2011 Ski Reviews: Mid-Fat skis, 80-100mm
Blizzard Magnum 8.7
Blizzard Magnum 8.1
Blizzard M-Power FS IQ
Nordica HR-Pro Jet Fuel i-core
Head Peak 88
Head Peak 82
Dynastar Legend Sultan 94
Dyanstar Legend Sultan 85
Elan Spire (reviewed elsewhere, a crossover ski)
Fischer Motive 84
Fischer Motive 80
I was able to ski a bunch of skis this past spring, unfortunately not all on the same day, but at least was able to use a point of reference on all of the skis tested. These were tested over several days: conditions included lots of manmade snow, firm and rock-hard bumps, fast groomers, a few inches of new snow, steeps, icy chutes, some heavy new snow, and a fair amount of crud. Since I only got a couple of runs on these skis, for the most part, I didn't do the 1-10 scale for these skis.
Skis tested in this group are between 80 and 100mm in width. Some are listed here and in the “wider skis” review, but really could fall under any category. This is the most common width range of skis for the bulk of western skiers, but unlike Sierra Jim (when he reviewed many of the same skis)http://www.epicski.com/forum/thread/92748/western-daily-drivers-in-the-90-100mm-range, I won't call them “daily drivers”. The reason is this: I don't really have a dedicated every day ski, as I will pick a ski for the conditions, and choose from at least 3. Last winter, I was on the MX78 for the better part of 2 months: we didn't get more than a few inches of snow at any one time, and it was easily the most suitable choice. Later in the season, with more fresh snow, I was going between my Stockli XXXL's, Elan Apex, and the occasional wide ski. Once it dried out again, I was looking to the Supersonic for some sporty fun. I know SJ's preference is for a ski somewhat more toward an Atlas, and he will go narrower if necessary, but not that often (correct me if I am wrong, but I think we spoke about this w/regards to the old Mythic Rider). I like narrower skis, and will ski them enthusiastically if the conditions are right. I think a definition of an everyday ski works much better for those who only have 1, or maybe 2 (everyday ski and big storm day ski) to choose from. When you have 3, you are going to be splitting most of your time between 2 of the 3, assuming you don't own a helicopter.
I wasn't able to test skis from smaller boutique brands. Not enough time, and they aren't at enough of the demos. I have to focus on skis we sell, and skis that are likewise common in mainline shops. Even then, there isn't enough time, as I didn't get to try the new Salomon Enduro, for example.
About me: 5 foot 9, 155lbs, competent all-mountain skier, and could zipper-line double-black 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. Overall fitness is high, as I am on my road bike 15+ hours a week 9 months of the year, and race pro-level races as a Cat1.
Blizzard Atlas, 94mm underfoot, all-mountain traditionally cambered ski. Length tested: 180cm. I have reviewed the Atlas before, and won't re-hash too much of the review here. It hasn't changed this year.
This ski is stout, powerful, and overall a big, burly ski. I like it, but probably would opt for a softer ski. It has a lot of metal, and is especially stiff underfoot. This isn't a particularly aggressive ski, but more just a pretty stiff ride; it likes to go straight, and doesn't like to turn all that much. It is a great soft-snow carver, and rips a big arc. Bumps are OK, as it can feel pretty stiff and can be a handful with it's stout tail. In crud and soft snow, which is primarily what this ski is made for, I find it to be very confident, but stiff and with a need to be driven. This is no soft, pillowy ski, as it likes aggressive, front seat driving and skill to motor through challenging terrain. Lesser skiers will steer clear, but good skiers will love it, especially those who weigh more than I do. If you live in a place that gets lots of snow, and you find yourself skiing plenty of crud, day in and day out, this may be your every-day ski, save for big dumps when you really need a wide ski. Locally, this would be a good choice for perhaps 50% of the days. Another 5% of the days you would want something wider, and the remaining 45% of the days, something narrower and sportier. Of course, if this is a true La Nina year coming in, you may ski this most days, and never pull out the narrower skis!
Pros: very strong, stable, no real speed limit
Cons: a lot of ski, quite stiff, not for bumps
Blizzard Magnum 8.7: 174cm length tested, 87mm underfoot, 3rd year basically unchanged. This is a pretty stout, powerful all-mountain ski. 2 sheets of metal, IQ binding, a bit stiffer than the Atlas, IMO.
This ski is a premier frontside wide carver, and a real powerhouse. It has no real speed limit, even at the relatively short 174cm length (even shorter when you consider the short running length). It is a great ski on any sort of hard snow, and when in tight chutes, is very quick, predictable, and stable. Kind of stiff for bumps, and not my favorite ski there. In bigger turns at speed, it feels a little short, but nimble due to the width and length. Almost like a narrow Mantra. Overall feel is big, with a good-sized sweet spot. This ski is very damp, and feels like a race-bred ski. This ski is as much of a BMW 6-series style ski as you will find. The only real downside for me was the stiffness: it could be a touch softer and still be more than stiff enough to hold on any surface. Enter the 8.1....
Pros: aggressive, great carver, powerful and stable
Cons: stiff for bumps, a little stiff for lighter guys such as myself
Blizzard M-Power FS IQ: new ski from Blizzard. Has the IQ power suspension rail system. We have a pair in the shop, they look like skis you would if Luke and Han were skiing on Hoth instead of riding Tauntauns. In other words, very techie.
I skied this last of the 2-day demo at Winter Park, in 174cm. My leg (still recovering from a break 2 years prior) was killing me, and I was tired. Still, I had just been on the Supersonic IQ from Blizzard and came away very impressed. When I stepped onto the M-Power, it had a completely different feel. Perhaps it was just me, but this ski seemed to be one of the heaviest I had ever been on. First run down was Outhouse, which is a double-black bump run, with rocks and trees scattered throughout for added challenge. Well, I was owned on this ski, plain and simple. It simply overpowered me; too stiff, too demanding, and I couldn't be tired and still ski the M-Power to it's potential. On groomers, this was perhaps the most stable mid-fat I have ever tried, given the short 174cm length. Holy cow! It was locked into the snow like no other ski tested. Unshakable, and with vice-like edge grip. If you break loose on this ski, you aren't getting enough edge angle and need to ski more dynamically. The ski is not at fault. Again, no speed limit in crud. My main beef with this ski is that it felt like a Mack truck that had lost it's brakes on a steep grade. I just got owned by it in any sort of tight situation. But, others who out-weigh me by 50lbs are so are saying it is one of the best skis around. Just not optimal for lightweights, even fit ones.
Pros: no speed limit, as smooth and damp as any ski on the market
Cons: heavy, expensive, not for bumps or tight spaces. More of a big-turn feel if you can't flex it.
