Ultimate Quiver Ski Test!

Post by WildSnow.com blogger | December 30, 2011      

I’ve been playing around for months now with developing a quiver of skis we can test and review in a slow paced human-powered backcountry style. Instead of the nearly impossible task of a complete industry overview, I decided to limit the number of planks to around a dozen, and just have fun accumulating the pile with skis we’re attracted to and that the industry was kind enough to provide. No intention of playing favorites or exerting bias, the idea is to simply have fun and keep it simple — yet at the same time do some cream skimming and present our readers with a selection of which any pick would be terrific. Well, here is the pile. We’ve been skiing all these for weeks (some for months now) and we’ll do a series of reviews as winter progresses.

WildSnow backcountry skis.

We've done prelim takes on most of these skis over past weeks, see our 'Ski Reviews' category by using the category dropdown up there at the top right of pages. From left to right the 11 pairs: Volkl Nunataq, G3 Zen Oxide, Dynafit Manaslu, Black Diamond Element, Kastle 87, Voile Vector, K2 Wayback, Trab Volare, Dynafit Stoke, Black Diamond Carbon Justice, La Sportiva Hi 5 -- the planks are proudly posing at WildSnow Field HQ. Click image to enlarge.

For testing during past weeks we’ve been doing two things: To evaluate float and junk snow performance we’ve been touring bottomless facets and chopped powder in the snow deprived central Colorado backcountry. Edgehold and hardpack eval has been a simple matter of uphilling then making turns on the various white-stripes-of-death we have available at our local resorts — the other day I even found a nice patch of water ice to see how those edges felt. I think I even saw a frozen frog down there in the ice.

Update: Our Ultimate Quiver ski review is DONE, click here!


Please Enjoy A Few Suggested WildSnow Posts


61 Responses to “Ultimate Quiver Ski Test!”

  1. Billy December 30th, 2011 10:13 am

    That pile of skis plus the hut made me drool.

  2. harpo December 30th, 2011 10:39 am

    Lou, I recognize some of the skis in your picture, but could you list which ones will be reviewed? I am particularly interested in the DPS W99 and the Voile Vector.

  3. Brian December 30th, 2011 10:40 am

    “But what about DPS??” Just kidding….but then again the W99 would look nice in that lineup.

  4. Brent December 30th, 2011 10:54 am

    Perhaps they are just absent from the photo but still in the “ultimate quiver” for this test:


  5. earle.b December 30th, 2011 12:13 pm

    How can you have an ultimate quiver of lightweight skis without the Movement Logic-X?

  6. Steve December 30th, 2011 11:34 pm

    Seriously, what about the DPS Wailer 112?

  7. Bob Perlmutter December 31st, 2011 12:04 am

    Hi DPS fans one and all, just a reminder I provided some preliminary comments on the Wailer 112 a while back. I still plan on a full review once we get enough snow to put them to the true test. I am also expecting a pair of Wailer 99 on hand for a period of time to allow for extensive testing. I’m twitching as much as anyone waiting for the opportunity to pull these skis out of the corner and put them under my feet. Much longer and I will have to get a prescription for anti-depressants.

  8. Sofia December 31st, 2011 1:06 am

    Is there going to be a sum up and comparison between all the skis as well?

  9. Marc December 31st, 2011 6:36 am

    DPS. DPS. D…P…S…
    Once you strap them on, you’ll never go back!

  10. Ed December 31st, 2011 7:02 am

    I spent the first day on DPS 112 Wailers yesterday (banana’s) and was blown away. They’re light going up (Pure’s with Skins Direct carpet) but boy coming down they are a game changer – couple feet of powder was – well that’s home for these boards. I am blown away. And powder to crud to powder to crud was not even an issue. These babies are very well behaved and predictable – both when going slow and at speed. While cost may seem a bit of a step out, I think it’s the best money I’ve ever spent. Congrats to Stephan and the crew at DPS, they’ve truly done something different here and raised the bar in my opinion. Great design job guys! Can’t wait now to try the W99’s sittin’ in the basement!

  11. Dan Powers December 31st, 2011 7:26 am

    So what’s the poor man’s DPS 112? Charger, Nunataq? That’s what I want to know.

  12. Boz December 31st, 2011 5:35 pm

    i will be picking up my dps W99s this week and I will do a quick right up on them after a few days of use.

  13. James Broder December 31st, 2011 5:42 pm

    Everyone has a favorite ski, but the DPS fanboys need to get a grip.

