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Comparison Review 90-Something Demos at Big Sky

Tony S

I have a confusion to make ...
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I did a small handful of very quick demos at Big Sky on Friday. Only took one run on each ski, so these are just impressions.

  • 2019 Renoun Endurance 98 3rd Gen @ 168cm [Tricia's ski]
  • 2020 K2 Mindbender 88 Ti Alliance @ 170cm [Tricia's ski]
  • 2020 Blizzard Rustler 9 @ 172cm [demo tent]
  • 2020 Salomon QST / Lumen 99 @ 174cm [demo tent]

The Renoun totally rips on groomers. I happen to have spent a day on the 2019 Bonafide a month ago at Taos. The Endurance 98 reminds me a lot of that ski on edge, but it's both smoother and more amenable to varying turn shape in arc-to-arc skiing than the Bonafide, which obviously is no slouch itself. If the ungroomed snow hadn't been so amazing I would have taken an all-corduroy run just to wring this puppy out more thoroughly. I did not manage to find the sweet spot off-piste in just one ride. Need time to figure that out. It's possible that it was a too much of a charger ski for me in the immediately available light crud and easy bumps.

Tricia and I are BSL buddies. This is a good situation to be in. ogsmile She was on the Mindbender 88 Ti Alliance. After my run on the Renouns she asked if I wanted to swap. Hell yeah! I only had a few easy groomer turns on the K2s. They felt solid there, but not exciting. Again, it was only a handful of turns on a green pitch, so inconclusive. Most of my run on these was in lightly skied pow-coated bumps in a very open glade - Blue Room off of Ramcharger on Andesite, for those of you who know Big Sky. The Mindbender is way fun in these conditions. It's exceptionally predictable and smooth feeling in bumps. The tip shape and rocker profile was perfect for slicing through the light chop without the slightest sign of hookiness or abruptness. The flex pattern was super smooth and rewarding, with progressive gentle spring out of the troughs but no launch-time surprises. Tail release was like butter. Hard to imagine a better ego-building ski for soft bumps. If you can't learn to ski moguls on these, take up golf. Phil can attest to the size of the grin on my face after I took this run. Bottom line, if you have left screaming children behind at home, this is your ski.

It does strike me as probably better suited to western skiing, or for easterners who will bring it out mainly on soft days. Big skiers, the Mindbender 88 is probably not the best choice. Don't know if the unisex Mindbender 90 is substantially different in that regard. Phil? Tricia? If so, I want to get on that one, for sure.

Women who are looking at the Black Pearl: I have skied that ski (in past years) and prefer the quiet reassuring demeanor of the K2. To me, the Black Pearl has the liviler Blizzard feel but without the compensating chops of a ski like the Rustler (below), leaving it feeling just a bit skittish. You should try both.

Next up was the 2020 Rustler 9. I believe this ski is unchanged from 2019 except for the graphics. The pair of 172s the rep handed me appeared never to have been skied. The tune and the especially the wax job were stellar. No doubt this affected my impression of the ski, since pretty much every other ski I was on all week, including my own, had felt a little slow. Anyway, I think Blizzard may have made this ski especially for me. It's interesting to compare it with the Mindbender 88, since they are similar in length, width - recall that shorter lengths of the Rustler are 92mm wide - and intended use. The first thing you notice after moving from the K2 to the Blizzard is that the latter really wants to bite into the hill and hook up assertively at initiation, notwithstanding the generous tip rise. You can really go to town with SL arcs on these. It's got faster rebound than the K2, with decent pop out of the tail at the finish as long as you don't to hang on too long. (Tail rise, remember?) It favors short to medium turns. In the same bumps where I tested the Mindbender the Rustler was noticeably less idiot-proof, but equally fun in a different way. Where the K2 was smooth the Blizzard was energetic: One is a shepherd; the other is a border collie. It definitely reveals what some skiers would call a "hooky" side in this environment. I decided to regard that as something to get used to, not to hate on, but YMMV. If I were lucky enough to be able to ski these perfect conditions and terrain all the time, I'd consider going with the K2. I'm guessing, though, that what sometimes seemed excessively edgy in Montana is going to be grippy and confidence-inspiring in Maine, where groomers are always on the menu. So the Rustler 9 is on my final-cut list.

