The most honest and in-depth reviews of outdoor sports equipment on the planet.

2017-2018 Head Monster 108

Brian Lindahl reviews the Head Monster 108 for Blister Gear Review.

Head Monster 108

Ski: 2017-2018 Head Monster 108, 184 cm

Available Lengths: 170, 177, 184, 191 cm

Blister’s Measured Tip-to-Tail Length: 181.8 cm

Blister’s Measured Weight per Ski: 2495 & 2521 grams

Stated Dimensions: 143-109-128 mm

Blister’s Measured Dimensions: 142.1-108.5-127.5 mm

Stated Sidecut Radius: 25.5 meters

Tip & Tail Splay (ski decambered): 65 mm / 18.5 mm

Traditional Camber Underfoot: ~3 mm

Core Construction: Era 3.0 Graphene WC Sandwich Cap Construction

Base: Structured UHM C Base

Factory Recommended Mount Point: -12.6 cm from center; 78.3 cm from tail

Boots / Bindings: Tecnica Cochise Pro 130 / Head AAAttack² 13

Test Location: Breckenridge and Arapahoe Basin, CO

Days Skied: 6

Intro

If there’s one thing we learned during our review of the 16/17 Head Monster 108, it was that it is an extremely powerful, damp, and stable ski, and at the top of the stability chart when it comes to variable conditions.

So when we were told that Head was tweaking the Monster 108 for the 17/18 season, we admittedly became a bit nervous. Was the new Monster 108 still going to be THE ski if you were looking for the strongest ski on the market? If you love the current Monster 108, should you run out and stockpile as many of them as you can get your hands on?

In short, how similar or different is this new Monster?

Specs: 16/17 vs. 17/18 HEAD Monster 108, 184 cm

Based on our measured specs, the differences between these two models is extremely subtle.

The new 184 cm Monster 108 measures:

  • 0.3 cm shorter
  • 0.1 – 0.5 – 2.5 mm wider (tip – waist – tail)
  • 35 & 49 g lighter
  • 4 mm more tip splay
  • 0.5 mm more tail splay
  • ~0.5 mm deeper tip rocker line
  • ~1 mm less camber underfoot
  • Mounted 0.15 cm forward

We’re certainly talking about very subtle differences here, differences that are so small that they could easily fall within the manufacturing tolerances of a production batch of skis.

Flex Pattern

Furthermore, when hand flexing these skis back to back, the flex patterns of the 16/17 and 17/18 were basically / effectively indistinguishable.

Here’s how we would characterize the flex pattern of the two skis:

  • Tips: 9
  • Shovels: 9
  • Underfoot: 10
  • Behind the Heel piece: 9
  • Tails: 8

On-Snow Performance

Honestly, regardless of the type of terrain that I was in, I was hard pressed to discern any notable differences in performance between the 16/17 Monster 108 and the 17/18 Monster 108. So for anyone looking for the hardest charging ski in variable conditions, I would still nominate the Monster 108.

Brian Lindahl reviews the Head Monster 108 for Blister Gear Review.

Brian Lindahl on the Head Monster 108.

Having said that, I still want to flesh out a few things that Jonathan didn’t touch on in his review of the 16/17 Monster 108, and also get clearer on a few questions I had, namely: How does this ski perform in powder? And could I find a speed limit on the 184 cm Monster 108? Finally, I was wondering how versatile or how specialized this ski would feel?

Groomers

In Jonathan’s review, he calls the Monster 108 the “best” carver he’s ever been on in the ~108 mm class, in the sense that it is incredibly smooth, powerful, and stable at top speeds, regardless of whether the groomers are pristine, or littered with clumps of snow (firm or soft). And this is all certainly true.

But a great carver (especially on groomers) can also be defined as a ski that you can load up at the top of the turn, store energy in the flex of the ski, and then explode out of the finish of the turn with a thrilling acceleration. And I didn’t find the Monster 108 to be a particularly lively / energetic ski in this way, at least not at my weight (175 lbs). This is a stiff ski, and to bend it enough to store a lot of energy, you’re going to need a lot of weight, or a lot of speed, or, more likely, both.

