Reviews: 2010 Blizzard Magnum 8.7, Fischer Watea 94, Fischer Koa, Fischer Heat 76
Conditions: slop: 4 feet of recent new snow was warm and moist, foggy pea-soup visibility at times.
About me: 5 foot 9, 155lbs, typically ski 40-60 days/year, currently somewhat limited by pain as a result of previous fracture, can ski full speed on smooth terrain, solid skier (somewhere in the PSIA level 9 range).
Blizzard Magnum 8.7 174cm: pretty much the same ski it was for 2009: stiff laterally, has a big turn feel with an accommodating sweet spot, relatively forgiving, nice power in the tail for a GS sidecut, likes to ski fast and aggressively, a little stiff for slower speed or less skilled skier who are lighter weight. Very versatile, can do pretty much anything, great edge grip on groomers, can be a touch stiff in bigger bumps, but not bad. A great freeski for the ex racer who likes to ski with lots of edge angle or ski very dynamically. Probably not the best choice heel pushers; the tail is quite stiff. This, for better or worse, feels somewhat like a wide race ski, and will work best for those who approach skiing with that “attack the mountain” mentality. One of my favorites in this width (Stockli VXL, XXXL, Elan 888 are the others).
Fischer Heat 76 165cm: new ski for 2009, based on the Cool Heat and Progressor. It uses slightly thinner metal than the Progressor 9+ if I recall correctly, but has more ski to it, so the flex is somewhat similar. Partial vertical sidewall construction. Also, only $699 w/binding! Maybe the best deal going. This ski felt a lot like the Cool heat: more of a GS sidecut that really holds well on hard snow and has a fair amount of energy. Really confidence inspiring in the crap when on edge, this ski hooks up early and pulls you into the turn. Decent energy, considering the crap I was skiing in which really makes skis feel dull. The 165cm was surprisingly stable: I would get the 170/175 for personal use, but the 165 was nice and nimble w/o being overly turny. Felt like something between a slalom and GS: 16m radius, but a bit more spunk than the Blizzard. This is a nice waist width for someone my weight, even in the crap today, and would be perfect for Western hard snow and no new snow days if you like a responsive ski that can hold well on the hard stuff. Was fun in bumps, not too stiff at all. If you are looking at the Progressor but want a slightly wider ski that is a touch more versatile, also with more of a GS radius but still some energy, you should be looking at this ski. It matches up very well with the Dynastar 4x4, but with a more Fischer race-ski like feel, and better price. I can’t say which is better, but at the performance level it offers for $699, definitely it should be on the radar for a narrower-type ski. Personally, I think noting beats a 70-79mm waisted ski, even out West, if the conditions warranty. No new snow in a week, maybe some semi-firm bumps and chalky skied off snow; a ski of this type really makes days like that fun. Sure, you can ski them on a wider ski, but if you have access to a quiver, a ski like this can make a decent day into a great day, especially if you are the type, again, coming from a race background or ski like you are on race skis: high edge angle, very dynamic. If you are just more of a cruiser or low energy type, a ski like this will be somewhat wasted.
Fischer Watea 94 178cm: new with the Boat Hull tip. The rep swears it is a little different, more damp. Flexing it by hand, it is definitely softer in the tail. Review: I have skies this a bunch in past years, and overall, this was pretty similar. Yes, perhaps a bit more damp, not quite as lively, but not having the 2009 to compare to, and skiing in sloppy conditions, who knows? This ski does best in the softer off-piste stuff on days like this: it holds you up out of the snow, so you aren’t dragging through 6 inches of wet slush. It makes skiing stuff like that VERY easy; it is a real hero ski, with a huge sweet spot. Energy, when compared to the 8.7 Magnum, was low: it just didn’t have the pop out of the turn, or the tip stiffness to really pull you in. Roll it up on edge, wait, wait some more before it hooks up. Even then, it doesn’t pull you into the turn, that vroom feeling doesn’t ever really come along. It does hook up earlier on hard snow, but will never be confused for a carver: even with big edge angles, it wants to make low energy, 20m turns. In bumps, quite predictable, a good bump ski for sure. Groomers (or the soft slop that passed for them) and I didn't care much for it. Stability was as good as the 8.7, just with a much different feel. This is a very forgiving ski that can be skidded or carved, and does just about anything you ask of it. A sports car, it isn’t. This hits a huge target audience: most people out there skiing can use a forgiving, do-everything ski such as this: this is a ski that will make anyone look better in those softer snow conditions, and is a good choice for a 1-ski quiver. Not sporty enough for my personal preference, and a tweener ski as well: if you have 2 skis, might as well get something more responsive for harder snow and something wider for deep days. Should be one of the best selling skis on the market, with as many people out there as it is suitable for. Lower-energy experts also like it, but if you are really charging, you will want more ski.
Fischer Koa 167cm: a ladies’ version of the Watea 84, but with a full Poplar core, instead of Ash+Poplar that is in the Watea 84. Review: obviously a little short, but this ski was a fun carver. Felt about like the 94, but softer and shorter. Same trademark light, playful, yet forgiving Watea feel. Again, not super aggressive on edge (more of a passive edge engagements) but decent once you got it there. A little quicker edge to edge than the 94, as would be expected, and went through the crud very well. Not a speed demon for me, but if I was shorter and lighter, it would have been a very suitable ski. I figure if you take the typical guy at 5 foot 10, 170lbs, and then step down to the typical woman at 5 foot 6, 130lbs, with the same skill set and skiing speed, you will have this ski as a direct comparison to the Watea 84, which is what they were shooting for. A very nice ski, the 94 review pretty much applies here.
Conclusion: All good skis, just vastly different feel. At my weight, for venturing on and off piste, the 8.7 was probably the best choice, although the Heat 76 in a 175 and the Watea 94 were also suitable. The Heat 7.6 is definitely the most sporty, the 8.7 still sporty but more versatile is really soft goop off-piste, the 94 and Koa a bit more easygoing in terms of how they liked to be skied, but no real drop-off in performance (except in terms of power underfoot).