I'll start with my physical stats:
Weight:~195 lbs (before Turkey day I was 192, then jumped to 200 after the gorge, but I fluctuate in the 90's)
Athletic ability: I go to the gym year round and work on cross-training activities, I am pretty strong though in high school I was in the band, not playing sports :P
Abilitiy: Can do all blues but avoid any with moguls. Can handle east-coast blacks and am venturing into more blacks in the west
Problems: My knees weren't so happy with my choice to take-up skiing
The shorter version:
My current skis are 158cm Atomic e.TL (110-70-101). I've learned that this model is called easy to learn and is meant for new skiers looking to become intermediate. I ended up with them after my girlfriend determined they were too long for her and since they worked well for me I bought them at the end of the season-long rental period.
My problems with them are that they don't handle the east coast hard-pack/frozen granular/ice very well, and they sunk in the several feet of powder I got in Utah. So I think it's time to get a new pair of skis.
Where I ski:
I live in New York but alternate skiing between the East and Rockies. Got in 15 days last year, with 9 East/6 Rockies, but this year I bought the summit pass in Colorado and it'll be either 50/50 or skew towards the Rockies (1 trip down, at least 3-4 more planned between CO and Utah).
What I demoed:
I just spent the weekend at Breck and demo'd two sets of skis: the K2 Xplorer (170cm) and the Line Prophet 90 (172cm) both reccomended by my favorite shop in Washington, DC for a mix of east/west skiing. Conditions were much more remeniscent of the East (hard pack, some ice) than what I'm used to out there, but since I was demo'ing for an all-condition ski, I was actually happy to get to test that way. My first day with the Xplorer's was great, it's definitely a bigger ski than what I'm used (both in length and width), but I could carve turns on the frontside well, there was no fresh snow to try anything else out. The next day I traded for the Line, and I think my legs were just fatigued and I had a miserable start to the day (the hard conditions definitely wear you down). After a lunch break, I definitely felt fresher, and was starting to enjoy and get the hang of the ski. Some of the times if I got my position right, I could really get the ski to pop me out of a turn and that was a great feeling. I kept the lines for day three and fatigue was definitely an issue. My friend suggested that I might be putting in too much effort to turn with them, and he suggested that the deeper sidecut of the Xplorer's might be the better bet for me.
What I ski:
I have skied primarily in the frontside, but I know that I won't be there forever. My first black-diamond bowl in Big Sky was an amazing experience and I loved every second of it. The year when I hit the Montezuma bowl in A-Basin I fell twice pretty much face-planting (but it was soft, so no problem there). And though I've had semi-miserable experience with it to date, I'd love to catch-on to what everyone raves about with deeper powder (we were getting feet a day in Utah) though Utah seems to always be able to put me back in my place.
In the East I have done all but the double black run at Snowshoe. I go pretty fast and my technique is improving. I am gaining more and more confidence in frozen granular/hard pack and want to be able to rip through it, but that's making the best of a less-ideal situation. What I loved were the times with the half foot of new snow where I really got to play and I also sneaked into one of the race runs in Stowe and that was an absolutely exhilirating run. I was FLYING!
With my knee problems I am pretty terrified of moguls. Though a shop guy told me that if I was in search of fresh snow, moguls would be unavoidable. I hope that's not the case!
The conflict (i.e. why I need your help):
While I enjoyed the Xplorer's my first day, I wasn't completely in awe of it. That could have as much to do with the fact that it was my first day of the season, or that my technique is not where it needs to be to appreciate what the ski was giving me. With the Line Prophet's I may not have given them a fair shake, because my body was fatigued due to the harder snow conditions. But with all of that in mind, it's hard to part with $650 if I didn't feel I absolutely loved what I was on.
This is made more difficult when I look at some of the sites and see older models or used demos selling for 300 bucks with bindings. I was considering purchasing a 167cm Apache Recon for under 300. It gets great reviews from the skiing media and mixed but generally positive write-ups on the board. The reason I was looking at it is because its similar to the Xplorer, but is slightly more geared to the frontside, which if I'm honest with myself is primarily what I ski on (though I will be venturing to the bowls as the season progresses).
I was initially sold on Head skis because of the liquid metal/intelligence marketing speak. The idea that a ski could respond to the conditions by tightening and gripping harder in frozen snow really excited me. Unfortunately most of those models are several years old and harder to demo before buying. The shop told me they liked the old Monster stuff, but they were unimpressed with this year's stock and decided not to carry any of them.
And after submerging myself in a good number of posts on the board I also came up with the Dynastar 8000 which I can get a 165cm for under 300 as well. My only experience with Dynastar is that the guys at the shop had shown me the Dynastar Sultan, but thought that it might be too stiff for my knees and ability.
Background: I became hooked on skiing on my first trip out to Gore Mountain, NY about 6 years ago. Unfortunately it was the end of the season and I had to wait almost a whole year to go out again. The next season I went to Vail and was in total awe. Unfortunately while I couldn't contain the excitement and desire to ski as much as possible, my knees felt otherwise and I spent a good bit of the time in the medical hut, letting them recover (they would feel like water). Over the years I tried a ton of different braces, pain-relievers, and lotions to no avail.
It wasn't until I made a commitment to learning proper technique that I really started to make progress. I picked up a book by Lito Flores (based on Harald Harb's system) and immediately started to ski better, and with less pain (I had an open stance before and tried to muscle my way down, twisting, etc). I still had to take breaks from time to time on a long west-coast run or sit one out if the pain was too much, but I could still make it a full day if I used my energy right.
Then I bought the Ski Mojo (which if any of you are interested I can talk about in a separate post). And after two days warming up at Hunter/Wyndham in New York without it, I was able to ski three straight pain-free days in gorgeous Big-Sky Montana. Gone was the need to stop every hundred yards or so, except to let my girlfriend catch up :) . That was last year and I got a solid 15 days of skiing all over from West Virginia (snowshoe, timberline), New York (Hunter, Wyndham and Gore), Montana (Big Sky), Vermont (Sugar Bush, Stratton), and Utah (Solitude and Snowbird)
Throughout the season I had some tremendous highs including skiing the incredible bowl at Big Sky, and some lows like feeling like a complete beginner and completely overwhelmed at Solitude and Snowbird (we were getting several feet a day) and a completely hard pack/ice day at Snowshoe.
Thanks for taking the time to read this. You guys are amazing, and I hope as I continue to improve, I will be able to contribute to the board.