But take care of this ski—and leave it behind on those questionable early-season days—and you’ll likely find little to dislike about the Mantra V-Werks.See the Volkl Mantra V-Werks. land in between these extremes. True to the brand’s freestyle roots, the Line Vision is quick, playful, and downright fun in soft snow (especially in its wider 108- and 118-millimeter shapes). 8 oz.Width: 102mmWhat we like: Strong on the descent and a reasonable weight.What we don’t: Availability can be limited (but it’s getting better). If your ski gear is even a few years old, there’s new technology out there that will help make good days on the snow even better. We like their jack-of-all-trades Navis Freebird best, which at 102 millimeters wide is a very versatile ski. And we cannot stress this enough: the most important aspect of your boots is fit. Paid workers and volunteers spend about two weeks each fall clearing fields of brush and removing blown-down trees from the trail, but winter storms can create new obstacles. 13 oz.Widths: 65, 77, 87, 93, 103mmWhat we like: Kastle’s renowned downhill capabilities in a trimmed-down build. As such, there is a cottage industry of sorts within the backcountry ski world of smaller companies building skis that excel in their local environment (plus, many of the ski brands listed above are somewhat young). But more local shops are starting to carry the brand, and online retailers like Evo and REI are stocking a good selection this season.See the Black Crows Navis Freebird. The Atomic Backland is well-built and holds its own at speed, but those hitting big-time lines may want a little more ski. ? A few examples include Prior Manufacturing out of Whistler, BC, Wagner Custom Skis from Telluride, Colorado, and Praxis Skis on the North Shore of Lake Tahoe. And the design is totally out of place on firm snow and ice, so be sure to have confidence in the forecast and conditions before heading out the door. But before you go real skinny and short, keep in mind the ideal length for your height, weight, and ability level, as well as the ideal waist width for your intended conditions. Dimensions: 136-108-126mmWeight: 7 lbs. Let’s keep this one simple: the sidecut profile of a ski affects how large or small of a turn a ski will naturally make. Dimensions: 133-106-122mm. Dimensions: 135-99-117mmWeight: 7 lbs. Cut in 1972 by volunteers for the Jackson Ski Touring Foundation, the run was meant to be the adrenaline-pumping jewel in the network of trails that links the town of Jackson with the surrounding White Mountains. There are spectacular views of Mount Washington. In past years, when there was lots of snow, Sally McMurdo used her backcountry gear when skiing the Wildcat Valley Trail. Even at a reasonable 8 pounds for the width, the wide footprint means the ski isn’t as suitable as others for long missions. But the smooth power transmission and high-end capabilities across a range of conditions make it a fair tradeoff in speed on the uphill.See the DPS Wailer A112 RP  See the Women's DPS Yvette A112 RP. With a few exceptions, there are two basic categories of backcountry skiing bindings: frame bindings and tech bindings (also known as pin bindings). There often are a few extra considerations for making the conversion to backcountry use—including choosing a universal-style skin and touring binding—but it’s a good idea not to limit your search only to skis that have been defined as “touring-specific.” And if you’ll be splitting time between the resort and backcountry, a lightweight all-mountain ski is a great answer. The two most popular routes to climb Wildcat A and D are to hike up the 19 Mile Brook Trail from Carter Notch or to climb the Polecat Trail from the Wildcat Ski Resort. 85mm to 100mm The good news is that material and construction technologies are growing rapidly with the recent boom in the sport’s popularity, and many of today’s alpine touring skis are impressively polished and a treat to drive. It’s true that there are more fun and capable models available, but the K2’s approachable construction is a near-ideal pairing for beginner and intermediate backcountry skiers.See the K2 Wayback 96  See the Women's K2 Talkback 96. With either option, you’re getting a true standout performer.See the DPS Pagoda Tour 106 C2. While not specifically designed for backcountry skiing, one nice hybrid option to consider is the new Volkl Blaze (106mm wide). For