearing (and because it was the first time in my 31 winters of ski-ownership that I could actually adjust the placement of my stance.)

Demoing-- Yeah, demoing is great. I demo if I have the opportunity, but being in Japan, I don't. So, I buy. I also admit that I will continue learning how to ride my skis many many days after the initial one. Quite frankly, if I had bought another ski last year (wood) and had also spent 50+ days on it, I'd probably be pushing it on you. But last year, I bought a Jet Fuel, and it fricking rips.

Four years ago I got a first generation Volkl Gotama (without metal) for pow. I still love it.

Buy wood.
post #4 of 15
Thread Starter 
Sorry about the wall of text. I don't seem to have "edit" capability on my original post anymore, or I'd try to clean it up a little bit. I figured it would at least be more useful than just "I'm an intermediate skier! What skis should I buy?"

I'm looking at lower-width midfats because:

1) I got recommendations to check those skis out, and

2) I wanted something that would handle a variety of different conditions (or at least all the different crap you end up with in the East.)

Based on some of the reading I've been doing, I want to look at some of the more carving-oriented skis as well (Dynastar Contact/Elan Speedwave/Apache Crossfire), as they might hold up better in icy conditions.

Thanks for the advice. I'll put the Nordicas on the list as well.

Anybody want to chime in on the length issue? Is being on something that's "only" 175-176cm going to be a real problem at some point?

Any recommendations on where to try to get rentals/demos in central/eastern Massachusetts? I've had a hard time finding things over 176cm. So far I've actually had the best luck at Wachusett's demo center... they get a lot of people renting, so they carry a pretty wide selection up there.

--Matt
post #5 of 15
I don't think you should rule out some thiner skis.

You might like one of these Fischers: Progressor, RX8, RX9, WC SC, WC RC.
post #6 of 15
Agree with Ghost more or less; if you're skiing back east and plan to deal with ice, you might think about 70-75 range: Head Magnums would hold up to your size and handle hardpack better than the iM78's, still have some ability in chop/bumps, are damp and forgiving. Also Stockli Crosses or XL's are nice for bigger guys, you won't overpower these in 184 with a carving plate, trust me.
post #7 of 15
Forgot about another logical candidate: Dynastar Contact LTD. Stiff body but soft shovel, very easy initiation, amazing in bumps, good on ice, really fun in chop and pow, carves like a demon. The most versatile ski of all mentioned here, and the longest one (180?) will fit you nicely.
post #8 of 15
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by beyond View Post
Forgot about another logical candidate: Dynastar Contact LTD. Stiff body but soft shovel, very easy initiation, amazing in bumps, good on ice, really fun in chop and pow, carves like a demon. The most versatile ski of all mentioned here, and the longest one (180?) will fit you nicely.
Somewhere in there I did mention the Contact line as something I would like to demo. It looks like they all go up to 178cm.

I had been thinking more of the Contact 9 or 10 (rather than the 11/Limited), but I'll see what I can get my hands on. The Contact 9 is narrower (122/68/102, 14m radius); the 10 and Limited are identical in shape (122/72/102, 16m radius), but from the description on their website the Limited would be stiffer (it has a "titanal plate" and "autodrive fluid expert titanium" that the Contact 10 lacks.)

I haven't found anywhere around here (yet) that rents/demos Stocklis in quantity. Strand's had some to sell, but they didn't have anything to demo that was close to my size (I think they may have had one pair that was ~170cm).
post #9 of 15
Thread Starter 

Got out again...

Spent the day up at Wachusett today. Conditions were soft snow turning into slush on the lower slopes (stayed above freezing), and soft snow over half-melted ice turning into hardpack over ice on the upper ones (did not stay above freezing). I demoed two more skis, and retried the Head Monster im78s.

Head Supershape Magnum (http://www2.head.com/ski/products.ph...=racing&id=900, 177cm, 121/71/107, ~14-15m radius?):

Skied this in the morning on the lower slopes. The snow was soft at that point, but still holding up pretty well. On some of the blue runs there were piles of chopped-up snow developing.

