Wellll……no they’re not really all 88’s………I just like the sound of it.
OK so this is a newer and a little broader swipe at the “Crazy 88’s” review of a couple years back. At that time, the 88 mm width was on the wider side of the mid-fat category. These days, it is sort of the jumping off point for the “One Ski Quiver” discussion. Within this width range, there are skis that have a hard snow bias, those with a soft snow bias, and those that are “tweeners” Which one of these you’ll end up liking will be largely dependant on the different conditions that you encounter and how you prioritize those conditions.
It goes without saying that some skiers experience more deep snow days and powder conditions in one month than the everyday skier might in many years. There are also skiers that really don’t experience deep snow very often but nevertheless they prioritize those days. These factors will always come out in the discussion when we are talking to the skier and that skier will often end up with a wider ski than these. These mini-reviews and models are for those folks that may only encounter truly deep snow once or twice a season (if that) and who prioritize those “other” days.
To start, here are three returning models that remain mainstays in the market. One of these is a hard snow biased ski, one is a soft snow biased ski and one is a “tweener”. All these are good barometers for comparison.
This is the prototype “Giant carver” ski. By that, I mean a ski with a beefy carving ski build and temperament, but with a wider “all mountain” ski shape. The AC-50 in its current iteration uses the Marker IPT system binding. The ski itself is heavily built up in the center section to accommodate the binding setup. The IPT configuration is a structure much like an I-Beam. This is a ski that is very rigid in overall flex and particularly in torsional flex. This creates a ski with exceptional edge hold and power. The AC-50 is grippy, aggressive, and energetic if one is strong enough or heavy enough to bend it. Among this group, it is near the top in grip and stability. This may not be the best choice for moguls or mixed conditions.
Fischer Watea 84:
Here is another venerable ski within this lineup. The Watea is generally sold as a flat ski with no built in binding system nor the cross sectional geography to accommodate one. The Watea is probably the best of this width range for bumps, soft conditions, and overall forgiveness. The simple wood, glass, carbon, layup is basic and light. A ski like this can be ideal for the intermediate looking to move ahead and with a particular emphasis on softer conditions or bumps. This is not a ski for heavier or very aggressive skiers nor for those with a priority towards hard snow.
Dynastar Sultan 85:
With a wood and metal layup, you might think this is in the realm of the “Giant Carver”. Then again, with a flat build profile similar to the Watea, you might think this is in the softer/easier category. In fact, it is both and of course therefore, it is neither. The Sultan is medium in overall flex and medium stiff in torsion and thus, it is the “tweener” of this group of three returning skis. The Sultan offers enough overall and torsional stiffness to have a slight bias toward hard conditions. Realistically though, the Sultans’ balance of skills is almost right down the middle with roughly equal priority toward hard snow (overall and torsional stiffness) vs. softer snow and bumps (less stiff in all directions). The Sultan could well be the benchmark for broad range capabilities within this group.
Here are some thumbnails of some new skis and a few other returning models that are worthy of note.
Fischer Motive 84:
This is a new model and in fact part of a new group of skis from Fischer. The Motive looks a bit like a cross between a Progresser and a Watea. In Fact, that’s just about what it is. The Motive 84 uses a lot more Carbon Fiber in it’s layup and when combined with the system binding plate, offers more grip and power underfoot that the Watea. The Motive is not overly stiff however and I put it in the middle ground much like a Sultan. This is a good balance of flexes and overall skills. The Motive is well damped by the carbon and I’d give it a slight bias toward hard snow.
In recent years, Salomon has had a reputation of building light, nimble skis that are playful and fun for mid level skiers but possibly not ideal for the more aggressive folks out there or for very hard snow conditions. THE ENDORO IS NOT THAT SKI. This is a superb new ski with a very simple basic (and stiff) layup of wood and metal. It’s important to note that there is more going on than just a stiff flex. The Enduro has a pretty even bend pattern that extends through the middle of the ski. Yes…..it’s stiff, but the flex is pretty well balanced. Salomon has also added an internal dampening module consisting basically of a metal band encased in rubber. There are two of these modules right over the edges and the result is a powerful ski with great grip but almost none of the “harshness” that some plankier skis exhibit. This is a ski for stronger skiers and it is biased toward harder snow but the relatively even flex does allow the Enduro to destroy soft crud piles and to be semi-manageable in moguls.
