Ski Magazine Buyers Guide
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johnfmh - DCSki Columnist
August 11, 2003
Member since 07/18/2001
1,914 posts
I just got my Buyer's Guide in the mail and was contemplating the best ski for the Mid-Atlantic skier.

The All Mountain Expert Category strikes me as overkill for this region. On the other hand, skiers from DC/Baltimore who make 2-3 trips out west in a season might want such a ski.

All Mountain Cruiser seems like a better category for our neck of the woods. It will function well at any East Coast resort and if you go West or to Europe and hit an epic powder day, you can always rent something wider.

Has anyone been thinking about equipment lately? What are your thoughts? I like the offerings from Head/Volkl/Atomic in the ACR category, but I really need to test drive the skis before I make a decision. Has anyone skied the Atomic RX-11?

[This message has been edited by johnfmh (edited 08-11-2003).]

Otto
August 11, 2003
Member since 11/19/1999
176 posts
I am baffled by your conclusion that skis that Ski magazine classed as "All Mountain Expert" might not be appropriate for use here in the mid-atlantic.

However, don't be offended. I am equally baffled as to how not less than FIFTEEN skis won "Gold Medals" in that category.

What does this "All Mountain Expert" category mean anyway?

How about "SPME" skis. (Southeastern Pennsylvania Mountain Expert Skis). SPME Gold Medal Winners have these characteristics -

1. Good in the Rain
2. Good on ice you could read a newspaper through (aka "packed powder")
3. Good on "snow cone" frozen granular (aka "packed powder")
4. Able to levitate over rocks, grass and mud in mogul troughs (aka "packed powder - 12-36" base").
5. Self-filling bases (from skiing on "packed powder")
6. Self-filing edges (for staying upright on "packed powder")
7. Collision avoidance radar for intermediate trails on Saturday afternoons
(A former SKI magazine tester once remarked that navigating a trail at a well known PA resort was like skiing inside a pinball machine)
8. Force field to repel snowboarders and anything wearing blaze orange or camo..
7. Ability to reduce Bob Ryan to a smoking mass of scorched flesh each time he says: "Good News Everybody!!! Looks like were in for more unseasonably warm weather!"

I guess I could go on....

I don't know that you can assume that any of those fifteen "gold medal advertisers" skis would not be good here. Conventional wisdom would indicate that a ski with less sidecut and wide base underfoot might not be good on ice. However, some skis with those characteristics - which mean that they would have better "float" in whatever passes for frozen, groomed, rained on, refrozen packed powder out west - do fine out here.

Last years K2 Axis got wider underfoot but was still just as good for here as the previous year's model.

I know that this is much, much, much easier said than done, but - never buy any ski that you haven't skied on.

Short of that, get advice from good ski shop.

[This message has been edited by Otto (edited 08-11-2003).]

johnfmh - DCSki Columnist
August 11, 2003
Member since 07/18/2001
1,914 posts
Otto:

I currently ski on 188 CM Volkl G-31 Vertigo skis. You are right. With the exception of Shay's at Snowshoe and Off the Wall at Timberline on an ice day, they work great on Mid-Atlantic groomers and are also good when Url strikes and we get 8 wonderful inches of fresh lake effect at Timberline. Where I had problems with these skis was at Lech, Austria. They made me work too hard and I got tired. Would shorter, narrower skis make a difference???

[This message has been edited by johnfmh (edited 08-11-2003).]

Otto
August 11, 2003
Member since 11/19/1999
176 posts
Hmm... the Vertigo isn't the most tenacious Volkl out there, but it should have grip on ice.

What were the conditions at Lech? How tall are you and how much do you weigh? What kind of terrain do you ski? What kind of terrain do you consciously avoid? Are you aggressive and fearless? Sensibly moderate? Scared S**tless?

I skied last year on new skis that I loved. Skied every weekend but one at Liberty all year. Went to Whistler at the end of March and got my a** kicked the first two or three days there. I don't think it was my skis...

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PhysicsMan
August 12, 2003
Member since 11/20/2001
218 posts
In addition to the great questions that Otto asked:

1) What type of turns were tiring you out at Lech? Knuckle-dragging high speed carves, an endless series of pivoting / skidding turns to keep your speed down while staying in a narrow corridor (or in moguls).

2) What was the snow like in this particular incident (or other times this happens)? Smooth or cut-up? How steep? How crowded?

3) As Otto somewhat implied, might your problems there simply have been an issue of altitude, conditioning and/or much longer runs than you are used to?

4) Why do *you* think you got tired in Letch?

5) What don't you like about your present skis on Shey's? Might they be fine if they were shorter?

Tom / PM

PS - Otto: Your satire on the characteristics of "SPME" skis had me in stitches.

[This message has been edited by PhysicsMan (edited 08-12-2003).]

johnfmh - DCSki Columnist
August 12, 2003
Member since 07/18/2001
1,914 posts
I'm 6 feet tall and weigh 194. Conditions at Lech were ideal: 3 meters of new snow, but most trails were well-groomed. Where I often got tired was on a spectacular ski route called Madloch. This would rate double black in terms of steepness but it wasn't terribly bumpy because it was partially groomed. It's main challenge was its vertical-about 5,000 feet. Altitude was not a problem b/c the top elevation of that trail was only 2,800 meters (about 9,000 feet). Conditioning could have been a problem. Lech-Zurs have converted most of its lifts to high-speed, detachables and trams. Those fast lifts don't give you much time to rest.

