Alpin Magazine Ski Reviews 2010/11 — 80 MM & Beyond

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Olaf, backcountry skiing test Alpin magazine.

Alpin ski review editor Olaf and a lucky tester. The German caption translates to something like 'If a screw is loose, we fix it immediately.' Indeed.

Introduction from WildSnow Editors: Today marks the debut of our translated gear reviews from Alpin magazine. Through our attendance at press events in Europe, we’ve come to know Alpin category editor Olaf Perwitzschky, and worked things out with him to publish translated versions of Alpin ski reviews. We like the Alpin reviews because they’re based on serious ski testing by a group of incredibly skilled backcountry skiers — and they have the guts to pick clear winners. Plus, just as we usually do here at WildSnow, Alpin filters their reviews so they include only the products that test well.

Many of you have asked if we’d be willing to organize and publish our own ski reviews. We of course publish our ‘takes,” but doing an overall yearly review would be redundant with other publications doing so as well. That being the case, we’re still not big fans of the way most North American ski reviews are presented. They lack detail, and sometimes seem too bro brah (or pro brah?) to take seriously. I mean, do we really care how great the after party was? Knowing Olaf and the Euro way with this sort of stuff, we are here to say we take what Alpin is doing seriously, and are honored to do the English branch of publication.

Ski tests and reviews for backcountry skiing.

Alpin magazine backcountry skiing test chart for their 'wide' category of skis at 80+ mm waist, but not so wide they'd be inappropriate for human powered vert. Our translations were done by Wildsnow editors using Google and are paraphrases rather than literal. For untranslated words just use any online translator, as the gist is easy to get. Interesting to me how much the Alpin testers liked the K2 and BD offerings -- and we are bummed about the excellent skis Hagan, Dynafit and Trab declined to include. I hope the kids in the playpen can get past that next year -- consolation is that with so many great skis out there, sour grape action on the part of a company won't really mess up your shopping. Take our word for it, you can pick out of the included Alpin recommendations and be as happy as if you'd looked elsewhere. Know that 'Testsieger' is the test winner, 'gewichts tipp' is the weight-performance winner. (Please also see the sub-80mm chart below). CLICK IMAGE TO ENLARGE.



 

WildSnow.com Editor’s intro continued:
Probably to Alpin’s credit (as they’re fairly hard hitting and pick clear winners) some companies have chosen not to provide skis for Alpin’s test due to their take on how Alpin has evaluated their skis in the past. Sadly, Dynafit, Fischer, Trab and Hagan all are in that category. (Alpin did obtain a pair of Dynafit Stoke on the open market for their test). We have quite a bit of experience with Dynafit and could easily plug their skis into this review (we’d of course rate Manaslu as a specialized powder board with less than average edge hold, while we’d rate Seven Summits as an excellent all-rounder. Sorry to say we don’t have enough depth of experience with current Fischer, Hagan and Trab to rate any of their models.) Main thing to know with this is with so many excellent skis out there, what Alpin DID include in their test report is an excellent selection, and from what we know about the overall market, anyone would be perfectly happy simply shopping off the Alpin charts despite some brands not being represented.
 

We find it rather childish for companies to pull product or advertising when they don’t like what someone says about their stuff. It is axiomatic in marketing that the first step to success is to get people talking about your product. More, if you’re confident in your product, you’ll keep providing it for testing while realizing any REAL ski test is a zero sum game with clear winners and losers. That’s what we like about Alpin; they make it pretty obvious what they prefer. Thus, we’d encourage companies such as Trab to get with the program and support Alpin’s ski testing. The results may not support your own opinion, but if your skis make it in to the final cut, it will reflect well on you even if they are not the ‘winner.’

To be fair, where the problem with backcountry ski reviews appears to be worst (and what frequently causes companies to disagree with results) is in attempting to score weight savings along with downhill performance. It’s my understanding that this issue is what’s caused companies such as Trab to not be happy with Alpin ski ratings. Fact is, lighter skis as a rule (with exceptions) don’t ski downhill as well as heavier skis. We see that gradually changing as ski engineering reaches new heights of art and science, but it still holds. Thus, a company may come up with an incredibly light plank that doesn’t downhill quite so well, and depending on how the review system is weighted their skis may not reach the exalted height of preference they hope or even assume their planks will achieve. We don’t see any firm solution to his dilemma, except to encourage companies who don’t end up king of the sand pile to keep their toys in the game, as well as reminding everyone that Alpin goes to great effort to rate each ski on multiple criteria, as well as picking weight/performance winners and listing the skis according to weight.

2010 Alpin Backcountry Ski Reviews

The range and variety of ski touring is always growing, with various segments becoming ever more specialized. Also, tour skiing and ski mountaineering are being rapidly dominated by skis 90 mm wide or more. For 2010 Alpin tested 21 top backcountry skis. For years, the best skis have come in different shapes and weights, from different makers. No one manufacturer in the past fifteen years has succeeded in staying in the top test results.

At one time Hagan skis were the measure of all things. Then came Black Diamond, Atomic and Fischer (as well as some exotics). Meanwhile, other manufacturers take the lead. This shows that the market is in motion and development continues. One can not rest on their laurels.

We categorize skis on the basis of width, as things have changed to the point where width is the statistic most often spoken of when comparing one ski to another. We feel there are two groups of skis: the normal width of around 80 mm underfoot, and the wider. That said, we most certainly do not discount weight, and in our graphic presentations and tables the skis are ordered from lightest to heaviest. Thus, to pick a ski consider how important lighter weight is for you, and if so pick from the top of the table.

(WildSnow editor’s note: As we do at WildSnow.com, Alpin generally reviews product they feel is of excellent quality and performance. Thus, all the skis below could work well for a given user. The right pointing thumb means the ski was “ok” in their estimation, with the thumb up meaning “the top picks.”)

