Fischer Cold Heat 170cm
Fischer Progressor 9+ 175cm
Fischer Progressor 9+ 170cm
Fischer WC RC 175cm
Fischer Progressor 8+ 170cm
Elan Magfire 82ti 176cm
Elan Magfire 78ti 176cm
Nordica Mach 3 Power 170cm
Volkl AC50 170cm
K2 Explorer 177cm
Salomon Lord 175cm
Dynastar 4x4 178cm
Dynastar 4x4 172cm
I skied these over a period of 2 days. Conditions were the same as the others: crusty snow, with around 4” new on top the second day. Skied primarily on groomers, except where noted. I did take several off-piste.
About me: 5 foot 9 (176cm), 152lbs (70kg) and dropping fast (cycling season is here!), ski 40-50 days/year, improving skill-wise, can typically ski the whole mountain, like to ski fairly fast where applicable. I have had success on most width skis, and tend to ski models between around 78-90mm for the conditions these skis were tested in.
Disclaimer: I do sell many of these brands, but not all. I try to be impartial, so don't think that I give high marks to certain skis just because I sell them. In fact, the opposite is probably true. As I am the buyer here at Village Bike and Ski, I am "the Deciderer" (sorry, had to say it!) of what we sell, and obviously, I feel more comfortable selling skis that I feel to be good skis (as opposed to well-marketed skis) and therefore tend to like most, but not all, of the skis that we carry. I am not afraid to pan a ski that I sell but don't like: if I think it sucks, I will say so, and if it sucks, then you may not see it here at the shop. And, I often give props to skis which I don't carry but wouldn't mind owning or like them for whatever reason. There are a lot of good skis out there, and just because I don't like your ski doesn't say anything about you or your choice; all it means is that I don't care for that ski, for whatever reason. That is why there are 200 ski models on the market: everyone has their individual needs and preferences. A bit on my preferences; I tend to like traditional-feeling skis, powerful, somewhat energetic, somewhat damp, high-end, very stable.
Fischer Cold Heat 170cm: new for 2009 is the Railflex instead of the Flowflex binding, but the ski itself is unchanged.
Review: I own a pair, and these felt a bit lighter, a little more forgiving, and not quite as stout or powerful. Pretty close to the current version, just a bit better for many skiers who may have found the 2008 version a bit too powerful. The 2008 version turns practically on it’s own, so this one is even slightly easier, with a softer flex around the binding, and bit larger sweet spot. Stability is almost the same, just not quite as burly of a feel. Great off-piste, smoothes over the rough, cruddy snow, very easy to turn. Likes speed, but does OK going slow as well. Needs a good skier who can stay centered. I really like this ski, although I am not sure that the 2009 changes are all that significant. The Flowflex adds what feels like a bit of stability without making the ski much burlier. This is also a great carver: it holds nearly as well as a race ski on hardpack. In fact, I prefer it in many cases for hard-snow carving, as it has a bigger sweet spot than many race skis. Also, I can take it off-piste if I so choose, something which is much harder to do with race carvers on. Great skis, very versatile, top-end performance!
Fischer Progressor 9+ 175cm: same ski as the 2008 Progressor, but with a new name, the 9+. 70mm underfoot, Flowflex binding, very stout ski. Similar in construction to the WC SC and RC.
Review: at my size, this ski is great at speed. It feels very GS-like, powerful, with no speed limit. I can turn it into any size arc, but it wants to go fast and feels most at home in GS arcs. The sweet spot is a bit larger than on the WC RC, not quite as stable, doesn’t feel as laterally aggressive at the tip, but still as strong of a non-race ski that is on the market. The 175cm isn’t nimble off-piste, but blows through crud, although the Cold Heat gets the edge in terms of forgiveness. For me, skiing this ski at head height is like skiing a slightly more versatile version of a GS race carver. This is a ski to be taken seriously, but offers top performance for the good skier. One could easily run Masters GS or City League on it: this ski is totally stable at race speeds. Great ski as well!
