Cage Match Comparison 2017 Masters and Beer League GS Skis

ScotsSkier

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Here is a breakdown of Masters skis for 2017; let the gate-crashing begin!

Peterson-ScotsSkier.jpg
@Dave Petersen Artwork​

For those old f**ts like myself, it used to be that buying a race ski was pretty easy: you could get a slalom or a GS version of the top-of-the-line race ski, and that was it. Sometimes the GS and SL would have different nomenclatures like the Rossi - Roc550 (GS)/ST650 (SL). The race ski was the standard choice for top-class and wannabe skiers; you went for the Rossi Roc550/ST650, Blizzard Firebird, Kästle RX, Fischer RC4, Völkl P9, K2 Comp etc.

Well, somewhere along the line, as all-mountain skis started to become more prevalent as a first choice, the premium race ski started to become a more specialized tool and seen as less user-friendly. Europe always kept a greater percentage of sales in race skis, but in the United States, sales other than to hard-core racers dropped pretty severely.

However, that does not mean there is not still a market for race/race-lookalike skis; in fact, it is actually starting to see some growth again. I would broadly categorize the segments as follows:
  1. With the much greater prevalence of quivers, more skiers are realizing that a GS "race"/lookalike ski is a great tool to have for fun, hard pack etc., even if they never venture into gates of any description.
  2. Battalions of beer league and Nastar skiers want a race ski that is useable without necessarily demanding an extreme level of skills, where gate spacing may be 15 to 20 m rather than the 23 to 30 m common to FIS and USSA.
  3. For Masters racers -- where courses are normally longer, faster, and set to USSA/FIS specs -- there is also a demand for skis that still give the stability and edgehold of real FIS/race stock skis but that are a bit less demanding than, say, a full-blown 35m FIS GS ski, particularly for less-experienced and older racers. (Note, as I have advocated often in the past, for more experienced Masters racers, the women’s 30m FIS GS ski makes a really good option, but that is a subject for a different thread; plus, there can be a lot of fear around bigger radii).
  4. In recent years, as FIS has changed the spec for GS skis to 195/35 (men) and 188/30 (women), we have also seen the emergence of yet another category, often called tweener skis. These are for U16 racers particularly who need to be on a longer and bigger-radius ski to meet regs and also to prepare them for moving to FIS level.
  5. FIS spec race stock skis.
As a result, there is now a veritable plethora of "race" skis out there, and very often in a manufacturer's range they may all look very similar! It can be pretty confusing for a newcomer to know what to select. As a Masters coach, I always dread when a new athlete joins my group proudly displaying his new race skis that he has just dropped a lot of cash on and I have to find some way of explaining diplomatically to him that, while it may say "race" on the top-sheet, it is not really up to the job and will not take him far in Masters racing. So what should we look for and what are some typical examples? For the purposes of this thread, we will not consider the FIS-level or tweener GS skis here but will come back to that in a future thread.


Category 1: Lookalike GS Race Skis

In this category you will typically find skis in the 16-20m radius. They will often go down to shorter length, even below 170 in some cases. Normally the binding will be an integrated or system binding shared with other all-mountain skis in the range. It may or may not have a race plate but this is typically a softer version of the real thing. Good examples in this category are...

17 Elan Masters.png
Elan GSX Fusion
Dimensions: 114-70-99
Radius:
  • 16.8m @ 170
  • 17.8m @ 176
  • 19.8m @ 182
  • 21.0m @ 186
Plate/binding system: Elan (Tyrolia) ELX14.0 Fusion

This is a great example of a lookalike/wannabe ski. It is geared more to all-around harder snow performance than any form of race use. And as such it can make a great tool for that. Sort of like buying a Chevy Monte Carlo and thinking you are driving a Nascar stocker. Best summed up by a reviewer elsewhere as follows: "As a Giant Slalom ski for civil use (out of competition), the Elan GSX Fusion is a bad ski. Awful. As an all-rounder to ski with, five or six hours non-stop, sailing through some bumps, going for a “walk” without any kind of ambition and pretending to spend a wonderful nice day not feeling tired at the end of it, the Elan GSX Fusion is a very good ski "
  • Who is it for? Those who want a more hard snow oriented ski than most of the 80mm all-mountain alternatives, or who want to be on a race-type ski but probably in a shorter length.
  • Who is it not for? Anyone who actually wants the feel of a proper GS ski.
  • Insider tip: There are probably better options out there unless you are a diehard Elan fan.

