Author Topic: 'All-mountain' skis and the occasional skier  (Read 1141 times)

Johnny2R

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'All-mountain' skis and the occasional skier
« on: January 04, 2012, 10:20:48 am »
Living in the UK, I don't get to ski nearly as much as I'd like, as I can't just nip away for weekends. I try to make it out to the Alps for 2-3 weeks each year. Although I have my own skis, carriage charges are now so high that I tend to rent skis in the resort. One of the considerations when doing so is what 'blend' of piste/off-piste I am going to be doing, and ski reviews (and the selections in the shop) reflect that, talking of skis suitable for, say, 75% on-piste and 25% off-piste.

I was just musing about this and wondered whether it was a flawed concept - or at least, a flawed concept for me. I rent a pair of skis which are 75/25 as above, because I'm going to be spending 75% of my time on piste. So, they're really 75% suitable for piste and only 25% suitable for off-piste. But because I always do hugely more skiing on piste than off (the mix from my experience is more like 95%/5%), I'm much, much better at it. So when I get into the off-piste, I really need all the help I can get from my skis  -whereas on piste I can get by with skis which are less ideal, by being more active with edge-to-edge movements, say, or even accepting that my turn radius isn't going to be as tight.

In effect, it seems to me that if you're going to spending much time at all in your unfamiliar area, you're probably better off going for something which really works well there, even if it's only for a small part of the overall ski time. I am a follower of PMTS and try to do all my skiing in that way, but I've never quite gone for the idea of skiing powder on Head Supershapes as many of the better PMTS skiers.

I'll be putting this to the test in a couple of weeks time in the Monte Rosa area of Italy, where the off-piste can be fantastic IF the snow is good. I'll no doubt regret it when trying to ski hard icy pistes on some nice wide powder skis!


midwif

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Re: 'All-mountain' skis and the occasional skier
« Reply #1 on: January 04, 2012, 11:17:08 am »
Welcome Johnny2R

Interesting premise and has valid points, IMO.

Let us know what you feel the results are.

And what skis you opt for.

L.
"Play it Sam"

Johnny2R

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Re: 'All-mountain' skis and the occasional skier
« Reply #2 on: January 04, 2012, 11:24:55 am »
The skis I will be trying to rent will probably be Head Peak 84s, if they have them. The 78s would be good as well, but I wouldn't want to go narrower than that. It depends really whether the rental shop does Heads. Also, in Europe the norm is still very much for rental skis to be narrower, carving ones, so I may be out of luck if the shop isn't a good one.

Gary

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Re: 'All-mountain' skis and the occasional skier
« Reply #3 on: January 04, 2012, 12:02:38 pm »
J2r....keep in mind that most skis in the 80 plus underfoot "use" to be Powder skis...haha..>>.

But also that 78- mid 80's will be find for off piste  boot to shin high snow...especially if it's nice dry powder. These new skis are quite versatile for sure.

Sounds like a fantastic trip...hoping you get plenty of fresh pow to play in and you'll be hooked like the rest here are.

Best and welcome to RS....keep us posted..

Cheers,
Gary

bushwacka

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Re: 'All-mountain' skis and the occasional skier
« Reply #4 on: January 04, 2012, 03:34:46 pm »
Living in the UK, I don't get to ski nearly as much as I'd like, as I can't just nip away for weekends. I try to make it out to the Alps

In effect, it seems to me that if you're going to spending much time at all in your unfamiliar area, you're probably better off going for something which really works well there, even if it's only for a small part of the overall ski time. I am a follower of PMTS and try to do all my skiing in that way, but I've never quite gone for the idea of skiing powder on Head Supershapes as many of the better PMTS skiers.



I would love to see the "top" PMTS come and show me how to ski powder on SS.

The thing is SS are groomer skis, great skier can make them work nearly anywhere but they will never be as good as a Im78 or skis that are much wider.

with skis with long turn radius you can do this thing called steering that lets you make any size turn at any speed you want......

