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Best All-Mountain Skis;
Professional Ski Expert
This is a terrific ski, and I know because I own it. I ski on it every day, use it for all conditions and all terrain. In fact this is the first year ever when I’ve just switched between two pairs of skis (usually I divide my time between four pairs), the Blackeye and my highly specialized short and fat carver for some serious fun-carving. I bought the Blackeye before I had the chance to test all the skis reviewed here, and even though the decision would have been much harder after the review, I am fully happy with what this beauty brings to the table (or rather the slopes) on a daily basis.
The first thing you will notice when you ski on the Blackeye is how very light it is. You feel it on the slopes, and you can definitely appreciate the lightness as you carry it on your shoulders. This is a huge benefit for those who ski at Summit Central on Snoqualmie Pass with the long hike from the parking lot to the ski area.
At 79mm underfoot, the Blackeye has a moderately wide base, but its edge to edge quickness is nothing short of amazing. You can make the tightest of turns (and effortlessly so) while your edges won’t budge a bit even in the iciest conditions. Being a moderately wide ski, you can get very good float in the powder and it will cut through even the nastiest of crud. I usually don’t like to ski extremely fast, preferring the short controlled turns as much as I enjoy the bumps. However, if you feel like letting loose, you can race this baby all day long and it will reliably respond with stability at any speed. I have the 164 cm version and it performs beautifully in the bumps. This really is an awesome, true all-mountain ski. It comes in a dark purple color with an understated, almost retro design that gives it an air of dignity. Two thumbs up!
The Völkl AC30 is one impressive ski. The 76mm underfoot width represents my ideal number. This is a very quick, responsive ski with an unbelievable edge grip. You can’t slack too much on your technique on this one, just tip your toe in the boot will make this ski react. It is not the most forgiving ski, but that is exactly what I love about it. It allows for very quick turns and offers superb stability at even the fastest speeds. This one is definitely meant to be skied by the advanced and expert skier, and if you know your technique you’ll be able to enjoy seemingly effortless turns. Völkl has employed the so-called "Extended Double Grip" construction, featuring two chambers that extend from the tip to the tail, which helps improve the distribution of pressure to the snow.
I love the moguls and really enjoyed what this ski did for me in the bumps. Unfortunately when I tried the AC 30, we did not have powder conditions at Snoqualmie Pass, but this ski easily cut through that heavy snow we refer to here as the “Cascade concrete.” I highly recommend this ski for anybody who wants one of the most versatile pieces of equipment out there.
It first took me a couple of turns to get used to the larger than average 82mm underfoot width. The wider cut makes this ski a great choice for your powder adventures as it will provide excellent floatation. It is made with a unique core construction that has hardwood wrapped around a softer material core. This, I hear, gives the ski excellent edge control while keeping a lively bounce in your turns. I did not find that it lacked any grip on hard-packed slopes, and its mogul performance was enjoyable. I would rate this ski as the ideal all-mountain ski if your focus is more off than on slope. Don’t get me wrong, I really had a good time on the groomers, and you can push this ski to high speeds, but its forte is in the long rather than shorter turns. If you do, however, take this one on an un-groomed run, it feels like you have four-wheel-drive under your feet. Off the trotten piste I r-e-a-l-l-y started having a great time. One of my test slopes is “Snake Dance” on Alpental at Snoqualmie, a black to double black diamond run that is never groomed and usually develops nice bumps. There you’ll find all the crud, all the deep snow and changing terrain you could ever ask for. The Magfire just cut through Snake Dance (with a little help from me), and when my test runs were over I did not feel like giving the ski back to the source I borrowed it from.
To top things off, the Magfire has an awesome orange/black design that looks especially cool in combination with the ELD 12W Binding, which is usually sold as part of a combined ski/binding package.
Here we have another strong showing from Nordica. The company dates back to the 1930s, starting out as a casual footwear maker then specializing in ski boots after the war years. In 1999, Nordica introduced its first line of alpine skis and has delivered outstanding products ever since. The Hot Rod Nitrous is a very stable ski at high speeds and offers impressive performance in the bump and crud. No powder on testing day, but its 78mm underfoot width and overall wider shape made it easy to cruise through the crud on Alpental’s Snake Dance run. Even though I generally lean toward getting the most aggressive, reactive ski possible, when it comes to all-mountain skis, I prefer a little bit of forgiveness especially when regarding performance in the moguls. What makes this ski unique is its highly effective integrated binding system that aides in transmitting optimal pressure from your boots to your edges, transferring it over the entire length of the ski. I found this ski to have a nice balance between being responsive and forgiving. You can ski it aggressively and it will react with excellent edge grip and great carving ability. It features a wood core construction to add liveliness, and gives you that desired snap back out of the turns. The Nordica Hot Rod Nitrous, with its racy yellow-black design, gets my full-hearted recommendation.