17 Fischer Masters.png
Fischer RC4 Worldcup RC
Dimensions: 115-68-97
Sizes offered: 165, 170, 175, 180, 185
Radius: [email protected] cm
Plate-binding system: Fischer (Tyrolia) Z12

This is effectively the entry-level ski in the Fischer civilian race line. It demonstrates a lot of the characteristic hard snow grip and lively performance that is synonymous with Fischer race skis. While it is still user-friendly enough to be used as an all-around hard-snow ski, it could equally well be used and compared with skis in Category 2, beer league and Nastar.
  • Who is it for? Those who will appreciate a ski that rewards tip pressure and can hold its own on more demanding hard-pack situations. Occasional (or even more frequent) forays into beer league and Nastar courses.
  • Who is it not for? The skier who is less comfortable driving turn initiation through angulation and tip pressure.
  • Insider tip: Not a bad choice for someone who likes to lay down bigger-radius turns and tackle gates occasionally, but who doesn't want a full-blown race ski.


Category 2: Beer League and Nastar Skis


In this class, we are starting to get into something more resembling a race ski. We start to see bindings that, while they may still be an integral part of the package, are more closely related to a proper race binding. The plates are also starting to be more in line with higher-spec race plates. Skis in this category work well for the more active beer league or Nastar racer while still providing enough flexibility to be used as a hard-snow ski.

17 Atomic GS.png
Atomic Redster DoubleDeck 3.0 GS
Dimensions: scaled
Radius:
  • 16.9-15.9-15m @ 166 (113.5-71-99)
  • 17.5-16.5-15m @ 172 (115-71-100.5)
  • 18-17-16m @ 178 (116.5-71-102)
  • 18.5-17.5-17m @ 184 (118-71-103.5)
Plate/binding system: Atomic X12 TL/DoubleDeck 3.0

A good example of where Atomic's racing heritage and experience has trickled down to its detuned race ski category, the plate and DoubleDeck 3.0 technology is not far removed from their FIS stablemates. Also, like the FIS skis, has a modicum of tip rocker to support turn initiation. A ski that will reward strong modern technique and has grip approaching real race ski levels without being as demanding. A bit more progressive in turn initiation than the more hair-trigger hook up often exhibited by the FIS ski. Provides a good balance of race performance and big high-speed piste performance.
  • Who is it for? Those at the stronger end of the spectrum who want a race or groomer ski.
  • Who is it not for? Someone not willing to drive a race type ski.
  • Insider tip: More versatile than you might think, this ski can also be a good choice for a beginner Masters racer.
17 Head Masters.png
Head World Cup Rebel iSpeed
Dimensions: scaled
Radius:
  • 15.1m @165 (117-67-98)
  • 16.1m @ 170 (118-67-98)
  • 17.0m @ 175 (118-67-99)
  • 18.0m @ 180 (119-68-99)
  • 18.9m @ 185 (120-68-100)
Plate: Race Plate EVO
Binding (optional): Freeflex EVO 14

Head's offering in this category, the Head World Cup Rebel i.Speed "is a powerful, non-FIS Legal GS race ski for rec league racers, high schoolers, and NASTAR champs." Construction, features, and materials closely resemble the real-deal RD race skis providing effectively a detuned, smaller-radius ski for lower-level racing. Note also that the waist width here drops below 70 mm (into what a purist might expect of a race ski!). The plate, predrilled for any of the Freeflex binding range, is softer than the FIS version. All this makes the Head a very useful weapon for skiers looking to race at a beer league/Nastar level as well as just rip GS turns on hardpack and groomers. Contrary to some of the memes out there, the Head is NOT some super-stiff stick requiring a huge degree of muscle to drive. It does manage to combine a softer flex with good torsional rigidity, making it suited to lighter skiers as well as those carrying a few more pounds. Like the Atomic, it is another great example of building on the company's strong race heritage.
  • Who is it for? Skiers who want to appreciate the finesse and build of a real race ski without the concomitant demands while still having sufficient versatility to use as an everyday groomer ski.
  • Who is it not for? Those who do not appreciate the precision of a sub-70-waist race ski.
  • Insider tip: Works equally well across a wide weight range. Don’t be afraid!