Company Model Rating Notes Rating
Differences Tour Light + superlight
- minimal damping
- lacks edge grip
Blizzard Expedition + light

+ very lively
- minimal damping

Blizzard Free Cross Adventure

+ light
+ agile
+ performance/weight winner
- minimal damping

Atomic Descender + light
+ quiet/damp
+ forgiving
Elan Elbrus + relativly light
- extremely twitchy

Elan Denali + all conditions
+ solid feel
- requires expert skier

Mountain Wave Get up + agile

+ quiet/damp
+ excellent all conditions

Völkl Qanik + agile
+ price/performance
Stöckli Stormrider Pit Pro III

+ agile

+ smooth
+ edge hold
+ test winner in sub 80

Dynastar Altitrail Powder + light
- twitchy
Dynastar Mythic Light + width/weight ratio
- few strengths
Black Diamond Aspect + wide enough
+ smooth for the weight
+ performance/weight winner
Black Diamond Drift + wide
+ width/weight
- not all-around
Mountain Wave Wake up + perfect touring width

+ energetic

K2 Shesback + forgiving
+ all conditions
- shaky at speed
Atomic Aspect + powder plank
+ true freeride ski
- slighty shaky at speed
Dynafit Stoke + powder planks
- nervous at speed
- no an all-around ski
K2 Way back + smooth
+ agile
+ good for difficult snow
+ top in 80+ category

Scott Xplor‘air + extremely agile

+ exellent touring ski
+ forgiving

K2 Backup + agile
+ super all-rounder
+ stabile
Kneissel Free Star + performance mix

+ fun on hardpack
- heavy

 

Alpin magazine backcountry skiing ski reviews.

Alpin Magazine recommended backcountry skis under 80 mm wide at waist. This sort of ski isn't the most popular in the North American market, but when they work, such planks can be a fantastic way to lighten your touring setup and still have fun. Very popular in Europe. Know that 'Testsieger' is the test winner, 'gewichts tipp' is the weight/performance winner. CLICK IMAGE TO ENLARGE, apologies for the text not being more legible, had to compromise between size of graphic and how it looks.

Sidebar: What Length Plank for Ski Touring?
So what is the right ski length for touring? Overall, no rule of thumb exists. Here in Europe, the trend is for those with weight concerns and participation on the ski mountaineering side of things to pick a length that’s around their height minus 10 to 20 centimeters. Those who put more emphasis on downhill performance will go longer, commonly up to height plus 5 centimeters. Most skis we review don’t come in lengths longer than 180 centimeters, so that is the ultimate limit on length and even core freeriders rarely need something longer when using a modern ski.

Sidebar: How We Test
We had all ski models available for testing in both a long and short length. The skis were tested in the state in which we have received from the manufacturers. During the test, significant damage (scratches, edge fringes) was repaireed professionally so the skis were always in a properly tuned state. All skis were driven by at least eight testers and evaluated. The skis were weighed on a calibrated scale. Dimensions are those specified by the manufacturer. We based our tests out of the ski resort of Warth / Schröcken.

Summary — Conclusion
The trend is most certainly the wide and light. In the “normal” width skis (80 mm or under), the Stoeckli Stormrider Pit Pro III took first place, especially with very good skiers. If weight is particularly important, consult with the Atomic Descender well. A terrific all-rounder is also the Völkl Q Anik. For the wider skis at more than 80 mm under the binding, K2 Wayback was a winner. The Wayback works with its 88 mm underfoot in almost any terrain and for almost every type of skier. If you like something with a bit less width, check out Scott Xplor’air, which rated very close to the Wayback. Xplor’air is a forgiving ski with super handling characteristics. Want wide performance range and less weight? Get the Black Diamond Aspect under your feet. There you go, stay tuned for our 2011/2012 take from Alpin Magazine!

Black Diamond Aspect and Drift review.

k2 Wayback review.

(Alpin magazine test category editor Olaf Perwitzschky started mountaineering with his parents in the early 70′s when he was around 5 years old. He hated the boring slogs to the alpine huts but was exited when it got steeper and when crampons and a rope were needed. After studying sports in Cologne he moved closer to the Alps and started his job as editor at ALPIN, with his main focus as testing products. At the same time he finished successful his education as a professional mountain guide and so combines theory and practice.)

Comments

80 Responses to “Alpin Magazine Ski Reviews 2010/11 — 80 MM & Beyond”

  1. Lou March 16th, 2011 12:50 pm

    Troubleshooting comments, hmmmm

  2. Lou March 16th, 2011 12:53 pm

    Sorry about deleting previous comments, only one that got through was John Fayhee saying the lead photo was in bad taste. Apologies if that’s actually the case, or was John just making a joke about how PC we are not? John?

  3. Lou March 16th, 2011 12:54 pm

    Just re-did the over 80 mm ski chart so the text is slightly more legible.

  4. skidmark March 16th, 2011 1:10 pm

    Lou, given your experience and the Alpin ski test results, do you feel that the BD Aspect is a better one quiver than the Manaslu which has less tip width?
    I understand that the next Manaslu model will have a slightly stiffer core via the Stoke. Any perspective between the Aspect and Manaslu would be appreciated, but I am encouraged by the Alpin review of the BD plank.

  5. Lou March 16th, 2011 1:32 pm

    Skid, if I had to bring one ski and was blindfolded as to conditions, I’d definitely pick Aspect over Manaslu. I’ll say it again, in my view Manaslu is quite specialized to soft or difficult snow, and is less ideal for conditions such as steep ice. Not that Aspect is specific for edge hold (3 out of 5 stars in Alpin review), but when I skied it, the edge hold and hardpack performance felt better than Manaslu. As to the new Manaslu with change in core, no way to know till we really get on it and ski it for more than a few hours.