Svend

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Re: 'All-mountain' skis and the occasional skier
« Reply #5 on: January 04, 2012, 05:52:14 pm »
Johnny, depending on how tall and heavy you are, you might get pretty decent float in soft snow on a ski in the mid-80's width.  We had an interesting discussion here about that topic -- ski width and skier weight -- a few months ago in the "Skis 4 Me" section, when I asked the question whether my wife, at 5'7" and 130 lbs, needs a wider ski than her present 85mm ones for float in powder.  Check it out....

Also, in my experience, a lot of how a ski behaves in soft snow seems to depend on how stiff or soft the tips of the skis are.  I have skied models with similar or even identical sidecut dimensions, and those with the softer tips seem to float and go over soft snow and bumps much better than those with stiff tips.  The latter just seem to trench, making them less versatile.  Eg.  I have skied my Progressor 9+, at 70mm underfoot, many times in soft spring snow (not quite mush), and they are just brilliant in that; whereas my previous model RC4 Progressor (same sidecut, but much stiffer tips) were terrible in that stuff.  Something to keep in mind if you're faced with limited choice in the rental shops.

Cheers, and welcome to the forum.  Nice to someone from overseas here, to add a different perspective.

Svend

LivingProof

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Re: 'All-mountain' skis and the occasional skier
« Reply #6 on: January 04, 2012, 07:27:39 pm »
I concur that renting a 78 or 84 ski is a better move if the off-piste snow conditions are present during your holiday. I own and love the SS on-piste. Never liked it as a heavy spring snow ski or when piles of loose snow accumulate. I find the tip flexes too much in variable conditions and it is fatiguing to ski. Max, who skis in heavy snow found in Ore. often has written that he still skies the SS in that snow. Certainly, his technique is far better than mine. I had the SS in Co late last season and struggled in old snow. Much easier with a wider ski.

Just one opinion.

jbotti

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Re: 'All-mountain' skis and the occasional skier
« Reply #7 on: January 04, 2012, 09:18:16 pm »
I often find that a carving ski can be an excellent choice in certain off piste conditions, especially when the chop is firmer and one needs manueverability. It all comes down to tactics. The ski can dictate what tactics you need to use to ski the terrain and the conditions. You won't use a SS to bust through crud, rather you will dance around it and do some amount of carving in it. But all of this takes experience and technique and it sounds like J2r you may not be where you want to be with both of these.

I do find that unless you have a lot of deep heavy snow, I do better and prefer thinner midfats than wider ones. My first choice would be something in the 78-80mm range underfoot with a willingness to go up to the 85mm range. Since you say that you may be skiing more on piste than off, it does make sense to get a ski that has some decent manners on piste and that will carve nicely if driven properly. Again this points more to the 78-80mm ski rather than something wider.

Johnny2R

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Re: 'All-mountain' skis and the occasional skier
« Reply #8 on: January 05, 2012, 03:53:34 am »
with skis with long turn radius you can do this thing called steering that lets you make any size turn at any speed you want......

No, no, no, you can't say things like that, you'll get banned!

...

What, you mean that doesn't happen on this forum? Wow! :)

Johnny2R

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Re: 'All-mountain' skis and the occasional skier
« Reply #9 on: January 05, 2012, 03:59:01 am »
Johnny, depending on how tall and heavy you are, you might get pretty decent float in soft snow on a ski in the mid-80's width.  We had an interesting discussion here about that topic -- ski width and skier weight -- a few months ago in the "Skis 4 Me" section, when I asked the question whether my wife, at 5'7" and 130 lbs, needs a wider ski than her present 85mm ones for float in powder.  Check it out....

I'll take a look at that thread. I'm actually pretty lightweight - 5'11" and 143lb (wiry runner's build), and I can't imagine ever needing anything really wide to get good flotation.

Johnny2R

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Re: 'All-mountain' skis and the occasional skier
« Reply #10 on: January 05, 2012, 04:08:56 am »
I do find that unless you have a lot of deep heavy snow, I do better and prefer thinner midfats than wider ones. My first choice would be something in the 78-80mm range underfoot with a willingness to go up to the 85mm range. Since you say that you may be skiing more on piste than off, it does make sense to get a ski that has some decent manners on piste and that will carve nicely if driven properly. Again this points more to the 78-80mm ski rather than something wider.

