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Performance or feel?

post #1 of 44
Thread Starter 
I've started to notice how ski reviews talk about performance - how "they" slay crud, or chatter at speed etc - as if performance is intrinsic to the ski, not the skier. But what actually IS intrinsic, feel, gets relegated to the margins. How does a Dynastar feel compared to a Sollie? Oh, well, the Sollies are, uh, lighter. More "scalpel like." Whatever that means. Seldom elaborated. Go demo.

Yet IMO, all higher end models of all brands bring plenty to the table within the 85% performance limits where most of us ski. If the skis are properly set up and don't work, face it: you're not good enough. I demoed a pair of Outlaws last year that could have taken me down anything in the world if I were up to it. (I'm not) But it didn't matter; I hated their feel. End of story.

So I buy skis mostly on their feel, or hunches about their feel. I know exactly what I like and I'm totally promiscuous - I'll dump anything I own for another model or brand that's closer to that feel. :

Curious about your opinions. Do you go more for those small performance differences beyond the 85th percentile that'll keep you extra happy in a 70 degree chute, or do you go for what your sticks say to you noodling down your favorite bowl? Performance or feel?
post #2 of 44

Performance or feel

Quote:
Originally Posted by beyond View Post
I've started to notice how ski reviews talk about performance - how "they" slay crud, or chatter at speed etc - as if performance is intrinsic to the ski, not the skier. But what actually IS intrinsic, feel, gets relegated to the margins. How does a Dynastar feel compared to a Sollie? Oh, well, the Sollies are, uh, lighter. More "scalpel like." Whatever that means. Seldom elaborated. Go demo.

Yet IMO, all higher end models of all brands bring plenty to the table within the 85% performance limits where most of us ski. If the skis are properly set up and don't work, face it: you're not good enough. I demoed a pair of Outlaws last year that could have taken me down anything in the world if I were up to it. (I'm not) But it didn't matter; I hated their feel. End of story.

So I buy skis mostly on their feel, or hunches about their feel. I know exactly what I like and I'm totally promiscuous - I'll dump anything I own for another model or brand that's closer to that feel. :

Curious about your opinions. Do you go more for those small performance differences beyond the 85th percentile that'll keep you extra happy in a 70 degree chute, or do you go for what your sticks say to you noodling down your favorite bowl? Performance or feel?
Beyond, First, feel only I know what I really like(feel) and then within that feel perimeter how do they perform. Last pair I bought (FEB) were demo'd and immeddiately I like their feel (smooth, damp, predictable with nice smooth med. radius turns, feal solid GS turns and would even turn quick if I really worked them. The to test the feel I put them into; moguls, trees, powder of all types, groomers at different speeds, schusses/flat and mixed up the turns and off piste conditions. They felt good and performed well.

Feel first and then the test. I have also demo'd skis that initially felt good but wouldn't perform so they didn't feel good under me when really tested. On the other hand if I test a pair or borrow a friends that perform well but feel terrible or even just feel off then I wouldn't purchase.

Fun demoing ski's, my long time ski bud is an Atomic rep. and we are the same boot size. Hard on pocket/wallet however.
post #3 of 44
I think it's a little hard to separate the two.

For example, would a ski *feel* as good to me if it didn't perform the way I like?

It should be no secret to many readers here that I like Head skis. To me, there's a very definite FEEL to Head's sandwich-construction, race-bred skis. I honestly don't know, however, whether the performance is anything distinctive compared to a whole lot of other brands/models out there.

So, I guess it's "feel" for me. Even so, I doubt they would feel as good if they didn't perform to whatever level I'm capable of.

How's that for firmly straddling the fence?
post #4 of 44
My trouble with the question is that answering it requires jumping over a few stumbling blocks in addition to the one Bob Peters raises.

Stumbling block #1: We are not really that good at describing *feel* except through metaphor and allusion. I can't restrict my readership to those skiers with the same metaphor context I have.

