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How important is ski choice if we want to improve as skiers?

post #1 of 16
Thread Starter 
My girlfriend and I are having a bit of a ski dilemma. We are going out to Montana for a couple of months of skiing and need a pair of mid-fat skis each to take (we currently have no skis so these would be a one ski quiver). Both of us are very keen to improve our skiing and we have started worrying that if we make a wrong choice it could have a big impact on whether or not we are successful with this. Are we flapping unnecessarily? Should we just flip a coin, get the credit card out and get on with it? Here's some info for anyone who might like to help us on this (all advice will be VERY gratefully received as we have to make a decision and are currently feeling more indecisive than ever):

Groomers:
Me: I know how to carve pretty much any ski but wouldn't now choose to spend my time on the groomers if there was any soft snow or bumps to be had.
My girlfriend: Can carve a Supershape on easy groomers but other than that is a bit of a skidder. She much prefers skiing off-piste, has spent very little time in her skiing career on hardpack and it shows. However her main skiing goal is to become more dynamic all over the mountain and she realises that this might have to start with learning how to work a ski on a groomer. She has tried this before but her last skis were Gotamas and she had no success on those whatsoever.

Bumps:
Me: I don't have much experience in bumps and this is the area I most want to spend time improving on.
My girlfriend: Better than me in the moguls but her level went downhill when she was skiing her Gotamas. She can navigate down the fall-line smoothly but wants to be able to do it more dynamically and also master GS type turns (with random airs) in smaller bumps.

Powder/Crud:
Me: I used to really enjoy huge high speed turns down an open powder face when I skied my (old black) Gotamas so want to be able to continue to do this on any new ski I may get.
My girlfriend: She definitely increased her turn size and speed in the soft/chopped up snow when she got her Gotamas and wouldn't like to lose confidence in doing this on a new ski.

Tight Steep Trees (and Chutes):
Me: On the Gotamas I had a problem with them running away from me in tight situations (probably because I got into the back seat). I felt like they were too much ski for me at times (183 length).
My girlfriend: She had the same problem on her Gotamas (176 length, but newer stiffer version).

By the way, we are both a similar weight and height (5 feet 9.5/5 feet 8.5 and 142 pounds/145 pounds respectively). I am 36 and my girlfriend is 29.

We have trawled this forum (and very helpful it has been too, thank you very much Mr Dawg, SierraJim and everyone else) and have been going round in circles over the following skis:

Watea 84 in 176cm length: My girlfriend wants a lively ski that she can get some energy or 'pop' from and we have read that Fischer skis are a good choice for this. I have concerns that these will not be confidence inspiring at high speeds in rough snow though and don't want to be held back by my skis. These seem like the best bet for the bumps though.

Head IM78, length 171cm: I have read a lot of positive reviews on this ski and my girlfriend thought it would be perfect for her to learn to get up on edge more. But realistically we are going to be spending a lot more time off the groomed than on, so isn't this the wrong choice for both of us? Also, with no other skis we would have to ski deep powder on this which I can't imagine would be much fun.

Head IM82, length 172cm: This sounds like the ski for charging the crud but I am worried that it might be stiff enough to hinder a novice in the bumps. My girlfriend doesn't want a ski that she can't make 'come alive' and wonders if this might be one that, in her hands, would fall into that 'dead plank' category.

Also on the shortlist: Dynastar Legend 8000 in 172cm and some women's versions for my girlfriend (Head Wild One, 172cm comes to mind). We both liked the sound of the Nordica Afterburner in 170cm but haven't found a way to get this ski at a decent price in the UK.