    Went backcountry touring 3 weeks ago with the best skier I know (former World Cup racer, former multiple Canadian National Champion). She rented a pair of DPS just to see what the hype was about. We skied & hiked knee-deep powder for 2 days with her on the DPS (I was on Stokes). A summation of her review of the DPS: “Meh. Nice powder skis, but not any better in pure pow than GotBacks, which are half the price. Pain in the @ss in the backcountry due to the upturned rear spatulas, and fairly useless inbounds. Price is outrageous.”

  14. P Gyr December 31st, 2011 8:03 pm

    Looking forward to the review and hope you and everyone else gets snow soon.
    James Broder
    Been a DPS skier for 5 years, also ski some other brands, yes the cheerleading is annoying. However, get real! Your “best skier” clearly lost some proficiency. or she’s just good at running gates on blue ice. Several skiers here in Jackson rip on on Wailer 112’s both in and out of bounds. They really aren’t much different than S7’s in terms of shape and performance.
    As for the backcountry aspect, come on. Other than pure hardpack, ski’s with this amount of rocker in the back ( and they come from multitude of manufacturers) are easy to deal with in transition in any but hard snow conditions

  15. Steve January 1st, 2012 2:09 am

    I skied my Wailer 112’s 184cm in 50cm of new yesterday (North Cascades) and about 30cm of settled storm snow with a little wind affect today. I absolutely agree with the person above who said this ski is a game changer. They’re decent in weight (light for the dimensions) and they float like feathers. I don’t ski hard pack so I don’t care how they perform in those conditions-but I’ve only heard good things from reliable people (ski tourers, not ski racers) who’ve had them out in variable conditions.

    Kick turns: they’re fine in soft snow but I could see how the raised tail would make the dietro-front-inverso technique difficult in firm snow if the skier prefers to bury their tail in the snow and t-bone it after placing the downhill ski uphill in the kick turn transition. But whatever. The Wailer 112’s are utterly sick. I am beyond sold. Sorry about the “hype” but I just experienced it myself for the last two days and I am still smiling after the last 48 hours.

  16. Chris Beh January 1st, 2012 8:51 am

    P Gyr,
    You wrote, “However, get real! Your “best skier” clearly lost some proficiency. or she’s just good at running gates on blue ice.”
    Poor form, dude, criticizing the abilities of another skier you do not know just because you don’t like her opinion of a pair of skis. You have no idea what her experience is. And since it’s a woman it makes you sound typically misogynistic.

    Maybe DPS are the best skis ever. But are they really 2x better than skis half their price?Sounds like a lot of DPS owners are just plain insecure about their decision to buy the most expensive ski on the market…the ones that have to constantly defend them against a less than perfect review.

    The previous commenter, Steve, left a very helpful review. Interesting to hear the ski can handle NW pow not just Rocky Mt fluff.
    Steve, you rave about the DPS but have you skied other skis with lots of rocker in similar conditions? I’d be interested to hear.

  17. P Gyr January 1st, 2012 10:03 am

    Durability=value. My 2007 Wailer 105’s, carbon construction, have endured 4 seasons of 60 plus days with no perceptible change in flex and one minor edge ding. Prior to this, I’ve had no ski last beyond 2 seasons before being consigned to the damaged skiel out rock category. Worth 2X the price? No insecurity in this answer-you bet and for durability alone.

  18. Bjorn Naylor January 1st, 2012 10:51 am

    DPS are the trendy “IN” ski this year…what will it be next year???? Ships prow tips, carbon inlaid yellow cedar with titanium rails….it goes on and on and on ….TONS of good skis out there with wide ranges of technological experimentation. Go rip up pow and put a smile on your face. Try the Fischer Wateas…under rated and under the radar. sweet ski.

  19. Ed January 1st, 2012 10:52 am

    A comment about cost and the Wailer 112’s – GotBacks (mentioned above) last time I looked, were priced at ~$750 while you can pick up a pair of Hybrid Wailer RP 112’s for ~$799 (fiberglass/ carbon/ bamboo) off the DPS website or probably at dealers too. Kinda not double, depending on the “flavour” you choose.
    To me it’s sorta like the difference between DYNAFIT ZZERO4 GREEN MACHINE TF SKI BOOT (carbon cuff) or DYNAFIT ZZERO4 C-TF SKI BOOT (carbon stringer) – save some weight/ spend some bucks. Either will work though.
    For me personally, with more days on ’em, seems the carbon bananas could become a trusty, well-behaved companion (read yellow Lab) v.s. a more jumpy sidekick who needs some watching here ‘n there (read Irish Setter – some of the other skiis I’ve tried lately). Both canines will fetch quackers, but just one is easier to live with (apologies to Irish Setter owners out there for the generalization but all the “Reds” I’ve known needed Valium from time to time). I grew up skiing on . . . ice – Mt. St Anne women’s GS course kinda stuff – these things’ll make western Can. powder a pleasure for me anyway.
    Happy New Year to everyone – hope everyone stays safe out there.

