Me: 53 yo. (and 44 year skier), 5'9.5 and 160lbs, level 9 (so I have been told by instucters), Eastern skier, preferred terrain - short turns down steep fall line
Current ride: 2007-8 Blizzard Titan Cronus; Dalbello Krypton Pro
Location: Tested at Sugarloaf (Maine) April 11, 2009
Conditions: Classic spring skiing in Maine - 45-50 degress
Snow: Groomed hardpack and ice on top/ ungroomed mash potatos at mid/ corn toward bottom
Test: I have wanted to test this ski since I first started reading about it earlier this year. And I have been a member of the elusive "Blizzard clan" since I got my Titan Cronus's late last year. I have grown to love the TC's. They are the ultimate fun ski - easy going, frolicing, always agreeable. On soft snow they carve with an edge unexpected from a ski with an 88mm waist, soft tip and no metal top sheet. While they have a big turning radius (19m?), they can be presssed with no effort into short scarved turns without balking. I took them to Vail and Deer Valley for my first out west in February and March. No big pow but some boot top height at Vail and softies at Deer Valley. The TC shined and gave me the confidence to get into the Daly Chutes which I would not have done if not for the utter trust in the TC.
But they have their limits. No ski can do it all. And when you get the TC on real hard pack and ice it looks up at you wondering if you are mad. Not that it can not handle these conditons. I can scarve my way down the edges of an ice covered trail. But forget trying to hold an edge on a traverse or in medium turns. And that is no criticism of the TC. No hammer should be asked to tighten a screw.
That is why I wanted to try the Supersonic. And I was not disappointed. But I was not immediately smitten by them either. I skied them the entire day. It was 40 degrees warming to 50 as the sun rose. My first two runs were on flat, wide blue level trails. The snow was soft (3-4"), ungroomed with small clumps of mush. My first reaction after pushing off was that these skis seem a LOT longer than the TC's. But there is only 1mm difference. I figured out it was because I could feel the entire length of the ski. On the TC, the tails are, how shalI say, a throwaway. And that caused me some issues at first. The long turns I made were splendid. The Supersonics hook up quickly and effortlessly and will stay fixed on a trajectory until instructed to change edge, which again was effortless. I skied timidly for the first couple runs not knowing how the low profile tip and medium narrow waist (72mm) would handle the softies - not their optimal terrain. Not to worry. I was struck by the amount on energy the skis seemed to dissipate. They did not so much float over the soft, even with the wide shovel (123mm?) as plow through it. In his excellent review, gcanoe described the ski as "glued" to the snow surface. That was my impression as well. You really can let these skis run with utter confidence, even on ungroomed softies. Conversely, I saw a bunch of racer types on their short Atomic and Fischer race boards get bounced all over the place on this snow.
The trouble began with those short turns I like to make. I initiated a few and thought "What the hell. Why won't the tails release?" Lesson #1. The TC are a scarvers delight. With a big radius and soft tail, you make short turns by carving the top of the turn and scarve the rest. Not with the Supersonics, and particularly not in mush. Once hooked up, they want you to complete the turn. I tried to overski and even manhandle them. Not good. And so I listened and learned. Be patient. Apply increasing pressure throughout the turn and the ski will come around and in a lovely line. Thank you for that lesson. So I did. And was rewarded with the experience of carving the full short radius turns. This lesson came in handy later in the day. So after a few runs, we were getting to know each other. I was gaining more confidence as I began to figure out what this ski wanted me to do.
As the day progressed, I discovered that this ski does not necessarily demand very precise technique but certainly rewards it. I own a pair of Volkl Supersport 6* in 175cm. They punish any technical indiscretion. While the Supersonics might "roll their eyes," at a technical blunder, they remain kind if not impatient for you to get your sh*t back together. And ultimately I did. First, I tested different postures - crouched, forward, back, etc. And I found that the best that worked for me was a more upright, very centered stance. I am upright on the TC's as well, but tend to have my center of pressure just aft of the arch. Looking back, I suspect that I do this to try to engage the tail more. You do not have to do this on the Supersonic. It rewards dead centered COM (if that is a proper use of the term), subject to tweaks on the fly, of course. In this stance, you feel the entire length of the ski which feels very engaged. I ski in Dalbello Krypton Pros and have found that I use my knees a great deal to fine tune turns, much more than I did in my old Tecnica XT 17 plugs. And the Supersonics approve.