    Bear in mind that Alpin rated Aspect tops in terms of performance/weight ratio, and also gave it a thumbs up within their final picks. That is saying alot. Indeed, I might just have to consider Aspect for spring skiing this year (grin).

    Alpin is doing their 2011/12 ski testing just about now, so perhaps Olaf will chime in here if he’s been on the re-designed Manaslu — that is if Dynafit decided to enter the big scary sandbox of the Alpin ski reviews.

  6. skidmark March 16th, 2011 1:46 pm

    Lou,

    Thanks for the feedback. I am really encouraged by the Alpin ratings for the Aspect and really like the wider shovel up front for powder in the backcountry, which is my main objective.
    With as much width at the ends as the Stoke, the narrower underfoot should serve to make up easier and harder snow more manageable. Can’t wait to try them out first.

  7. Lou March 16th, 2011 1:49 pm

    Skid, I really take seriously what Olaf and his crew say, so yeah, check those out ASAP!

  8. David Gerrard March 16th, 2011 1:49 pm

    Hallo Lou,

    You’ve probably picked up on the few stilted phrases, but ones that jumped out in the summary was the mistranslation of “leicht” to “easy”, when they mean literally “light(weight)”. This in relation to the “trend of wide and light” and “whoever’s looking for a wide and light ski will find the BD Aspect a ski to “surf” aswell as being suitable for climbing”. (I happen to have the mag open infront of me).

    Also here’s a short vid from the Alpin website, showing how they did the reviews.
    http://www.alpin.de/filme/video?videoid=1087528

    Just recently found your website. Love the enthusiasm!

    cheers, David

  9. Bar Barrique March 16th, 2011 1:53 pm

    Interesting reviews, but if you are lucky enough to ski a lot of powder, all of these skis might be a bit on the “skinny” side :D
    Though, it is worthwhile to have a set of skinnier skis for spring conditions. Looks like those Stockli’s are a lot lighter than they used to be.

  10. Lou March 16th, 2011 1:55 pm

    Thanks David! I’m still editing the online version, so I’ll see what I can do with your info.

    If our publishing of the Alpin review is popular, next time (with their permission) I’ll work with a translator as well as Google translate. Couldn’t budget the translator pay this time because I wasn’t sure how useful or popular our version would be.

  11. Lou March 16th, 2011 2:09 pm

    Bar, skiing pow on sub 80 mm skis can actually be pretty fun. I’ve never minded it. Where I like the wider skis is for difficult snow or less than perfect pow… they’re also better for breaking trail.

  12. Dostie March 16th, 2011 2:21 pm

    Nice coup. Results remind me of the ol’ days when retailers got upset because Couloir backed up our Editor’s Choice picks with hard data (subjective ratings) and the party was on the hill, not after. ;)

  13. Lou March 16th, 2011 2:30 pm

    A few beers at lunch (party on the hill) would most certainly help with honesty on the rating cards, or at least result in pithy comments, some of which would make the review writer’s job easier (grin).

    As for the good old days, the PR people and other company reps will always push as hard as possible and see when you’ll roll. You stuck to your guns. Alpin does as well. I’d imagine we’ll eventually see folks such as Trab get back into the playground. Especially once they realize that acting like they’re in kindergarten just acts to their own disadvantage. After all, ANY ski that makes it into the final Alpin review is known to be good, so running off with your toys just results in the assumption you’re not in there because your toys are crumby. Core gear folks know that’s not the case, but what about the average ski shopper? They’re going to go for the known quantity they can check out in the reviews…

  14. Tom Gos March 16th, 2011 3:54 pm

    Lou, thanks for posting this translation, ane please continue to post more in the future. While I’m always suspect of ski reviews, I tend to trust a “preponderance of evidence” when I see several positive reviews on the same ski, and having another source is great. These reviews seem to be more honest than those from the US based glossy BC ski mag whose reviews seem to be tilted towards big skis for resort or slackcountry skiing rather than touring. I will say that the guys at Off Piste seem to have trustworthy reviews, although they can be a bit thin.

  15. Lou March 16th, 2011 4:03 pm

    I have to say that inside story I’ve heard, along with having companies refuse to put their skis in the review due to their concern with the ratings, gives Alpin even more credibility. That since “soft” namby pamby ratings are easier for companies to spin. Though I’m sure Olaf would have rather had skis from Trab and Hagan, for example, in the review.

  16. Jonathan Shefftz March 16th, 2011 4:08 pm

    Thanks for the translation service, but I’m disappointed in the magazine’s selection. Regardless of whatever “politics” they’re dealing with, a European touring ski review that omits Dynafit (except for a single ski), Trab, Movement, Hagan, Fischer, and G3 is just bafflingly incomplete. Still better than “Backcountry” magazine’s test of skis for telemarking in lift-served low-angle cut-up powder (complete with comprehensive descriptions of their partying), but not as good as some of the Off Piste Mag reviews.

  17. Dostie March 16th, 2011 5:30 pm

    Lou,

    Any chance you could make those translated results downloadable as a PDF? The enlarged image is still pretty hard to read.

    The table you created is easy to read but missing important data like dimensions. I have my own biases about ski size (length & width) and how that translates to functionality. Would be good to be able to read that easily in your table…or download a readable, printable PDF from Alpin.

    If you’re so inclined. Either way, thanks for the beta.

  18. Lou March 16th, 2011 6:06 pm

    Dostie, this is just a first step. We’ll see how much farther we can get. Perhaps I can make the graphics more legible, though here on my setup I can read them just fine…

  19. Lou March 16th, 2011 6:11 pm

    Jonathan, I agree that the omissions are a disappointment. I’m thinking this is the low point and things will get better. It actually surprised me that the companies would be so (what I view as) childish when faced with a ‘real’ review. But perhaps attitudes in Europe are different. I don’t see anything in the review that would annoy a ski maker other than it actually picks an overall winner (lord forbid). And like I wrote, it’s indeed difficult to figure out how to score the weight in a review that actually attempts to score rather than just provide a catchy narrative paragraph for each plank.

