Ski mountaineering skis are a broad category among touring planks. For our purposes and definition, we look to skis that lean toward efficiency without sacrificing too much performance. Consider them workhorses of the backcountry ski world, they aren’t the flashy pow-slayers of the All Mountain and Freeride crowds but they offer something else: Capability in wide reaching terrain and conditions in the lightest packages possible.
For our women’s selections, we look to brands’ ‘women specific’ skis as well as gender neutral. Despite many manufacturer claims, there often isn’t much difference between men’s and women’s skis. Sometimes it’s only that women’s skis feature shorter lengths, other times the ski has a slightly softer flex for smaller/lighter skiers. So, here are a few we’ve tried and a few we’re really excited to try this season.
Dynafit Blacklight 88 W
Make no mistake, the Dynafit Blacklight 88 W was built with one thing in mind: Going very far into the mountains. Coming in at 1060g (less for shorter lengths), the ski is built with the primary purpose of light and fast movement that can manage whatever conditions encountered. It features a paulownia core, full length carbon topsheet, ABS sidewall and factory race base grind for thinner conditions. And, available in lengths as low as 151, it caters to the smaller ski mountaineers who haven’t had options this light and capable in the past.
How it skis
The Blacklight is best thought of for what it is: a tool more than a toy. Or at least that’s how it skis. The paulownia insides and 70% camber lend to poppy and energetic turns but the carbon stringers makes for a less forgiving stiffness that rewards skiers who stay on their game. The solid edge grip and low swing weight make jump turns in slick or variable conditions an easy joy.
Short lengths mean light skiers can access solid ski mountaineering tools they haven’t been offered from brands in the past.
The aforementioned stiffness requires assertive skiing to get the most performance out of the ski.
Weight (g):: 1060g (165cm)
Lengths (cm): 151, 158, 165, 172 Radius [m]:14, 15.5, 17, 18.5
Dimensions (mm):110 / 87 / 122 (165)
Construction:Sidewall Sandwich Construction, Paulownia Speed Core, Full Carbon Construction
SCOTT Superguide 88 Women’s
The Scott Superguide 88 W is a more well-rounded option on our list of women’s ski mountaineering planks. Thanks to a slightly heavier construction that utilizes a light Paulownia core with hardwood beech stringers, Carbon/Aramid fibers and a sidecut designed for lively, smooth turns, the Superguide 88 inches the fulcrum closer to the middle of the uphill/downhill performance paradigm.
How it skis
Reliable is the word that most came to mind while testing these skis on windboard and sastrugi in the Italian Alps. While the light weight did cause them to deflect in harder snow conditions, a slightly more aggressive ski stance and attention to underfoot pressure brought them to life. The edges held firm on icier hardpack and the skis arced beautiful, easy turns in softer snow. Rather than the harsh stiffness often found in lightweight ski mountaineering oriented skis, the 88s offered a lively but solid ski-ability that once you unlock it, you’ll be surprised at the variety of conditions in which the ski can excel.
The weight difference between this ski and other ski mountaineering skis is minimal for the performance gains.
The minimal weight penalty may make you reach for lighter skis on bigger missions.
Weight (g):1270 (170cm)
Lengths (cm):144, 152, 160, 168 Radius [m]:14, 15, 16, 17
Dimensions (mm):123 / 86 / 108 (168cm)
Construction:Sandwich Sidewall Semi-Elliptic Construction – Carbon/Aramid Fibers
Movement W Alp Tracks 85
Coming in at a scant 965g for 161cm length, them Moment Alp Tracks 85 W is among the lightest ski mountaineering tools at this width. Purpose built with long approaches and climbs in mind, the Alp Tracks relies on a Karuba wood core, full length carbon fiber weave and ABS sidewall to pull it off. That combo sounds familiar to the Blacklight 88, with Karuba swapped for Paulownia, and Movement includes a rubber compound for damping. The Alp Track also has camber for 90% of the ski, with a slight rise in the shovel and flat tails.
How it skis
When putting in long miles, the Alp Tracks performs as expected: The ski’s mass will never be the limiting factor on how long a tour can be. When it comes to descending, the Alp Tracks handled windboard and hardpack surprisingly well for a ski of its stature. The flat tails and 16m turn radius made for satisfying and solid turns in a range of snow conditions. That said, in deep snow, we noticed the skis were a bit hooky and required lighter handling to not oversteer.
Incredible weight to surface area ratio without sacrificing too much ski performance.
It’s a specialized ski that might not leave room in your wallet for more versatile quiver members.
Weight (g):1020 (169cm)
Lengths (cm):154, 161, 169 Radius [m]: 17, 17.5, 18
Dimensions (mm):116 / 85 / 1100 (161)
Construction:Micro-Sidewall Construction, Karuba Wood Core, Full Carbon laminate
Black Diamond Cirque 78
Contrary to many lightweight touring skis, the Black Diamond Cirque did not sacrifice notable performance for lower weigh-in. Readers of the site will know the Cirques have become a standby for WildSnow editor M, thanks to their easy turn initiation, solid edge hold, minimal mass for uphilling and versatility across a wide range of mountaineering conditions and efforts. The ski employs an engineered Paulownia wood core, unidirectional prepreg carbon weave, and semi capped ABS sidewalls in a traditional shape that has a 10% tip rocker, 85% traditional camber and 5% semi-rockered tail.
How it Skis
The rockered tip offers adequate float in deeper soft snow. Slight chatter at high speeds on hardpack but otherwise the ski is surprisingly easy to meneuver on hardpack jumpturns, windcrusts, choppy powder and soft spring snow. Read the full review for more.
Exceptionally easy to ski for this class of mountaineering tool. Beginner friendly, yet very capable.
Weight (g):980 (169cm)
Lengths (cm):161, 169, 177 Radius [m]:17.5, 18.5, 19.5
Dimensions (mm):110 /78/ 99
Construction:Semi-Cap Sidewall Construction, Paulownia Wood Core, Pre-Preg Carbon
While most of the WildSnow backcountry skiing blog posts are best attributed to a single author, some work well as done by the group.