Editor’s note:Please bear in mind this is NOT an industry-wide product survey. We leave that up to publications with more resources and more Prosecco. Skialper in Italy for example (which you should read, by the way, or you are shopping while impaired.) The skis are rated with a seat-of-pants take that considers everything from weight to price. More, I did this year’s Quiver as an overview of excellent skis rather than a restrictive pick list. Choose any one of these planks if it sounds compatible with your style and the type of snow you tend to ski, and you’ll be delighted. Perhaps next year we’ll have fun and do a Quiver with only three skis. But not this time.
This year we included more skis that have doubtless all-mountain performance, yet we still bias our selection to the planks with less mass, often the narrower version of a multi-width offering. (For example, we included the excellent Voile V6 instead of the plumper V8). Also note that last season I wasn’t as involved in ski testing as during previous seasons, due to extensive traveling. Thus, our format this year is to weight our choices towards what our blog contributors and favor — though my own bias is certainly represented. After all, this is an opinionated blog, not the utterly impartial and unbiased New York Times.
Some of you will notice I did not include much in the way of weight information. I was fiddling around with that, trying to be sure all the skis were in our weight comparo chart, and simply did not get around to it yet due to winter traveling schedule intruding (I’m in Vancouver BC at the moment). I’ll get all the skis into the chart eventually, rest assured. Meanwhile, I do attempt to allude to what’s lighter and what is not, and many of the skis (or their brothers and sisters) are indeed in our charts.
In alpha order by brand:
Atomic, Backland 85 (125/85/110 average)
My Editor’s Choice for the CLASSIC yet MODERN European touring ski. I liked these before I read Skialper Magazine, and was delighted to see they got a 2016 Editor’s Choice for “Ski Touring” category from the Italian Stallions. Backlands pretty much work in any conditions, albeit in a “traditional” sort of way. I’d travel the world with these. What’s funny is the Backland reminds me of an amped up version of what I was skiing on around twenty years ago, when “80 mm” skis were what myself and others considered to be the sweet spot. Things change. Things stay the same. A bit of carbon, nice wood core, somewhat of an early rise tip. Boards like Backland 85 just work.
Shop for Backland 85 Atomic Skis.
(By the way, Skialper chose the incredibly lightweight Movement Vertex X-Series as their Ski Touring Ski of the Year. We did not get to test this one-kilo class ski, so I thought I’d mention my mistake. Apologies. It sounds like this is a one-kilo wonder that skis like, well, like a Swiss engineer intended it to ski. We did ski the Response X-Series ski from Movement. They’re a cool lightweight offering, but I couldn’t see them in the quiver.)
DPS, Wailer 99 Pure 3 (125/99/111) & Yvette 112RP2 — Pure 3 (141/112/128)
Nothing new here, but since DPS is still retailing some of the finest skis ever made we’re including them for the umpteenth time. Breaking our own rule if you will (we attempt to only review newer skis). Thing is, you want to ski “modern?” Mystic DPS skis have some sort of paranormal inculcation that causes the rider to widen their turns, slarve at will, smile, and do it again.
Wailer and Yvette are not for ripping hardpack, and not for extreme steep skiing. Powder, crud; enjoy. Weight/performance ratio isn’t “one-kilo” but is totally functional. Louie keeps going back to his Wailers. Lisa won’t ski on her Yevette’s until there is zero chance of even a grain of sand scratching the bases, as she doesn’t want to let the ski out of her sight even for a base repair. Me, if it wasn’t my job to keep mostly new planks around I’d still include my Wailer 99 Pures as the ski I’d tend to travel with worldwide during mid-winter. So, the Yvette is one of the few specific Women’s skis in this review, and it deserves that spot.
I know some of you are going to ask “What about the Wailer Tour 1 skis?” Well, they’re light in weight but they’re not a DPS Wailer. They’re okay, better in powder. Perhaps if compared to other brands they’d stand out, but hey, we had to compare them to “real” Wailers. That seemed fair. We do have a new pair of the blue Wailer 106 Tour One here to give another go, perhaps my opinion will change. I’ll do the work. I can barely stand the obligation.
With a ski this special and expensive we think shopping a specialty retailer is key. The boys at our local shop CrippleCreekBC.com are special-t,
Dynafit, Chugach (130/107/125)
I have to admit I’d rather be yammering about some of Dynafit’s lightweight touring skis, but the Dynathing that caught our fancy this year is the Chugach, which is pretty much an alpine ski in weight though it does save a few grams. Thing is, if there is any one ski in this review that’s the full-rocker charger of the future, this is our example. Interestingly, Skialper Magazine gives this a “Beginner Choice” trophy. We beg to differ, though we’d agree it’s stronger on soft snow as most full rocker skis tend to be. (Which is why Mikaela Shiffrin — I bow! — doesn’t use full rocker skis to win slalom races, in case you need an inarguable reference point.)