  20. Florian March 16th, 2011 6:14 pm

    Strange that Dynafit doesn’t supply their skis to this test, as I recall they got very good reviews in previous editions.

    Btw, I don’t think you need to pay for a translator next time, I guess there are enough German speaking grateful readers here (not just me) that would be happy to translate the test for you. And as it is pretty basic German it won’t be too difficult either.

  21. Ed March 16th, 2011 7:10 pm

    On-line translation in real-time (for chat) can be found at:
    http://ortsbo.com/
    Seems to work really well when we tried it overseas.

  22. Jordo March 16th, 2011 9:30 pm

    Nice to see some coverage of the mid 80s skis. Still the size I spend the majority of my time on for long distance days, despite the North American marketing driving the bigger is better mantra. Amazing that a good many of the skis reviewed here are simply unavailable in North America.

    Wanting a sub 80mm board, I ordered a pair of Atomic Descenders on clearance from telemarkpyrenees back in the fall. Coupled with a pair of TLT speeds, the setup works very well for light and far days. I’ll echo the good review above.

  23. Graeme March 17th, 2011 12:52 am

    Thanks for posting this stuff Lou and Alpin. Great to have some objective data even if some important players are missing. I’m a bit confused about the Wayback though – top in 80+ but failed to get a thumbs up??

  24. aviator March 17th, 2011 3:06 am

    Thanks, great stuff, especially the insight about how they try and do real testing and ski makers responses, SMH.

    But why do they try to compare skis with such different dimensions, wouldn’t it be better to put these skis into maybe 3 groups by dimension?

    Skinny skis (as in ultra light weight) are great.
    But isn’t the sidecut on many of these skis too extreme for the backcountry? I thought the trend still was towards straighter skis for many reasons.
    And narrow under foot without being ultra light is NOT it?

  25. Christian March 17th, 2011 6:29 am

    IMHO ski testing is hard, and reading them is even harder. Skiing technique and tester preferences seems to influence the result so much that the value of them becomes somewhat questionable – at least the conclutions.
    The best test I have seen this year has been from Norwegian “Fri Flyt”, French “Montagne” and French “Ski”. Montagne and Fri Flyt contained information such as meassured tail/mid/tip flex…but the conclutions were on opposite ends. Is it possible to appreachiate a wide touring ski, if your reference is sub 70mm…or the other way around?
    In the above test I wonder what statements such as “requires expert skier” actually means.
    I also agree with aviator regarding sidecut. I generally prefer quite a lot of sidecut, but find straighter skis more secure on icy traverses: i.e. I don’t have to use crampons. It also more stable regarding breakable crusts etc….but it is all down to preferences. I guess.

  26. Lou March 17th, 2011 7:37 am

    Graeme, the lack of thumbs up on Wayback has to be a typo. I’ll fix. There were a couple other typos, nothing major, and I probably introduced a few myself. Lots to watch…

    The thumbs up icon is a bit misleading, as ALL the skis in the review are ones that Alpin thought were good, with the thumbs up just meaning the best of the best.

    I fixed the thumb icon on the Wayback…

  27. Lou March 17th, 2011 8:27 am

    Christian, good points. I agree about tester style and preference influencing results. Even though they are most certainly not perfect, that’s exactly why I like the Euro reviews better than the North American, as my impression is always that the Euro backcountry ski reviews are most certainly done by core ski mountaineers (e.g., Olaf is a certified guide and spends his life in mountaineering) and the skis are extensively tested in natural snow. I’m sure NA publications do step up on occasion, but nearly every time I hear about a review it’s based on a day or two of racing around a ski resort by a seemingly random bunch of skiers. The times I’ve participated, my impression was that the ‘testers’ put more effort into impressing each other with how fast and agro they could ski, rather than actually figuring out how the skis performed for various styles and conditions. Also, while you can indeed find totally natural snow at some resorts, even powder and crud at most resorts is very different from what you find in the backcountry. Not saying it can’t be done, but picking the correct resort for a true backcountry ski test would be key, and not easy. And even one the resort is picked, if the review only lasts a few days, certain snow conditions might never occur.

    All difficult, at best. That’s why our approach her at WildSnow HQ is to not do overall ski reviews comparing a bunch of different planks, but rather pick a few skis every season and ski them extensively. Only then do we publish a true “review” of a given ski (though we do brief looks on occasion).

    For example, Volkl just dropped off a pair of Nunataq and they look fantastic. I might publish a brief blog post once I ski on them a bit, but I wouldn’t do a real “review” unless I got out on them multiple days and found them to be good. Ditto for a pair of DPS that should be here in a few weeks.

    How would I organize a review if it was my job in the ideal world? First, I’d keep the group of testers small but with very broad and deep experience. All testers would be what I call “technical” skiers, simply meaning they’d be into the mental component of skiing, and able to articulate things such as how a ski holds edge on ice. Most importantly, I’d pick a resort that had vast areas of slack country, and I’d have the test last over a two or three week period so various snow conditions could occur. Fantasy? Yes.

  28. P Gyr March 17th, 2011 8:30 am

    Having toured on DPS Wailer 105′s for the last 4 years, living in Jackson, it is astonishing to see the narrow width of the ski’s reviewed. 95-115mm is the norm here, in the Wasatch, most anywhere in the western US. 100mm skis are much better for any sort of variable or funky conditions and a hell of a lot easier to break trail in deep snow with.
    I was fortunate to be able to ski central Switzerland, mostly Engleberg, two winters ago. The better to really good skiers out on the glacier were skiing fatter ski’s. Backcountry day skiing with some locals on the same trip, I received several comments on the extreme width of my 105′s. On a day when dense wind affected powder point up the advantage of more width…
    Why the disconnect?

