The year is 2020 and while a lot feels wrong in the world, touring skis are better than ever. Since the widespread adoption of rocker/camber profiles the performance of skis has been unparalleled — and with the advancement of materials and manufacturing techniques, we are achieving the same downhill performance of yore at a fraction of the weight. Chances are, if you buy a new ski today you’re going to love it. Below, a few select skis from various quiver slots. We bypassed skis we haven’t spent significant time on and avoided speculating on future skis. Links lead to blog posts or our site-wide search.
Powder freeride touring skis — (PFD) personal flotation devices
G3 SLAYr 114
New for the 2020/21 season and rounding out an increasingly dependable G3 ski quiver, the G3 SLAYr 114 is something to get excited about. Weighing in at a not pudgy 1660 grams in the 185cm length thanks to a Balsa core and carbon layup, this ski offers performance for the deepest of days without breaking the scale. And we’re not talking about delicate, small radius squiggles either – longtime WildSnow contributor Dr. Alex Lee described the SLAYr as a tool that “wants to make big, fast, aggressive turns”. For those of you out there looking to add a powder touring pair of skis to your quiver, there aren’t many options out there that combine weight, surf(ability)ace area, and performance quite like the SLAYr.
Favorite Features: Magnetic contact points keep these skis together without a ski-strap, Polyurethane sidewalls and a high quality ‘Made in Canada’ build
Weight: 1660 grams (185cm – although Dr. Alex Lee weighed them in at 1500 grams at home)
Dimensions: 143-114-128 (185cm)
DPS Wailer 112 Alchemist RP
As proven by years of service with a minimally altered design, DPS nailed the shape of their poster child Wailer 112. The shape blends generous rocker, an oversized shovel, and moderate camber make this a ‘love at first turn’ experience for experts and novices alike. Combine the delectable design with one of the most impressive carbon constructions on the market known as the Alchemist, and you have an incredible ski. Sure, this is DPS’s resort construction, but it’s worth lugging into the backcountry to enjoy those sweet, sweet powder shots.
Favorite Features: Alchemist construction is light, energetic, and damp; the ‘spoon’ rocker keeps you on top of the deep stuff
Weight: 1825 grams (178cm)
Dimensions: 140-112-125 mm (178cm)
The light, zippy newly re-engineered Black Diamond Helio line, including the Helio 104 reviewed here.
Gary’s WNDR Intention 110 test ski was a little short for his taste, but the skis shined in deep pow. And they’re made of algae composites, so that’s…cool.
All-mountain touring ski – the ‘daily driver’
Black Crows Navis Freebird
At the end of the day, the best daily driver for you is going to depend on the mountain range you frequent, your intended use, and your preference of design. However, for most people in the majority of zip codes, the Navis Freebird checks the boxes. These ‘green machines’ are light enough to crush big days (10,000 feet to be precise, according to one reviewer), have the shape to float atop the deep stuff, and are reliable enough to carry to the top of North America’s highest peak (as detailed by Gary’s Denali series). A lot of lighter weight touring skis get knocked for feeling chattery or unstable — the Navis Freebird is not one of those skis. There has been a lot of hype around Black Crows in recent years and the Navis is the versatile heart of their touring lineup.
Favorite Features: moderate camber for firm snow performance, paulownia/poplar wood construction give this ski a ‘damp’ feel
Weight: 1675 grams (175cm)
Dimensions: 138-102-119 (175cm)
While the Voile HyperVector won’t feel quite as at home on hardpack or deep snow as the Navis, it has other attributes that make it an attractive option for that ‘quiver of one’. The paulownia and carbon construction brings the weight down to an impressive 1265 grams in a size 177cm while keeping the downhill performance “impressively damp”. In fact, the Hyper construction from Voile has thoroughly impressed across the board with its combination of torsional rigidity and dampness for such a low weight penalty. Combine these attributes with a generous amount of rocker, moderate camber and a snappy sidecut, and you can see why this ski can be such a versatile – albeit touring specific – ski. Read the review.
Favorite Features: The Hyper construction from Voile is light, impressively damp, and super energetic; generous rocker and a snappy sidecut make this a super nimble ski
Weight: 1265 grams (177cm)
Dimensions: 130-96-114 (177cm)
So far, our testing of the updated Atomic Backland 100 has been limited to spring conditions, but the ski shows promise for an all around deep winter ski too.
Louie Dawson has skied more iterations of the K2 Wayback than most and found the Wayback 106 to be a fun responsive daily ski that positions it well in this criterion.
At 96 underfoot, our PNW based tester found the Black Crows Camox a little narrow for the daily driver, but in other zones it may be just right, especially for smaller skiers. WildSnow editor M had a rocking time on the Camox while chasing Flo Bastian in Chamonix last winter. She found it easily maneuverable, stable at speed and it ate chunder like breakfast cereal.
Fitness/ski-mountaineering touring skis – vertical crushers
Atomic Backland 85 UL
As the widest model in the Atomic UL line, we love the versatility of this kilogram ski. While they are too heavy to podium at a SKIMO race, for those of you who aren’t afraid to finesse lighter weight boards, they can work well for a wide range of other applications. Whether you are an experienced backcountry skier looking for a tool to tackle big missions, a beginner looking for a light option to crush resort laps, or your legs are simply too tired to drag a bigger pair of boards uphill on a shallow powder day – the Backland 85 boasts more performance than meets the eye.
Favorite Features: 120mm shovel with HRZN tech gives this ski better float than you’d expect, micro sidewall helps dampen this ski when the snow hits the fan.
Weight: 1050 grams (179cm)
Dimensions: 118-85-106.5 (179cm)
Black Diamond Cirque 78
Light, fast, and fun. Black Diamond engineered this ski from the ground up with a full Paulownia core and a semi-cap/partial sidewall. BD’s goal was to create a lightweight, objective oriented ski without sacrificing confidence or fun on the descent. Coming in at that kilogram weight, Cirque 78s feature a ski performance described by WildSnow editor M as “responsive and just plain fun”. This quiver ski is ideal for skiers looking to go far with skis underfoot, on a pack, or on a bike, or for those who are looking for efficient fitness laps at the resort.
Favorite Features: Notched tip and tail accommodate various skin tip and tail attachments, snappy turn radius and softer/more playful flex that Helio predecessor
Weight: 970 grams (169cm)
Dimensions: 110-78-99 (169cm)
While we haven’t yet put in the hard charging hours on Dynafit’s new for 20/21 Blacklight touring skis, our first encounter showed great promise for a uber light ski that wants to go far and steep.
A collection of ‘non quantifiable SPECs’
‘Turny’ – the combination of tip rocker and a snappy sidecut makes the Voile Hypervector a hot contender in this category. When you combine that with the ultralight construction it can feel as if this ski is turning itself at times.
Dampness – Touring skis have a reputation for being chatterboxes. When you are pushing the limits of weight this simply comes with the territory. However, if you are looking for something that is able to dampen variable snow and you are willing to sacrifice a little bit of weight, the Navis Freebird gets the vote.
Energy – We have been thoroughly impressed with the amount of energy the Alchemist series from DPS is able to achieve in such a lightweight and stable package. The harder you push these skis, the more they respond.
Fall Line Charging – If you’re looking to point your skis down the fall line and make big arcing turns, we definitely recommend the Navis Freebird. A large turn radius coupled with a stable construction means that this ski not only handles speeds, but prefers them. Ditto on the G3 SLAYR 114.
While most of the WildSnow backcountry skiing blog posts are best attributed to a single author, some work well as done by the group.