I find that Volkl's work fine on groomers when I can go fast and make big GS turns. They also work great in deep snow. Where they are more work is when I need to slow down and make short radius turns on steeper, bumpier terrain. Lech limits lodging to 12,000 guests, so it was never terribly crowded, especially in the outer lying areas of resort such as Steinmahder and Zurs.

My reasoning for getting a shorter, narrower ski is that they will give me more endurance at places outside the Mid-Atlantic, where the lifts are faster and the trails, longer. This seems to be the message of the editors of Ski Magazine, but could it be all hype and no substance. The basic message of Ski is that no one should be skiing on skis longer than 182 cm.

I intend to demo quite a few skis over the next season to test this hypothesis. The All Mountain Cruiser type of ski seems a better fit for me than an All Mountain ski b/c I mainly stick to marked terrain, but only through testing will I really be able to answer the question...In the end, Volkl Supersport 6s may be the way to go. Hard to say....

[This message has been edited by johnfmh (edited 08-12-2003).]

Mike & Dawn
August 12, 2003
Member since 08/6/2003
4 posts
johnfmh,

I am not a ski technology expert, but I have always questioned whether SKI's buying guide should be taken seriously. I also question the value and relevance of their categories. The whole thing seems like product marketing to me which is not what a consumer magazine should be actively doing. Selling advertising is one thing but marketing under the guise of objective opinion is another. (Yeah, I knowthey all do it) I really miss Inside Tracks, it seemed pretty objective and had great info.

I have had some personal dealings with Peter Keelty and although I find him to be a somewhat pompous geek, his website technicalsupportforskiers.com has pretty good unbiased info and he also does personal consults over email or the phone. You have to be a member though ($20/year or so).

I have skied Volkl V3 carvers and now have Atomic 9.18s. They are always pimped by the mags as intermediate skis. I find that to be misleading as to their quality and utility for a good skier. I have also found them to be servicable and fun in shallow (<12")powder and crud (probably due to their wide shovel)and I ski out West every year. So for Mid-Atlantic skiing, I don't really see why the free-ride skis (eg Vertigos)would be the best choice.

Mike

johnfmh - DCSki Columnist
August 12, 2003
Member since 07/18/2001
1,914 posts
Mike:

What you are saying about the Buyer's Guide mirrors a discussion found here:

http://www.epicski.com/cgi-bin/ultimatebb.cgi?ubb=get_topic;f=2;t=004860

I take these guides with a grain of salt. I also take ski resort reviews with a grain of salt. I know a lot of what gets published in that magazine is connected with advertising. That's why I like to test ideas on forums like this one and Epicski. You get honest opinions from real people like you, Otto, and P/M. The web is a great equalizer. I trust you guys a lot more than a magazine review.

In defense of the magazines, they do have great pictures. Also, some of the writers are SUPERB. They may have to promote resorts that buy a lot of advertising space, but that does not make their writing less slick.. Nothing chases away boredom on a long plane ride like Ski Magazine.

Mike & Dawn
August 12, 2003
Member since 08/6/2003
4 posts
No question. I subscribe to them all, including Powder!

But that said, how do you (and others) find the categories are relevant to you and your skiing preferences and ability? But that's really beside the point of your original topic.

I was really drawn to the Vertigos of recent years, but I always thought they were overkill for the mid-atlantic. That ski really seemed to ski long; maybe the length was the source of your troubles in Lech. Have you taken them out west and tried deeper powder?

JohnL
August 12, 2003
Member since 01/6/2000
3,510 posts
IMO, the ski categories in the various ski mags are virtually worthless - I think it's a big mistake to only look at skis in only one category. If you are an experienced skier, don't waste any time determining what "category" you think you may fit into, just read the reviews of each ski. (Most people can probably safely ignore the extreme categories of race and beginner.) Fortunately, pro's/con's for each ski are listed, so you get a pretty good idea about the performance of the ski under different types of conditions, turn types, terrain, etc. The toughest thing is that you have to make a realistic assessment of what you want in a ski, realizing that no one ski does it all.

When it comes to buying a particular pair of skis, take everything that is said to you / you read about a particular ski with a very large grain of salt. This applies to ski mags, ski shop people, manufacturer's reps & web sites, discussion boards, fellow skiers, and even (sorry Otto) ski instructors. If you can, find out why someone recommends a particular ski (and length), how they ski, and what their particular experience is with the skis. As a stated in a previous post, I've had two different sales people from the same ski shop give drastically different recommendations on a set of skis.

Fortunately, with 4-5 pieces of input on a ski, a trend usually emerges.

Otto
August 12, 2003
Member since 11/19/1999
176 posts
I am really not much of a gear head. However, I can tell you one thing. For your weight, those Volkls are a tad long. That may explain a lot.

Do not embark on an epic voyage of self-flagellation for going a bit long. What you did in picking the length is what we have all been doing. You simply cannot believe that you should be on a ski as ridiculously short as a 183 or, dare I say it, a 177.