This is a new model from Volkl that uses a build much like the venerable Mantra. This means a simple wood metal laminate with a firm overall flex and quite firm tail. The biggest difference is that the Kendo is almost a cm. narrower than the Mantra. In years past some skiers have found that despite the width, the Mantra was not a very good soft snow ski and hence they relegated it toward hard snow duties. The Kendo takes that hard snow performance and places it into a width and shape that is more appropriate for that task. While this is a flat ski and has no built up rails or I beam shape, it is still quite firm in overall and torsional flex. The Kendo busts crud exceptionally well but takes some skill to manage in moguls or in light snow. I rate the Kendo as an all mountain ski but with a solid bias toward hard snow conditions. The Kendo executes its job with high levels of grip and energy but with lighter weight and a more nimble feel than either the AC-50 or the Mantra.
Line Prophet 90:
This ski has been around for some time with no changes in its build. I think this is a very good thing because within this width range, I think the P-90 is the best balanced all mountain twin out there. The Prophet uses a simple core layup but with a sculpted metal matrix on top that places additional stiffness where they want it (middle of the ski) without making the ski too stiff in the tip and tail. The Prophet grips better under the foot than most any other twin tip ski but the tip and the tail flex enough to allow the ski to enter, exit, and break off the turn very easily. The overall feel is nimble and playful but without being wimpy like some other twins. The P-90 does not have quite the grip or turn finishing power of some flat tailed skis and so I give it just a bit of a soft snow bias.
The K2 Explorer had been around for some time when the Aftershock came along to replace it. While in the same general category, the new Aftershock is quite an improvement on many fronts. First and foremost, the Aftershock has been given a more substantial construction which gives it a more solid feel and more grip. Secondly, the Aftershock, employs a small amount of “Rocker” or early rise at the tip. While this might be thought of as primarily powder ski technology, this is not always true. When applied moderately as in the Aftershock, the tip rise eases turn entry on any type of snow conditions. Naturally, the rocker tip compromises precision at the tip to a small extent but that really won’t matter much for this skier. This is a very good all around choice with a slight bias toward softer snow.
Rossignol SC 86:
The SC 86 from Rossi is one of the standouts in versatility of this group. This is a simple construction with a modest sidecut and what I would categorize as a medium-firm flex. The SC 86 carries a very slight bias toward hard snow but is as close as it is likely to get to being right down the middle as far as hard vs. soft snow capabilities.
Blizzard Magnum 8.7:
The Mag 8.7 has been with us for a while and it is a wide chassis ski with an integrated binding system. This system creates a bit of an “I beam” shape to the cross section giving this ski a very firm torsional flex. This is generally a pretty firm ski and has a hard snow oriented build but the Mag 8.7 is more moderate in this aspect than some. The back half of the Magnum is about medium in flex and this allows the it to be more compliant in mixed snow than other skis that we might categorize as giant carvers. For a ski of this width to have the grip that this one does and yet still be pretty skiable in moguls and mixed snow is quite an accomplishment. Among giant carver type skis, this might be the most versatile.
Kastle MX 88:
The Kastle MX 88 is a pretty amazing ski. When compared to other skis in this width Range the MX 88 is very close to the top in edge grip. It is also right at the top in dampening and yet, this is not an uber-stiff ski. Because the flex is a little more moderate, this is also one of the best of the group in mixed conditions. One of the key differences in Kastle skis in general is that they offer good grip, great dampening, and versatility and yet do so in a ski that is fairly light weight. This is no mean accomplishment as grippy and damp skis tend to be heavy, yet this one isn’t. Lively and nimble skis often tend to suffer on hard snow, yet this one doesn’t. I’m not sure that there is any ski one can say all those things about.