2020 Stockli Stormrider 88 Ski Review: // Ski Reviews
Stockli is a new brand for us at SkiEssentials.com this year, and so far, we've been impressed with what we've seen and skied. There's a lot to like about the whole line. We sometimes feel that we spend too much time on the ~88 mm underfoot all-mountain category, but in all reality, it deserves a good deal of our attention. And when we get a chance to sink our teeth into something like the 2020 Stockli Stormrider 88, we're going to jump on that one. The Stormrider series over the past few years has represented the upper-end of all-mountain and freeride skis. As the narrowest "men's" ski in the Stormrider line, the 88 is the most capable on-trail performer, and while it lacks the floatation and playfulness of the 95 and 105 models, it's supple nature and versatile personality more than make up for any dearth of pure-powder performance. Stockli has a well-earned reputation in the industry for building high-quality skis, and while they do come with a higher price tag, if you can afford them, it is a superior product.
We try to stay away from saying that one ski is better than another, and while we do believe that for the most part, there are certain skis and qualities of craftsmanship that are simply superior than others. It's hard to pin down exactly why a Stockli is built better than a competitor's model, but we can point to some interesting techniques that Stockli uses to create its high-end feel. Like most expert-level skis, the Stormrider 88 has a wood core and metal laminate in a sandwich-sidewall build. But by using lighter wood and lighter fiberglass, Stockli has built an almost weightless feel in the ski at zero expense to the stability. This is the impressive part-how can they make a ski that is so light be so smooth and stable? Another weight-shaving technique Stockli employs is their Titanal top sheet. By eliminating a cosmetic layer, Stockli not only puts the metal closer to your feet, but it also reduces the overall weight of the ski. You don't really think about the benefit of having that Titanal laminate right up top, but it certainly makes sense-the metal is the first part of the ski that receives input from your boot, and as it's a highly responsive material, it reacts instantly and smoothly. More on that smoothness later.
Other than the core and layers of the ski, there are a few other interesting differences that Stockli uses to create this top of the line product. By utilizing thicker edges, you get a lot more precision and control over your turns, creating spectacular snow feel and confidence at speed. Additionally, the Polywall sidewall is a more durable material that Stockli claims to be 10 times more impact resistant than other sidewalls, all while remaining damp and energy absorbent. Good for Stockli for placing an emphasis on durability and longevity of a product.
The shape and profile contribute to the overall all-mountain style of the ski by keeping things pretty simple and straight-forward. At 88 mm underfoot, we're right in the sweet spot for any and all conditions and terrain. While not a powder ski by any stretch, it's useful in a few inches of snow, as well as performing quite well in crud and chop. Stockli claims a tip rocker profile, but we're hesitant to call it that, as the ski is pretty darn cambered. Minimal taper in the tip is likely outweighed by the fairly flat, squared-off tail, so don't expect a super-playful feel in softer snow, especially on the exit of the turn.
Let's get into the on-trail performance of the Stormrider 88, because that's where these skis really light it up. It's hard not to compare to some other models, but we've discussed how the Volkl Kendo, Blizzard Brahma, and Nordica Enforcer 88 might stack up against the Stockli. First off, it's about a half a pound lighter per ski than the Brahma, which is a pretty significant amount. Yet somehow, the combination of the build and shape make the Stormrider feel a lot smoother than any Brahma I've ever been on. And that's not to rag on the Brahma-it's a fantastic ski, but Stockli gets another level of dampness out of the Stormrider 88, and somehow, they still are able to make it lively and quick. It's a trend-bucker to be sure. Skis that are light are not supposed to be stable, that's the rule. But Stockli is breaking the law in this case with the 88, making a ski that feels like air, but doesn't seem to vibrate or waver no matter how fast you're going or how hard you're pushing it. I did get the sense of the ski diving in to the next turn from time to time, and that's because it's not a terribly stiff ski, but after a run or two, I learned that the power and balance were better mined from the midbody through the tail rather than the tips. Boasting a 19-meter turn radius at the 177 cm length, the Stormrider 88 can make a variety of turn shapes, and is certainly comfortable in that shorter GS range.
As an all-mountain ski, it has to perform well off-trail as well. We're pleased to report that this is certainly the case. While stable and smooth, the Stormrider 88 is also remarkably light and playful. You can put it anywhere you want at any point in the turn. The tail does require some input for sure, but once you learn the balance point and the reaction time of the ski, it's pretty clear that you can do whatever you want with them. And the good news is that they're not exclusive for expert skiers due to the lighter weight and (somewhat) flexible nature. They're not as abusive as some of their competitors, and this more maneuverable and playful character makes a big difference in softer snow. Mogul performance is above average for an 88 underfoot ski, as is its behavior and pleasant nature in tighter trees, chutes, or steeper terrain. It doesn't take much to throw them around, and they prefer to stay on top of chunky snow rather than plow through them like their heavier competitors.
If you're looking for minimal chatter, maximum stability, and a ton of smoothness in your all-mountain ski, the Stockli Stormrider 88 is worth the extra coin. Obviously, budget is a concern for a lot of skiers, so it's really up to your bank account if you're the right customer for these skis. Are they actually twice as good as a ski that's half the price? Probably not, but if you're in the position and have the desire for a truly well-made ski that simply feels superior to competing brands, the Stormrider 88 is a no-brainer.