Alpin Magazine Ski Reviews 2013 — under 93 mm


This post by WildSnow.com blogger  

Editor’s Note: Well, since you WildSnowers are harassing me about skiing wider stuff, I thought it best to publish a review of skinny skis. Just kidding. These tooth picks have their place, but all you guys are exactly right in that wider planks are truly coming into their own as backcountry skiing tools.

Nonetheless, narrower “sub 90″ touring skis remain popular for many reasons. Mainly, they’re lighter and have better skin glide due to less surface area. While narrower planks don’t have that easy floaty feeling you get from skis around 100 mm or wider when you’re on the soft stuff, any competent skier can turn the lesser width skis. They’re quick and fun. Every quiver should have a pair. Thanks Alpin Magazine for permission to web-publish their excellent reviews, and props to David Gerard for the translation. Enjoy.

First page of Alpin backcountry ski and touring review.

First page of Alpin backcountry ski and touring review. The skis are in weight order, lightest first. Click on all pages to enlarge.

Alpin’s Introduction: Touring-skis: classic or modern?

So many skis are becoming available it will soon be impossible (if not already) to have a good overview of the variety of touring-skis on offer. ALPIN tested 24 pairs in the snow around Warth-Schroecken, Austria. From the proven conservative to the space-age modern, conclusion: there is something for everyone, whatever your style.

The fact that ski-touring is experiencing a boom is obvious to everyone who’s been backcountry skiing for more than a few years. As always in the popular development of a sport, there is a upward spiral of demand influencing the products and the product influencing the demand. This is particularly noticeable with skis — everything is getting fatter, more vibrant, and cooler.

Just a few years ago, touring-skis 85mm wide were seen as fat skis suitable just for specialists. Now even your average ski-tourer has recognised that wider skis can offer advantages for normal touring.

On top of increasing width, skis have experienced another development the last couple of years: a new curve. Many modern skis have rising tip which begins earlier than one was used to many years ago. This rise is called a ”rocker” and it causes the ski to float and turn more easily in deep snow, without the skier having to be travelling so quickly. This technology has been widely adopted, but to differing degrees: extreme powder-skis have a rise which begins just after the toe of the bindings, an extreme that isn’t much sense for ski-touring, but increasingly more manufacturers are adding a gentle rocker to the front of their touring-skis.

We’ve divided the range of touring-skis into two categories, depending on the width. Skis up to 82mm width under the binding are classed as ‘classic’ touring skis and skis over 82mm as ‘modern’ touring-skis. Last year the divide was set at 80mm, but we are sensitive to the latest developments. New this year is that we are classifying the skis strictly according to the width. Touring-skis for us are those up to 95mm wide, anything wider you will find in our “Free tourer” category, with translated review published by WildSnow here.

Within the categories the skis are arranged by weight, with the lighter skis first. The developing trend has meant that a particular model of ski long seen as typical of the modern type of touring-skis is now found amongst the “classic” skis: the K2 Backup. In its new category it came to the top straight away. With its speed rocker the Backup is a ski which every tourer would be happy with, regardless of ability, and it’s also not bad for a spin on the piste, even if it can’t keep up with the Stoeckli in pure piste performance.

As usual the stable (and not exactly light) Stoecklis have excellent downhill performance on piste for a touring-ski. With sufficient power and technique the Stoecklis are also good fun in off-piste terrain, but neither of these skis are lightweight. Truly lightweight skis may struggle in downhill performance by their very nature. It’s a case of being clear in what you want: whoever desires to clock vast amounts of ascent or prefers longer tours will take weight more into account — with the knowledge that some compromise will be made in performance on the descent. Of the lighter, skis the Voelkl Mauja impressed the most: a ski which performed very well for its weight.

In the category of skis over 82mm there was a head to head race to be the test winner. Last year’s winner, the Kaestle TX87, was still very strong, but since it came mounted with a Freeride binding this year (we requested skis with touring bindings) we had to deduct 0,2 from the score for reasons of insufficient comparability. (Editor note: This is still a ski worth considering and we’re disapointed that a binding choice interfered with the review. But Alpin can’t be expected to run a ski shop and swap dozens of bindings around.)

The third placed ski, the K2 Wayback, which has convinced in years of testing, also had to make way for the new-comer. The ladies were especially impressed with the BD Crescent. The comparable men’s ski, the Aspect, was good but not a front-runner. Of the lighter wide skis the female testers gave the best marks to the La Sportiva GTS. La Sportiva is a new-comer in the world of ski manufacturing, but still scored well. Whoever looks closely can see which experienced ski-manufacturer is behind their range, and just as with Movement skis, the Sportiva skis are also manufactured in Tunisia. The GTS, with a width of 88mm, convinced with well balanced characteristics in off-piste terrain. That such a light and wide ski will quickly reach its limits on the piste, is also obvious, piste skis are narrower and heavier for a definite reason! The men’s version of the GTS, the GT was good, but not as convincing.

