Title: Review: 2011 Dynastar Sixth Sense Slicer, 2011 Fischer Watea 98, 2011 Blizzard The One
Length/size Tested: 181cm (Slicer), 170 and 177cm (The One), 176cm (Watea 98)
Location of review: Mt. Bachelor
Runs Taken: 3 to 4 per ski.
Conditions: Hardpack, some slushy spring-like corn, some firm windpack, cordouroy groomers, one bump run per ski
Demo or Own: Demoed, but own all 3 pairs.
Other skis/boots/product tested/own: Pretty much everything out there.
Height/Weight: 5 foot 9, 155lbs
Average days on snow: 30-50 days/year
Years Skiing: 23
Aggressiveness: aggressive all-mountain, like to ski fast, enjoy all terrain, especially off-piste skiing and bumps; groomers are fun too.
I was able to get some time the other day on 3 great skis: The Sixth Sense Slicer from Dynastar, The One from Blizzard, and the Watea 98 from Fischer. All 98mm skis underfoot, all have a rockered tip, but different dimensions and sidecuts. I figured it would be a good test. Conditions were mixed: some good, some bad, no new snow, but plenty of off-piste, challenging snow to deal with. Just what a 98mm ski was designed for J
Dynastar Sixth Sense Slicer, 181cm: This ski is new for 2011. No metal, 98mm underfoot, quite a bit of sidecut, slight camber underfoot, rockered tip and tail, fairly soft at the tip and tail, and more stout underfoot with regards to flex.
Review: I had skied this in 175cm, and felt it was a very quick, nimble ski, great in bumps, but could be overpowered at higher speed skiing, mainly due to the very soft tail. I felt like the 175cm would be an awesome small hill or small space off-piste and bump ski, when the skier didn’t need big iron skis for ripping at high speeds. Those who liked more of a tighter, slalom style turn will really like this ski. The 181cm skied quite a bit differently, and was more along the lines of a bigger feel to a do-it-all ski, or "western 1-ski quiver".
First off, this ski was extremely damp: easily the most damp of the 3. It was smooth, grounded, with no surprises. Not much energy, but it stayed glued to the snow and was quite stable. On groomers, it was a great carver. Easy to initiate, not grabby at the tip, smooth when run flat, powerful on edge, and had a nice, predictable release. Speed limit was quite high. Stability was along the lines of the others. As with many rocker designs, it felt more locked in on edge, and less comfortable being run flat in terms of stability; it was a fun carver, and had plenty of edge hold on this day, although I could see it being less than ideal for Eastern ice.
In bumps, the Slicer was a bit easier to handle than The One, but not quite as quick as the Watea, which was lightning fast for such a wide ski. The tip bent up easily, it had a large sweet spot, and no tail kick. Above average in the bumps. Once off-piste, in the trees and other tight spaces, I found the Slicer to be extremely predictable: it turned exactly how I wanted, where I wanted, and didn’t want to run away from me. This ski was very forgiving, easy to initiate, and ate up rough terrain. The smoothness was really an asset here, in rough, not great quality snow. I then took it up onto Summit, and hit some sun-baked and wind-blown pitches. In that sun-baked, sloppy snow, the Slicer was really at home: smooth, easy, great float in the heavy soft snow, released without effort, and just wanted to dance down the fall line. This ski is pretty mellow in character: if you are a skier who really likes to put power into the ski and load up the front of the boot, you would be better served by the other 2 skis. The Slicer is more reserved for a middle of the boot style, not driving the ski too hard, staying neutral and fluid, and letting the ski eat up the terrain and do the work.
Overall, this felt like a true 50/50 ski: it was solid as a carver, at least average there, was compliant in soft snow, very solid in bumps, and had no weaknesses that I could see, aside from being a bit too relaxing for some tastes, which isn’t a real weakness. Just as many people want a predicable, relaxing all-mountain ski that is a true jack-of-all-trades.
