A few days ago, while attending a pro-deal event near Mont-Sainte-Anne (Quebec), a friend of mine mentioned he was looking for an all-terrain ski to add to his quiver. He had tested Rossignol's all-terrain Experience 88 last season and liked it, but he had found the edge-to-edge a little too long and the ski to be too stiff for bumps. He thought perhaps the Experience 84 would be a better fit. Not having tested it, he was wondering how it would feel compared to the Experience 88 or compared to the Hero ST. When choosing an all-terrain ski, you will probably determine what width you want underfoot and then select the length. Both parameters can have a huge incidence on what you will feel on snow. It's very tricky to choose the correct length. Read this to find out how the Rossignol Hero ST (HP and Ti) compare to the Rossignol Experience (84 and 88) in various lengths. All-terrain skis are not always softer than slalom skis!
Stiffness varies with length
Of course, from one ski model to another, one would expect the feeling to vary. As the construction is different, the bending and torsional stiffness vary, so you get a different feel. What I find many skiers underestimate is the variation of bending and torsional stiffness according to the ski length. I'm a tall guy (6' - 183cm) but also lightweight (160 lbs - 72 kg). Choosing a longer ski often feels odd as it's too stiff. The thing is, ski properties vary a lot depending on their length. Designers will adapt the construction to get a stiffer ski as the length increases because they expect the skier to be heavier and thus apply more force to the ski. My personal general rule of thumb is to choose the second longest length of a given model. For example, on slalom skis, I prefer 165cm to 170cm even though I'm tall. It's only a 5-cm difference in length, but the real difference is not the geometry. We need to look under the hood: it's the bending and torsional stiffness distribution. Have a look at the following chart which compares three lengths of Atomic Backland.
What length should you choose for your all-terrain ski?
An all-terrain ski should be a little longer than your slalom ski and a little shorter than your backcountry ski (or powder ski). Thus, if the length of a ski impacts the stiffness, what length would be right for you? There's no magic formula; either you try out skis, or you use data measured by Sooth Selector. One of the most important measurements is torsional stiffness distribution. Our testing has demonstrated the skiers are highly sensitive to torsional stiffness variations (more than bending stiffness). To help my friend who was wondering how the Experience 84 would feel, we compared it to some other models he had tested. We compared the following five specific models: Rossignol Hero ST Ti (167 cm), Rossignol's Hero ST HP (166 cm), Rossignol Experience 88 (180 cm), Rossignol Experience 88 (172 cm) and Rossignol Experience 84 (178 cm).
Take the test to see how well you know Rossignol skis
Before we show you the results, take the test and see how well you know your Rossignol products. You can definitely hand flex these skis in a shop to compare the bending stiffness, but you cannot evaluate the torsional stiffness unless you test these skis on snow.
The results were great to get the right selection of skis. We often underestimate the variation that can occur from an increase of only 5 or 8 cm in length. The bending and torsional stiffness vary according to length, even for as little as 5 extra cm. When you test skis, avoid testing only variations of models. Make sure you test various lengths of a given model also.