It is important to note that although I have placed both of these skis in Category 2, they are both strong contenders for Category 3. Indeed both skis are commonly seen as a choice for beginning and/or older or lighter Masters racers. Their slightly lower radii could, for a more experienced or stronger racer, lead to taking a more direct, straighter line in a real GS course with of course the risk of hooking up too quickly without subtle edge control.

17 Völkl Masters.png
Völkl Racetiger Speedwall GS UVO
Dimensions: 116-70-98 (114-70-98 at 170)
Radius:
  • 17.9m @ 170
  • 17.9m @ 175
  • 19.1m @ 180
  • 20.3m @ 185
Plate-binding system: rMotion2 12.0 D Race or rMotion2 16.0 D Race

Völkl's entry in this category features the UVO vibration dampener found on their FIS skis and an integrated Marker plate and binding system. Compared to the other 2 contenders here, the Völkl, excepting the 185 version, tends to lag slightly in top end performance but more than makes up for it in user friendliness. Excellent in smooth turn initiation like Völkl's FIS race models.
  • Who is it for? Those looking for a ski in this category with a bent more to all-round use than a pure race focus, lighter-weight skiers.
  • Who is it not for? Those focused more on pure race performance.
  • Insider tip: Could equally be considered as a strong contender in Category 1.


Category 3: Masters Race Skis


In this segment we start to see radii more converging to real GS race skis, into the 20+ range. Race plates and bindings are the same as the FIS siblings. For the most part these are typically ~ 70mm waist width, giving a slightly wider platform than a mid 60s GS race ski but from some Companies their "masters" ski is simply a retread of the dimensions of the previous generation FIS ski. Make no mistake, these are definitely real race tools though.

17 Blizzard Masters.png
17 Nordica Masters.png
Blizzard WRC Racing/Nordica GSR
Dimensions: scaled
Sizes:
  • 167 (115-71-99.5)
  • 176 (115-71-99.9)
  • 182 (115-71-100)
  • 186 (115-71-100)
Radius: [email protected] cm
Plate: Marker WC Piston Control Interface
Binding (optional): Marker X-Cell 12.0, Marker X-Cell 16.0

I must admit to some bias here, having been successfully racing on Blizzard FIS GS skis for several seasons now! The Blizz/Nordi twins continue the themes found in their FIS race skis. While in this iteration they are more user friendly than their upper-level siblings, they are still on the firmer end of the spectrum. The construction mirrors the full-sidewall FIS ski and they use the marker WC piston plate (IMHO probably the best plate out there). These skis will respond and perform in direct proportion to the skill and input of the user. They will provide the level of performance required to compete in a real USSA/FIS GS course for a Masters racer while being a little more user friendly than the 30/35m FIS versions. THE WRC RACING IS THE ULTIMATE BEER LEAGUE OR MASTERSY GS FEEL. IT WILL ALLOW
  • Who is it for? A stronger or more experienced Masters racer who can properly drive the ski.
  • Who is it not for? The less dynamic skier who will not give it maximum attack.
  • Insider tip: If you are prepared to get on board and drive it this ski, it can get you on or near the podium. You can also use the older Marker Comp binding (I recommend the Comp20).