Last ski I got on was the 2020 QST 99. Actually that ski was out. So Jordy at the Salomon tent put me on the Lumen 99 instead, @ 174cm. He attested that this was the same ski with the same construction as the QST, but a topsheet geared to selling to women. I had a longer run on this ski than on the others, by coincidence. I took it up Powder Seeker and into some deeper snow in the bowl before running choppy groomers back to the base. It's very damp and quite stiff, with a good bit of tip taper and rocker. Kind of reminded me of the original Cham series. On soft groomers and easy packed-down bumps it was fun enough. In deeper unconsolidated snow and also on packed groomers it seemed to insist on it's own turn natural radius as determined by the mold. I like a ski that I can bend into a turn a lot or a little, at will. The QST had a "my way or the highway" quality that did not speak to me. It also lacked snow feel, to my taste. It would be a good ski for heavier or more powerful skiers who like a lot of dampness to try.
 
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nemesis256

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The K2 Mindbender 88 Ti Alliance is aimed towards women, correct? How does it compare to the Pinnacle 88 or 95, which I find quite similar to Kastle FX85?

I find it interesting you didn't like the QST 99 much. I have no idea how different it is from the QST 92, which I skied for 2 days at Snowbasin a month ago. I found it had a good balance between being able to plow through chop and ease of making turns. The QST 92 I was on was the 2018 model.
 

Philpug

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The K2 Mindbender 88 Ti Alliance is aimed towards women, correct? How does it compare to the Pinnacle 88 or 95, which I find quite similar to Kastle FX85?

I find it interesting you didn't like the QST 99 much. I have no idea how different it is from the QST 92, which I skied for 2 days at Snowbasin a month ago. I found it had a good balance between being able to plow through chop and ease of making turns. The QST 92 I was on was the 2018 model.

The QST for this year has a similar shape with a much different construction, they restructured the wood layup and replaced the light weight Koroyd in the tip with a heavier and significantly damper cork.
 
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Tony S

Tony S

I have a confusion to make ...
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The K2 Mindbender 88 Ti Alliance is aimed towards women, correct? How does it compare to the Pinnacle 88 or 95, which I find quite similar to Kastle FX85?

Unfortunately I haven't been on the Pinnacles. The Mindbender 88 and the FX 85 are indeed similar in many ways. I did not ski them back to back, though. I'd venture to say that the K2 is a smidge lighter and damper, and maybe a bit softer at the extremities. The Kästle might have a bit more immediate snow feel. Again, they're similar and I'm probably reaching.
 

EricG

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The Renoun Endurance 98 sounds great. Kinda like a more refined Bonafide.
 

FairToMiddlin

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Fantastic reviews, unvarnished and direct. You had me at 'amenable', dog references (we end up relating skis to cars a lot, well done), and glad to see you got on the Rustler 9 at last, I had that one earmarked for you in my head.

Agree on the QST not wanting to negotiate with you on the turn shape, they seem to have a picture in their head for how the run will go, not quite "the customer is always right."
 

Ron

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well done sir! I have to say I really liked the QST though. I have always thought the QST line as more drift, less carve with a decidedly off-piste, soft snow bias. I liked the new feel a lot and felt they engaged better on the groomed.
 
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lisamamot

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So the Rustler 9 is on my final-cut list.

Love my Sheeva 9 172 - my daily driver in New England and is what I brought to Big Sky. Nice to hear you loved the Rustler 9. I have been told it is only a top sheet difference between the Sheeva and the Rustler....but I am told a lot of things, lol.
 

Dean

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Love my Sheeva 9 172 - my daily driver in New England and is what I brought to Big Sky. Nice to hear you loved the Rustler 9. I have been told it is only a top sheet difference between the Sheeva and the Rustler....but I am told a lot of things, lol.
I also tried rustler 9 and liked them (thanks for the suggestion). Although, I liked all the skis I demoed, including the Enforcer and Kenja/kendo in similar sizes. Wish I had the skill set and experience to put a finer point on "liked." The enforcer was a little longer and I wasn't quite as comfortable in the bumps and glades (not sure if it was all I n my head). I think the well tuned skis they had made a big difference.

The "demo" skis from the shop weren't in as a good a shape. QST and brahma are out. Kore was decent. Wish they'd had the pinnacles - liked them at Taos (they were well tuned).
 

Teppaz

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The QST for this year has a similar shape with a much different construction, they restructured the wood layup and replaced the light weight Koroyd in the tip with a heavier and significantly damper cork.
Does it mean this will compromise some of the nimbleness? I demo'ed the 2018 version (same as 2019 except for topsheet) and enjoyed it tremendously.
 

Ken_R

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Does it mean this will compromise some of the nimbleness? I demo'ed the 2018 version (same as 2019 except for topsheet) and enjoyed it tremendously.

A tad but not much. The stability and dampness increase is worth the slight reduction in maneuverability. It is still a pretty nimble ski still.
 

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