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2016-2017 Salomon X-Drive 8.8 FS

Jonathan Ellsworth reviews the Salomon X-Drive 8.8 FS for Blister Gear Review

Salomon X-Drive 8.8 FS

Ski: 2016-2017 Salomon X Drive 8.8, 184cm

Available Lengths: 165, 172, 179, 184 cm

Actual Tip-to-Tail Length (straight tape pull): 182.6cm

Stated Dimensions (mm): 131-88-117

Blister’s Measured Dimensions (mm): 131-88-117

Blister’s Measured Weight per Ski: 2131 & 2141 grams

Stated Sidecut Radius: 19 meters

Core Construction: Poplar + Basalt Fiber + Carbon/Polyamide Laminate

Tip & Tail Splay: 57 / 18 mm

Traditional Camber Underfoot: 5 mm

Mount Location: Recommended Line (81.3cm from tail; -10.0cm from center)

Boots / Bindings: Salomon X Pro 120 / Marker Jester (DIN at 11)

Test Locations: Taos Ski Valley, Copper Mountain

Days Skied: 13

[Editor’s Note: Our review was conducted on the 14/15 X-Drive 8.8 FS, which was not changed for 15/16 or 16/17, except for the graphics.]

 

At first glance, the Salomon X-Drive 8.8 FS looks like a pretty traditional, straight-forward ski. It’s not fat, and it doesn’t have a weird camber profile, or a ridiculous amount of rocker.

But out of everything I’ve skied this past winter and spring, it’s one of the most interesting and most surprising skis I’ve been on, and I’m looking forward to getting a whole lot more time on it this coming season.

Why?

Four primary reasons:

1) It has a totally coherent, cohesive design.

2) Of current skis, this might be my new favorite “bad conditions” ski, a title that’s been held by the 13/14 Volkl Mantra. If you don’t like to slow down in demanding terrain and nasty, firm conditions, then you should definitely keep reading this review.

3) On a related note, while I will compare this 88mm-underfoot ski to a couple of other well-known 88mm skis in its class (the Volkl Kendo and the 13/14 Rossignol Experience 88), I kept finding myself comparing the X-Drive 8.8 to other 98mm-underfoot skis, particularly the 13/14 Volkl Mantra, not other 88mm-underfoot skis.

4) On another related note, this is the first sub-90mm underfoot ski I’ve been on that I would feel very comfortable heading into big, steep, off-piste terrain in firm / nasty conditions.

So now let’s flesh out those points a bit:

A Coherent Design

This might not sound like a big deal, but if you spent your entire winter and a portion of your summer on a slew of skis that too often don’t feel this way, I imagine that you, too, would get excited about this.

We often get on skis that very much feel like they were designed by committee, like some marketing people came in with a bunch of bullet points and insisted that a ski have qualities X, Y, and Z—regardless of whether X, Y, and Z actually make sense for this particular type of ski.

The X-Drive 8.8 FS definitely doesn’t perform like a product that got screwed up by someone in the marketing department. Salomon came up with a coherent design, then executed it perfectly.

There are no hinge points in the X-Drive 8.8’s flex pattern. The overall weight of the ski works very well with the flex pattern of the ski. And the rocker profile works well with the dimensions of the ski. In short, every element of this ski is in concert with every other design element of this ski, which again…see the first sentence of this section.

The X-Drive lineup & the X-Drive 8.8 FS

Salomon’s “X-Drive” lineup consists of three skis: the 8.8 FS, the 8.3 FS, and the 8.0 FS (those numbers = width in centimeters), and Salomon describes this category as “All Mountain Frontside.” And even if “All Mountain Frontside” sounds like a bit of a contradiction, it actually sort of works here.

Of the X-Drive 8.8 FS in particular, Salomon says that it “blurs the line between high performance frontside carver and backside shredder.” Yep, it does. And while we’ve all probably read a million product descriptions of skis that claim the same thing, this is the only 88mm-underfoot ski I’ve been on that actually does what the company says it does.

The X-Drive 8.8 has a subtle amount of tip rocker, and an even subtler amount of tail rocker. But for a “high performance frontside & all-mountain ski,” a very small amount of tip rocker goes a long way; same with an even smaller amount of tail rocker and tail taper.

So why are those details about the tip rocker, tail shape, and tail rise particularly interesting?

Flex Pattern of the Salomon X-Drive 8.8 FS

Because Salomon decided to make the 184cm X-Drive 8.8 FS a very stiff ski. They also gave it a very consistent, excellent flex pattern.

The X-Drive 8.8 FS is evidence that you can combine a very stiff flex pattern with subtle amounts of the above elements to produce a ski that can be pushed extremely hard (think 13/14 Mantra), without being terribly difficult to ski. On snow, I’d call the 8.8 roughly as accessible / demanding as the 13/14, 184cm Volkl Mantra.

(The X-Drive 8.8 has slightly but noticeably stiffer shovels than the Mantra, and the 8.8’s tails are decidedly stiffer than the Mantra’s. In fact, the 8.8 hand flexes stiffer than virtually every ski we’ve ever reviewed at Blister.)

The 184cm X-Drive 8.8 will ask you to be on your game. Like any ski in this category, it is not that tolerant of backseat skiing, but it will allow you to drive the shovels as hard as you wish. And the wonderful, consistent flex pattern creates a big sweet spot, allowing you to ski this ski from a more neutral position, too.

Bucking the Trend: A *Truly* All-Mountain 88mm Ski?

There’s been a tendency among ski manufacturers to make the flex patterns of skis softer the narrower their skis get. For example, the 13/14 Rossi E88 is much softer than the 13/14 Rossi E98; the 14/15 ON3P Wrenegade 102 is softer than the ON3P Wrenegade 112; the LINE Supernatural 92 is softer than the Supernatural 100, which is in turn softer than the Supernatural 108.

In other words, “88mm” has somehow come to be viewed as an “intermediate” width. I’ve actually seen that term written in product descriptions before—”intermediate width”—and heard marketing folks talk this way. But of course, that’s dumb. Serious race skis are skinnier than 88mm.

Again, the X-Drive 8.8 is not soft. Salomon has bucked this “intermediate-width” trend and built an extremely capable, damp, stable, powerful 88mm-ski with a very high top end.

I want more time on this ski to substantiate this claim, but so far, this is the first 88mm ski I’ve been on that I can go ski hard and fast in firm conditions everywhere at Taos. I described the 13/14 Volkl Mantra as a phenomenal bad conditions ski, and that’s very much how I think of the X Drive 8.8—the tougher the conditions and the steeper the terrain, the more this ski shines.

That’s why in terms of (1) its capabilities and (2) where I would be inclined to use it, the best comparison I can make is to the 13/14, 184cm Volkl Mantra—a ski that is a full centimeter wider.

Weight (or, One Reason Why This Ski is So Good Off-Piste & on Roughed-Up Groomers)

The X-Drive 8.8 is a substantial ski on snow, and surprise, surprise: it’s got some weight behind it.

For your consideration: our 13/14, 184cm-long, 98mm-underfoot, metal-having Volkl Mantras weigh in at 2058 & 2071 grams. The 184cm-long, 88mm-underfoot X-Drive 8.8 FS weighs 2131 & 2141 grams.

Admittedly, Salomon touts the weight-saving, honeycomb tips of the X-Drive 8.8 FS, but thankfully, the tips didn’t feel “light”—by which I mean “twitchy”—at all.