I think back on my long skiing career and fondly recall the old days when men were men and skis were long. My 207 cm Rossi 4SK's spring to mind. When I put those puppies in a ski rack everybody knew just what kind of stud they were dealing with!

Shaped skis came out, we were supposed to go shorter. But we refused to accept the ridiculous lengths that were suggested. I am 6 feet tall and a sprightly 230 lbs. So I skied the K2 Four at 198 (in part because K2 told me if I broke shorter ones I was on my own). I skied the K2 Mod X at 193. Last year I broke down and got the Axis XP in a 188 and nasty little pair of Rossi Slaloms in a 174.

I can tell you that those 198 Fours skied great, but they skied looooooooooooooooong. The Mod X's were also too long. If I wasn't such a lard-butt, the Axis XP's might be more fun in a 183. The Rossi's are just plain fun, except, paradoxically, I think they are too short in the bumps.

I was aghast to hear a Rossi person tell me to ski the Rossi in a 174. Nonetheless, I do, and they are just a blast out here. I didn't put em on once at Whistler, but they are a great ski and telepathically quick.

If the message from SKI magazine is to go short, its probably because we are happy to get on shaped skis but we take this new length stuff with a grain of salt. In my experience I probably ended up working way too hard on some of my shaped skis because I would always take the longer ski if told I was in the middle between two lengths.

I should have been more adventurous. After all, I still have a pair of 210 cm "Big Pink" Atomics from the neon days of the mid to late 80's. You can't buy a turn on those puppies, but they do like to go fast. Its a revelation to take them out nowadays. If I need to go long, they are just waiting for the call.

JohnL
August 12, 2003
Member since 01/6/2000
3,510 posts
Since we're on the topic of gear, my turn to get some input. Last year I decided on the Vokl Supersport 5 Star. Or some variation of that name (also called Supersport T50?); one ski mag called it the longest and most confusingly named ski line ever. The piston-motion binding system was apparently sold-out by September (!), so I decided to wait until the start of this season to buy.

Vokl has introduced a Supersport 6 Star this year (identical dimensions as the 5 Star but slightly more performance). I noticed this year that the 5 Star was now listed in the Aspiring Carver (?) category instead of one of the all-terrain/all-mountain categories. Mislabeling or different marketing strategy? Anyone with any info on the 5 Star versus 6 Star and last year's versus this year's models?

How about ski length? I'm 6'1, 190 lbs. As I recall, the sales person at Ski Chalet recommended the 175 cm length. The next size up is 182.

Unfortunately, given the popularity of the Vokls, I may have to decide this month.

Johnfmh, there may be a big jump from the Vokl Vertigo G-31's to the Supersport 6's. But that may be offset by the length differences.

[This message has been edited by JohnL (edited 08-12-2003).]

johnfmh - DCSki Columnist
August 12, 2003
Member since 07/18/2001
1,914 posts
Thanks a lot people for the information.

Otto, I think you got it right: length is my problem. I bought those skis 3 years ago without knowing much about shaped skis.

JohnL, having two sets of skis is indeed better than having one. I fully intend to keep the G31s, and they will still be used often--especially on snow days.

Here's my plan. I intend to rent demo skis on my destination trip and take my boots. This will give me an opportunity to try a lot of hardware out on tougher terrain than the Mid-Atlantic. It will also spare me from having to lug my skis through the airport.

When I get back, I'll then buy the skis I liked best.

In answer to JohnL's question, I did a search on www.epicski.com for Volkl Supersport 6 and came up with several discussion strands. You might check out those strands. I think the difference between those two skis has to do with the cores of the skis and their respective rigidity...

JohnL
August 13, 2003
Member since 01/6/2000
3,510 posts
John,

When engineering any system (skis included), the designers have to make trade-offs/strike a balance between competing factors. Unfortunately, stability at high speed and ease/quickness of turning in bumps are opposites. You simply can't get maximum performance in both categories in a single ski, so you have to chose what ratio of performance you want in each category. Fortunately, the bar is continually being raised by new technologies, so newer generations of GS skis may actually ski the bumps better than earlier generation "balanced" skis. My old "West Coast" skis were excellent high-speed crud busters but were definitely more work in the bumps and in tight spaces (compared to other skis I've tried). That didn't stop me from taking them anywhere (unfortunately that included skiing over a hidden rock outcropping), but the smile on my face wasn't as big in the bumps as they were elsewhere.

Unfortunately, hard snow grip and soft snow performance are another set of competing opposites. To hold on hard pack, a ski needs a fair amount of a lateral (torsional) stiffness. I've demo'ed skis out West that had amazing on trail performance but were just too stiff (for my skiing touch/tastes) for the off-piste powder, crud, & refried left-overs. The skis were Stokli's (rated very high by a lot of mags in the all-terrain category) - I'd definitely demo them before buying to see if you like them. One ski shop person thought I was right on in my evaluation, another thought I was nuts. So personal tastes matter...

Good crud-busting skis need a wider, heaftier shovel for pushing through snow and a wider mid-body for better float. These features are not conducive to a quick, easy turning ski. (I've had the tips of very light, easy to turn skis get deflected by snow formations in the deep stuff.)