Overall, the exciting developments continue. Amongst the skis over 82mm wide the winner was a brand new entry: the Dynastar Cham 87. Other top scoring skis are hot on Dynastar’s heels: Kaestle TX 87 and K2 Wayback. Our female testers were most pleased with the Black Diamond Crescent. Under the 82mm the test winner was an old favourite: the K2 Backup, with the Stoeckli Stormrider Pit Pro a close second. The ski which relative to its weight had the best performance was the Voelkl Mauja.

Page 2. Skis are in weight order, lightest first.

Page 2. Skis are in weight order, lightest first.

Page 3 of backcountry skis review.

Page 3 of backcountry skis review. Note test winner of their narrower of the narrow 'Classic' category, K2 Backup.

Page 4

Page 4

Page 5, note the test winner Dynastar Cham 87.

Page 5, note the 'wider-narrow' test winner Dynastar Cham 87.

Page 6, heaviest skis of the bunch.

Page 6, heaviest skis of the bunch. Note that Kastle 87 still gets kudos as an all-arounder, it won last year.

Elan – Alaska Pro
13,3
(+) very light
(-) compromised in downhill performance
The Alaska Pro from Elan has one overriding quality: it’s light! That you have to make compromises with downhill performance should be obvious for anyone who buys such a ski
Adequate
Difficult to find etailers, suggestions welcome.

Ski Trab – Free Rando Light
13,6
(+) very light
(+) very well finished
(-) downhill performance
The Free Rando Light from Ski Trab is a well finished, high quality ski. Such a ski is designed for long or fast ascents. Descents are not its strength.
Adequate
Shop for Ski Trab here.

Völkl – Mauja
(ALPIN weight vs performance standout)
13,8
(+) for a light ski, good downhill performance
(+) light
The Mauja from Völkl is no longer the lightest of skis, but its still isn’t heavy. The downhill performance Völkl has added for the extra weight is easily felt. Again, one of our best skis for performance/weight ratio.
Good
Better availability in Europe, some in North America, google them.

Dynastar – Alti 79
14,2
(+) light
(-) unstable
The Alti 79 is a model from the old range from Dynastar. It’s a ski for race freaks for whom the descent is a second priority.
Satisfactory
Again, more available in Europe and probably of little interest to Wildsnowers.

Scott – Fly Air
14,2
(+) light
(+) good downhill performance
(-) average stability
For this season Scott has added a ski at the lighter end of the spectrum. This required courage which in this case has been rewarded. The Fly Air is a light and well rounded addition to the Scott tour-ski collection.
Good
Another plank with limited availability, worth shopping for as it has a good performance/weight ratio.

Blizzard – Free Cross
14,6
(+) responsive
(-) nervous
The Free Cross is a familiar face. The ski has been around for years, virtually unchanged and time has taken its toll. It’s not in the same class as the Mauja or Fly Air.
Satisfactory
Suggestions for etailers?

Fischer – X-Superlight
14,6
(+) responsive
(-) average stability
Fischer returns to touring with three ski models. All three models are similar, relatively light and somewhat wider. The X-Superlight is the lightest of the three and is suited most of all for the traditional ski-tourer.
Satisfactory
We’re beginning to sound like a skipping CD, but these are hard to find in etailer land.

Fischer – X-Pression
15,5
(+) agile
(-) poor edge grip
The X-Pression is the narrowest of the three touring models and is noticeably agile. This ski would appeal to the traditional ski tourer as well.
Satisfactory

Fischer – X-Ceed
16,4
(+) agile
(+) well balanced
(-) edge grip nothing special
The third ski in the Fischer line-up is the X-Ceed, the same width as the X-Superlight, but somewhat more stable. The X-Ceed proved to be well balanced and is a good allround touring ski.
Good
Whew, at least check them out on Fischer’s website.

K2 – Backup (Alpin test winner in ‘classic’ width category.)
17,2
(+) good edge grip
(+) stable
(+) well balanced
In our new categories the K2 Backup at 82mm under the binding is back amongst the classic touring skis – and convinces. A touch heavier, but more stable and with more bite. (Ed. Note: Strangly, this ski will only be officially available in Europe. We highly recommend, can probably be purchased online from EU etailers.)
Very Good
Surprisingly, this ski is indeed available from Evo. Get ‘em while they’re hot and on sale.

La Sportiva – Sportiva GTS
15,4
(+) light
(+) good downhill performance
(-) poor edge grip
With the GTS La Sportiva has managed to create a light and wide women’s ski which isn’t as nervous as other skis of similar proportions. A very interesting, modern touring ski.
Good
Currently in our test quiver at WildSnow, receiving good ratings from Lisa. Shop for GTS here.