reference, the wider Moment Wildcat above gets you an additional 4 millimeters in waist width while undercutting the DPS by an ounce. First off, get educated. The jacket’s loose, relaxed fit (with a longer rear hem) matches the aesthetic that many skiers are looking for today. We’ve covered the high price of admission with the Pagoda above, and it’s the same story with the Wailer A112. In a pinch, however, here is a general rule of thumb to get you started: your ski should be within 5-10 centimeters of your height. With the same basic shape and rockered design as the old Chugach, the Beast 108 deserves a look. We strongly recommend rewarding yourself with some backcountry skiing equipment only after signing up for an avalanche education course. Obviously, the narrow build cuts weight, and at 5 pounds 11 ounces (170cm length), it’s an ideal partner for very long treks and ski mountaineering. It can contain letters, numbers, and must contain at least one special character: ~ ! In addition to being a little heavy for a 95-millimeter backcountry design, the BD Recon does have a relatively soft flex, which favors less aggressive skiers. The Paulownia and maple wood core give it excellent pop, and a creative mix of carbon and aramid fibers (also known as Kevlar) allows the ski to float nicely atop powder or in midair off a natural feature. You do pay a small weight penalty for the extra downhill stability of the MTN Explore 95, as many skis in its class come in under 6 pounds. Aggressive pilots looking for a narrow ski likely will prefer the Black Diamond Helio Carbon line, which offers better performance on the downhill. The sport is somewhat young—particularly within the mainstream—and a good number of skiers are willing to pay premium dollars for premium products. 7 oz.Widths: 94, 106mmWhat we like: Top-end craftsmanship and standout performance with few compromises.What we don’t: Too pricey for casual backcountry skiers. In addition, the ski’s wide 23-meter turn radius makes it a little trickier to manage in tight spots, although this certainly plays a role in its trustworthy and planted feel. The Wildcat Tour 108 is a lot lighter (~300 grams per ski) than the standard Wildcat 108, which isn’t a particularly heavy ski to begin with. Salomon’s MTN Explore 95 is another solid ski that aims to balance uphill and downhill performance. A little rocker in the tail can be helpful when navigating technical sections, allowing the ski to ride backwards without difficulty and reducing the risk of catching an edge. Go with a substantial downhiller like the Dynafit Beast or Moment Wildcat Tour. It’s a far cry from the all-rounders at the top of our list, but the Backland 117 is just too much fun not to make an appearance here. Dimensions: 120-88-111mmWeight: 5 lbs. Lift Tickets. Many of these brands offer varying degrees of customization for anything from the topsheet design to the construction of the core. Moreover, the lighter Wildcat Tour adds a flickable nature to the fun and playful feel of the Bibby Pro. Some of the intersections have trail maps posted. Rocker in the tip increases float and the ski’s ability to power through crud and variable conditions. But don’t let its super thin edges deceive you: this is a serious, big-mountain charger. This gives you true all-in-on functionality for resort and backcountry use, with only compromises being weight (although it’s significantly lighter than frame bindings) and price at $550 for the 10-DIN model. If new boots are within your budget, see a boot fitter who sells backcountry boots to ensure you’re in the right boot for your foot shape and size. Wildcat includes 225 skiable acres with wide groomed trails, glades, bumps, steeps, tree skiing and a terrain park. See the Black Diamond Helio Carbon 88. 