WildSnow Ultimate Ski Quiver 2017-2018

Post by WildSnow.com blogger | November 6, 2017      
You know that it is a good pair of skis when it doubles as a good backrest! Reclining after skiing the Birthday Chutes near Telluride.

You know that it is a good pair of skis when it doubles as a good backrest! Reclining after skiing the Birthday Chutes near Telluride. Slouchers!

Yeah, I know, we’ve been slouchers on our ever popular Ultimate Quiver ski reviews. Nature of blogging; you gotta go where the muse takes you. Well, I’ve circled back again. This time, how about a simple picklist based on myself and other testers who got out on our carefully selected skis last winter?

(Please note, in our Ultimate Quiver lists we don’t worry about what’s new this year. Instead, we cherish including skis that have been on the market for a season or more, so you, dear readers, can search for sale prices. But if we did experience something new, and it was good, we include those planks as well. Operative concept is that backcountry skis have overall become an incredible and mature product, meaning you can buy skis from several years ago that easily equal performance of most, if not all “new” models. In my opinion, where we’re seeing current turbulence in the in the industry is with bindings and boots.)

Skinny Skis

A specialized category, not for everyone. Skis under about 80 mm at the waist might be without issues on groom or solid spring corn snow. Ride in powder or difficult snow, however, and you could desire something fatter. Thus, we only test a few “skinnies.” Our favorite in this genre is clearly the Salomon X-Alp (79 mm). We passed these around to a half dozen experienced testers, everyone was amazed at how much fun they had on something that appeared to be a toothpick with pain potential. None wanted to make the X-Alp their primary go-to, but most said they’d love to have a pair on the rack for springtime speed runs and resort uphilling. It’s my choice for the latter.
X-Alp reviews
Another Salomon review
Shop for THE skinny stick of the year

X-Alp ski.

X-Alp ski.

European Style — The Eighties

What a decade — Magic Johnson, Mel Gibson and Madonna. Madonna? Back to skiing. If you track ski touring trends you know why the 80s are our largest category. Worldwide, hundreds of thousands of backcountry skiers enjoy planks with waist widths hovering around 85 millimeters. It just works.

A darling in the European ski touring form factor remains the the Volkl VTA 88 Lite (88 mm). Amazing that a ski with so little tonnage (180 cam at ~1000 grams) can achieve relatively excellent edge hold and minimal chatter. Step off piste — they do fine as well. Bouncy and fun, lots of tip rocker to keep you changing directions by thought alone. Not for novice skiers, however. (Note that the Volkl VTA 80 Lite received Skialper Speed Touring Ski of the Year, if you’re looking for something narrower).
Our reviews
Shop em

DPS Tour1 Cassiar 87 (87 mm). Testers expressed an edge towards the VTA in comparison, but encouraged me to include Cassier 87 in our Eighties category. Fair enough. Could be a bit smoother and more forgiving but still performs, invokes weight penalty compared to Volkle (Cassiar at 178 cm, 1340g).
Shop for Cassiar

Blizzard Zero G 85 (85 mm) is definitely on the list; serious skis that will make the serious skier take life less seriously. A bit of rocker. One kilo weight class. We’d call Zero G slightly more hard snow oriented than some of our other picks, but they still applaud the pow. High Alps spring touring? You could not do better.
Zero G reviews
Shop for Blizzard

Elan Ibex84 Carbon XLT

Elan Ibex84 Carbon XLT

Elan Ibex 84 Carbon XLT (85 mm) yields a unique combination of soft flex and carbon lightness. I love these skis, but they’re not for everyone as they tend to fold up at speed. On the other hand, a truly supple flex is still a valid feature that can make a plank fun and forgiving. That’s the case with Ibex.
Probably due to the North American bias to wider skis, we couldn’t find good shopping options for the 84 version of the Ibex. Let us know.

