This past weekend I was out west and got a couple of days in at Lake Louise, where I rented the Dynastars and clicked into my friend's Nordicas too. Conditions were refrozen corduroy in the morning; soft spring snow in the afternoon -- great to test the skis under a variety of snow conditions.
Dynastar Contact 4x4, 178: Skied these for a full day at Louise. I had been warned by the shop guy that the 4x4s in this length would be heavy and cumbersome, and that the 172 would be better. Disregarding this advice with the reasoning that if this ski in this length were not suitable, then I would choose a different ski (I really do want a longer ski than 172), so I took them anyway. Well, the shop fellow was partly correct. At slow to moderate speeds, I found this ski to be exactly as he said it would be -- ponderous, demanding, heavy underfoot, grabby, lacking agility. Float over the soft afternoon snow was not as good as I expected it would be at those speeds, for a ski of that width. Edge grip was impressive, and they were very stable, had a big sweet spot and great fore-aft balance (just what I am looking for). On the other hand, at higher speeds they really came alive, and I got the energy, liveliness and power that I was missing at slower speeds. Wind 'em up, and they felt fantastic -- super stable, smooth running, quiet, amazing edge grip, blast through crud and soft mushy bumps without a twitch. Short, medium, long turns, they handled all with aplomb. They were surprisingly agile at speed, when I could get some muscle and power into the turn. In the end, though, these would not be right for me, as I don't want to rip at high speed all day long. I love to go fast, and do so frequently, but I also enjoy relaxing and just soaking up a great ski day with great scenery and fun people to ski with. I need a more versatile ski that I can be on all day with my kids and friends/family, some of whom just aren't that fast. At slow to moderate speeds, these are just too tiring and totally lacking in spark and energy (at least in this length).
Dynastar Contact Cross Ti, 178: Also skied these for a full day (day 2) at Louise. I have read some good reviews on these in the print and online press, as well as some positive words here, and I was really looking forward to trying them, expecting a lighter, less-demanding, more agile version of the 4x4s. Well, they were pretty much as advertised. Edge grip was impressive, agility and quickness was very good at all speeds, short to long turns were all handled well, they were smooth and quiet, lighter underfoot than the 4x4s, big sweet spot and great fore-aft balance (really hard to get into the back seat on these, and on the 4x4s too). I also found these to be very stable, except at higher speeds when they started to get somewhat unsettled and shaky, but not enough to be unnerving. We got a few centimeters of fresh snow that afternoon, which got pushed around in spots by the boarders, and the skis just floated over it or blew through it without complaint. Nice. I was on them all day and still had plenty of gas left in my tank -- not bad considering I skied longer and harder than the previous day on the 4x4s. The only negative things I would say about these is there was that slight lack of stability at speed, and that they were missing a bit of the spark and energy that I look for in a fun ski. If I were lighter in weight, these faults would probably disappear and I would likely have found them to be excellent all-around. I guess I like the typical Dynastar feel that I read about here -- smooth, stable, damp-but-not-lifeless, even flex, good energy but not overpowering. A very good ski, all things considered.
[As a side comment, on past Dynastars that I've rented/demoed, I have found the factory and/or shop tune to be a turn-off. They seem to be tuned with an almost flat base bevel, which makes getting them on edge feel less fluid than I prefer. Both of the above seemed to be tuned the same way. When I first got my Mythics they were tuned that way too. I set all my own skis to a 1-degree B-B, and the difference is noticeable]
Nordica Speedmachine Mach 3, 178: These belong to a friend with whom I skied on Day 2 at Louise, and who just happens to have the same BSL as I do (ain't it nice when that works out?). Note: these are not the Mach 3 Power, which have metal in the layup; they are the Mach 3 carbon, non-metal. We swapped skis for a couple of runs, so I only got a very brief impression of the feel of these. By this time it was afternoon softer snow, with the few centimeters of fresh on top. Based on the two (albeit long) runs, I was very impressed. These felt very similar to the Contact Cross -- smooth, damp but not dead, stable, unshakable in crud, light underfoot, agile, short turns required more input, but medium and long turns were effortless. They tracked perfectly through the bumped up afternoon snow, and never got deflected. These had a super smooth silky feel to them that could get totally addictive. Good energy, but not jittery or demanding. I could see myself having a lot of fun on these. They didn't feel too soft for my weight, even without any metal, and held a high speed edge without problem and without losing any stability. I might rent these next time I go out there again, and get a full day on them to really get to know them (I will update here if I do).
Fisher Progressor 9+, 175: I demoed these for 2 hours at Bristol Mtn. near Rochester, NY, a couple of weeks ago. No lift lines meant I could get a lot of runs in. Conditions were soft spring snow, but still firm enough in the early to mid-morning for good carving and high speed cruising. In short....WOW! These are excellent skis. So versatile. Short turns were a cinch -- just pressure the tips a bit and whoosh, 'round they came. Long series of snappy short turns on narrow trails were a breeze and a real hoot -- big grins. No less impressive were big high speed GS turns on wide runs. No inclination to make you want to turn all the time, they could run straight with ease. These seem to have no speed limit -- totally stable, smooth and unflappable at scary-fast velocities. Excellent edge grip; could easily vary the turn shape in mid-turn; and tracked perfectly through soft mounds and crud without deflection. They had surprisingly good float through the soft spring snow -- no issues with trenching or grabby edges (interestingly, I asked the shop about their tune, and they said it was 1 base, 2 side -- just the way I like it). Light feeling underfoot, yet stable; big sweet spot, never felt off-balance; great energy and rebound. I could relax on these too, and did not have to be on top of them at all times like on the 4x4s. Could probably ski these all day, fast or slow, and not feel thrashed. Compared to the Nordicas and both Dynastars, these were much more lively and less damp. Not to the point of being nervous or jittery, just more "alive", if you know what I mean....more feedback from the snow; felt like a more direct connection with the snow. An interesting sensation, and one that I am not used to, coming off the smooth-running Supershapes and Mythics. I liked it. Overall, totally impressive...an outstanding ski. Big "Fun-Factor", and ain't that what this sport is all about?
Summary: for my tastes, skiing style and needs, the Fishers were clearly superior. They had the best edge grip, great stability, and were the most versatile in terms of turn shape, as well as fast or slow skiing, and being able to relax one minute and just letting 'em fly the next.
Next Steps: if possible, I would like to demo the Nordica Spitfires and compare them to the Progressors. They have the same dual-radius construction, if I recall correctly -- SL tip and GS tail -- which really seems to work. If they have the magic combination of that silky-smooth feel on the snow that the Mach 3's seemed to have, together with the versatility, edge grip and energy of the Progressors, they may just be the perfect ski for me. Demoing may be wishful thinking this late in the season, but I will be back near Banff again in a few weeks (they have a long season there, esp. at Sunshine Mtn.) and will look for a shop that may have them. If anyone has compared these two skis side-to-side, please drop a line here and let me know your impressions.
Edited by SGN - 3/31/10 at 5:12am