Stumbling block #2: The perception of *feel* changes as we ski the ski and adapt our senses to the information available to us. A ski feeling utterly dead, unresponsive, a limp block of wood, might give us a world of sensation a week of skiing it later. Certainly what I felt the first time I skied a pair of Authiers. At which stage would it be more correct to describe the ski to other readers?
post #5 of 44
Feel is qualitative and subjective. Ski traits and behavior are more quantitative and objective, and thus easier to pin down. I think that's why people focus on them in a review. Sometimes the traits and behavior can add up to a feel, like when I get the impression that a ski is playful and fun. That "feel" emerges from a combination of traits like forgiveness, flexibility, rebound, etc. It's a general description based on multiple factors.
post #6 of 44
Quote:
Originally Posted by beyond View Post

Yet IMO, all higher end models of all brands bring plenty to the table within the 85% performance limits where most of us ski.
Yes, but it's the other 15 percent that's the most fun.

For me the performance has to be there, and given a top-end ski from a major manufacturer, it will be there. Also, given that the performance is there I will then choose by feel, but truth be told, I cannot always afford to buy the one that feels better.
post #7 of 44
I prefer a ski with a buttery feel, with a slight hint of almonds, and bold but smooth fruity finish.
post #8 of 44
and....

should be as spicy as jamaican jerk chicken, or curry goat...

Bada bim, bada boom.
post #9 of 44
The "feel" question is important, IMO.

Many recommendations are made at Epic, and the skis are also analyzed and reviewed. We look at easy to describe specifications like sidecut, width, turning radius and length. We also discuss construction and materials. Finally, the camber and tip & tail shape are getting much attention as reverse camber and rockered skis gain recognition.

All of these items contribute to feel but can’t define it.

This is where the data ends and the experience begins. Simply put; the ski can be understood, and performance predicted, on the features and specifications. However, if the user likes the ski, or not, will always come down to feel.

Adding to the problem, the common descriptions of feel, including "damp", "lively", "edgy", "smooth" are not easily applied to different brands. I find Head Monster and Dynastar Legend series skis to be both feel "damp", but they do not feel the same. Atomic Nomad and Fischer Watea series both feel "lively", "smooth" and offer great edgegrip, but one user can like one and hate the other.

Michael
post #10 of 44
Thread Starter 
Interesting ideas, guys. The recent translated Russian Kuro review got me to thinking about this because somehow the reviewer did a great job of conveying feel and emotional response of the skier to that feel. Even in another language.

So agree especially with the problem that Barrettscv and comprex bring up about language. How do we work around that, assuming that all this is to narrow down our demoing labors? Maybe a lot of what could replace fuzzy categories like "damp" would be specific attempts to discuss flex at different places along the ski, what kind of vibrations are getting felt at the foot, how a soft tip actually feels in crud etc.

For instance, I might disagree that Elans, Volkls, and Stocklis are "stiff," but I'd agree that Stocklis are progressively more rigid from a foot behind the tip to under the boot heel and that Elans are very stiff torsionally, rather than longitudinally, and that system Volkls have a "numb spot" created by piston-created longitudinal stiffness from the mid-front to the boot center.

Another example: For me, even though both are "smooth," Fischers transmit a more narrowly focused, higher frequency vibration underfoot than Stocklis, and they seem to have more energy in the third quarter of the ski (out of four) when they unload. Stocklis have a much softer tip and tail, but feel much beefier as you move underfoot, a more bankvault smoothness. So IMO Fischers are smooth, but in a more energetic, less progressive way. YMMV, just as your words do.

Maybe we just need as many words as we use for performance. (But then you'd expect me to argue that)
post #11 of 44
This is a massive topic.

I agree the frequency tuning in Fishers really provides a superb blend of feel and smoothness.

I'm always surprised how much I like a damp ski, I'm willing to give up some snow feel if the ski feels stable in choppy snow.

Michael
post #12 of 44
I think part of the issue is that while things like the dimensions of the ski and raw materials are readily available and easy to talk about, other basic information that is vital to performance is not. Information on flex, vibrational properties, and even weight while in principal measurable, are not generally available. So we sort of make it up as we go by talking about feel.

I know I have seen people in reviews talking about how heavy a ski feels and then another person says well this ski is 6 lbs and this other ski is 7lbs and you said it felt light while the first you said was heavy. Explain.

So it seems that feeling heavy and being heavy are not synonymous. I think feel is really good for talking about different emergent properties of skis.
post #13 of 44
Agree..very big topic that could take us down a philosophical rabbit hole..but that's what web-boards are for no?

