Ski: 08/09 Blizzard G-Force Supersonic IQ, 167cm.
Me: 5’ 7”, 130lbs, 46yo, level 8, right coast
What I liked, in rough order of importance to me:
§ At medium to high speeds, amazingly quick & reactive. Responsive to small inputs without being abrupt or unpredictable in any way.
§ Superb grip
§ Curious but wonderful combination of light weight with relatively high stability
§ Smooth, effortless initiation in hardpack arcs
§ Wide range of turn shapes – not a specialist ski
§ Born to carve, even at milder edge angles (thus, perhaps, the range of turn shapes)
§ Perfect tune out of the box
§ Good length fit for me – no wish for a “between” size (bridge of nose @ 167cm)
§ The way my ski buddies say “Blizzards? Really? Huh. Hmm. Really? Blizzards? Okay. If you say so.”
What I could live without, in order of importance:
§ Smallish sweet spot in softer snow and on slower “scarved” turns (but I expect I will dial that in after another day or two)
§ Not the easiest initiator in same conditions as above
§ Somewhat jarring in “mini-crud”
§ The fact that I couldn’t buy them used or deeply discounted as a last-year’s model
§ Metallic noise on hard snow, that at least one other reviewer mentioned
§ Foil top sheet that has already proved a bit too easy to scrape off
§ A sports car thrill ride for able lightweights who want to carve it up on hardpack, but don’t want the responsibility of having to push a race ski all the time. Not for skidders or soft snow, unless you’re bigger than I am.
The Gory Details
I demo’d several skis in my quest to replace my Fischer World Cup RCs with a hard snow ski that is better suited to my light weight, is a bit turnier, and that will be slightly more versatile without sacrificing too much hard snow grip or high speed stability. A couple of these reviews can be found here. I was interested in shopping around at this time of year, when prices tend to be relatively low and my skiing is fairly well dialed in. One of the skis that I had been most anxious to try was the Blizzard Supersonic, based on a combination of magazine reviews and commentary found on this board. I found this thread and this one particularly compelling. Unfortunately I was not able to find anywhere even to LOOK at a pair of these, let alone demo them, within a reasonable distance. Meanwhile I liked the Head Supershape Magnum a lot. It was very close to what I was looking for. Hindsight revealed that I probably should have been on the 170 instead of the 163, and that part of what I did not like about the ski might have been attributable to Head’s allegedly unreliable factory base angles. However, the logistics and expense of making a second demo pass to try to figure out if those factors would turn “like” into “love” were a big hurdle. (I could just picture the eye-rolling “get a load of this dude,” reactions of the shop staff as I tried to explain my nerdy concerns about base bevel issues I heard about on the Internet.) I was feeling a bit of time pressure as most eastern areas and ski shops were visibly winding down the season. Most of them had long ago shipped their demos off to … wherever it is that demos go to await the late fall ski swaps. I was seriously considering just ordering a pair of the SS 170s from Dawgcatching. (Who helped me out a LOT with narrowing my choices and who had a good price on this ski. Thanks, Scott!) I had pretty much exhausted all available demos of candidate skis – which included the Progressor 8, among others - within a two hour drive. Just about then, I located someone a couple states away who had the Supersonic in my size of choice for a reasonable price (even though it was still about double what I’d ever paid for a pair of skis) and was willing to ship free. I took a deep breath and bought them, un-demo’d. Gasp!
Any review under these circumstances is highly suspect. Who is going to admit – even to himself, let alone on the open Internet – that he spent a lot of money on something untried and then didn’t like what he got? Just acknowledging that I am making at least a token effort here to counterbalance my own consumer psychology with healthy skepticism. That said, I now have several hours on this ski on two different days and I’m convinced I made a fantastic choice. (The “right” choice? Who knows.) Strangely enough for Maine, there hasn’t really been all that much hard snow around lately for proper testing, but I did get two good hours in at the ‘Loaf this week on some very firm but very consistent corduroy. This ski absolutely rocks for me in these conditions.
Maybe it sounds stupid, but my very first impression was that these were the sharpest boards I’d ever been on. Obviously they must have had a very good tune, but I’m sure my impression came from more than just that; for some reason I seem to be able to just glue the entire edge of this ski to the snow and keep it there, even at relatively low angles. Turns initiate quicker and less fussily on this ski than on my RCs, and I can vary the turn shape more easily. It’s just way easier to ski. So, one goal achieved. At the same time, it seems fully in the same league in terms of grip. Stability is definitely lower than the RC’s – no surprise there, I guess. For one thing, the RCs are about 15lbs and these are less than 12. You feel that right away. However, the more I skied the more I realized that only part of what I was feeling here was a real loss of stability, while much of it was strictly psychological. The Supersonics are not the least bit jittery or squirrelly. And they have none of that brittle, glassy feeling that some Salomons, such as the GC from a couple years ago, have, that I hate. They’re just lighter and quicker-reacting and not quite as damp. The more I skied them, the more confidence I had on them at speed. At first I had to be careful not to do anything too sudden, and I wasn’t sure I liked that. After a little while longer, though, I actually started to get really psyched about how much more control I had over them with small movements. What had seemed at first like a bug now seemed like a feature. Seriously. I’m pretty sure that if I got back on the RCs – since sold to a bigger friend – I would find them ponderous now. The Supersonics are just sooo reactive, and I seem to have become addicted to that quickly. J Also, the length of the ski just feels right to me. I don’t have any of that nagging feeling that I’d really like the ski a lot better if it was 4 or 5 cm longer or shorter.
