Brian Lindahl and Jonathan Ellsworth both spent a good bit of time on the Vantage 97 Ti, so they’re both going to weigh in here:
Smooth, Clean Groomers
Brian Lindahl (5’10”, 180 lbs): Jonathan was correct when he predicted that the Atomic Vantage 97 Ti’s flex pattern would deliver a powerful ride on piste. This ski offers a level of power that’s very well suited for high-speed turns down wide-open groomers. At my height & weight, the Vantage 97 Ti didn’t really come alive until I was skiing pretty fast. While the tips did pull me into a turn with a very traditional feel, the stiff flex pattern means that it takes quite a bit of force to bend the ski into an energy-producing arc. So I wouldn’t expect a thrilling ride with a lot of pop and energy unless you weigh more than I do and you ski at pretty high speeds.
Once locked into a turn at high speeds, I can’t think of too many skis that feel more secure than the Vantage 97 Ti when it comes to edge grip — with two caveats, the groomers need to be smooth, and I haven’t skied them in extremely firm conditions or on ice yet.
Jonathan Ellsworth (5’10”, ~175 lbs): I already wrote pretty extensively about the Atomic Vantage 97 Ti in my Flash Review of the ski, so Blister members should read it if you haven’t already.
I agree with everything that Brian says here, but the one thing I want to focus on is Brian’s claim that the Vantage 97 Ti doesn’t offer a very “thrilling ride.” My only qualifier here is that on wide-open groomers, this ski is so damn powerful that I would call it extremely thrilling. (And so would Brian, actually). So it’s not that Brian is wrong; I agree with him that you don’t get a ton of pop and energy out of the ski. But at least in the 188 cm length we tested, clicking into these skis is like strapping your feet to a rocket ship. Tip them on edge, and it’s like you hit the nitrous switch. Of all the skis we’ve reviewed this year, this is one of the most powerful.
Roughed-Up, End-Of-Day Groomers
Brian: But what about when the conditions are less than ideal? As snow begins to get pushed around into small piles towards the end of the day, the combination of a variable snow surface, the Vantage 97 Ti’s stiff flex pattern, and the ski’s fairly low weight requires a very attentive skier. As long as I stayed on the tips of the Vantage 97 Ti and drove the ski confidently — and as long as the piles of snow were soft and not quite mogul-sized — I really enjoyed it.
But the minute I backed off the tips of the ski, it began to deflect and was no longer confidence-inspiring. This feeling was even more exaggerated in rougher, off-piste snow.
Jonathan: Yep, at least in the 188 cm length, this ski is powerful, but it is not forgiving. Especially in firmer, roughed-up conditions (both on piste and off.)
That said, I think it’s extremely important to note / point out that many skiers like to ski at moderate speeds, and when skiing on piste at very low speeds or more moderate speeds, the Vantage 97 Ti felt very easy to slide around.
So, yes, this ski is very powerful. But heavier skiers (say, 220+ lbs ?) will find this ski to be quite maneuverable and easy to use at controlled or mellow speeds. But if you are buying this ski because you like to pin it most of the time, then we’d recommend that you be physically strong and have outstanding technique.
Brian: In semi-firm and variable summer snow conditions (soft, but not quite slushy), the Vantage 97 Ti is even more demanding. In this sort of snow, there’s less smooth, clean snow in between the bumps like there is on an end-of-day groomer, which makes it even more difficult to keep the skis on track.
So again, I needed to really stay on top of the tips / shovels of the Vantage 97 Ti and drive the ski confidently. If I did, the performance was very rewarding, with a strong, powerful feel similar to how the ski felt on groomers. But the minute I backed off, the Vantage 97 Ti became quite punishing, hard to control, and could easily get deflected off its line.
Jonathan: Yep, 100% agree. In firm or semi-firm off-piste conditions, this powerful ski is also quite punishing of any mistakes. But the smoother, softer, and / or deeper the conditions are, the less punishing this ski is, since the softer / deeper snow will provide a lot of suspension, and a smooth surface doesn’t require much suspension (e.g., road bikes can be quite stiff because they’re only used on relatively smooth surfaces).
So would I recommend the Vantage 97 Ti as a ski for charging around in firm / semi-firm variable conditions and off-piste terrain? Nope. It’s possible that shorter lengths of the ski are a bit less powerful & unforgiving (not just because of the shorter length, but their overall combination of length + weight + flex pattern), but we’ve only skied the 188 cm length.
Brian: We’ve chanted this mantra for a while now, that if you’re going to make a stiff charger, we think it makes sense to use a heavy, damp construction. While the Vantage 97 Ti isn’t super light, it isn’t heavy and damp either, which seemed to hold it back compared to some of the other really powerful skis we’ve reviewed that feel more planted in variable snow.