The best skiing of the day was high up on the hill where the snow was still hard and shallow. And there were some steep sheets of ice. Just what I got this ski for. As an aside, they came from the Happy Tunes ski shop in Carrabassett Valley, which put an absolutely killer tune on them. I later learned that they tune their skis before every demo. That is righteous. Great guys too. Got to love a ski shop that dedicates more square footage to its tuning enterprise than to its retail space.
So I made my way over to White Nitro which by reputation has some of the steepest pitches in the East. The trail is wide and was free of bumps, for the most part. It is groomed by winch. And because it stayed cold higher up, the groomers were able to get up it recently. In the morning, the surface was hard and edgible, with sheets of ice where turning was marginal. Again, I like to ski the fall line with short turns for speed control. I skied this same trail in very similar conditions two weeks ago on the TC's. I swear they sent me the following message through my feet: "What the hell am I doing here." Fair enough. There was no way to hold an edge on the icy traverse. The heels kept washing out even with very focused boot pressure and CM moving down hill. But I could scarve down the edge in my usual fashion. Here is where their burly brother really shined. The steeper the pitch, the more responsive and surefooted the Supersonics were. No tail wash today. Nice surgically cut short and medium turns all the way down. The ski was so quick to move edge to edge and hook up that I could literally go as slow as I wanted down this 30 plus degree hardpack/icy slope. At the end of the trail extention, and just before it dumps unceremoniously on a flat cat track, the trail steepens considerably. I have read it is 58 degrees. I am not a good judge of such things, but it is steep and usually has a sheet of ice from folks skidding down it. Not the Supersonics. They just continued to carve down the icy edge. If there was a bit of scarving, it was from me, not them, losing my "edge." As I looked up the pitch, I saw people timidly picking and sliding their way down. Now while I do know how to ski these conditions, the Supersonic just let me do it with great confidence.
For me that run was the lithmus test. TheSupersonics proved to be as capable and dependable in hard and ice as their TC brother is in the soft stuff.
I am not much of a bump skier. But I was on these, and it surprised the crap out of me that a ski that can do the icy steeps and run on the wild side, can do the bumps easy enough for me to do enjoy the bumps. Now I am not talking about a mogul field, but bumps the that inevitably form from a day of skiers sculpting tums on soft. They were fun on these skis because I could literally carve quick power turns around the bumps, like a sports cars threading a line of cones. And I was also suprised to find that when I went over one (with soft knees), the ski seemed to absorb the energy from it rather than spool up and bounce as the TC's tend to do. Again, the "glue factor." It was great fun, so much so that I went looking for this terrain.
By the end of the day, I really felt as if I had a handle on this ski which is so much different that the TC. I was even able to coax it into a series of scarved turns down a straight trail that is about 7' wide. They didn't like it, but they did it. The Volkl 6* would have catapulted me into the nearest pine tree - and snickered.
To be fair to the Supersonics, I was using these skis mostly in soft, ungroomed conditions where they could not be expected to shine. But they did. Truly I would have been happier dancing around on the 88mm TC's yesterday. But the Supersonics, even on my first day on them, and learning how to ski this ski, performed admirabley in the soft stuff and bumps, and majestically on the the steep hardpacked and ice.
Trying new skis out is fun, particularly when they are so different from your current ride. The best part was that I learned as much about my skiing and technique yesterday as I did about the qualities of this ski. When a ski can teach you something, you should listen. I came away thinking that the TC is the ski for how I turn, and the Supersonic is the ski for how I aspire to turn. I learned to be patient and allow the ski's geometry to take command without my interference. And I was rewarded with an utterly unflappable and even elegant ride. And that is why I am going to buy a pair. I can not imagine a better two ski Eastern quiver than the Blizzard brothers. And while I know that they are out of stock now, I have read that, except for graphics, the ski is the same for 2010.
I finally want to mention that this ski seems to be skier size sensitive as well. The most favorable reviews have come from skiers, like me, who are lightweights. At least one reviewer, who topped the scale at around 200 and was well over 6' found it to be unsubstantial, while he found the Dynastar 4x4 to be more to his liking. I have tried to write this review in as painful detail as possible in the event that someone is not in a postion to demo before buying. But I stronlgy engourage trying this ski before pulling the trigger. The Titan Cronus you could buy untested. I did on a lark from Tramdock, and it has been great. But it is a much easier going ride and does not make the kinds of demands the Supersonics do. But if you get on the Supersonics and listen to them, they will be a great partner on the hill, and may just make you a better skier. Thanks for reading.
Edited by deliberate1 - 4/12/2009 at 05:14 pm GMT