Feedback from customers has also been great on this ski: we have sent it out several times and heard nothing but positives upon return. One guy wanted to buy his demo pair after keeping it for 5 days.
Blizzard The One: 170cm and 177cm: new ski for 2011, a bit of camber underfoot, rockered tip and tail, no metal in this ski, nearly identical in dimensions to the Slicer, and also has a similar turn radius.
Review: First off, in 170cm, this ski was completely unlike what I expected. I was looking for an extremely turny ski that I could overpower easily, due to the short running length and short surface. What I got instead was a thrilling power carver that felt like a detuned, wide slalom ski. It ripped on groomers, very energetic, quite powerful tail, aggressive in feel. As predicted, it wasn’t too comfortable being run flat; it seems to search for edge angle and loves being there. This ski has a light, lively feel with plenty of snap and power. When tipping it onto edge, the Slicer progressively engages, whereas The One hooks up immediately and pulls you across the fall line. Stability was on par with the Slicer. It was a great groomer ski, and felt more like a softer Magnum 8.7 than say, an Atlas. Great ski here, totally out of the blue for a short ski. In 177cm, it became still powerful, but less snappy, had less energy, a touch more stability, but mainly, lost the slalom character. It was still above average in terms of energy and power for a 98mm ski (way more energy than say an MX98) but not the full-on fun carver the 170cm was. Still, a lot of fun, compares well to my Magnum 8.1. The Magnum gets the edge in terms of absolute stability, predictability, and edgehold, but they really aren’t that far apart.
Taken into the bumps, The One was not quite as good as the other 2 skis. I figured the 170cm would rip the bumps, but the tail and tip were a bit too aggressive here. Granted, these are HORRIBLE bumps: hard, frozen, oddly formed, with postholes down the center (snowboarders boot pack out of there) and skied for test purposes only. They aren’t fun like normal bumps (of which we have none). Anyways, the 170cm was just a little too aggressive, and put me in the backseat more than once. The 177cm was somehow more predictable, as I had more ski to load up and more length to work with; it was more along the lines of the Slicer in the bumps. I guess all that energy that I experienced on the groomers had to go somewhere, and energy isn’t always your friend in bumps. Still workable, only slightly worse than my Blizzard Magnum 8.1 in the bumps.
Off-piste, this ski again was solid. It had great float in soft snow, and when dropping into the Cirque, even the 170cm knew no speed limit in sloppy, wet chunky snow. I had to ski cleaner on the short ski, staying more centered, but it really did rip at speed. On the steeps, it smoothed out the terrain, was really quick, and piloted right around frozen lumps of snow, and down below, really allowed me to open up the throttle. The 177cm was more of the same, but even better here. It had a bit of snap, and required more attention than the Slicer did, but rewarded you with a powerful finish and a high fun factor. Edgehold on the steeps (it was wind-packed and scratchy, and the upper section hits over 40 degrees) was solid and reliable (this is the same pitch where I thought the Gotama had a contract out on my life, when testing it last year). Stability was on par with the 181cm Slicer, but it felt completely different. The Slicer had a very smooth, snow-hugging, damp character, and The One was literally exploding from the snow at the end of each turn. I found The One to be the most demanding of the 3 skis tested, although suitable for any decent intermediate and up. It was a very fun ski. Perfect for those looking for a 50/50 ski with a traditional, high-energy Blizzard feel that is solid everywhere.
Feedback from demo customers had been mixed: some love it, some found it to be too much ski and too aggressive.
Fischer Watea 98 176cm: new for 2011, 98mm underfoot, rockered tip, soft even flex, more camber than the others, early rise (non-rockered) tail.