Agree with the take that a high end manufacturer will deliver "performance"...then its all about feel. Who knows if its the ski or the skier or a perfect symbiotic relationship with the two? For me, either I'm creating the feel with my ability OR the ski is creating the feel and I'm just experiencing it...either way it doesn't matter; you know it when you feel it...its the magic of a perfect fit and the "experience" of skiing getting better and better.
post #14 of 44
Good question.
Last few purchases I made were not demoed first but were based on reviews and figuring I'd like them. Liking is most definitely based on feel though and if demoing I would base purchase on feel assuming performance is there.
Demoed the Volkl Tigershark 10 w/switch- great ski, versatile, can't say there's anything wrong with it. The feel was just not quite there for me- close though. I prefer feel of (usually) a full laminate ski. However, had I purchased it I might come to like it's feel or at least love the whole package.

Problem is, tune and binding setup can greatly affect demo performance and feel. When I demoed the Stockli Stormrider xl last year for instance, I'd say thinking back the binding was mounted too far aft. All that thing wanted to do was make big turns when not in the moguls. It felt very heavy also.

Here's the thing, if the performance is there and you love a ski, then you will use it anywhere and adapt it. If you don't love it then you're always criticising it's performance. You only have to love the ski in maybe one area - groomers, moguls, soft snow etc to push it to those other areas and not care so much. That's the one problem with big quivers and very specialized skis, which one to choose?

Quote:
Maybe a lot of what could replace fuzzy categories like "damp" would be specific attempts to discuss flex at different places along the ski, what kind of vibrations are getting felt at the foot, how a soft tip actually feels in crud etc. - beyond
ski reviews used to include flex of tip, flex of tail, and overall flex. They had numbers to them for comparison purposes. I think that ended about the time of shaped skis.
post #15 of 44

so true

Beyond, you have put words to something I've been thinking about for a long time. Most skis are good enough for most of us. It's pretty easy to avoid the ones that are inappropriate. So the "performance" requirement is easily satisfied.

But give me 2 skis that will do the job, and I may love one and hate the other...because of how they feel to me...and I agree this is a major factor when deciding what to buy. It's also a hard one, because while stats, reviews, friends, and flexing in the shop may tell you near enough how a ski will perform, nothing can tell you as much about how it will feel as getting on it. I like to say you learn more about a ski while skating to the lift for the first run on it, than you do from all the previous research that gets you to that point.

I remember saying to a shop guy once "I want a ski that feels like my car".
My car - Subaru WRX. Current ski - Head iM88. Bike - Santa Cruz Blur. There's a pattern there (to me anyway). Words like smooth, responsive, powerful, damp, precise, connected, all come to mind. That's what I like, doesn't mean that you should too (hey someone has to buy Salomon skis, right?)

Some people say "it doesn't matter what you buy - they're all good". Or "I don't need that model, I'm not good enough to justify it". They obviously don't get the same thrill out of every corner/turn/berm that we do.

grum
post #16 of 44
Quote:
Originally Posted by beyond View Post
Yet IMO, all higher end models of all brands bring plenty to the table within the 85% performance limits where most of us ski. If the skis are properly set up and don't work, face it: you're not good enough.

So I buy skis mostly on their feel, or hunches about their feel.
I recently skied on a Head Supersport Magnum. Really nice ski that "felt" great. Smooth, supple, good edge hold, easy to turn, just a pleasant ride. It was an easy ski to ski with a nice feel - but I was on it for one day only.

My Top Fuels weren't so easy the first day out. It took some adjustments from my end to get them to perform.

I think that the missing 15% is where we want to go. It's not about where we are at this point. If you want to ski, say, at the 90% range of a high performance, then you need the ski to do it. I want a ski that offers high performance levels, but they need to be attainable.

BTW, I am seriously considering the Head. No need to fight with that ski, and it performs
post #17 of 44
Nothing feels like a Head Liquid Metal/Intelligence.

Nothing.

Performance aside, nothing gives that much feedback.
post #18 of 44
Quote:
Originally Posted by Paul Jones View Post
I recently skied on a Head Supersport Magnum. Really nice ski that "felt" great. Smooth, supple, good edge hold, easy to turn, just a pleasant ride. It was an easy ski to ski with a nice feel - but I was on it for one day only.