  29. Ben W March 17th, 2011 8:56 am

    I’m with you P Gyr. I tour in Vermont, New Hampshire and the Dolomites. While I do use ultralight skinnies for certain days, they are reserved for corn, and traverses. There’s plenty of funky snow that is a chore on skinnies, and darn fun on mid-weight, mid-fats. That said, the best skiers I know in Italy like the skinnies, and I can’t keep pace with them going up.

  30. Bob March 17th, 2011 9:59 am

    What do people think about the Dynafit Mustagh Ata Superlight as a spring decent touring ski. Does it have a good edge hold on firm snow or does it suffer from the same problem as the Manaslu does? Would the Seven Summits be a better choice. I normally ski wide skis during the winter but am considering some narrow boards for spring. Its hard to imagine being on a ski with less than 90 mm underfoot!

  31. Lou March 17th, 2011 10:01 am

    Ben, that’s my experience as well. I keep getting out with good skiers who smile and ski junk with aplomb on sub 100 mm skis. When I see that, the wide ski coolaid in my body seems to go away and I see a whole new world open up of easy uphill, and downhill fun. As I’ve written about before, the form factor such as Dynafit Manaslu (95 underfoot) seems to be a terrific compromise and I’d suggest anyone who knows how to ski and wants to do human powered skiing would check out that width range rather than feeling needful of huge planks. Now don’t get me wrong, as the form factor of skis such as k2 Coomback is something to consider as well (102 underfoot), but that’s still skinny compared to the huge guns I see some guys lugging up the hill.

  32. Lou March 17th, 2011 10:05 am

    Bob, Mustagh Ata has more edgehold from what I understand, but as best for efficient spring touring, I’d still go with 7 Summits. If you’re used to super wide skis, you might have some adjustments to make in your technique.

  33. marolt March 17th, 2011 10:06 am

    We have been on the Atomic Descender for the past few years and it is a really great ski, def the best we have had over the years. It’s wicked stiff and has a straight sidewall under the foot that allows it to hold on super hard snow and ice. But the over all stiffness allows for a shorter legnth to be skied which makes a light ski even lighter. I am on 177cm length and it skis like a GS ski when you want it to, but it’s short length allows for quick turns when you need it on steep narrow terrain. It’s very damp, very very solid in all conditions from backcountry to bumps, powder to ice. It’s a super ski. Only knock is that it is fairly straight and new models will have a bit more side cut. But over all, a super backcountry ski that you can take on-mountain as well. A super beefy ski that is forgiving……

  34. Lou March 17th, 2011 10:09 am

    Thanks Mike, that got a thumbs up in the Alpin summary, and is a weight/performance winner as well. Nice to get confirmation on that.

  35. P Gyr March 17th, 2011 10:40 am

    The best skiers I know in Jackson ski 95-105mm on an every day basis. I’m fairly confident the local skiing and ski mountaineering talent matches up well with just about anywhere. Uphill or downhill. Just don’t agree with Lou’s assertion that the coolaid should not be drunk…. down to the dregs of undissolved sugar. The weight disadvantage associated with high tech light construction fatter ski is just not that signficant. when compared to the ability to mitigate crappy snow conditions for portions or all of a descent. Apply’s to skiers of the most advanced ability levels.
    There is no doubt that harder spring conditions warrant a narrower lighter ski for the quiver. Monster or multiday tours, ditto.
    Skiing the skillet on Moran, power, wind pank, low elevation mank combo over 5000 vert plus lake transit: 105′s

  36. Lou March 17th, 2011 10:58 am

    P, what we have is a failure to communicate. I’m saying that 95-100 mm +- underfoot is the terrific compromise, such as with Manaslu, but I guess where we differ is that feel that skis that are more like 90 or even narrower underfoot also are still viable, or even skinnier is good if used for correct purpose.

    As for Jackson showing what’s best, I don’t mind considering what’s being used by you guys and know that you’re doing some terrific stuff, but you’re not the center of the ski mountaineering universe any more than we are here, or other folks are elsewhere. The world has many different snow climates and ski cultures, and some tend to very different equipment… I guess my main point is that yeah, wide skis are great in some ways, but there are reasons not to go wide and marketing coolaid does exist.

  37. Robtyr March 17th, 2011 11:14 am

    Only two bits of info a) to the translations and b) the ski selection by Alpin Magazine. a) Some translations are really a little of. Example: Dynafit Stoke. Your chart reads: “Terrific in powder & difficult terrain, but less smooth”. The german text means more “Really lightweight for the width; really good in powder (by these width), but nervous (restless) in difficult terrain.
    b) Lou did omit the sidebar titled “Why are there ski brands missing? Some manufacturers of lightweight skis view the ski test with a critical eye, because the weight of the skis is not taken in consideration enough. Dynafit partook in the last years in the test, but declined to take part in these years test due to the (in there eyes) not satisfactory score in the last years (we got the Stoke on the free market). Also Trab declined to participate. Fischer and Hagan declined to provide skis for the tests for quite a few years now. What a shame! In our opionion it’s not a sign of confidence in the own products.”
    Maybe also my translation is not without errors. Sorry. :-)
    Lou thanks for your effort put in your website. I appreciate especially the inside in bootfitting, since I also have some problems with the boots (after some smashed bones and ruptured tendons in the legs now more than ever). Cheers

  38. Randonnee March 17th, 2011 11:23 am

    In my Dynafit skitouring quiver my favorites are the Seven Summit and the Manaslu (both 178 cm for 6’1″ heavy guy) skied with my Zzero3C boot. Some days I get on the Stoke 182 cm with the Zzero4C boot. The Stoke is fun and more powerful and stable than Manaslu but not necessarily more fun for me. I enjoy the light weight of the Manaslu and Zzero3C and for me the freedom. and comfort of the 3-buckle boot for walking. When skiing I enjoy the easy versatility of Manaslu while also having decent stability.