So, after all this rambling (thank you if you're still reading!) my question is: Which of the above skis do you think would be a help rather than a hindrance to improving our respective skiing standards? Would it be better to go with a softer, less demanding ski which we might be able to 'get more out of' or should we go for a beefier option so that we aren't ever held back from skiing faster, charging more in tougher conditions etc.? Does it even matter- will any of the above do the job? As I said, any advice would be most welcome!
post #2 of 16
A very wrong decision might hold you back, but a slightly off one won't. None of those skis sound very wrong to me.
post #3 of 16
Is this in addition to your Goats, or are they out of the picture?
post #4 of 16
Thread Starter 
Thanks Ghost.

Epic- we both sold our Goats last season as neither of us liked them as an everyday ski. Maybe should have kept them for powder days but we needed the money at the time! We are now looking for a more versatile do-it-all ski.
post #5 of 16
I have been skiing the Watea 84 at 176 all season so far aprox 25 days. I'm 6' 205lbs. East coast, have had it on groomed, hardpack, boilerplate, tracked off powder, 2' untracked powder. Bumps, steeps, trees. I have not found anywhere that they were not good to great for me except maybe boilerplate. Light weight, quick to turn and very stable with medium to big turns thru tracked out powder. Agile enough for fall line bumps and stable enough to gs the bumps. I have been very happy with them, had been skiing the Volkl AC-4 in a 170 for the last 2 years and I like the Watea much more.
post #6 of 16
Regarding the im78 monsters, I have the older 77's with about 70 days up across all conditions across and i haven't found anything i can't do on them yet. My only concern was deeper powder but just got back from Japan yesterday and the 77's spent a couple weeks buried along with the rest of my legs in Japow. They did the job but will probably get some fatter skis for my next Japan trip. However, based on your stated requirements, I don't think either of you would be disapointed with the 78's for a do it all ski.
post #7 of 16
That was a good ramble, in the sense that I understand your thought process and agree with some of your points. You've listed some good choices; having own(ed) or skied all of them, let me comment, the order in which I do is important:

iM82: probably the ski I would choose if I had to pick one. Very well rounded and versatile. I can't imagine anyone not liking this ski. I do think you have to look harder to find the energy/character in Heads, but it's there. Skis surprisingly well in bumps for me, and I am not a great bump skier. I ski this in 183cm and like that size (I'm 6'1" 195lb).

iM78: much more hardpack oriented than the 82, maybe more so than the older narrower 77 too. I'd only point to this ski if there was more importance placed on carving than off-piste, otherwise, go with the 82. I ski this in 177cm and like it.

Watea 84: fun, light ski with a lot of character. Very good in powder and crud. Not good on hardpack -- passable, but not good. I consider this a strong all-mountain ski for soft snow only. So if the groomers are corduroy, it's a great choice. If any ice or frozen granular, look elsewhere. I ski this in 184cm.

Legend 8000: another excellent choice, but not as turny feeling as the Heads. Super ski for skid turns and tight spaces. Can do everything with no complaints -- a faithful set of planks to have underfoot. Has been at the top of my recommendation list for many years, but I sort of think the Head iM82 is a slightly better choice right now. I have skied the 8000 in 178cm and 184cm; I'd probably pick the 178cm length if I owned the ski and use the Wateas or 82s for days when length/width was important.

I have no doubt ski choice makes a difference. I've been on the wrong ski for the conditions before, and it can put a damper on the day or go so far as to be frustrating (try skiing RX-8 in heavy crud, you will want to tear your hair out). Good luck!
post #8 of 16
Thread Starter 
Thanks all for your suggestions. The Watea 84 sounds like what I am looking for if only it was a bit better on hard snow. I don't relish the thought of standing at the top of a steep hardpacked/refrozen/icy chute and having a lack of confidence in my skis. I wonder if there is a ski out there with similar dimensions and with the same light and lively characteristics but with better hard snow performance. Or maybe this is asking too much......