The feel of these skis was much closer to that of the Fischer Race SC Pro that I’d demo’d (and reviewed elsewhere) than it was to the feel of the SS Magnums. Neither the Fischer nor the Blizzard is really damp, and both are very crisp and confidence-inspiring on edge. I didn’t ski them side-by-side on the same day, but my feeling is that the SCs were interested primarily in short turns, and that they were distinctly better at true slalom-radius ones than the Supersonics are. The Supersonics are really more of a medium-radius ski both on paper and in practice. However, the Blizzards work for me in a wider range of turn sizes, and are more stable with the gas pedal down. I didn’t notice any lack of edge-to-edge quickness at all with these skis, even though they verge on a waist width that would have been called a mid-fat six or seven years ago. At any rate, if there’s a limitation there, I’m not discriminating enough to appreciate it.
The Heads were even easier to initiate than the Blizzards, with their soft tips. This was very noticeable at lower speeds and/or on softer snow, and I much prefer the Heads on that score. I’m thinking, though, that the relatively stiffish forebody on the Supersonics is probably one of the things that helps them rail on the hardpack, and since that’s their primary intended usage for me, I have to give that more weight. Like the Race SCs, the Heads have more sidecut and do make very short arcs more easily than the Blizzards. But the Supersonics feel like they have far tighter steering and suspension. With a few hundred turns under my belt I REALLY don’t think I’d want to give that up, now that I’ve started to groove into it with subtler and easier foot and lower leg movements. [Insert your analogy to a favorite parallel activity here – sporty cars, chef’s knives, bicycle geometry, etc.] Moreover, they feel more secure at speed than the Heads did for me. Yes, the Magnums were damp and calm, but the edge simply did not have the same glued-down feeling I get with the Sonics, except when I had them WAY up on the sidewalls in a knuckle-dragger turn… and then you lose the turn-shape flexibility. I guess I’ll never know if I’d still think that, if I got onto a pair of the 170 Magnums with a known-good tune, but I can live with the uncertainty. ;-)
So what were the downsides? Well, for me, at least, there were some, believe it or not. One of the goals I had was to get onto a hard-snow ski that was still decent in the bumps and in small quantities of soft chop. Unfortunately I did not get to ski any of these skis in real bumps. The SS Magnum was definitely better than my other candidates in the soft chop. It’s the soft tips again. Another reviewer said that he didn’t like “tip deflection” in these conditions. I do. I want the ski to absorb some of the shock, even if it throws me slightly off line. I’m usually not doing a full-on carved turn in these conditions anyway, so who cares? (This is where I love my Dynastar Legends.) The Supersonics were better than my RCs, and better than the Fischer Race SC Pros at this. But they’re not great. The very low-profile tip tends to cut through the clumps of soft snow instead of riding over them (“tip deflection”). Perhaps irrationally, this kind of tip also makes me nervous in bumps. The somewhat stiff front end can be jarring when blasting through uneven "mini-crud."
For the same reason, initiating semi-carved “brush” turns on steeper slopes is not always easy for me on these skis. (Although I was getting more of a feel for it as I skied them more.) If you are patient and accurate with your movements, and have bulletproof “instructor turn” technique, they will perform well in this kind of turn. In this sense, I feel that these are quite demanding boards and would not necessarily make great learning tools for someone of my size. I know this contradicts what a couple of other posters have said. There is just a whole lot of “snap” to these skis, which is a good thing only when you’ve learned how to control it. And controlling it is harder at slow speeds, because the timing is more difficult: You’ve got to know how to wind up the ski and keep it wound up until the right moment, even without the continuous supply of energy available in a longer turn at higher speeds. For lighter folks like me, this can be a challenge with anything but a very soft ski.
In the end I think I resigned myself to the fact that I just wasn’t going to get the soft snow behavior I wanted out of a true hard snow carver. But I totally achieved the objective of getting a high-performing speed-tolerant ski that was much easier to ski and much better suited to my size and style than the cheater GS skis from Fisher, Atomic, Volkl, etc. that I once thought were the obvious choices.
[edits to fix broken links]
Edited by qcanoe - 4/4/2009 at 12:52 pm
Edited by qcanoe - 4/4/2009 at 12:53 pm
Edited by qcanoe - 4/4/2009 at 12:56 pm
[minor edit for clarity]
Edited by qcanoe - 4/14/2009 at 02:45 am GMT