Blizzard Magnum 8.1: IQ integrated binding, 81mm underfoot, 2 sheets of titanium (not magnesium) and with a thinner tip profile than the 8.7. Length tested: 179cm.
I reviewed this a couple of weeks ago, so here is a summary: Great ski! I stepped up to the 179cm, as the 172cm was just a little to short for all-mountain motoring. The extra length gave me unparalleled stability in any situation. I immediately skied this after skiing the K2 Rictor and Aftershock: I would rate stability as a good 20% increase. In choppy crud where I was cruising on the K2's, I was absolutely blasting through with twice as much confidence on the Blizzard. There is something to be said for metal in a ski and non-rockered tip that doesn't fold under pressure....This ski simply has no speed limit: it is very close to the mythical “wide race ski”. Downsides are: fairly demanding in this length, as, unlike the K2's, you can't be a back seat driver on this model. This takes some skill and some strength to stay on top of. Sweet spot is plenty large, and re-designed tip (starting in 2010) really flexes up well in softer snow, and allows the ski to release consistently. Again, it is smooth, damp, but not heavy; it feels every bit the Austrian ski, but not as muscular as the 8.7 or Atlas. It reminds me very much of the Nordica HR-Pro Jet Fuel i-Core and Elan 82Xti, both of which are reviewed here. These 3 skis are so similar, most any skier would be hard pressed to tell them apart. And, this may be the best crud warp-speed weapon available. It has just enough float, yet is unshakable at speed. One of my favorites. Length is critical. I like the 172cm, but find it to be more of a carver and bump ski in feel, and lacking the stability and big-turn crud handling of the 179cm.
Pros: unshakable at speed, beats crud to a pulp, decent in bumps, great carver
Cons: still a fairly demanding ski in the long length, unless you are a bigger guy. Not for intermediates
Nordica HR-Pro Jet Fuel i-Core: 84mm underfoot, new layup and flex for 2010 (I don't know the details, refer to the website for more info). Length tested: 178cm.
I spent around 3 hours doing laps at Alpine over on Scott Chute and in that area, on this ski. It felt like the Blizzard's fraternal twin. If I had to guess, I would say the Nordica is a touch stiffer and less friendly than the Blizzard, at least at 155lbs. It is every big as stable, also has the big Austrian feel to it, enjoys a decent-sized sweet spot, is smooth, damp, and worry-free, provided you are man enough to ski it. On Scott's icy bumps, it was smooth, predictable, and held like glue. On icy steeps, same story. Really, no weaknesses in this ski either, providing you are up to skiing it. This was one of the most aggressive skis tested, no doubt. For those of you who aren't aware of it: Blizzard and Nordica share the same factory, and judging by these skis, at least some of the same design team. The tip did feel stiffer on the Nordica, which is perhaps why I slightly preferred the Magnum 8.1. Other than that, it is a no-compromise ski. Good to see that people are still making “real” skis, not these watered-down wimpy ones. If I had to guess, that is a good reason why we are almost sold out of MX88's, even after re-ordering. This Nordica should be on the short list for a narrower Western ski for any good skier, and definitely for a more technically-skilled skier.
Pros: stable at any speed, smooth, damp, very muscular, power carver
Cons: pretty stout, a little much in bumps
Head Peak 88: re-designed for 2011. Gone is the metal, and there is a new pseudo-rocker tip called flow-ride, basically a soft flex point toward the tip that allows it to flex up, while theoretically staying in contact with the snow. Still 88mm underfoot, and tested in 180cm.
This ski isn't the old Monster iM88, and Head did a silly thing by killing it. I didn't hate the updated Peak 88, but it isn't the world-beater that the old ski was. It is quite a bit softer, holds decently on hard snow, has decent stability, a huge sweet spot. I found it more suited to crud than firm snow. The Flow Ride allows for a very easy end-of-turn release in crappy snow, and this ski is smooth. There is little of the heft from the old Monster series, though, and I miss it. I would say this ski is “average” across the board, and above average in crud in terms of smoothness and ease of use, as long as you aren't skiing too fast. It is great in bumps; one of the best skis tested. That Flow-ride flex point makes for a very forgiving flex. I would compare it more to a ski like the K2 Aftershock, made for the “masses” and less to some of the more aggressive, high-end skis tested here. I think the new Peak 88 will appeal more to the “resort skier/weekend warrior”, in other words, the person who skis 5-15 times a year, isn't a superb athlete, and needs a fairly forgiving ski. This is as good as any ski tested here if you are skiing moderate speeds, in the trees and tight spaces. The new tip really does enhance turn initiation, and ease of use. Of the skis tested here, it compares most closely to the Sultan 85 and K2 Aftershock.
Pros: great in bumps, very forgiving, easy to work in crud, forgiveness, ease of turning
Cons: low top-end, won't satisfy fast experts
Head Peak 82: similar construction to the Peak 88, same Flow-Ride tip. 82mm underfoot.
I tested this in 172cm? And then again in 177cm. 172cm was a joke. This ski was way, way too short for any sort of semi-aggressive skiing. It felt like I was skiing an old Atomic SL9 in 155cm, as quick as it was. There was just no beef to it, and the ski was constantly on edge, but not with any sort of edge hold, stability, or performance. It quickly went back to the demo tent, and I got the 177cm instead. This offered more performance: similar to that of the Peak 88. It still felt pretty short, not that stable, not with enough performance under the hood, but at least somewhat solid. Bump performance was again great, but I quickly overpowered this ski at greater speeds, and in crud, this felt like an intermediate's crutch, not a serious all-mountain weapon. Again, less aggressive weekend-warriors will like it, but the old Monster iM82 was one of the top skis made in the past 5 years. Why kill it just to make another non-descript, easy-going cruiser that you can get from K2 or Rossignol? Check out the Titan if you want a true successor to the Monster line.
Pros: easy to ski, forgiving, a medium-speed all-mountain cruiser
Cons: not a powerful ski, can be easily overwhelmed by aggressive skiing.
K2 Aftershock: new design for K2 for 2011. It features the new all-terrain rocker. I am not sure about the construction and if it differs from the Xplorer. 86mm underfoot, and tested in 181cm.
Normally, I wouldn't be on a 181cm midfat, but this ski begs to be skied long. I tried the 174cm, and suffice to say, it felt like a kid's ski. 181cm is it.