    Occasionally I get on my 70-waist K2 Chogori and TLT4 boot, a well-matched rig, for hard snow, and enjoy that rig. As Lou alluded, I also can have fun on the 70-waist ski if I find powder, wide skis are not required but are fun. The narrower skis and shorter length are better for touring steep hard Cascade snow in tight trees and brush. I find the 88-waist FR10 with Zzero4C useful in hard snow alternated with some areas of powder or soft snow conditions found in the Cascades at times.

    The Zzero3C boot is an excellent skitouring tool, perhaps much overlooked with the advent of the Zzero4C and the big boot evolution. I have resisted buying the TLT5 thus far as I am not convinced it is better in all ways for me than the Zzero3C- however, a future version of TLT5 is something that I expect to own.

  39. Toby March 17th, 2011 11:32 am

    I would like to bring my personal euro aspect to this conversation. I’m big fan of skinny 70-80mm waist skis. IMO; this class of skis is really making sense over here. I also have some over 100mm waist skis, but they are mainly collecting dust since I started to go deeper to the AT-skiing mountaineering stuff.

    This winter has been great for this kind of skiing. We were able to climb and ski some north couloirs, that will be normally skied during may or begin of June. Most of the tours are involved with carrying the skis: first approach and then climbing to the summit. Skinny (short 160-180 MAX) skis are handy and light weight +steep traverse, ice uphill tracks and kick turns are what skinny skis are made for. We spend most of the time for going up – hours and hours. Snow is mainly hard or very variable. We are regularly using ski crampons. I cannot imagine to going back for over 80mm waist skis.:wink:

    For me, the kick turns are setting the length limit. I have 32’’ legs and my best kick turn- ski length is 170. Otherwise the tails are crossing too much. I currently ski Stöckli Stromrider pit light – skis in 175 length and 72 waist. I cannot be happier. These stöcklis were 2009 ALPIN test winner in its class! Second best was K2 Suksan. Suksans are my current AT big borads :D 118-78-xx. Still on K2 product line in Europa.

    My rope mate is on superlight Hagan skis. It is just fair to him that our gear is close to the same weight range ; ) My observations are that fellows with fatter boards and heavy boots are normally either slower, doing it shorter or staying in lower altitudes.

  40. Carl March 17th, 2011 12:03 pm

    The euros can keep their skinny skis, in our heavy wet snow with rain crusts in it I like something bigger under my feet, the 100ish width feels good, I wouldnt mind a set of DPS wailers or similar to loose a few pounds but light skis = even lighter wallet. Spring conditions get narrower skis

  41. Jonathan Shefftz March 17th, 2011 12:06 pm

    Time to put in my defense of 85-90mm skis:
    http://www.wildsnow.com/4181/movement-logic-x-series-review/
    BTW, for anyone having trouble viewing the picture, just download the jpg to your computer then zoom on in.

  42. P Gyr March 17th, 2011 12:26 pm

    Lou,
    I was careful to state “matches up well with”, not “we rule in JH suckahs”. While the phrase “just another Ahole from Jhole” has some justification, I hope it does not apply here. Not the center of the universe (nor have we ever been) but an important center nonetheless.
    In 1997 I was rockin’ 208 cm Rossignol 5SV’s ele setup, Merrill Supercoms in all sorts of terrain and conditions. Be interesting to mount a pair of those up with Dynafits and see how the touring/ski performance compares with comparable width ski’s of current vintage.

  43. Christian March 17th, 2011 12:47 pm

    Bob: The mustagh ata has significantly more edge hold. It is a fairly stiff ski – at least the tail. The front of the ski is fairly straight, so it need some pressure to turn on hard snow – maybe also because of the lack of mass. Compared to a ski such as coomba, it is slightly harder to initiate, but does not give in when pressured – or twist. The lack of sidecut makes it great for skinning icy snow. Skiing in modest terrain with nice firn, there are more exiting skis….but it is a great allrounder. It requires some power to do short turns, as it has a long turn bias.

  44. Scott March 17th, 2011 3:54 pm

    Arguing about which ski width is best is pointless. Every ski selection is a tradeoff, both in functionality on different snowpacks, $$$$, and how big of a quiver you can manage or enjoy.

  45. Sam F March 17th, 2011 4:02 pm

    I think you can make an argument for Jackson Hole( the greater Jackson Hole area lets say ;) , being one of, if not the place to practice a certain kind ski mountaineering in the lower 48. I could be way off, but Id sure like to know were else you could hit a 6000+ft couloir at the pitch you will find in the skillet. Just like you can pretty confidently say that places in the alps are even better, for this nature of thing.
    Interestingly enough, from what I understand the wider skis that we use here are NOT that popular in the Alps.

    Anyway, we have all I think skied a range of widths, and made our own judgement calls on what we feel is a good balance between weight on the up, and all sorts of factors on the down.

    Frankly, if my skiing ability were better, in probably be more interested in 80+ skis.

  46. Ed March 17th, 2011 4:59 pm

    Does anyone have an opinion on the DPS Wailer 105′s in carbon with Dynafit bindings for backcountry (with pack)? How do you think these’d work with TLT5 Perf’s? Talked to some guys that were skiing in-bounds with ‘em (the DPS) this winter and they had nothing but praise – heaps of it at that. Thoughts?