Last March I hired some Head Monster 82s which I absolutely loved. They worked a treat in the chopped up soft snow and yet had, as you put it, 'decent manners on piste' - easy enough to get edge to edge and able to carve a nice turn. There was no deep powder to try them out in (best was about 6" of new wet snow), alas. That was a different resort though, and hiring from a Head specialist shop, so I'll just have to look for the nearest equivalent, I suspect.

Johnny2R

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Re: 'All-mountain' skis and the occasional skier
« Reply #11 on: January 30, 2012, 03:01:03 am »
A little follow-up to this posting from earlier...

I had a great trip, and hired what turned out to be the perfect skis for the job. The hire shop didn't appear to have anything between 72mm and 90mm waist, strangely, obviously catering either for people who were skiing fully on piste or fully off, but not for people like myself wanting to do a varying mix. I went for a pair of Scott Crusades, in 169cm length, as they had a decent dual-radius sidecut to go with their 90mm waist (130/90/118mm), offering something like a 13.5m turn radius.

I was wary about the effect on edge-to-edge time with the 90mm waist as I had never skied anything wider than 82mm before (I've never had much luck in terms of powder dumps on my ski trips so have never had the need for anything wide). But I needn't have worried. Within a couple of runs I had adjusted and was amazed at how well the skis carved tight turns. I spent quite a bit of time on piste doing the juiciest GS turns I've ever done (a few things really clicked into place with my self-taught PMTS technique this week), as well as much shorter radius turns (my imperfect versions of the PMTS 'bullet-proof short radius turn') and except maybe on the steepest, hardest, scraped slopes, I never felt any need for a more standard piste ski (and even those slopes I skied better than I've ever done before). Sure, with slalom skis I could have carved shorter radius turns but the turns I was making were small enough.

Hardly any new snow had fallen for 3 weeks (although snow cover was very good), so the off-piste consisted mainly of venturing across areas of wind-blown crusty crud seeking out patches of the softer stuff, and the skis were wonderful for this. Where we did come across areas of rather heavy powder, the skis floated beautifully and were a revelation to me. On the last skiing day, snow was falling lightly and by mid-afternoon maybe 3-4 inches of powder had softened everything up, encouraging us to venture into some nice tree areas. I didn't find any conditions for which I didn't reckon the Crusades were anything other than the perfect ski.

So, in summary, I seem to have managed to get hold of something which I didn't really think was possible, a ski which was much better and much easier to use off-piste than narrow piste skis, yet which allowed me to do the best piste skiing I've ever done. I didn't get the chance to try them in deep new snow (which, of course, we woke to on the morning we were leaving :)), but feel confident they would have provided me with sufficient flotation if I had done so.

There aren't a lot of wider skis with pronounced sidecut (Harald Harb raves about the Movement Jam), but this is definitely the category of ski I will be looking for in the future, if I can't get hold of the Scott Crusade itself.

Svend

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Re: 'All-mountain' skis and the occasional skier
« Reply #12 on: January 31, 2012, 11:00:15 am »
Hey Johnny -- great review.  Thanks for that.  Sounds like you had a super trip.  Post back and tell us about the resort you skied, landscape, Italian villages....and the food! 

Scott seems to make some really excellent skis.  Several of their models have been getting accolades in the N. American and European ski media test reports for many years now, including the Crusade.  Their design is a good one -- dual radius sidecut (I have a ski with that design, and love it -- it works); sidecut that begins well back from the shovel to prevent hooking in soft snow; hollowed out tip and tail for lighter swing weight.  Build quality is said to be top notch too.  Just don't see them in the shops here, though, at least in Canada where I am.  Shame, as it would be good to demo a pair and see how they perform.  Sounds like a fantastic one-ski quiver for a western skier.....Nice!

I like that they performed so well in crusty broken snow, and then were so good on-piste.  Too bad you had no fresh powder to try them in.  All around versatile ski -- a winner!