1 oz.Widths: 93, 99, 105, 117mmWhat we like: Lightweight all-mountain build that’s ready to tour.What we don’t: Not for untracked powder. Personal preferences on skiing style and conditions will lead you in one direction or the other, but the majority of our favorite alpine touring skis above have a turn radius of 18 to 22 meters. Unless you’re doing summer ski mountaineering or logging miles of approach in the backcountry, 85 millimeters should be just about the narrowest and lightest backcountry ski you need. And at $795, it’s a good deal among comparable backcountry skis. Stellar EQ is a Swedish apparel brand that’s been producing quality outerwear since 2015 and the Stellar Equipment Free Shell Jacket was built with backcountry freeskiers in mind making it one of the best ski outerwear pieces on the market this season. and less cost ($695).See the Voilé HyperCharger  See the Women's Voilé HyperCharger. DPS Skis Pagoda Tour 106 C2 ($1,299) Dimensions: 137-106-122mm. Available in widths ranging from 65 millimeters for skimo racers up to the 103-millimeter model here, the design is well-respected for its downhill performance in nearly all conditions. Get it right, though, and you’re almost guaranteed to have a big smile on your face.See the Moment Wildcat Tour. There are important considerations when making a purchase: What is your skill level? The good news is that there are an increasing number of options that strike a good 50/50 balance, including DPS’s Pagoda Tour collection, Black Crows’ Freebird line, and Icelantic's Natural. Clearly the 84-millimeter width isn’t made for soft snow (even the wider Ibex 94 doesn’t provide great float), but the Ibex is a good partner for ultralight trips and ski mountaineering. Recently Black Diamond moved production of their backcountry line, the Helio, to a factory in Austria that has been making skis for 50-plus years. The replacement model follows the trend for lighter weight—at a very solid 1-pound savings—without giving up too much in terms of downhill strength. With such a strong emphasis on powder, the Wildcat Tour probably shouldn’t be the only ski at your disposal. For a deeper dive into this topic, see our article on tech bindings vs. frame bindings. There has been a shift, however, to lightweight woods like balsa, paulownia, poplar, and ash from heavier and tougher woods like aspen and maple. We like the ingredients: 95-millimeter waist, semi-stiff construction, and weight-saving measures like Koroyd in the tip of the ski to reduce chatter. The flat tails can sometimes catch in deeper snow—something that’s not as much of an issue with the rockered tails on the Pagoda Tour above—and it’s a little less predictable in crud, too. Obviously, shorter and narrower skis will have less material and therefore weigh less. But for regular backcountry use, tech bindings are a worthwhile investment, providing efficient skinning and fairly reliable downhill performance in variable conditions. While this is convenient, be sure to investigate what kind of skin the company is providing before purchasing. Icelantic has been on a nice run of late, and we particularly like their Natural 101 (and women’s Mystic 97) for season-long backcountry use. In terms of sizing, skins are typically sold either by width (Black Diamond) or length and width (G3 and Pomoca). Invalid email or password. We suspect adding a layer of carbon would go a long way in improving stiffness and all-around performance, but it would impact the Blaze’s flickable feel as well as hurting its value. Once you choose a ski, find skins that fit said ski so you can cruise uphill. Talk to our Gearheads 24/7 about your needs. This technique, in addition to honeycomb-like cutouts, reduces swing weight in the tip and tail of the ski (found in Rossignol and Salomon skis, for example). 11 oz.Widths: 88, 95, 105mmWhat we like: Very durable build at an attractive price.What we don’t: On the heavy side for a touring ski and a bit rough on choppy snow. Space is Limited, Don’t Delay. Look for something that has well balanced uphill and downhill abilities, such as the Scarpa Maestrale. Lighter boots with a greater range of motion in walk mode will provide less control and comfort on the descent. /, When you create an account, you agree to our. An introduction to Backcountry skiing with a slower pace and increased knowledge. to the burly Atomic Backland 117 (9 lbs. Stepping up to the Kore 99 would help in some ways, but the ski’s very sturdy build limits its appeal to expert or pro riders.See the Head Kore 93. In addition, the lightweight design can be skittish in icy conditions and there’s a tendency to chatter at Mach-looney on firm snow (although most alpine touring skis will do the same). The Ibex’s calling card is weight: at 5 pounds 5 ounces for the pair, it’s the lightest backcountry ski on our list this season. Whether you're taking your first run of the day in top-to-bottom fresh or hopping on last chair to blast through some chunder, the Wildcat has got your back. I took a very different route up to WildCat D on Friday, hiking up the Halls Ledge Trail from RT 16 and continuing to the summit via the Wildcat Valley Ski Trail. That said, it does come up a little short in edge grip and isn’t as burly on the descent as the DPS options or the Black Crows Navis below. For the discerning backcountry skier, that can be a pretty enticing option.Back to Our Top Backcountry Ski Picks  Back to Our Backcountry Ski Comparison Table. 