With the new season comes new gear, so we put together a list of our picks for the best backcountry skis of 2019. Tools not jewels, as the core shots from the last couple days, will attest to. With different flexes, shapes, and stiffness they allow us to find our bliss. We gravitate towards a ski that can do it all. Float, turn initiation, stability, low swing weight, a solid tail for when things go sideways; these are all qualities to look for.
Best Touring Skis 2019
Liberty Origin 106
I’m currently skiing this ski and am stoked to be working on a review of it that will be out soon. The ski handles the trees with ease and it will be my go-to for early season turns. I really dig the balance point on it and know that it will do what I need it to do. Durability is great and the shape bites in when you have to throw them sideways in technical zones. The ski isn’t too stiff so it’s responsive, but it is stiff enough to arc the big radius turns. [Purchase: $649]
Icelantic Nomad 105
As an artist, I appreciate the great graphics, except for that one season where the designs got a little weird. The flex seems like a nice compromise between a freeride railer and a pow ski. The early rise will be great. I wonder about float and how they feel on the feet. It’s not all pow all the time. How will they handle the mixed conditions of the backcountry? [Purchase: $699]
Dynafit Beast 108
I recently reviewed the Beast 98. It was my go to set up for last season’s spring missions. Dynafit makes great skis for touring and skiing in general. At the trade show, I flexed these and was stoked at the medium flex in relation to the shape. I have a feeling this will crush the trees and handle the alpine steeps with equal ease. I’m looking forward to checking these out and seeing if they live up to the great reputation of the company that built them. [Purchase: $799.95]
Atomic Backland 107
Some of my most trusted ski partners on Atomic’s backcountry gear. They seem really stoked or at least they seem to smile a lot. Perhaps it’s the boots or the light touring bindings but I think it just might be the skis on their feet. Nice lightweight, moderate flex and a stiffer tail should make for a fun ski. I hope the smiles are contagious. [Purchase: $699]
Scott Superguide 105
This ski seems like a great fit for the steeps. The stiffness and the straight shape make me think so. I’m not sure how they’d do in the soft light pow we get here in Colorado. I wonder how well they float. Perhaps this is more a spring ski mountaineering ski. I did ski it a couple of years ago at the demo and was impressed with its edge to edge quickness in the low tide conditions that day. [Purchase: $699]
RMU Apostle 106
The older brother of this ski was my go-to for the winter lines of my last book. That version which was 105 skied like a dream in pow. It always responded with ease to whatever was thrown at it. The flex pattern feels the same as the older model I was on. Tight trees and open bowls will be this skis playground. [$719.95]
RMU North Shore 108
This is the big brother of the Apostle. It is stiffer and stronger, wider and straighter. I can envision this ski thriving in the open gullies where you could get it on edge and keep it on edge. This might be another one to consider as a hybrid ski, equally at home at the area as it is out the gates. [Purchase: $719]
DPS Tour1 Wailer 106
Keeping with the size range I couldn’t resist adding a ski from DPS. The boys in Salt Lake know powder skiing. Many of my friends swear by DPS so this ski rounds out the wish list. I skied a previous version of the Wailer and loved it so I’m thinking the new Tour1 tech will make it even better. Light is right for backcountry so you use less energy on the uphill and have more energy for skiing down. [Purchase: $1,099]
Liberty Origin 112
I checked out this ski when I stopped by the Liberty booth at SIA last year. It would have been a waste to have such a big ski last season in Colorado with how little snow we got. Perhaps it would have inspired a road trip to snowier mountains. I want this ski for this season to help show my belief that it’s going to be deep. At 112 this will float well in the super light pow of mid-winter. Flex seemed similar to the 106 but with more float, I bet it tracks like you’re on rails. [Purchase: $699]
Blizzard Cochise 108
After the 106 above I will be reviewing this ski. They’re still in plastic. They remind me of the old Rossi B-Squad. Stiff, straight and old school; they will need open spaces to shine but I think they will also handle the trees well. I’m hoping they can be a transition ski as well; handling pow and early spring steeps. Another way I see them stepping up is as a ski area backcountry ski; a ski that can handle the harder snow of the area and arc big turns outside the gates. [Purchase: $749]
Best Backcountry Skis 2018
by Nick Siriano
Alpine touring skis range widely in dimensions, weight, and construction. Manufacturers and experts design AT skis with everything from the sidecut to the color in mind. With tenuous thoughts of losing a ski, or even scarier, getting buried, a high-visibility top coat is essential to ensuring your trip in the mountains is as safe as possible.