First off, this ski was different than most any other ski I tried. Even in 181cm, it felt short on-piste, as if someone had taken this ski and made it a 170cm. There are good and bad points here. It was radically quick: this turned like it could have been a wide Head Supershape, and was extremely sporty. As it isn't the stiffest design, it didn't have the pop and motor that a Supershape would have, but still, it was fun, as long as I kept it in the fall line. When running in big arcs at speed, I was wishing for more ski, as that rockered tip, which makes the ski feel so short, isn't doing me any favors. It was only marginally stable; this ski likes to be a fall line carver more than the old Xplorer, which was more of a low-energy, bigger turn cruiser. Once in crud, I had the advantage of again having a longer ski, as the tip was now mostly in contact with the snow, and stability was on par with an “average” ski in the 180cm, but a bit below the most stable skis on this list. Forgiveness, as usual for K2, was as good as it gets. The ski was again, quiet, refined, but lacking much energy. It felt like a “capable cruiser” in the crud, as it released easily with the rockered tip, and was moderately stable, but as noted above, probably 20% less stable than the unshakable Blizzard Magnum 8.1, and the tip could be overpowered. I would rate it more than adequate for many skiers, though. Probably only a few % of skiers on the hill are going to out-ski this ski. In bumps, this was also a rock star. The super soft tip is ingenious for absorbing the backside of the bumps.
My take on the all-terrain rocker? 1) you have to ski it long to get the stability you are used to 2) there is a trade-off of loss in stability on groomers and packed snow, and also in crud. How much of this (in crud) is attributed to the tip, and how much is attributed to the softer construction in general of K2's, is hard to say, but I would say it wasn't quite as stable as the old Xplorer in crud 3) a skier will get the benefit of a rockered tip and longer stable platform in off-piste conditions, making skiing crud easy for those who may otherwise struggle 4) bump performance is very, very good 5) the ski feels super quick and almost turns on it's own. Whether that is a + or – depends on the skier. It changes the normal dynamic of a ski and it's interaction with various types of terrain.
Pros: ease of turn initiation, great in bumps, fun “short” feel as a carver
Cons: not a great high-speed crud ski, a little soft and light in the loafers, rocker does nothing to enhance stability for fast skiers.
K2 Rictor: similar to the Aftershock, but narrower at 80mm underfoot. Similar “all-terrain rocker” tip, and feels significantly softer in flex. I don't have the details on construction, as we aren't selling K2.
This ski felt like a little brother of the Aftershock, which is no surprise. Again, tested in 181cm, and I had the exact same sensations. It felt really short, quick and a capable, if not powerful, carver on the groomed. In crud, it felt like one would expect a 181cm ski to feel: easy, smooth, damp, quiet, with a huge sweet spot. Very easy-going, average stability, not really a true expert-level ski, but a crowd-pleaser. Great bump ski. Easy to find the speed limit on, both in crud, and on the groomers. Who would like this ski? Someone who needs a bit of help initiating their turns, is looking for ease of use in crappy snow, and wants a forgiving, smooth ski. In short, probably 80% of the skiers out there, but not necessarily the bulk of skiers on this forum. For more aggressive skiers, there are better choices out there. K2 will sell a lot of these, just as they have sold a lot of skis in the past 10 years, as they have gone away from true expert-level laminate skis and toward more user-friendly Cadillac designs. Is it better than the ski it replaced? I wouldn't say so. I would say it is different, and some skiers will like that difference. Others won't. Hopefully this info helps you make a decision of whether or not to demo.
Pros: easy to ski, feels short and fun on groomers, more exciting than some of the mid-width cruisers around.
Cons: easily overpowered by good skiers, not a great ski in higher-speed crud, can feel really short.
Volkl Kendo: new ski for 2011, 88mm underfoot, dual titanium laminate wood core layup. Hey, this looks exactly like my Elan Apex!
I skied this in 177cm, so it was as apples to apples vs. my Apex as a ski could get. It is funny that both Elan and Volkl have 2 sets of skis that could be confused for each other (Olympus and Katana, Apex and Kendo). It makes me wonder if an engineer or 2 defected from one company to another during development season....Anyways, this is a really well-rounded ski. The Kendo is exactly what I am looking for in a all-mountain, 1-quiver ski that is around 90mm underfoot. It has a decidedly GS feel to it, moderate to above moderate flex, and is rock solid in any condition. First off, on groomers, while not the quickest ski around, it feels like a big GS and is completely solid at any speed. This is one “mid-fat” that doesn't make too many compromises on groomers, and that is probably due to the lateral stiffness of the ski, which is high. This ski was also made for choppy crud: the tip is soft enough to float and not dive in heavier snow, and it is smooth through rough, bouncy snow. The GS sidecut really helps here: more sidecut isn't your friend in crud, I have found, as the skis can get hooky (see AC50 review). Rather, having a 22m radius makes it turn only on demand, not on it's own. The Kendo is every bit as good as ANY ski on the market (save for the ridiculously stiff Stockli XXXL or old Kastle MX98) in crud. In bumps, same story: very smooth and predictable. In comparison to the Apex, it is perhaps a touch stiffer, but hard to say how that impact performance. I did feel the Apex absorbed bumps a slight bit better than the Kendo. Also, the Kendo is quite a bit softer in feel to the Mantra; it feels smoother, more maneuverable, has a larger sweet spot, and is a friendlier ski for us lighter skiers. This is a really nice ski, worth considering for anyone looking for an advanced and expert level 50/50 ski that makes no compromises. I like how Volkl put out a new ski release, and it wasn't some gimmicky ski with a bunch of marketing phrases and focus-group in put; it was just a well-built laminate ski that flat-out skis rips.
Pros: an awesome all-mountain ski, among the best at speed in crud, good bump ski, nimble all-mountain weapon, powerful edge grip
Cons: a little stiffer than some, not much energy as a groomer
Volkl AC50: I really don't know the details on this ski; if it has changed or not. Still 85mm underfoot, and pretty stiff.