Fischer Progressor 9+ 170cm: same as the 175cm, except for the shorter length.
Review: 170cm is much different in feel than the 175. This ski will run straight, but also wants to turn more. It would be the length to choose as an any-radius carver for someone my size. In shorter turns, and off-piste, it is totally workable, but doesn’t lack stability. Not as stable as the 175, but not bad, and I can’t out-ski it speed wise. But, it doesn’t have that “go as fast as you can and still fall asleep” feel of the 175cm. In crud, it is much turnier, quicker edge-to-edge, and more nimble. Probably the ideal “instructors” length for skiing both fast and slow. Still more demanding than the Cold Heat, holds a wicked edge, but needs to be piloted effectively in tough conditions or can run away. A great all-mountain East Coast ski for primarily hard snow but the occasional soft-snow day. One of my personal favorites in the hard-snow category.
Fischer WC RC 175cm: same as the 2008 ski: 16m radius I believe, Flowflex plate, 66mm underfoot.
Review: this ski gives up a bit of versatility that exists in the 175cm Progressor for a bit more top-end power that the Progressor lacks. It feels pretty darn close to a real race ski, save for the huge sweet spot. At slow speeds, this ski is much balkier, and doesn’t want to do short, slow turns whatsoever. But, once up to a reasonable, normal skiing speed, it is so easy to turn, and holds like a crampon on ice. The edgehold and edge-to-edge quickness is noticeable over the Progressor, which is already stellar in that regard. The tip feels stiffer on the RC, which would explain why it has to be up to speed before starting to carve and feel effortless. Don’t bother taking this ski off-piste: it is for rocketing down groomers and running gates. Hard snow skis don’t get any better than this!
Fischer Progressor 8+ 170cm: 72mm underfoot, similar layup to the 9+, but without metal. Meant to be more forgiving off-piste, and for high-end skiers looking for a slightly less burly ski than the Progressor.
Review: this ski effectively replaces the RX8, which still will be available (as it has such a cult following) but the 8+ is clearly superior in terms of performance. Vertical sidewall, no metal, mid-stiffness flex. I skied this everywhere: crunchy off-piste snow, a bit of soft snow, a narrow chute, bumps, groomers, and it was really, really fun! Very easy compared to the 9+, especially off-piste, but didn’t give up much performance. Only at top speeds did I feel a bit more lightness and lack of stability, but it was probably less than a 5% loss. This ski still can be a powerhouse, a great carver, but is versatile and easy in any condition I tried it in. It turned almost on it’s own when skiing a narrow, crusty chute, and felt right at home. The 8+ stacks up well against the Speedwave 12 and standard Supershape, in terms of performance and versatility, and has the typical Fischer feel: damp, very powerful, very Austrian. This is a do-anything ski for the East Coast skier, as well as the Western skier who wants a no-new-snow day ski, similar to that of the Supershape Magnum. Bigger skiers should look at the 175, and I may have even liked that length for top-stability without an overpowering flex. For good skiers who want something a bit more versatile than the 9+, look at this ski. It blows away the RX8 in terms of performance, without asking much more of the skier.
Elan Magfire 82ti 176cm: new for 2009, much lighter ski, new internal construction, same dimensions and very similar to the naked eye. 17m radius.
Review: Elan has made some great strides for 2009. I liked last year’s Magfire 12, and this is the replacement. It was perhaps my favorite overall ski tested here. I could ski it at any speed, in any condition, and it just made things easy. On hardpack, the length and lateral stiffness combined to give me close to a race-ski feel, but the flex was perfect to get some energy out of the ski, and tons of forgiveness. In crud, the length was perfect, and the flex felt right at home for me. It had no practical speed limit. In narrow spaces, the ski again was super easy to pilot and willingly did what I asked of it. The overall feel is damp, but with more energy than the current Mag 12, and will remind people of the 666, yet with an easier feel off-piste and more stability in the given length. For me, it was a carver and all-mountain ski rolled into one. Smooth, stable, energetic, race-like on the groomers: I was very impressed. Elan will get some good reviews on this one. I ordered a pair of its big brother (the 82x) and they should be here next week. I will report back with my detailed impressions.
