Review: 2011 Blizzard Magnum 8.1 IQ Max, 179cm. 81mm underfoot, 18m radius ski, 2 sheets of metal, full laminate construction, integrated IQ Max binding.
Conditions: a couple of inches of new snow, soft bumps, cordouroy groomers; wet, heavy new snow, frozen bumps, challenging conditions; spring conditions as well (soft bumps, firm morning groomers)
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. Unchanged for 2011, but was overhauled in 2010. Gone is the stiff GS construction of the 2009 ski; the current ski is more user friendly, with a bit softer tip, while still remaining a high performance ripper for on or off piste.
Review: This ski has been a good ski, and I have skied it a bunch in 172cm. In that length, it has a decidedly carver feel to it, as it skis a bit short. There is a turned up tail and fairly tall tip, which makes it feel shorter than a typical 170cm ski. I always liked it, but felt it was more frontside than all-mountain in that shorter length. Short skis can be challenging in 3-D conditions, like high-speed crud.
With that in mind, I grabbed the 179cm for demo a few times this spring. We have a shop pair, and I was able to get on it at the ski demo shows as well.
First off, the 179cm is a lot more ski than the 172cm. On the 172cm, the ski is playful and fairly forgiving. The 179cm is at least as demanding as my Kastle MX78, perhaps more. It is similar in nature to the Elan 82Xti: a slightly wider powerhouse ski with lots of metal, lots of stability, and somewhat of a take-no-prisoners attitude. It also feels very similar to the Nordica HR-Pro Jet Fuel; no wonder, as Nordica and Blizzard are sister companies, both producing high-end skis. At my weight, the 179cm requires commitment and aggressive skiing. The skier is rewarded with a very high-performance ski that has virtually no performance ceiling. On groomers, this ski absolutely rips at speed. It holds very well ,and there is a lot of kick in the tail. It feels as racy on groomers as anything I have used over 80mm. There is more snap in this ski than the Kastle MX78, and it feels more sporty than the MX88. Compared to the new Jet Fuel, it is slightly softer, and has more zip when released, as if you can load it up a bit easier and really generate rebound. Plus ,the tip is softer, making it a touch easier to initiate. As a carver, it is really still somewhere in between a slalom and GS feel, with that added rebound. You can tell that Blizzard is run by racers: this is a basically “race-lite” on hard snow in terms of power and stability. I think it exceeds all but the GSR IQ in the Blizzard line for hard snow, high speed performance, and the GSR, as good as it is, is nowhere near as versatile. I took the GSR through a big bump field at Winter Park and really, really struggled.
In bumps, the 8.1 is surprisingly good for such a powerful ski. Although it is technically a bit stiff for a bump ski, it handles surprisingly well. I would consider it just on the break point for what I can handle in bumps: the tail is stiff, and don’t get into the back seat, but the tip again absorbs the trough quite well and you can run a decent zipper-line on these. I would give it acceptable marks in the bumps, and I did several back-to-back runs down Johnson’s at Mission Ridge on it, which is a steep, challenging bump run. Something with a softer tip, like a K2 Aftershock, would be superior, but this is much better in higher speed situations.
In crud, this ski is absolutely unshakable. The length makes it SO stable: it is as good as any ski in this length I have tried. The 8.1 just doesn’t get shaken around: it motors through anything with barely a whimper. Smooth, but powerful, and not that damp: it just feels like a “get outta my way” charger, the same way, say a Stockli XXXL, feels. In fact, I skied the XXL and the 8.1 close together, and I thought the 8.1’s crud performance exceeded the XXL, as long as you came ready to ski. This ski was made for high speed ripping in variable conditions. I would characterize it as “muscular” but not in a Head iM88 way: it has a bit more power and wants to get more input from the skier. It is as if the ski is constantly asking for “more, more, more”.
In deeper snow, it skied well. A little stiff in the tip, not that much shape; it really isn’t meant as a deep-snow day ski. More than 8” of heavier snow was a challenge on it. Most people are going to use this as the narrower ½ of a 2 ski quiver if they live in snow country, and out East, it probably suffices for 97% of days on the hill. Still, there are better skis out there for new snow days; no surprise there.
Overall, as noted above: this would be a great everyday ski for the high-performance skier looking for a do-everything ski back East, or a 2-ski quiver person out West who wants the narrower part of the quiver. If a bigger skier were looking at this ski, I would recommend the 179cm to them even if they weren’t a great skier, but were improving. For someone my size, the 179cm is best left to experts only. I think this would be just about perfect for a narrower ½ of a 2-ski quiver out west: it does everything well except for deep snow, and that is covered by a different ski. It would be especially appealing to those who really want to give up very little hard snow performance but still want a high-performance all-mountain ride: I consider myself in that group, as I like to ski whether it has snowed recently or not. If it hasn’t, I totally enjoy going up and ripping groomers (not much else to ski here if it hasn’t snowed, as bumps are non-existent and steeps are minimal, making groomers the only thing going when it hasn’t snowed in awhile) and this ski is a great tool for the job. The only thing perhaps missing is a bit of that Blizzard Supersonic carver feel, which is trilling in it’s own right. But, the Supersonic doesn’t have the heft of the 8.1 179cm at speed, so it is a trade-off. If you enjoy more of a quick, carving machine that can go anywhere, the Supersonic may be the better bet. I would take the 8.1 if I were looking for a more GS-oriented machine that was better in crud (less sidecut) and typically skiing a bigger mountain.
I really like this ski. If I do go down to 2 skis or turn my Apex into an AT ski, this is near the top of the list.
Ratings based on a scale of 1-10, 10 being the tops for this category I have yet tried.
Ratings based on 179cm length for a smaller skier only: this ski is very length dependent, as are most skis:
Stability at speed: 9.25
Sweet Spot speed: 25mph+
Skill Level Required: L8.5 to L10
Float in soft snow: 5
Bump suitability: 6
Likes to run in big arcs: 7.5
Likes to be on edge and turning: 7
Thrilling or dull?: Wow, this is a rocket ship.