I skied this in 177cm, and it is quite a bit of ski in that length. This is one of the stiffer skis tested here, and laterally very stiff. I felt it had no speed limit, but was even a touch stiffer than the Blizzard Magnum 8.1, and perhaps stiffer than the 8.7, although in the longer length, it skis considerably longer as well. My previous test lengths were always 170cm. At any rate, this is a damp, hefty, weighty feeling ski on the snow. Although the dimensions are close to the Kendo (at least in terms of waist width), it is a very different ski. First off, whereas the Kendo is a GS ripper and lower-energy ski, the AC50, true to form, is every bit the “Western Carver”: a carver for people who need width to get off the groomed from time to time. It is stout, and a blast to ski on any groomer, and especially a soft snow groomer (over say a blue ice groomer, where you want a true race carver). There is tons of energy in this ski, although the longer length saps it of energy somewhat that the 170cm has. Bumps are a handful and a challenge. In crud, this ski again has a lot of heft, and a lot of stability, but not the suspension of the more crud-oriented Kendo. If I had to compare them in crud, I would give the Kendo a 9 and the AC50 a 6 or 7. On steeps, in tight spaces, I liked the AC50, although with such a stiff tail, it isn't terribly confidence-inspiring; one mistake and can be a bit punishing. This ski could use a bigger sweet spot for dicey conditions. That is what happens with all that horsepower under the hood. Overall, I would rate this as a warp-speed groomer ski, solid crud ski, and great model for those who have no use for slow skis. In comparison to the Blizzard 8.7, I felt the latter was just as demanding, but perhaps more manageable due to the shorter length, but that the 8.1 eclipsed this ski just a bit, as it had all of the groomer power, but just a smidge more versatility.
Pros: thrilling carver, extreme stability in the longer lengths
Cons: a big pushy in crud, not a great bump ski or true all-mountain weapon.
Volkl Mantra: reviewed in the other thread, so I will just re-post it here, as it really belongs in both groups. Not changed for 2011, 96mm underfoot, lengths tested 170 and 177cm. Designed to be a wider all-mountain ski, more of a Western wide 1-ski quiver than a wider zippy groomer ski.
I haven't been on this in 3 years, but it doesn't feel to have changed much, if at all. Why mess with something that works and sells well? The Mantra is relatively conventional in approach, and has the reputation of a very solid and powerful ski. I tried 2 lengths, both 170cm and 177cm, in the same crappy snow that I was skiing in for the Volkl tests. 170cm: a really fun ski, very lively, quite nimble. It will charge and have a good amount of stability, but it does pretty well in bumps, is a very manageable length, and I could see this being a great ski for days back East where there is quite a bit of new snow, but not a lot of terrain to allow a big ski to run in. On groomers, this thing held like glue, and was very aggressive for such a wide ski. It has a lot of metal in it. I did notice it was a bit stiff, and bounced around a lot in crud. It doesn't have the terrain-smothering feel of the Elan Spire or Kastle MX98; the Mantra feels stiffer than either of those, sort of like a Stockli XXXL, which really has no speed limit and is a freakin' cruise missile, but a bit more of a handful. The Mantra is in that same boat. Downsides: not many, but I could see this being too much ski for people my weight if they aren't really skiing at a high level. Also, 170cm is a bit short when you get into deeper snow. I would personally want something a bit longer for those conditions. Overall, though I was impressed. I would say it compared well to some of the beefier mid-fats I have skied. This would be a great “wide” ski for those who ski on smaller hills, or in tight trees, and need something wider, but not necessarily long.
177cm: a completely different beast. This ski was less maneuverable, less manageable, and more of a bruiser. It really came across similar to the Atlas, which is a big-time power ski. The “fun” was really gone out of the ski: instead, it meant business. This still held like glue on the icier steeps (there are several short, yet steep no-fall pitches at Mission Ridge, and they were slippery and a bit dicey) but this ski slows down considerably, and can also punish you for backseat driving. It isn't “forgiving”, but give it accurate input, and it is a no-compromises all-mountain machine. At my weight, I found it too stiff: it was a bit of work to get it to relax out of the end of the turn, tough to pilot in bumps and tight spaces, and not as smooth as I would like. It was lacking a bit of energy that I can get from my favorite all-mountain rides (such as the MX88 and Apex) and was just a little too much work. Much of that has to do with my light weight: bigger guys love this ski. Overall, no complaints. FWIW, the new Kendo is a bit softer, and if they made the Mantra to match the flex of the Kendo (I know they are the same layup, but more ski=stiffer in execution), they would have as good of a wide mid-fat that exists, IMO.
Overall, the 170cm was really fun (I wouldn't buy it due to the short length, though) and the 177cm was a bit too stiff and planky in feel.
Pros: as stable as any ski, very quick in the shorter length, a real powerhouse
Cons: planky feel in the longer ski, a bit bouncy in crud, not very quick, pretty demanding
Dynastar Legend Sultan 94: new ski for 2011! 94mm underfoot, 17m radius, early rise tip, moderate flex. Basically a wider version of the Sultan 85.
I tested this is 178cm, in moderate new snow, soft bumps, and groomers, which was a great test. Basically, if you like the Sultan 85, you will like this ski. It has a very similar feel: thin profile core, so not really heavy, but solid, damp, smooth, and forgiving. The Sultan 85 is one of the most forgiving skis around, and I would say the same for the Sultan 94. It is a tighter turner than most skis in this category, and in conjunction with the early rise tip, it hooks up early and with little effort. It almost feels like a carver in crud, rather than a typical crud ski, which could result in a bit more catchiness should the snow be too demanding, although I did not personally experience this. Stability was average or so for a high-end ski of this width and length, and a step below the best, but with such a huge sweet spot, I doubt all but the most aggressive skiers will mind. This was also a star on softer groomers, as it had lots of energy and was fun. Quickness and edgehold, while not as good as the 85, were as good as anything in the category. Bumps were fine too. I did find a speed limit on this ski, but it was very high and most people aren't going to be skiing that fast. Again, this feels exactly like a wide Sultan 85. It does everything the 85 does, just in a wider width, if you need it. The 94 is a very impressive ski. Downsides: a little too turny for me personally, could be more stable, but from my experiences, many skiers like a little more “ease” and sidecut in their skis, which is lacking from most mid-90's skis out there. This could be THE ski for those looking toward a wider ski that still has more than capable carving characteristics, for example the person who lives in a place (like Tahoe) that gets big dumps and then weeks of sun in between in storms, and needs one ski to do it all. Although I would personally recommend a wider ski, and a narrower ski, but I can understand if a person is limited by budget to just 1 pair. The new Legend 94 is as good as anything out there.
Pros: huge sweet spot, easy turning ski, fun on groomers, has good energy, great bump ski
Cons: not as good in crud at big speeds, a little turny for a true crud ski
Dynastar Sultan 85: 178cm. No changes for 2011, 85mm underfoot, 17m radius.
