Ski reviews

Now that ski season is nominally ending (even though Crystal is knee deep in powder with 12″ last night and 10″ the night before), time to take advantage of the close outs. Here’s a list of the mid-fats to drool over:

  1. 88mm crazy. The entry level mid fats including my own (sigh)
    • Fischer Watea 84s…Here is another venerable ski within this lineup. The Watea is generally sold as a flat ski with no built in binding system nor the cross sectional geography to accommodate one. The Watea is probably the best of this width range for bumps, soft conditions, and overall forgiveness. The simple wood, glass, carbon, layup is basic and light. A ski like this can be ideal for the intermediate looking to move ahead and with a particular emphasis on softer conditions or bumps. This is not a ski for heavier or very aggressive skiers nor for those with a priority towards hard snow. We have these and I’d agree, they are nice and soft and great for bump skiing, but not if you are heavier or aggressive, so perfect for the light junior or a noob like me 🙂
    • Dynastar Sultan 88 is the benchmark according to this review for mid-fats. Less soft than the Watea 84 mainly.\
  2. Dawgcatching’s reviews. With the death of Skiing Magazine and it great reviews, it is hard to find good objective measures. This is a pretty good one by someone in Utah, so similar conditions to us when there is great powder 🙂 His favorites are the Watea 94 and the Kastle MX98..
    • 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.
    • 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.
  3. Daily Jim’s reviews. These are also tuned for western skiers with powder conditions every so often :_). He also likes the Dynastar Sultan 84 as a general ski and the 94 as the next step up as well.
  4. Dawgcatching’s fat ski reviews. These are 95mm and above for the big powder days.
    • The Sultan 85 has wowed skiers for a year now with its nearly perfect blend of characteristics and capabilities. The 94 comes in with the same pedigree but in a wider shape and just like the 85, it just plain works. I ski the Sultan 85 a lot so when I first jumped on the 94 @ Winter Park, I was expecting it to be similar but possibly a bit more sluggish. Welllll….similar it is, but sluggish it isn’t. The 178 cm. 94 felt very nimble and easy turning while having very good grip underfoot on the harder snow. In the typical western conditions at Mammoth, the 94 handled everything in its path. It busted the chalky wind chop, cruised in the little powder patches and felt effortless in the forming bumps. Out on the groomers the Sultan pulled right from the tip, gripped underfoot and released when I moved my foot forward. This is a medium to longish turn ski and is for better skiers. I would say this ski is not best at any one thing but for versatility, pretty well defines the category. 
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