3 oz.) If they have a walk mode, that’s an added bonus. And unfortunately, the skis can be hard to track down online, especially as you get further into the ski season. The Mantra’s strong construction and mixed rocker/camber design floats, slashes, and moves with ease through everything from powder to technical terrain. Camber and rocker affect a ski’s performance greatly. Black Crows Pellis skins and designs from La Sportiva and Dynafit are solid performers, but if the quality is in doubt, it might be worth purchasing a trim-to-fit model from Black Diamond or G3. The Winter Adventure Guide: Explore More in Season Four. Most backcountry skis are loosely based on a traditional sidecut. Starting with boots: if you absolutely love your current downhill boots, the cheapest option is to continue to use them in the backcountry. As a result, the Wildcat Tour 108 somes in just a tiny bit heavier than several skis that we think work best in the backcountry (e.g., Line Vision 108, Renoun Citadel 106, and Atomic Backland 107). Skis of this waist width are narrow enough for spring touring but really shine in the winter months when there is potential for deeper conditions.110mm-120mm+ Boots arguably are the most important piece of ski equipment. What we don’t: Can be hard to find online; not a weight or price leader. Competitively priced at $650—a cool $200 less than the Helio 95—there’s a lot to like about the Recon. 12 oz.) That said, it’s still pretty reasonable for all but the longest days, and we suspect downhill-focused riders will find the tradeoff to be well worth it.See the Kastle TX103. Once you have the sizing dialed in, the final step is to trim the skins to fit the sidecut of the ski, leaving the metal edge exposed (and in the case of the BD skins, trim the length as well). Share this article in … And equipped with an innovative carbon and foam construction, it will remain composed at highlight-worthy speeds. Dimensions: 123-95-113mmWeight: 6 lbs. Backcountry skiing requires participants to have sufficient skills, gear, and training for it to be a safe activity. Atomic, Marker, and Tyrolia offer some great frame bindings if this type of skiing suits you. And just looking at the 2021 Mantra V-Werks gives you an appreciation for the development process: the top of the ski is multi-layered with a raised spine of wood running down the center and covered in gorgeous carbon fiber. Photo: Scott Rokis . 3 oz.Widths: 85, 95mmWhat we like: Impressive stability for the weight.What we don’t: Not a great value; makes you work in powder. One of the most popular is their flagship Corvus model, which is a big-mountain charger built for speed. At around 7 pounds for the pair, it’s not excessively heavy, but there are plenty of lighter competitors on the market. Anyone from newbies to dedicated backcountry enthusiasts should find a lot to like with the construction. All told, the Helio Carbon is well-equipped for anything from dawn patrol laps at a local hill to extended fast-and-light missions. With plenty of rocker at the tip, this ski is thoroughly capable for those days with snow dumps measured in feet, but surprisingly buttoned down with camber underfoot and a light rocker in the tail. Boots with better downhill ability tend to be heavier and have a less-sufficient walk mode for the climb up. Get big deals on new & used Moment gear at Geartrade.com. Unlike their lift-assisted alpine cousins, backcountry skis have two jobs: getting you uphill efficiently while retaining enough power to make the downhill worth the effort (and fun). Then choose a skin width that is a few millimeters narrower (for example, choose a 110-millimeter skin if your ski is 113 millimeters wide). To be clear, this is an inherently limited ski, and we certainly hope that it isn’t a top consideration unless your uphill work often comes with some assistance from a helicopter. For playful backcountry skiers, the Vision is an intriguing option. DPS Skis Wailer T106 C2. Dimensions: 133-105-119mmWeight: 