Another smart move by Salomon was that, since they decided to honeycomb the tip (whatever that actually means, in terms of the amount of material and weight actually removed), they didn’t also heavily taper that tip. In my opinion, you should pretty much never do both of those things on a directional ski that is supposed to hold up at speed, off-piste or on-piste. So if you’re going to actively lighten up the tips, then don’t taper them, too.

So the X-Drive 8.8 is an extremely stable ski, the most stable 88mm ski I’ve ever been on, by far. (Note: there very well may be some similar 88mm skis out there that I simply haven’t skied yet—e.g., the Kastle MX 88?—so I’m open to suggestions.)

Groomers

The 184cm X-Drive 8.8 is definitely more of a GS ski than a slalom ski. If you enjoy noodling around on groomers or making a lot of expertly carved, tight turns at moderate speeds, there are better skis out there. But if you enjoy high angle carves while charging hard—even on (or especially on) less-than-perfect groomers, then this is about as good as it gets for a truly all-mountain ski.

On groomers, the X-Drive 8.8’s dampness reminded me quite a bit of the 187cm, 13/14 Moment Belafonte, which is a ridiculous comparison given that the Belafonte is 106mm underfoot. But I was never able to overwhelm the 8.8 at speed down roughed-up groomers.

And on super-sticky spring snow in Colorado (it was some of the stickiest, grabbiest snow I’ve ever skied) I very much appreciated the stiffness of the X-Drive 8.8’s shovels. When the snow would grab and I’d get jerked out over the shovels, skis with a softer flex pattern would have folded up and had me going even farther forward. That never happened on the X Drive.

I keep focusing on the top end of the 184cm X-Drive 8.8 FS, because I think this is where the ski is truly special and unique. But again, this ski is not a bear at slower speeds—you can finesse this ski—it’s just that at slower speeds, I imagine that bigger skiers will be happiest on the 184cm model (see the note on the next page about sizing recommendations).

103 Comments

  1. Brian June 17, 2014 Reply

    Fuck yes! Been waiting for a ski like this! Stoked to try this out next year. FWIW, it sounds like an evolution of the Enduro 850 ti, which was also a burly skinny ski (though likely softer) – have you tried one before? Honestly, it’d be cool to see you guys go to SIA and do a brief review on a ton of skis for these kinds of conditions (since SIA never seems to have good conditions).

  2. Blister Member
    Paul June 18, 2014 Reply

    Hi,

    Thanx for another solid review. I’m looking for a descent 80 some in the waist ski for next year. I’ll definitely have to check this one out. The new Elan Amphibio 88 is supposed to be really good as well. It’s got two sheets of metal now. And the MX 88 along with Brahma’s are on top of my list to demo. Although I did like the old E88, I can’t stand the new one. It’s way too lite and just flabs all over. It’s more of an intermediate ski. The E100 rips though, and that’s pretty much what I’m looking for but in a narrower waist.

    • Author

      Thanks, Paul. And I’m surprised to hear that you found the new E88 to be lighter than / less substantial? than the old E88 – as I noted in the review, I’d basically been told by Rossi the opposite. Also, we’ll have to see about that Amphibio 88…

  3. Blister Member
    Paul June 18, 2014 Reply

    I demoed the new E88 in super firm and race like conditions. Yes, it’s lighter and way quicker, but it felt kinda weak to me. I thought it was me at first so I grabbed my pair 12/13 and than the new ones again. Same thing. Definitely not a charger, but an awesome cruising ski. Then I jumped on the E100’s and they and they just ripped. Amazing in GS turns. They have a super strong tail. However, short radius are a are kind of a bitch. If they made the E88 with metal, that would be money.
    The only issue I could see with the E100 would be in trees or tight spots. The tail maybe hard to break free as the ski wants to carve all the time.
    And I totally agree with u about the E88 vs E98. Three years ago I was all over the 88, and did not really care for the 98. I’m gonna invest in the 100’s for the upcoming season, as the 88 did not really impress me in anyway.

  4. Eric Edelstein July 9, 2014 Reply

    Another great review Jonathan…super descriptive and useful for folks who what to know the personality of a ski on snow…not just it’s specs! Good comparisons too…keep up the good work…Salomon can make some great skis…but as with many companies…they sometimes lose their focus in some categories some seasons…but come back with a fun ski after a bit of time….

    Thanks again and keep up the informative reviews. I look forward to seeing the Qlabs on snow this season!

  5. Mark Unwin July 20, 2014 Reply

    Jonathan. Just tried this ski at Treble Cone, Lake Wanaka thanks to Racers Edge in pretty terrible conditions with little snow and ice on all runs and loved it. I was looking for something to replace some dynstar 4*4 contacts and these were awesome. The more you skied them the better they were. I was pushed back a couple of times for being lazy and not attacking the slop enough but when I did they really rocked. I am 6’3′ and tried the 179s and they stable on all of the slopes. They are certainly on my wish list.

    • Author

      Nice, Mark! I’m really eager to hear what others think of this ski. It seems ideal for the terrain of Treble Cone in the sort of conditions you describe. So go back to Racer’s Edge (great shop!), say hi to Charlie for me, and buy this ski. I want Salomon to keep this ski around.

  6. Duncan Wallace July 22, 2014 Reply

    Hi team,

    I tried the 172s at both Cardrona and Treble Cone these past holidays. I have been playing on my Rossignol S3 186s for a couple of seasons but the hard variable conditions were making the days long!!! I found the x-drive 8.8s a heap of fun in the conditions described by Mark, back to a permanent ski high :-) I’m keen but wanted to try these sticks in some powder conditions before buying.

    Oli at Racer’s Edge is a great guy to work with, and Shaker of course.

    Cheers

    • Blister Member
      Amit April 20, 2016 Reply

      hey duncan,

      i am debating between the 172s and the 179s.
      would you mind sharing your height/weight so i can better gauge my decision?
      also, were you able to try the 179s?
      were the 172s enough ski for you or did you feel like you’d have liked to move up a size?

      thanks!

  7. Pat August 13, 2014 Reply

    OK, so you tease us about the different ON3P 14-15 Wren 102 and 112 flex patterns and yet no review of either yet? I was sort of hoping you took one or the other to NZ and/or SA this summer. Any chance on that?

  8. Kyle November 23, 2014 Reply

    Jonathan another great review and from the quiver awards, I see you are very high on this ski. Being from the midwest, I usually don’t get to demo skis in there intended conditions and your reviews have been a big help. Right now i’m trying to find a ski to complement my Soul 7 to give me the most versitility depending on the conditions, without overlapping too much. (88-100mm range) So, I guess my question is would rippers like E100 and X-Drive better complement the Soul 7 or a little more playful ski like a supernatural 100 be better? Also in terms of the X-Drive what would be the desired length for shorter, lighter skiers? Lets say under six feet, 170lbs and lighter.

    • Blister Member
      Paul November 24, 2014 Reply

      You may want to check out the Brahma’s as well.
      And hard stuff, Rossignol Pursuit HP or the Nordica Firearrow 84.
      All rippin’ skis.