Cheers,
Svend


Johnny2R

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Re: 'All-mountain' skis and the occasional skier
« Reply #13 on: January 31, 2012, 12:29:45 pm »
Hey Johnny -- great review.  Thanks for that.  Sounds like you had a super trip.  Post back and tell us about the resort you skied, landscape, Italian villages....and the food!

The base resort was Gressoney La Trinite, in the middle of the three valleys which make up the Monte Rosa ski area (between Champoluc and Alagna). Big lift-linked area with lots of great long runs, but the main attraction is the off-piste - Monte Rosa is the second highest mountain in Europe and is HUGE, with many sub-summits, and a whole mass of skiing off the back of it. Needless to say, with the snow being as it was, we were more restricted to pisted runs, but we did a lot of venturing off into areas off to the side of the pistes in search of interesting snow. As is typical of Italy, the slopes are peppered with lovely, cosy little mountain restaurants doing tasty food. Typical hearty mountain fare in this part of world seems to revolve around polenta more than pasta. Really good, and inexpensive, house wines by the jug were a little bonus.

The one major downside of the area is that it can be badly affected by winds - the lifts are very exposed and have been shut for a few days this month as a result. The wind also affects the snow, as powder quite quickly becomes wind-blown crust except in well-sheltered areas. On the second day there we woke to high winds and were dismayed to find all lifts closed. But we were able to take a bus 20 minutes down the valley to another small resort called Gressoney St Jean, where the lifts were all running and we had a fabulous day's skiing on tree-lined runs and off-piste among the trees, untroubled by the wind.

Alagna in particular is a magnet for serious off-piste skiers, who home in on it from all over Europe. It seems particularly popular with Swedish skiers. On the basis of the general standard of skiing you see round there, you could easily assume that Swedes were the best skiers in the world, but of course a lot of self-selection has already taken place by the choice of resort - it's not a great area for beginners or even intermediates. I was intrigued watching from the lift as a small bunch of Swedish kids tackled a steepish mogul run there in a way I'd never seen before - shooting straight up off one mogul, flying through the air and landing on the back side of another a little way down the hill, whooping with glee as they went!

It's the third year running we've been to the area and although variety is great, I can't really imagine choosing anywhere else in preference to it when the time comes to book next year's main ski holiday. I just hope next time we get the powder I so desperately crave.  Laws of probability say I should have had it long ago, but is hasn't happened yet...

Svend

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Re: 'All-mountain' skis and the occasional skier
« Reply #14 on: February 02, 2012, 05:47:49 pm »
Johnny, thanks for that! Sounds like an amazing area.  I would love to go to Italy for a ski trip.  Seeing the scenery in mags and on TV, it just looks idyllic.  So picturesque and quaint.  It would be fantastic to relax in a little village for a couple of weeks and soak up the culture and do some great skiing. 

Any plans to come over the pond and ski in Canada or the US? A lot of Brits seem to like it in Banff.  A lot! And even more seem to work there.  Can't go into a single shop or restaurant, or buy a lift ticket, or get on a chairlift in Banff without hearing a British, Australian or Kiwi accent.  Love it!

Cheers!

Johnny2R

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Re: 'All-mountain' skis and the occasional skier
« Reply #15 on: February 03, 2012, 12:18:25 pm »
I skied Lake Tahoe a lot when I worked in the Bay Area some years ago, and would love to go back there some time. Since then I've skied in Fernie and Red Mountain in Canada, both of which were good. I think I'd get a lot more out of Red Mountain now, as my skiing is a lot more proficient than it was then. I'd love to meet up with some PMTS guys, too - PMTS is pretty well unheard of over here in Europe.

Svend

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Re: 'All-mountain' skis and the occasional skier
« Reply #16 on: February 04, 2012, 12:58:39 pm »
I've heard good things about both Fernie and Red, but haven't skied either mountain yet.  Hope to get there soon.  Perhaps on one of my winter business trips to Calgary I'll take a weekend junket to Fernie, as it's only a few hours drive south. 

Let us know if you're planning on coming over here.  It'd be fun to swap ski stories over a pint or two....   8)

Cheers,
Svend