k2 Wayback 2016-2017 (88 mm) is a tester’s pick for international “quiver of one” travel. They’ve skied excellent since our first reviews and use “way back” in ancient Wildsnow history. Interestingly, we’re not seeing much in the way of Wayback 88 online availability, but they’re on the K2 website so they must exist in the dark hidden corners of a warehouse, somewhere on the planet. Latest version is the “Ecore,” in our view any genome of this ski is desirable. Ladies note that the K2 Talkback earned the Skialper Magazine “Lady Ski of the Year” in their ski touring category, the gals in our crew have used that ski for years and it’s indeed a go-to. Talkback 88 in my opinion is pretty much the same thing as a Wayback 88. Prove me wrong.
Current Wayback review
Other reviews
Shop for K2 Wayback 88

Scott Superguide

Scott Superguide 95 also received high marks, recommended as a quiver of one.

Scott Super Guide SG 88 (88 mm) wowed us all. It simply skis everything, well. I’m not sure what the Scott secret sauce is — probably a combination of well tested geometry and excellent materials science. We were impressed from the start, and delighted to see the SG 88 awarded Ski of the Year by Skialper magazine. In our opinion, Skialper’s ratings are the most important in the industry. Take them seriously.
Review of the SG 95, also excellent, applies to performance of the 88 which we somehow made the egregious error of not reviewing (due in part to simply having fun skiing these things).
Shop for the SG

Don’t overlook Voile Objective (83 mm) in this category. Again, amazing price-performance ratio. Perhaps a little too far on the skinny side, and with a simpler materials science compared to pricier planks, these guys still perform as a “1 kilo class” board that’ll underpin an effective touring kit. Not a ski for downhill novices.
Objective review of Objective.
Shop for it objectively.

One Hundreds

Skis from around 95 mm at the waist remain our favorite for North American winter touring, especially in our vast mountain regions of the mid-continent. You get enough platform to feel “modern,” yet not so much width and mass as to feel like you’re climbing with ice coated boulders strapped to your boots.

Voile V6 (96 mm) remains one of our all time favorites in this category — due mostly to its amazing cost/performance ratio. Skis well, leaves enough coin for bindings and beacon batteries. Gals or guys, you simply can not go wrong with this plank.
Shop for V6

Apologies for sounding like a broken voice recording app, but the Volkl love keeps surfacing in my conscious like a dolphin leaping to the sun. V-Werks BMT 94 must be included. With somewhat unique “full rocker” and excellent weight-performance ratio, in my opinion there is no ski available that can beat the V-Werks in downhill performance. A little heavier than some other planks, demanding perhaps a bit more skill from the skier, after a few years on the market BMT still elicits snow melting smiles.
V-Werks reviews

If you’re looking for ultimate width/weight ratio, don’t ignore La Sportiva Vapor Svelt (96 mm). While these planks don’t ski like a stauncher layup, they progressed down the hill much better than any of us expected. If nearly all I did was powder laps on a “one hundred,” I’d pick the Svelt. Saddle with lightweight bindings or you’ll receive a criminal indictment from the weight police.

Black Diamond Helio 95 (95 mm) is a pick as well. Enjoyed by testers, lightweight at 1400 grams for 183 centimeters, Helio fits perfectly in this quiver slot.
Helio reviews
Shop for Helio.

Atomic Backland

Atomic Backland 95

We got mixed reads on the Atomic Backland 95, but one of our testers liked them so much he nuked all other opinions. I like the Backland’s skin slot in the tip (all touring skis should have) and in my experience they’re definitely what I’d call an all-arounder. By that I mean a ski that’s well suited to being a quiver of one, as opposed to powder specialized boards or on-piste carvers. Plenty of carbon, adequate rocker, care in design from a company who has former World Cup racers doing everything from testing to factory layup. Skialper Magazine top selection, free touring category.

Wide Ones

In the WildSnow universe, we only use jumbo wide skis for mid-continental powder and soft snow laps. We thus don’t concern ourselves the firm snow performance of such boards. Our bias here is to the best width/weight ratios, rather than heavier builds with enhanced performance in the areas of damping and edge grip.

