Philpug

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When you can't afford a premium ski - 2017 b.jpg


Many of us have champagne tastes and beer budgets. It is nothing to be ashamed of; sometimes there are limitations in the budget, and trust me, we don’t judge. Don’t fret, hold your head high, because we are going to show you some great options to some of the popular premium models from each brand. Sure, you may make a slight compromise in performance or refinement, but you will also see up to a 50% savings in price, and for many that is a fair trade. That said, this is not to question the value of any of the premiums, because every one is worth the price of admission.

Here are some of the more popular alternatives:

This was a tough one. The Stöckli Laser AX is a unique ski. At 77 underfoot, you might think it is very biased to hard snow, but its unique forebody and gradual tip rise bring unmatched versatility to the table. I used to say that the AX was the best K2 Recon ever produced: if you gave a manufacturer an unlimited budget to build the ultimate Recon, you would get the Laser AX. That isn't a knock or even a backhanded compliment; it is praise for the AX (and the Recon, one of the most unappreciated skis ever). The Recon … err, AX is such an unassuming ski, one with a tremendous upside, yet it is so deceptively easy to ski.

So, if you cannot afford the Laser AX, what is the best alternative? First, there are no similar flat or systemless skis in this range, which means we need to look for something with a binding. Which ski in this range has the biggest sweet spot and a huge performance upside? We concluded that the Fischer Curv GT was about the closest mortally priced option. What we like about the Curv that most other skis in this class are missing (and something the AX has in spades) is low-speed performance. Good ski instructors want you to be able to do drills at slower speeds, because speed can mask mistakes. Both of these skis perform as well at slower speeds as they do at mach schnell.​
  • What are you keeping? Solid hard-snow performance.
  • What are you losing? Binding options and a bit of versatility, with the loss of the gradual tip and rounded tail.
  • Alternatives: Atomic Vantage X 80 CTi, Dynastar Speed Zone 12, Head Supershape i.Rally, K2 Super Charger.

The Kästle MX84 and MX89 have long been reference skis in their classes -- and deservedly so, they are so smooth on snow. They bely their dimensions: on firmer snow, they feel narrower than they are, and in soft snow, they feel wider and more floaty. So, how do you get all this and not break the bank? Well, you look to Head, the brand that lends part of its factory to Kästle. The Monster 83 and 88, respectively, are the every-skier's versions of the two Kästle thoroughbreds. Ever since the introduction of these Monsters, I have said that you are getting 90% of the performance for 50% of the price. Yes, the Kästles are worth the premium, but not everyone can afford the difference.
  • What are you keeping? Solid, damp Euro feel.
  • What are you losing? Very little; the Kästles with their wider shovel and elongated sidecut are an nth degree better in mixed conditions.
  • Alternatives: Blizzard Brahma, Fischer Pro MTN 86TI, Völkl Kendo.

The Renoun Z-90 has been a darling of Pugski since we first tested it. No, we are not going to find another ski as smooth and connected to the snow, but we do have a couple of options with a similar turn shape. The Rossignol Experience 88 (and Temptation 88 for the women) lays out a really nice C-shaped turn, and with the Air Tip, the ski stays smooth on the snow. The Head Total Joy is another ski that comes to mind as a viable option; it is the closest to the Z-90 in shape even with its light weight.
  • What are you keeping? The ability to make pure C-shaped turns without losing the versatility of a 90-ish-waisted ski.
  • What are you are losing? HDT, it works. The Renoun has an on-snow feel that is not achieved anywhere else.
  • Alternatives: Fischer Pro MTN 86TI, Head Monster 88.