The Zenith Z11 Mutix does hold a great edge on ice. Trust me, I went down the mighty and icy International run on the backside of the Alpental ski area on Snoqualmie Pass, which can get extremely slippery. This is a black to double black slope, and when it’s icy, it can make for a tough ride. The Rossignol’s edges were right on track and the ski was definitely easy to turn and simply a pleasure to use. Rossignol has added rubber materials into the tips and tails of the skis to control vibrations along with a Microcell-foam core that absorbs shocks without making the ski less lively. The Zenith Z11 Mutix is a stable ski with very good torsional stiffness and you can ski it fast without ever having to fear that it will give out on you. What makes this ski especially unique is that it features tool-free, interchangeable front and rear attachments that enable you to adjust the ski’s characteristics to either a stiffer setting( for more aggressive turns on the groomed slopes) or a softer one (for deeper snow and powder). This ski has an integrated binding system (Rossignol Axial2 140 Ti binding), that optimizes the ski’s performance. This Rossignol should be somewhere on the top of your list of great all-mountain skis.
The first thing you notice is the interesting design, with its orange graphics on a greenish-brown background. The second thing you notice is how easily and effortlessly this one turns. The Head Monster 78 is a wonderful ski that did not fail to impress me on the slopes and powder alike (yes, we did have some fresh powder on testing day!!). It is reactive and offers excellent edge grip assisted by a new reinforced sidewall construction. You get incredible power transfer to your edges. We had some crunchy and somewhat icy conditions on another testing day and the edges held up very nicely (especially regarding the fact that the edges on the model I tested had not been tuned for a few weeks). I ended up skiing a somewhat longer ski length than would have been my own preference (this one was 171 cm, and I would personally go for the 165 cm version), but those 171 cm turned like butter requiring surprisingly little effort. It handles higher speeds very well, easily initiates turns, and shines with a strong torsional rigidity for a superb edge grip.
This is a great ski for advanced to expert skiers and equally suited for both the backcountry and the slopes. I really enjoyed this ski as it is reactive yet you don’t have to be 100% on guard at all times since the ski will forgive some minor sloppiness in technique. It is a great choice for the advanced intermediate, but is still responsive enough to satisfy most expert skiers’ needs. With a 78mm underfoot width, the Recon is wide enough to be a decent floater in the powder yet narrow enough to give you good edge-to-edge quickness on-piste. You can ski this one fast and it does feel stable at higher speeds. The Apache Recon gives exceptional performance in all conditions and terrain. A winner made in the USA.
The 79mm underfoot width calls for some fun turns off the slopes. This is a stiffer ski, just the way I like it. The AMC 79 has excellent torsional rigidity, mostly due to the fact that Fischer used a three material (carbon fiber/wood/titanium) construction that provides optimal stability and stiffness. This one is meant to be skied aggressively in my opinion, and does not seem to be an easy forgiver. However, if you are able to tame it (which should not be too hard for any advanced or expert skier with decent technique), the AMC 79 is sure to make you a happy skier. I really enjoyed its reactiveness and edge-to-edge quickness despite its wider cut. It has a turn radius of 18m which may not translate into the tightest carved turns, but in my opinion represents one of the best all-round turn radii (medium to long turns). The AMC 79 is screaming for long, fast turns on the slopes and it handles icy conditions surprisingly well, but it really starts shining brightly when you take it out into the terrain. I had a chance to test the 170cm version and I had no trouble taking it through even the tightest bumps or pushing it down the groomers at high speed. Personally, I like its simple gray and yellow design.
I am a big fan of K2 skis, and the Apache Stryker is another strong showing from that name. It features a moderate underfoot width of 74mm. Coming from racing, I personally enjoy slimmer side-cuts and have just recently ventured into the world of mid-fats and fats. Here in the Northwest, a mid-fat, all-mountain ski is one of your best choices. A mid-fat ski is exactly the ski I would recommend to all my students, since in my lessons we are gradually exploring all the varied terrain offered on Snoqualmie Pass. Here we have ever-changing snow conditions with anything from the heavy, heavier (so-called Cascade concrete), to the icy and the fluffy. Here you need a ski like the K2 Apache Stryker, particularly if you prefer the groomed slopes, but also like to be able to venture into the terrain without having to make any compromises. This is a more forgiving ski, which makes it suitable even for the advanced intermediate skier. The experts will enjoy its super edge grip along with its seemingly effortless turning ability. This is by no means a sluggish ski, it is nice and reactive, and you won’t have to constantly be on your toes (figuratively speaking) to keep it in line. For me, it would be close to the perfect teaching ski, relaxed yet able to handle any conditions quickly and reliably.
First off, I think this the coolest looking ski of the bunch. Its unique, super retro styling will catch anybody’s eyes immediately. This is a very versatile ski that shines on and off the slopes. It has a 79 mm underfoot cut and allows you to move quickly from edge to edge. Edge grip in general was very good and I was able to carve some nice fast turns enjoying reassuring stability. The Legend 8000 has a wood core construction coupled with a titanium layer for rigidity and vibration absorption. The ski comes with a shock-absorbing integrated binding system (Look PX 12 bindings). The Legend 8000 was a joy to use in the bumps and it successfully mastered the crud test on Alpental’s infamous International black diamond slope. I was able to enjoy using this ski on several runs and would not hesitate giving it my highest recommendation as an amazing all-mountain ski.
Oh yeah...I was referring to the Rossi Zenith- often the good people at rossi have demo days at the bigger mountains- try them - you will LOVE them!
Great ski- good in the bumps, good for speed and what truly surprised me was how responsive it is for quick slalom turns. Awesome in powder too! I agree with Mr. Haak..
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