Yes Jimmy, this is the 2016-2017 version of the venerable Vapor Nano, a bit stronger and skis better, at 1,244 grams that's only 29 grams heavier than the original white top version.

207 version of the venerable Vapor Nano, a bit stronger and skis better, at 1,244 grams that’s only 29 grams heavier than the original white top version.

Thusly, my first mention is the La Sportiva Vapor Nano (105 mm). Much improved since their first release a few years ago, Nano should have been marketed as something like “Nano 3.0.” In any case, these guys simply and effectively provide you with what’s perhaps the best powder to weight ratio in the ski world. I just wish they were still heat reflective white.

This is where to not include DPS in our quiver would be a mortal sin. There is no other application DPS focuses their ski design more on than giving the world wider planks that rage through powder like they’re a hand of the creator. And by creator I’m not talking about DPS spiritual leader Drake, but rather the man upstairs who allows us our allotted minutes of glisse bliss per lifetime.

Thing about DPS; it used to all be so simple. They sold a few models. You just picked the most expensive in the width you wanted and there you went with a smile. Now they’ve branched their line into a “Tour” series. Boasting skis with the same DPS geometry but lighter builds, we’ve found the Tours remain true to our expectations of DPS, while not being quite so powerful and all-around performing as their regular layups. In terms of Ultimate Quiver, I go two ways with this. Skis such as the original Wailers are simply amazing. Find them used, use. Later versions are just as good or perhaps better though you’ll encounter the cost/performance ratio decision. Yet in terms of WildSnow.com and our weight bias, the sweet spot here is indeed the DPS Tour series. In that, we’ve extensively tested Tour 1 Wailer 106. Approved.

I’ll close with a wideboy pick. Wildsnow ski tester Bob Perlmutter did get out on the Tour1 Lotus 124. While a ski that wide is out of our Ultimate Quiver gamut, Bob did file the following:

“That elusive third ski. Hmmm! I guess I would have to say the DPS Tour1 Lotus 124. At 124mm I rarely skied them but when I did they were just pure fun. You find yourself giggling at the bottom of a run. Who doesn’t like that unless one takes themselves too seriously.”

Sidebar: Other Brands. Unlike large magazine ski reviews, we don’t attempt to test and review nearly every backcountry ski extant. That’s the big pub’s job, what with their casts of thousands fueled by mass quantities of adult beverages. Our process is somewhat different as well — we tend to use skis for multiple days, much in actual ski touring conditions though we do use ski lift accessed terrain as well. This process is either limited or enhanced by how deeply a company is distributed in North America, as we desire to serve our majority of readers by not going overboard on covering product that’s hard to get. In any case, Black Crows is a good example of something I’d have liked to include, is no doubt excellent, and hopefully will be seen on these pages fairly soon. Check out our former Quiver reviews. Lou


27 Responses to “WildSnow Ultimate Ski Quiver 2017-2018”

  1. Christian November 6th, 2017 10:32 am

    Looking forward to how you like BMT 90 now that the 94 has been 86’d

  2. Lou Dawson 2 November 6th, 2017 10:38 am

    WildSnow will be concentrating more on boots and bindings this winter, seems to be a trend for us, but I’ll try to get a bit more extensive ski testing done as well, since we have a crew that is incredibly capable of doing the kind of extended testing we prefer. As always, the encouragement and suggestions from you guys really help.

  3. Nate C November 6th, 2017 7:02 pm

    Lou, What were the mixed reads on the Backland 95? Curious to know what the other opinions were.

  4. Bar Barrique November 6th, 2017 7:43 pm

    “Nano should have been marketed as something like Nano 3.0”
    As a user of the original Nano, I think that perhaps a new review, or at least an update to the original review is in order.
    The white top sheet of the previous version was definitely a plus. In direct comparison to other Goode manufactured skis, the white top sheet performed noticeably better. In one case we were waiting for a friend to set up for a photo shot, and, a person on a set of grayish coloured Goode skis acquired a bottom coat of snow stuck to the base (March sunshine), while the (Goode) Nano’s did not have any issues.
    While the original Nano is not the most versatile ski, I do like using them for (light weight) alpine skiing. They seem to work well for me on the variable crust conditions that I encounter above treeline.