    • Author

      Thanks, Kyle. I’d think less of it in terms of “which is the better complement” and more of it in terms of what YOU are wanting to do with your 88-100mm ski? In large part because of its tail and flex pattern, the E100 is the best high-performance CARVER of the 3 skis you’ve named. The X-Drive is the most capable in nasty conditions, and the Supernatural 100 is perhaps the most easy going of the 3. It’s a nice all around ski (I just skied it again yesterday), and Brett Carroll’s review of it gets it exactly right. I could see pairing any of them with the Soul 7 … so which ski sounds most intriguing to you?

      As for the X-Drive, I really like the 184, but I really like the 184 because of its flat-out top end. If that’s of less interest to you, then I think you would probably be just fine dropping down a size.

  9. Pat December 16, 2014 Reply

    Love the old-school, pow-submarine update! (And no doubt when you touched down on the hard stuff beneath it wasn’t a jarring, carbon grind that went up your spine)

    Pretty stoked on this or Brahma (or Bonifide as a distant 3rd) as the next quiver addition. To help make that decision, what’s the functional running length guestimate on these? From past experience, I know a stiff ski with 150 cm is too much for me and right now the quiver is running 100 to 120 cm and working well for softer skis in softer snow. Definitely need a damper, hard conditions ski but probably not longer than 130cm ish contact/ running length. Great review as always. Thanks much, Pat

  10. Brian December 16, 2014 Reply

    Are there any other skis in this ‘non-intermediate but skinny’ category that you guys are aware of – ones that might be options or competition to the x-drive? I’m also greatly disappointed by this trend.

    • Author

      Hey, Brian – we’re currently putting time on the 187cm Blizzard Brahma, and it is a ski (in that length, at least) that is certainly a competitor to the X-Drive. For sheer top end so far, I think the X-Drive wins, but the 187 Brahma is not an intermediate ski. And while I haven’t yet skied them, the Kastle MX 83 and MX 88 are two skis that may belong in this conversation.

  11. Andrew December 16, 2014 Reply

    I’m on this ski and couldn’t agree more with the review. I feel it’s a mogul slayer and I love the top end performance. I’m looking for something to compliment it on deeper days, say 100ish under foot. Not a fan of the old or new Mantra. I tried the rocker108 and found it too squirley. What I’m really looking for is an xDrive 100+. Would the Q lab fit this bill?

    • Author

      Hey, Andrew – as I note in the review, the 100mm+ ski that reminds me most of the X-Drive 8.8 is the 187cm, 13/14 Moment Belafonte. Will Brown skied the X-Drive today for the first time, and he made the same comment – that this 88mm ski felt like the 187cm Belafonte. So that’s our answer.

      The 190cm Q Lab has a more powder-oriented shovel than the 13/14 Belafonte. So I’d rather ski the Q-Lab in pow, but in crud and chop, I’d take the 13/14 Belafonte. But hopefully my reviews of those two skis will make clear which ski sounds like the better fit for you.

  12. Blister Member
    Paul December 16, 2014 Reply

    Thanx 4 the solid update***

  13. Rian December 24, 2014 Reply

    Jonathan,
    When can we expect the review of the 187 Brahma?
    Thanks,
    Rian

  14. Blister Member
    Charlie December 30, 2014 Reply

    Jonathan,
    Many thanks for your comprehensive and relatable reviews. I bought my son a Dynastar PowerTrack 89 based on your recent review and can’t wait to see your thoughts on the Blizzard Brahma 187 cm. as I decide between it and Salomon X Drive 8.8 in 184 cm. for my most days ski.
    Happy New Year, Charlie

  15. Dom January 12, 2015 Reply

    I’m looking to switch to a 2 ski quiver this season. I am 6’2 and chunky (105 kg chunky).

    I was lining up these in 184cm and some blister pros in 190 cm. My problem is that the 184s don’t seem to be sold in the UK; only 179cm are available.

    My favourite piste skis were 168cm volkl supersport 6*s.

    You mention that some bigger skiers were on the 179cm. How big were they and would I be mad to try 179?

    I don’t charge and would like to use these for pistes and piste side skiing in Europe. When I’m in n america I would use the blister.

    • Author

      Hi, Dom – one of the skiers I was referring to is around your weight, probably a bit heavier. And with your very helpful, “I don’t charge,” I feel pretty confident saying that you will probably quite like the 179s – and perhaps more than you would like the 184s anyway.

      Selfishly, I hope you get the 179s and are willing to report back…

      • Dom January 17, 2015 Reply

        I have gone with the 179cms and will report back in a few weeks once I have had a chance to use them.

        I also got a really great deal on some Scott punishers which are being dumped at prices too good to refuse. No Blister Pros (this year) but $900 (incl bindings) could have turned into $1500-1800 if customs charged duty and VAT. The Scott’s were $600 with bindings by comparison.

        V excited about the new stiff two ski quiver after finding 2013 SFBs in 184s too soft.

        Love the site thank you for your excellent reviews.

  16. Matt January 23, 2015 Reply

    Hey Jonathan,

    Been a long time fan of your reviews, always super dependable and always dead on! I’m glad that you have decided to review a ski for us East Coasters that I can use as my daily ski. I recently bought the Nordica Fire Arrow EDT, usually I dread ice like we all do, but with the Nordica I welcome the ice! I wish I read this review sooner and I would have thought of the X Drive. Can you do a quick comparison to the two skis and give me your thoughts? The Fire Arrow is not for the faint of heart and punishes you when you fall in the back seat, but they are FAST and fun!

  17. Blister Member
    Richard February 11, 2015 Reply

    Thanks Jonathan,

    I love your reviews – as well as those from the other Blister reviewers – the insights are so informative and I really appreciate the effort you put into each. Indeed, the reviews are so good, I even did what you’re not supposed to do; I bought the Nordica El Capo skis, without first demoing them. It was not a mistake – those are great skis and I’ve had lots of fun with them.

    But then again, I’ve never smiled so much as when I demoed the X-Drive 8.8 at Vail this January and I have to say, for me, the skis exceeded expectations by quite a margin. So much so, I bought them without hesitation.

    Did your review influence my decision? Oh Yes! When the shop suggested I demo them, the first thing I did was to read your review – I was also looking at the Experience 88, the Volkl Kendo, as well as others. After reading your review, I knew what to expect, especially the bit about bringing your A-game – the X-Drive does not tolerate back-seat driving! But it also provides instant feedback, letting you know if you’re about to pass neutral, so that you can ‘wake-up’ and make the appropriate adjustment. It’s a ski with firm boundaries, but so rewarding, I almost feel like I’m skiing with a trusted companion – which sounds stupid, as I read this back to myself, but that’s how I feel when I’m on them – confident and in control, no matter what speed I’m at.

    My only request, is for more reviews and comparisons, please! Specifically the X-Drive 8.8 vs the Stockli Stormrider 88 and the Kastle MX88; as well as the Stockli Stormrider 107. In the first case, it’s pure curiosity, since it’s hard to imagine either giving materially more pleasure that the X-Drive – but then again I will demo them if I ever get the chance. In the latter case, I’m now wondering if I’ll fancy something like the X-Drive-in-a-107mm-format more than my El Capos – after all, each season, my skiing evolves and my tastes evolve along with my skiing.

    Thank you again,
    Richard

    • Author

      Thanks for both the very kind words and the very good feedback, Richard. And I actually quite like your phrasing about the 8.8, that “it feels like skiing with a trusted companion.” That’s kind of the whole point – in demanding conditions or terrain, or at very high speed, I want stability and predictability – no surprises. I need to be able to trust the ski. And you can trust this ski.