IMGA guide Mike Arnold can ski. I repeat. He can ski. Check his Chugach review. And shop for ’em here.
Dynastar Mythic (133/97/113)
Dynastar does not fool around. They have to build good skis or the thousands of top riders who depend on their gear will immediately migrate like the geese of Gore, flying to another brand quicker than you can say “I’m shopping for pro deals.” The Dynafit Cham varietals have become somewhat of a cult ski. We know dozens of skiers who swear by the planks of the “chamoniard,” so don’t discount. But for inclusion in our quiver we’re going for the Cham’ in its anorexic version, Mythic. These guys are one of the lightest skis made, and they go downhill just fine. Has a speed limit. But who really needs to ski at 65 mph?
Fischer, Hannibal 100 (131/100/117)
I truly do enjoy these skis, having been on them quite a bit last winter and now with a few days this season. They’re different. Not as solid feeling on the down as our full-on alpine skis that tour (Chugach & BMT, for example). But they have a cool silky feel that actually reminds me of Fishers I skied on decades ago. Perhaps that’s caused by more metal in the ski, or perhaps just the particular culture at Fischer, (or perhaps I’m imagining things?) but these guys are nice. You’ll find them to perform well as a wider plank for powder touring. They’re playful on hardpack though as with many touring oriented skis you’re not going to be entering any slalom races. A 180 cm version weighs around 1300 grams, good.
Fisher’s Profoil mechanical pattern skins should be mentioned in the same review. I’ve done more testing. They do grip quite well in conditions such as packed powder and firm slush, with traction diminishing the icier the skin track gets. Main thing, Profoils glide like crazy. Perhaps a quiver skin? Worth a demo of you can take a test pair out for a spin.
Check out our Hannibal coverage.
Our website supporter 8K Peak sells Fisher skis, so I’ll put the shopping link over to them.
G3, Synapse Carbon 101 (130/101/118)
Hail our only North American “full vertical” ski touring company. Or almost. Though they don’t make boots, G3 can claim to “make” everything in the skis/bindings/skins triad that gives them the cred. We are inCREDibly impressed by the ION this year. What is more, we’re amazed these guys still make and sell four different telemark bindings! They deserve a perseverance award for that — or perhaps just a loud expression of “so-what?” Or do Canadians really tele ski all that much?
On the G3 side our Ultimate Quiver pick would be the Synapse Carbon 101W. That be the women’s version, which is said to be “fine tuned for women and lighter riders.” In other words it’s a uni-sex version of the G3 Synapse Carbon 101, only with what in our opinion appeared to be a more supple flex that suits those of us who keep our body weight below BMI 27. We like that, as in our experience most G3 skis seem to be built stiff, and suit heavier or more aggressive riders rather than the average ski tourer. We had three reviewers on these so we really gave them a go. Lisa was ambivalent, Perl was happy with all but their hard-snow performance, and Doug liked them overall. The mostly good marks combined with low weight and North America heritage ramps the score up to Ultimate.
We’re of course incredibly biased here at WildSnow so reviews of G3 skis are hard to find. Enter Google.
K2, Coomback 104 (136/104/123)
We’re including the recent incarnation of Coomback. Not particularly super-light in weight, but man-oh-man these are real with what might be the best performance/weight ratio in the solar system. We’ve reviewed and used Coomback for so many years I fear a search engine penalty from Google for duplicate content. I thus won’t go on at length and bore you with oft repeated accolaids. Main thing, if you like a beefy feeling ski that holds up to expert technique and has the width, keep the Doug Coomb’s honor plank in mind. Skialper Magazine: Freetouring Ski of the Year! Said again, amazing performance/weight ratio.
Check out our infinite Coomback coverage.
Shop for Coomback. (By the way, don’t get sucked into buying the green Coomback precut skins, they glide like steel wool. Get some nylon/mohair mix skins instead, or straight mohair if you can afford to replace when they wear out sooner.
La Sportiva, Vapor Svelte (126/96/113)
We’ve been hip to the tiny nano world for a while, a world where materials can be incredibly strong — and weird. La Sportiva’s Nano offerings are weird, in a good way. They’re weirdly light.
