Fall is here and the first snows have hit the Rocky Mountain states. Excitement for sliding turns and the gear to propel us up and down the mountains is building. At WildSnow, we never want to move away from in-depth reviews and story telling, but we want to offer a new lineup to our early season content. We are releasing our first complete WildSnow Gear Guide in the form of 20 individual blog posts occurring twice weekly throughout September and October.
You might notice some skis missing. Why? The ski touring options are more expansive than ever and we’re a small staff you could for the most part count on one hand. We’re also dedicated entirely to human powered pursuits and generally steer our bias to the lighter, more efficient end of the spectrum. That said, we have reached out to our network of contributors and testers to pull our top picks for each quiver slot into a comprehensive ski touring specific gear guide.
First up: women’s and gender neutral All Mountain touring skis. Going back to our favorite Lou-ism, the Obi-one-skinobis are the skis to grab, when you are visiting a new location where you are not quite sure what the snow conditions or terrain will be, or you just don’t have a garage the size of Lou to store the full quiver. With a careful balance of weight savings for the skinning convenience and a love for downhill performance, here are some of our favorite picks for the first time ski tourer or the experienced enthusiast who wants to fill in the middle of the quiver.
Women’s All Mountain Touring Skis
One the broadest of the ski categories, All Mountain skis offer the versatility sweet spot. For women, this translates to a wide enough ski to float in powder snow that’s light enough for long tours but also has the performance features of a heavier ski. In the last half decade, we have seen skis finally come in sizes that match lighter and smaller frames. Here are some of our top picks, gender-specific and not.
Dynastar M-Tour 99
The M-Tour 99 is in line with other mid-weight touring skis that prioritize performance over mass while keeping things light weight. It features a hybrid core — a combination of lightweight paulownia and PU reinforced with basalt fiber. This keeps the ski weight down while adding dampness and stability to avoid the hard snow chatter common in lightweight touring skis. It has a full sandwich construction and full sidewall, allowing for precision, balance and grip. Both the tip and tail are rockered with a slight shovel in the tip and flat tails.
How it skis
You get what you put into this ski. A skier that is new to lightweight touring skis will be pleasantly surprised by its ease of turn initiation even while moving slower. As the ski is pressed harder it responds in kind, ready to open up and charge, chatter free even on hard snow. In soft conditions, the ski is playful and you won’t leave you reaching for wider planks even on the deepest days. Read our full review here.
The M-Tour 99 brings many of the attributes of its beloved predecessor, the MYTHIC, in a lighter touring package. It’s an ideal ski for both newer tourers and the harder charger skier looking to extend their tours with a lighter setup.
The cute pink bases are soft and easy to gouge. The long turning radius doesn’t quite translate to nimble-ness in tight quarters on harder snow.
Weight (g): 1200 (162cm)
Lengths (cm): 162, 170, 178, 180
Construction: Sandwich, full sidewall, paulownia PU, basalt fiber
Dimensions (mm): 125 – 97 – 115 (162cm), Radius (m): 15
Atomic Backland 98 W
The Atomic Backland 98 W is the ladies only width for the Backland all-mountain lover, although a 2% decrease in the waist has a tough time accounting for all skier weights and sizes that would reach for these boards. Still, made with the lighter skier in mind, it features an ultra light wood core with a carbon backbone and full sidewall. The rockered tip and tail with positive camber make for a well balanced, stable ski that also maintains exceptional floatation in powder.
How it skis
In powder, our testers found the promised floatation, along with an ease in turning and handling. The skis are more playful than expected, and fun to pop off of little pillows and covered tree trunks. During one day of chalkier wind pack, we found little deflection and consistently fun performance. This ski is geared for the more experienced woman looking to demand extra from her all-mountain tool.
The HRZN Tech tip, which claims to increase surface area by 10% without increasing swing weight, does increase stability and floatation. The skis also have a balanced feel to them that despite their lighter weight, translates to stability.
You need to ski it hard! If you let off the gas in icy chunder or challenging conditions, there’s chatter. Surprising? Not really, but the ski does perform its best in soft snow. When we stayed in charge, the ski responded.
Weight (g): 1185 (164cm)
Lengths (cm): 157, 164, 172
Construction: Carbon Backbone, Carbon fiber and Karuba wood core, HRZN Tech tip
Dimensions (mm): 127.5 – 98- 118 (164), Radius (m): 14.6 (164)
SCOTT SuperGuide 95 W
Revamped for 20/21 the SCOTT SuperGuide 95 W lays no claim to being the lightest touring ski out there, but it’ll fight hard to be the highest performing. These hard charging skis feature a paulownia/beech core with torsionally rigid Carbon/Aramid fibers that run the length of the ski. The unique 3-Dimensional sidecut makes for a ski that’s wide in the shovel, long underfoot and short in the tail. This all adds up to a seriously responsive turning and edging, much like SCOTT’s on-piste skis are known to be.
