The FX104 excelled on cold, midwinter chalk, where it was highly maneuverable and pretty effortless to whip around on jump turns. The FX104 was my first choice for those high-pressure swings when the winds had been ripping through the Tetons and the mercury was hovering around 0° Fahrenheit.
The designers of the FX104 had steep couloir skiing in mind, and, as expected, the FX104 was excellent on my first foray into the Once is Enough couloir off Cody Peak, in less than ideal conditions. The entrance was firm, and a lack of snow necessitated some careful billygoating.
In the gut, the snow transitioned into chalk and then to softer, slarvable snow at the bottom. The FX104 ate it all up. Toward the bottom, it was easy to slide the tails at the top of the turn before engaging the edge (and who doesn’t like a cream slarving?). The FX104 was predictable and dependable up top, then fun on the high-speed run-out.
On groomed snow, the FX104 held an edge quite well, but didn’t have the pop and energy of a carving ski. On Rendezvous Trail, I was able to set it on edge and just ride the radius of the ski as opposed to truly carving / bending the ski, and as such it felt somewhat dead. I would compare this lack of return to the feeling of the 10/11 Stockli Stormrider VXL, as opposed to a ski truly made to carve, like the Kastle MX88 or the Nordica Fire Arrow. (Disclaimer: I weigh only 145 pounds, and a heavier person might be able to bend the FX104 to get some return. I have no problem, however, bending other metal skis that are made for carving….)
All that being said, once the ski was on edge, the dampness inspired confidence to shred through Jackson Hole’s “unique” grooming patterns, and I could plough through any kind of mank that turned up as the snow warmed.
Which brings me to my favorite condition for the 104: spring corn.
This past season we had a bizarre spring at Jackson Hole, in which it was often too warm or too cold for ideal corn to form. As a result, early mornings were often too setup, followed by a small window of ideal corn before the heat took over and conditions changed to wet, heavy, late-spring corn. The ski was adept at navigating all of those conditions, and did especially well when the snow became very heavy and moist.
I attribute the predictability of the FX104 in variable conditions to both the straight shovels and the dampness of the ski. Where some skis with wider shovels may be pushed around and produce resistance in heavier snow, the FX104 steered true. I had no problem initiating turns, and as I mentioned earlier, at either high or low speeds the ski was stable through variable mank.
Julia Van Raalte put the 12/13 Blizzard Dakota to the test in Niseko, Japan. Now, Emily Cleveland weighs in from Jackson Hole on this ski that is "burly and nimble, unlike any ski I have tried before."
In Jackson Hole, Emily Cleveland has found the Atomic Access to be lightweight, playful, and really easy to ski.
At 115 underfoot, the women's-specific 2012-2013 Black Diamond Element shines in powder, but it also rips groomers and (with a slightly forward mount position) handles crud.