6 lbs. Right off the bat, it’s best to establish whether you want a lightweight-oriented boot, a downhill-oriented boot, or something in the middle. For resort skiers looking to explore out of bounds and get some exercise, welcome to the family. If you have the money for another pair of skis, choose something that can ski the resort well too in case you don’t get out there as much as you’re thinking. And if you choose a G3 or Pomoca skin, you’ll also need to select the length range that matches your skis. The backcountry ski market has exploded in recent years with a seemingly endless array of options, but for true powder hounds, DPS Skis stand out from the pack. If you’re unsure about how much you will enjoy backcountry skiing, start with a frame binding. These complaints push the Blaze down our list, but it’s still a quality ski, and especially in regions that have consistently good snow... Read in-depth reviewSee the Volkl Blaze 106  See the Women's Volkl Blaze 106. However they offer arguably better downhill performance and are a good option for people who mainly ski the resort but get out of bounds on occasion. A really nice backcountry-specific boot that provides solid power transmission is the Scarpa Maestrale RS, the unspoken standard of the alpine touring community. 6 ounces. Weight: 6 pounds. The Wildcat Valley Trail is one of the most popular downmountain backcountry ski trails in New England. For those who want to explore beyond the crowds and lift-served terrain, backcountry skis (also referred to as alpine touring skis) are the ticket. The Pagoda Tour may outperform it in powder and weigh less, but the Navis is sturdier on firm snow and saves you about $450. Plus, the wood core gives it a damp feel and a versatile ride that’s quite comfortable when mixing in the occasional day at the resort. But it’s important to note that the 108 still is a substantial ski—for perspective, it weighs around 1 pound 4 ounces more than the DPS Pagoda Tour above. An extremely well equipped boot that’s not fitted correctly for your foot is going to perform worse than a lesser boot that fits extremely well. The skis above have been built from the ground up for touring performance, but Armada’s updated Tracer line offers a satisfying mix of all-mountain and backcountry design. The smaller size and weight also make them ideal for technical mountaineering, as we see in Elan's Ibex Carbon XLT skis, which include waist widths of 84 and 94 millimeters. Dimensions: 146-106-128mmWeight: 7 lbs. Like Black Diamond’s Helio Carbon above, the Elan Ibex 84 Carbon XLT is an ultralight design built for long tours and spring snow conditions. Check out AIARE, read Snow Sense, and sign up for a class. If you're looking for excellent powder skiing but want to shed some ounces for all-day backcountry missions, this could be a great option. With their home nicely situated in the Alps in Chamonix, France, Black Crows has strong alpine and backcountry roots. Here was a ski that was set up for touring, but kept some of the heft, and a lot of the stability and trustworthiness, of a big-mountain rig. The big point of differentiation is the core, with the Recon swapping the Helio’s carbon fiber for wood and fiberglass. But their defining feature—and what differentiates them from inbound skis—is a shared emphasis on trimming weight. Skis, bindings, and boots get a lot of attention in the touring world, but don’t overlook your humble climbing skins. Backcountry skis often trade some personality for weight savings, but Line’s touring collection is a rare exception. If shaving ounces is your main goal, the Ibex in a short length is hard to beat, but we still prefer the more versatile Helio in the end.See the Elan Ibex 84 Carbon XLT. @ # $ % ^ & * _ - + = ` | ( ) '{' '}' [ ] : ; " '' < > , . Camber is the traditional profile that makes the ski convex in relation to the snow, with direct contact points spread widely near the tip and tail. Who is the Zero G 105 best for? Skis with a waist width between 100 and 110 millimeters are what we consider to be “quiver killers.” In other words, if you’re going to buy one pair of backcountry skis and live in an area with decent snow, these are it. Black Diamond’s updated Helio Carbon line reaches as wide as 115 millimeters, but we love the nimble performance and efficiency of their thin, 88-millimeter version. 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