Ski reviews: 1st part of 2010 reviews:
Skis tested (all 2010 models): Fischer Progressor 9+ 175cm, Dynastar Legend Sultan 85 178cm, Dynastar Legend Sultan 85 172cm, Blizzard Magnum 8.1 172cm, Elan 82Xti 176cm.
About the reviewer: 50 day+ per year skier, can ski pretty much any terrain, very athletic, 32 y/o, probably a level 9 minus on the learning scale; USCF Cat 2 cyclist. 5 foot 9, 152lbs.
Conditions: snowed 20 inches 2 days prior, but was warm (in the low 40’s). Snow was soft and heavy, groomers were soft and cruddy, off piste was compacted new snow, not really bumped out except for a couple of steep funnels around 200m in length. Late in the day, it got icy and firm. Off-piste stuff not really open yet unless you crave base damage.
I decided to get a few days on the hill before putting up some reviews. Now that I am back into close to full swing (basically around 80%, as my ankle still hurts from the break 18 months ago) I figured it would be a good time to get on some new product and get some reviews up. These skis share some similarities, but also plenty of differences, so it is useful just to look at what type of condition the ski is really designed for and where it excels, in addition to how a specific ski performs.
Fischer Progressor 9+ 175cm: unchanged for 2010. Basically a slightly softer version of the WC RC, with two .5mm layers of titanium, instead of the .8mm on the WC RC. Doesn’t actually say what the radius is, but I am guessing 17m or so.
This ski is a strong model in the race carver mode. Slightly softer than the typical race carver, it is also slightly more versatile and not as hard snow only focused as the WC RC. In the softer conditions I was skiing, it actually did quite well. A real powerhouse, no sensible speed limit, and a great groomer ripper. Very powerful, lots of punch at the tail, but not overly carvy in this length and needs input, just like a good race ski. Loves to run flat, and only really turns when the skier gives the movements to do so. Probably the least versatile ski tested, but did OK in softer snow. It is the stiffest ski tested here, but more versatile than the typical race carver. Likes speed and big edge angles: at 175cm for my size, it wanted to run, and was much more GS oriented. This is a great ski for workhorse groomer duty and softer groomer days, or the occasional bump run. Pretty much a 90/10 ski: probably best for the good skier who wants a more relaxing, race-like ride. On a scale of 1-10 (10 being best): Stability 9; forgiveness 4; energy 6; soft snow performance 4, hard snow performance 9; bumps 4; skill level required: 7.5 to 10 90% on piste/10% off piste.
Dynastar Legend Sultan 85 178cm: new ski for 2010, sidecut of 126-85-110, radius 17m. This ski was designed to be a true 50/50 ski. It is moderately soft in flex (probably the softest ski on tested here) but as stiff as anything laterally. Fairly narrow profile thickness, 2 sheets of metal. Early rise tip and raise tail give you a bit shorter running length than others; more like a 176 or 175cm with most skis.
Review: This, along with some others (Head Peak 88, Elan 888, Stockli VXL, Blizzard Cronus, Volkl Mantra, Fischer Watea 94 come to mind) are more 50/50 skis, rather than the “wide carver” feel popularized by the AC40 and AC50. There is a difference in feel between the former and latter skis. The former tend to have a bit less sidecut, softer flex, yet stiff laterally, and are really at home in any sort of condition. The latter group tend to be stiffer, a bit more aggressive, have more sidecut, are skied shorter, and rail on groomers but can be a handful in crud and in bumps. As in everything in life, there is a trade-off; no free lunch here! The Sultan does very, very well in the soft, loose stuff: it doesn’t buck you around like some of the stiffer skis, and it releases very predictably. There is no tossing you into the next turn, or sucking you in: the ski is more at home being piloted and told where to turn. It doesn’t mind pivoting in bumps, or carving up groomers. Nice flex pattern for bumps: probably the best ski here for that purpose. VERY stable in this length; every bit as stable as the Progressor 9+. It really reminded me of my Elan 888, as it really wanted to blast GS turns at mach speed, but could also ski a bit slower. Definitely a bigger sweet spot, GS feel to it, and it liked to run flat as well as be on edge. I would have to say the key words for this ski are predictable and powerful: it skis like a longer GS power board with reasonable flex and an approachable manner. It isn’t an auto-carver, but really a great ski for that person who skis a bit of everything, doesn’t need a ton of width, and wants a true 50/50 ski. In comparison to my 888, I would give a slight edge in stability to the 888, and the Sultan 85 has a bit narrower waist, so it comes into the turn quicker and exits a bit faster as well. But, they are quite similar in feel as well as build (same tip and tail too). This is a great power board for the good skier looking for something to check every box, without making too many compromises. May be one of the most under-rated skis coming out this year. On a scale of 1-10 Stability 8.5; forgiveness 6; energy 5; soft snow performance 7, hard snow performance 7; bumps 7; skill level required: 7 to 9+ 50% on piste/50% off piste.
Dynastar Legend Sultan 85 172cm: Same ski as the 178, but with a smaller radius (16m). 172cm feels a little short: still more of a 50/50 feel ,but definitely not as at home at speed in the rough stuff. Since it is shorter, the ski hooks up a bit better with less effort, which could be better or worse, depending on your point of view. It still didn’t have a real aggressive, wide-carver feel though, and was super fun in bumps and softer snow. Just not quite the stability of the bigger ski. Groomer performance was probably a bit better, as the skier is closer to the tip of the ski and can get it engaged in a hurry. Plus, it is easier to get pop from the tail. Still, this isn’t really a wide carver: still a 50/50 ski, with a good balance of soft snow feel and power underfoot. This a nice, versatile ski with some heft. It is similar to the Head stuff like the Peak 82: go 172cm for a shorter, quicker feel , or if you are less aggressive. 177 is for a bit more heft and stability at speed. On a scale of 1-10 Stability 7; forgiveness 6; energy 6; soft snow performance 6.5, hard snow performance 8; bumps 7; skill level required: 7 to 9+ 50% on piste/50% off piste.
