Brian Lindahl’s Review of the Monster 88
Ski: 2017-2018 Head Monster 88, 177 cm
Available Lengths: 163, 170, 177, 184 cm
Blister’s Measured Tip-to-Tail Length: 174.9 cm
Blister’s Measured Weight per Ski: 1996 & 2048 grams
Stated Dimensions: 133-88-114 mm
Blister’s Measured Dimensions: 132.5-87.5-113.5 mm
Stated Sidecut Radius: 17.4 meters
Tip & Tail Splay (ski decambered): 56 mm / 17 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: -11.55 cm from center; 75.9 cm from tail
Boots / Bindings: Tecnica Cochise Pro 130 / Head AAAttack² 13 AT
Test Location: Arapahoe Basin, CO
Days Skied (Brian Lindahl & Jonathan Ellsworth): 6
We’ll get to the on-snow performance in just a second, but first, a couple quick things:
Flex Pattern — 16/17 vs. 17/18 Monster 88
As Jonathan mentioned in his First Look, the flex pattern of the 17/18 Monster 88 is extremely similar to the 16/17 Monster 88. He summed up a hand flex of the ski like this:
Behind the Heel piece: 9
It’s a fairly consistent stiff flex, and I wholeheartedly agree with Jonathan when he says, “if you’re going to make a ski with a ‘stiff’ flex pattern, make it like this.”
In Jonathan’s First Look at the previous 16/17 Head Monster 88, he was quick to point out that the ski essentially has no tip rocker. But with the 17/18 Monster 88, this is no longer the case. In fact, Jonathan and I were both quite surprised to find that the new Monster 88 had a deeper tip rocker line than the new Head Monster 108.
Having said that, the tip rocker line and tip splay on the Monster 88 is still quite minimal, and when it comes to carving on firm snow, I think you’d be hard pressed to notice it. In other words, the new rocker profile only seems to bring more versatility to the table — which is a good thing. And, we’ll say more about that later.
While the 17/18 Monster 88 now has a touch of tip rocker, it most definitely still rips groomers. Lay it over and you’ll still feel the full effective edge of the ski biting into the snow. The tip rocker essentially disappears and works well with the flex pattern to create a very solid platform at high edge angles.
And regardless of the condition of the groomers, the Monster 88 maintains a smooth, stable, and damp feel and allows you to completely ignore line choice (kind of like a plush, full-suspension mountain bike). While this characteristic can feel rather one-dimensional on groomers (or on flat, dirt roads if we continue with the mountain bike analogy), the Monster 88 isn’t quite as devoid of energy through the turn as the Monster 108 — you certainly don’t have to be as heavy, or be going as fast to bend the Monster 88 into a shorter radius turn and receive some energy from the tail of the ski. But the 177 cm Monster 88 definitely doesn’t offer the thrilling ride that a slalom ski will.
Having said that, those who prefer GS turns will be quite pleased, and this is even more true when talking about the 184 cm Monster 88.
Firm and Variable Snow
Whether skiing high on edge or running bases flat, the Monster 88 does an excellent job of soaking up surface irregularities and holding its line. While it does have a shorter sidecut radius than its wider brother, the Monster 108, it still has that same smooth turn initiation that won’t pull you across the fall line when you don’t want it to. So, while you might be making more turns down a wide open face, you’ll still have that familiar smooth and damp feel that inspires the confidence to ski even faster.
(To be clear here, those who prefer or are simply accustomed to the instant turn initiation of more slalom-oriented skis may complain that the turn initiation of the Monster 88 is too slow or too delayed. We would counter that, in variable, off-piste conditions, the immediate turn initiation of a slalom ski is pretty terrifying and a detriment to fast, safe, off-piste skiing.)
We were pleasantly surprised to find that when throwing the Monster 88 sideways to scrub speed, there was a smooth, familiar feel. The first thing to say is that the Monster 88 was more willing to be thrown sideways than one might expect, and then second, as with the Monster 108, there is very little chatter to micromanage.
Moguls, Trees, and Tight Terrain
Unlike the 184 cm Monster 108 (which can be a handful in big moguls and tighter terrain), the 177 cm Monster 88 is actually well suited for moguls, trees, and chutes. Some of this was due, no doubt, to the shorter length (177 cm vs. 184 cm), but I can confidently say that’s not the full story. The tighter sidecut radius of the Monster 88 was quite noticeable, and, as smooth and damp as the Monster 88 was when scrubbing speed and throwing it sideways, it also felt quite comfortable digging deep into a quick carve to change directions. And this versatility opens up more options for moving through tighter terrain.
