2010 ski reviews
Conditions: slushy groomers, soft/slushy off-piste snow, somewhat firmer first thing in the morning, but quickly deteriorated; soft bumps, poor visibility. About me: 5 foot 9, 155lbs, normally a solid all-mountain skier (probably a low-level expert); recovering from a broken leg and therefore not 100% (mostly limited to groomers and not too threatening (to my leg) off-piste conditions.
I tested a wide range of skis. This was a tough day: any ski would have some sort of drawback, it just depends on what compromises you want to make.
Blizzard Magnum 8.1 Max 172cm: first ski of the day; had the same race-like dampness and feel that is characteristic of the Magnum. This ski has 2 sheets of metal (instead of 1) but the flex is around the same, perhaps a little stiffer laterally. It was relatively nimble and great in big turns at speed. It liked GS radius turns over slalom radius ones. Took it into the really crappy soft off-piste snow, and it was too narrow to be fun out there. Relatively forgiving, easy to stay in the sweet spot.
Blizzard Magnum 8.7 179cm: same as above, 7cm longer, not as nimble, a bit more stable when flat on the snow, better high-speed crudbuster. Not quite the carver the 172cm is, but still adequate, and it likes to run more. I could ski either the 172 or 179, but would probably opt 172cm at my height and get a wider ski for deeper snow. Even in this length, the 4x4 from Dynastar was easily as stable.
Blizzard Magnum 8.7 Max 174cm: same ski as the 2009, except for the wider IQ track. Very predictable, in the soft snow, felt as solid as the 8.1, although slower onto edge. Nice sweet spot, easy to initiate, solid at speed, still a little narrow for the off-piste conditions of the day (basically 8” of slush). Quick enough for bumps, just a really nice all-around ski. I have skied this on boilerplate recently, and it definitely gives up something to the narrower skis, but on much of the typical Western snow, holds just fine. A very GS-feeling ski.
Blizzard Titan Atlas 180cm: new ski, 94mm underfoot, similar profile to the Argos in terms of tip and tail rise. Fairly stiff flex. This will be a great 1-ski quiver for many people. It was the minimum width I would take into that off-piste junk: while it didn’t float, it allowed you enough float to release into the next turn. It was pretty stiff and didn't do short turns well: a definite big-turn, higher speed ski. In the super-slushy groomers, it wanted to slide a bit, but that was more of a function of the lousy snow, not an indication of edgehold. I bet it would hold quite well on harder snow, just as long as you weren’t looking for it to hook up in a hurry. It seems a bit of a “tweener” ski: Not really that sporty for aggressive skiing on groomers, not really that wide off-piste to really handle crappy snow, but a great choice if you only need one ski and don’t live in the East.
Blizzard Answer IQ 180cm: a new ski for this coming year, 110mm underfoot, tip riser, variable sidecut: This ski was a real eye-opener. Not only was it nearly as good as the Atlas when getting onto edge, but it made quick work of the junky off-piste snow. You could ski it all day on a primarily new snow and crud day and really like it. Also, it was quite nimble for what it was, and a pretty decent carver. I couldn’t say that the other tip-rockered skis I tried were really even decent carvers. For a primarily off-piste ski with stability and versatility, it would be a great choice. Again, very GS, big turn in terms of feel and flex; not really a ski that liked to change edges quickly. It also didn’t like higher edge angles on groomers (I lost my trust in the ski, it wanted to slide) but who cares? If you bought this ski to ski groomers, you are in idiot. I liked it; not sure I would trade my Huge Trouble for it, but I thought it to be one of the best wide skis I have tried. All of the above skis have a somewhat similar feel: fairly stiff, more GS-like rather than quick and energetic: must be a Blizzard design. It could also be that I am a lightweight, but I do like the stability and sense of confidence that these skis give you.
Blizzard Supersonic IQ 174cm: Unchanged for the coming year: 74mm underfoot, around a 15m radius in this size. A completely different feeling ski: much lighter and more nimble. It wasn’t just the difference in sidecut: this ski likes to change edges, like to ski arc to arc in any size turn, and is very playful. The sweet spot is fairly large, it is a great carver, and also very easy in the small bumps that were developing. Way too narrow for the lousy off-piste snow, but if you were limited to this ski, skiing bumps and firmer snow would be a whole lot of fun. I really enjoyed it; and would consider it for a frontside ski. There is no real speed limit, although it doesn’t have the brusier feel of the Nordica Mach 3 Power or even the Dynastar 4x4: not as much pop or the hefty race-like feel, but very fun, sporty, while still being stable. Will be a nice ski for a lot of people.