    Cheers, Bar

  5. Dan November 7th, 2017 1:59 am

    Speaking of Skialper, does anyone have any idea of when the digital version of the 2018 Buyer’s Guide will be available?

  6. KS November 7th, 2017 5:47 am

    @Dan the Italian version is available right now. The English version will be available later this week.

  7. Pablo November 7th, 2017 5:59 am

    Lou, don’t you think that the salomon X-alp is excessively soft in flexion?

    Ok, I accept that is a funny tool to go between branches and Woods oin springtome but, with very little speed it seems to me to be sooo soft that I can fold it.

    Especially compared to the Atomic Backland UL 78 wich can be considered as a step brother.

    The unit that I skied was a pre-production and maybe it was softer tan production units but to me it was terribly soft in flexion.

  8. Rar0 November 7th, 2017 8:10 am

    Scott SG88 are gorgeous, skied on them last season in all types of terrain and snow, always a fun and secure ride 🙂
    And very stable in icy traverses on the way up to !

  9. Lou Dawson 2 November 7th, 2017 8:11 am

    Hi Pablo, I still have a pair of X-Alp here and they don’t seem overly soft. But that’s more personal opinion than anything, as how the flex of a ski feels has to do with body weight, style of skiing, ski geometry, type of boot skied, and even the location of the binding (forward/back). That said, if anyone feels a ski is too soft, useful to have that info here in the comments, so mucho thanks. Lou

  10. Lou Dawson 2 November 7th, 2017 8:14 am

    Whoops, realized my copy editing missed bolding of the ski names. Been quite distracted around here with recent events, time to focus back in… appreciate everyone’s patience. Lou

  11. Rob November 7th, 2017 8:27 am

    I’m just going to echo what Nate C asked…. Lou, What were the mixed reads on the Backland 95? Curious to know what the other opinions were.

  12. See November 7th, 2017 8:39 am

    I don’t know anything about the x-alps and I have more skis than I need, for sure. But I do enjoy having some soft ones in the mix. They’re light and easy to turn at slow speeds, which is good on some days.

  13. Lou Dawson 2 November 7th, 2017 11:32 am

    No rest for the wicked! Some testers thought the Backlands were overly stiff and needed a big boot — and that they did “hold well.” Personally I didn’t have any trouble with Backland flex, and liked them. I’d say if your looking at this ski, consider they might have a stiffer more aggressive feel. 50% of shoppers will like that, and 50% won’t? (smile)

  14. MarkL November 8th, 2017 10:05 am

    Did you ride any Fischer skis (Transalp/Hannibal)? I have been on the Hannibal 94 for a couple of years, my first AT ski after 20+ years telemarking. Coming from Rossi T3s, the performance of these skis at such a ridiculously low weight is amazing. I suspect this to be largely true no matter what I ski now, just wondering where you think they slot in as a guideline while looking for where to turn to next, which will probably be an “80s” ski for longer, more up-&-down tours.

    I should probably lighten my boots first, so I’ll be looking forward to that.

  15. Michael November 8th, 2017 10:59 am

    Volkl love is a thing, Lou. I see mermaids leaping when I think about my BMT 109’s. Considering your love for the 94’s, I can’t help wondering if the BMT 94 would be almost as good in our heavy coastal snow, while saving some size and weight over the 109’s.

  16. MarkL November 8th, 2017 11:30 am

    Michael, if you are in the PNW like me, my feeling was that the versatility of a 90s ski outweighed the additional width. But I’m not a big guy and I’m not a super-aggressive skier. I was also coming from a 73-waisted tele ski that weighed 30% more than the 94, so maybe it is all relative. 🙂

  17. Peter November 8th, 2017 12:30 pm

    an important note, IMHO, when looking for a great mid-80s cm waisted ski is the Blizzard Zero-G 85 is the only one offered in a “long” 185cm length, at least that I could find.
    Since the core market for these skis seems to be shopping based mostly on weight savings, most of these skis (Objective, VTA Lite, Way Back, Ibex, etc) are all very soft and come in only shorter lengths (not that there’s anything wrong with that 😉 ) The ZeroG 85 seems like a very different beast than the rest of the group. It is legitimately stiff, and long enough for larger skiers looking to ride the edge in large radius turns.