Hagan – Chimera 1.0
15,7
(+) light
(-) poor downhill
The Chimera 1.0 is light and wide. On snow other than powder or firn life gets difficult.
Satisfactory
Shop for Hagan Chimera

Atomic – Aspect
15,7
(+) very good in powder
(-) somewhat sluggish
With its pronounced rocker the Aspect is very balanced ski and is well balanced for its weight. Even on firm snow it skis well, but is somewhat sluggish on short, tight turns.
Good
Evo comes through again for a shopping link.

La Sportiva – Sportiva GT
16,5
(+) very good in powder
(-) less balanced than the GTS
The GT is the men’s version of the GTS and is somewhat wider. It didn’t inspire the men to the extent that the GTS did the women, but nevertheless an interesting lightweight and wide ski.
Good
GT is available here.

Black Diamond – Aspect
16,7
(+) responsive
(+) well balanced
(-) less edge grip
The BD Aspect was our lightweight vs performance winner two years ago. At that time it was one of the few wide and light skis. Things change, but nevertheless the Aspect is still an interesting, modern ski for the average ski tourer.
Good
Shop for Black Diamond Aspect

Stöckli – Stormrider Pit Pro
18,8
(+) very good edge grip
(+) stable
(+) lively
The Stormrider Pit Pro convinced the more sporty skier. It proved to be enormous fun on the piste and strong in terrain. For deep powder there are better skis.
Very Good
Best way to shop for this ski is to trust google.

Black Diamond – Crescent
(ALPIN suggested as one of their best women’s ski of the bunch.)
17,6
(+) relatively light
(+) well balanced
(-) not especially good edge grip.
The second ladies ski – and what a ski, the testers were most impressed! A ski for any conditions you’re likely to encounter when touring, just slightly weak in firmer snow conditions.
Very good
Available online at Backcountry.com.

Kessler – Phoenix
17,6
(+) relatively light
(+) well balanced
(-) edge grip nothing special
Kessler is a small Swiss company with only a few models in their collection. The Phoenix has a variable radius and proved to be very maneuverable. The testers found it a playful ski (agile and maneuverable).
Good
Kessler website.

K2 – Wayback
(Still one of the Alpin test’s best skis, gets their kudos for being a terrific all-arounder.)
18,0
(+) very good allrounder
(+) well balanced
What more can you say about the Wayback? The ski is already a classic, has topped several tests and still convinces. A ski which can ski anything, you can’t go wrong with this one.
Very good
Always a good bet for a quiver addition, shop for Wayback here.

***************************************
Touring Skis Category listed below – over 82mm at waist

Dynastar – Cham High Mountain 87 (Alpin overall test winner (!) for narrower skis over 82 mm.)
18,1
(+) great fun to ski
(+) well balanced
Dynastar dabbled in the touring ski scene for years but now this! The Cham High Mountain 87 is a modern touring ski, which completely convinces: distinct rocker, inverted (set toward the back of ski) waist. A guaranteed fun ski!
Very good
Shop for Cham 87.

Kastle – TX87 (Alpine kudos for the best all-arounder in the over 82 mm category)
18,3
(+) well balanced
(+) responsive
The Testwinner from last year. This year too it’s right at the front of the pack. The Kastle TX87 is completely convincing and only loses out to the Dynastar by a small margin.
Very good
For some reason this top rated ski is always hard to find at etailers. Suggestions welcome.

Stöckli – Stormrider Pit Pro
18,8
(+) very good edge grip
(+) stable
(+) lively
The Stormrider Pit Pro convinced the more sporty skier. It proved to be enormous fun on the piste and strong in terrain. For deep powder there are better skis.
Very Good
Hard to find.

Mountain Wave – Push
19,3
(+) Good in level terrain
(+) stable
(-) pretty heavy
The Push from Mountain Wave show most of its potential in flatter terrain and modest speeds. Here the testers were fully convinced. Otherwise this is a good, well balanced and stable ski.
Good
Shopping link suggestions welcome.

Hagan – Daemon
19,7
(+) very responsive
(-) poor edge grip
The Daemon from Hagan is no demon. This is an especially good natured ski which will appeal to those new to wide skis. It’s easy to ski without much effort and can cope with pretty much anything off the piste.
Good
Available from North American importer, a bit pricey for this time of year.

Stockli – Stormrider XL
23,5
(+) good edge grip
(+) stable
(-) for good skiers only
The Stockli VXL is a proper Stockli: on piste a real weapon, like all Stocklis, off-piste it needs to be skied properly. If you have the thighs and the right technique, it’s a fun ski.
Good
Stormrider XL may be available here.

Comments

43 Responses to “Alpin Magazine Ski Reviews 2013 — under 93 mm”

  1. Jernej March 5th, 2013 9:24 am
  2. John Sanders March 5th, 2013 9:55 am

    Has anyone skied the Dynafit Cho Oyo? Very light for 88 mm.

  3. Lou Dawson March 5th, 2013 10:02 am

    Sure, I skied them for 3 days while I was in Europe in January. Super. They’re definitely going into our Ultimate Quiver for next season. Lou

  4. Brett Harvey March 5th, 2013 12:26 pm

    Lou, any word on the Atomic Free Dream (82mm underfoot)? The Atomic Aspect and Descender get reviewed, but not Free Dream, must be another one of those euro skis.