  20. AndyC January 1st, 2012 12:44 pm

    @Ed: lots of laughs! Irish setters were so inbred for narrow craniums that the breed as a whole lost a lot of it’s mental capacity to learn and hunt. A few years ago there was quite an active movement to restore the breed through breeding “red setters”. I would really hesitate to use any setter around here to fetch quackers–I’d think they would freeze to death after multiple long swims and breaking surface ice. Anyhow, if the RP112 is a yellow lab is the Coomback the Chesapeak Bay Retriever? 🙂

  21. phil January 1st, 2012 2:14 pm

    Hi lou

    did you decide the DPS 99 or 112 weren’t worth including in your ulitmate quiver? with all the hype around these skis I would have been interested in how they stacked up against the other skis.

  22. Lee Lau January 1st, 2012 3:41 pm

    So much DPS koolaid; they look nice but according to the cult they’re the second coming of Christ. Let the man ski them and decide for himself.

    Basically commenting to subscribe to thread

    Have skied 5 of this quiver – will be interesting to hear the impressions of another person who’s had meaningful experience with trying a wide variety of different skis.. .

  23. Lou January 1st, 2012 4:36 pm

    Yeah, “Ultimate Quiver” is what I have here in my hot little hands and am cycling through regularly with tests in/on either bottomless facets or water ice. Bob has the DPS in another location and they’re his to test, to get them in the photo involves several hours of driving (pick up, then deliver back to him) and I simply don’t have time to do it. Sorry, DPS lovers. As for other skis, the idea here is a manageable selection that was easy to acquire, of skis we feel are good, or in some cases fill a niche nicely. Mainly, this is supposed to be fun, not some sort of full-time endless ski test that requires us to become a shipping and receiving department.

  24. Lou January 1st, 2012 4:41 pm

    P.S., before the DPS mob comes to break down my doors, please know, yes, I should have mentioned that Bob has the DPS and they are included in our quiver, just not the photo. Sorry about that.

  25. Mark January 1st, 2012 5:05 pm

    What’s a DPS?

  26. shoveler January 1st, 2012 5:20 pm

    Deepest Possible Snow?
    Darn People Spewing?

  27. Mark January 1st, 2012 5:24 pm

    Dip@#$% Positioning System?


  28. Lou January 1st, 2012 5:52 pm

    Don’s Plumbing Supply?

  29. Dimitri January 2nd, 2012 7:09 am

    I’m gonna have to start a LaSportiva fan club “HI5! HI5! HI5!”

  30. KDog January 2nd, 2012 7:14 am

    Doubly Priced Skis

  31. Lou January 2nd, 2012 8:53 am

    Kdog, you are genius. But hey DPS booster club, can’t you come up with some more superlatives for those initials? Deepest Possible Snow is a start, but just a start….

  32. Lou January 2nd, 2012 8:54 am

    Deep Powder Slayers

  33. Ed January 2nd, 2012 2:51 pm

    Doggone Perfect Skis – sorry if left the time to fiddle, the acronym had to come up . . . .

  34. KR January 2nd, 2012 2:56 pm

    DPS RP112s are the best skis I have ever purchased, they kill it in all conditions. Having owned Trabs, Manaslus, Vectors, and about 5 other backcountry skis the RP112s are worth 3x the $$$$. Tight trees, icy sidehilling, crud, resort garbage, deep and fresh – they do it all for me.

    Interested in the Hi5s because I am a gear hoor, however. Can someone with lousy ski form (not Perl) ski those and post a lengthy review?

  35. Nick January 2nd, 2012 3:03 pm

    Bjorn – I just noticed your mention of the Watea’s. That ski, particularly the 94 of approx. a year or so ago, always intrigued me as a potentially good quiver-of-one backcountry ski. I thought that ski with a dynafit setup would be reasonable for std. backcountry but also would be quite nice on those rare days I don’t ski in the Pacific NW but end up in an area with very light powder such as Utah, ie.e resort-skiing there. The problem with the ’94 back was that they only had 178 and 186 and at my size 6’2″ and 185 lbs (butt-naked), I felt like I was between sizes with boots such as Titans. Which model/size of Wateas have you used/liked?