I chose to ski this in the longer 178cm, to better match up with the other skis in this category. Running surface is a little shorter than some of the others, due to the early rise tip and tail. Overall, as this ski is unchanged for 2011, it is still a great, versatile ski. See review of the Legend 94, and subtract around 1cm from the width and other dimension, and you have the Sultan 85. This ski has better edge hold, is a touch quicker, and perhaps seems just a little stiffer than the 94, but is very close in feel. On the snow, it is light, smooth, tracks well, and relatively quick edge-to-edge. I like it as a medium stiffness, medium power groomer ski. It has a bit more solid feel than the similar K2 Aftershock, but still forgiving. Sweet spot is above average. In bumps, it is very good; the relatively moderate flex really helps here. It blasts crud, but is perhaps a bit more catchy than the Legend 94, and quite as comfortable at speed as some of the other, more crud-specific skis that have less sidecut. This is more of a 60/40 ski: 60% of the time on groomers and frontside, and 40% of the time off-piste. I would rate the Legend 94, as a 40/60 ski. What makes this ski so good is that it is suitable for anyone from a high intermediate up to a full-blown expert: all but the fastest, most aggressive skiers will be happy on it. Plus, the feel is very traditional and smooth, and this ski is as predictable as they come. Little wonder that it has been an instant success.
Pros: easy to turn, great carver, big sweet spot, appeals to many skiers, nice in bumps, enough stabilty for most anyone
Cons: not as strong of a ski as some, a lot of shape for crud skiing.
Elan Apex: I did a full length review of this elsewhere. New ski for 2011: same shape as the old 888, but now softer with a milled-out core, a bit lighter, and similar lateral stiffness.
Tested in 177cm, this ski was one of the top skis I tried over the spring, and put an order in for one soon afterwards. It was basically the same ski as the Kendo, just with a different graphic (and a lower price). This is the prototypical do-everything ski: it handles groomers just like a big GS board, has very solid edge hold, is a rock star in crud at speed, has no real speed limit, is predictable in bumps, and has no real weaknesses. It isn't as exciting of a carver as the Legend 94 reviewed above, but is more stable in big arcs, and it feels lighter on the snow than another of my 90mm favorites, the MX88 from Kastle. The crud feel is smooth, stable, confident, and unshakable, but not burly or stiff like some. This ski really does feel like it was designed with a person my weight and ability in mind. I was in tune with it from the first turn: flex was perfect, it absorbed terrain exceedingly well, and was well-suited to the speed at which I was skiing. In steeps and in un-cut snow, it was nimble and floated very, very well. I preferred it to my 1010's in some pretty deep (but light) snow, as I was able to work the ski more and had more fun on it. The Apex feels like the 888, only with a better flex pattern, larger sweet spot, and at least as much stability. Downsides: it isn't a real exciting carver; instead, it has a big, powerful GS feel to it. Also, some people may be looking for a wider ski for crud-busting. 88mm underfoot happens to be perfect for myself; I am not complaining whatsoever. Elan is making some superb skis these days, as I know the Olympus is sold out, and I am pretty sure the Apex is too. Word is getting out that they have a great line-up.
Pros: true 50/50 all-mountain weapon, exceptional stability, great in bumps and crud, big GS feel on groomers
Cons: lacking carver-like enthusiasm, less advanced skiers may desire more sidecut.
Elan Spire: also reviewed elsewhere, I will just re-post what I posted in the wide skis review: basically a slightly refined 999: overall fairly soft flex, rocker tip, 98mm underfoot, 23m ski in 181cm. I found the old 999 to be one of the best wider all-mountain, with emphasis on off-piste performance, skis around.
The new Spire is slightly different, but only with regards to the updated tip rocker. This ski was always soft: it is now even easier to release out of the turn. This surfs on soft and crappy snow as well as any ~100mm ski I have yet tried. I was on this immediately after the Olympus and Katana demo, and found that, in between 4 and 6” of heavy, wet snow, the Spire was the best of the 3. This was mainly due to a couple of factors: 1) snow not too deep, 2) tight chutes where a 100mm ski's quickness is appreciated, 3) mogul fields are pretty typical toward the lower parts of the mountain. With the new soft tip and the overall soft, light profile, this ski was a star in crappy snow, and with the 2 sheets of metal, it held almost as well as the stiffer Mantra. No question that it floated and handled the soft snow better than the Mantra, and was also much better in the bumps, as well as more manageable in the longer length. The rocker tip doesn't do anything to hurt mogul performance. It is a smooth, damp, soft-snow oriented ski. I could ski it aggressively, but it really didn't have the aggressive feel of, say, a Mantra or Atlas. Instead, it was more of a stable, yet mid-energy ski that has a mellow character, but amps up the stability when you are skiing hard. The downside of that is lack of energy, especially on groomers. It holds well and does big arcs at any speed, but really isn't much for power, pop, and energy out the backside of the turn. The Mantra is a better groomer ski. The Spire is no doubt a soft-snow oriented ski, really an all-conditions type of ski. You could think of it similar to the Fischer Watea series, but a little more damp, due to the metal and wood thin profile construction. Also, this would make a great touring ski. The Spire is actually the same weight as the AT-oriented Kastle FX 94, and the flex is very good for either telemark or softer AT boots. I was thinking of going with an AT setup on a 174cm, but Elan is currently sold out of that ski. If you want a “wide race ski” then perhaps this isn't your choice, but if a capable soft snow ski that won't beat you up but is extremely reliable in any condition sounds like your ski, the Spire is worth a good look. It is really the antithesis of the Mantra.
Pros: all-around soft snow ski, great for dicey conditions and unpredictable terrain, fun in bumps
Cons: not a great groomer ski
Elan 82Xti: The 82Xti is another ski that is a bit under the radar in terms of a manly frontside ski that takes no prisoners. Skied in 176cm. Unchanged for 2011, was revised last year.
It seems that the same guy is designing skis for Blizzard, Nordica, and Elan. At least, they feel very similar on the snow. All 3 reviewed here (Blizzard 8.1, Nordica HR-Pro Jet Fuel i-Core, and Elan 82Xti), are serious, race-bred all-mountain skis with integrated bindings, wood cores with 2 sheets of metal, and a take-charge attitude. Perhaps the first ski in this category was the AC40, and these skis are bringing it to the next level of performance. The Elan, in contrast to the others, feels a touch heavier and more damp on the snow, and a touch stiffer than either the Blizzard or Nordica. Any would work for a good skier, but I feel the 82Xti to be the best suited, out of the 3, for bigger skiers. It is stiff; there isn't much give to this ski, and for me to ski icy bumps on it, I had to be on my game. Get in the back seat and the game is over. I could ski bumps, it just wasn't my favorite bump ski, as the tail is quite punishing, the ski is stiff, and it packs a punch. Get this ski onto groomers, and you won't find a more exciting frontside powerhouse. No speed limit, uber-smooth, damp, stable, and with world-class edge hold (for a ski of this width). Feel is wood core with 2 sheet of metal: smooth, damp, stable, powerful; about what you expect a ski like this to feel like. It really does come across as a near race ski. Again, in crud, it doesn't get rattled a bit, and has an incredible amount of stability. This isn't a “hooky” ski in crud; rather, it tracks as well as the Apex. At full speed in a crappy, half-frozen crud field, this ski was as stable as anything reviewed here, and more so than all but a few. The 82Xti ski is fairly heavy, with a lot of metal in it, and isn't terribly quick, but gets the job done in tighter chutes. In trees, there is plenty of sidecut, and it rips around with little effort. It nearly feels like a “narrow Mantra” in that it just a whole lot of ski for someone my size. I liked it, but guys my size could do better, IMO. Then again, if you are close to 200lbs or over, this should be at the TOP of your list. Big guys have been loving this ski for years, simply as it is a lot of ski, built for bigger guys who can flex it. Having skied the GSX Fusion Pro (their race carver, which is as good as race carvers get), the 82Xti is cut from the same cloth.
