I've been getting increasingly annoyed with my Rossi Bandits, and decided the other day that it's time to get something more advanced. For those who don't know, I'm 5'8", 145 lbs and ski moderately aggressively with an off-piste preference.
The Bandits were a great ski to relearn on because they're quite forgiving. They're fairly light, and easy to throw around. They're also quite easy to turn. I have the '06 (probably) model in a 170. On the negative side, their easy flex means that crud can cause the tip to wander, and if you seek out the soft stuff, the 76mm waist width just doesn't provide that much flotation. They can also have a feeling of a stuck tail, something that seems to be associated with tighter sidecuts. They carve moguls quite well, but they lose stability in a more aggressive approach. They're very damp, so there's not necessarily a feeling of chatter on icy groomers, but it's difficult to get them to carve unless the snow's a little softer.
Having tried my brother's Apache Chief, I knew I wanted something narrower, with a deeper sidecut. A friend recommended the Elan m777, and I got to try a pair, in the 176 length. I skied them at Sugarbowl on Saturday, after the resort had been closed all week and received several inches of new snow. The day before had been the first warm day since the new snow, so the snow was smooth but firm off-piste the day that I skied them. They're very stable skis, and stay comfortable at high speeds. I didn't do as much turning as I usually do when I was on them. When I did turn, they had much better edge grip than my Bandits, but I couldn't get them to carve very consistently. I felt like I had trouble just decambering them. Off the groomers, they were better than my Bandits, but felt like a lot of ski. They blast through crud like it's not there, but I found I had a tendency to dive the tips, and this with the binding mounted 3cm back of the manufacturer's recommended position. They were also a bit harder to release from a carve than the Bandits - not necessarily a bad thing, but not suited to my style off-piste either. Moguls weren't really in evidence that day, so I don't know how they did.
The Elans are constructed like a wide GS ski - two sheets of metal sandwiching a wood core, and a long-radius sidecut, 21.4m in the one I tried. After that, I figured that I should look for a ski in that width with a tighter radius and less metal in the construction. I shortlisted a number of skis, but found I could buy a Public Enemy at a pretty good price, about half what any of the others cost. So I did.
I got to try the PE today at Alpine. There was a pretty big storm on Saturday night, and Sunday was a powder day. Another couple of inches fell after lifts closed and during the night on Sunday. Today was a pretty warm, though, starting a few degrees above freezing in the morning and getting to be a few degrees above 50 in the afternoon. Off-piste was dense chopped-up powder, getting fairly wet toward the afternoon. The PE gave a feeling of a nice, locked-in carve on the groomers, but released easily too. I tried the B2s for comparison, and they did quite well too - the morning groomers were in great shape for carving. Off the groomed, the PEs floated nicely and tended to either blast through or pop up onto crud where my B2s would have chosen a different line. My first run down some chopped up powder felt a little awkward at first, but when I leaned into the fall line more and pushed with my inside leg to switch directions, things got much more fun. My experience with the PEs in general was that they need to be skied more authoritatively - if they're on a line, they want to keep following that line and it takes a committed movement to change. In the afternoon, when the off-piste snow started getting wetter, heavier, and stickier, I found that they had much less of a stuck feeling than my Bandits tend to get. The width is an obvious place to give credit - they're 85mm at the waist - but I think the stiffness helped distribute my weight better over the surface area of the ski as well. The Bandits sometimes felt like they were folding up, especially if I stomped the inside foot to change direction. I mostly did fairly short-radius turns off-piste with the Bandits, but on one run I did looking for an aspect of the mountain that wouldn't be so sticky, I started GSing instead. The surface was pretty chopped up, but the PEs held their line anyway, and felt a lot more stable than the Bandits.
My brother put in a special request that I try some moguls on them. It was hard to find real ones, but I did a run down the run under Wolverine Bowl that bumps up fastest. The ski stores a lot more energy when it's decambered, so there's more of a pop at turn initiation doing bumps. I found that at slow speed I could still carve the shoulders, but I picked up speed pretty quickly and found myself doing them in a more athletic style. While that tended to make me wipe out pretty quickly on the Bandits, I found that with the stability of the Public Enemy, I could land those little airs, including the surprise ones, and jump straight into my next turn. So Zach, if you want to learn to zipper-line, you can probably do it on this ski.
I think that the essential difference between the Bandits and the PEs is that the PEs move with authority. If they're going straight, they want to keep going straight. If they're turning, they want to keep turning and at the same radius. I definitely had to work harder on them, but as long as I was skiing a committed line and kept my weight forward, they did what I wanted, when I wanted it, and didn't let the terrain distract them. The difference between the PEs and triple-sevens was that for someone of my size, the PE is a stiff but turny ski, while the triple-seven would rather have straightlined down the mountain and taken me along for the ride, and it took a lot of work to convince them otherwise. I don't think I ever really got a short-radius turn out of the triple-seven, and those are pretty important to me.
Now that I have actually skied the Public Enemy, I'm glad I bought them. No ski can turn me into Doug Coombs, but I'm going to have a lot more fun with the PEs than I would if I continued on the Bandits. This is not to say that the Bandits are bad skis, necessarily. The B2s just aren't for an aggressive skier.