  47. P Gyr March 17th, 2011 5:19 pm

    Ed,
    Carbon 105′s with TLT’s have been my setup for 4 years. Good to go.

  48. Mason March 17th, 2011 5:24 pm

    Sam F.- the Tetons seem to produce lots of braggarts, just read the posts on Teton.AT! The skillet is not a 6000+foot couloir! The couloir part is much less than 6000, no? Though you sure can ski some long descents in the Tetons, I’m jealous. Lets see a list of the longest couloirs in the states.

  49. Ben W March 17th, 2011 5:34 pm

    I used to have 188 wailer 105 pures. Great ski. Too long for the conditions and terrain I intended them for (tight trees in winter, steeps in spring). They ski longer (early rise tip is very subtle) than the 190 Lotus 120′s I still own and love. The Wailers were matched well with Titans. With Maestrales on bad snow, I felt the Wailers were more ski than I needed. I tried to trade for 178′s but found no takers, so I replaced them with 180 Praxis BC’s, which are excellent but not as light. I think 178′s woud go well with TLT 5p’s.

  50. P Gyr March 17th, 2011 5:52 pm

    Please don’t tar JH in toto with the Steve Spraymeo brush.
    Skillet is about 5K to the lake. The Handle couloir portion perhaps 600 vertical feet couloirish upper 2000k.
    Couloir comparison and description sounds like it warrants a separate thread.

  51. Greg Louie March 17th, 2011 5:58 pm

    The width question is a funny one.

    I’ve done some touring with mixed Euro/American groups, and typically the Euros show up with a ski between 70-85mm underfoot, while the N. Americans pick a ski between 85-100mm – for the same tour. All expert skiers, all with a good idea of what conditions to expect.

    Some of the Euros are such good skiers that the skinny skis don’t seem to make a difference when the snow turns to crap; some of the Americans are fit enough that the extra weight doesn’t seem to make much difference even over several long days.

    I suspect the future is a super-light ski right on the cusp.

  52. Lou March 17th, 2011 6:10 pm

    Like the pair of Volkl Nunataq I tested today. 107 underfoot, 1786 grams for a 178 cm !!

    One main problem with wide skis is the combined weight of the wide skins and snow on top of the ski can result in quite a load. Really notice that every time I test wide skis in the backcountry. At resort you don’t notice, of course…

  53. Sam F March 17th, 2011 6:34 pm

    Right so the summit is 12,600 the lake is 6,700, and alot of it is steep. I was off on the vertical, my bad. But again, were else in the lower 48 are you going to find that That is all I meant to infer.

    P.S.East face of teewinot has similar vert over much shorter approach.

  54. Lou March 17th, 2011 6:43 pm

    Um, Mount Rainier and Mount Shasta, for starters? Much less rock on those though, so they don’t look as rad… Shuksan isn’t too shabby either…. The Tetons are cool, but they’re not the only game in town. And, move on up north and throw it all out the window…

  55. mc March 17th, 2011 10:32 pm

    @ Ed.
    Everyone I’ve spoken with said to go with the 112 over the 105 as a touring ski. Next season will be the 112′s with Plum bindings. Not sure what will become of my Manaslu’s.

  56. Christian March 18th, 2011 12:04 am

    Norway is definetly wide ski domain. Think it is connected with the fact that turning is out of fashion. Blasting through snow of unknown quality feels much more secure on wide burly skis. Blasting was one of the reasons so many moved from tele. Personally I feel domewhat deprived if I only get 10 turn when I could have taken a 100 – it is fine when taking a lift but not when I have skinned.

  57. Gary Maltin March 18th, 2011 5:37 am

    Hi, off topic as anything but wondering if Lou and the editors of this site would have any concerns or misgivings about allowing our non-profit group (Friends of Shames) some airtime to get the message out on our venture to save our local mountain. We are proposing to form a community service cooperative (the first of it’s kind in Canada) to purchase the Shames Mountain Ski Resort. This will be the first cooperative ski area in Canada, and will seek to keep the lifts running in a long term, financially viable manner. Please feel free to respond to me via your site, or my email. I would also encourage you to check out our website (both My Mountain Coop, and Friends of Shames) to see that we are for real. Lee L has been giving us a hand too, so you can quiz him about our group too. Thanks in advance, respectfully yours, Gary Maltin.

  58. Lou March 18th, 2011 6:55 am

    Gary, your message and linked name are a start. Let me know when you have a website (your linked name doesn’t work) and when you’ve formed the cooperative, and perhaps we can publish a guest blog about it or something. Would have to have some sort of backcountry skiing component, so I assume the mountain has slackcountry/backcountry access?

  59. Ben W March 18th, 2011 8:21 am

    Magic Mountain in VT is also going coop (currently selling shares). They have no uphill restrictions and host a Rando race every year. They also have by far the best terrain in southern VT (really, no where else is close). I’m in no way affiliated with the place.

  60. Kyle March 18th, 2011 2:49 pm

    Haven’t got to sample it yet but Shames does have awsome touring via the ski hill.

    http://www.backcountryskiingcanada.com/index.php?p=page&page_id=Shames%20Mountain%20Backcountry

  61. Kerry March 18th, 2011 3:03 pm

    Have any recommendations for a youth AT ski in the 136-142 cm range. Will be mostly a Spring ski. I wish my 7Summits or a K2 Shuksanne were available in his size…

  62. Lou March 18th, 2011 3:24 pm

    Kerry, for youth I always recommend simply getting an alpine ski they like. If it’s not too wide and in that length, the weight will be fine. Combine with Silvretta Pure perhaps…

  63. Jonathan Shefftz March 18th, 2011 3:29 pm

    The women’s version of the 7Summits (“Haute Route Plus”) is close at 149cm.
    Also check out the Rossignol J-Bird at Sierra Tradingpost.