  36. Bjorn Naylor January 2nd, 2012 9:32 pm

    186cm 114 watea with G3 onyx as my touring setup….nice soft powder flex,light for a phat ski, smooth turning and still hold up a big guy like myself – 6’6 215 lbs- when it gets steep. fischer makes great skis – always have. if u r 6’2 the 186 would b fine.
    DPS= Doctor Physician Solicitor skis

  37. Dimi January 3rd, 2012 7:26 am

    Due Psychotherapy skis

  38. Matt Kinney January 3rd, 2012 10:32 am

    Do you donate the skis and binding to others less fortunate when you are done testing each season?

    Too much snow here.

  39. +1 January 3rd, 2012 11:06 am

    Designed for Phat Santa

  40. slave.to.turns January 3rd, 2012 12:29 pm

    The DPS cheerleading gets pretty tiring. What does NOT ski well in pow? You could ski a 2×6 in the Rockies and it still would be good in pow. To those that call it a game changer, have you skied any actual rockered alpine skis in the past 5 years? Has any grown up above 175lbs ever skied these? And in PNW conditions?

    Psyched to hear the Hi 5 review.

    Lou, it’s spelled DP$.

  41. KR January 3rd, 2012 1:58 pm

    I just found Lou’s review of the newer gen Manaslus. Love that ski but not as my “one ski to Europe”, was hoping for much improvement in the edges. Anyone who can find a ski at a similar weight and shape and price that can hold an edge on involuntary boiler descents and shine on variable conditions over 7000 feet of descent will earn a case of microbrew from me.

    Slave – I am sort of from the Bardini school, where it really doesn’t matter the tools you use or the slopes you choose. It’s all fun and does NOT require a $1200 car, much less a $1200 pair of carbon skis. So It takes a lot for a ski to WOW me and I get the skepticism. Originally, I thought DPS fanboys should all go live in a plantation somewhere in Guyana while Drake reads his ski specs over a loudspeaker 14 hours a day.

  42. P Gyr January 3rd, 2012 7:58 pm

    Been drinking legally since Reagan’s second term, 200 lbs, skied Spatula’s (yes the originals), Megawatts, Pontoons, and S7’s. Backcountry tool of for last four seasons Wailer 105’s. Slave, the reason the ski’s get rave reviews from both press and posters is….drum roll please… a decent percentage of folks who sip the koolaid but the product and are really exited about it.

    Logical question to slave, the ever blogging Lee Lou, etc. is: if you have not sipped the DPS koolaid, what basis do you have to be critical?

  43. Lou January 3rd, 2012 8:21 pm

    When was I critical? All I’ve ever done is make fun of the choir, not the music.

  44. Lee Lau January 3rd, 2012 9:55 pm

    Same p gyr. I’m sure they’re fine skis. What do you care if someone like me thinks you guys sound like lemmings?

  45. canwilf January 3rd, 2012 11:11 pm

    Rocker skis are still fairly new and I’m not sure what type of rocker is best for me yet.

    I drank some koolaid and bought the wife some new slightly rockers skis (Black Pearl by Blizzard). I say ‘slightly rockered’ because they have a gentle amount of early rise versus the Rossi S3 S7 type rocker.

    She does NOT like her new rocker ski. She finds them too skittish, unstable at moderate speeds (she is no demon) and does not like that it forces her to put a lot more pressure on the front to keep the back from sliding out (it has a little tail rocker and with her little bum wiggles she gets the back out too far).

    What type of Rocker? I noticed, from the variety of rockers profiles, it would seem that manufacturers are still fine-tuning them to find the best of both worlds (camber/rocker).

    Most new rocker skis need to be longer. However, I want a better performing ski that is a tad shorter than my current 186cm.Now, how do I get that new 190+cm ski into my car top box? To get a rocker ski, I will need new skis and a new longer carry box.

    I think “GAME CHANGER” is going to be the most over-used ski word of 2011-2012. It should be retired along with “EPIC.”

  46. Steve January 4th, 2012 10:16 am

    Chris Beh,

    I also own the Dark Side and two pairs of Coombacks-not radically rockered and no tail rocker. Coombacks have Dynafits, Dark Sides have Dukes, DPS have Dynafits (the Speed).

    What I was looking for in a ski was the lightest I could find with what I consider really good dimensions for touring in the PNW and BC, with occasional days in Colorado and Utah. The Voile Charger was also a consideration but they sold out.