17 Dynastar Masters.png
17 Rossi Masters.png
Dynastar Speed WC Master/Rossignol Hero Master
Dimensions: scaled
Radius:
  • 16m @ 170 (116-70-98)
  • 18m @ 175 (116-70-98)
  • 21m @ 180 (114-71-97)
  • 23m @ 185 (113-71-96)
Plate: R21 World Cup
Binding (optional): SPX 12 Rockerace, SPX 14 Rockerace

Rossignol was the first to the party and blazed the way with skis in this category. The Hero Master is one of the most popular skis with Masters racers -- and deservedly so. Featuring real-deal World Cup race room construction with tip rocker and the R21 race plate, it provides a strong platform for Masters. While it will perform well for experienced racers, it will also support and enhance the performance of lesser-skilled mortals. Rossi was one of the first companies to use rocker technology in its race skis, and it continues here. Personally, I feel it is perhaps overdone here as I got that slightly loose feeling from the tip ,but I must stress my view is certainly an outlier with regard to this ski!
  • Who is it for? Masters racers of all skill levels; non-racers looking for a shade more top-end performance than the Rossi LT sibling.
  • Who is it not for? Skiers who do not want to enjoy top-level groomer performance.
  • Insider tip: Supports a wide range of skill and experience levels; can take you from first-time racer to podium level.
 

Muleski

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Oh lawd how I want to get me a multi-event ski like the Stöckli SX (non-FIS, of course).
One of my skis, which I almost never mention, is a 191cm Stöckli SX, prepped and set up for a Canadian WC SX skier. Skied in by his tech, and never skied to train or race. The following season he moved to a 193cm, slightly different tip, same layup. The ski is not a production a ski. Could never buy one. So I don't post about it.

Remarkably awesome ski. Easy to ski, dives right into a turn, holds it, and is incredibly damp. Sucks up anything for terrain. And beautifully built.
Trying so hard to convince one of my two offspring in the ski business to align with Stöckli, as that is how we get our skis! Don't see that on the horizon.

I've had a few Stöckli's going back close to 15 years, and rarely do they miss on any of their skis. They also last....for a ton of ski days!
 

Lorenzzo

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Oh lawd how I want to get me a multi-event ski like the Stöckli SX (non-FIS, of course).
One of my skis, which I almost never mention, is a 191cm Stöckli SX, prepped and set up for a Canadian WC SX skier. Skied in by his tech, and never skied to train or race. The following season he moved to a 193cm, slightly different tip, same layup. The ski is not a production a ski. Could never buy one. So I don't post about it.

Remarkably awesome ski. Easy to ski, dives right into a turn, holds it, and is incredibly damp. Sucks up anything for terrain. And beautifully built.
Trying so hard to convince one of my two offspring in the ski business to align with Stöckli, as that is how we get our skis! Don't see that on the horizon.

I've had a few Stöckli's going back close to 15 years, and rarely do they miss on any of their skis. They also last....for a ton of ski days!

I've got the FIS version of the SX in 185. Agree...remarkably awesome ski.

And great article, SS.
 
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Philpug

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I've got the FIS version of the SX in 185. Agree...remarkably awesome ski.

And great article, SS.
That Stöckli SX is truly a special ski. There are few skis out there that than slow down time, that is one of them. I skied the 191 which was way too much ski for me, I would love to try your 185's.
 

razie

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I second the Fischers - review is bang on. Got the 2015 I believe - had a 175cm last season, can make a great all around hard snow ski and is surprisingly stable in a course - close to the 25m "real" masters - of course, until it bends... Liked it so much I got the 185 for this season for the pretend 20-odd m "race" courses... common around here.
 

Mendieta

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One of my skis, which I almost never mention, is a 191cm Stöckli SX, prepped and set up for a Canadian WC SX skier. Skied in by his tech, and never skied to train or race. The following season he moved to a 193cm, slightly different tip, same layup. The ski is not a production a ski. Could never buy one. So I don't post about it.

Remarkably awesome ski. Easy to ski, dives right into a turn, holds it, and is incredibly damp. Sucks up anything for terrain. And beautifully built.
Trying so hard to convince one of my two offspring in the ski business to align with Stöckli, as that is how we get our skis! Don't see that on the horizon.

I've had a few Stöckli's going back close to 15 years, and rarely do they miss on any of their skis. They also last....for a ton of ski days!
Pics, please, picssss :)

:useless:
 

Muleski

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Pics, please, picssss :)

:useless:
Sorry, they are about 2000 miles away from me right now. That would be kind of hard. I also tend to go under the radar on stuff like this. If I post a pic, will be pretty clear where they came from! I don't think Stöckli made them for me, haha!
 