Moral of the story: you need more weapons in your quiver. For a serious skier to maximize fun around DC and on vacations elsewhere, you probably need two sets of skis. And within each ski category, you need to assess what type of skiing you want to enjoy the most.

PhysicsMan
August 13, 2003
Member since 11/20/2001
218 posts
> ...It's main challenge was its vertical-about 5,000 feet...

Um, is there any chance your expectations might be set just a bit high if you expect to be doing laps on that run without getting tired? That's serious vertical you are talking about, partner.

> ...Where they are more work is when I need to slow down and make short radius turns on steeper, bumpier terrain.

I've got a couple of short radius carvers in my quiver: a 170 Atomic 9.16 (I'm pretty sure this was the predecessor to the SX 9 - same sidecut), and a *much* more beefy 184 Head xp100/IC200. Both have a measured 15 (+/- 0.5) meter sidecut radius, but the Head has a 123 mm shovel and is much heavier and stiffer, whereas the 9.16 has a 105-ish shovel.

The Atomics are great for short radius fully carved turns at low to moderate speeds, whereas the Heads can make the same short radius turns, but you have to be going much faster and really develop high edge angles, higher G's, etc.. Because of this, the Atomics take much less energy out of me (...nobody said that carving was low-energy...). Neither of these skis are particularly good in soft cut-up snow. They are way too skitterish. The skidding performance of the Atomic is NG, the IC200 is ok, but not spectacular compared to skis that are really good at skidding.

Continuing in the same direction (ie, towards energy-conserving skiing), my easiest pair of skis for skiing the steeps are my 173 k2 Enemy TT's. They are much wider underfoot (75 mm vs 65-68 mm for the previoius skis), have a 20 m sidecut radius, and can't carve low speed tight turns on their edges to save themselves, but they have such a low swing weight (and total weight) that going down a steep pitch with them is like effortless dancing if you go back to more skidded turns (ie, hop turns, etc.). They feel almost weightless on your feet. Of course, the problem is that once you get down to the runouts, they don't track all that well when straightlining (compared to even shorter radius hardpack carvers).

The bottom line is that if I knew I was going to be doing laps on a long, steep pitch (with anything but ice or deep soft snow) all day long, I would use my Enemies or something similar, but I know that I would suffer performance-wise when skiing in other conditions / situations.

As they say, you can't have your lunch and eat it too.

Good luck in your quest.

Tom / PM

PS - FWIW, one ski that has attracted my attention is the new Head 75-chip. Peter Keelty (www.techsupportforskiers.com) has awarded it his ski of the year award. Its dimensions are similar to my Enemies, and the electronics are supposed to give it variable torsional flex, thus, presumably broadening its performance envelope (ie, if the hype is true, is should both carve and skid well). My hope is that it would have the skid-ability of my Enemies (when needed) and the carv-ability of my carvers, as well as good soft snow performance because of its 75 mm width.

[This message has been edited by PhysicsMan (edited 08-13-2003).]

JohnL
August 13, 2003
Member since 01/6/2000
3,510 posts
John,

Thanks for the recommendation for the epic ski discussion board; I've been monitoring it for the past few weeks and have come across some info on the Vokl Supersports. I notice that you and Physics Man post there a bit.

You're in a far better situation than I am wrt skis; right now, I'm essentially ski-less. I blew out my West Coast skis near the end of a ski trip last winter. The only pair of skis I got to demo on that trip I didn't like. My East Coast skis are ancient (pre-shape ski era, ~8 years old) and barely have any edge left. I thought I would buy a pair last year and skied locally about a half-dozen without even getting a tune. Unfortunately, the ski I settled on wasn't available.

So like you, I'll be going the demo route this winter both on destination trips and local trips until I find the skis I like. The Vokl Supersport 6 Star really seem like my ideal East Coast ski based on reviews. However, before forking over $1,000 for skis/bindings I really would like to demo them (Otto is very right about this point.) By the time I demo the skis and determine if they're as good as advertised, the skis & bindings will most likely be sold out. Catch-22.

PhysicsMan
August 13, 2003
Member since 11/20/2001
218 posts
Johnfmh - Check out these two threads on Epic. They may be of interest in your present situation:

"Billy Goatin' skis" - http://www.epicski.com/cgi-bin/ultimatebb.cgi?ubb=get_topic;f=1;t=003687#000000

and

"East Coast do-it-all" (which contains several references to your g3/31) - http://www.epicski.com/cgi-bin/ultimatebb.cgi?ubb=get_topic;f=1;t=003150#000001


I agree with the others that something around 170 is best to conserve energy when skiing groomed steeps. OTOH, you wouldn't catch me dead on my 170-9.16's in heavy, deep, tracked up mush (steep or not). That's when my 190 Explosivs come out. Lots of people feel the same way. For example, I heard that Bob Barnes (an outspoken spokesperson for short skis) broke a couple of ribs last season when he got caught on his Elan shorty (163?) teaching slaloms during a serious dump while away from his home mountain.