While there are certainly easier skis of this width that have a more forgiving and laid-back nature through tighter terrain (e.g, the Liberty Origin 90, and the discontinued Fischer Motive 86Ti), the Monster 88 isn’t as punishing in big bumps and tight terrain as the (longer and wider) Monster 108 can be.
The Monster 88 isn’t a powder ski, and while the 17/18 Monster 88 might work slightly better in deep snow than the 16/17 Monster 88, the primary thing to say here is that … this still isn’t a powder ski.
Having said that, I did get the Monster 88 in 4” of fresh snow in April, over a very firm and variable base. There were also deeper pockets of wind-deposited snow, and I have to say that I found the Monster 88 to be quite competent. The stiffness through its shovel allowed it to bust through the snow, and its touch of tip rocker would allow it to (slowly) rise to the surface.
Furthermore — and this might be the most important thing to say: the smooth and damp nature of the Monster 88 made the extremely harsh base completely tolerable. So if your “powder days” don’t tend to be too deep, then it can be nice to have a ski that doesn’t fold in half when you’re dealing with unseen bumps or patches of refrozen snow.
And even in deeper snow, if you prefer to blast through powder in hard carves, then I don’t think you’d be hating life despite being on a ski that’s only 88 mm wide.
This is where the Monster 88 surprised me. As the 4” (and deeper pockets) of fresh snow began to get cut up, the ski only performed better. It transported me back in time to the days before fat skis, where you had to turn up the speed, get forceful with your turns, and blast through the clumps of snow — no surfing or playing allowed (or required).
After a few runs, I went down to the lodge and swapped out the Monster 88s for the Monster 108, and to my surprise, the 108s didn’t offer much over the Monster 88 in these conditions. Both skis like to cut through soft snow, and both do a great job at smoothing out the ride. I would be hard pressed to say that I was skiing much faster — or with more confidence — on the Monster 108, which is pretty impressive. In the deepest of pockets, the Monster 108 wouldn’t get hung up quite as much, but in ~ 4 inches of snow, the difference was definitely not night-and-day.
16/17 Monster 88 vs. 17/18 Monster 88
When doing back-to-back comparisons between the 16/17 and 17/18 Monster 88, I found that — same as with the 16/17 vs the 17/18 Monster 108 — the differences are minimal, and indiscernible most of the time.
Obviously there’s a bit more tip rocker on the new Monster 88, but the on-snow performance is very, very similar. The only caveat here is that I never got the 16/17 Monster 88 out in fresh snow, however, so I’ll add a revision to this if I notice a difference during the upcoming season. Because if there is going to be a “most noticeable” difference it would be in deeper snow.
Who’s It For?
Like the Monster 108, the Monster 88 shines in firm and variable snow. So if you like to ski fast, are a solid advanced-to-expert skier, and are drawn to the impressive top-end of the Monster 108 for wide-open firm and variable conditions, but tend to ski (or enjoy) a lot of tighter and trickier terrain as well, the Monster 88 would be an excellent alternative for when the morning snow report is a little underwhelming — and let’s face it, that happens a lot.
Sizing Recommendation — 177 cm vs 184 cm Monster 88?
So far, I have spent all of my time on the 177 cm Monster 88, but I personally am not that tempted to bump up to the 184; I really like the mix of length, stability, and quickness of the 177.
Still, I will be getting on the 184 Monster 88 in the early season, and will offer more direct comparisons between the 177 and the 184.
Jonathan will be talking more about sizing w/r/t this Monster series of skis in his upcoming review of the Monster 98, but for the Monster 88, our recommendation is not to size up. In this narrower width, you still get good stability out of the 177 cm model, while also getting a ski that works well in moguls and tight spaces.
The Head Monster 88 is more versatile than you might imagine. It’s not simply made for carving at high speeds down a groomer; it’s great at that, but it’s also more of an off-piste destroyer than its width might suggest, while still being quite competent in tighter terrain. You’ll still need some solid skills and strength to get the most out of it, but its smooth stability is reminiscent of the Monster 108, with the additional benefit of still being quite capable in tighter terrain.
NEXT: Rocker Profile Pics