      We can’t promise any immediately upcoming reviews of the Stocklis or Kastles, but your requests have been noted…

  18. Steve February 14, 2015 Reply

    Bought this ski (184cm) purely on this review and I am here to say this review is absolutely spot-on in my experience. I had been looking for a ski for Summit County in-bounds when there has been no snow in days/weeks. This ski just became a part of the permanent quiver for quite a few years!!!

    I am 6’2, 225# and took the X-Drive everywhere at Winter Park / Mary Jane yesterday. This ski rips on groomers, I personally found it an easy ski to make a variety of turns, I don’t feel I had to really work the ski that hard, took it in trees, bumps, all over. I drove this ski hard and pushed it as much as I could and just a smooth, damp, solid ride.

    Plain and simple – just a great all-around ski.

    Now if I can just find a replica of it in the 108 range…
    And the 118 range for powder…

    • Author

      Nice, Steve! Glad we’re in agreement about this ski.

      And as I said in the review, the closest thing in the ~108mm range is the Moment Belafonte. And at your size, you might be a good candidate for the current 194cm Belafonte. Or, if you’re wanting a more powder-oriented charger than the Belafonte, you might check out my review of the Liberty Variant 113…

  19. craig February 16, 2015 Reply

    So….if you had to go with one or the other what would it be? 13/14 Mantra or X?

    • Author

      You know the answer — it would depend on what the rest of my quiver looked like.

      If I went Mantra and skipped the 8.8, I would have a lot less high-speed fun on groomers. And I still like the width of the Mantra in Taos’s West Basin, and the bigger sidecut radius for steep, techy, all-mountain stuff.

      So my quiver could easily include a 88mm, 98, 108, and 118…

  20. Blister Member
    Craig February 17, 2015 Reply

    classic response!
    so little time, so many choices….
    hoping to A/B the two to feel the sidecut/construction layup differences.
    Thanks J

  21. matt February 22, 2015 Reply

    Skied it against the Rossignol 88 and much happier with the x drive and I feel it’s a better all mountain ski. Rips in the bumps and opens up well … my type of skiing. The Rossignol 88 is just the opposite.

  22. Johan February 24, 2015 Reply

    Hi
    After reading your review and comments here I´ve decided to go for the 179 cm 8.8 FS. As this needs to be a one-ski quiver for me I´ve been in som troubles regarding binding. I want to be able to drive them hard and fast in groomers but also on occations shorter touring for powder. I´m keen to here what you have to say about combining these with the Salomon guardian 16? Are these binding “good enough” for harder runs on groomers, ice etc?
    Thanks for great reviews
    J

  23. Blister Member
    Andrew March 2, 2015 Reply

    Hi Jonathan –

    I just spent a week on my 13/14 187 Belafontes hunting for soft snow and finding some of that some places (at Kicking Horse and Lake Louise) but a lot of ice bumps in others. I’ve always sung the praises of the 187 Belafonte for all conditions and for a good portion of this last trip they were awesome but when we got to the B.C. interior (where the mountains have received considerable snowfall, then warmed to +7C or more and rained on all the way to the top, then frozen to the valley), I found myself wanting something stiffer and even more confidence inspiring. I wonder if the X-Drive 8.8s would have made those conditions fun? When you guys talk about firm, nasty conditions, how firm and nasty are you talking? On really iced-up groomers, I found the Belafontes’ tails washed-out when I went to lay them over and in places where the bumps were sufficiently iced-up that they rebuffed steps being kicked into them the Belafontes weren’t awesome either. All to say, maybe I need to give my skis a good tuning but the Belafontes felt like the wrong tools a few times. The prospect of making conditions that awful fun is pretty exciting to say the least so if you could please let me know if you think this is possible with the X-Drive 8.8s (or if there’s any other ski you would recommend), it would be much appreciated!

    Thank you,

    Andrew

    • Author

      Hey, Andrew – I can’t say that the X-Drive 8.8 will make those conditions dreamy, but I can say that there is no other ski I personally would opt for over the 8.8. As I noted in the review, you can sort of think of it as a skinnier Belafonte – very damp, and without the Belafonte’s twinned-up tail (so better for ice), and without the relatively deep rocker line and tip splay of the Belafonte (so better for firm & ice).

      If you’re skiing bulletproof ice moguls, the stiffness of the 8.8 might make it trickier than a similarly shaped ski with a softer flex, but whatever. The 8.8 will keep you honest and make sure you aren’t skiing lazy / sloppy, which is definitely the greatest benefit of crappy ice bumps.

    • Steve March 6, 2015 Reply

      Andrew,

      I think this is your ski for what you are describing. Summit County, CO had not seen much snow when I first took mine out at WP – the ski slayed hardpack (zero softness). Did not ski any ice but I can’t imagine these skis wouldn’t slice right through it..

      So get your super forward stance and drive those shins through your boots and lay down some tracks through those conditions!

  24. Blister Member
    Andrew March 5, 2015 Reply

    Okay,cool – thanks Jonathan! And let’s be honest, the only people skiing the aforementioned ice bump conditions most of the time are like, sadists who grew-up with gold medal moguls finals images from the Albertville Olympics in their minds whilst “improving their technique” in the rain… but, for those of us living & skiing in the Canadian Kootenays / Rockies / westcoast / U.S. PNW, this is the year of the ice bump and the X-Drive 8.8 is totally relevant again… suddenly, the ironic guy in the one piece with the zinc on his nose, on the mono ski feels the unfortunate pangs of actually being on the right gear for the conditions… (his sense of awesomeness crushed, he hip-swishes his way down the hill as new-schoolers copy his technique through the bulletproof ice bump field…)

  25. John March 9, 2015 Reply

    Hi Jonathan,

    Thank-you for your helpful reviews; they’re brilliant. I wonder if you could please help me. I am British and ski in Europe. I have always tended to hire skis as they work out quite cheap but I realise now that I’m getting more picky so think the time is right to buy. I will only have one pair of skis so it needs to be that one quiver ski that people talk about. I consider myself very advanced/low expert. I am pretty quick but don’t feel the need to blast everywhere; I’m like playing around with the terrain and have fun/variety in turns, etc.

    I’m fit, 6 foot and 200lbs.I ski 60% on piste but like dropping off the edge/going in trees wherever I can and always hire a guide to do free riding (this is my weakest area, not helped by only getting to ski 2 weeks each year). I like short quick turns, longer carving turns and moguls. In moguls, I’m as happy pop off the terrain or plough my own furrow. I think I’m pretty good technically and a quick learner. I want a ski that’s very responsive/nimble, good in crud, trustworthy and, importantly, will help me develop as I do more and more off piste (snow conditions permitting).

    I’m torn between 3 skis: Salomon X drive 8.8 (179) /Blizzard Brahma (180) / Dynastar 89 (179 or 186… unsure). I am thinking of the shorter length as I think with the first two skis, the longer length may be too much for me and I prefer something quicker/easier to turn rather than top end speed. Can you please help re ski and length? I like the Dynastar review but suspect the shorter lengths of the first two may be more comparable and, for me, have the edge (no pun intended).

    I am not going to have the opportunity to demo any of them so am relying on reviews. [I should say, I skied the Salomon X drive 8.3 this year and loved it and it was quick, responsive and I could trust it … I don’t t want to buy it though as I want something more capable of piste].

    A prompt reply – if possible – would help as stocks are low given we’re approaching the end of season sales.