To reiterate what I said in my earlier post, if easy skiing on steep groomers is truly your main objective in buying new skis, in your search, you should weight strongly low swing weight and good stability while skidding (ie, over 20 m sidecut radius so that it doesn't keep trying to hook up, and so you have to make constant corrections to keep it in a nice energy dissipating skid). While both of us can probably carve nice arcs on a double black, this takes lots of energy and sometimes there just isn't the horizontal room to do this and keep the speed to some reasonable value.

Cheers,

Tom / PM

PhysicsMan
August 13, 2003
Member since 11/20/2001
218 posts
JohnL said:

> ...the ski categories in the various ski mags are virtually worthless...

I'll go further: The categories in Ski and Skiing are worse than worthless - they are absurd and misleading. In addition, the reviews themselves are nothing but fluff, almost completely devoid of substance. {...rant somewhat successfully held in check ... }
-----------

> ...take everything that is said to you / you read about a particular ski
> with a very large grain of salt. This applies to ski mags, ski shop
> people, manufacturer's reps & web sites, discussion boards, fellow skiers,
> and even ski instructors...

I generally agree with this sentiment, however, if I find that a consensus on a particular ski has developed on Epic and/or Powder, it usually jives with my personal experience, and thus, I put particular stock in comments made on these forums. Among the organized ski reviews, Peter Keelty's is the only one that is credible to me. Again, this is based on seeing good correlations between his reviews and my experiences on particular skis over the past few years.

Tom / PM

PhysicsMan
August 13, 2003
Member since 11/20/2001
218 posts
JohnL said:

> ...you need more weapons in your quiver. For a serious skier to maximize
> fun around DC and on vacations elsewhere, you probably need two sets of skis...

and as Otto so humorously put it (paraphrasing):

> You need:
> 1. Good in the Rain
> 2. Good on ice (aka "packed powder")
> 3. Good on frozen granular (aka "packed powder")
> 4. Good on rocks, grass and moguls ( aka "packed powder - 12-36" base").

I couldn't agree more. As everybody here is well aware, the mid-Atlantic is particularly noted for daily freeze-thaw (aka, ice-slop) cycles. There are also wide swings in skier traffic so that weekdays you have the place to yourself and you can do high speed arc'ing all over the place, whereas on weekends, you probably should ski in a backwards snowplow with absolutely no movement across the trail, poles pointed uphill for self defense. We are also subject to snowmaking at temperatures where it should be declared illegal, and weather oscillating between rain and the occasional moderate dump of wet slop. Unfortunately, any untouched patch of "real" snow gets tracked up into a cut up mass of high water content boot-sucking oatmeal in about 10 minutes.

All of the above is to say that unlike the Rockies, we aren't blessed with consistency, and while many consider our ski hills trivial bumps, we have to deal daily with a wide range of conditions. Thus, I fully agree with Otto and JohnL that any serious skier around here needs at least a couple of skis (ie, one for the softer days, one for the rock-hard nights), and maybe even some carving-skidding variation in your quiver as well.

Tom / PM

[This message has been edited by PhysicsMan (edited 08-13-2003).]

johnfmh - DCSki Columnist
August 13, 2003
Member since 07/18/2001
1,914 posts
Tom:

What about these new skis by Head that have chips in them. Apparently, the stiffness of the ski changes according to speed and conditions. Is this all hype and no substance or are these skis a major breakthrough. The epicski crowd thinks Head are the most underrated skis out there. My wife bought Head Cyber lights 3 years ago and adores them....

PhysicsMan
August 13, 2003
Member since 11/20/2001
218 posts
Johnfmh -

1) With respect to Head skis in general, I own a pair of Head xp100/IC200's, and they were my most used skis last season. In fact, for the first time in about 30 years of skiing, I went out and bought an exact replacement pair to have around when these get worn out. I absolutely *LOVE* them.

2) Take a look at my message in this thread posted 08-12-2003 12:51 PM. All the way at the bottom, in the "PS", I comment on the potential attractiveness of the Head "chip" skis. This was my roundabout way of suggesting that you should seriously consider them.

3) To answer your question about the "chip" actually doing something, take a look at:

http://www.epicski.com/cgi-bin/ultimatebb.cgi?ubb=get_topic;f=1;t=004000#000009

and the other posts in that thread. The bottom line is that if Head did everything right, didn't scrimp on number or quality of the fibers, etc., the chip plus piezo fibers concept could provide dramatic broadening of the performance envelope of skis.

Unfortunately, I haven't taken them into my lab and reverse engineered them, or even just personally skied on any with the "chip" technology, so I don't know if Head really "pulled it off" with this particular model.

Given the rave reviews I've seen, I'm certainly going to demo a pair the first chance I get.

Tom / PM

[This message has been edited by PhysicsMan (edited 08-13-2003).]

johnfmh - DCSki Columnist
August 14, 2003
Member since 07/18/2001
1,914 posts
Tom:

I did read those strands on epic. I definitely have Head skis in my crosshairs.

One thing worth considering for Mid-Atlantic skiers:

If you ski mostly west of the Allegheny Front (Snowshoe, CV, Timberline, Wisp, 7 Springs), your needs will be very different from the Whitetail/Liberty/Roundtop/Massanutten skier. West of the front, these rules RARELY APPLY:

> 1. Good in the Rain
> 2. Good on ice (aka "packed powder")
> 3. Good on frozen granular (aka "packed powder")
> 4. Good on rocks, grass and moguls ( aka "packed powder - 12-36" base").