  5. Lou March 5th, 2013 2:57 pm

    Brett, these reviews are similar to our Ultimate Quiver, in that they’re first dependent on what companies will provide, and next dependent on what the magazine chose to select for review and publish. Alpin only publishes reviews of skis that are good to excellent, ditto for our Ultimate Quiver review. Some magazine reviews attempt to go beyond that, but they usually end up with a sort of lame cursory cover of each ski from a few days at a resort, sometimes with very little truly natural snow. The magazine reviews can be useful as an overview, but we like these more selective reviews.

  6. Mdibah March 5th, 2013 6:06 pm

    “While narrower planks don’t have that easy floaty feeling you get from skis around 100 mm or wider when you’re on the soft stuff, any competent skier can turn such skis.” — From Editor’s Note

    Logical fallacy there, Lou–google “no true scotsman” for more information.

    While a benefit to wider skis is certainly more floatation in powder, why is this always heralded as the only reason to have a wider or rockered ski? If the snow is truly waist deep cold smoke on a perfect incline, then I’m sure that everything from a pair of DPS Spoons with 18-din bindings to pair of world cup slalom skis mounted with 3-pin bindings would be fun. However, why not buy a pair of skis that will help you have fun on the other 99% of ski days as well?

    –Skiing low angle powder in trees due to avalanche danger? Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to pick up some speed and make turns instead of being able to barely move downhill?

    –End up in (god forbid) cut up snow? Wouldn’t it be nice to be on something that doesn’t auger into each patch and try to throw you arse over tea kettle?

    –Sun crust? Wind f*&%? Sastrugi? How much do you really enjoy having your tips permanently submarining under nasties?

    –Wet and heavy “ACL wrenching” conditions?

    –Snow snake lurking beneath the surface? Sharks in the water? I’d rather have a bit more chance to float up over them.

    –Breaking trail on the perfect powder day? Have fun being waist deep on skinny skis.

    One of the things I heard growing up was that Coombs had a way of making even crappy snow look good. Why not focus on giving yourself a chance to do the same and perhaps even have fun on marginal snow days, instead of always focusing on what would be theoretically possible to ski on a perfect day?

    And yes, my quiver ranges from 78mm x 174cm all the way to 130mm x 190cm. Honestly, though, the only time the narrow things come out are during corn cycles and ski-mo objective days.

  7. Jernej March 6th, 2013 12:44 am

    It is interesting to look at the difference in mentality between (parts of) Europe and NorthAm. When I recently mentioned that the best touring/out-of-bounds one ski quiver compromise is 95-105mm I got slammed, probably marked forever as a lunatic.

    You can’t even imagine how many times people ask me about my skis (Elan Olympus Mons, 110mm & barons) but it’s more like they are questioning my sanity rather than being interested in skis themselves. The reaction you get most of the time is: “What are you doing with such a wide ski?” My answer by now is usually “Why would I want anything else? It doesn’t take that much more effort going up but it more than makes up for it going down.”

    And it doesn’t happen only on the uphill with the touring crowd, it’s quite common on the lifts in the resorts as well (in many if not most resorts within 3h drive the most common ski you can find is a pseudo race slalom/GS ski – I have a pair myself).

    If running uphill in a resort is the only objective then I totally agree 95mm is an overkill, but for most people wanting a ski to perform in all conditions, all season, it’s probably close to ideal. Especially since 90% are on heavy frame bindings and heavy boots so any weight gain in the ski itself is pretty much irrelevant.

  8. Michal PL March 6th, 2013 1:30 am

    Hello Powder Fans,
    Pleas don’t be surprise why European like narrowed skis. It is the most practical choice for our snow condition. Specially in central Europe most good snow condition are in early spring when snow pack is hard and stable. Real powder in my Polish Mountains (Sudety, Tatry) is very rare.

  9. Mårten Pettersson March 6th, 2013 1:57 am

    In other ski tests in Eurpe as Norweginan Fry Flyt and German Planet Snow has the Movement Bond-X (84 mm under foot) been the winner. Super light, great for speed touring. Perfect combo with TLT5 Mountain boots and race bindings. My 169 cm (I am 180/77) weights less than 2,4 kg with ATK binding (adjustable plate included).

    Feels wider than 84 mm, ok flow in powder and good edge grip in steep couloirs.

    http://www.outdoor-magazin.com/tourenski/test-movement-bond-x-series.727899.3.htm

    http://www.movementskis.com/en/products/skis/x-series/bond/

    Nothing for yo yo skiing the Teton Pass in powder, but great tool for fast and long ski tours in NA or hut touring in the Alps. I live in the Swedish mountains (Åre) and the is it small mountains, not much powder and long approaches (sounds fun?). This year has the Bond X been my best all round touring ski.