Review: this is the lightest ski of the 3, and probably the softest. Design is slightly different than the other 2: it has a lot of camber underfoot, and the rockered tip’s flex is in line with the flex of the other parts of the ski. On the Blizzi and Dynastar, the tip is significantly softer than the mid-body of the ski. 1st run was on groomers: the Watea 98 has a larger (21m) turn radius than the others (which are around 18m). This was evident: the Watea liked a bigger turn, was lacking a bit of energy, a touch grabby, and a decent, but not great carver. It felt less at home on groomers than the other skis did, more like an MX98 from Kastle, in that it had less sidecut, favored a larger turn, and was more mellow than the other 2 skis tested.
2nd run: bumps: whoa, this ski was really, really good here. Cat-like in the way it changed direction, super fluid, just absorbed terrain extremely well. Also, it had a huge sweet spot, the right flex, and overall was close to “superb” in bumps. One of the best bump skis of the year. Fischer must have some bump skiers on their design team: both this and the Motive series are amongst the best I have skied this year.
3rd and 4th run: skiing hard, frozen snow, windpack, some soft warm sloppy snow. The Watea really shines off-piste. Hard to put it any other way. I felt incredibly confident on this ski: I was very confident “attacking” the mountain, really letting my body flow at the end of the old turn. When on steeps, I tend to tense up (most people do) and sometimes rely on a small up-movement to end the old turn. I was confident enough on this ski to relax that outer foot, get it tipping early, and before I knew it, my COM was already inside of the next turn as I was flying down the fall line, completely driving the tip and ripping through the belly of the arc. It was such a predictable ski, that I felt I could trust it not to take me for a ride, and instead trust it to commit fully to the turn and ski aggressively (which is easier said than done). Once I had the skis flowing fall-line, the tip was soft enough to pull back my feet, get pressured on the tip, and then tip more an extend through the turn. The best way I can describe it is that everything seemed to slow down on this ski; it was almost as though the turns were coming at me in slow-motion, and I could react and anticipate easier than on almost any off-piste model I have been on. To me, these felt like some of the best turns I had ever made. Once into sloppy snow, the Watea again ripped, with basically no speed limit. It had a bit of energy underfoot, but was more damp than The One, with slightly more pop than the Slicer. Huge GS arcs, small turny slalom arcs; whatever you wanted to ski, it wanted to make the turn for you. Forgiveness was again high; it was tough to make a mistake on the Watea. Stability was along the lines of the other 3 at speed, but with the light weight, rockered tip and camber underfoot, it was even quicker, in that I felt I could aggressively pull my feet back and get the tip engaged quicker than on any other ski tested. Probably due in part to the really soft flex on this ski.
The Watea 98 definitely felt the most off-piste capable of the 3 skis (and again, the least fun on groomers, if you were looking for a snappy “carver” feel). If you spent most of your day roaming off-piste, but need a ski that isn’t for deep days, the Watea 98 is worth checking out (as is the Watea 84, it is as good off-piste and a quicker to boot). I don’t know how the 176cm would fare in deeper snow: the length may be a touch short for too much new snow. A 182cm version of this ski would be sweet: not too long for hardpack, but more float in new snow. Maybe next year.
Feedback from demo customers has been very positive. Heard everything from "wow, what a ski" to "when is the demo pair going on sale?".
Overall: I liked all 3 skis. If you like damp, 50/50 performance, the Slicer is a great model. The One has more energy, but is along the same lines in terms of performance and preferred terrain. The Watea 98 is the most off-piste oriented of the 3, and really excels in those conditions.
What was surprising was to find the “new-school” rockered skis skiing more like “old-school” traditionally cambered skis than the “old-school cambered w/only a rockered tip” ski did. It just goes to show you that the amount of rocker in a ski really is only 1 component of how a ski performs, and is just an extraneous bit of information without all the other information of stiffness, flex, sidecut, weight, flex point distribution, binding interaction that all affect the how a ski will perform on snow. I know there is a lot of marketing muscle being pushed around trying to sell “rocker” as a “ski design” but it is much, much more complex than that. Ski designs are getting harder and harder to characterize on-paper: all the reason to support a knowledgeable shop or demo if possible!