Blizzard Magnum 8.1 Max 172cm: reviewed last spring, but still skiing it. 81mm underfoot, 17m radius, new MAX-width rail (around 55mm wide binding mount, the widest in the industry. This binding does what the Jester family of bindings claim to, but actually have no effect upon: shortening the distance between the force experienced on the binding and the edge, where the force’s exertion is seen. Marker (or any other company) could make the MAX idea standard by making wider footprint bindings for wider skis, instead of just marketing a new toe and heelpiece that looks cool, but without really re-designing the basis of the binding. The Max width has legs, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see a wider binding mount become standard within 5 years). Stiffness on this ski was 2nd-highest of the test, behind the Progressor but stiff than any other ski tested.
Review: For a ski with similar dimensions to the Sultan, this ski couldn’t have been more different. A thrilling ride on groomers, very frontside oriented, wide power carver feel. It had tons of oomph; and was a very muscular, moderately sporty ride. The tip, being so stiff, just hooks up early and sucks you into the turn. This ski likes to be on edge, and likes speed. It doesn’t want to troll around at moderate speeds. Crud ability was pretty good, despite the short length, although it needs more length to be a great ski at speed in rough snow. 172cm is pretty short for skiing fast, no matter how stiff the ski. This one is a very sporty all-mountain ride, high on performance and somewhat low on utility. It won’t wow you in bumps, but will get you through a bump field intact. And, it doesn’t like to be run all that flat: the 8.1 prefers a high edge angle and aggressive input. It is a true power carver with some versatility mixed in; much more AC50 on steroids that Sultan 85. I loved it! I think this style of ski makes a lot of sense for someone out west who rips on groomers most of the day, skis a lot of soft snow, but doesn’t really need a big crudbuster. The big thing I noticed between the 8.1 and the Progressor is that it did handle the soft groomers much better: the Progressor tends to dig in the soft snow, while the 8.1 is much more tolerant of that type of condition. I would peg this ski as a 75/25 ski: for those who ski 75% of the time on moderate to soft groomers, and want some crud performance, but aren’t spending ½ or more of their day off-piste. In terms of sweet spot, this ski has a moderate sized one. Get too far back on the tail, and the ski will lanunch you: it skis as much like a coiled spring as any ski I have yet tried in this width. A very fun ski, but somewhat more specialized than the Sultan; not as versatile, but a better groomer tool and, if you live out West, a great “narrow” ski choice for people who tend to ski a lot of groomers when it hasn’t snowed in weeks. Very fun! On a scale of 1-10 Stability 8.5; forgiveness 5; energy 8; soft snow performance 6, hard snow performance 9; bumps 5.5; skill level required: 7+ to 10. 75% on piste/25% off piste.
Elan 82Xti 176cm: new for 2010, softer throughout the ski (similar in flex to the old Magfire 82ti), thinner profile, lighter in weight by around 10oz. Still retains the fusion binding. 176cm: 126/82/109, R: 17.2 m
Review: This ski has had the reputation as somewhat of a beast in the past: a real big-boy ski, with stout flex and a strong, GS 2x4 feel. For 2010, Elan may have gotten the message that those under 220lbs want to enjoy the 82Xti; and have softened it up and brought it into the real world in terms of approachability to the average sized skier. In terms of flex, it is now softer than the Max 8.1 but stiffer (slightly) than the Sultan 85. Still very laterally stiff. How it skis: very, very well. This is easily the best Magfire Elan has produced (along with the Mag 78ti, but that is for a less aggressive skier). A bit of a cross between the larger sweet spot of the Sultan 85 (and more stability in cut-up snow) and the power underfoot of the Max 8.1 IQ. Quite a bit of energy, a bit more GS smoothness than the 8.1 Max, and less deflected in crud. Still energetic and wants to be on edge more than it wants to run straight. Also, perhaps a sweet spot more akin to the Sultan 85 than the Max 8.1. It is a heavier, bit more damp ski than the other two, and definitely feels like a GS but with a bit of punch. No speed limit on this one: basically, this is an upgraded 666 from back in the day. Stable (maybe more than the Sultan 85 even ) but has a bit more carver feel than that ski. Length is just about right for an all-mountain board for someone my height (it runs head-height). Unshakable in crud (probably the best ski tested here), and a bit more of that Porsche 911 feel than, say the Sultan. It was OK in bumps, about the same as the Max 8.1; good, not great. I could characterize the feel as more of a heavier, yet still somewhat spunky, version of an 8.1, but with a bit more length, a bit more stability, and a little bigger sweet spot. This probably gets the nod as a 60% on piste/40% off piste ski. This is a ski that I felt like a superhero on, but without the always-on game of the 8.1 Max. There is a slight trade-off in energy as a result, but it isn’t much of a trade-off, really. Again, a very good choice for the person looking for excellent groomer performance but with all-around versatility, and unshakable stability. I haven’t skied the 168cm, but lots of people my size buy that ski if they are skiing on smaller hills or aren’t as aggressive; so this is another ski that can be skied in multiple lengths, depending on your priorities. Stability 9.25; forgiveness 5.5; energy 6.5; soft snow performance 7, hard snow performance 8; bumps 5.5; skill level required: 7+ to 10. 60% on piste/40% off piste.