OK, here we go! In depth video reviews to follow, we got footage of the majority of these skis.
Conditions: firm hardpack, firm bumps, a little windblown in up top. Great conditions for skis up to 95mm or so, 95-100 was OK, anything above that was a chore in steep firm bumps and firm groomers, so we shied away from them after skiing the Scout and Vagabond in those conditions, both of which didn't take to aggressive skiing on hardpack bumps.
This is a summary of both Kevin's impressions and my own. He is a superb bump skier, really solid all-mountain skier, can ski anything and fast. I am not as good a bumper, similar in steeps and trees, probably get more edge angles on the groomers.
I also noted Finndog's thoughts, as we skied together for a few runs! Hope to get some more turns in Steamboat soon!
We did 3-4 runs on each ski, except for the groomer skis.
70-80mm skis: great for this firm hardpack. You have to really be aggressive and committed early in the turn, big High-C move to get skis to grip on scrubbed off hardpack. Early in the day was easier.
Kastle RX12 176cm: a real powerhouse, no surprises here. Damp, smooth, stable, fun
Head i-Speed 180cm: probably the best pure carver for a big turn GS ski I have ever been on. 175cm would have been the perfect length for a throw it down the fall line ski for me personally, 180cm needs room to run!
Head i-SL 165cm: no holds barred carver, super fun, I had to stay on it, but precise, and along with the RX12 and i-Speed, the only ski that would really hold at big edges on the steep manmade stuff.
80-90mm skis: great conditions for this group. We focused on skis that were more off-piste in flavor, as neither of us were excited about skiing firm groomers.
Head i-Titan ERA 3.0 81mm waist: wow, what a fun carver! Super quick, stable, and energetic. High end ski with forgiveness, traditional Head feel, superb!
Nordica Steadfast: great hard snow ski and in the junk, fun on groomers. A little stiff and underdamped for bumps, could be softened up for more versatility.
Kastle MX83: no surprises, probably the best frontside ski around, bias toward groomers over bumps. Grips like no other 80mm ski.
Kastle FX84 176cm: not quite the groomer ripper the MX83 was, but for off-piste skiing, bumps, crud and trees, there is no better ski in this category. I will be purchasing a pair, I feel this is the best ski you can buy if you live for off-piste conditions and are skiing firm snow much of the time.
Blizzard Magnum 8.5ti: still a superb ski, plenty of power for the groomers, when laying it over, yet a great bump ski, and a riot in moderate crud. One of the best, if it was just a couple of cm longer, maybe 177cm, it would be perfect for me.
Blizzard Brahma 180cm: Compared to the 8.5ti, I prefer the former. The Brahma is not as good in aggressive bumps (too much rocker, weird in extension), skis short, doesn't have the power of the 8.5ti. Seems more like a "mellow" version of that ski for those who want a less aggressive ski in that category. Finndog, who owns the 8.5ti, agreed, as did Kevin. 8.5ti does everything a little better and is more fun, but you do have to pay more attention to it.
Dynastar Outland 87: very sweet, great tip and tail flex, grippy on softer snow, a bit overwhelmed on the really firm stuff. Made for soft groomers, bumps and trees, super forgiving and no loss of performance compare to others.
Head REV 85: this ski continues to impress. Kevin, a very accomplished bump skier, found this to be one of his top 3 bump skis. Great carver and in junk snow too. Tip is a little soft for really hauling, but a serious performer in the trees, bumps, and at reasonable groomer speeds.
90-100mm skis: starting to get a little wide for the conditions, but still manageable
Kastle FX94; small update, still a superb ski. Kevin's #2 in the bumps, says something for a wide ski. No speed limit, superb snow feel, still a solid carver, but really at home off-piste. Lack of new snow really meant we couldn't tell much about the new early rise tip. Could be the only ski many people own.
Stockli Stormrider 95: maybe the best ski I have ever been on. It was one of the top 3 skis in bumps, held better on firm snow than most of the 80-90mm group, was super easy and forgiving, and had the stability of a 183cm (I skied 174cm). What a ski! Only issue is the relatively short length for new snow.
Stockli Stormrider 100: same performance as the 95, but even quicker with a 17mm radius. There is video of me running railroad tracks on this ski, not something I normally trust to a ski this wide, because they wash out and track funny. Not this ski. Also awesome in bumps and junk snow, I ripped through a tree section that Finndog showed me, with total confidence. Great ski.
Head REV 90: really sweet off-piste ski. Doesn't have the grip of the Stocklis, but otherwise comparable, save for a bit more damp feel than the Stockli, which was quite lively for the Swiss company. Felt more like the FX94 but with a softer tip and a bit more damp.
Blizzard Bonafide 180cm: solid ski, but too stiff for me, too much work in bumps and trees. I am much more of a Kabookie fan (not tested here). The Peacemaker handled the conditions better as well.
100mm+ skis: we only tested 2, the conditions were poor. Too much work to stay in the zipper line on a planky wide ride. We skied the Blizzard Scout, Blizzard Peacemaker, and Nordica Vagabond. They were pretty much out of their element, although the Peacemaker was manageable in bumps except for the lack of tail. Will review under more appropriate conditions.