The DPS Alchemist Wailer 106 is leagues above the Pure 3 collection it replaced. The Alchemist is everything you wanted from the Pure: it is just as light and stable but not as “noisy.” DPS was always able to maximize the efficiency of the carbon but now has quieted it down. If you want to save some money and are willing to give up some of the weight savings, I am going to suggest the little brother of the Alchemist, the Foundation version of the Wailer 106. I actually like it a little better than the Alchemist version for its warmer, carbonless feel on snow, and it is a great $aving$, especially if uphill performance is not a priority.
  • What are you keeping? An independent boutique brand.
  • What are you losing? A bit of uphill performance and the added lightness of the Alchemist.
  • Alternatives: Armada Tracer 108, Dynastar Legend X106, Head Kore 105, K2 Pinnacle 105, Rossignol Soul 7 HD, Salomon QST 106.
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If there is a ski that you would like an alternative for, please feel free to post it.
 

nemesis256

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Great post!

I would be curious to know what you think is an alternative of the FX85. What else is crazy easy to turn besides these?
 

Tom K.

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OK, I'll play, although I don't really subscribe to the whole "premium" category idea.

Nordica GT84 as an alternative to the Stöckli. Though I've skied neither, many tests score the GT higher. Personally, I'm totally stoked on my choice for the category, the Head Titan.

Kastle: It's been so long since I've been on the 84 or 89, I can't even remember which it was, so take it with a grain of salt.....but I found them a little dead at lower speeds. Overall, I prefer my now-pretty-tired Motive 95s.

DPS: I got nothing here. No experience on this brand, ever.
 

Erik Timmerman

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Great post!

I would be curious to know what you think is an alternative of the FX85. What else is crazy easy to turn besides these?

I skied a Dynastar last year that would match up well to that. Maybe Phil can think of it, it's mostly black with green and yellow.
 
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Philpug

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Great post!

I would be curious to know what you think is an alternative of the FX85. What else is crazy easy to turn besides these?

I skied a Dynastar last year that would match up well to that. Maybe Phil can think of it, it's mostly black with green and yellow.
@epic eludes to the Dynastar PowerTrack 84/89 as alternatives to the FX and I will concur, the new Legend X 88 would also be that alternative...to the FX85, I will also add the Nordica Navigator 85/90 and the K2 Pinnacle 88. @SBrown mentions the Armada Invictus 89Ti, that is the value option of the FX85 HP.
 
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Philpug

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Nordica GT84 as an alternative to the Stöckli. Though I've skied neither, many tests score the GT higher. Personally, I'm totally stoked on my choice for the category, the Head Titan.
Just because both skis rated very well, infact our testers also liked both skis, they are different feels on the snow. Quite frankly I didn't see the similarities from when I skied them. The Head Titan you are on is a great ski but with the iRally being 76 underfoort and the AX being 77, I felt that was a closer comparison.
 

Choucas

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A worthy exercise and some worthy alternatives to the AX. After spending more than a few years buying skis that were almost a good as the category leader in the interest of saving a few bucks, I've come to my senses and just bought the benchmark ski. The AX is indeed all it's cracked up to be. If I had it to do all over again, I would do exactly what I did, but do it sooner.
 
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Philpug

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What about the blossom whiteout as a beer priced boutique option to boutiques skis (especially the laser AX)?
With numerous attempts to contact them directly with no reply, I wasn't sure if they were still available. But it is surely an alternative to the AX, similar quality at a bargain price.
 

flbufl

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Haha, that is how those small Italian ski companies work.

But it is still easy to get blossom skis in US. I think I mentioned in another thread before. At least 3 options:
  1. Ascente Skis. They are the US partner of Blossom Skis. Blossom makes mogul skis for them.
  2. Canadian A.B.C in Montreal. For some reason the prices they listed on eBay is lower than what they listed on their website.
  3. PremierSkis in Seattle.
Basically you can get the Blossom Whiteout/Wind Shear flat at around $650-750.

PS: I just remembered last year I tried to ask the edge angles of their skis. They actually replied very quickly. I just checked my emails. Mario Moro (moro.mario(at)me.com) replied to me.


With numerous attempts to contact them directly with no reply, I wasn't sure if they were still available. But it is surely an alternative to the AX, similar quality at a bargain price.
 