  64. John S March 18th, 2011 4:08 pm

    Kerry, how old/big is your son? My daughter was barely 11 when she started skiing her 157cm G3 Viva skis, and she’s growing into them nicely. (she was 4’9″ last year and is 5’2″ now!) Of course, she was a pretty good skier before she went with something that long…

  65. Kerry March 18th, 2011 4:37 pm

    Thanks to All for the ideas, especially the Haute Route; hadn’t noticed them in that size. My son is 4’7″, athletic, skis double blacks routinely at Taos on a pair of Rossi 130′s.
    Lou, I’m leaning toward the alpine suggestion because of available sizes, but why do you recommend the Silveretta? I just bought him a pair of slightly used Dynafit Tourlite boots. (He’s wears 8.5 mens!) Was thinking of reusing a pair of TL Comforts I have.

  66. Lou March 18th, 2011 6:24 pm

    Kerry, tech bindings can be a real turnoff to a kid who’s used to just stepping in and going. The dynafiddle factor. If the kid is motivated and excited, by all means Dynafit binders would work. Otherwise, however, it’s better to use something with less potential for frustration. For children and smaller adults the Pure can be a very nice lightweight step-in. I don’t recommend it for larger folks, however, because of too much deflection.

  67. David March 19th, 2011 3:52 am

    Lou, I can provide a quick review on the Trab Stelvio Freeride XL.
    I took them with me to the bottomless powder of Japan and they handled all conditions extremely well. They climb well, maintain an edge in variable snow and can hold that edge confidently at speed.
    I normally ski a 176cm but bought the 186cm thinking that the extra length might assist the downhill performance. I didn’t need to worry they hold on far better than I would have thought.
    I injured myself (shovelling accident) which restricted my backcountry ability and had to stick to the groomers for a while and was surprised at how well they handled high speed GS turns. This is a good tourer and would almost match it with the so called all round skis of the alpine variety.
    Thumbs up on the trab Stelvio Freeride XL.

  68. Darin April 8th, 2011 7:12 pm

    Hey Lou, I’ve been looking around a bit for some skis that will excel in spring/late/early season conditions. Would a wider/fatter ski be better than a skinnier ski or vice versa? Is stiffer better in order to deal with varied conditions?

  69. Lou April 8th, 2011 7:22 pm

    Darin, the mid-fat width will give you the most range of use. Too skinny and it’s really best for just firmer snow. Flex is really not that much a measure, better to pick a width class, then just look at what’s said to be best for varied conditions.

  70. Will April 8th, 2011 8:00 pm

    Looking at Waybacks for spring. 170 lbs, 6 ft tall, Zzeros, non-aggro skier. Before rocker would probably have chosen 174, but now I,m not sure,174 or 181?

  71. Lou April 8th, 2011 8:11 pm

    I’d recommend 174 if you’re skiing 100% ski mountaineering and touring, go longer if you do resort and slackcountry. They do ski like they are shorter than the indicated length.

  72. Will April 8th, 2011 8:49 pm

    Thanks Lou, 174 it is.

  73. Darin April 9th, 2011 10:42 am

    Thanks for the advice Lou, and it looks like Will answered my next question about what a mid-fat ski would be! I think I’ll be looking more into the Dynafit/BD lineup though.

  74. Dave May 31st, 2011 6:41 pm

    Tomorrow I turn 60. Ugh. I’d rather think about skis. At this point I don’t appreciate hauling around a lot of weight in the backcountry. When I’m fortunate I ski in the Selkirks in BC or occasional area on powder days here in Montana. A year ago, after reading your reviews, I rented a pair of Manaslu’s with Dynafits. Absolutely loved the lack of weight and mostly loved the ski. They handled the powder well but the tips have a bit of deflection in funkier stuff.
    I’m contemplating a quiver of one for backcountry and like the mid-fat size. Sale prices are starting to look good. So the question is which do you prefer, the K2 Wayback or the Black Diamond Aspect? I’m, 5’11″ and 175 lbs and think I’m headed for a mid 170 ski.

  75. Skiobewanpownobie May 31st, 2011 7:42 pm

    Dave! You expect Skiobewan to make that call and bring down the wrath of either BD or K2 on his mellow meditating head? His take is that Wayback is slightly better for soft snow, Aspect slightly better for harder snow surfaces, but both are best for softer snow. Aspect is more “side cutty” and he says it probably has less rocker. Any other opinions out there?

  76. SB September 2nd, 2011 4:00 pm

    @Lou,

    Telll us about those Nunataq’s. Love my Gotamas. Labor day is nearly here!

  77. david September 6th, 2011 2:31 pm

    Has anybody any experience of the Qaniks for ski mountainering? Have seen them described as for beginners on one site and then for experts on another. Bit confused! I am looking for a sub 80 that skis well in all terrain but has to have a good level of torsional stiffness…..

  78. Tim Pochay September 8th, 2011 10:27 am

    Hi Lou or Louis,

    Would you be able to say which ski was stiffer the Aspect or the Wayback?

  79. Lou September 8th, 2011 11:11 am

    Just a guess from past flex sessions, but I’d say they’re pretty similar. Sorry I can’t be more specific. If I had an Aspect here I could flex, but I don’t. Perhaps someone else can chime in.

  80. Lou September 16th, 2011 10:33 am

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Welcome to Louis (Lou) Dawson's backcountry skiing information opinion website and e magazine. Lou's passion for the past 45 years has been alpinism, climbing, mountaineering and skiing -- along with all manner of outdoor recreation. He has authored numerous books and articles about backcountry skiing and is well known as the first person to ski down all 54 of Colorado's 14,000-foot peaks, otherwise known as the Fourteeners! Books and free back country news and information here, and tons of Randonnee rando telemark info.

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