Elan 888 177cm: unchanged (except for graphic) for 2010. 88mm underfoot, 21m turn radius. This is a standby ski for me, and for good reason. It has great stability, a relatively large sweet spot, nice damp feel but with some edgehold and power that isn’t always present on 88mm underfoot skis, and a fairly light, flickable feel without feeling as light as, say a Watea. Still that bit more damp, GS race ski feel to it. Not being super stiff, it does well in tighter terrain for someone my size, as well as runs at speed nearly as well as the stiffest skis. No surprises here: as good of a 1-ski quiver that exists today, at least for someone my size. An above-average ski on groomers (at least in big arcs); decent float, not grabby at all in crud, very predictable in soft snow. If you can only own 1 ski, this is a superb choice. I liked it as well as anything I tried.
K2 SideStash (181cm?): new ski for 2010, 108mm (ish) underfoot, tip rocker (5/15 or so), fairly stiff flex, laminate sidewall. I tried this ski in all sorts of snow, really soft, crappy new snow w/rain, soft slushy bumps forming, and somewhat groomed stuff. Overall, I was very impressed. I thought it to be quite a bit more nimble than the Answer, a slightly softer ski that worked well for me. It floated well in the crap, was easy to ski, but didn’t really get nervous at speed: there was some beef to this ski. On the slushy groomers, it was quick edge to edge if you were doing fast releases, but wasn’t confidence-inspiring in bigger GS arcs. You could engage the edge and set/release, but trying to arc out a turn on sidecut only felt very weird, due to the rocker and lack of tip engagement. Off piste, this wasn’t any sort of an issues, and I could take this into bumps and do OK. The Answer was a better (still not good) carver, but stiffer and a bit more work: the Sidestash may be the better choice for the lighter skier. In cruddy snow, I felt as confident as I did all day, and would have thoroughly enjoyed it, had my leg not been killing me and hindering my releasing out of the old turn. I think this is going to be a very popular ski for that person who wants a solid wide ski that isn’t too horrible on the harder conditions and that doesn’t make too many compromises. Should target that Obsethed customer who wants a versatile soft snow ski w/o the park graphics, or anyone looking for a versatile soft snow ride: a very good ski.
K2 Hardside 174cm: the replacement for the Outlaw, 98mm underfoot, tip rocker: this ski was a little stiffer, not as nimble, but still pretty good off-piste. Definitely more float than the Atlas gave me, easier to initiate in crappy snow. Felt solid, although not as nimble, and a bit more glued to the snow, GS/damp. Floated OK, not as good as the Sidestash, and wasn’t really much better anywhere else: a little stiff for bumps, not really a better carver (still has the tip rocker, which means aggressive edge angles just don’t hook up like on a regular cambered ski). If I was heavier and was overpowering the Sidestash, this may be an attractive option, but I think you get more float and all of the versatility out of the Sidestash, so why go narrower? After giving it some thought, it seems that if I am skiing a ski in the 90’s, I probably prefer a traditionally cambered ski (like a Nordica Enforcer). Rockered skis are pretty poor on groomers, and if I am getting a ski for deep snow, I want more float than 90-99mm gives me: 110mm at least is what I would look for, but if you need to go rockered and narrowered, it is worth checking out this ski.
Dynastar 4x4 172cm: basically unchanged for 2010: 15m radius, 75mm underfoot. This ski is as good as frontside skis get. It is the closest I have yet felt from a “carver” to a real race ski: it has the stability one would expect from a 180mm GS board, yet is more fun. Rips up the groomers, any size arc; is relatively forgiving for this level of performance (be a good skier, no doubt), does quite well in softer snow, and is pretty decent in bumps. I really couldn’t ask for more out of a ski. It is a true Porsche 911 Turbo out of the crop of frontside skis: pretty darn high level of performance for what it is and what it costs. Not for intermediates, or even advanced skiers who really don’t like to let the skis run: needs a skilled pilot and likes to ski fast.
Dynastar Sultan 85 172cm: 16m radius, 85mm underfoot, supposedly based somewhat off the 4x4’s construction. Unfortunatley, my leg was hurting to the point that I could barely initiate a turn, and I didn’t get useful feedback on this ski. I will try again in a couple of weeks.
Conclusion: lots of great skis out there. I really enjoyed the sub 90mm skis for frontside and all-around use, and the 105+mm skis for off-piste skiing. The mid-range skis seem to make a lot of compromises, and these days, with what is available, a 2-ski quiver makes tons of sense: get something wide for soft snow days so you can really take advantage of that crappy snow or windpack that may otherwise be un-ski-able, and get a great frontside ski for when it hasn’t snowed in awhile and you are ripping up the groomers or hard off-piste conditions. The right skis will make either of those days tons of fun; when they may be marginal otherwise. We have all heard the people on the lift complaining “snow is too soft and mushy/too deep/too heavy” or “too icy”, but if you have the right skis, you may be saying “hey, that is a great day!”. Living out West and not having a solid 2-ski quiver means you may be missing out on some really good conditions. I could live with several of these skis, but would still say that the 4x4 and Huge Trouble are my 2 personal faves for narrow/wide. YMWV.
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2010 ski reviews