Conditions, excellent 8" new, fresh snow over good packed conditions (not hard). Skier 6'1", 230#, middle aged, probably level 7 or 8, skiing forever. Very cold day, but had a blast.
I demoed all of these skis last spring at various industry trade fairs, but not in the conditions that they were intended for, today I skiied them in the condtions that they were made for, so have a better read on them. Skis listed below in the order that I skied them.
Kastle MX 98 - 178cm - 2010/11 model - This is the MX 98 with the early rise tip and no metal in the construction. Definitely skis short with the early rise tip. At my size, I was wanting a longer ski, it was a little critical of balance in this length. I found this ski surprisingly quick and agile, with good edge hold, and the typical, buttery, smooth Kastle feel. The more I skied it the better I liked it. Great ski for these conditions.
Volkl Gotama - 186cm - 2010/11 model - I had only skiied this at a trade fair on soft groomed conditions, wasn't bad there, but..... I couldn't wait to get off of these in the crud conditions. Found that they got deflected badly by big piles of crud, and did not ski nimbly at all. They did however ski very well in untracked conditions. Overall, very disappointed with these.
Blizzard Atlas - 180cm - 2010/11 model. Now were talking! These things were bomb proof, just add a little shin pressure, point 'em, and hold on. The Atlas blasted everything in their path, great edge hold and stability, but still pretty nimble in the soft stuff. This is, by far, the best crud ski that I have ever skiied. Definitely like to be driven hard, great ski for a bigger guy that skis hard. I think that the Atlas might be a handful for lighter skiers, and not good for backseat drivers. This ski is what the Volkl Mantra always should have been.
Dynastar Sultan 94 - 178cm - 2010/11 model - similar dimensions to the Atlas, but a very different ski. Skied this right after the Atlas, and kind of felt like I was overpowering it for the first half a run. After I stopped stomping on the ski and " finessed" it a bit, it came alive. Very, very, quick, agile, and light for this waist width. Definitely liked to carve, but the tip wasn't "hooky" in crud. Nice trick! Probably a better ski for for a wider range of skiers than the Atlas. Forgiveness was off the charts.
Note: Skiied the Sultan at the trade fairs, and thought that it was ok, but I think that the tune was off (railed, like most Dynastars are out of the wrapper), these were freshly tuned out of our shop, and they skiied great. Tune them before you ski them, it makes all the difference.
Blizzard The One - 177cm - 2010/11 model - I thought that I would overpower these and expected to hate them. WRONG! What a huge suprise, this ski just rips! It has a fairly soft tip and tail, but the mid-section of the ski is stout with great torsional stiffness. This is a "rocker" design, with a fairly flat camber under foot with minor tip and tail rocker. This ski can really carve, and it feels super solid in the belly of the turn and it handled crud and powder with aplomb. I really feels powerful with a center-forward stance, similar to the Atlas in that aspect, just apply shin pressure, point 'em, and rip.
I think that Dawg is on the right track about the rocker thing, there are so many factors that go in to ski design and performance, that it is really hard to guess how something is going to ski, until you actually get out there and ski it. Demo if you can.