    Many many thanks.

    John

    Ps. I may not be able to find the Brahma (in that length) in the UK so that may narrow the field a little! I could get it from the US but obviously that will increase cost and may not be justified.
    Pps. I agree with you re the graphics on the Salomon… shame.

    • Author

      Thank you, John.

      If it sounds like the 180 Brahma will be difficult to come by, then let’s talk 179 X-Drive 8.8 vs. Powertrack 89. In short, if quickness is what you prize most, I would opt for the Powertrack 89, and I have actually heard very good things about the 179cm 89 from two people I trust, including our reviewer Charlie Bradley who has spent a little time on both the 179cm and 186cm Powertrack. But at 200 lbs, I’d worry a bit that the 179 Powertrack will feel like enough ski for you… But if you spend a lot of time in moguls at slower speeds, I think the 179 Powertrack 89 would be the easiest ski of the bunch.

      And as you know, I would take the top end of the 184cm X-Drive 8.8 over any ski in this width, which is one of the things that I love about the ski. If you go 179, I am confident that you will still have a good bit of stability, and I suspect better edgehold than the much more heavily tip rockered Powertrack 89.

      If I had to summarize: the Powertrack 89 is a quick ski that still provides some nice / decent stability. It is probably easier to ski at slower speeds, and more inclined to make a lot of turns than the 8.8.

      The X-Drive 8.8 is an incredibly stable ski that, if you are an advanced skier and will be skiing with some speed anyway, ought to be able to move quickly enough. — And that will, of course, be more true of the 179 than the 184.

      Beyond that, I’m not sure that I have much to offer beyond my reviews, but if you have a more specific question, I’ll be happy to try to answer. Hope that helps a little?

  26. Blister Member
    Amit March 16, 2015 Reply

    Hello Jonathan,

    I’ve been an avid reader of you and your teams work for several years now. I purchased the Rossignol Sickles (186) and the Moment Bibby Pros (184) based off of your reviews.

    I was looking for a front side charger that will be perfectly those runs that haven’t seen snowfall in a little while. Roughed up groomers and crud in variable conditions. Based on your reviews, I was interested in demo’ing the Blizzard Brahma (180), the Salomon X-Drive 8.8 (179 or 184), the Line Supernatural 92, and the Volkl Kendo (184). I am 5’10”, between 165-170 pounds.

    I was at Northstar for the weekend, and although I called ahead of time to make sure they had the skis, they only had the Brahmas and the Kendos. After A/B’ing them for two days, the Kendos seemed like the better match. I never had to check my speed, could straight line everything through the roughed up slushy spring groomers and small bumps, but was always left wondering if I would prefer the X-Drive 8.8’s. I felt very comfortable in the air with the Kendos. Do you think I will like the X-Drive 8.8’s more? If so, at what size?

    Thanks Jonathan!!

    • Author

      Thanks, Amit – glad the Sickles and Bibby Pros have worked out for you.

      I haven’t yet skied the new, tweaked Kendo (black graphics), but I can’t get myself to believe that it will be as much ski as the 184 X-Drive 8.8. My old logic professor would kill me, since my belief is based on the previous 184cm Kendo – which was definitely less ski than the 184 X-Dive 8.8. (I described the Kendo as a very good moguls and groomer ski, but the X-Drive 8.8 as a great bad conditions / roughed-up groomers / truly all-mountain ski…)

      Finally, if you preferred the 184 Kendo to the 180 Brahma, then I suspect that you’d be more interested in the 179 X-Drive than the 184cm X-Drive.

      Then again, it also sounds like you really clicked with the Kendos, so … call it good?

      But selfishly, I hope you go demo the 179 X-Drive 8.8 and report back. I’d like to hear more from people who have skied the 179s.

      • Blister Member
        Amit March 17, 2015 Reply

        Thanks for the quick reply!

        Do you know of a place that I can find these Salomons for a demo? I can’t find anything online, and was hoping you had a place you know of.

        Thanks again Jonathan! :)

      • Blister Member
        Amit March 18, 2015 Reply

        Thanks for the quick reply!

        Do you know of places/resorts that demo the X-Drives? The ones I call don’t have Salomon skis right now.

  27. Steve March 17, 2015 Reply

    I just got back from Steamboat where it was quite possibly the worst spring conditions in history! (Yes, I am incredibly disappointed for being there 10 days.) However, the curiosity was bugging me to demo the Brahmas against the X-Drive 8.8s I already own and have about 10 days on them.

    Long story short – X-Drives is the only ski of choice for just plain horrible hardpack conditions, snow cone slush, and ice – they somewhat saved the trip. X-Drives are super damp and really took the sting out of the hard, rutted snow.

    The Brahmas in these conditions are very close to the X-Drives but I think the Brahmas will provide just a slight more versatility around the mountain. I would call them a slight bit “looser” in the tails and that would provide the versatility in bumps and trees.

    However, both great skis – just depends on what you value more.

  28. Doug April 2, 2015 Reply

    Hey Jonathan, another great review as always.

    I have skied on the 8.0 X-Drive in the 182 length and absolutely loved it for the conditions we had. Alpine skiing, hadn’t snowed for about 8 days and high wind had blown all the soft stuff away so hard and bumpy off piste and super hard on piste.

    My question is will the extra 2 cm on the 8.8 X-Drive make that much difference or would I be better of downsizing? I found the 182 to be a perfect amount of ski for me. I am 165lb and 5’11.

    Cheers :)

    • Author

      Thanks, Doug.

      And it’s a tough question. If the 182 8.0 felt perfect, I think it might be safer to err on the side of dropping down to the 179cm 8.8, only because I am confident that you will find it to be plenty stable. It’s very possible that you’ll love the 184cm 8.8 too, but it also becomes more possible that the ski might at times feel like a little more than you want or need? So I’m afraid that I can’t really say, but the 179s seem like the safer choice if you aren’t going to have a chance to demo first.

  29. Doug April 6, 2015 Reply

    Cheers Jonathan

    Hopeful I will be able to demo a pair in the next few days :)

    My other question is which out of the 8.8 and the 8.0 will better compliment a ski like the Rossie Soul 7?

  30. Jim July 6, 2015 Reply

    Jonathan — Hi, I demo’ed the X-Drive 8.8 last January and loved it — awesome on steeps and crud. Sometime afterward, I found your review, which reassured me I hadn’t been hallucinating. How does this ski compare to the 2016 Atomic Vantage CTI 90 and the Nordica NRGY 90?

    Thanks,
    Jim

  31. Mark Kaeck August 4, 2015 Reply

    Have you guys ever considered looking at the Stockli Stormrider 88?

  32. Roberto October 20, 2015 Reply

    Jonathan, after reading the recent blizzard line up article decided to read about the 8.8 and since I’m leaning towards the brahma (leaning on 180 per email) how would the compare to the 8.8? Pros/cons? Thanks

    • Author

      Hi, Roberto – picking up from our earlier conversation, the 3 skis that I think you’d be smart to consider are the 180 Brahma, the 179 X-Drive 8.8, and the 177 Volkl Kendo. The Kendo is probably a very good choice for the skiing you’d be doing in MN, but off-piste, it’s my least favorite of these 3 skis. As for the Brahma vs. the X-Drive 8.8, I’ve unfortunately only skied the 184 X-Drive, so don’t have the 179cm comparison to the 180 Brahma. But short answer: I think you would get along well with either ski. The biggest thing for me is that I prefer (on sub-90mm skis) to have less tip rocker, so I personally would opt for the 179 X-Drive over the Brahma. But if you know you want a slightly looser front end, then go Brahma. Honestly, at moderate speeds, I’m not sure the performance differences will be that pronounced between the two skis. I’d say the X-Drive 8.8 will be a bit better on ice. But where the X-Drive beats pretty much everything is at high speeds. The less you care about that, the more of a coin toss it may be. Last thing: it’s worth reading all of the comments in this thread. Some really good feedback from people who have been on both the Brahma and the X-Drive.