  10. Morroi March 6th, 2013 2:07 am

    Healthy debate going on on why us europeans are a bit reluctant to use wider skis. I’ve never been to North America, so I can only imagine what your snow conditions are like.
    Where I live (Pyrenees) I normally tour on a heavy set up that is quite wide (98mm) and long (188m) for local standards. It goes great on the few real powder days we get (although this year we’ve been blessed), and ok on the spring conditions we tour most of the year in. But on those spring conditions (which make 90% of our touring days) I’m every bit as happy touring on some narrower skis (80 to 85mm), which are much lighter (less effort going uphill) and safer on hard traverses.
    Having said that I have two questions:
    1) Lou, you’ve done a fair bit of skiing in Europe (Alps) over the years. What type of ski would you use if you were to live here for most days.
    2) Why doesn’t Dynafit submit any of its skis to this Alpin mag test?
    Cheers!
    Morroi

  11. Morroi March 6th, 2013 5:05 am

    Just in case someone is interested, two more ski reviews performed by French mags recently (as in this season).

    The very core SKI RANDO MAGAZINE (www.skirandomag.com) reviewed 11 pairs of skis of around 95mm width: Movement Magnet, BD Revert, Scott Crus’air, Elan Himalaya, Atomic Charter, La Sportiva GT, Dynafit Manaslu, Dynastar Cham HM 97, Black Crows Camox, K2 Wayback and Blizzard Kabuki.
    The skis were tested taking into consideration 4 parameters: downhill performance, easiness of ski in different types of snow, uphill performance and all-purpose.
    The four outstanding were the Black Crows, Dynastar, Elan and Movement… with the Dynastar Cham HM 97 being the winner.

    MONTAGNES MAG (www.montagnes-magazine.com), a more mainstream mountaineering mag that only devotes a couple of winter issues to the noble art of ski touring, reviewed several pairs in different groups:

    X-Wide (<100): Dynafit Huascaran, Dynastar Cham High Mountain 107, BD Carbon Megawatt. No winners.

    Wide (90-99mm): Black Crows Orb Freebird, Zag Ubac, Trab Volare, Elan Himalaya, Movement Magnet, Dynastar Cham HM 97, Scott Crus’air, Black Crows Camox Freebird, Volkl Nanuq, Hagan Daemon, BD Revert, Movement Buzz. Their pick: BD Revert, Black Crows Camox Freebird, Hagan Daemon and Zag Ubac. I find it very surprising how different the results are from the other mag’s review in spite of the coincidence of skis reviewed: only the Black Crows Camox Freebird seems to be chosen by both mags.

    Classic (75-89mm): Fischer Xceed, K2 Backlite, Hagan Chimera 1.0, Zag Adret, Trab Ripido, Atomic Aspect, La Sportiva GT, K2 Wayback, BD Current, Dynastar Cham High Mountain 87, Dynastar Mythic Light, Kastle TX87, Atomic Descender. Winners: Hagan, Atomic Aspect, La Sportiva GT and K2 Wayback.

    X-Light (<1350gr): Alp Control Black Powder 182, Blizzard Mountain Expedition, Fischer X Superlight, Hagan Chimera 2.0, Dynafit Mustagh Ata Superlight, Trab Freerando Light, Scott Fly’air and Movement Bond X. Winners: Movement Bond X and Alp Control Black Powder 182 ex aequo.

    Womens: Fischer Kaltenbrunner, Dynafit Manaslu Women, Movement Believe, Dynafit Baltoro Women and Hagan Queen. No winners.

    Lou if you want the articles I can scan them for you and send them over by e-mail.

    Cheers!
    Morroi

  12. JCoates March 6th, 2013 6:03 am

    Europeans like narrow skis because most of them still know how to use their ski edges to make carved turns. I like Glen Plake’s opinions on wide skis.

    My German GF told me: “I worked hard climbing up, why would I want to go straight down the hill without enjoying the ski down as much as I can?” Hence, the “euro-noodle” style you see everywhere in the Alps.

  13. Lou Dawson March 6th, 2013 6:16 am

    One of the main things is, what we think of a “narrow” skis are not narrow compared to many decades of “regular” width alpine skis. The ones you see in dumpsters and used as fence slats.

  14. Lou Dawson March 6th, 2013 6:21 am

    Morro, more proof that magazines are not omniscient (grin)? WildSnow.com, on the other hand, knows all.

    The best ski reviews in my opinion only review skis they like, then pick “winners.” In reality, such reviews serve as a buyer guide to a _LIST_ of options, with some recommended as standouts. In other words, if you buy the standouts of any reputable review and use for their recommended conditions, you will not be disappointed. But you’ll also be fine if you buy a ski in the review that’s not a “winner” but is still said in the review to do what you want it to do.

    Lastly, I would be disappointed if magazines all picked the same “winners.” Sometimes they should overlap, but it’s fun to see the takes diverge. No one said this was scientific, and even scientists disagree now and then (except about climate change).

