2018 Rossignol Experience 88 HD Ski Review: Approachable, Yet Capable // Ski Reviews
In today’s day and age skiers have a somewhat overwhelming amount of choices when it comes to their new skis. Ski construction and industry standards have reached the point where there are very few actually bad skis. This can make it somewhat challenging to pick a new ski as most manufacturers spout similar descriptions for their skis. Take the all mountain segment, for example, which is where the Rossignol Experience 88 HD lies. There are a tremendous amount of options in the upper 80 mm to low 90 mm waist width and most all of these skis are marketed in similar ways: they’re versatile, they’ll hold an edge through a carving turn, but can still ski the whole mountain. We’ve heard it all before and we continue to hear it over and over again. Luckily there are subtle differences even between skis that look identical on paper in terms of shape and construction, which is where we come in.
This week we’re taking a closer look at the Rossignol Experience 88 HD and where we feel it falls in a world filled with high performing, “do-everything” all mountain skis. The Experience 88 HD is essentially the flagship model in Rossignol’s Experience collection of all mountain skis. While it’s not the widest and doesn’t use any metal in its construction like the biggest ski in the line, the Experience 100 HD, the 88 is very popular and chances are you’ve seen them out on your local slopes. It’s a ski that’s intended to be used by advanced and expert skiers and draws a lot of design influences from carving skis.
While the shape is largely derived from carving skis (or even race skis), the construction is quite different. We see a lot of skis in this category using a wood core sandwiched between two sheets of metal; a construction technique that’s borrowed almost directly from the race world and has become quite prevalent in high end all mountain skis. Rossignol, however, has developed their own material called Carbon Alloy Matrix. Chances are you’ve seen us talking about this material before, but it’s essentially a woven grid of carbon fiber and basalt that provides similar performance benefits as metal, but isn’t as heavy. This material combined with the ski’s poplar wood core gives it solid torsional stiffness, which translates to excellent edge grip. It also is designed to add in some stability and damping, although not quite in the same sense as sheets of metal.
The full width tips and tails of the Experience 88 HD and its Carbon Alloy Matrix construction results in a ski that’s exceptionally responsive on groomed slopes. We find it feels very lively and energetic and likes to pop back and forth between GS-style turns. While the Carbon Alloy Matrix does provide some stability and damping properties, it doesn’t quite match the quiet, powerful feel of metal. On the other hand, however, it feels more energetic than most skis that rely on metal for this stability and damping. There’s something about the Experience 88 HD that feels refreshing. It’s not exceptionally heavy, it’s a relatively familiar shape, yet it performs great and is very satisfying to ski. We think it’s a great ski for all mountain skiers who really value responsiveness, edge grip, and general performance on groomed snow. Of course, it’s an all mountain ski, and we’ll get it its performance off the groomers, but we think this is an important aspect of the Experience 88 HD. If you like carving turns, but want a wider waist width than most dedicated carving skis, chances are you’ll love the Experience 88 HD.
Now a ski with an 88 mm waist should be able to do more than just ski groomers, and the Experience 88 HD certainly can. There are other skis on the market with similar waist widths that are put in to the same “all mountain” category, but are much more focused on off-piste performance and easy maneuverability. Skiers who spend most of their time chasing snow in off-piste terrain may be better off with a ski that uses more pronounced rocker and early taper. Instead of taking away from its groomer prowess to boost its performance off-piste, Rossignol uses a short to medium turn radius and their auto turn rocker that we think only adds to its performance on groomers, but also helps the ski to be much more maneuverable in softer snow conditions than a traditional carving ski.
Another characteristic of the Experience 88 HD that we think has helped make it one of the most popular all mountain skis is it’s approachability. While it’s targeting advanced and expert skiers, it’s pretty user-friendly and certainly can be skied by more intermediate level skiers. It’s the type of ski that performs differently depending on who’s driving it. A less aggressive skier will appreciate the lack of metal and the fact that they don’t need to ski at Mach 5 to enjoy it, while advanced and expert skiers will have a blast playing around with how much energy they can put into the ski and the resulting increases in responsiveness. If you want it to the Experience 88 HD will snap you into the next turn, but that’s only if you’re really loading up the ski, engaging the energy from the Carbon Alloy Matrix, and allowing the ski to spring you into the next turn.
Among a vast sea of mid-80 to mid-90 mm all mountain skis it’s easy to get a little lost figuring out what’s right for you. We think the Experience 88 HD is going to be best for skiers who spend most of their time on groomed slopes, but don’t want to be limited to firm snow terrain as they would be if they were skiing on a narrower, more dedicated carving ski. Rossignol’s entire collection of skis really makes sense and their different lines complement each other nicely. A Rossignol Experience 88 HD and a Soul 7 HD, for example, would make a tremendous 2 ski quiver. One ski is full width tips with relative low rise rocker, one ski has a lot of early taper and a much more pronounced rocker profile. Whether you’re picking up a Rossignol Experience 88 HD to be your every-day go-to ski or if you’re buying it to round out a quiver of existing skis, we think anyone that values carving performance, but wants more stability through chopped up or variable snow and a touch more versatility than true carving skis will fall in love with this ski. It holds an edge very well, it’s responsive in and out of turns, it reduces overall fatigue during a long day of skiing compared to skis with metal, and is very fun and satisfying to ski.