Elan Magfire 78ti: 78mm underfoot, similar layup as the 82, 1 sheet of metal. There is no 78x, only a 78ti and a standard (no metal) 78. Somewhere around a 17m radius.
Review: very similar to the 82ti. If you want something a bit quicker edge-to-edge, get this ski. It wasn’t as capable in the crud (amazing what 4mm underfoot does for float in crusty snow) but it was as close to a vice-like grip as I found from any midfat. This is a GS-feeling carver and moderate off-piste condition ski, which holds well, pulls you into the turn, and really performs on the groomers. I dare say it was more laterally stiff than the 82ti, although it could have been the tune. Off-piste, it was confident, provided I didn’t need tons of float, and very quick edge-to-edge. Same feel as the 82ti: smooth, damp, nice powerful energetic feel that Elan is known for. Since there is no Speedwave series coming to the US next year, this will be the obvious hard-snow choice for Elan. Speedwave is still available, but the US distributor saw sales falling in this category, so they developed the 777 and the Magfire 78 and 78ti for the US market. This will go up against the Nitrous, Top Fuel, AC30, and iM78/78 Chip as the all-mountain or 50/50 ski of choice in the US. Or, as the SkiPress puts it “Freeride, East Coast” category.
Volkl AC50 170cm: 85mm underfoot, similar construction to the AC40, but feels a bit different. Toned down w/regards to lateral stiffness, larger turn radius (16.8m?)
Review: I didn’t care for the AC40 one bit the last time I skied it, and was therefore pleasantly surprised by the AC50. It was very forgiving, easy to ski, exciting, and well-rounded. I would give it top marks in terms of forgiveness especially. It was laterally stiffer than many in this category, which meant that it was definitely biased toward groomers, but not so much that it was too much work in variable snow. On groomers, it was exciting and much more fun than the Grizzly. Off-piste, it was very easy to ski, but you had to watch it at higher speeds. This could have been due partly to the length: 170cm is a bit short in crud at speed. The plus was super-easy turn initiation: think, and this ski turns. It still has the light, laterally stiff feel of the AC40, and feels much lighter and different than the typical wood-core ski. I could ski it at any speed, slow or fast. In crud, I would put the stability a notch below the Cold Heat and 82ti, but ease of use was probably above either of those two. Edgehold wasn’t quite what the 82ti was giving me, but close, and a fun groomer ski. It was light, fairly energetic, and moderately smooth. Overall, I prefer the damper, more traditional wood-core ski to the AC-series construction, but this the best one I have tried, and I wouldn’t mind owning a pair. I would say that it is targeted slightly more towards the weekend warrior/resort skier crowd than some of the others I tried. It matches up against the K2 Explorer, but with a completely different feel. I liked it!
K2 Explorer 177cm: new ski for 2009, 84mm underfoot, somewhere around a 17m radius.
Review: this will be the new do-everything for K2 in the coming year. The Recon is still around, but the Explorer is likely the better choice for the Western skier, as the Outlaw grows to 92mm underfoot and gets the Coomba tip, which to me, lessened the Outlaw’s versatility. At 84mm underfoot, this ski is great for most conditions we see around here. This ski was a nice ski, and very versatile. Trademark K2: damp and smooth, not tops in stability or high-end performance, but that is to be expected. It was easy, stayed on top of the crud, was easy to ski until I started to hit really fast speeds . This ski was also great on the groomers at moderate speed: hooked up easily, held relatively well, was fairly stable, and smooth as silk. Not the last word in energy or power, but it should suit many lower-energy skiers. Probably a better choice than the current Outlaw as well for many people, especially since I see Outlaws all the time around here being skiing on groomers. This is a much better groomer ski and almost as good off-piste. It was perhaps the easiest ski to turn of all the skis tested, and so forgiving that a snowboarder could ski it. I can see this being a big hit with many skiers who like the K2 feel but are looking to update their Recon or Axis XP.