    Lou

  15. Lou Dawson March 6th, 2013 6:31 am

    Morro, I’m not sure what the deal is with Dynafit, but I know some companies are reluctant to submit skis to tests that pick winners (“wah wah, I didn’t win and my skis are the best”). Also, there could be some problem with binding standardization. Skis for the Alpin test are required to have frame type AT bindings, Dynafit might be reluctant to supply skis that don’t have their own bindings on them. I don’t really know, those are just theories. I’d like to see them in the test. Lou

  16. Harpo March 6th, 2013 7:05 am

    Anyone see any reviews of the Bond-X in English? Any news on a US distributor for Movement?

  17. Lenka K. March 6th, 2013 2:42 pm

    Re Dynafit in ALPIN test.

    ALPIN testers generally prefer skiability to low weight. Hence very light skis never score terribly well on their test. A couple of years ago it was mentioned in the magazine that Dynafit (and Fischer at that time) stopped providing skis for the test because the company felt the “lightness” of their skis wasn’t honored enough in the test results.

    Lenka K.

  18. Dan March 6th, 2013 4:46 pm

    Choosing a new ski: I gave up years ago trying to interpret ski mag reviews. I just watch the skiers I know in the conditions I ski and when all of a sudden their skiing improves right after buying new ones…guess what. This approach has never failed me. I judge pass/fail based on…did my skiing become easier? improve? That approach notwithstanding, the Wildsnow reviews are very helpful…even educational. Thanks.

  19. Tim March 7th, 2013 2:36 am

    Great work Lou – please keep publishing these. Bought my Waybacks last year on the back of this mag and couldn’t be happier. Just wish I could find some BD Crescents in Europe so my wife might stop stealing the K2s!

    Quick question about mount position: I’m dead centre on the midpoint mark, but this is noticeably more back-seat than any other ski I’ve seen. Makes for great dynamics in powder/crust/crud but less control on steeps. I’ve been lucky skiing deep powder in Europe so far this year, but on hard-packed steep chutes I usually find myself in when snow is sparse, I have some concerns.

    Where are all the other Wayback-lovers mounting theirs?

  20. Phil M March 7th, 2013 7:42 am

    Tim – note that Waybacks have decent tip rocker, and a flat tail. So the effective center is pretty far back compared to a traditionally cambered ski. Also, what length? I’ve noticed that on shorter skis, K2 often leaves rather little tail on the ski.

    Somewhat related to the Wayback – These new skis look great, but other than a little early-rise, it doesn’t seem like my Mt. Baker Superlights give up anything to the current generation of 90-waist all-purpose planks. I’m a gear slut, but nothing makes me want to run out and drop $500+. I’ll take this as a sign that after decades of revolution, backcountry ski design is entering a refinement phase.

  21. Lou Dawson March 7th, 2013 8:10 am

    Phil, I’d say that “refinement phase” is spot on. There are practical limits to width and weight for most mortal skiers, so the industry is working withing those limits by tweaking geometry and flex. The sweet spot in width for most human powered skiers is definitely a range, somewhere at waist above perhaps 80 and below about 112? Once we figure out that range, it’s where we’ll pick most of the Ultimate Quiver skis for next year.

  22. Phil M March 7th, 2013 11:37 am

    Lou, that’s a good point about there being a sweet spot. I’d expound on that as you develop the “quiver”. For most people, a “quiver” means multiple skis that all do different things well, without too much overlap. For instance, nobody’s “quiver” would have the Lo5, the Vector, and the Himalaya.
    Those are all great skis as someone’s only BC ski tool, or part of a bigger lineup – but they would be surrounded by light corn sticks and wide pow boards.

    I understand that your “quiver” is really just a list of skis you like, and everyone else gets that too. But as you review them, you might talk about how you see them fitting in compared to other skis. When Tony reviewed the Lo5, he didn’t see a great role in for 90-100 width skis. But for the casual skier who can’t justify multiple pairs, that middle ground is just perfect! It’s also great when you’re going to encounter all sorts of different snow on the same run, tour, or trip.

    The other factor is size. Yes, bigger skiers ski longer skis. But they also usually need them wider, as the extra length doesn’t usually come close to matching the skier weight per ski area of a lighter guy.

    I rarely get deep freshies in the Daks, and I’m only 145-150lb, so I am happy on an 88mm quiver of one. My main partner (175lb) has chosen a 95mm Vector for similar conditions. This gives us a very similar amount of ski underfoot, relative to our weight.

    Finally, I’d like to offer some general thanks for the continued excellence of WildSnow. Few sports have such an independent, hard-hitting resource.

  23. Tim March 7th, 2013 6:39 pm

    Thanks for your comments Phil. I had come to the same conclusion about the ‘relative’ position of the Wayback waist.

    However my thoughts were upturned last week when I bought some Brightsides for my wife, featuring the same rocker and flat tail, but with a midsole mark some 5 cm forward of the Wayback mark.

