Originally Posted by v0lapuk
Thanks a lot for your reply Matthias. A few follow-up questions:
1) I already have boots, the Rossignol Carve Z (flex index 70), which I like a lot (in terms of fit and comfort). ...
With my size 17 feet, my boot choices and experience are pretty limited.
You might try asking in the bootfitting forum. The important thing with boots is comfort and a solid, well-balanced fit. If you're not aligned well, or you're in agony, they'll hold you back.
2) Most of the skis you recommend are geared towards Advanced to Expert skiers. Are these still appropriate for Level 6 (comfortable on blues, exploring blacks but not quite comfortable there yet) types like me? Particularly curious about the Contact 4x4s, there are some decent deals on used ones for this model. Are these "forgiving" enough to compensate for the occasional (or not so occasional) sloppy turn?
I was in the same boat a couple years ago. The short answer is "yes", at least if you're trying to improve further. You'll get punished a little bit if you get real sloppy, but higher-end skis will offer much higher performance when they're used right. Comparing, say, the Head Xenon to the Supershape Magnum -- the Xenon was a fun ski, and you could do a lot on it, but it did NOT hold nearly as well on anything resembling ice. (OTOH, you had to be more precise to get the SS Magnum to perform well at low speeds.)
If you're concerned, I'd recommend staying away from very, very stiff skis or ones marketed for racing. I tried an Elan Magfire 14, the highest-end model, a couple seasons ago -- I'm sure it would hold terrifically on ice and cut through nasty crud, but it was so stiff that it kicked me into the back seat on every other turn.
I'd still strongly recommend demoing if you can. There are few 'bad' skis these days, but some will probably mesh with your style/technique much better than others.
3) Please elaborate on your view of the AC20s. You are the first person I've met to strongly opine against them
I've stayed away from them after a terrible experience demoing AC30s. They're stiff and very damp, and I had trouble initiating turns cleanly on them. The Dynastar Contacts were much more responsive for me, and felt a lot more secure.
Again, it's not a bad ski, just not one that worked well for me. A lot of people like the Volkl 'feel'. I had a similar (bad) experience with the Salomon X-Wing Tornado, another very popular ski.
4) Can you comment on the Nordica Speedmachine Mach 1/Mach 2 and the Atomic Drive 7/Drive 9?
I demoed the Mach2 (I think -- it might have been the Mach3) last season. Fun, especially if you like to go fast. Performed pretty well at high speeds, but just okay when going slow.
I have not skied Atomic at all in the last few years.
5) Overstock is just fine with me, as are gently used skis, and these are available on ebay and elsewhere in my price range. The 2008 AC20s in some sizes can be found for as low as $350.
Like I mentioned, it can be worth trying before buying if you can. (You might have to demo the latest version, but skis don't usually change that much in just a year.) If you find something you like, I would not be concerned at all buying the 'same' ski from a year or two back. And most recreational skiers will sell skis long before they're worn out.
If demoing is difficult, you can also buy a subscription to realskiers.com. They have probably the most accurate and unbiased ski reviews of almost everything on the market. I think it's something like $15 for a year.