These were... disappointing. They seemed okay on the softer mostly-groomed areas, but once I got into really soft or piled-up snow they seemed really heavy and unresponsive. I wasn't terribly impressed, despite all the good press they seemed to get on here. I didn't get onto the upper slopes (where the snow was much harder/icier) until the afternoon, which is where these might have really worked well.

My impression based on these and the Magfires is that I don't particularly like skis with a stiff tail (or at least I have no clue how to make them work.)

Head Xenon 7.0 (http://www2.head.com/ski/products.ph...ditions&id=914, 177cm, 124/73/108, ~14m radius?)

These were maybe the best skis I've ever been on, at least in the conditions today. I felt like I suddenly stopped sucking when I put them on. Everyone's marketing department likes to sell their skis as "quick yet stable" -- but these actually were both quick (edge-to-edge, not necessarily in raw speed) and stable when I was on them. Even on the harder stuff near the summit, I felt like I could turn and edge them reliably, and they plowed right through the softer snow even at tame speeds.

If I could point out a weakness it's that they were not stiff by any means, which might become a problem at high speeds. If the Xenon 9.0 was the same ski but stiffer I might just go out and buy one, but it actually has a different geometry (127/75/112) and I'm not sure it is actually any stiffer.

Head im78 Monster (http://www2.head.com/ski/products.ph...reeride&id=912, 177cm, 124/78/110, ~15m radius?)

I was skiing this towards the end of the day, when my legs were starting to get worn out, so I only got 3 runs on these before my buddy and I decided to pack it in. I wanted to get a more direct comparison against the Xenons, since these were previously my favorite ski so far.

They definitely required more input than the Xenons, but seemed to respond to me better than the Supershapes. In softer snow, these still performed very well, although they didn't really work great until I got them up to speed (whereas the Xenons seemed to not change much in performance at low speeds, and were not quite as good at busting through big piles of snow.) But on icy snow, they still seemed really skittish to me -- either my front tips would be all over the place, or I would end up skidding like crazy even when I tried to carve. (Yes, I know. I don't stay forwards enough and my edging sucks. That's why I'm an intermediate skier.)

If I lived somewhere that I could count on having lots of powder and little ice, these would probably be great skis for on-piste work and occasional forays off-piste. But if I'm going to be unhappy every time I have to ski down an icy trail (of which the East has many), that is going to be a major problem.

Not sure where that leaves me. I have been utterly unable to find anywhere remotely near me that rents/demos Dynastar Contacts or anything from the Nordica 'Hot Rod' line.
post #10 of 15
Not sure about where you ski, but if you came to Whistler, and checked out the website in my signature, you would be able to ski a different ski each day, if you wished, for no extra charge. A great deal, means you can use a carving ski if there is now fresh snow, and if it dumps, you can go in and pick up some nice fatties to try out.
So I suggest you look around for a rental place that does the same, then try all the skis you can.
post #11 of 15
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by wbsr View Post
Not sure about where you ski, but if you came to Whistler
Unfortunately, it may be quite a while until I can visit Whistler-Blackcomb. I'm sure that at a major Western resort I would have no problem finding anything I want.

The demos I described in my last post were from the demo center at Wachusett Mountain (the closest thing sort of resembling a mountain that is within two hours of where I live.) They let you swap out twice during the day if you do a full-day demo. They actually have big sizes, but are somewhat limited in the actual models of skis they carry (mostly Head, Atomic, and Rossignol, with a smattering of Fischer, Nordica, and K2.) When I was up at Stowe I did the same thing to try out several pairs of skis.

What I really want to try before I make a buying decision are the Dynastar Contact line and the Nordica Hot Rods. The problem is that I'm having a hard time finding places that actually rent/demo them in the right size. It doesn't seem like any of the remotely close ski areas are affiliated with Nordica or Dynastar in their on-mountain shops. I can buy just about anything around here, but the shops that sell them either don't do demos, don't have the right skis set up as demos, or they have the right skis but they're way too short for me. I may have to start calling anywhere near the closer mountains that rents/demos skis to see what they have. It's just a pain to look them all up and individually call them, and I haven't had time to do that in the last couple weeks.
post #12 of 15
Thread Starter 
Ladies and gentlemen, I think we have a winner: the Dynastar Contact Limited.