Btw for anyone who is interested, I am only 142lbs so have concerns that I might not be able to get any energy out of a burlier ski like the IM82. I could well be wrong about this though.
post #9 of 16
I don't think the 82 feels burly at all, I wouldn't worry about it (the 78 does feel burly on the other hand). If sized appropriate to your height/weight it should be fine.
post #10 of 16
I think you didn't like the goats because they were to big for you. Sound to me like you both could have been on a 168. Be carefull not to buy too long. Demo a shorter length, you might like it better.
post #11 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by rockyrobin View Post
Thanks all for your suggestions. The Watea 84 sounds like what I am looking for if only it was a bit better on hard snow. I don't relish the thought of standing at the top of a steep hardpacked/refrozen/icy chute and having a lack of confidence in my skis. I wonder if there is a ski out there with similar dimensions and with the same light and lively characteristics but with better hard snow performance. Or maybe this is asking too much......

Btw for anyone who is interested, I am only 142lbs so have concerns that I might not be able to get any energy out of a burlier ski like the IM82. I could well be wrong about this though.
What about the Fischer "Cold Heat" in 170 cm for you. I'm just asking; I don't know it except from reviews.
post #12 of 16
I wouldn't rule out the Watea 94 either. Stronger ski than the 84 and very easy to turn for a wider ski.

Mike
post #13 of 16
In general, I would say ski choice is pretty important to developing skills. I found that when finally getting instruction the past couple of years, I really improved when I had a ski that was responsive to my needs. At the time, it happened to be the Head iM78, which wasn't so stiff that I was railing around or couldn't ski certain things. Trying to learn on a Speedwave 14 was much more challenging, and you don't need a super demanding ski when trying to learn new skills. The stuff I was taught, I practiced at slow speed. If you can release at slow speed or from stopped, then you can do when moving faster. I have noticed that the better I have become as a skier, the less ski choice matters. Skis can cover up a lot of flaws, but also expose them. A good skier can ski pretty much anything and ski well: someone with less well-developed technical skills can struggle mightily on the wrong ski.

As far as skis, if you want to improve and are taking lessons, something not too stiff, probably 75-90mm underfoot as a general rule is a good place to start (the Watea 94 is a pretty easy carver for such a wide ski though, it may also work). The Head Monster stuff would also work, as would pretty much any high-end ski in this range.

A good ski will reward a good turn, and the feeling of engagement and release will encourage more of them! Wide skis don't do this well, which is why I like to say they should be reserved for those who already have developed skills and don't need the feedback.
post #14 of 16
Don't think so much of the absolute centimeter length of the ski; think of where it ranks in the lengths of skis available in that model line.

For my skiing I like the next-to-longest ski in a top model line. I'm on my 170cm SuperShapes and 188cm Mythic Riders. Both work very well for me. Both are the next-to-longest offered in their lines.

Skis are made stiffer as they get longer. Each ski model/length requires a certain energy input from the skier for that ski to "come alive." A ski that is too long/stiff will be the wrong ski for you or me while the same model in a different size might be just right. A ski that is too short/soft will hinder your ultimate improvement but won't hurt your improvement like a too-stiff ski will.

At your size and the skill level you describe, do you think that a size two-down from the max would be right?

Plus, I really like my Dynastar Mythic Riders, 88mm waist, 23m sidecut, in deep snow and crud, and they're surprisingly well behaved on bumps and pack.
post #15 of 16
Thread Starter 
Thanks everyone for your wise words- much appreciated. It sounds like we can't go wrong getting the IM82 in a 172cm length so think we're going to go for that.

Thanks again and happy skiing!
post #16 of 16
Holy Cow! Gotama in 176 for her???? Wow, that's a big ski for her.

She may want to try the Aura (the women's Mantra, in the 170) or Kiku (the women's Goat, in the 168) for something a little softer and more compliant. I tried the Mantra in a 170 and thought it was a darned beefy ski, but LOVE the Aura in the 177 (and I outweight her by A BUNCH!) The Aura floats like crazy, carves like a maniac, and slithers through trees and bumps. I haven't met a woman yet who hasn't fallen madly in love with it after demoing.
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