Got a bias against soft skis? The ones that fold up like a turgid waterbed? (Thanks for the metaphor Dan Neil). You’ve got a right to your take. Perhaps it’s that squishy perch you borrowed from a friend back in your days of advanced learning — or that ski that felt “sweet!” on the rack but simply could not hold a line. In either case, obvious, supple things sometimes are simply not good.
But that’s not a rule. I remember folding up in a most welcoming, heated Colorado waterbed during a negative 30 F winter night. Felt pretty good after a day of ice climbing. Ditto, once in awhile the ski manufacturing engineers come up with that magic combo of softer lengthwise flex and good torsional stiffness that combine to a magic ride. On that one, I’ll call out the Elan Ibex84 Carbon XLT.
A little google action reveals the secret, those guys at Elan in Slovenia probably got a half dozen perkomandeljc (look it up) to open some of their secret mines, those long lost to antiquity, containing exotic metals that can be larded into various resin stews to make skis ski good.
Yep, Ibex 84 Carbon XLT flexes out surprisingly soft, but I found them to be a blast. Testing occurred in a bit of spring powder, and then a number of days on hard and soft corn. Get one thing out of the way, these are soft enough to indeed have a speed limit. Non-issue as Ibex 84 is clearly a classic “80 mm class” touring ski. They’re meant to be easy skiing, and light.
These are clearly a ski built for human power-ing. Factory installed skin notches at tip and tail. Flat tail and minimal tip rocker are the standard for a versatile backcountry ski. Even the cross section “Bridge Technology” seems oriented to touring, with a raised center rib that should help shed snow (as opposed to odd designs that are downright Faustian in their claims of “more power” while forming perfect duck ponds and other configurations that glue snow weight to the top of your planks). Let’s do the numbers.
Size tested: 177 cm, 120-85-106 (Radius 20/19).
Weight: 1122 per ski.
Tip rocker: 25 cm (measured from tip, with both skis together).
Tail rocker: Minimal to none.
WildSnow weight/surface score: At 65, 9th lightest on our chart as of this writing, virtually same as big brand 88 width ski that scores 62 at 1133 grams.
Conclusion: Thumbs up for human powered ski touring, for those of us who make moderate demands on our skis in terms of speed and aggression. Minimal tip rocker, flat tail, 1-kilo-class weight. They’re a go-to for me.
Shopping? Backcountry.com carries Elan so I’d imagine they might sell the Ibex84 this winter.
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.