    Interesting? Well, I thought sufficiently so to post here!

    +1 for the previous poster’s comments about the excellent resource this site provides – many thanks all.

  24. Dave DePodwin April 12th, 2013 7:50 pm

    Lou,
    I am seeking a ‘modern’ touring 882-88 mm underfoot having demo’d a few Dynafit Manaslu (bigger than i want) and La Sportiva GTR and GT, not as snappy as I wanted. I am looking for more stability for touring and downhill off trail from my current BD Kilowatts at 175cm and 95mm underfoot. I found a pair of Dynafit Cham 87′s for a steal and am thinking of 178cm. I am 6’1″ and 157 lbs. and mid 50 year old moderately aggressive (aka moderate) seasoned skier with Tyrolean technique (!). As mostly touring do you think I will do well by this length if I keep my quad strength up and with a touring pack?! Love your website and love that we can come to ‘the man’ for this and other ski advice. Ski to live, live to ski! Await your words. Tx, Dave DePo.

  25. Dave DePodwin April 12th, 2013 7:56 pm

    Lou,
    I am seeking a ‘modern’ touring 882-88 mm underfoot having demo’d a few Dynafit Manaslu (bigger than i want) and La Sportiva GTR and GT, not as snappy as I wanted. I am looking for more stability for touring and downhill off trail from my current BD Kilowatts at 175cm and 95mm underfoot. I found a pair of Dynafit Cham 87′s for a steal and am thinking of 178cm. I am 6’1″ and 157 lbs. and mid 50 year old moderately aggressive (aka moderate) seasoned skier with Tyrolean technique (!). As mostly touring do you think I will do well by this length if I keep my quad strength up and with a touring pack?! Love your website and love that we can come to ‘the man’ for this and other ski advice. Ski to live, live to ski! Await your words. Tx, Dave DePo.
    P.S. I am going to strap on with a pair of Dynafit Radical ST’s and Dynafit One PX TF boots most likely.

  26. Phil Miller July 22nd, 2013 2:33 pm

    Just noticed K2 Backup on sale at Evo.com: $199. sizes: 160, 167, 174.
    Great skis for Corn, spring, touring, etc. where you don’t need or want all that under foot.

  27. Dave DePodwin December 1st, 2013 7:18 pm

    Hi Lou & Wildsnow team,
    I scored a pair of Cham High Mt 87′s with Dynafit Radical ST’s with brakes and am eager to mount, climb and schuss. I want to ensure I buy the right skin dimension and am thinking of 120mm wide skins given my ski dimensions are : 127mm tip/ 87mm midfoot/103 tail. Am I on the right track? Tx, think snow!
    Dave

  28. louis dawson December 2nd, 2013 7:46 am

    That sounds fine.

  29. Dorothee February 15th, 2014 11:11 am

    Lou,

    I have been skitouring occasionally since the mid 90s in the Polish and French mountains, and this year I decided to change my old and too heavy gear into the lighter one. I really appreciate your website and comments, so I would like to ask you to tell me whether the 166 cm length of Dynastar Cham HM 87 would be acceptable for me? My height: 168 cm, my ski level: between intermediate and advanced. I fell in love with Cham HM 87 at first sight and it would be a little bit deceiving to me if I had to say good bye to these skis because they are too long… There is no shorter skis in this model. Help please! :-)

    Thank you!

    Dorothee

  30. Lou Dawson February 15th, 2014 11:26 am

    That seems too long unless you are a fast and aggressive skier. Just pick another top rated ski in similar widths and you should be fine. “Cham” is the most hip name ever conceived for a ski, but there are other brands/models that ski just as well. Lou

  31. Paul February 15th, 2014 12:14 pm

    Hey Dorothee,
    I am 169cm and my weight is 60kg. I skied the Cham in 166 several times and I really liked it. But I do ski rather fast and aggressively. You might also like the K2 Wayback which I find to be very similar to the Cham.

  32. Daniel February 16th, 2014 3:42 am

    I’d say go for a 160ish length. No point to a such long ski for you. Waybacks run long btw.

  33. Paul February 16th, 2014 4:17 am

    Yeah, my 167cm Waybacks are about 170 in reality. So if you are well below 60kg a 160 Wayback could fit you well.

  34. Chris February 16th, 2014 5:25 am

    Guys, I’m looking into getting myself a beginners AT ski… I’m 6′ and 180lbs… what length would you recommend for a beginner in AT skiing, esp. for a K2 Backup?

    regards
    Chris

  35. Daniel February 16th, 2014 5:34 am

    174 for sure. But given your weight, I’d suggest to go wider. Wayback seems the obvious advice. more flotation, more rockered, easier skiing. I would only suggest Backup if you will primarily ascend on groomed runs and ski down hard snow.