  18. Peter November 8th, 2017 12:31 pm

    an important note, IMHO, when looking for a great mid-80s cm waisted ski is the Blizzard Zero-G 85 is the only one offered in a “long” 185cm length, at least that I could find.
    Since the core market for these skis seems to be shopping based mostly on weight savings, most of these skis (Objective, VTA Lite, Way Back, Ibex, etc) are all very soft and come in only shorter lengths (not that there’s anything wrong with that 😉 ) The ZeroG 85 seems like a very different beast than the rest of the group. It is legitimately stiff, and long enough for larger skiers looking to ride the edge in large radius turns.

  19. Lou Dawson 2 November 8th, 2017 1:20 pm

    Agree on the ZeroG 85, probably should have put it in the quiver. Lou

  20. benwls November 8th, 2017 2:28 pm

    MarkL, I have a pair of Hannibal 94’s. There certainly are a lot of other good options out there, but the Hannibals have been underappreciated I think. That said, Zero G’s are even better. If you want a light ski can can handle bad snow admirably, that is your pick. If your goal is to save as much weight as possible, perhaps the Movement Big Fish-X is the winner.

  21. MarkL November 8th, 2017 2:48 pm

    benwls, I actually strongly considered the ZeroG, with the choice basically being between them and the Hannibals. I had read the Blizzards were best when driven harder, but that’s not really my style, so I decided the Fischers might be more forgiving, especially since I hadn’t skied with a fixed heel for a couple decades. After a season I did end up getting a different ski for in-area because the Hannibals were not good at higher speeds and on harder snow.

    Considered the Movement Shift (a little heavier), but they were having distribution issues and were not easy to find, and the Scott Superguide 95s I just couldn’t find much info on at the time.

  22. RickS November 9th, 2017 8:45 am

    Not a single Dynafit ski in this lineup? Any thoughts? What happened?

  23. RickS November 9th, 2017 8:48 am

    Not a single Dynafit ski in this lineup? What happened? Any thoughts? I’m not necessarily pro or anti Dynafit, but it seems like this is the area where they SHOULD shine.

  24. Lou Dawson 2 November 9th, 2017 9:23 am

    They were emphasising heavier somewhat “freeride” skis last season, none resonated… the uphilling skis (Speed and Speedfit) were either not imported to U.S. or aced by Salomon. also I got discombobulated by them not having a press event where I could do a preliminary eval of their new stuff, we will ramp up our Dynafit bias next time around — I don’t want to disappoint the snarkers who love finding a Dynafit bias in every corner of WildSnow. Lou

  25. Allan November 12th, 2017 7:57 pm

    HI Lou- Are you going to be testing the Superguide 105 in the near future? I have this ski as well as the SG88. It would be good to hear your thoughts on the SG105. It’s a bummer that Scott is not importing the SG88 this year even though they make a men’s and women’s version for Europe. Thanks and cheers!~Allan

  26. Steve November 16th, 2017 1:43 am

    Voile V6 but not Ultra Vector? I am interested in both so curious why the V6 won out…

  27. Lou Dawson 2 November 16th, 2017 10:11 am

    Hi Steve, our testers liked the V6 so much I couldn’t leave it out, Ultra Vector did not grab me as a touring ski, though it skied downhill fine. It’s a good ski, simply didn’t make our cut as we like the V6 better. If possible just demo both… Lou

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    Welcome to Louis (Lou) Dawson's backcountry skiing information & opinion website. Lou's passion for the past 50 years has been alpinism, climbing, mountaineering and skiing -- along with all manner of outdoor recreation. He has authored numerous books and articles about ski touring 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 ski touring news and information here.

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