  33. Blister Member
    Steve October 28, 2015 Reply

    Jonathan – are you familiar with the Blizzard Magnum 8.5 (174cm)? I’ve been skiing them for three seasons, over 150 days, and love them, but they’re starting to delam in the tails. I ski Snowbird, Level 8-9 skier,teach a little and have a pair of Blister Pros (185) for deeper snow. I can get a pair of 2014 8.5s for cheap, but I’m thinking maybe the Brahmas (180) or Salomon X-Frame 8.8s (179) would be a nice change of pace. I’m 5’9″, 165lbs, in good shape and ski 70-80 days per season. Thoughts on the 8.5s? From what I’ve read, it’s considered a more high performance ski than the Brahmas, which surprises me, because I’ve always thought of it as an easy-turning, all mountain ski, but with a definite speed limit. I flexed the 8.8s and they are stiff, but I think I’d pick them over the Brahmas based on your reviews and all the great comments on this page.

    Thanks
    Steve

    • Author

      Hi, Steve – I’m afraid we haven’t been on the Magnum 8.5, so can’t say. But I can say that, given that it sounds like you’ve read all the comments here, etc., you certainly sound like a good candidate for the X-Drive 8.8, and I’d be surprised and came back and said that you were disappointed with that 179… Let us know!

  34. Jayson November 9, 2015 Reply

    Thanks! Just bought it and half the price versus this years model with the updated graphics but same technology…

    Now…to start looking at bindings.

  35. dbq November 13, 2015 Reply

    Hi Jonathan

    I know you get tons of requests to test skis but I really think you should get on the Kastle MX88 and the FX85HP, I have the FX84 which has been replaced by the FX85HP and also demo’ed the MX88 and both are superb albeit different skis.

    I have not skied the XDrive 8.8 but I have skied the Enduro XT 850 which I believe the XDrive 8.8 replaces and good as the Enduro was, the MX88 is better. A no nonsense, full camber, single sidecut radius (narrow) all mountain ski which is powerful but with a big sweet spot. It’s damped and silky smooth.

    The FX84 is a little bit more detuned in comparison and has tip rocker but still a very good all round ski for when there hasn’t been fresh snow for a while and you ski a lot of off piste junk, crud etc.

    Both are great skis and would be worthwhile comparisons to the XDrive 8.8 and 8.0

    thks

  36. Nck December 11, 2015 Reply

    Hi Jonathan,

    Any thoughts on using this for a dedicated AT setup on the East Coast? More often than not, its ice mixed with a foot of snow….

  37. Paul Burton December 18, 2015 Reply

    First of all, I’d like to applaud you and thank you for this site. Tremendously helpful and insightful reviews.

    Regarding the X-Drive 8.8 and sizing. I’m 5’11, 160-170lbs (depending on what I ate for dinner the night before) and have 40+ years on skis, former slalom and GS competitor, and ski instructor (Utah) … And have been riding a too short pair of pre-rocker Mantras for a long time. I’m intrigued by the Salomon’s for my goto inbounds skis. However, I’m unsure about length if the standard measure is between chin and top-of-head — which means the 184’s would be a full two inches taller than me. I’d like your thoughts.

    As much as I love laying tracks at speed, I’m unsure if the 184’s would be more ski than I need. But given your height and weight, I may be overthinking things.

    Thanks, P

    • Author

      Thank you, Paul! You’ve read my take on the length, and I’d take seriously the feedback from everyone who has commented. But long and short, if you’re worried at all about length, I doubt you will overwhelm the 179s. I haven’t skied them, and I do love the 184s, but especially if you will mostly use these on groomers and in bumps, I suspect you’d be fine on the 179s – and I’m confident you would still be able to lay down tracks on them. In punchy snow or very hard & fast skiing off-piste, you might prefer the 184s? I can’t say for sure.

      • Paul December 18, 2015 Reply

        Thanks for the feedback Jonathan. Much appreciated.

        I purchased the 184s (about two hours ago). I concluded there is about a one in a million chance I won’t be smiling like an idiot on these boards. Challenge now is not splurging on the Blister Pros.

        Absolutely love what you are doing with Blister. If you ever need any assistance/advice with (web) design direction or illustration, I’d be interested in getting involved.

        Cheers and happy skiing.

    • Paul February 22, 2016 Reply

      Update: After 8 days riding the X-Drive 8.8 this season, I thought I’d share a few additional performance tidbits based on my experience.

      I went with the 184, a 14cm increase in length over the 2010 Mantras I had been riding for the past five years. Which means that when I subtracted the X-Drive’s rocker profile, I was left with an effective edge length slightly longer than the Mantras. The 2010 Mantras were the last version with a traditional camber profile and are, in my opinion, one of the best all-around skis ever produced (even though their length was far too short for me).

      I still have my issues with all tip-rockered skis for one primary reason: Even subtle tip rocker has a profound impact on turn initiation. If, like me, you have racing experience you know how to use the shape of your ski to bash out turn shapes of any size using the shovel to engage the natural shape of your ski. What tip-rockered skis can never mimic is the “pop” between turns — that natural spring during unweighting to set up for the next turn. Tip rocker lifts the widest part of the shovel away from the snow. Which means that no matter how aggressively you work to engage the shovel of the ski, it’s still soft. Because the part of the edge that engages is the straight part of the edge below the shovel.

      The benefit of rockered tips is that you will never “catch” a tip. Ever. And that’s why the X-Drives are so reliable. Regardless of the slope and snow conditions there are no surprises with this ski. It’s rock solid and it absolutely rips. But in order to carve these skis across the slope, you have to get used to allowing the ski to do most of the turning for you. In other words, the tip rocker forces you to ride the shape of the ski more so than a full-camber ski would allow you to control the shape of the turn. In effect, if you love long carved turns at speed all day long, these skis will make you very very happy. If you like to vary the shape of your turns while carving, these skis may not be your best bet. They don’t carve well at slower speeds and simply cannot make shorter turn shapes without smearing.

      Deeper snow — I live in the PNW and “powder” days are very few and far between. We ride Cascade Concrete which can best be described as snow that has the consistency of a 7-11 Slurpee or a snow cone — Very wet, heavy, thick snow. Last week, I got on the mountain the day after a 7″ snowfall. There were pockets of knee-deep windblown snow with fluffy upper layers masking an almost custard-like center. That said, an empty mountain meant all sorts of fresh tracks. I had my X-Drives with me. Turned out to be the most fun I’ve had on skis this season. The X-Drives handled these challenging conditions beautifully. I arched long high-speed turns through ankle to shin-deep powslush with absolutely no problem. I was also able to make perfect medium-radius powder-eight-style turns, completing each turn with an ease that astonished me (because shovel bite was a non-issue). I found the X-Drives to be playful, yet rock solid in deeper snow. It worth noting that the “thickness” of the snow combined with the subtle tip rocker meant that the X-Drives tips weren’t ever going to dive. I didn’t find them challenging at all in deeper snow … Even though I would have rather had my pow skis with me.

