Me: 5 foot 9, 155lbs, solid skier, really getting to the point where I felt like I had close to absolute mastery in crud and that speed was a function of how cleanly I was releasing, not how fast I was trying to ski. The big speeds seemed to come naturally when I was releasing down the fall line and staying centered naturally over the skis.
Skis: Elan 777, 176cm. 19.4m radius, 77mm underfoot, basically a little brother to the 888. This ski was designed for those people not looking for a wide carver (such as the AC50, or to a lesser extent, the Elan Mag 82 ti/Xti, Blizzard 8.7, and Sollie Fury). It is intended for those people looking for a backside, GS-feeling ski (bumps, crud, trees) with a big sweet spot that isn't as hooky as the typical "wide carver". Probably a good choice for those who ski alot of off-piste conditions but don't have a ton of new snow to go with them, and therefore wide skis don't make much sense. Places like Sun Valley, many of the East resorts.
Review: this was a surprising ski, and pretty unique in today's market. Most of the skis this width are really carvers, intended for use on groomers, or under a better pilot, off-piste. That crowd of skis has it's upside (great edgehold; a very powerful, precise feel; lots of energy; minimal efford to get the ski up and carving). The Elan 777 is different: bigger sweet spot and a delay when engaging the edge at the top of the turn (a little slower and less reactive on groomers, more predictable in crud as it has less of an emphasis on turning and being laterally reactive), softer tip (very useful for terrain absorbtion in soft snow and bumps) and a GS feel (un-heard of for a current ski at 77mm underfoot: 19.4m radius!). It is the primarily backside ski for those of you who don't get a whole lot of new snow. You could make a case that this ski is a narrower version of the 888, and that is pretty much the conclusion I came to. It sucked up bumps (better than the 888 in that regard), was quick onto edge (although not as quick as the Mag 82ti), had a big sweet spot, a GS feel, and a flow and smoothness to it that really felt like I was skiing it in slow motion sometimes: predictable yet powerful release, float down the fall line, smooth engagement at the top of the turn, tip it up onto edge and let it ride, get more edge angle and let it load up, then relax/release and start the whole process over again. Nothing unpredicatable in the way it skied, no quick unexpected edge engagements in bumps or in 3-D crud. It was one of the smoothest skis I tested all year: like a fine wine, subtle but powerful and complex, rather than an in-your-face ski that can wear you down or get tiresome with an overly racy feel. Totally confidence-inspiring. I would say the 176 is a little less stable than the 888 in the same length, a little turnier, and skis shorter, but other big guys have been on the 184cm and found it totally bomber in those conditions. Stability was a little lower than the 176cm Mag 82Xti and 177cm iM78, so you may want to size up on this if you are between sizes and like to ski big open crud fields (then again, those customers are looking at the 888). For those of us who need the smaller ski feel (in bumps and tighter spaces, which is definitely where this ski shines) sizing head-height is perfect. It felt like a bit more ski than the iM78 in 171cm, and perhaps comparable to the Watea 84 in 176cm, stability-wise.
Overall, I really liked it. It would be a great choice out West for the narrower of a 2-ski quiver, especially for a skier who would trade bump and non-groomed snow over a reactive, power carver feel, and they could pick up something 100mm+ for the deeper days. Or, for people living back east who want a modern all-mountain and bump ski, this could be the ticket. Our Elan rep, who skis Sun Valley mostly, says it is his favorite ski in the line.