Pros: powerful, energetic, stout, race ski-like feel, no speed limit
Cons: can be demanding for lighter skiers, a bit stiff for bumps
Fischer Motive 84: new ski for 2011, 84mm underfoot, around a 17m radius, and designed as more of a replacement to the old Heat series (frontside ski) rather than a replacement for the Watea, which is lighter and a bit more off-piste oriented. This ski has a wood core with a carbon laminate layer, but no metal that I am aware of. It also has a plate system.
I skied this in the 175cm length. Not having heard much about this ski, except for the rep being very happy with it, I really didn't know what to expect. First off, it feels lighter than most others: somewhat of the Watea feel. For those of you who haven't skied the Watea, it feels light, has a big sweet spot, very nimble, almost like a foam-core ski, has some snap to it, but a little dead in the tail and not the greatest edge hold. The Watea series was meant as a primarily off-piste ski, or a big sweet spot ski for those who found the Heat series a bit overpowering. The Motive takes this to a more racy, on-piste feel, without the anchor weight or stiff feel of the Heat series (which I personally liked: the Cool Heat and Cold Heat were awesome skis). Running length is fairly long, in that it has a flat tail, and will ski as long or longer than a 178cm Watea.
First run was on groomers, and the Motive was extremely stable, smooth, and wow, was the edge hold excellent. It rolled onto edge easily, and had some punch in the tail. It was a very “dynamic” ski, in that it seemed to pull the skier from turn to turn easily, and allowed me to release relatively aggressively down the fall line without making me too scared to do so (on steeps, that is). The ski had just the right amount of flex for myself, it de-cambered enough during the turn to give me a great pop out the other side. The Motive 84 had a different feel than every other ski tested, in that it was lighter, had a bit more snap, and was glued to the snow, but not in a heavy, grounded way. More like it was grounded, but you could really change direction or generate rebound out of it any time you felt like it. This was a great groomer ski. In bumps, same story: the flex was excellent, the ski was forgiving enough, the tip soft enough, and I thought it to be one of the better bump skis tested. In soft snow, it also didn't disappoint. Stability wasn't top-notch here, but it was above average, and I could charge crud with relative ease. In steeps, being a bit more forgiving was great, as was the ease of changing direction. Some of the more burly skis can be a bit scary when you can't make a mistake in a no-fall zone; this one was plenty of ski, but with the bit softer tail, was well suited to scarier situations (we did a couple of laps on Keyhole on this ski, it was right at home). For a ski on the narrower side of things, it really would be a superb narrower ½ of a quiver type ski for someone who truly needs versatility, yet doesn't want to compromise on groomer power, stability, or fun. Also an exceptional choice for an everyday Eastern ski. This will be in the same league as the Sultan 85, but with a different feel; lighter, snappier, less sidecut, and bit more race-like, but just as forgiving. Easily one of my favorites of the test, and as well-rounded as any ski I tried.
Pros: Stable, light on the snow, perfect flex for bumps and off-piste skiing, zippy on groomers, edge hold, has some power, very high fun level
Cons: lighter in the loafers than a few other skis, and not quite as stable as the stoutest skis here
Fischer Motive 80: 80mm version of the Motive, similar construction, perhaps a tad softer. Also a 17m ski.
This skied well, was a touch softer than the Motive 84, but was otherwise very similar. A bit more groomer oriented, still great in bumps, and lost a bit of float and stability in the off-piste stuff. Very smooth, yet light feel on the snow. Classic Fischer Watea feel, only beefed up a bit for better edge hold on-piste. Also, perhaps a touch more forgiving; not that the 84 isn't forgiving, but this one goes a bit further, and could work for a Level 6 skier easily. This is the ski for improving Level 7's and Level 8's, who are venturing off-piste, but don't want to give up any cordouroy performance or grip. This should be on most skiers “to test” list if in the market for a ski of this type.
Pros: smooth, damp, stable, has some energy, easy to change direction, doesn't require a ton of power
Cons: not as stable as some skis
Fischer Watea 98: new ski for Fischer this year, it fills in the rather large gap between the decidedly mid-fat Watea 94 and the huge radius, big length Watea 101. As noted, it is 98mm underfoot, with the powder tip hull, and early rise tip and tail. I am not sure the details of the construction, but it feels quite similar to the other Watea skis, which are well known on Epicski.
The Watea, once again, is quite a unique ski. It was skied in bumps and crappy, packed-in snow, which are challenging conditions for any ski. The carbon and wood laminate construction make for a light, yet damp ski. Other light skis, like some from Atomic for example, can feel a bit skittish in rough terrain, but the Watea tends to be a bit more grounded, yet light and “flickable”. Think of a 29er full suspension mountain bike, but instead of a big bike like a Turner Sultan, more of a 29er full suspension race bike such as a Fischer Superfly 100; a bike that is quick and nimble, yet can eat up any terrain. The 98mm is a great every-day width for those out West who like a wider ski. I would rate stability quite high; not amongst the best metal laminate skis, but not far behind. The shape, soft tip, and overall forgiving nature of the Watea gives it great bump performance for a wide ski. It hugs the snow as well as any ski on the market, and forgiveness is off the charts here. This is one of the most nimble ~100mm skis I have tried. Downsides: not the best ice grip, as the ski is quite soft laterally. It lacks punch on groomed snow, but no more than most skis in this category. Standouts (in terms of groomer performance) are limited to a few skis, such as the Legend 94 from Dynastar, Nordica Enforcer, Volkl Mantra....in all other conditions, the Watea 98 is one of the most well-rounded skis on the market right now. Another potential downside is the rather large jump between sizes. 176cm may seem a bit short for many big-mountain skiers, especially given the rather short running length of a early rise tip and tail ski. Yet, 186cm is a lot of ski in comparison. A shorter 181cm length in there would probably sell a few more skis, and be perfect for people such as myself. The Watea should be a very popular ski this year, and give the MX98 a run for it's money in terms of popularity.