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TS
ScotsSkier

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For those with an interest in the Stöckli SX, here is a review I did previously of the 2015 190

Stöckli Laser SX 190 >27

Not being totally au fait with the Stöckli line-up I believe this is intended as the "supercross ski". It uses the dimensions of the previous men’s FIS [email protected] 190, >27. Looking at it it is a big beefy ski, with a lot of metal in it (SJ or PP can perhaps verify but IIRC it has an extra layer in it?). I will be honest and say I was actually wondering to myself if I was big/strong enough to drive this ski???!!! but, no way out now! Fortunately snow was still hard but hill was getting busy, there must have ben at least 10 people spread over the mountain! . So onto the test route and point them down, hoping I could bend them and turn them. First surprise. They moved into the turn easily without having to make any exaggerated movements!. Second surprise: I was comfortably driving them back and fore across the hill in big GS and SG turns! OK, lets see what happens when you point them down - now all that metal works for its living and really lets the ski ride over mini death cookies, groomer tracks etc. withy ease!. A veritable freight train but unlike a freight train, and amazingly given the beefy construction, I could still change direction easily and adjust my line as required. Almost made me feel like I would be capable of running the Rahlves Banzai if I was on these! Amazingly easy to ski as well, not at all the hard work I had thought they might be. If you want to really rip high-speed groomers, run a banzai/supercross course and are less concerned about running gates, this is the ski to aspire to. I didn’t get the chance to take it into the course but my feel was that, despite the smaller radius, I would have to work a bit harder to make the gates on this than on the 188/30m FIS ski YMMV.
 

Lorenzzo

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That Stöckli SX is truly a special ski. There are few skis out there that than slow down time, that is one of them. I skied the 191 which was way too much ski for me, I would love to try your 185's.
Sure...worse ways to spend a day. The 185 is 23m so works well as a rec ski as well as masters racer.

This year the SX, and for that matter the AX, get the new turtle shell technology. If they can improve on those skis I've gotta at least try them. My ideal 3 ski quiver would be those two and some powder ski or two.

As Muleski alluded to, another aspect of St is they use a patented bonding process which gives the skis a really long life.

Sorry for the mini-jack.
 

Brian Finch

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I'll weigh in on the Head i.speed comments. I ski it in a 180cm. I'm about 200 lbs. My brother skis the same ski at 160 lbs.

SS's comments are, IMO, spot on with the ski.

Nice work!
I was only able to ski this in the 170 & 175 (I think) - SS's got it dialed. I would have loved to skied the 180; the shorted lengths had a speed limit that would prohibit me thinking of doing anymore than Nastar on em.
 

eok

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Head's World Cup Rebels i.Speeds have got my attention. But I noticed they also offer the World Cup Rebels i.Race. I think the i.Race is a couple mm wider underfoot and seems to have a somewhat smaller turn radius. Not sure if there are differences in binding options between the two.

So I'm guessing the i.Speed is more a civilian GS ski & the i.Race is more SL oriented? I am definitely interested in the differences between the two.
 

markojp

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Looks like we're only a couple weeks away from skiing the iSpeed Pro... the iSpeed with RD construction and WC plate. There are a few pairs in the States, but by and large it's a Euro product. It's going to be interesting. And agree 100% with the thoughts on the Hero Master and Blizzard WRC. Both lovely skis.
 
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Cheizz

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What's the theory behing the fact that many Beer League and other high-end piste skis are mainly targeted (and sold) in Europe and less in the US/Canada? Is it our love for groomer skiing (everything off-pist is considered back-country, even within the boundary)? Or is it that in North Amareica, 88 mm underfoot is - by some - considered a 'narrow ski'?

Any theories? Actual strategies perhaps? I never really went in to the business side of things... this seems like a good question to start off with.
 

Tony S

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What's the theory behing the fact that many Beer League and other high-end piste skis are mainly targeted (and sold) in Europe and less in the US/Canada? Is it our love for groomer skiing (everything off-pist is considered back-country, even within the boundary)? Or is it that in North Amareica, 88 mm underfoot is - by some - considered a 'narrow ski'?

Any theories? Actual strategies perhaps? I never really went in to the business side of things... this seems like a good question to start off with.
:popcorn:
 
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