Alright, I am back from my Taos trip and have a few interesting updates that include demoing two skis (K2 Mindbender 108 TI and Black Crows Atris) and getting some helpful input from Moment, all of which is worth sharing. FYI this turned into a more lengthy review of the two skis than I expected, but there could be some interesting stuff in here for those that might be interested. I have narrowed my decision down to the 179cm K2 Mindbender 108 TI or the 184cm Moment Wildcat 108.
I sent Moment an email with nearly the same content as my first two posts but with the question narrowed down to the 108 and 116 Wildcat and the Deathwish. I copied the response below in a second post (split them up due to length).
I did not have any luck on finding any skis that had come up in this thread, but the Mindbender 108 TI and Atris were two good options that were close enough to the right ballpark to help with the decision process. I am thinking heavily about calling it a day and going with the K2 Mindbender 108 Ti at 179cm due to how good this was for me off piste, but the one holdback was its odd on piste performance for me, in my very limited time giving them a run on groomers, which I think was attributable to a tuning issue. I am debating this option with the Moment Wildcat 108 at 184, which I will not be able to try out.
Conditions and trail descriptions first. We were lucky to get a little over 24” at Taos Ski Valley in the 3 days leading up to my trip (I have skied Taos during some terribly dry winters, so this was a nice treat) and it was blue bird days the 3 days I was out there. Also, Kachina Peak and the Kachina lift opened up at the end of day 1 and was wide open for days 2 and 3, so I was able to lap that nearly the entire time (hit up the progressively narrowing chutes in K5, K4, K3, and K2 and did a few Main Street runs as well). Some of the other runs that I hit up a few times were Castor, Reforma, Blitz, and Longhorn (nice really steep double blacks and blacks). Also I hit up a few groomers for warm ups or to head back to the lift, which presented its own challenge of dodging the holiday weekend crowds (while being safe about it; please watch out for the kids!).
Black Crows Atris 108 – 184
I skied the Atris on day 2. This was one of the closest options to what I am looking for that I could find at the shops that I talked to. On paper it seemed like it was supposed to be a semi-playful and nimble ski that was still plenty stable and good both on and off piste in the mid waist range that I was gravitating towards.
This ski was an absolute blast going warp speed on groomers doing some Super G turns and just setting this thing on edge and letting the ski do all of the work. The edge hold at any speed or turn shape was flawless and confidence inspiring, and I could not find a speed limit on it. I have never been on another ski that had such an unshakable edge hold that I felt like I could set and forget without worrying about potentially losing an edge and/or having to put some work in to maintain it (and this is in comparison to the Line Supernatural 108 184, Blizzard Cochise 178, and Kastle FX 95 HP 181, all 2016 models). In hindsight, after my experience on the Mindbender, I think that the shop might be guilty to a fault of maintaining aggressively sharp of edges, which has its pluses and minuses.
The Atris was not very fun doing GS or tighter carving on groomers. It was possible, but the ski felt relatively slow to react to my input, at least when compared to the Mindbender and the FX 95 HP. I think this is partly attributable and inherent with skis of this length, width, and weight, which I don’t have significant experience with, so I am not going to suggest that this is a notable ding to the Atris compared to comparable alternatives.
The biggest thing for me that was a turn off with this ski is it was as exhausting for me to ski as the 186 Line Supernatural 108 was off piste. I realize that I am not the most technically proficient skier out there and I realize there are some additional things that I could do to improve that would allow me to be more efficient and use up less energy in my legs when running down expert terrain. Despite that, some skis are naturally easier for me to maneuver than others while others require a lot more work and are less forgiving when I get off track. The Atris had me calling it quits due to leg fatigue after just 3 1/2 hours. I would chalk this up to the tails feeling like they required a lot of work for me to smear around whether I was doing pivot turns on super steep terrain or slarving around a mogul field. Based on my experience with the shorter Mindbender, I think this issue is heavily correlated to the length, width, and weight of this ski.
K2 Mindbender 108 TI – 179 (not the 186)
I skied the Mindbender on day 3. The ski shop wound up talking me into giving these a shot as well as dropping down in length based on my comments about the Atris (even though the 186 Mindbender was available and so was the 178 Atris). I was hesitant because my Kastle FX 95 HP at 181 have only a modest amount of tip and tail rocker, so I knew a 179 Mindbender with its relatively more pronounced tip and tail rocker was going to definitely feel like a shorter ski, which would not be a bad thing if it could still keep up and hold up when I pushed it. At 5” 10” 185 lbs and expert level, all signs point toward mid-180’s length skis being the ideal option for me, but I rationalized this experiment under the premise of this ski supposedly being more in the charger category, which had the potential to strike an interesting balance if the edge hold could umm hold up. This turned out to be an eye opening experiment with positive results.
I spent the entire day on the Mindbender dong consecutive laps in the Kachina K chutes (at least 6 runs) and finished the day with a gasser down the long, steep mogul field on Longhorn after downing a 32 oz beer and Weinerschnitzel at the Bavarian. This was by far the most fun I have ever had on expert terrain to date. The Mindbender just felt so natural and easy for me. I would normally be gassed and done after just 3 laps on Kachina. Also, my pace was noticeably faster than my trusty Kastles or the Atris on this same terrain. I was able to push myself past what I would consider average speed in this terrain (when comparing my speed to what I see from everyone else out on the expert runs) and even do some real charging on super steep slopes, which was something that had I only reserved for groomers up to this point.
