Progressor 8+, 170cm.
6'2" ~190 lbs.
This review is directed at skiers of similar ability to myself.
Recent skies: Fischer RX8, Dynastar Contact 10, Head IM77 Chip(06 model).
I have 12 days on the 8+. Conditions have varied from spring mashed potatos, true morning ice with death cookies, soft hardpack, and a foot or so of fresh snow. i.e. pretty much what one would expect to see in the East during a season.
Compared to the RX8, the 8+ is not as quick from edge-to-edge but is a LOT more versatile and signifigantly more stable. IMO, the 8+ has more in common with the Contact 10 than the RX8. For me, it feels like a quicker, stouter, more stable, and less damp Contact 10.
Regarding the 'dual sidecut', the tip of the ski has a relatively deep sidecut but this only extends to about the top 1/5th of the running surface of the ski -- about to the S on the FISCHER logo on the front of the ski. The remaining length of the ski has a traditional 17M sidecut. IMO, this feature seems to assist with initiating and releasing turns, rather than than making the ski equally adept at short and long turns. I also found that short turns require more attention, as the ski breaks in and out of turns so easily. I think anyone who skis the 8+ will notice right away that the tails and edges releases a lot easier than you may be used to. The ski feels the smoothest and most stable when making medium to long turns
The sidecut makes relaxed brushed turns a breeze, IMO. When making brushed turns, especially on steeper terrain, it's pretty easy to get a little bit of hangup in the tail on the Contact 10 if you aren't paying attention. On the 8+, as long as you stay centered, you can pretty much fall asleep. The 8+ pivots very well but you need to stay centered, because the ski has a tendency to go a bit bonkers if you sit on the tails and skid. It is not as forgiving as the RX8 and Contact 10 in this regards. I have found the 8+ to be pretty sensitive to fore-aft balance changes and the tail is noticeably stiffer than on the RX8 or Contact 10. I do not claim to be an expert with perfect form and I do get in the back seat when my confidence gets shaken on steeper pitches. When this happens on the RX8 or Contact 10, they both will give subtle hints. The 8+ is more forecefull in terms of hints and is prone to jetting if you ignore the warning signals. It's a good learning tool as it makes you pay attention but will also give pretty quick feedback that something is wrong before totally running away from you.
Feedback and Feel:
Like other Fischer skis I have tried, the P8 has a light but stable feel to it. Feedback from the running surface is very pronounced. The Contact 10 has a more glued-to-the-snow feel and the feel for the snow surface isn't as pronounced. For instance, when skiing in fresh snow cover and hitting some bare spots with ice or sleet, the Contact 10 might make a subtle metallic pinging sound. On the P8, I immediately feel the vibrations in the feet and shins. The IM77 is pretty much dead--I probably won't even notice it until I start to slip. This is a matter of preference and is either a positive or a negative. I like the instant feedback and enjoy this feel that Fischer skis always seem to have--at least the ones I have tried.
Stability has been one of the high points of the P8 for me, especially as speeds pick up. On the RX8, it's been easy for me to get a bit paranoid when headed for a field of chop or crud while carying a bit of speed, anticipating buffeting and wobbles. Certainly, part of this is due to technique and I won't blame it all on the gear. With that being said, the RX8 does seem to have a tendency to get rather squirelly in crud. The 8+ has been as good as the IM77 in crud or spring slop, to the point that you can almost ignore it, except for having to put more even pressure on both skis. I have not found the speed limit on the P8. I would not classify myself a fast skier by any means so I cannot comment on the stability at race speeds. All I can say is that the 8+ likely will make you more comfortable with higher speeds. The RX8 can wobble a bit, but, provided you stay centered, the P8 goes where it is pointed and does not flinch, at all, regardless of what's in it's path. Sideslipping, traversing at speed, or straightling a narrow section of trail is very easy and confidence inspiring -- again, provided that you stay centered.
I cannot link perfect carved arcs and am not sure if this is really what I am trying to do in terms of skill development. I can comment on scarving, pivoting, steering, and brushing. I did not actually notice a whole lot of difference in overal grip between the RX8 and P8. The RX8 will be quicker from edge-to-edge but they seem to me to be equals in all regards when it comes to edge grip -- on ice, on hardpack, or softer snow. I have not been able to distinguish the two in terms of edgehold. The P8 does best when using clean and even tipping of the skis, whether you are scarving, carving, or brushing/steering the turn. As said before, the P8 does not really like to be pushed off on the tails. If you do rely heavily on the tails to start or control a turn by pushing, you will either be forced to adjust or will not be having a lot of fun.
I can navigate them, I can "get by." But they are not my forte or interest, to be honest. On steep and/or hard moguls, I often am tentative. I have not had a lot of time on the P8 in this environment but can say they appear to be more challening than the RX8 in this department. The relative fore-aft sensititvy of the P8 makes timing and choice of line more critical. I wiped out pretty nicely going over the top when I was aiming for a trough and got too far back on my heels. Again, the advantage here is that the P8 will force one to improve and pay more attention to stance.
With the ease of edge change, it seems like the P8 turns itself when moving at a fair clip in a longer arc. Very subtle changes in pressure are required to get the ski out of a turn and moving towards the fallline, whether scarving or brushing. It is either my technique, binding position, or the ski, but I found that the P8 can get a bit upset at gross movements. In this regards, I found it responds best to finesse when skiing long turns. IMO, the RX8 requires more strength to hold onto a long turn. The P8 is very stable and very smooth, and this is where I think this ski feels at home on my feet. YMMV.
I found short turns to be more challenging. Edgehold is certainly there and short turns are certainly doable, but the tips initiate so quickly and break out of a turn so easily, that I find myself paying a lot of attention to how I am pressuring the front of the ski. Yes, technique comes in here, but I think it is more attention than I would like to have to pay and have to give the RX8 the nod in this regards. The P8 is not a slouch for short turns but it's not it's forte. IMO, of course.
I found the 8+ to have enough stability, heft, and edge-grip to handle speed and vastly varying conditions, but it also has a playfull personality. It pivots and swings nicely and it's very easy to do some 360 spin-arounds on flat terrain. It is not a twintip and has only a very modest upturn to the tail section, but I actually found it relatively easy to ski it switch, which is odd, because I never found it easy to ski switch on anything other than a twintip. Not that I would reccomend the P8 for such things, but I am just commenting on the general nature of the ski.
I suspect the P8 would probably make a great all-day ski for many Eastern skiers, even some Western skiers as an inbounds ski. I think it likely has a wide ability level and Fischers recomendation of levels 5-8 seems pretty accurate. It's not so stiff enough that you can't grow with it, but it's demanding enough to force you to pay attention to your game. In that sense, it should be a very good learning/advancement tool for someone with an ability level similar to mine.
For those of similar ability looking at the Progressor line, get the 8+. I did demo the 9, and although I did not find it lightyears ahead in terms of the demand it puts on you, it is heavier, a bit stiffer, and does not pivot or respond as well at slower speeds. Unless you totally rip, I would leave the ego at the door. You will likely be happier in the long-run.