Pros: smooth, light on the snow, non-fatiguing, superior soft snow and crud float, great in the bumps, large sweet spot.
Cons: a little light on the snow for some, perhaps not quite as stable as the heavier, metal-laminate skis.
Kastle MX98: new ski, re-designed for 2011. I reviewed this ski elsewhere, but it is part of this group. It is 98mm underfoot, but the metal is gone. Weight of each ski in 178cm is right at 2000g per ski, which makes it 40g lighter than the MX88 in the same size, and 80g heavier than the FX94, again in the similar size. The ski now has a bit of a rockered/early rise tip. About the same as the Elan Spire, although again, I haven't measured it. I found the MX98 to be much, much different than the outgoing model, which was a wider MX88, with squared off-tail. The new 178cm skis the same length or a bit shorter than the 174cm. With the softer flex, it is now a bit more soft-snow focused. I had it on some boilerplate, and the edgehold was more than adequate (comparable to a Mantra-style ski) but the ski had little of the energy typically contained in a ski with hard-snow performance in mind. It was a big-turn, low-energy carver, and reminded me a bit of the Legend Pro from 2 generations ago, but a bit stiffer laterally. In bumps, it was solid, direct, and the soft tip was a good match. The overall feel of the ski was that it had quite a bit of forgiveness: this is more of an everyman's ski than the old MX98 was. IMO, the old MX98 was more of an expert-level ski: the new MX98 has a huge performance envelope. The feel of the ski is damp, smooth, large sweet spot, snow-hugging, low to moderate energy, and the very refined feel of a well-made wood core ski. Based on the flex, this is going to be an excellent crud, off-piste, and new snow ski, with plenty of stability and few surprises. I would say it has a little more going for it than many of the other skis on this list, especially for the more aggressive skier out there. This is one that I can't wait to get on in some more suitable condition. I have it's big brother, the MX108, on order as my soft-snow ski for the coming season. The MX98 may be just the ticket for cruddy and crappy snow days when something a bit more nimble is on order. It could be many people's Western 1-ski quiver, although technical skiers will want a more nimble ski as well.
Pros: well-made wood core ski, smooth, damp, confidence-inspiring, easy to turn, exceptional all-mountain performance. Will provide great float in soft snow and cut-up crud, also a good bump ski.
Cons: price, and maybe isn't quite as good on groomers as the Enforcer from Nordica. Better than most, though.
Kastle MX88: unchanged for 2011, is extremely well regarded as a do-it-all tool. If people could own only one ski, this would be at the very top of the list for a whole lot of people. 2 sheets of metal, silver fir wood core, top-notch race-room construction, 88mm underfoot, 18m radius.
Review: I owned the MX78, and the 88 is identical in layup, but I found that it had a different flex (stiffer) and was suited to different types of skiing. The 78 was more nimble, quicker, and better in bumps: the 88, at my weight, was decent in bumps, but a little stiffer than is ideal. Edge hold was superb; this is one of those skis that has a very even flex pattern edge to edge. The skier can roll it onto edge at any speed, and engage it as slowly or as quickly as desired. In this respect, it feels like a race stock GS, whereas so many all-mountain skis have a really aggressive on/off feel: you aren't on edge, and then, once you move past a certain edge angle, the ski really hooks up and takes off: you can't feather it like you can a good race ski (I always felt the Volkl AC40 was either on/off). The MX88 is the opposite: it reacts to as much or as little input as you give it, and won't surprise you in any way, which is what you want for an all-mountain ski. If you can find a speed limit on this ski, more power to you. I couldn't. This ski was made for high-speed crud turns, medium radius to larger radius skiing. I don't believe it really liked to go slow; even as it is versatile enough to ski slowly, the “suspension” of the ski is such that it wants to carry speed, and be comfortable in rough conditions where most skis would get tossed and ask the skier to dial it back. It barely deflects in crappy snow, at least in compared to most others I have skied. The speed limit on the MX88 is a good 5mph faster than any other ski I have tried, in this range. In rough snow, it is exceptional. Also, this isn't any sort of auto-turning ski: it requires skier input for direction. The sweet spot is simply huge for a ski of this caliber. I did personally feel that the ski, for a person of my weight, could have been softer, but anyone who out-weighs me will find it perfect. Probably built with the 165-200lb skier in mind; at close to 150, I am a touch light, but I still would own it, given the chance. When skied on boilerplate, it held as well as any ski I tried in this width, but several others were just as good, so I wouldn't characterize edge hold as superior, just very good. The overall performance envelope, forgiveness, and snow feel is what sells the MX88. It would be like comparing a Corvette to a Porsche 911 GT3: they may have the same specs on paper, but 1 lap at the track and you know these 2 cars aren't in the same class. The MX88 gives the skier several “best in class” attributes and rolls them into 1 ski, all with a very refined feel.
Pros: stability; snow feel; construction; edge hold; smoothness in crud; forgiveness
Cons: a bit stiff in bumps for me; expensive, not all that lively. Then again, you get what you pay for.
Kastle FX94: Kastle's “performance touring and mountaineering ski”. It has a thinner profile, 2 sheets of .3mm of titanium, wood core, and weighs around 120g per pair less than the MX98. Reviewed in my “Kastle thread”, so this is a re-post. Skied in 176cm, 20m radius.
This ski is 94mm underfoot, which is a more useful backcountry width much of the time for most male skiers. Adds a bit of weight over the FX84 and FX74, so it weight is a concern, you may want to look at those. The 94 is likely to give better descending performance in variable conditions, though.
It skis about the same as the 84, but with some added contact area and weight that gives it more heft and a grounded feel at speed. It seemed a bit superior to the 84 when hitting choppy snow, which one would expect. Even so, it feels lighter on the snow than any MX series ski. I would rate edgehold again a bit below the MX88, but close to that of the non-metal MX98. The main difference is really the light and lively feel of the ski. It feels like it will do whatever the pilot wants, and isn’t locked into a straight-ahead feel as much as the MX series. It also feels quicker and a bit more turny than the 94mm waist and 20m radius would indicate. If I had to compare it to a ski, it would get close marks to the Fischer Watea 94: light on the snow, very lively, smearable, but with less of a power on edge feel than the beefier Mantra-style (wood core w/metal) ski. If you like the Watea, you will really like the FX series. This is going to rip as a backcountry ski as well. If the MX series is a Porsche 911, this ski is a little Porsche Cayman.