How it skis
On the flanks of Mount Blanc, WildSnow editor M was impressed with the skis’ stability across a variety of conditions not limited to sastrugi, wind crust, sun crust and soggy mush. The ski is engineered for high performance in challenging conditions and it consistently delivers.
Certain skis lend a confidence to the skier, when you get into a tough situation, you trust the ski will gracefully move you through it. That’s how our testers regarded the Superguide 95.
All of this focus on performance in wide ranging conditions doesn’t quite translate to deep, light powder. They’re also on the heaviest end of women’s all mountain touring skis.
Weight (g): 1370 (168)
Lengths (cm): 160, 168
Construction: Sandwich sidewall semi-elliptic, paulownia/beech core reinforced by Carbon/Aramid fibers
Dimensions (mm): 128 – 94 – 115 (168cm), Radius (m): 20
G3 Seekr Swift 100
The ‘Swift’ designation is Canadian ski company G3’s response to gendered gear. In G3’s words, Swift is “not a ‘female series,’ a ‘youth series,’ or a ‘beginner series.’ It’s for smaller adults and youth.” The Seekr Swift 100 features full thickness base, PU sidewalls, beefy tip-wrapped edges, and enough waist for fun floatation in deep conditions. It also has a playful backcountry shape with slight camber underfoot with long and early rise in the tip and tail. With the smaller-bodied skier in mind, it’s an easy turning ski with a relatively soft flex.
How it skis
The skis excelled in soft snow and powder, where its soul-surfer shape hit high notes. Our testers found the 16.4 meter radius, with 31 millimeters sidecut offered a good compromise between stability and turnability. The camber provided pop from turn to turn, and the rocker provided tilt-and-turn ease when the snow got difficult. Speaking of difficult snow, though, crusty and icy conditions are not this ski’s forte.
Easy handling. Light enough for laps on laps but not at the cost of necessary substance. The magnets are fun too. Available in lengths as short as 154cm.
While the Seekr Swift 100 can find a home as a backcountry daily driver, especially in regions with consistently soft snow, they do have their limitations in harder, more variable conditions.
Weight (g): 1340g (162)
Lengths (cm): 154, 162, 170
Construction: Nylon Topsheet, PU Sidewall, 2 layers Triaxial Carbon Fiber, Titanal Mounting plate, poplar/paulownia core
Dimensions (mm): 132 – 100 – 120, Radius (m): 14.5 (162)
Black Crows Camox Freebird
Not women’s specific, not a problem. Women love this bright red ski. It offers a no frills reliability, a consistently stable ride across conditions. It likes to open up and charge in soft snow and groomers alike, but has enough dampening to handle chunder and crusts with adequate edge control for ice. It’ a generalist with a bit of extra flair. Read Julia’s full review here.
Weight (g): 1375 (178)
Lengths (cm): 160, 166, 172, 178, 183, 188
Construction: semi-cap, paulownia core
Dimensions (mm): 133 – 96 – 114 (178), Radius (m): 17
Movement W Session 95 Alpine
While the The Alp Tracks strips away every gram, the Session 95 adds a little substance back into their lineup. This ski balances downhill stability by relying on a 5-Axis carbon layup for stiffness and rubber strips to take away the chatter. A great entry point for the new ski tourer, the ski only goes as low as 161cm long, so it will leave the shortest lightest skiers reaching.
Weight (g): 1375 (169)
Lengths (cm): 161, 169
Construction: Micro-Sidewall Construction, Karuba Wood Core, 5-Axis Carbon, Rubber Strips
Dimensions (mm): 114 – 89 – 126 (169), Radius (m): 18
Voile W Ultra Vector
Change is not needed for the Voile Ultra Vector. Since the hyperbolic Ultra was added to the ski name six years ago, the ski has stayed the same, and that’s a good thing. These USA-made skis are as predictable as they are fun. With a real Aspen wood core they feel sturdy under your feet and offer a durability rarely seen in today’s carbon and foam offerings.
Weight (g): 1295g (164cm)
Lengths (cm): 154, 164 cm
Construction: carbon fiber laminate, fiberglass, wood; Aspen core
Dimensions (mm): 123 – 92 – 108 mm (164cm), Radius (m): 18
While most of the WildSnow backcountry skiing blog posts are best attributed to a single author, some work well as done by the group.