I got some time on the Blizzard Atlas ($799 w/Slider plate) a couple of days ago, in 180cm. I am 5 foot 9, 155lbs. Conditions were around 4 inches of heavy snow over "snow" that was rain-infused the prior day. Basically fresh on top of death cookies; probably standard conditions for you East Coast skiers. I did around 10 runs on it. The camera died due to moisture before I could switch skis, but the other ski I tried that day was the Peak 88 in 175cm, from Head.
Review (no sound unfortunately, the camera does not like warm, moist snow): This ski measures a bit shorter in 180cm that alot of skis: it feels relatively nimble in this length. It has a solid 20m turn radius, stiff flex, and 94mm underfoot, marking it as a bigger-mountain crudbuster for the advanced to expert skier. This one was mounted with a Slider plate and a demo binding, so stack height was somewhat negligible: I want to say around 39mm from ski base to binding toe AFD, if I remember corrrectly. Ski-wise, the Atlas definitely comes across as a fairly stiff, laterally aggressive crudbuster and solid big-arc ski. In the crud, the ski is fairly stiff, and defintely wants to move the snow "out of the way" instead of more of a floating, supple feel that is common with some lighter skis. It barrels through the wall, rather than using the door. It has a damp, powerful, big Austria muscular feel to it. Very stable, no real speed limit. It turned quite easily: the turns I am making are fairly short radius, due to the icy bumps lurking just underneath that are somewhat dictating where I am skiing (ignore the crappy bump skiing, I am terrible at bumps, as that short bump line is the only bumps anywhere on this mountain and I am lacing practice). On bigger open groomers, at speed (not really seen on the video, again due to dead camera) this ski is rock-solid. It wants to just hold it's line and not get deflected. Not really nimble, but responds to input when the skier says "move". I have skied this on firm snow previously and it does well in those conditions too: a big turner and not the quickest edge-to-edge, but solid edgehold. I really felt the Atlas required a bit of speed to come alive: it isn't as forgiving at slow speeds, and it likes to exist in the fast lane. A little stiff in bumps,and probably more work than some skis in crud, due to the stiff flex and relatively stiff tip. In softer, uncut snow, it was superb, and really only got deflected when the snow got bouncy and a semi-boot packed-like surface presented itself. Overall, this is an excellent crudbuster: one of the most powerful skis in this category without a doubt. The running length is a little short for this ski: it was only 2cm longer than the Head Peak 88 in 175cm, so keep that in mind when choosing a length. I found the 180cm to be just about perfect. This ski is probably a very good 1-ski quiver for the Western skier who wants a ski that does everything, with minimal compromises anywhere. It floated well at the end of the day (when snow was getting around 8 inches deep) and also was fun in the dust-on-crust stuff. A decently sized sweet spot, and not too demanding, but this is no ski for intermediates. I could easily have this as my mid-width ski. A confidence-inspiring ski.
on-piste performace: 7
off-piste peroformance: 8.5
ease of use: 6
sweet spot: medium
category: 60% off piste/ 40% on piste
Head Peak 88 175cm: not really a full review, but a quick comparison: the Head was almost as stable, but not quite. It floated and followed the snow a bit more, and had more finesse. Release was easier at the end of the turn, as the tip always seemed to flex out and release just when you were ready to bring the skis flat. Much better in bumps: this might be the best 88mm bump ski around. Better for slow speed skiing and really rough snow, where the Blizzi was a bit too stiff. The Blizzi had the edge in lighter crud and soft turns at bigger speeds, the Head was a bit turnier and softer, and not quite as stable in big arcs. Still acceptable though. For my weight, I probably slightly preferred the Peak 88 if I didn't have a softer, turnier bumping-type ski available, or the Atlas if I had that type of ski in the quiver already and wanted a big crudbuster for speed. Both are very nice skis, just at opposite ends of the spectrum and styles of skiing. I will get a video review of this one sometime after Christmas.