Pros: fairly light for a ski of this performance (it is matched by other lower profile skis, the Elan Apex is a bit lighter yet), performance is off the charts, great flex for an AT ski (not too stiff in the tip, but not a fluttery ski when pushed).
Cons: not as good of a resort ski for an expert as the MX series. Expensive.
Kastle FX84: same construction as the FX94, again billed as a backcountry ski or lightweight resort ski. 84mm underfoot. Also reviewed in the Kastle thread, so here is the re-post:
You have probably heard a lot about this ski: light, thinner profile, but still with some metal, which results in a very high performance touring/AT ski. This was tested in 176cm, and has an 18m radius. Layup is 2 sheets of .3mm of titanium, and a thinner wood core profile. This ski is light, and is designed for little compromise on backcountry descents. It definitely doesn't feel like the MX series! Much lighter underfoot, very lively, different feel than I have had on any high-end ski. Still had the wood-core “dampness” somewhat, but not the grounded to the snow feel of the MX series, probably due to the lack of weight in the ski. When compared to the MX88, I would guess hard-snow hold was probably 85% as good: it held, but didn’t lock in quite as well as the stiffer MX 88. Stability was not far off, but again, it got bounced more in rough snow. It was pretty fun in bumps as well: softer flex, not too much sidecut=a solid bump ski. A big difference in comparison to the MX series was the lower speed limit; at big speeds on the frontside of Winter Park, especially when it went from boilerplate to piles of scrubbed-off snow, the ski was a bit bouncy. In primarily off-piste conditions, where this ski is most likely to be used, that probably won’t be an issue. I liked the combination of flex and weight, and it seems this ski will ski circles around most any other backcountry ski I have tried.
Also, I think this could be a credible, if not formidable, in-bounds choice for any technically skilled, yet lighter weight skier who doesn’t have the strength or weight to flex an MX series ski. One would just have to get used to the very light weight of the skis on the snow; it is lighter than most women’s skis I have tried. Not that I have skied every AT ski around, but of those I have tried, this is easily the best.
Pros: light, extremely solid for an AT ski, as capable as most resort skis, but without the extra weight. Very refined feel, extremely forgiving.
Cons: not as light as some AT skis, expensive, a little light and not as stable as the resort MX series.
Stockli VXL: 85mm underfoot, 2 sheets of metal and wood core. Very traditional construction and profile, somewhere around an 18m radius. Skied in 179cm. Top-shelf construction, equivalent to that of Kastle. Stocklis are as expensive and built as well as Kastle, but don't seem to get the same buzz as Kastle, for whatever reason.
Review: The first time I tried this ski, the ski was “out of the wrapper” and skied like crap. Needed a tune, as it was extremely railed. I was able to get on a tuned ski, and it was as good as anything I skied that day. The VXL is a softer version of the old XXXL, which is as stiff as any ski around. The re-designed VXL is a little softer underfoot and much softer at the tip, making it a more supple ski at moderate speeds. First run on this was in some crunchy, crappy snow, and the VXL is exceptionally smooth here. Zero tip deflection, a huge sweet spot, and it feels slightly softer than the Kastle MX88. I liked it better in bumps than the Kastle; it was just as stable in crud, but had a touch more feel, as I could work the tip a bit more with pressure when I wanted. For a ski that isn't overly stiff, it was superb at speed: no doubt, the 179cm length helps out. There is a lot of running surface on this ski. In the bumps, this is also a great choice; not too stiff, tail is forgiving enough that you can really ski aggressively. On groomers, it isn't the most exciting ski, but is very solid. The VXL is again in that big-turn mold, similar to the MX88, Apex, Kendo....a GS feel, damp, smooth, stable. Compared to it's closest competitor (MX88), the VXL really feels slightly more supple, and has a chameleon-like ability to really suck up terrain with a huge sweet spot, yet have no real top end when pushed. It will blast through crap snow as well as any ski we tested. It isn't as turny as the Legend 94, but is more stable in big arcs, and handles bumps at least as well. This is as good as a mid-fat ski gets in terms of versatility and performance. I personally felt it to a better choice than many ski tested here, for a guy my size.
Pros: smooth, supple, damp, refined, huge sweet spot, virtually no speed limit.
Cons: expensive, factory tune wasn't any good, maybe lacking energy for some.
Stockli XXL: unchanged for 2011, 80mm underfoot, around a 17m radius, dual titanium with a wood and fiberglass core.
First time on this ski; 1st and 2nd runs were in choppy, soft crud, trees, and small bumps, with a couple of chutes thrown in there as well. Impressive ski! It had a nearly identical feel to the VXL, and could be characterized as a ski similar to the old Monster im82 from Head. It feels a touch lighter on the snow, a touch more lively, but has that overall feel to it. The XXL inspires confidence; it is narrow enough to turn quickly in any situation, has a large sweet spot, a forgiving tip, but excellent stability. Like most Stockli skis, it hugs the snow, is damp, and forgiving. In choppy crud, it barely noticed the lumpy snow, and would glide right through with minimal effort. I skied this down Sympathy Face at Alpine (off the shorter lift), which is steep for a few turns, and it was extremely nimble in the tighter spots up there, yet really allowed me to open it up once down lower. Over in the 3 Sisters area, it was great up top into the initial tight few turns, as the ski was very nimble, and I could really flow with the widely spaced bumps down low. This is one of the smoothest skis I tested, and one of the more stable, although I wouldn't quite as comfortable at the very highest speeds as a few others tested here. Mostly, in the type of terrain we were skiing at Alpine (steep turns, small bumps, little opportunity to really open up the throttle except when hiking the ridge), it was just about perfect. On the groomer run, it held like glue, and felt like a little brother to the bigger VXL. Being a little softer, I was getting more pop out of the tail. Truly, this is a world-class all-mountain ski. It was perfect for this particular day: around 6 inches of new, over fairly firm, yet not frozen, snow, and it reminded me why a good 80mm ski is extremely versatile when there isn't a whole lot of snow to have to float through.
Pros: huge sweet spot, predictable, will handle any terrain, more than enough stability, damp and refined
Cons: a bit expensive, not a thrilling carver.
Well, that is about it for this review. There are many other good skis out there, but this is all I had the time to test. If I had to choose my personal favorites, it would be the Magnum 8.1, Volkl Kendo, Elan Apex, Fischer Motive 84, Kastle MX98 and MX88, and both Stocklis. I guess I like damp, smooth, stable skis that do most things well and can rock off-piste conditions.
Edited by dawgcatching - 11/28/10 at 8:13pm