I got to demo these yesterday at Bretton Woods -- demos courtesy of Rodgers Ski & Sport in Lincoln, NH. They may be the only place in MA/NH that has these to demo. The Contacts definitely benefited from some of the best snow I've seen in New England in years, but these skis seemed to have the goods. Stable at speed and on hardpack (what little I could find), but also nicely responsive even at low speed. Definitely not as light and quick as the Xenons, but much stiffer -- yet not stiff enough to kick the crap out of me.

Having signed up for realskiers.com and perusing more information about some of the other recommended models, I'm pretty damn sure these are the skis for me right now. Another good sign: I took my new boots in for some tweaking last week and talked skis some more with the staff there. Not only did they completely sell out of all the Contacts they ordered, but the staff was all raving about them (the guy who sold me my boots uses Contact 10s as his day-to-day ski.)

Now, to see if Dawg has the 178s in stock...
post #13 of 15
Hi Matthias,

I've been following your thread for a while with some interest, as I'm in the same situation you've been in: an intermediate looking for a more advanced ski, but without getting onto a punisher. The Contact series is one on my short list to demo in the next couple of weeks. I was most interested in the Contact 9 because of their shorter turn radius, but I would like to know your impression of how the Contact Ltd. did in short turns and agility. How about forgiveness? Did they tire you out after a couple of hours? Or could you relax and take it easy too?

This is rated as an expert ski, but it seems to me that for guys our size (you're bigger than me, but still, I'm 6'2", 215 on a slim day, which isn't featherweight) the stiffer "expert" skis may be very manageable because our weight makes them easier for us to flex. Any thoughts?
post #14 of 15
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by SGN View Post
Hi Matthias,

I've been following your thread for a while with some interest, as I'm in the same situation you've been in: an intermediate looking for a more advanced ski, but without getting onto a punisher. The Contact series is one on my short list to demo in the next couple of weeks. I was most interested in the Contact 9 because of their shorter turn radius, but I would like to know your impression of how the Contact Ltd. did in short turns and agility. How about forgiveness? Did they tire you out after a couple of hours? Or could you relax and take it easy too?

This is rated as an expert ski, but it seems to me that for guys our size (you're bigger than me, but still, I'm 6'2", 215 on a slim day, which isn't featherweight) the stiffer "expert" skis may be very manageable because our weight makes them easier for us to flex. Any thoughts?
I didn't actually ski on the Contact 9 -- feedback from other sources (comparing things that I had skied on realskiers.com with a subscription helped a lot) made me think I could handle the Limited. The radius isn't actually all that big on the Limited, at least compared with a lot of other 70-78mm width skis. It's only a 16m radius at the 178cm length, while the Contact 9 is a 14m radius at that length.

The Contact 9 has a really short radius and narrow waist, which should make it really easy to turn and carve. But it will also not be as stiff, since it doesn't have a metal layer. I found the Contact Limited to still be fairly forgiving, and I didn't have to work it very hard to get it down the hill. But it's not built to take really short turns.

I'm pretty new to shaped skis, and there isn't a whole lot of information out there about how big/tall people interact with long/stiff skis. I can say that some skis are stiff definitely way too stiff for me regardless of my weight (see my comments on the Magfire 14 above -- and that wasn't even the biggest length!) The Head Xenon 7.0s were too soft for me, but for someone closer to 200 pounds than 300 they might be perfect. Similarly, at that weight you might be happier on the Contact 9, as the added stiffness from the Limited might be hard to deal with. But the best thing is to try it out yourself...
post #15 of 15
Great feedback - thanks! Sorry, should have qualified one of my comments -- I should have said that some, not all, stiff expert-level skis are probably quite manageable by intermediates who are north of 200 lbs. I've got three or four days of demoing coming up, and I really want to try the Dynastars that everyone is so high on, as well as some Head models. Your review of the Contact Limited makes me think I might be OK on that one.

Regards, and have fun on your new boards!
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EpicSki › The Barking Bear Forums › On the Snow (Skiing Forums) › Ski Gear Discussion › Yes, yet another "what intermediate skis should I demo/buy?" thread