I've been looking for a new pair of skis, and while on a 4-day trip to Crested Butte, took 6 different models for a spin. I skied two skis each day, one in the morning and a different pair after lunch. Thought I'd share my findings with everyone:
Me: 5'8", 160lbs, 23 years old, mainly ski on the East Coast (NH/VT/ME) but ideally take a trip out West every year. I raced in high school, USSA, and USCSA over the past 8 years - this is my first year in a long time as a non-racer.
Current Gear: '08-09 Rossignol Radical World Cup GS 181cm, '08-09 Rossignol Radical World SL 165cm, Rossignol World Cup Soft plug boot
My race skis are fun, but now that my race career was over I needed something more versatile - race skis are a blast on groomers (and even then, each ski is only limited to one type of turn), but a lot of work and not much fun on everything else. Due to my racing background, I love to rip turns of all radii on groomers, and my skiing is probably strongest on this kind of terrain, but I enjoy skiing bumps and loose/fresh snow when I can find it. Conditions at Crested for the test were fine but certainly not amazing - groomed terrain was in pretty nice shape, and some decent sized and hard but not icy bumps which got to be pretty big and deep as the week went on. Extreme terrain had some fresh/loose snow hanging out in spots, mostly bumped/semi-bumped up at this point. Trees were mostly skied out. No big open spaces with deep/fresh snow to bomb on - all that stuff was bumped. Bummer, but in reality these conditions were more typical of my everyday skiing.
Now that my introduction is over, here's what I skied and what I found. I think my ideal ski length is around 175, I went to the shorter side initially (170s) and to keep it consistent skied everything right around that 170 length. The reality is that just about every ski I tried was very nice, and I would have been happy on any of them. In the order I tried them:
-Salomon XWing Fury - Nice ski, probably the most groomer-oriented of the bunch. High speed limit and comfortable both making both quick fall line turns and coming across the hill at high speed. Nice amount of rebound but damp enough to resist chatter at speed. Felt okay in the bumps but not particularly great, narrowest ski I tested at 84 underfoot I believe.
-Atomic Nomad Savage Ti - This ski was turnier than the Fury, and really only felt comfortable making short arcs. It did not like to bomb big GS-style turns and felt like it had significantly less grip available. Nice combination of a quick radius and ample width (low-90s underfoot) was nice in the trees and tight stuff, but ultimately this ski did not have the confidence I like to have bombing at high speed. Out of the two preferred the Fury, but lots more to try at this point.
-Rossignol Phantom SC87 - Another one I liked. Like the Fury, able to make turns of all shapes, more comfortable with longer turns at speed than the Atomic but still fairly quick underfoot. Felt like this ski was easier to work with than the Fury on off-piste terrain. Like one might expect from a Rossi, plenty of dampness and smoothness, but did have some rebound. At this point, after skiing race skis that are 65mm underfoot, I amazed at how quickly some of these relatively large skis transition edge to edge.
-Volkl Mantra - This ski is a bomber. Pretty stiff, sandwich/vertical sidewall construction, sidecut felt like it had a larger radius than anything else so far. Powerful ski for sure, but the most work to bend out of anything I skied and a lot to lug around in the bumps. The best way I can describe this the Mantra is that it's a really fat GS ski, for better and for worse. Powerful going straight and fast, but not particularly playful. You need to muscle this ski. And as a trivial note, for some reason I find Volkl skis to be very noisy - noticed the same thing with their race skis too. Bonus points for sweet graphics.
-Nordica Enforcer - At this point, I can't believe I am trying skis this wide (98mm underfoot). Amazing what has changed since the last time I had all-mountain skis. Within a couple runs, I fell in love with this ski. Like the Mantra, this is a true race-style sandwich ski. However, the Enforcers, in my view, are a much more fun and lively ski than the Mantra. They still have the muscle to rail long turns and have essentially no speed limit, but they are very quick edge to edge with more rebound and energy than the Volkl. Given my size, perhaps I had an easy time bending these than the Mantras. Being a bit softer (still no pansy ski though!) and quicker than the Mantra, I felt more comfortable on the Nordicas in the bumps, trees, and other tight spaces. On piste, these were very much comparable to the Fury and probably better than the Phantoms, but they are a significantly wider ski and thus have more deep snow capability. Bravo, Nordica.
-Atomic Snoop - Very quickly realized I could not get along with this one. No energy, slow edge to edge and frankly it was hard to get this ski out from under me and develop any angulation on long or short turns. Okay in the bumps but...this ski was so deficient compared to the rest of the pack on the hard stuff, for my skiing style, there is no way I could ever see myself enjoying owning this ski.
-Took the Nordicas out again in the 177. More powerful, even faster, still quick although the radius ups a couple meters on the longer ski. Didn't feel like I sacrificed much versus the shorter ski. Probably should have been skiing on high-170s lengths for the week in retrospect.
I am now the proud owner of Nordica Enforcer 177cm :)
I guess it's all of those years of being on race stock boards and doing my freeskiing on slalom skis - I find myself preferring powerful skis with lots of grip and energy, even when looking at fatter skis like this.
In summary: I would recommend 4 of the 6 (Fury for the groomer-biased, Phantom SC87 and Enforcer as an all-around ski, and the Mantra for technically/physically strong skiers who ski straight and ski fast!). Points off the Nomad Savage for less confidence at speed/long turns - not a bad ski, but the Enforcer and SC87 can do everything this ski does and more. I guess I just didn't "get" the Snoop.
Hope this was helpful to somebody.