(In Jonathan’s Deep Dive Comparison article, he touches on this when comparing the Monster 108, for example, to the Line Supernatural 108, saying that the Monster 108 requires more input. And it basically requires more input than any ~185 cm long, ~108 mm wide ski we’ve ever been on.)

So whether or not the Monster 108 is the “best” carver out there really depends on what you’re looking for.

Moguls, Trees, and Tight Terrain

Head describes the Monster 108 as being intended for “open bowls and powder,” so if you’re just trying to get through some tight, bumped-up spots to get into more open terrain, the Monster 108 is completely serviceable. And if the bumps and trees are well-spaced (such as semi-buffed steep chutes), then the Monster 108 is quite competent.

But if you’re often skiing in large, messed-up bump lines and luge-track tree runs, the Monster 108 can get through this terrain, but you need to bring your ‘A’-game — keep pressure on your shins and be quick with your turns so that you stay centered over the top of the ski. This is a heavy, stiff ski with minimal rocker, so if you get off balance, it can punish you, especially through the tails.

And if you add powder to the experience, things get even trickier. When troughs of moguls or luge tracks in tree runs are filled with powder, the fat, minimally rockered tips and tails of the Monster 108 will get hung up more readily than most other skis I’ve been on, and you’ll be fighting to stay in balance. But in more open terrain, these traits in powder become significantly easier to manage.

NEXT: Powder, Firm and Variable Snow, Etc.

17 Comments

  1. JohnY May 15, 2017 Reply

    Thanks for the review, guys. I was about ready to start hoarding last year’s model.

  2. Blister Member
    Squawbomber May 15, 2017 Reply

    I love when I read a review and can say with certainty “this isn’t the ski for me,” and this is one of those cases. Basically, it excels at maching through crud and not much else, and all that at a 108 width that’s not even good in powder. To each is own, but at least it’s clear, thanks for the excellent review. Even if you’re a rager, I would think a ski with most/much of the top end and more versatility would be welcome in most cases.

    • Hi, Squawbomber (and Tom below) – I’ve been thinking a lot about “versatile” vs “specialized” skis, so figured I’d share them:

      We are seeing the demise of skis built for maximum stability, and I don’t want to see these creatures go extinct. Good Lord, not every ski needs to be a Rossi Soul 7. That is a great ski for a lot of skiers, and the only thing I care about is that we keep seeing a great range of options — tools — for a broad range of applications.

      Of course, I’ve already given my take on the Monster 108, but the smoothness and stability of this ski is absolutely remarkable. Not everyone wants to ski at flat-out speeds, and that’s totally fine. But there are a lot of skiers who think that skiing at flat-out speeds is a super fun thing to do, and the options are becoming increasingly limited.

      HEAD positions this as a ski for open bowls, and on any terrain — on-piste or off-piste — where you have room to run, the Monster 108 is remarkable — and there are few skis on the market today that I would trust when skiing at terrifying speeds. I do trust this ski.

      Formerly, one could have reached for a 191 metal Katana. Or a LINE Mothership. Or the Dynastar Pro Rider (that was brought back for the 16/17 season, but that isn’t coming back again.)

      In other words, one-dimensional / not-versatile isn’t a criticism in my book if there aren’t other options out there that are equally as good in a given area — whether we’re talking about deep-powder performance (e.g., DPS Lotus 138), competition slope-style park skis (Salomon NFX), or maximum stability at top speeds, on-piste or off, and especially in variable conditions (Monster 108).

      As soon as we find 2 or 3 or 4 options out there that match the Monster 108’s prowess in this area, THEN there would be a lot less reason to talk about / celebrate / reach for the Monster 108.

      Of course, not everyone needs a super-stiff competition park ski, or a 138 powder ski, or a ski that will show you no speed limit. But for those who do love and depend on those tools … the “too one-dimensional” argument doesn’t hold any water.

      And not every ski needs to be or should be a Rossi Soul 7.

      I don’t think either of you guys would disagree with anything I’ve said here, but just wanted to put this on record.

      I think Brian did a good job on this review — and I think his review + my review should make very clear who should get on this ski and who shouldn’t (thanks for that feedback, Squawbomber).