Beyond color, the intended function of touring skis is to provide a stable feeling underfoot that is light, strong, and can perform in a variety of snow conditions. Below is our list of the best touring skis for 2019.
DPS Skis Wailer 112
A touring ski list should never be devoid of the DPS brand. DPS is the top manufacturer of touring skis in the world. Their proprietary core construction and brand reliability make DPS a favorite of professionals and envy of their competitors. Any ski in their Tour 1 line is reliable and worth the investment. DPS provides the “one-ski-quiver” more than any other brand. For the average touring enthusiast, we recommend their Wailer 106 Tour 1. And for those simply searching for long surf-like turns in deep powder, try the DPS Wailer 112 RP2 Tour 1. [Purchase: $1,099]
Blizzard Zero G 108
Blizzard, arguably the best downhill performance ski manufacturer in Europe entered the touring scene a few years ago. They recognized that other ski manufacturers were sacrificing downhill performance for uphill performance. Thus, Blizzard created a line of skis that are just a nimble and solid going up as they are going down. Blizzard boasts, “THE ZERO G 108 IS THE RESULT OF ENDLESS RESEARCH, DESIGN, AND TESTING IN ALL TYPES OF CONDITIONS AND TERRAIN.” For skiers looking for looking for more versatility, we recommend the Blizzard Zero G 95, for BC powder, we recommend the Blizzard Zero G 108 [Purchase: $799.95]
Black Diamond Helio 116
Year after year, Black Diamond comes out with new skis that surpass their old skis. It feels like buying technology–just when you think you have the latest piece of tech, the new version comes out. Your old version still performs great, but your mouth waters for the newness. It’s quite frustrating but business is business, and Black Diamond innovates faster than most outdoor industry brands that manufacture quality equipment at the size, rate, and variety of Black Diamond. Their Helio series provides versatility and flexibility, is light-footed, modern shaped, quick in the crud, and forgiving in the powder. For those looking for a nimbler ski, try the award-winning Helio Carbon 95. For deep snow explorers, we recommend the Black Diamond Helio 116 Carbon.[Purchase: $949.95]
Line Magnum Opus
Built with the same integrity and form that Line is famous for, the Magnum Opus is their new touring specific backcountry booter ski. It is made with Line’s proprietary CloudCore, a lighter, stronger, and more flexible version of their traditional EP ski construction.
This ski isn’t for the resort bomber, it’s built for the buttery masters of the backcountry who like to send it deep into the deepness. This is a powder ski, and for its size, the ski was quick and agile. It bounced through the woods, smeared the groomers, was water in the bumps, and pretty decent pipe ski. Weighing in at only 3,800g a pair you wouldn’t believe that it has a 148-124-145 profile.
You better be ready to ski it at 189 because it is the only length Line is making. With an early rise in the tip and tail and a smidgen of camber underfoot, the Magnum Opus ski by Line is the perfect booster, butter, booter machine. [Purchase: $799.95]
ON3P Steeple 108
Probably my favorite of the skis I tested at the SIA On-Snow ski demo. This is ON3P’s lightest, quickest, and sharpest ski. I think I might have turned into a Sasquatch had I stayed in the woods with them for any longer.
The Steeple felt like they had a pillow-line tracking device in their tips. They cruised the open woods like butter and gave me the confidence to take quick turns between trees and powder slashes on the steeps. This is certainly not a groomer ski but they did carve on steeper corduroy.
As for a park ski, if you’re into hard icy landings then this isn’t the ski for you but of all the skis I took into the superpipe, the steeple went surprisingly huge! Said to have the strongest bases, ON3P skis are naturally heavier than other brands but the biggest ski in the Steeple line; the Steeple 112 at a 189 length only weighs in at 2300g. Equipped with a notched tail for skin clips, and awesome graphics, the ON3P Steeple is the touring ski to have for backcountry chargers! [Purchase: $799.95]
Let’s all make well-considered, evidence-based choices in the backcountry. Respect the snow and the mountains. Get the gear, get the knowledge, know before you go and practice with your partners. What about some ski boots to go along? We put together a list of the best backcountry ski boots for 2019.