      As for me, I could easily have gotten away with the 179 X-Drives. The 184’s have, at times, felt like too much ski for my height (5’11”) and weight (172lbs). But, that extra five centimeters underfoot makes up for the tip rocker.

  38. Jay Allenby January 3, 2016 Reply

    I demo’d this ski today at Snowmass. It is a good ski but I was a bit disappointed. I currently ski a 4 year old Atomic Crimson Ti. I like it. The Salomon X drive 8.8 is almost exactly the same ski. Same shape exactly. Both wood core and titanium. I was hoping the Salomon would be better in the bumps but it wasn’t. I also demo’d the Volkl 98 and the Kastle FX. I liked both of them better than the Salomon X drive 8.8. The Volkl especially will match the Salomon at high speed but is much better in bumps.

  39. Andi Gard January 8, 2016 Reply

    Hi Jonathan,

    Thanks for your superb review of the 8.8.

    Just one question about the binding. I tested the 8.8 yesterday with a Salomon Z12 Speed binding. This setup worked really really good. What is your opinion:
    Will the marker jester suits better? Or in other words: is the performance better with the marker binding?

    I thougt that the Z12 Speed works really because of the plate underlying, what makes the binding area stiffer than a two piece binding.

    What do you think on this topic?

    Regards

    Andi

    Ps: sorry for my english. I’ m from germany.

  40. Scott January 22, 2016 Reply

    Hi, my son is 17 years old and 5’11” 175lbs. He raced until lats year, on FIS regulation GS and SL so he’s used to pretty stiff skis ans he’s an aggressive skier. He now longer races and we’re looking for an all-mountain frontside ski. He skis probably 10 days out west and 10 in the east(we live on the east coast). I don’t think we’ll get a chance to demo the Salomons. I can get the X drive 88’s for $420 but only in the 184 length(172 also available but too short).

    I also can get the Dynastar Powertrack 89 in 179 length for a great price. I know it shouldn’t just be about the price but these two skis i can get for about $250-$300 less than their regular price.

    Thanks

  41. Patrick January 31, 2016 Reply

    Great review, glad I found it. As a heavier, eastern skier who was considering the Rossi e88 I think I might have to give these a serious look.

    How do the tips not having any protection hold up?

  42. Ross March 6, 2016 Reply

    Thank you so much for this review. I have been looking to replace my Nordica Hot Rod Nitrous with a mid 80s all mountain ski but had no luck finding anything that inspired me…until now.

    I tested the Brahmas, Dynastar Powertrack 89s, Rossi E88s and liked all of them but none of them really got me excited enough to want to buy them. The Brahmas hated short turns too much, the Dynastars were not great at speed and took too much work to get from edge to edge. The Rossis were the best fit, but were a bit too soft.

    I was at the point of giving up and accepting the fact that I needed full time front side ski for the east and have to rent every time I went out west and be unhappy when skiing trees and bumps. Then I read this review. I was skiing Tremblant this week and spent two days on the xdrive. 40 cm of new snow built up into big soft bumps, still some ice here and there and some great groomed runs. The XDrive 8.8 was like someone went into my head and built the perfect ski for me. Amazing at speed, I could do any turn shape at any speed, railed on groomers and ice and, slightly contrary to your review, it was the best bump ski I have ever skied. I felt like I was 18 again! Effortless bump ski and ate everything up no matter what line I took. I even went into the trees and found some ankle deep fresh snow and they floated beautifully and were really quick. Definitely going to be picking a pair up. I am 6’1, 205 and a pretty aggressive skier and the 179 was plenty of length for me but I wouldn’t say no to going up to the 184.

    • Author

      Thanks, Ross! And thanks for the useful feedback! It’s great to hear of bigger guys confirming that the 179 is working well for them.

      • Ross March 31, 2016 Reply

        Jonathan,

        It is starting to look like Salomon is either going to discontinue the 8.8 or that Canadian retailers are no longer going to be carrying it. All the shops in Toronto that sell Salomons have told me that they are no longer carrying it because it was not a good seller and they are all now only selling the 8.0. (i’m kicking myself for not picking them up at Sportinglife at the beginning of the season for on sale for $400!)

        Being on a budget I like to try to get my skis on sale over the summer or at the ski show and it looks like I will be out of luck on the 8.8. I’d buy from the US but the exchange rate is killing us Canucks right now.

        I have skied the 187 Brahma and liked it a lot but think I would have liked it more in a 180. So, my question is this. If you could not get your hands on the 8.8, would you pick the Brahma or the Kendo (I can find both with great deals right now). Or is there another ski you would recommend in its place? FYI, I was not a fan of the Powertrack 89.

        Thanks!

        • Ross October 7, 2016 Reply

          Disregard the post above! By fluke a client of mine knows the Salomon rep and I just picked up a pair of 2017 8.8s in 179 with some Warden 13s. Can’t wait to ski them!

  43. Craig March 10, 2016 Reply

    Jonathan-

    Wanted to thank you for the great site and reviews. Living back east, there are not a lot of demo days for when I’m in the market to new skis. When I was in the market for a new all mountain front side ski I did a lot of research, especially on your site. I eventually settled on the X Drive 8.8 FS and I could not be happier. As you say, this ski is damp, stable, and loves to run – all out! Just ended a week out west at Snowbird and had a blast on these. So glad I found your site and bought this ski.

    Keep up the great work!

    • Author

      Thank you, Craig. And thanks for more great feedback. I’m psyched to see so many people digging this ski, because I really, really don’t want Salomon to change this thing — or change it too much…

  44. Ty March 26, 2016 Reply

    Jonathan, how do you feel the X-Drive 8.8 would handle Taos after two weeks of no snow, hard pack and windblown conditions in areas like Kachina, K-Chutes, Juarez, etc.? I’m looking for a ski to compliment my ON3P 191 Billy Goats which are great in resort powder / crud but lack when the snow is firm. I’m a directional skier but also enjoy popping off things here and there regardless of the conditions. Coming from a pair of 2007 Rossi Scratch BC WRS that have been fairly decent in the above conditions for me. I’m 6’3″ 175lbs but thinking of the 179’s for a little added maneuverability and mogul performance without sacrificing too much carving…

  45. Ty September 26, 2016 Reply

    Jonathan, any thoughts on my question above?