  47. slave.to.turns January 4th, 2012 10:56 am

    @P Gyr

    I’ve skied the DPS a number of times in different states and conditions. I’ve also skied every ski you named there, even owning a few of them. They are all good skis. I do not think it shines above them that radically. I think the BC/touring market gets excited when low weight and things from alpine skiing get blended together.

    What the DPS does have going for it is weight, which is sweet. But by no means is it a ski to hammer on…give me some DarkSides for those big, big day on big mean terrain. Not for the uptrack tho..!

    Again, YMMV, IMHO, etc, etc.

  48. Bjorn Naylor January 4th, 2012 1:34 pm

    You know what a Game Changer is? Your TV remote. Not a stupid piece of wood, carbon and steel.

  49. curious February 10th, 2012 7:40 am

    whatever happened to the ultimate quiver? Am I the only one who is interested in the promised comparisons????

  50. Lou February 10th, 2012 8:54 am

    Oh, it’s getting done. Didn’t intend to confuse, but good things take time. Unlike some ski reveiws, we’re not skiing three runs at a resort on each ski (grin). We’ll probably finish this up in mid March. The idea is to have good info for folks shopping through spring, summer, fall. Be aware that all those skis already passed our initial muster, all are terrific.

  51. Phil March 4th, 2012 12:42 pm

    stoked to hear you are still working on the ultimate quiver any chance of a bit of any update since full details are a few weeks away

  52. Lou March 4th, 2012 9:48 pm

    Phil, thanks for asking. Joe is working on it while I’m here in Europe, when I get back we’ll prioritize doing a comparison of the skis we liked. I’ve got the Volare here in Europe so I’ve given them a good vetting. Lou

  53. Johan March 22nd, 2012 12:47 pm

    Lou, any chance we will get the pleasure of reading this article (or a preview) in the next few days? Very close to hitting the buy button, but would certainly like to read up on this test before. Kitting up to do some skitouring in the north of Sweden, Abisko/Narvik area in three weeks 🙂

  54. Lou March 22nd, 2012 12:53 pm

    Sorry Johan, good things take time. We’ve been working on it, taking a totally different approach than print media, for better or worse. Also, please don’t expect some sort of 20,000 word guide that’ll make your decisions for you. What we’re doing is actually quite brief. Lou

  55. Johan March 22nd, 2012 1:37 pm

    Brief sounds good, mid March is here! 😉 Any favorites, and why?

  56. John April 13th, 2012 10:28 am

    Have you skied the Volare yet?
    I find it to be a very good all around ski.
    I noticed Paolo was on a pair in one of your photos.

  57. Bob Perlmutter April 14th, 2012 5:59 pm

    Hi John, I currently have the Volare in hand while Lou and Lisa are in Europe. I first skied it last spring as part of the Skiing Mag AT ski test. Most recently I have been using it uphilling at the ski areas and in the backcountry last weekend on one of the local peaks. The only snow conditions I have encountered so far have been corn, too hard too early wishing it was corn and too late too sloppy wishing it was corn. I have not skied any mid winter conditions on the Volare. My initial thoughts are that you are right on in calling it a very good all round ski. Low weight for a ski in the 99-100mm width which makes it very efficient on the uphill. Very lively and responsive yet still damp and predictable on the downhill. Surprisingly stable for such a light ski. Also has a unique ability to maintain ski/snow contact or stay glued to the snow even with some good pop or energy coming out of the turn. I’ll be taking it to Norway in May for a week of touring and should have more extensive comments when I return.

  58. John April 16th, 2012 9:43 am

    I have spent acouple of weeks in Canada and Washington on various forms of crust, slabs, beakable, and deep powder. Tip floats nicely and they carve well in this variety. Nice and light for the up track. Dropped into some steep narrow couloirs, edge hold is great, and turn radius is variable as needed.

  59. Robert May 7th, 2012 12:37 pm

    now the big question.

    ” There can only be one “

  60. Lou May 7th, 2012 12:52 pm

    Still working on the review. Everyone should please know we’re not picking one winner, it’s a quiver. The review is simply starting from the POV of skis we’d choose, and what their strengths are. We also mention a few skis we’d use as a quiver-of-one if we were forced to do so, say, by traveling. Publication planned soon, may need to ski some of the skis this weekend then that’ll be it. Lou

  61. Lou Dawson August 23rd, 2012 10:53 am

    Review is done, see


    I’ll turn off the comments here, please head over to link above to give your ten cents! Thanks everyone!


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