Review: 2011 Elan Apex, 177cm. Mounted with ELX 14 bindings (basically Tyrolia Mojo 14 bindings, with an Elan graphic)
Conditions: a couple of inches of new snow, soft bumps, courdoroy groomers. 2nd day: wet, heavy new snow, frozen bumps, challenging conditions. 3rd day: blue sky, 12-18” of untracked, light snow, and very light crud.
About me: 5 foot 9, 155lbs, competent all-mountain skier, and could zipper-line expert-level bumps for the first time in my life by early spring. Probably ski 40-50 days per year. I tend to enjoy big open, high speed bowls, bumps, trees, fast groomers. My skiing speed is fast to full-on.
I was able to get lots of time on this ski in the past spring. It is a new ski from Elan for 2011: they added a bit of tip rocker to the ski, and changed out the core. It is now a different wood core (a bit denser) with a milled out profile. The ski now has a bit softer flex at the tip, but retains the lateral stiffness of the 888. It still has more of a GS and backside dimension to it: 88mm underfoot, 21m radius in the 177cm length tested.
Review: This ski is pretty much everything I could ask for in a one-ski quiver. It really doesn’t lean toward one condition over another. The first day I tried this, in soft but not deep snow, we were skiing bumps and steeps most of the day. Straight away, this ski just had the “flow” that I like, where it flexed to meet terrain, but wasn’t too soft or mushy. In soft bumps, it was perfect for absorbing through the trough and coming back up the backside. In crud, it had a great “terrain-absorbing feel” and released very easily out the bottom of the turn. The new tip, which is quite a bit softer, is a big improvement. In comparison, the old 888 could hang onto the turn a bit long, due to it’s stiffer nature. This ski was almost wanting “to come up for air” at the belly of the turn, whereas the old 888 took a more active relaxing and pulling back release to get it to dis-engage. Yet, it wasn’t slarvy or spoony-feeling like some of the skis around these days; it felt like a high performance machine, tuned for any condition under a reasonably technically skilled skier. Holiday noted that I was making “the best turns he had ever seen me make” on this ski. I was feeling the same way: the ski just felt “right” underneath me. Groomer performance was similar to the 888: GS in feel, longer arcs preferred, no real speed limit, and it starts the turn when prompted. It also likes edge angle and pressure. I felt it comparable to the VXL on piste, but it had a bit lighter feel to it, not unlike the old Blizzard race skis from a few years back, which were more lively than heavy and damp.
Day 2: terrible conditions, really heavy wet, new snow, and some frozen, rain-infused bumps on the lower mountain. The new Apex was again a revelation. I tested it back to back against a bunch of other 88mm type skis: the Volkl Kendo, Blizzard 8.7, Nordica HR-Pro Jet Fuel i-Core, Kastle MX88, Stockli VXL, Dynastar Legend, 94, K2 Aftershock, Head Peak 88, and several others. What I took with me about the Apex was that it was definitely 50/50 oriented, very similar to the Kendo, but with a bit lighter on snow-feel. In that soft snow, it released at the tip with relative ease: similar to the Kendo, and better than the other 2 mentioned, as they are a bit stiffer and more hard-snow oriented, IMO. This snow definitely required a more aggressive release, but the Apex made it as easy as I could have hoped for. Again, smooth, predictable, stable, and damp: in short, no surprises, and very confident. In bumps, it was predictable, with a soft tip and not too much shape. I liked it better than any other 88mm type ski I have tried for bumps over the past year. Personally, I think non-fussy skis are the best skis in bumps. The Kendo and Apex are nearly identical in feel: the Kendo is just a touch stiffer (similar to how the Mantra tends to be stiffer than most skis if this width) and the Apex a bit softer in the tip and more responsive for me. Almost seems like they could have come out of the same factory.
3rd day: a gorgeous powder day. I did the whole morning on the 1010’s, and switched over to the Apex for the afternoon, mostly hiking and skiing untouched steeps. This ski was so much fun for deeper, uncut snow that was relatively light. I enjoyed it more than the 1010 in those condition: on the Apex, I had enough width not to get bogged down, but not so much that I was just surfing the snow on top. It was thrilling to be in the snow, hit the belly of the turn, release and retract, get out of the snow, start my COM flying down the fall line, and extend into the pow again, building pressure until the next release. On the 1010, it was more like just carving the new snow like it was a groomer. Fun, but not as much fun as that feeling of swimming like a porpoise, motoring up and down through the snow, turn to turn, which really extends that weightless feeling between turns. There is little better in life than the weightless feeling between turns of well-executed fall-line skiing on untracked snow in steep terrain. Again, this ski was breeze to pilot, but really unshakable at high speeds, and down lower, in cut-up crud, it was just as confident as the 1010, although I did have to watch it a bit more, as it was slightly easier to catch an edge than a wider ski. It handles cut-up snow as well as any ski I have yet skied, yet does not have an overly damp, noodly feel when stepping on the gas.
There are other skis I have tried that do crud slightly better, those that are better in really heavy, uncut snow; those that are a bit more nimble in bumps, those that are more groomer and hard-snow oriented, those that are more powerful carvers, and those that are narrower and quicker in steeps. I have yet to find a more well-rounded, agreeable ski that is adaptable and provides excellent performance in most any condition than this one. I have always liked Elan and feel they offer great value, but even when tested against the competing ski from every other brand, the Apex more than holds it’s own. There are a couple of other skis that are this good in pretty much every condition, but they don’t sell for $599 or whatever the Apex goes for. Elan has done a great job with the Apex, designing a true one-ski for every condition quiver. To give you an idea; if the "best I have ever skied" for each condition were a 10 (example, not necessarily my personal opinions: Stockli XXXL best high speed crud ski=10, Dynastar Huge Trouble best big-mountain ski=10, Head iSupershape Speed best GS carver=10, that type of rating) then I would have to give the Apex a 7.5 or 8 for every single category. For a ski to be that good across a range of conditions is no mean feat.
Look for a review soon on all of the other skis I tested. I am doing reviews first on those that I skied multiple times this spring, and some of the others, on which I have less time, will be reviewed together, and updated as I ski them more this winter.
Ratings based on a scale of 1-10, 10 being the tops for this category I have yet tried.
Stability at speed: 8.5
Sweet Spot speed: 20mph+
Skill Level Required: L7 to L10
Float in soft snow: 7
Bump suitability: 8
Likes to run in big arcs: 7.5
Likes to be on edge and turning: 5
Trilling or dull?: Not super peppy, but contains a lot of horsepower that won’t get away from you.