Timberline, for example, lays down a 60 inch base for its trails and that base often holds up very well through mid March. Last year, I only encountered Spring conditions at Timberline very late in the game: end of March. Even during the crappy year before that, I never encountered truly awful conditions. Snowshoe on the first weekend was great. It was also great in April.

[This message has been edited by johnfmh (edited 08-14-2003).]

PhysicsMan
August 14, 2003
Member since 11/20/2001
218 posts
Good point. It's not only their E-W location, but their base elevation is higher than that of the Liberty, RT, WT group.

Tom / PM

Otto
August 14, 2003
Member since 11/19/1999
176 posts
Wow...

I am all for having a quiver full of tools, but it is still eastern skiing.

"your needs will be very different."

Unless I really have been missing out on those huge Allegheny powder dumps, I don't see why you would either need or want a different ski for any of the skiing within a 10 hour drive of DC. I have been to Seven Springs when it was as hard as a skillet. The worst rock shots I have ever taken were out west and in europe (cuz they hide them rocks in those places) Moreover, if you take the snow that a lot of people love to hate - the snow cone "gravel" that sometimes arrives in the late winter/early spring, good "crud buster" skis that work on broken up powder also work in that stuff.

I think it is quite possible to get a ski that will work pretty well anywhere. That ski might be different if you lived out west and sometimes skied in the east (as if anyone would) or lived in the east and went west sometimes.. (Just don't ask me which ones, because other than K2's, I really don't know.)

In the end they are just skis. They are not, IMHO, half as important as your boots. How they work for you depends a lot on how your work them (I have been doing it for 35+ years and I am still learning).

PhysicsMan
August 14, 2003
Member since 11/20/2001
218 posts
You're right! East coast skiing can't be all that bad if there are a bunch of us discussing skiing on a 90 degree day in mid-August (Either that, or we're all crazy ).

Tom / PM


snowcone
August 14, 2003
Member since 09/27/2002
589 posts
Just lurking here the past few days .. but do agree that even Liberty can be awesome given the right conditions. I was there for an early morning storm last year and it was breathtaking.

But the main reason for this post is .. where does Otto teach? He sounds a knowledgeable and interesting gentleman.

johnfmh - DCSki Columnist
August 14, 2003
Member since 07/18/2001
1,914 posts
Otto is at Liberty. He's one of their best. For a "course review" written by one of his students, check this out:

http://www.dcski.com/news/2002/03_03_2002/learning.php

[This message has been edited by johnfmh (edited 08-14-2003).]

JohnL
August 14, 2003
Member since 01/6/2000
3,510 posts
After the "Great Allegheny Divide" posts by PM and jfmh, a challenge to this "Take Me Home Country Roads" boosterism was in order. While I was busy consulting Stat-Boy and researching in the library, Otto shoots from the hip and nails them both between the eyes. You go guy.

While I humbly, humbly admit that my data sampling of the Mountaineer State is clearly not as vast as that of my esteemed colleagues, it is most certainly not a null data point. (Sorry guys, I'm boozing it up while trying to download 38 MB of Windoz service packs through a dial-up connection. #$%@#%^#&*$ Bill Gates $ msblast.exe.) I may be the anti-Ullr, the anti-snow God, but during about 50 percent of my trips to Canaan Valley and Snowshoe I have encountered precipitation of the non-frozen kind. Rain that is. Don't invite me to your next ski trip unless you want the wildest time of your life. The snow may not be so hot though. But terrrain rules over conditions any day.

Stat-Boy did produce some *interesting* results. Per the 1991-92 White Book of Ski Areas (and for those Internet yahoos who will object to the fact that the book is over 10 years old, if you ever had a Geology prof and claimed that anything ever written down was out-a-date, you'd be hit upside the head.) Stat-boy sez:

Timberline:
Top: 4268 ft
Base: 3292 ft

Da Shoe:
Top: 4848 ft
Base: 3250 ft

Wisp:
Top: 3090 ft
Base: 2470 ft

Blue Knob:
Top: 3152 ft
Base: 2100 ft

Liberty:
Top: 1186 ft
Base: 580 ft

Stowe:
Top: 3650 ft
Base: 1300 ft

Da Bush:
Top: 4135 ft
Base: 1535 ft

OK. I may be willing to buy into this elevation argument a bit. (4 degrees of adiabatic temperature per 1000 feet. PM knows what I mean.) I thought the Vermont bases would have been much greater. Guess that's why you can ski south of the Mason-Dixon. But I've got a lotta experience with Da Bush @ 4135 ft, and lemme tell ya, a good Friday-The-13th, Marquis-de-Sade ski tuner is greatly appreciated. And Da Bush and Da Stowe are both close to Canada. Eh?

Still downloading (and numerous download errors)... Via con dias.

Scott - DCSki Editor
August 15, 2003
Member since 10/10/1999
1,096 posts
Hi folks! Wow.. Obviously I must not be the only one who started daydreaming about skiing this week as the heat and humidity settled in! Quite an interesting and active discussion going, especially for August!