  36. Lou Dawson February 16th, 2014 5:58 am

    Wayback is tried and true, enjoyed worldwide, can’t go wrong with it but it’s rockered so don’t go too short. I’d recommend length from floor to your forehead, or something like that. Cheek height is kinda short. Lou

  37. Daniel February 16th, 2014 6:47 am

    I was taking AT beginner into condideration. By Euro standards 174 would be a popular choice. Kick turns and overall handling easier etc…
    Body geometry is the next thing. I.e. I’m 6’2 but have the leg length more of somebody 4 inch shorter. 174-177 feel intuitive and comfortable, 181 already on the verge of coming in the way here and there. Just went down from 181 to 174 on my backlashes for a spring/touring rig.
    I still recommend the 174 wayback or similar.

  38. Chris February 16th, 2014 7:13 am

    Guys, thx a lot for all the feedback. The K2 backup is available at a great price… Wayback unfortunately is sold out at most shops.
    What do you guys think about the Black Diamond Current (12/13), Black Diamond Aspect (12/13) or Chimera 2.1 (13/14)?

    regards
    reto

  39. Erik Erikson February 16th, 2014 11:45 am

    Chris, I am 6.1, 170 lbs. Have Waybacks in 181 (which is more like 183). Would never go shorter, no problems doing kick turns on the uphill (and I´m in my mid-fortys allready ;-)
    And I´m totally with Daniel: Go wider to some ski in the 90 mm range (wayback would be great if you can get one). That´s the best all around width (especially for beginners) for a back country ski in my opinion even if people here in Europe still tend to buy narrower skis – but you see more and more wider planks each year. I myself even grab my 102 mm coomback most of the time, but would not recommend that as a one quiver ski for a beginner.

  40. Dorothee February 16th, 2014 4:50 pm

    Thank you very much, Lou, Paul and Daniel, for the feedback.
    1) I’m not an aggressive skier, I don’t like skiing too fast.
    2) My weight is 66 kg and my height is 168 cm.
    3) The color and design of the skis are extremely important to me, nearly so important as their properties and character! (Eh oui !… I can’t help it).
    The Cham HM 87 are fantastic but too long… You are cruel but frank. (Did you hear me crying this weekend?). The Waybacks or the Backups are exactly what I want except for… the color (it’s too bright). And so on…
    Having taken into account your suggestions about the ski length I’m considering to pick for example: Volkl Mauja (beautiful design!) or Volkl Amak (what size would suit me better: 156 or 163 cm?) or Dynafit Rescue Pro (I think that 156 cm is OK because of the stiffness of these skis). I’d like to have versatile skis (as a unique pair). I ski mostly in the Tatras mountains in Poland (at 1500-2000 meters above the sea level), also on the groomed slopes. …156 or 163 cm? Regards, A+, Dorothee

  41. Dan February 16th, 2014 5:51 pm

    @Chris: I have several seasons each on the Backup (Shuksan), Wayback and Aspect. IMO the Aspect is snappier than the Wayback and easier to manage in difficult snow than the Wayback. The Shuksan is a little narrow for more than boot-top POW. That said, there is nothing wrong with the Wayback. Note that the Aspect is about as light as the Backup or Wayback. Also, for someone new to skiing wild snow, I think the Aspect is a little more forgiving. I am 170 cm (67 inches), 140 pounds, and an “advanced” AT skier. If you can get a good deal for the Aspects in your desired size, jump on it. Also, friends, who loved the Aspects recently started skiing the Drift (100 mm at the waist) and tell me they like the Drift a little better…looks like a trend doesn’t it. Note that I ski mostly in the Cascades and BC Coast Range (maritime snow-pack), and, I spend a lot of time skiing in the trees, which is perfect terrain for the Aspects. Note that I have a pair of DPS W-99s that I love, but I still grab the Aspects for tree skiing, esp. if they are waxed and ready to go. One last thing. My Aspects delaminated a little at the top of the tails the first season I had them. I just slapped a little epoxy on and am still skiing them. Maybe the later models did not have that problem.

  42. Daniel February 17th, 2014 12:45 pm

    Considering a 2014 Scott Crusair to replace my Backlashes. Anybody?

    How do they ski? Purpose is touring when I find my Huascarans too wide, hut touring in spring, and a few groomer days. I could get the recent model at a great price. Essentually the decision is either K2 Sideshow 174 or 179 Crus’Air.

    Cheers!

  43. Daniel March 11th, 2014 1:47 pm

    to answer my own question after blind purchase and a few days on the 2014 crusair:
    very smooth ski, feathery feel, very balanced, medium flex, skis softer than it hand flexes. rocker is subtle but enough against catching an edge in nasty snow. edge hold slightly inferior to similar dimension metal laminate or stiffer skis. but certainly enough. a ski you will not notice a whole lot when skiing, which can be a good thing. not a beast that pushes back or a noodle that folds up. just a middle ground midwide ski for touring and not too aggressive resort skiing. would choose this over a wayback i.e. , better groomer performance and not much heavier.

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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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