Date: December 13, 2009
Location: Saddleback, Maine
Weather: mostly cloudy, windy, mid teens – mid twenties; the usual early season bad light and visibility
Conditions: your basic manmade eastern corduroy
Skis Tested: Dynastar Sultan 80 172cm 126-80-108, Dynastar Sultan 85 165cm 126-85-110, Dynastar Exclusive Legend Eden 165cm (sister model to Sultan 85)
Me: 5’ 7”, 135lbs, 47yo, level 8, 20 – 25 days a year, beer league racer, enjoy moderate bumps and trees when conditions are decent
Disclaimer: I am not a professional, or even an experienced ski tester. These are just one jamoke’s impressions.
I took two runs on each ski. With one exception, all were on the same run, which is a wide-open groomer, blue-black on the top, fading to light blue and ultimately green near the bottom. Typically I ski this run with short, partially skidded turns closer to the top, then open things up with some higher-angle high-speed carves where it flattens out.
The tune on all three skis felt very good to me – something never to be taken for granted with demos. Big props to Dynastar rep Chris Clapp, who not only tunes but listens well and is knowledgeable and confident regarding his products without coming across as being slick, pushy, or disingenuous.
I liked all three skis. None of them had any weird, unpredictable, or otherwise objectionable behaviors that I encountered. Admittedly, conditions were not particularly challenging for ski or skier.
Sultan 80 172cm
The Sultan 80 is the “intermediate” model. It’s softer and has a bit more shape than the Sultan 85. 172 was the only length the rep had, which matches the length of my 2004 Legend 4800 reference ski. (See “My Agenda” at bottom of post.) It seems to occupy the equivalent place in the Dynastar line that the 4800s did when they came out, playing second fiddle to the 85 as the 4800s did to the 8000. At my weight, the fact that it’s a down-level model does not automatically rule the ski out for me; I don’t tend to overpower skis this long unless they are real torsional noodles, and in any event I’m not looking for ultimate grip and race-speed stability in a model like this.
The smooth, easy-skiing qualities of the 4800 are clearly present in the Sultan 80. They tolerate moderate speeds well despite their lightweight comfort. I did not push them (or myself) to real eye-watering velocity, but I did sense the skis feeling slightly flustered as I approached what I think of as “fast,” especially on the occasional hard or rough patch.
The resemblance to the 4800s ended for me with the way the Sultans really wanted to dive into turns; they’re quite a lot easier in new-style short turns than their predecessors. Not a surprise, I guess, given their much wider shovel. They were fun and forgiving on the cord. I immediately felt the extra width, but got used to it quickly. Even though these were 7cm longer than the two other Sultans I tried, they still felt like the shortest turners of the three. Therefore I think it’s safe to say that, length for length, this is a distinctly turnier ski than the 85.
There was one open run with natural snow, narrow and twisty and typically bumped up. This is just the kind of terrain I like to use my “soft” skis on, so naturally I took the Sultans in there. Big mistake. There just wasn’t enough cover yet, so it was more or less skiing on the twiggy tops of the bushes and fir saplings protruding through the snow. (Sorry Chris; I never would have skied that run with your skis had I known.) There were some small bumps. These tight quarters were the one place where it took me a few minutes to get adjust to the skis. The extra width and sidecut made them less slithery than the Legends, less natural-feeling when using the small, smeary movements with relaxed feet that I tend to favor on this kind of terrain. Inconclusive in the end, as I didn’t spend enough time here to really get a sense for how big a problem this might be for me. Bottom line: really nice, easy ski on the groomed; not enough time in anything else to say.
Exclusive Legend Eden 165cm
The Sultan 85s in my candidate length were unavailable at the moment I happened to show up in the tent, so Chris suggested I try these, which he said have the same sidecut and basic construction, only with slightly thinner metal layers to ease off on the stoutness. Good thing he did, because I had a blast on these, favoring them by a small margin over the “unisex” Sultan 85. Too bad the graphics are intolerable. (Utamaro meets a Good-and-Plenty box and a can of spray-on lacquer.) He also validated my thought that since the prime use case for these skis in my world is skiing the tight trees and natural snow trails at Saddleback and other NE areas, it made sense for me to be on the 165 rather than the 172.
