Dynastar Huge Trouble (185cm?)
Salomon Czar 182cm
Volkl Grizzly 170cm
Nordica Enforcer 177cm
Volkl Mantra 177cm
Nordica HellDiver 170cm
Conditions: frozen chop, some soft snow, about 4-8” new in spots. Groomers were pretty firm for local conditions. I took these on a similar loop: short groomer down to the lift, traverse out to a barely-skied chute, which opened onto a big bowl, then a few trees down lower. Testing was done at Mission Ridge in Washington, a great hill. The place has dry snow, lots of sun compared to the other Cascade resorts, and challenging terrain: steeps, bowls, and tight chutes. Their grooming is second to none. I would trade Bachelor for this mountain in a heartbeat!
Skier info: 5 foot 9, 155lbs, ski 30-50 days per year, low level 9 according to others, technically improving.
Dynastar Huge Trouble 185cm?: this ski has no camber, is 115mm underfoot, and features a 33m turn radius. White with red graphics.
Review: I wish I could have tried this last week at Snowbasin. It has a floaty, surfy feel in soft snow, and absolutely eats up broken snow with it’s big platform. Stability is great in most instances. Not a quick turning ski, and slow edge-to-edge, especially in tighter spaces like chutes. It definitely likes to run straight, and preferably in lots of snow. The lack of camber means that it really pivots well, whereas other, more traditional skis like to carve. Off-piste, the ski felt close to normal, but was easier to get going in the other direction when compared to a reverse-camber ski. On groomers, this feeling took some getting used to. You had to ski it with minimal edge angle and keep the skis under the hips. Too much angulation, and it felt like the skis wanted to suddenly diverge. And, they were very grabby: the skis would want to slide and pivot, and they all of the sudden hook up and lurch. But that isn’t exactly their intended purpose in life. They would probably be a great ski for West Coasters who need lots of float for heavy snow, and don’t want something too turny. I would consider owning it, especially for my home hill. If you are looking at only 1 ski in this range, the new Pro Rider is more versatile, but the HT will be a better ski in the truly deep (and heavy) stuff. A ski this wide would have no point where we were testing skis though, even on the deepest day. It doesn't snow much there (a huge dump is 10" for Mission Ridge).
Salomon Czar 182cm: rockered tip, 107mm underfoot, new for 2009.
Review: I didn’t know much about the new Salomon line before stopping by their booth. They recommended trying both the new Lord (85mm under foot, reviewed in my other thread) and the Czar. The Sandstorm is dead. The Czar felt like a Salomon: light and relatively edgy, more of the new-school feel than the Fury’s X-wing construction. This ski was interesting, to say the least. I felt the stability wasn’t really there in the chop. It was stable in a straight line, but on edge, this ski was quite unpredictable in the crud and had a real on/off edge engagement. It wasn’t either easy nor did it have the sweet spot of the Huge Trouble. I had some issues getting it to engage, and with the rockered tip, it really didn’t want to turn. I suppose that is okay for really deep snow, but according to the rep, this is an “everyday” ski, which I wouldn’t agree with. It was slow edge-to-edge, and not exactly confidence-inspiring in the steeps. I am sure it would have been great in deep snow, but in variable conditions, I wasn’t too impressed. On groomers, it wasn’t dis-similar to the Huge Trouble: likes to pivot, the edge engages suddenly, and doesn’t like to carve with any sort of angles. I almost likened it to a ski that is base high, but with a minimal base bevel. Slides around, then wham, it engages. This ski wasn’t all that impressive, and not the last word in versatility.
Volkl Grizzly 170cm: 89mm underfoot, 17m radius, 3 position switch. Basically a wider version of the Tigershark 12.
Review: I thought highly of the Tigershark 12, and figured to like this ski as well. It was skied mostly at the Dynamic position, which is middle stiffness. I also tried the Power position (stiff) and the Cruise position. First off, the switch seemed to make little difference in the performance of the ski. I couldn’t tell a difference between Cruise and Dynamic, and the Power position was only slightly stiffer. The TS12 is a very versatile ski, stiff enough to be great on groomers, while versatile and stable in the crud. The Grizzly felt exactly the same: really a wide carver that is fairly stiff. I think it works better in the TS12 than it does here, as the ski was slower edge-to-edge than an 80mm ski, and not as carvy. Performance on the groomers was decent, but it wasn’t the powerhouse that the TS12 is. Off-piste, the ski was a little stiff for broken up snow and variable conditions. It didn’t have a great flex pattern for off-piste performance, and was too stiff for the bumps. Due to the stiffness of the ski, I had to ski the 170, which limits performance in the crud. At 89mm underfoot, skis are typically skied longer for the normal crud and broken snow performance, so this ski was a little short and a big hard to handle. It turned very easily, and carved well for a ski of this width in the easy-to-ski stuff, but didn’t handle the tough conditions as well as the other, more dedicated hard-snow skis. Flex-wise, it was almost the same as the TS12. Overall, it was okay, but not my cup of tea. For off-piste performance, the Mantra has it beat hands-down, and the AC50 was the better versatile frontside ski. If you are looking for a stiff, wide carver, this might be the ticket, though.
