Originally Posted by beyond
OK, interesting hypothesis; I'll bite. Here are some issues I see, mainly around what a "nice" balance is and whether it changes according to how demanding the ski is:
1) What about skis like the Elan Waveflex designs, that purposively go for very stiff lateral and moderate longitudinal? In your opinion are they less popular because they're imbalanced? Or because Plake's doo has outlived its cool factor?
2) Many longitudinally stiff skis I have skied, such as the Stockli SS or the Blizzard 8.7, achieve the sensation of a softer overall flex through a soft tip. So the ski initiates with less effort than you'd expect, but then it's still quite stiff longitudinally in comparison to its (already stiff) torsion. A similar outcome can be achieved through a rocker; a lot of rockered fatties are pretty stiff sandwiches but are popular because the front and back of the ski doesn't really figure in the equation on many surfaces. So is this balance dependent more on total longitudinal flex or on the tip and tail? Is it cheating when most of ski is really stiff but the front or back aren't?
3) Other skis are just stiff every which direction (Some fatter Dynastars, many Heads). And they're really popular with better skiers, often precisely because they'll handle difficult conditions precisely. Assume you're not arguing that the iM88, Dynastar LP and XXL are failures. But unclear if they're also balanced to your way of thinking because their ratio of longitudinal to lateral stiffness is definitely closer than say a Watea's is. Is stiff/stiff as balanced as medium/medium?
So not disagreeing with you - hard to argue against balance, it's like motherhood and apple pie - and I like your illustration about the chute full of dead tourists. But can't get clear on whether you're arguing against excessive torsional stiffness or for this balance thing.
Seems to me that there are several different ways of defining balance. Have a hunch part of the problem is that there is more possible variation in longitudinal flex than lateral. Meaning that most higher performance skis are pretty damn torsionally stiff. Between the ski and the binding, they just don't twist a whole lot. OK, not race ski torsionally stiff, but a lot closer than they were 20 years ago. I suspect it's the longitudinal flex that designers assume needs playing with. So I wonder if only one of your variables is really varying, and what you're really saying is that most intermediates like moderate longitudinal flex, period?
Or am I just misinformed about torsional stiffness?
Edited by beyond - 3/29/2009 at 04:51 am
Good points. I think it depends on a bunch of external factors, mainly the skier. This is a complex issue, and has to do with lateral stiffness as well as longitudinal stiffness, sidecut, skier weight, skier skill, skier speed, skier athleticism.....
Regarding flex: lateral flex tends to be good, if you have the skills to control it. Lots of lateral flex means that the ski reacts (edge engages) with input, intentional or not. Make a mistake and the ski takes off on you. Intend to turn, and the does exactly what it is told. The more your skills are in order, the better you can handle lateral flex. Longitudinal flex is more of a variable: big guy skiing fast needs a stiffer board than a mid-weight conservative skier, even if they are both the same skill level. There is no "one size fits all" for longitudinal flex, no matter the skill of the skier. What is a 2x4 to me may be a sheet of plywood to a bigger, faster skier, and put an intermediate on a race-room GS ski and see what happens....GS skis are a great example of why there is a range of flex in terms of skis these days. Skis that are designed to bend up only at GS race speeds, on firm snow, are quite a bit different from your typical Legend 8000 is that is easy to ski and forgiving at even 15mph or less. The trick to finding a ski that really "works" for the given skier is getting a flex that matches both the skiers skill "longitudinal flex" and the skier's weight and typical skiing speed "lateral flex". I have trouble finding skis that I am really happy with, at times, due to them being too stiff. The Elan 82Xti is a great example: superb ski, but for me at 150lbs, just a bit hard to bend. Put me on the 82ti, which is softer yet probably as stiff laterally, and there are few skis on the market better for a guy such as myself.
Here are my experiences, not as a specific answer to your question, but more of a "here has been my experience, testing a whole bunch of skis over the past few years".
What is the best "crudbuster" ski I have ever tried? Probably a Stockli XXXL. Plenty stiff, absolutely a wide race ski on groomers, and everywhere else. Totally unfazed by crud. But, it has a big sidecut. What about the much balleyhooed (or maligned) AC50? Pretty stiff, sure, but a wide tip tends to pull you a bit more into the turn, whether you are ready to go there or not. Not too much, but could be better in that department. Another stiff ski, the Elan 82Xti, is an absolute crudbusting machine, but with less sidecut. It doesn't quite want to turn as much, not until you input that turn sensation. Same with a Magnum 8.7: bigger turn radius, turns when it is told to do so. I probably made most of my progress last season on a Fischer Cold Heat, a ski that was discontinued because it didn't have a big target audience.
Bumps? Completely different ballgame. Probably the softer and less reactive, the better. I got thrashed on the XXXL in bumps, the 82Xti isn't great, nor is the AC50. What is good? Something softer, like a Watea 84. But you pay the price at speed, and don't get the full benefits of the lateral stiffness that the others offer. What speeds are we talking about? Faster that most on the hill will ski.
What is best? It absolutely depends on the skier. Skis I used to think were just OK really came alive the better I got. Skis I used to really like became a bit dead and noodle-ish the faster I ski. Obviously, there isn't one right answer; if there were, we wouldn't see 10 high-end models from every manufacturer. Put 10 random skiers on a Stockli XXXL, and 9 probably would get thrown around. So, does that make the 1 guy who loved it wrong? Or, just more skilled and able to enjoy the horsepower? I tend to like stiffer skis: love the 8.7 Magnum, 82ti, XXXL, 4x4, Monster 88, Progressor 9+, GSX, and even the AC50, while perhaps a little turny, is a very enjoyable ski. All these skis have lots of metal and a fairly straightforward, more powerful feel to them. Personally, I am not a huge fan of the Legend 8000, Watea series, softer Dynastars, Rossis, Salomons, et cetera. I know that these are popular skis for a lot of people: the are just a little dull for my taste. The first group of skis are every bit as versatile as the second group, even more so in many cases, as they feel more comfortable at the speeds I typically ski.
Who knows what is best? Only you do, and only after you have demoed some product. You don't even have to necessarily demo the exact ski you want to buy, but demoing a range, and seeing what works and what doesn't, can make the process a whole lot easier. Deciding that "hey, a really stiff ski just isn't what I need" or "man, the name of that ski should be the Udon" will help you find some like skis to enjoy.