Dimensions (mm): 139-98-128
Turn Radius: 22 meters
Actual Tip-to-Tail Length (straight tape pull): 186cm
Boots / Bindings: Lange RX 130 / Look demo bindings (DIN at 10)
Mount Location: 2cm back from manufacturer’s mark
Test Location: Taos Ski Valley
Days Skied: 4
[Editor’s Note: Our review was conducted on the 11/12 Experience 98, which is unchanged for 12/13 & 13/14, except for the graphics.]
I first got on this ski at the SIA on snow demo at Taos Ski Valley, and it was one of the more impressive skis I tried during those three days. The Rossignol Experience 98 comes from a racing pedigree with an all mountain target audience. It has a wood core, metal sandwich construction, a side cut that extends all the way through the tip, and what Rossi is calling their “all mountain rocker.” Rossignol describes the Experience 98 this way:
“With the heart of a high-performance carving machine and a freeride touch and feel, it is one of the strongest do-it-all skis on the market. Traditional camber underfoot delivers power, energy and edge grip with rockered tip and tail that dramatically improves the turn initiation and flotation in any condition.”
Nice description, except for the fact that the Experience 98 has ZERO tail rocker, which is something that potential buyers ought to know before pulling the trigger. (See the photograph below.) However, while “rocker” is all the rage – so much so that many manufacturers are slapping some form of reverse camber on just about everything they make – the absence of tail rocker on this ski is a good thing, given that it is intended to be an exceptional carver.
My first impressions of the Experience 98 were good. The ski turned easily on groomers – quick edge-to-edge and silky smooth. That impression soon disappeared, however, when I took it into more difficult terrain. The ski became hooky and unpredictable, and was unstable at speed. I took the skis back to the Rossignol rep, Tyler, and told him what I thought. Tyler said, “come back and try it again tomorrow and I’ll set the binding back a little bit.” I did just that, and sure enough the ski performed much better: everything became smooth and stable, and speed and bumps were no longer an issue.
It’s Thursday, February 24th and with three hours to play, I took the Rossi Experience 98 out for some real testing. I set the demo binding for my boot sole length, which puts the boot sole center mark on the mid cord of the ski based on effective running length. The effective running length of the ski is 149.5cm unweighted, 146cm weighted. (To determine the effective running length I put the skis together base to base and marked the points where the tip and tails diverged. I then compressed the skis to flatten the camber and again marked the points of divergence. When compressed the tip rocker became more pronounced by about 3cm.)
With these measurements in mind, I took the Experience 98 out again. Skiing from chair 1 to chair 2, I was pleasantly reminded of how easy this ski rolls from edge to edge – smooth turn initiation and stable, quiet ride. At the top of 2, I went straight for the ridge and was expecting great things. I decided Juarez would be a good place to start – an open bowl with variable snow and a decent pitch. Half way down I was a bit disappointed by how difficult it was to manage my line. The skis wanted to jump down the hill in the deepest part of the turn. Then I remembered Tyler’s advice of moving the binding back. I got to the bottom, took the skis off, set the binding back a centimeter, and tried again. I went to Reforma, a steep ⧫⧫ bump run with a double fall line. Immediately the skis performed as they had the week or so before: smooth carving through the bumps and serious stability at speed. Back to the ridge!
At the top of the Kitchen Wall, I drop off into some boot deep pow that was left over from the previous day. The skis plow through three big turns, and I’m grinning ear to ear as I ski up the natural ¼ pipe on the opposite side and launch over the ridge into Two Bucks. I ski down through the trees with confidence.
Back at the top of Highline Ridge, I set the binding back one more centimeter (now -2cm of factory recommended) and hike out to Eagle’s Nest.
It is late in the morning now and Eagle’s Nest has been baking in the sun. The snow is soft and heavy: spring conditions, not quite mashed potatoes. The entrance is a sketch traverse that requires a bit of billy goating over some rocks and tiny junipers. At the entrance, I look across. No one has been to the far chute since our BLISTER photo shoot the other day, so I drop in and traverse over the first hump, then the second. At the top of the third chute I look down to see untracked snow, so I drop. This is where the tip rocker is really useful. I make three quick turns through the narrow entrance. The skis have no problem floating above the sun-baked snow. Turning effortlessly into the wide open field of snow almost laughing as the skis pop from turn to turn. What a blast. This is what I love about camber: it gives the ski the ability to go almost airborne between turns, making direction change a simple matter of rolling the skis over.
Two more chair rides to the top and it’s time to get back to work. Bambi > Zagava > Rhoda’s > Edelweiss Gully. All the way down these front side groomers, glades, and bumps, the skis perform flawlessly.
After 4 days on the Rossignol Experience 98, I would say that I could happily make it my go-to ski for next season. Any skier who likes a beefy, damp ski, and prefers carving turns over skidding them (whether it be in bumps or on hard pack groomers) will enjoy this ski. In my opinion, this is a real ski. It likes tip pressure for turn initiation and loves finishing. It releases easily and can slip across the fall line when needed.
The tip rocker and 98mm width make it an excellent soft snow ski as well – a true cross-terrain machine. It is not, however, for the timid. The Rossignol Experience 98 requires commitment to the fall line in steeps and good speed on groomers to get everything from this ski that it has to offer.