Oh, and JohnL, I can sympathize with the fun you're having with the Windows service packs. I do all my production work on Macs, which thankfully don't seem to attract any viruses. But I do keep one PC laptop around for testing out DCSki pages. I hadn't booted the thing in several months, but spent a couple hours (on a high-speed connection) downloading and installing around 40 Windows security updates last night -- until about 2 a.m. Sheesh! It was nice to shut the stupid thing down and move back over to the Mac. (Yeah, guess you can figure out what my platform preference is...)

Back to the topic of skiing, you've probably noticed there haven't been many new stories on DCSki lately, but I've been queuing up story leads and will start posting articles again soon. This is the time of the year where I concentrate on the business side of DCSki so I can focus on content once Fall rolls around.

johnfmh - DCSki Columnist
August 15, 2003
Member since 07/18/2001
1,914 posts
Otto:

OK. Maybe I phrased that message a little too strongly. My basic point is that there's a fairly significant difference between West of the Front/East of the Front snow quality.

Yes, you can get all the crappy snow you describe west of the Allegheny Front just like you can get it in VT or even CO for that matter but if you created chart of good ski days at resorts west of the line vs. good ski days at the closer in locales, you'll see a difference year in and year out. Midwestern storms and lake effect are part of the reason. Another is higher elevations and colder temps.

Does that mean that a 7 Springs skier should buy a different ski than a Whitetail skier? Probably not. I agree with you that an East Coast ski is the best compromise for the region.

What gets me dismayed is the constant emphasis that we (myself included) place on the bad conditions of the Mid-Atlantic. Warm weather is a challenge here but improved snowmaking is making a difference and allowing some resorts to have seasons as longas some resorts much further north. I don't want people reading this forum to think that all we get is rain and crud. I also do not want them forgo skiing in the region because all the close in resorts are reporting bad conditions. Wisp and 7 Springs can be done as day trips, and often have superb skiing in March or early December.

In defense of the close in places, on good snow days and even marginal days, nothing beats the proximity, long operating hours, friendly staff, superb ski school instructors (especially Otto), and the fabulous facilities of Whitetail and Liberty. One of the best ski days of my life occurred at Whitetail in January a few days after a midweek snow: fast lifts, great snow, and beautiful scenery. It was beyond AWESOME. I kept kicking myself and saying, "I am cheating geography. I'm getting a Vermont ski experience for the price of less than two hours on the road." That keeps me smiling and also keeps me going back to local ski areas.

PhysicsMan
August 15, 2003
Member since 11/20/2001
218 posts
JohnL -

LOL!

> ...I may be willing to buy into this elevation argument a bit.
> (4 degrees of adiabatic temperature per 1000 feet...

Yup, the adiabatic lapse rate is a major factor. BTW, just to be fair, in humid air, its usually more like 2.5-3 deg/1000, not 4 deg/1000. Anyway, lets say that its a 35 deg at Liberty. At this temp, they can't make snow, and what they have on the ground is being slowly melted where the sun and skier traffic hits it. At T-line, 2700 ft higher, its likely to be around 35 - (2.7 x 3) = 27 F. If the humidity is reasonable, they can make all the snow they want, and its cold enough so that there is no melting, no freeze-thaw cycle that day, etc. Since this happens on many days over the winter, the effects on the snow quality are somewhat cumulative.

Now, I've got to warn you ( ), Johnfmh is no stranger to weather facts, and (I think) owns property at T-line, so be prepared for a AM broadside of cold, hard facts, not just the sort of approximation I just gave you - grin.

In all seriousness tho, I agree that you don't really need different skis for the WVA resorts, its just that you could more easily eliminate the pair of slop skis from your quiver if you skied mostly WVA, whereas they come in handy more often on this side of the mountains.

This is why (in an earlier post) I suggested a hard-snow / soft-snow quiver, rather than an inland / coastal split to the quiver.

BTW, in the interest of full disclosure, if it isn't already obvious, I should point out that I'm a self-confessed gearhead, and the exact opposite of a bluebird-day skier. The more cold, blowing, and miserable it is, the more likely you will find me out skiing. I have been fortunate to have been able to get away and ski during just about every major dump we have had for the past several years. That being said, its not surprising that I have gotten a lot of pleasure and use from my wide skis in heavy cut-up crud and slop. Most normal folks from this area would hardly ever need them.

Tom / PM

PS - BTW, thanks for warning me about yourself. With your luck, you aren't coming on any of my ski trips unless you get a written permission slip from Ullr, a papal dispensation, and can supply numerous virgins for sacrifice and other uses.

johnfmh - DCSki Columnist
August 15, 2003
Member since 07/18/2001
1,914 posts
Johnl:

Here's some stats on Canaan Valley from White Grass. Let me re-emphasize that despite owning a place at Timberline, I still prefer Whitetail on a good, uncrowded day. Why? Better uphill capacity! Better food! Similar terrain and vertical! Nicer lodge! Better rental facility (I don't rent but some friends do). Great place to spend a sick day....