Last season we touted the Sportiva Vapor Nano, a 103 mm semi-wide powder board that is truly a fluff harvester’s delight (1215 grams, 180 mm). Vapor is a bit fragile according to consumer reports, and they’re not the most versatile ski when it comes to conditions such as piste or crust. I’ll keep a pair ready to rock Colorado fluff events. Enter the Vapor Svelte. While remaining incredibly light at (1154 grams, 178 cm), the 96 mm waisted Svelte simply had in my opinion an overall more buttery and forgiving feel than the Nano. Thus, we give them the edge for this year’s quiver pick. Still more of a powder ski than anything, but with versatility. Would I travel with them around the world as my quiver-of-one? Probably not as this ski is still a bit nervous and has a lower speed limit, but I definitely like having a pair around here and I use them often. Best for pure powder, corn or piste — lots of edge hold on hard snow.
Check our Svelte coverage.
Shop for the no-mass ski.
Voile, V6 (121/98/107)
We continue to question the need to do human powered ski touring on excessively gordo planks. Sure, we like Voile’s wide body V8 and it’s been an Ultimate Quiver choice. Sure, if you can show me you really do need 120 cm under your feet to do what you do then I rest my case. But Voile’s 98 mm waist V6 ski is terrific, affordable, and weighs on the light side. Indeed, one of the best values in the biz. Perhaps Mark Zuckerberg could buy a hundred thousand pair of these and hand them out to all the needy backcountry skiers living in snowcaves and 1974 Volkswagen vans, thus solving global warming as well as ski resort housing problems all in one swoop.
From what I hear, Voile is already used to scaling up their production as they’ve been quite successful with all their planks, so getting up to 300,000 skis a month shouldn’t be too tough. IMHO V6 gets it’s performance from geometry rather than construction. The aspen wood core and fiber layup no doubt contribute, but they’ve got a shape (rocker, sidecut) that appears to be on its way to becoming what I’d call the “western powder slarver.” So, go me hearties, and slarve the planet.
Check our V6 reviews.
Shop for the ‘6.
Volkl, BMT 94 (122/94/112)
Ok kids, if I knew I was required to ski resorts, sidecountry, and tour all in the same two days I could see hauling this guy. They’re a bit heavy for my style (1432 grams, single 178 cm ski), but stick a lightweight binding on top and they’re reasonable. The full rocker makes the BMT a bit interesting on pure hardpack unless you’re dynamic enough to really lay them over, but anywhere else you’ll love the “camber of the future.”
BMT binding mount options are limited by the inane “H” pattern mount plate, that’s our only real con. If you’re a skier of moderate body weight and not overly aggressive, in my opinion you can mount any binding if you take care and use epoxy, but for insurance you can simply put in a few inserts (e.g., Quiver Killer) for insurance.
I’ve skied this plank extensively, resulting in an interesting series of experiments with boot position. With my boot on the factory mark, I love the hardpack carve as well as the arc on supportive powder. On the other hand, in deep soft powder the BMT felt too “forward,” as if my ski tails were not dropping, with the tips tending to bury. I mounted 2 centimeters back from the factory position and it’s like night and day. They’d now one of my top five favorite powder skis of all time. I take something lighter when I’m doing much vertical human powered, but when I simply want my most performance oriented ski, I grab the BMT from my Ultimate Quiver.
The BMT feels silky, smooth, and real. If you want words. Oh, and though a certain famous pro skier says they actually ice up less than white skis, here in Colorado the black topskin does ice more than the pale colors. Such is probably climate dependent. Despite the ice occasionally obscuring the hip graphics these will not disappoint, though I’d call them a ski for experts. (one other thing, you’ll notice “Vacuum” pre-cut skins being sold alongside BMT. Vacuum skins handle nicely at warmer temps but we do not recommend for low 20s fahrenheit or lower.)
Check out our BMT coverage.
Shop for BMT.
That’s it you guys. Let the following questions number 1 through 5 commence and don’t forget our previous Ultimate Quiver reviews — they’re still useful.
Obewhanskinoobie sits in the lotus posture in his high Himalayan cave, munching on fluorescent fungus (opens the third eye), awaiting your queries:
1. What about Uberplank from BestSkisMade in Brazil?
3. Can you compare the DPS Wailer 112 to Atomic Backland 85?
4. The lighter a ski, the worse it skis, right?
5. I’m 182.567890 centimeters tall, weigh 72.5748 kilos, ski 7.4589 percent resort and the rest backcountry, mostly in Norway but some at La Grave and am traveling to Chile this summer. Should I buy the Volkl BMT 94 or Dynastar Cham? And what bindings?
WildSnow.com publisher emeritus and founder Lou (Louis Dawson) has a 50+ years career in climbing, backcountry skiing and ski mountaineering. He was the first person in history to ski down all 54 Colorado 14,000-foot peaks, has authored numerous books about about backcountry skiing, and has skied from the summit of Denali in Alaska, North America’s highest mountain.