      But fact is, the Monster 108 is special. And the construction of it — and all of the Monster skis — is absolutely gorgeous.

      —–

      Ok, now having said all that … do we think that you could keep 99% of the stability of the Monster 108, yet increase its versatility a bit?

      Yes, we do. And this is something that I am going to pose to HEAD.

      We would be very curious to see what would happen if:
      (1) you SUBTLY increased the tip rocker on this ski — gave it a deeper tip rocker line, maybe didn’t change the amount of tip splay at all.
      (2) you SUBTLY decreased the camber on this ski — by 1 or 2 mm
      (3) you *maybe* softened up the tip / shovel of this ski — barely. Or not at all.
      (4) you left the weight of this ski exactly as it is.
      (5) you left the construction exactly as it is.
      (6) you left the tail exactly as it is.

      To be clear, the Monster 108 as it is performs so well that I don’t at all mean to suggest that you can just go slap up one or two of these changes without knocking that performance out of alignment. And I would assume that HEAD’s designers also didn’t simply just slap together the Monster 108 into its current form.

      But with that said, we think it would be worth experimenting with #1, namely to try to see if you can maintain the 108’s supreme stability while making it slightly more versatile.

      If you were seeing in prototyping that doing #2 or #3 was screwing up the overall feel, balance, and performance of the ski, then leave them as is. But I do imagine that through prototyping, you could introduce #1, at least, and that could be an interesting tweak.

      But after all of that speculation, it needs to be reiterated that the Monster 108 in its current form is badass and supremely good at what it was designed to do. And I personally think it’s wise to be slow to criticize excellence / absolute-best-in-class performance, whether in a ski, in music, in athletics.

      Anyway, sorry for the blog post / personal manifesto. Interesting stuff to think about.

      • Author
        Brian Lindahl May 17, 2017 Reply

        I couldn’t agree more with Jonathan here. Both in his suggested changes to HEAD, and also with his wishes that this ski continues to exist. I spend a fair amount of time at Breckenridge in the upper alpine, and when it isn’t a powder day, the Monster 108 is awesome – the best ski I’ve ever been on. I’ll continue to hoard both pairs (16/17 and 17/18) until Jonathan pries them from my cold, dead hands. I love one-dimensional skis (when they are as successful at it as the Monster 108 is): I also have a 202 cm Lotus 138 and a custom extra-stiff 9lb 124mm touring ski (my ‘huck’ sticks).

        • JohnY May 25, 2017 Reply

          I wish I could like these comments 9999999 times

  3. Blister Member
    Tom May 16, 2017 Reply

    Great review. Love the “Zeus’s Pro Model” line.

    I want to want this ski. I’ve demoed the M88, and NEVER found a smoother ride for my decrepit knees. Maybe it was just the day I skied it, but it almost felt like the ski had some suspension.

    But the M108 does sound a bit one dimensional for a ski of this width.

    • Hi, Tom — if you got along well with the M88, you should check out the M108. We were just skiing both of these skis the past 3 days, and there is a big family resemblance. We’ll be posting our review of the new Monster 88 in a week or two, but it’s a nice a ski with a smooth, non-jarring ride.

      (Oh, and see my too-long note above for some thoughts on the “one-dimensional” question.)

      • Blister Member
        Tom May 16, 2017 Reply

        Yes, the M88 is pretty much on the “buy for sure” list, though as a long-time Nordica fanboi, I’ll at least see what the Navigator 90 is all about.

        I’m just not so sure that what Ioved about the M88 makes sense in a 108. Kind of agree with your minor re-design recommendos to Head, especially the part about — and I paraphrase here — don’t eff around with that beautiful flat, fat, non-tapered tail!

  4. Blister Member
    Matt Stapleton May 17, 2017 Reply

    Nice review Brian and good follow up Jonathan.

    I ski most of my days at Crystal Mountain and Stevens Pass in Washington. The reality is regardless of the resort most skiing turns into skiing variable conditions, Good Pow get wiped out in 1 hour on a Pow day, groomers get beat up and rough, unless it’s a day with a small crowd(never on a Pow day). My point is a so called one dimensional ski like the Monster 108/98/88 is not really one dimensional at all, it is a precise tool for a good skier skiing 70 to 80% of what most folks truly ski in, unless you have the good fortune to live at a place like Snowbird/Alta.