That said, here's some more stats from www.ski-guide.com:

Average Snowfall

East of the Front Resorts:

Whitetail: 40 inches
Liberty: 45
Massanutten: 56

West of the Front Resorts:

Blue Knob (right on the front): 100
7 Springs: 105
Wisp: 100
Timberline: 150
Canaan Valley: 160
Snowshoe: 180

In short, it's more than just cold weather and altitude. It's actual precipitation amounts. That bein said, I still agree with Otto that an East Coast ski is the way to go because new snow is ephemeral in WV. It still gets groomed down in a day.

johnfmh - DCSki Columnist
August 15, 2003
Member since 07/18/2001
1,914 posts
Some more info on Snow in the CV from the Whitegrass homepage:

IT SNOWS IN WEST VIRGINIA?

Worst ski season EVER! 2001-02: 85" with 70 skiable days

dec*13" jan*28" feb*28" mar*12"apr*4 Days With 50 Km Open: 28: the year of the snowfarm

Our crystalline precipitation for the season before: 2000-01
170 inches fell from the skies.
Our ski soles went sliding for 137 skiable days.
XC touring started from the first 8" pileup on Nov. 21st to the last meltage of April 6th.
We also topped it off with a bonus mid April snowstorm. The early birds got mad ...
All 50 km. were open for 65 days.

Nov:18.5", Dec: 39.5" , Jan: 43", Feb: 16", Mar: 49", Apr-4"

Great winter ski season for the east. Records were easily shattered up north. Epic.
A February thaw spoiled a 100% perfect winter climate here.
For us it doesn't get much better.
Check out that 49" worth of snow in March.

SNOWFALL IN CANAAN VALLEY at 3200' (in inches)

87/88-97
88/89-138
89/90-102
90/91-92 (boo)
91/92-156
92/93-151
93/94-162
94/95-93
95/96-237 (yes!)
96/97-105
97/98-152
98/99-147
99/00-117

02-03: 234
Everyone knows Allegheny Mountain weather changes every half hour.
It can be 50 degrees or 20 below on any winter day in Canaan
Remember we usually have spring conditions about every week...

PhysicsMan
August 15, 2003
Member since 11/20/2001
218 posts
> ...an East Coast ski is the way to go because new snow is ephemeral
> in WV. It still gets groomed down in a day...

But, oh those days!

Tom / PM

PS - Somehow, I knew that more stats would be headed our way this morning.

[This message has been edited by PhysicsMan (edited 08-15-2003).]

PhysicsMan
August 15, 2003
Member since 11/20/2001
218 posts
Johnfmh - I wonder if the reason for the difference in snowfall depths is simply density, ie, if there might be roughly the same ammt of liquid precip, but it fluffs out more in the colder temps?

Do you have any comparative data on spring and fall rainfall E & W of the front?

Tom / PM

johnfmh - DCSki Columnist
August 15, 2003
Member since 07/18/2001
1,914 posts
Tom:

I used yahoo weather "records and averages" to do a rough precipitation comparison between Whitetail & Timberline and here's what I discovered:

Precipitation from Dec through March:

Whitetail: 12 inches
Timberline: 16.6 inches

Four additional inches of precip during the winter time period is significant but probably more significant are the March numbers. Both resorts get the most Winter precipitation in March (3.6 inches for Whitetail and 4.6 for T-line). This precip often falls as snow at T-line but as rain at Whitetail. That's why the West of the Front resorts have a much better March than those east of the line.

One thing to point out in defense of JohnL's argument about his experiences with bad conditions at T-line:

"Everyone knows Allegheny Mountain weather changes every half hour.
It can be 50 degrees or 20 below on any winter day in Canaan
Remember we usually have spring conditions about every week..."

It also confirms what Otto is saying about how variable things can be in the region no matter where you ski. Well, variable makes life interesting. You got to ski the marginal weather to appreciate the blue bird days.

[This message has been edited by johnfmh (edited 08-15-2003).]

PhysicsMan
August 16, 2003
Member since 11/20/2001
218 posts
Double post deleted.

Wow. That was my first ever double post in all my years on the Internet. It happened because my connection went down just as I hit the "send button". I assumed it didn't make it. Ha, it did.

Tom / PM

[This message has been edited by PhysicsMan (edited 08-16-2003).]

PhysicsMan
August 16, 2003
Member since 11/20/2001
218 posts
Johnfmh - That's interesting. Thanks for doing the research. So, not only does a larger fraction of the total water come down as snow (with the lower temps), there is more total precip as well. That will be an interesting tidbit to tell people who don't want to drive the extra distance.

Actually, thinking about it for a minute, we shouldn't be at all surprised by more total precip. The higher altitudes produce lower temps, and lower temps generally encourage more condensation of the gaseous water to either solid or liquid form, depending on the temp.

Anyway, I've got to go and contemplate a different form of water ... Tmmrw, we are taking off for some birdwatching (songbirds) at Cape May and Chincoteague and will be back next Thursday.

Keep the home fires buring ... nah, on second thought, its too hot to do that.

How 'bout, "Keep Cool" instead,

Tom / PM


PS - re: "...You got to ski the marginal weather to appreciate the blue bird days ...". Of course, a gearhead's approach is to ski a different ski to appreciate the marginal days. Of course, learning to ski better is reputed to also work.

[This message has been edited by PhysicsMan (edited 08-16-2003).]

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