  46. AK Skier November 9, 2016 Reply

    Having bought a pair of these skis mid-winter last year I’d thought I’d chime in. Up in here in AK we had two lousy winters in a row. At the beginning of the ’15/’16 season I picked up a pair of Nordica NRGY 90’s in 177cm. I was attracted to the local rave reviews and I knew I wanted something with metal for handling variable conditions that might include very hard pack or ice. By the time January of the 15’/16′ season rolled around I realized that I hadn’t bought enough ski for the prevailing conditions or my abilities. The Nordica’s were play-full, skied bumps well and they railed on corduroy. But even with a razor-sharp race tune they simply didn’t hold on the ice. They lacked stability at high speeds and the tips were waaay too soft for crud or nasty conditions. After reading this and some other reviews I managed to score a pair of 8.8’s in 184cm for a great deal online. I am 5′ 11′ inches and 180 pounds. I am a semi-retired full time skier with nothing left to prove. That means that from time to time I simply ski lazily along while at other times I rip with the best of them. These are burly skis and they are stiff… They ski exactly like they are constructed… like a full wood core, titanium ski should ski. There is no practical speed limit and because of the gentle rocker the skis are stable even in straight line. My GPS clocks over 60 MPH frequently and I am only limited by the size of my balls, which are clearly shrinking with age. They are obviously not race skis, but for something this wide (yes… I just said that) they hold like a ski that is closer to a recreational GS racing ski. For my weight and strength, they are tough to handle in the moguls. I can finesse them through and survive just fine but I sure can’t get aggressive. Since I have pretty much aged to the point where I hate moguls anyway it’s no big deal for me, but unless you’re a pretty big boy there are likely better skis if you must ski bumps regularly. Personally, I am all about powder, crud and ripping grooves at high speed. For the latter two, these skis deliver. When railing on groomers, I am barely heavy enough and strong enough for these skis. I often find myself standing on the outside ski because I am simply too tired (or not strong enough?) to get a good arc on both skis at once. But the stability I get makes it all worth it. I am looking forward to getting back on these boards again this season. I can’t believe I’m even saying that for a ski less than 100mm in width. For powder, I ski DPS 112RP2 Pure 3’s in 184cm. And while I may start the day on the DPS’s, I frequently find myself switching to the Solomon’s after all the pow is shredded simply because they are way more fun busting the remaining crud and ripping the nasty groomers and open bowls that we find ourselves dealing with in recent years after a high water content snowfall. The Nordica’s are now my rock skis, but having dissed them, I will say if you are an instructor they would be a great choice because you can demo any shape, size or type turn on them easily.

  47. Jeff C. December 8, 2016 Reply

    Just bought these skis based entirely on your review and what I’m looking to get out of a ski. Any recommendations for binding mount point? I didn’t see anything in the review about it. Thanks for what you do. Blister is an invaluable resource.

    • Author

      Thanks, Jeff! We recommend the factory line.

      • Jeff C December 28, 2016 Reply

        How would you feel about this ski in say, Palmyra Peak or the chutes in Black Iron Bowl in Telluride? Headed there end of Jan and would like to sample these areas…

    • Blister Member
      Paul January 19, 2017 Reply

      Hey great question. I am about to buy a set of 184’s but was thinking about moving up the mount point a few centimeters forward – did you mount at recommended? I demoed and agreed entirely with the reviews but was wondering if a forward mount would help with the swing balance but not throw off the turn radius

      • Author

        Not sure whether this question was directed at me or at Jeff C … but I mounted on the line, and never messed with the mount point. I think you could easily go +1 on this ski without messing things up … but I also don’t know how much effect that will have on the swing weight. It’s a very traditional shape for sure, but I never felt ‘off’ on the line.

  48. Blister Member
    David February 2, 2017 Reply

    Thanks J. I think the fury you started over this ski has impacted inventories. I’m looking for the 184’s and can’t find them anywhere!! Nice job with the site. It really is the class of the industry. Thanks…..NOT…..for pimping the 8.8’s so well that I can’t even find any!!! Ha!

    • Author

      Thanks, David. (I think? Ha.) And yeah … Salomon is discontinuing the X-Drive 8.8 for 17/18, and the replacements – while they look like they will ski nice — are most definitely not X-Drive 8.8’s. So get this ski while you can.

  49. Jeff C. February 2, 2017 Reply

    I just finished my first 3 days on the 179s in Telluride and even at my weight (508/175lbs), I think the 184 size might have been a better choice. I recognize that I’m still “learning” the ski and need to make a few personal tweaks but I don’t see a reason after having skied them, to go short. Heading to Steamboat later this month and hoping I can get a little more dialed. When I’m synced up with the ski its awesome, I just find myself wanting a little more length on steep and firm stuff.

    • Author

      Hmmm, I wonder if there are any 184 8.8 owners here who would be willing to trade you?

      • Jeff C. February 10, 2017 Reply

        LOL, I was thinking the same thing! I’m certainly willing to do so but don’t think this is the proper forum to try that. At the moment I’m planning to ski them again on the 27th through the 2nd. We’ll see if something develops prior to that. Thanks J.E.!

  50. Beat February 10, 2017 Reply

    I live in Mammoth and gotten some nice air in the half pipe last year on my Salomon X Drive 88 FS. I’ve exploded out of a carving turn, got airborne and landed backwards. There is some power behind this ski, begging you to be on top. I skied waist deep powder in them, although there are better options for this conditions, with a little balance and a steep enough terrain they truly are a great “All Mountain Ski”. I would love it to be my AT ski but I’m afraid it’s a bit too much to drive with an AT setup. This is a great review and spot on, Jonathan.

  51. Blister Member
    Paul February 12, 2017 Reply

    Hey Jonathan – I was literally about to buy the 8.8. Your review, these comments, led me to demo these and the words matched the experience dead on. Now it looks like the 2018 XDR 88 is a completely different ski – and lighter (ugh). Any read on how different the behavior and feel of the updated model? I am particularly looking at the top end performance. Thanks!

    • Author

      Always happy to hear when our descriptions line up with your experience. So thank you.

      And as for the XDR 88 … yes, totally different ski. We haven’t had the XDR on snow, but in short, there is no way it will match the top end performance of the X-Drive 8.8. But I can’t say how close to or far away from the 8.8’s top end it will be able to get.

      As for the other changes, the new shape appears to be much more friendly for all-mountain, off-piste use. So while my love of the 8.8 is well-documented, I would be willing to wager that *more* skiers will find the new XDR easier to ski all around the mountain. I am not willing to wager that those of us who loved the top end of the X-Drive 8.8 – or its abilities on steep ice, etc. – will find the new XDR to be a suitable replacement. But that isn’t to say that the XDR isn’t a nice ski; it may well be. But it is clearly a different ski.

  52. Mike March 6, 2017 Reply

    I’ve demoed this ski for one day and loved it. I also demoed the Pursuit 800 TI and had a great time on groomers at high speed, not so much in powder. So, I think the X-Drive would be my choice. And I might still be able to get a pair at a local shop.
    But I was wondering about the length. I’m 5’8” (178 cm) and 205 pounds, so I’m assuming that the 179 would be the correct one? or one size smaller?

  53. C April 17, 2017 Reply

    Skier from Sweden who has a season and a half on the 179 cm 8.8 FS. 45 y/o 171 cm / 85 kgs with race background. I skied it against a friends demo Stöckli SR 88 during a week in Arabba/Italy. We share the same bsl so we took turns. Heavy wet snow. He’s same age a little lighter/longer in good shape-former alpine racer. Both agreed that the Salomon was much more fun. Tips way to flimsy on the Stormriders. Have skied them in gates too and they are surprisingly fast.

  54. Ryan June 2, 2017 Reply

    Would you recommend this ski over the brahma at 180cm for someone who is a east coast skier. I like to ski the entire mountain trees bumps groomers etc. which would you recommend?

    • Author

      Not necessarily. Without knowing more, I think the short answer is that there is a good bit of performance overlap between the two skis, so I think the primary factor is choosing the correct length — you’ve got 187 cm & 180 cm on the Brahma, but 184 & 179 (etcetera) on the X-Drive. 8.8.

      If you’re an advanced skier, either could be good tools, but choose your size wisely.

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