BTW, I am seriously considering the Head. No need to fight with that ski, and it performs
I have that ski in a 170cm. I agree it has a great feel. I believe though, it has a weight limit if you want top performance/ and or ski agressively. It is extremely soft and for me at just over 200lbs I find that partic. in steep, soft snow it's a bit of a noodle. I guess I'd put the weight limit prob. in the 160-175 range.

That ski in fact illustrates the point of the thread. In this case, I love the feel of that ski but the performance is not there at the upper end. In this case I probably -wouldn't- buy it again. Actually though, I'm going to try moving the bindings aft a bit and see what changes.
post #19 of 44
Quote:
Originally Posted by samurai View Post
Nothing feels like a Head Liquid Metal/Intelligence.

Nothing.

Performance aside, nothing gives that much feedback.
I'm glad someone else thinks so. I've always gone by how the skis feel, and I typically ended up getting skis that, for me at least, felt "neutral:" damp and predictable but still alive: like a good road bike that disappears underneath you.

I usually ended up on whatever happened to be Dynastar's latest GS ski.

But these iM88s...I don't know. The best example I can give is that, at the end of the day, it feels like the skis have got something left, that that they are giving back, helping out somehow, and I feel like skiing just one more run even though I'm pretty much wasted physically. I've never felt that way with other skis.

You wanna talk feel vs. performance? Get into a similar discussion about fly rods!
post #20 of 44
Quote:
Originally Posted by samurai View Post
Nothing feels like a Head Liquid Metal/Intelligence.

Nothing.

Performance aside, nothing gives that much feedback.
And you like the Jet Fuel as I recall, right? Going from the Top Fuel to this ski, at first - a noodle. But it has finess, edge hold and an energy ready and waiting. I know I could over reach it's limits, but man, it felt good.

I felt like I was cheating, the shorter radius and all. It was so smooth from turn to turn and effortless in comparison the Top Fuel. I feel I could grow old on this ski
post #21 of 44
If it feels good it is performing good.

Now .... : ..... change the conditions!

From groomed powder to groomed icy cord.

Does it still feel good with some speed under it? Sounds like the performance went out to lunch with the feel.
post #22 of 44
Quote:
Originally Posted by samurai View Post
Nothing feels like a Head Liquid Metal/Intelligence.

Nothing.

Performance aside, nothing gives that much feedback.
I thought my Fischers Gave me just as much feedback.
post #23 of 44
Quote:
Originally Posted by Paul Jones View Post
I recently skied on a Head Supersport Magnum. Really nice ski that "felt" great. Smooth, supple, good edge hold, easy to turn, just a pleasant ride. It was an easy ski to ski with a nice feel - but I was on it for one day only.
Do you mean the Supershape Magnum, or is this a new ski? I really liked the feel of the supershape Speed, and felt it offered a little more at the top end.
post #24 of 44
Supershape speed has become my favorite ski. But it really must be retuned to fully enjoy it's potential.
post #25 of 44
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ghost View Post
Do you mean the Supershape Magnum, or is this a new ski? I really liked the feel of the supershape Speed, and felt it offered a little more at the top end.
You are right, Supershape Magnum. I should try the Speed too I guess.
post #26 of 44
Skis are like a lady, if they feel good but don't perform you are wasting your time.
post #27 of 44
Thread Starter 
Yeah, but if they perform without feeling, that's called...
post #28 of 44
Quote:
Originally Posted by Paul Jones View Post
And you like the Jet Fuel as I recall, right? Going from the Top Fuel to this ski, at first - a noodle. But it has finess, edge hold and an energy ready and waiting. I know I could over reach it's limits, but man, it felt good.

I felt like I was cheating, the shorter radius and all. It was so smooth from turn to turn and effortless in comparison the Top Fuel. I feel I could grow old on this ski
I love my Jet Fuels and will have them for many years to come. I have the 186 and can't find the speed limit.

Just don't ever ride a Head iGS WC RD... you'll need them for your piste ski. The Jet Fuel isn't even in the same genre, so it's not fair to compare them... but the head blew me away. It felt like water.
post #29 of 44
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ghost View Post
I thought my Fischers Gave me just as much feedback.
I'll have to try them.
post #30 of 44
Quote:
Just don't ever ride a Head iGS WC RD... you'll need them for your piste ski. The Jet Fuel isn't even in the same genre, so it's not fair to compare them... but the head blew me away. It felt like water -samurai
What length did you ski that in?
able to make short turns too?
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