Conditions: 4-5” of heavy cream cheese snow; really heavy, chunky crud; icy bumps; firm groomers. Challenging snow, to say the least. Got a few runs on each
Reviewer info: 5 foot 9, 155lbs, ski 30+ days a year, fairly competent to relatively skilled in most terrain.
Review: 2011 Elan Olympus 183cm: this is the replacement for the 2010 Elan 1010. It is changed slightly, with a milled out core and a new “resort rocker” tip, which is basically an additional length of early rise, shortening the contact length by a couple of cm. Same sidecut and mold. 111mm underfoot, 23+m radius, basically flat camber.
This ski pretty much skis like the (excellent) 2010 model. I didn’t have the 2010 on hand to compare back to back, but if I had to draw a comparison, I would say the tip eases initiation in soft snow a bit better, and the ski follows terrain a bit better with the milled out core. Lots of information on the 1010 out there, so a rehash isn’t really needed. The new Olympus is similiar: quick as anything in this category edge to edge, skis narrower than a 110mm ski, very solid in large turns in cruddy, crappy snow; excellent in soft bumps; very maneuverable in tight spaces and trees. Very damp feel, not too stiff (which makes it such a great tight space ski, as you don’t need 30mph+ speeds for it to turn); and just a solid feeling edge throughout the length of the ski. The “resort rocker” tip really doesn’t change the feeling of the ski, as it just shortens up the contact length when the ski is unweighted, but in softer snow, allows the tip to bend up well (which the previous 1010 already did as well as anything on the market). It likes either a firmer, edge to edge feel, or a softer, rounder turn, which is another reason so many people have found It to be an outstanding ski. I skied the 176 and 183, and the 176 is very nimble, but not long enough in deeper snow, where it is likely to be used. I ordered a pair on the spot.
Review: 2011 Volkl Katana, 183cm, 111mm underfoot, ~24m radius, very slight reverse camber. This ski is (according to the rep) unchanged for 2011.
The Katana is a ski that does everything quite well. First off, on firm groomers, it was a fun, reliable ski, and quite stable, provided you didn’t push for too large of angles. Totally competent. In the uncut cream cheese, it was a dream. The Katana surfs up very well in that terrain, and was meant to float and release in funky snow. In heavy chunks of wet crud, it got bounced around a bit, and felt less than totally secure. Perhaps the reverse camber is working against the ski here. I skied a tight chute on this ski, and felt somewhere near my Huge Trouble in terms of being nimble; moderately quick edge to edge, but a little slower than some other similar width skis. In bumps, this ski is better than it has a right to be. Due to the reverse camber and predictable flex, you can ski a zipper line on this ski, and are able to work it tip to tail. Very surprising in that terrain. This ski likes medium and larger radius turns: it isn’t an overly turny ski. The flex is fairly stiff and it likes a bit of speed to come alive. Definitely more of a big-mountain ride, and a definite contender for a wide end of a 2-ski quiver. You could have fun on this ski in any soft snow condition, and not feel let down in really any condition.
Comparison: These skis are basically identical in dimension. In fact, Volkl reps claim that Elan ripped off their design for the Katana. The main difference is that the Katana is stiffer (has more metal, thicker sheets of it) and the slight reverse camber. The Olympus gets the job done with basically flat camber and a rockered tip, as well as softer flex
Quickness: the Olympus feels quicker edge to edge. Due to the flat camber, I could work the ski more and get it rolled up and engaged quicker. The Katana is average or so for a ski of this width, the Olympus is the quickest 110mm ski I have ever used. This was especially notable in tight spaces (a less than 2-ski width chute I skied, for example). the Olympus just feels like it was made for chutes, tight trees, and bumpy, lumpy crud
Stability: in bigger arcs in relatively smooth snow, the Olympus is quite stable, and has no discernable speed limit. The Katana is just a little beefier, and feels even bigger at speed. I could ski either, but the Katana noses out the Olympus here. In rough snow and crappy crud (of which there was plenty to ski) the softer flex (also perhaps the flat camber) of the Olympus just wanted to stay on line better than the Katana, which seemed to get bounced a bit. The stiffer skis in general (Mantra being another example) just didn’t flow as well as some of the softer skis I tried. Might have something to do with my weight, but this is a common complaint on the Mantra for lighter skiers, and perhaps why it is so beloved by bigger guys.
Moguls: neither is specifically a mogul ski, but both get the job done, with performance to spare.
Groomers: same as mogul performance. Quite adequate, although boring compared to a narrower, more groomer performance-oriented ski. Neither were scary like, say, the current Gotama is on groomers with big edge pressure.
Feel: the Katana is stiffer, no doubt. It likes to hold onto the turn a bit more than the Olympus, which will release with a bit more ease, and can work a softer turn as well as a more aggressive impact on/off edge set. The Katana seemed to be asking for more direct edge pressure and likes the impact style turn.
Overall: very similar skis, nearly identical in terms of performance. The Katana was beefier and liked more space, whereas the Olympus is a little softer and is easier to control in small spaces. I also have a feeling that the Olympus will be preferred by the majority of lighter skiers (especially when speaking with others who also skied both at the demo), whereas bigger guys who like speed may prefer the Katana. It terms of the Katana’s overall feel, it was more akin to the Answer IQ (another superb ski), which is fairly stiff and likes speed. The Answer is an even better straight ahead crud ski, while the Katana is more nimble.
Hope this helps!