Brian: To ski the Vantage 97 Ti well in moguls, you need to either not be moving very fast, or be extremely active with your feet and legs.
(Jonathan: Ignore that last half of Brian’s sentence at your own risk.)
Brian: This means working the whole ski through the bumps, retracting your feet aggressively on the uphill-side of mogul, and pushing them back down just as aggressively on the back side in preparation for the next bump.
When I made a mistake, the Vantage 97 Ti’s stiff flex pattern made recovery difficult. In moguls, I generally prefer stiffer skis than most people, and hate it when tips fold up on me or the tails wash out too easily. And while I definitely didn’t find myself folding the tips or tails of the Vantage 97 Ti, it suffered from the opposite problem. The ski’s stiff tips and tails didn’t help much when it came to absorbing impacts or releasing from a turn when skiing zipperlines. So when skiing the Vantage 97 Ti in moguls, it’s best to be deliberate and exaggerated in each movement.
Jonathan: I just read the above two paragraphs, then immediately stopped to send Brian a note about just how excellent his description is here. He’s 100% correct, and I can’t put it any better. The only thing I can do is put it a little shorter:
When I made a mistake on this skis in big, firm bumps, they absolutely kicked my ass.
I’ve skied enough bumps with Brian and talked about this topic enough with him to back up his statement that he prefers stiffer skis than most people, hates it when tips fold up or tails wash out. This is all true. I, on the other hand, still like a pretty stiff ski in bumps, but I kind of have an style / approach that’s the opposite of Brian’s. Brian attacks with the tips / shovels of the skis, while I (at least when skiing fast), kinda like to get my feet together and get a bit back on my heels, riding and flexing the tails. And I think I do this because I’m often skiing mogul lines that have massive bumps and deep troughs to negotiate, and those mogul “lines” are often hardly lines at all. (So if you tend to ski nice bump lines with nicely sized and spaced moguls, know that I think you are soft. And also that I am jealous.)
Anyway, yeah, these skis — in the 188 cm length — belong in the “extremely demanding” category when it comes to skiing more difficult bump lines.
Brian: I haven’t yet had the chance to ski the Vantage 97 Ti in conditions outside of soft, late-spring and summer snow. But the Vantage 97 Ti does have a decent amount of tip rocker and tip splay, so despite the stiffer flex, I would imagine that it should float in powder fairly well for its width (particularly at higher speeds). I’ve skied a lot of stiff skis in powder, and modern rocker lines really do a good job of keeping even skinnier skis afloat — as long as you’re not skiing slow, where a wider ski can make a big difference. Of course, there are also plenty of other skis in this class that have more rocker and / or softer flex patterns that would float better in powder than the Vantage 97 Ti.
In breakable crust, I expect the Vantage 97 Ti to be on par with most other traditional, ~100mm skis — I would imagine the Vantage 97 Ti will feel pretty locked-in and somewhat challenging in crusty snow.
Jonathan: I’ve skied the Vantage 97 Ti in more firm conditions than Brian has, but not in much deeper conditions than Brian. But I agree with his thinking here, and my strong opinion is that smooth snow, soft snow, and / or deeper snow (say, 6-12 inches) is where this ski is going to feel best, and where I personally would most want to ski it.
Who’s It For?
Brian: The Vantage 97 Ti is a powerful ski with a traditional feel that really belongs on the feet of strong, expert skiers who like to ski fast and know how to drive a ski confidently in all conditions. For those skiers, the Vantage 97 Ti can be very rewarding. For others, it will likely just feel punishing.
Jonathan: Yep. But I will add the caveat: for those who will use this ski primarily (or exclusively) on piste, the ski really is quite maneuverable and not at all punishing when skied at very low speeds. So you’ll be fine. But then again, there are a lot of skis that work well at low / slow speeds that don’t require expert technique if and when you decide to really open things up.
Brian: I imagine this ski would be better suited to places (e.g., Europe?), where the off-piste snow doesn’t get as heavily skied-out and moguls are less common. But in places where firm, bumped-up snow is very common (North America?), I think the design of the Vantage 97 Ti makes less sense, since it really does shine in consistent snow.
Jonathan and I both agree that heavier skiers (~200-250+ lbs.) may find the Vantage 97 Ti to be more forgiving. And if you weigh less than us, then we’d probably steer clear of the Vantage 97 Ti, at least in the 188 cm length we tested. Because while the Vantage 97 Ti is easier to control at slower speeds than it is while skiing fast, there are plenty of much more forgiving skis that would be better suited for that type of skiing.
The Vantage 97 Ti is a powerful, demanding, and “thrilling” ski with a stiff flex pattern that is quite rewarding and confidence-inspiring for expert skiers who are ready to bring their A game. But if / when you don’t bring your A game, you will be punished.
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