Salomon Lord 175cm? New ski for 2009, replaces the Foil. It is 85mm underfoot and very light. Was mounted with a jibber binding with DIN up to 12 (no lift).
Review: Not sure if this was 175cm or something else, but it was close to that length. This ski felt like a light foam-core ski, not a big-mountain ride. To be frank, I wasn’t impressed. No stability in the crud, very grabby, not much of a carver, and not much float. The Sandstorm is a much better all-around ski. This one was so light that it was easily tossed at speed. It was relatively easy to turn at slow speeds, and fairly forgiving, but not for an aggressive skier looking for an all-mountain ride. I don’t do much in the way of park/pipe, so I can’t comment on it’s performance in that arena. But, as I was told by the Sollie rep to try it out as an high-performance all-mountain ride and that it was to be marketed as such, I don’t feel that it is out of place to be reviewed here.
Nordica Mach 3 Power 170cm: new XBI interface for 2009, otherwise unchanged. Has metal, the step down (Mach 3 Carbon) does not.
Review: When I skied this 2 years ago, this ski kicked my ass, plain and simple. I must have improved along the way, as this ski was now extremely enjoyable. It is stiff, and doesn’t really do much at slow speeds, but no surprise there. Let it flow, arc to arc, and you will be a happy camper. I couldn’t generate much energy from it, but as long as I was accurate and balanced (my best skiing of the day was on this ski, the whole pedal turn that Eric D. was working with us was foremost in my mind) it ripped the groomers, held a great edge, and was incredibly stable for a 170cm. Stout ski, no doubt, and I wouldn’t venture too far off the groomers with it, but this is a very exciting ski at speed. It pulled me in predictably to the new arc, and was neither grabby or slow to engage. The lateral stiffness felt just about right, the ski was damp without being dead, and very muscular. The perfect blend of race-ski performance and freeskiing sweet spot. This is a great ski!
Dynastar 4x4 178cm and 172cm: new ski for 2009, 75mm underfoot, middle-of-the-road turn radius.
Review 178cm: I tried both the 178 and 172. The 178 felt like a GS race carver: big and stable, not much energy. Just put it on edge and let ‘er rip. I took it off-piste, and it was quite stable. This length was skiiable for myself, but not a ton of fun. Nice edgehold, very solid at speed. The 178cm doesn’t make much sense for myself, though. Onto the 172cm….
Review 172cm: This one felt much better. Stouter than any Dynastar I can remember skiing (save for the LP), smooth, damp, but more muscular than the typical Autodrive Dynastar ski. This one is full vertical sidewall. It feels a bit smoother and softer than, say a Head or Nordica, but very powerful underfoot. Edgehold was as good as any ski here: I would say it felt narrower than 75mm underfoot. Off-piste, the extra float was welcome. It was a relatively stiff carver, and more demanding in off-piste conditions than say more of a moderate flex, more forgiving all-mountain ski like the iM78. But, it was workable in off-piste conditions, provided they weren’t bumps. It stayed up on top of the snow quite well, considering what it was meant to do. And, on groomers, this ski is money. It was arguably the best groomer ski of the day, save for the WC RC from Fischer, and the RC doesn’t have anywhere this level of versatility. Edgehold, stability, overall power and feel are up there with the best of them. I would concur with what Sierra Jim said, which was essentially this “the 4x4 is a groomer ski first and foremost, not an all-mountain ride, but is workable in variable conditions” (correct me if I am misquoting you, SJ!). The 4x4 is a superb ski for sure. I have a feeling that bigger, more aggressive skiers may prefer either the Progressor or Mach 3 Power, as big guys rarely like the same skis as myself, but I could find no fault with the 4x4, considering it’s intended purpose. It is on my short list for next season.