I think there are a number of things about the Mindbender that contributed to them being such great performer off piste for me. The magic was how quick and easy it was to whip the tails around on super steep slopes with fairly big moguls that had formed. The unique Y shape of Titanal support apparently makes the tails easier to smear turns off piste while still leaving the stability that is needed when the skis are flexing. Also, the shape of the tails along with the relatively shorter length and lighter weight than what I am used to definitely helped the cause too, and I think the mount point is a bit further back than I am used to as well. Finally, I happen to fight getting in the back seat too easily. It felt like the tails were noticeably more forgiving when this happened, and I also felt like the front of the skis were somehow magically more conducive to naturally keeping me more forward or at least centered.
I was surprised that I did not notice any downsides of the shorter length on the super steep runs. I think the skis had a bit too sharp of a tune, at least in the tips, which sucked on groomers, but helped to maintain the edge despite there being a shorter effective edge than I am used to. If I had not had a blast carving down a windblown, chalky, open face at a pretty good speed, I would have assumed the soft landings on big moguls with a decent amount of soft snow still on them might have been a misleading contributor to my perception of adequate edge hold despite the shorter length. Also, I had no problem with the ski holding up really well for me as I charged through boot high chop on the run outs at the ends of the Kachina runs, and I felt a comfortable and confident level of stability as I plowed through the has been powder. Finally on the on piste performance, I could tell during the choppy runouts that this ski should have some pretty nice float when/if I am able to get it into some real powder.
Despite all of the fun off piste, the Mindbenders, with their overly sharp tune were my least favorite ski that I can recall on groomers. The issue was the shovels were very grabby. Also, I think one of the shovels had a relatively sharper tune than the other because I had multiple occasions where I was rolling through some high speed GS turns and my right ski when it was the downhill one as I turned left wanted to go on a bigger arc than my left ski, which is something I have never dealt with before. I also noticed the shovels had a propensity to want to catch an edge when running bases flat on a cat track, which is something that I had a serious problem with my Line Supernatural 108 skis as well, and I guess it is not much of a surprise to read after the fact that that the Mindbender borrowed a lot of design from the Supernaturals. I don’t know if the issue was really a tuning one vs. being associated with me overloading the shorter ski given my weight and how hard I was pushing them.
On the other hand, when I was able to find a way to circumvent the grabby shovel issue for a few turns, I did find the Mindbender to be very quick and responsive when carving GS and Super G style turns on groomers, and I do not recall feeling like the tails were at risk of losing their edge and washing out on me (a general concern with shorter skis). It seemed like the carveability and responsiveness could be pretty close to my Kastles with the right tune, but the next level of edge hold and lack of speed limit that I found on the Atris was not something that I found on the Mindbender, which I am okay with giving up for the off piste performance. Also, the Mindbender seemed to have a comparable amount of energy when carving as my Kastles.
It seems like there is good potential with the Mindbender if I could get the edges tuned just right. However, I do have some concerns that detuning the shovels to some degree in order to get things right for on piste performance could lead to consequences for off piste performance (e.g. not being able to hold a good enough edge due to the shorter length when on steeper and/or firmer terrain).
Concluding Thoughts (179cm Mindbender 108 TI vs. 184cm Wildcat 108):
I would be willing to take the risk to try to find the right balance in the tune with the Mindbender 108 TI at 179 and call it a day. If I was able to do that, I think the ski could be a fantastic nearly one ski quiver for me except for the firmest of conditions. However, there is a degree of risk that I will not be able to solve the issue with the grabby shovels with a simple detuning of the tips (e.g. was I perhaps just overloading the ski instead?), but there is probably even more risk going with a different option that I have not been able to get some time on. It does not help that I have not been able to find any comparisons of the Mindbender 108 to any of the other skis that have come up in this thread yet.
I think I could be a little better off with a Mindbender 108 at 181cm or 182cm if that was somehow available, which is unfortunately not the case. Alternatively, I am not sure if there is a different ski option at 184cm that has relatively more tail rocker (so that the tails feel shorter and are as easy to turn as the Mindbender), is comparable in weight to a 179cm Mindbender, with as good or better off piste performance as the Mindbender, but is somehow a bit better on piste. It seems like the Moment Wildcat 108 at 184 would fit this description on paper (don’t know about the on piste part though), so I am going to try to do some more digging to see if I can find any helpful comparisons. It would an unexpected surprise if someone happened to have enough experience to be able to provide some insight into how a 179cm Mindbender 108 vs. a 184cm Wildcat 108, or anything else similar to this, would compare.
Based on the response that I got from Moment (see my next post), which came in before I demoed either ski, I had made up my mind on the 184cm Wildcat 108 being my preferred option when compared against the 116 Wildcat or the Deathwish. The focus was on the 108s relatively better overall general responsiveness and maneuverability along with better performance in trickier moguls. The 178 Wildcat 108 would ski even shorter than the 179 Mindbender due to the noticeably more pronounced tail rocker, so that option is out. My big concern is if 184 Wildcat 108 would require a similar amount of work and be as unforgiving as the 184 Atris or the 186 Line Supernatural 108. However, the Wildcat has a lot more tail rocker and a bit more tip rocker than both while being comparable in weight with the Atris and noticeably lighter than the Supernatural.