By the time I got on this pair, we’d been in the lodge for our PBJs, it was after noon, and a small amount of coarse sugar had begun piling up on the trail margins. On the upper part of the run I stuck to this swath, as it was the closest thing available to the corn or powder in which I’d hope to be using skis like this. I felt the extra width over the Sultan 80 right away, even though it’s only 5mm. This surprised me a little. Not a big difference, but it felt good. This surprised me a little too. After all, it’s not like I needed the flotation. They just felt, um, solid. Turn initiation was slightly less automatic than with the 80s, but plenty easy. The skis were soft enough that I could still tighten things up beyond the natural radius in scarved turns, but they were nervier and noticeably more stable than the 80s. They felt more “alive.” And I really liked the nimbleness of the shorter length.
When I got back out onto the firmer snow in the middle of the trail and turned up the volume, the difference vs. the Sultan 80 felt greater. The Eden was stronger and held a cleaner edge, with more vigorous pop out of the turn. Not as precise- or quick-feeling, obviously, as the dedicated carvers that I used off and on during the day, but very lively and fun. It’s probably important to note that I didn’t hit any amount of truly hard scraped-off snow or ice all day, so it’s very possible that I’m over-estimating the grip on the Dynastars, but it certainly was sufficient for your basic firm Eastern corduroy.
I’d pick the Edens over the Sultan 80. I suppose I could try the 80s in a 165, but I have a feeling I would find not quite enough substance there for me on the groomed. With the Eden I got the more natural- and nimble-feeling shorter length but still got enough beef to carve things up confidently when needed.
Sultan 85, 165cm
As expected, these skied like a near-twin to the Legend Eden. I suppose it could be the power of suggestion more than any significant actual difference, but they did seem just a hair stupider than the Edens. Slightly stiff and boardy by comparison. For me they just didn’t have quite the same “alive” quality that I felt with the Edens. (Maybe I just liked the forward mounting point on the Edens?) Small difference, though, and otherwise they were excellent and as described above. Someone with a few pounds on me – the vast majority of you, presumably – might find this difference positive.
Obviously the big unknown for me with all these skis is that I have no way of knowing how they would do for me in the bumps and trees that I’d particularly want them to excel in. I’m a little bit suspicious that the solidity of the 85mm skis that I liked so much on the groomed might not make me so happy in moguls, where I don’t always want aggressive edge grip, and where I do generally want a softish flex. Guess I’ll just have to demo them again later in the winter!
[Edit: I tried the comparable Watea 84 last spring in conditions that were a bit softer but otherwise not too different. I'm tempted to say that I liked the Sultan 85 / Eden twins better because they seemed smoother, damper, and grippier than the Wateas. Not to mention the fact that they didn't make that annoying hollow noise that another Bear described as "rodent gnawing" or something like that. However, the Watea I was on was a 176, which is a bit too long for me. So, to be fair, I would want to try it in a 167 before I passed judgment.]
My Agenda For This Test
Sometime during the next year or so I’d like to replace my six-year-old Legend 4800s, on account of wear, plus damage from a parking lot incident last spring. This ski nominally fills the “soft snow, bumps, and trees” slot in my two-ski quiver, but increasingly has become the “everything but high speed bombing on ice” ski, because I find them so comfortable. Naturally one obvious place to look for their replacement is in the newest generation of the same family – the Sultan series.
When I showed up at Saddleback last Sunday morning, serendipity struck in the form of a lonely Dynastar demo tent at the base of the hill - a refugee, apparently, from the larger demo-day program happening down the road at the ‘Loaf. Obviously it wouldn’t do to snub fate. I had to take a couple skis for a ride.
It will be obvious to you when you look at the conditions under which these skis were tested that they didn’t exactly get put through their paces properly. At best I probed the left half of the 50/50 equation. It would have made sense to try some skis from the Contact series instead, but I already have good hard snow skis and my eleven-year-old, sensibly, was more interested in actually skiing than in waiting around for Dad to get yet another set of bindings adjusted. So I stuck with my agenda and tried the Sultans.
Edited by qcanoe - 12/18/09 at 5:48am