John Baumer

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Blossom Skis can be purchased through eBay. I'm pretty sure that when you "Buy it now" , you are dealing with a Blossom rep located in Canada. The guys name is Gennaro. Expect around four weeks delivery time. IMO when the order is placed they build you a set in Italy and ship them to Canada, then send them to you in the U.S. Don't be surprised if they get a customs hold when entering the U.S. I bought the 182 Blossom White Out, they were a replacement for my 183 Stöckli Laser ARs. The AR was the predecessor to the AX, same dimensions but different construction apparently. I bought mine in Feb, of last season and got them in time for the late season. I would love to compare them to the latest version of the AX and see if my experience is similar to the folks over at PMTS. I can say that the Whiteout is a very similar feeling ski to the Stöckli Laser AR, but quite notably better in all respects. The Whiteout is VERY smooth, more playful and quite imperturbable in mixed conditions. I had a surprising experience with them in post thaw sugar conditions, as they seemed to have the right combination of edge grip and width to do some fairly high edge angle carving. They are an extremely nice ski! As for cost, I believe I paid about $525 flat and a set of Tyrolia / Head 14 DINs cost another $175.00. So yes, this is one of the finest skis on the earth for a "bargain" price IMO.
 
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Philpug

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Blossom Skis can be purchased through eBay. I'm pretty sure that when you "Buy it now" , you are dealing with a Blossom rep located in Canada. The guys name is Gennaro. Expect around four weeks delivery time. IMO when the order is placed they build you a set in Italy and ship them to Canada, then send them to you in the U.S. Don't be surprised if they get a customs hold when entering the U.S. I bought the 182 Blossom White Out, they were a replacement for my 183 Stöckli Laser ARs. The AR was the predecessor to the AX, same dimensions but different construction apparently. I bought mine in Feb, of last season and got them in time for the late season. I would love to compare them to the latest version of the AX and see if my experience is similar to the folks over at PMTS. I can say that the Whiteout is a very similar feeling ski to the Stöckli Laser AR, but quite notably better in all respects. The Whiteout is VERY smooth, more playful and quite imperturbable in mixed conditions. I had a surprising experience with them in post thaw sugar conditions, as they seemed to have the right combination of edge grip and width to do some fairly high edge angle carving. They are an extremely nice ski! As for cost, I believe I paid about $525 flat and a set of Tyrolia / Head 14 DINs cost another $175.00. So yes, this is one of the finest skis on the earth for a "bargain" price IMO.
I was trying to keep an "apples to apples" comparison, comparing regular priced skis to a discounted import really isn't what this article is about. If that was the case I could have also brought in blemishes and closeouts from Ebay. I do agree that the Blossoms are great skis, any ski that comes out of the Panotti factory is world class. As I said previously, I have tried numerous times to reach out to the US distributor for Blossom, with no reply. I really feel we could have set up a great marketing program for them.
 

Uncle-A

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Why is it always the Z 90 what about the Z 77 comparisons and yes I do know that there is a thread about Z 77's but not talked about here with a more reasonable price option.

BTW in fashion the higher price option is marketed at the aspirational shopper like all the designer brands with the little logo on the garment. How do we really know that it is not just marketing and ego we are feeding. If we painted over all the logo stuff could we really tell???
 
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Philpug

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They make great skis, their customers are enthusiastic, but the business end seems dysfunctional.

HEAVEN is where:
The police are British
The chefs Italian
The mechanics are German
The lovers are French
and it's all organized by the Swiss

HELL is where:
The police are German
The chefs are British
The mechanics are French
The lovers are Swiss
and it's all organized by the Italians!!

We are in ski HELL with Blossom (Blossom is Italian). ;)
 

RJS

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Awesome to hear that the Rossignol Experience 88's share a turning style and versatility with the Z-90's, albeit without the dampening properties of HDT. I was considering going for the Z-90's, but ended up getting the Experience 88's and the Enforcer 110's instead. I am very much enjoying the Experience 88's so far, they carve beautifully and with such ease, and are comfortable doing both short and long radius turns. At 88 underfoot, they are just versatile enough to be fun in a bit of fresh snow or a couple of runs through the trees. I have no doubt that the Z-90's are more capable. They are on my radar, I would not be surprised if I go for the Renouns down the road after I wear out the Rossignols.
 
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