    I spent 3 days skiing the Kastle MX 89, similar in construction to the Heads and with zero tip rocker and a flat tail. I did not expect to like them except on groomers, I was wrong and it is why I skied them 3 days vs. 1 day(I also had the FX 95 HP-Liked the MX better). I skied them on perfect groom-nailed it, Variable chop/Soft bumps -nailed it, Shin deep spring POW in Powder bowl at Crystal, thought I would hate them-Nope, loved them and kept asking myself- How does a ski with zero rocker that is stiff and seemingly unforgiving ski all of these conditions so damn good, I still can’t tell you but they just do and they don’t ski as stiff as they hand flex. One term Jonathan uses is suspension, I get it now and I think along with premium construction and the weight of the ski add up to a lot of fun and a pleasant surprise. My new skis next year will be the Monster 98 or the MX 89.

    Note: I am 58 years old, 5’11”, 185 LBS. If an old guy like me can rip these so can any decent skier with some weight. I ski the Fischer Motive 86(182)-great ski, the 2013 Cochise(185) love it, 2013 Atomic Automatic (193) love them in Pow, Dynastar Chrome 78 Pro (178) stiffest ski I own, it is a one dimensional groomer ski.

    Matt

    • Great comments, Matt, and I especially like this, “My point is a so called one dimensional ski like the Monster 108/98/88 is not really one dimensional at all, it is a precise tool for a good skier skiing 70 to 80% of what most folks truly ski in.”

  5. Velo May 23, 2017 Reply

    Great review, these skis are so good. I have the 191, and its a beast. I want a 184 for daily driving.

  6. Maz July 29, 2017 Reply

    Monster 108 + Craigieburn. What say?

    • I’d say, “Hell yes.” Especially on higher-visibility days when you could completely open these up and just let them run / hang on for dear life.

      • Maz July 30, 2017 Reply

        Cheers. I thought you might lean that way :-)

  7. Nick August 6, 2017 Reply

    How would you compare this to the Volkl katana for skiing powder? I have the 184 katana but am looking for something with more stability (sounds like it would be) and still be decent for powder up to more or less a foot. I’d probably go for the 191 as I’m 240 lbs and usually stick to the alpine terrain.

  8. Maz August 11, 2017 Reply

    Picking up a pair of 184cm Monster 98 today, skiing them at Craigieburn on Monday. Will report back.

  9. Maz August 20, 2017 Reply

    Disclaimer! Only one and a half day on my Monster 98s, so no more than initial impressions. I did, however, feel that I got a very good idea of how and where these work.

    Conditions: Deep crud and tracked out heavy pow (2 feet of it), but also steep chalky chutes with smooth’ish windsift, and big open bowls with light windsift/pow up top and heavy pow lower down.

    Very, very smooth. Very, very damp. Extremely confidence inspiring when there aren’t big lumps of snow in the way. Variable snow was nothing to these, as long as you didn’t plow full speed into big pillows of heavy snow. In untracked heavy pow they were also a bit of a handful, but I hadn’t expected them to shine there.

    Through the Middle Basin chutes they felt very good at speed, and I had no issues throwing them sideways to instantly scrub off speed. I did have a couple of heel ejections hitting bigger lumps, and my guess is that that’s due to both the conditions, their abrupt tips, and me not being used to the skis. In the usual harder but smooth Craigieburn conditions, I expect the Monsters to absolutely shine.

    Where I could let them run through shallower bumps/tracks/crud, they felt like hot teflon, and so easy! In general, they were a lot less work than I expected, and even at 2380gr each and with STH16s, they did not feel the least bit heavy to ski. Did lots of 20-30min booting too, and the weight never worried me.

    A wider ski with more tip rocker would have been the logical choice on the day, but I was so keen to try the Monsters out, and I feel stupidly excited to ski them again. If I could change anything it would be to reduce the splay by 1cm and to subtly increase the rocker by 10cm or so. As mentioned in the review, the tips are stiff, and my guess is that they could be even better crud busters with less angle. Or maybe I just need to detune them a bit and man up…

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