Nordica HellDiver 170cm: non-metal version of the HellCat, 90mm underfoot, 17m radius.
Review: this ski suffered from the same problems as the Grizzly. Wide, but a carver, and much stiffer than the average off-piste ski. It tended to be aggressive and hard to ski in the really rough snow. Again, lacking the length that makes a great off-piste ski. It was fun on groomers, but had less edgehold than the standard 80-85mm ski underfoot. In the trees, it turned quite easily, and was decent edge-to-edge. The weaknesses were mostly present at speed in wide-open, hard to ski crud, and also in bumps. This ski was a wider version of an Afterburner, so it gains a bit of float off-piste, but still retains the hard-snow characteristics. It was standard Nordica: relatively stiff, damp, not a ton of energy, very muscular. Again, not my cup of tea. The Watea 94, for example, is so much better off-piste, without giving up a whole lot on the groomers. This is really a wide, wide carver, and is maybe the answer to the question that no one was asking. The market for these 90mm carvers has to be limited, as I would expect that the 50/50 skier will get something around 80-85mm underfoot, and the off-piste guy will get something longer in a bigger turn radius (like an iM88) or step up to something 20m turn radius or larger in a 90-100mm platform.
Volkl Mantra 177cm: unchanged for 2009.
Review: very solid ski, great in crud and at speed. It handles the broken-up snow with ease, and is very predictable. Width is a great choice for any and all off-piste skiing: not too slow edge-to-edge, wide enough to float over questionable snow. In the tight spots, it is relatively easy edge-to-edge. Overall feel is fairly damp, wood core, and smooth. Not a ton of energy, and feels a little less lively and versatile than the Watea 94, but great in the broken-up snow, as an all-mountain, off-piste tool. Pretty sluggish on the groomers, but that isn’t really what it was made for. Very, very predictable. Definitely my favorite Volkl tested here.
Nordica Enforcer: 177cm, 98mm underfoot, 19m radius, new for 2009 (twin tip is gone). Ski is a laminate, light in weight, with titanium and wood core.
Review: I had no history with this ski, and didn’t know what to expect. Flex is similar to the Watea 94: softer than the HellDiver, not a noodle though. On groomers, I was pleasantly surprised: it was slow onto edge, but once, there, held very, very well, better than I expected. It had the characteristics of a big GS, but with a bit of energy. A speed limit really wasn’t present: this ski wanted to go. I expected a big, burly ski in the trees, but that wasn’t what I got. Instead, this ski changed edge with almost no effort, and carved up the snow in the trees. Stability was amazing for this level of forgiveness. The Enforcer has a huge sweet spot. It was about perfect width-wise for broken up, cruddy snow, and was equally at home on edge or going straight. The overall feel was a bit more of a damp wood core, but still light like the Watea, and lighter than the Mantra. This ski actually reminded me of an Elan race ski more than the typical Nordica burly flex of the Hot-Rod series. Float was great in the new snow I could find, and this ski made off-piste conditions easy. It did want a bit of speed to get rolling, but was very forgiving. Overall, my favorite off-piste ski tested here, and by a good margin. I didn’t get a chance to compare it side-by-side to the Watea 94, but it would be a good comparison. Nordica has a winner here.
Head Mojo 94 180cm: new for 2009, I didn’t get the specs, but believe it is somewhere around a 20m radius, with a 94mm waist. Not a Monster, as it is lacking the Intelligence fibers, and has a small twin tip.
Review: This ski felt a bit different than the Monster series. For better or worse, it is a fairly stiff laminate, wood core ski that is smooth, damp and stable. In other words, it skis like a typical Head laminate. No surprises here. I felt that the ski was lacking a bit of energy that the Enforcer had, and a bit of maneuverability as well. In crud, the Head blasted through at any speed, no sweat. It was moderately quick edge-to-edge in steeps, quite forgiving, and had a large sweet spot. On groomers, the ski was more of a big cruiser feel, as it lacked the energy and bit of excitement than the Watea and Enforcer gave me. Any type of crudbusting was made easy on this ski: and it really felt like a point and shoot type of ski, which was very confidence-inspiring when skiing fast in tricky snow. When comparing this to the Monster iM88, I would say that the Mojo 94 seems to be not just a wider iM88, but definitely built for a different purpose. The 88 seems to have a bit of carve-ability, a bit more energy, and a feel that makes it fun in most spots. The 94 is definitely an off-piste ski, more stable and with a bigger sweet spot in the crud than the 88, but not as much fun elsewhere. This is perhaps why they made this a Mojo, not a Monster, as it is not quite the same feel as the rest of the iM78/82/88 series. The Mojo 94 is a very high performer, and feels somewhat similar to the Mantra, although perhaps a touch more stable and a little more damp, maybe a little lighter as well.