The do-everything backcountry ski is as sought after — and elusive — as sasquatch. But lo(5) and behold, from longtime mountaineering giant La Sportiva: the 1,678 grams per ski (188), 95-mm underfoot Lo5. This could be what many human powered skiers are searching for.
First, my background: I’m 6’0”, 175 lbs and do the majority of my backcountry skiing in the Roaring Fork Valley, Colorado, with a few rando races thrown in. I ski the Dynafit One boot for quiver testing.
La Sportiva Lo5
Length tested: 188
Other lengths: 168, 178
Dimensions: 125/95/115 (actual measured on the 188 tester, 123/93/113)
Turn radius: 17m (168), 18m (178), 19m (188)
Weight (in grams, per ski): 1530 (168, unverified), 1635 (178 unverified), 1678 (188 verified)
In recent years, it appears many ski manufactures are narrowing the gap between their alpine and off-piste offerings; with backcountry ski models luring powder-hungry consumers with ever-expanding waists and substantial tip and tail rocker. And while those attributes certainly have their place in the backcountry, there is something to be said for a ski that pursues utility.
That is what’s refreshing about the La Sportiva Lo5; it is truly built with a backcountry tour — and all of its ancillary considerations — in mind. To wit, the Lo5 eschews a rockered rear for a traditional flat tail, which makes for easier kick-turns when ascending steep switchbacks and provides a sturdy surface for a snow anchor, two advantages you likely won’t fully appreciate until you most need them.
And while the 95-mm underfoot width of the Lo5 provides ample girth, La Sportiva understood that in order to ski from a summit, you’ve got to get there first. By pairing carbon fiber and fiberglass laminates with a karuba paulownia wood core, the Lo5 provides a below average weight (according to a study we’re doing here at WildSnow).
Lastly, the Lo5 offers an often under appreciated feature: holes in the tip and tail that serve two purposes: they can be used to affix La Sportiva’s custom HiGlide pre-cut skins, and should the need arise, can also aid in the construction of a rescue sled.
Before we move on, one brief comment on the La Sportiva pre-cut skins you can buy along with La Sportiva skis: If it seems as though every ski manufacturer now offers its own skin option, it’s because they nearly do. And while some are a long way from dialing it in, I absolutely loved the HiGlide skins (Swiss made, sourced from Pomoca). HiGlides are light in weight, securely attach via the same system used by K2, and the nylon-mohair mix material glides and climbs as needed.
Having said all of that, how does the Lo5 actually ski?
First, in full disclosure, I don’t have an affinity for skis with 90 to 100-mm underfoot. To me, that range represents a bit of a dead zone: on hard-pack or spring corn, I prefer something with an 88-mm waist or narrower, and when there’s powder to be skied, I like my skis fat, with a minimum waist of 105 mm. In that 90 to 100 mm nether region, I find that many skis struggle with their identity; are they best served as hard snow or soft snow skis?
Specific to the Lo5, while the comparatively narrow waist and traditional camber underfoot would appear to signify a ski that’s a tool for firm snow conditions, the 354 mm of rocker under its 125 mm wide tip told me differently: this is a ski that wants to float.
And that’s precisely what the Lo5 did best. In half a dozen tours ranging from ankle to knee-deep power, I never longed for a fatter ski. While it’s not impossible to bury the shovel of the Lo5 as it is with some of the more dramatically-rockered skis on the market, the soft, wide, early rise tips provided substantial float and made for effortless powder turns.
Those light weight, early-rise tips do come with a price, however. While the Lo5 confidently lays an edge in early morning ski resort corduroy, on hard-pack or frozen snow you will likely experience a bit of tip chatter that can be unnerving at high speeds. Some have questioned whether moving the recommended mounting point of the ski forward a centimeter or so may change the contact point of the ski and eliminate the chatter. We haven’t had a chance to give that a try at Wildsnow HQ just yet, but it would be worth some tinkering, because this is the only downside I experienced in all my time driving the Lo5.
In this review I echo a concern voiced by many about the unnerving chatter in the Lo5 early-rise tips when skiing on hard-pack, and questioned whether a small move forward from the factory-recommended mounting point would solve the issue. Well, as you might imagine, my conjuncture wasn’t good enough for Lou, and he went through the trouble to remount the skis for additional testing.
As suspected, a slightly more forward position greatly reduced the disconcerting rattle, and it did not appear to negatively impact the soft-snow performance of the skis. This is likely due to the rockered nature of the shovel, which prevents tip dive even with the more aggressive mounting position. Something to consider if you’d like to improve the hard-snow performance of your Lo5s.
(Note that Lo5 was introduced last season, and will continue retailing for next season so it’s a contender for our next Ultimate Quiver. Hence our review. LaSportiva will also retail a new ski with the same Lo5 dimensions but beefier construction, the Mega Lo5. We evaluated the Mega and found it to be too heavy for inclusion in our Ultimate Quiver of skis for human powered riders, but it’ll be worth looking at if you want a combo resort and sidecountry board.)
Our verdict? We’re not sure a how likely Lo5 is for inclusion is in our new Ultimate Quiver (we don’t decide till most of our testing is done), but can say with confidence that the Lo5 will make the overwhelming majority of backcountry users very happy, as it performs well in all aspects. Lo5 climbs easily and with pace, leaving plenty in the legs for a second lap. Its flat tail and tip and tail holes — while a departure from recent trends — are wonderfully functional. And most importantly, when you drop into a slope of virgin powder, the Lo5 will leave you grinning from ear to ear.
(Guest blogger Tony Nitti is a CPA specializing in tax planning. He lives in the Roaring Fork Valley of Colorado with his wife and two children. When he’s not skiing or rando racing, he has fun writing about tax policy at Forbes.com, so he’s uniquely prepared for battering at the hands of extremely passionate commenters and talk show hosts such as he-who-shall-not-be-named.)