• ATOMIC

    Backland FR 109 W

    $725.00

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    Manufacturer's Description

    Maybe it’s the endorphins, or the cold air, or the sweet anticipation of skiing untracked pow. Backcountry skiing gets me in the mood to fall in love. I love this view! I love this day! I really love my skis!

    That’s about how it went with me and the Atomic Backland FR 109 W. They first caught my eye in the chalky trees at Big Sky. But I didn’t seriously commit to them until about halfway up a powdery slope on Lake Tahoe’s West Shore, a backcountry zone with perfectly spaced old-growth trees and an otherworldly view of sky and water. The sparks were real (that sparkly pink and purple top sheet!) but my love for the Backland faded into a longterm commitment after they held up in tight places. Like when I was side-hilling a 40-degree bowl in the Eastern Sierra that had yet to transition from ice to corn.

    Sixty-five percent of the Backland FR 109 W is camber underfoot, giving me the edge-hold I needed on the skin track. Turn around for the descent, and that’s when the rocker in the tip and tail came in handy, giving me peace of mind that I can hop in and out of turns easily—falling is the last thing I want to do when I’m skiing on tech bindings.

    Speaking of tech bindings, the Backlands are as light as I’d ever want to go, clocking in at less than four pounds per ski. They’re not as uber-light as a skimo stick. But I’m a skier, not a mountaineer. And I need some matter to lean into. Some may not like the Backlands as an inbounds ski. Their lightweight construction translates to feeling every bump, rut, hit on the snow, which can be a problem at a ski resort. Atomic put carbon inserts to run the length of the ski. Still, the Backlands ski above the crud, rather than cut through it.

    But the true destiny of the Backland is powder. HRZN Tech blends ABS sidewall construction with a rocker shovel in the tip that gives the ski more surface area. Which means the Backland and I will float on in the deep, deep snow all the way to the sunset.
    —Julie Brown

    Guide-type

    Hardgoods

    Brand Name

    ATOMIC

    Brand Website Click Here
    Skiers Choice

    No

    Dimensions

    132-109-122

    Lengths

    159, 167, 175

    Radius

    17.5

    Guide-year

    2018

    Product-collection

    The Best Skis for the Backcountry

    Product-type

    skis

  • DYNAFIT

    Beast 108

    $800.00

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    Manufacturer's Description

    The Dynafit Beast 108 is a rock-solid companion. The more you push it, the more confidence it instills. Open it up and carve beautiful, large radius turns in steep chalky snow, or load up the tip, scrub speed, and utilize the pop to navigate moguls in a Zen-like hovercraft mode.

    Although Dynafit’s product line has varied significantly over the generations, their focus on ingenuity and engineering has been a constant. The Beast 108 features sidewall construction with an ash/poplar core for minimal weight with maximum power. Negative camber in the tip and tailor “Elliptical Rocker,” as Dynafit calls it—allows the effective edge to increase as you progressively roll the ski into a turn. This design provides a stable platform that helps the ski bust loose and pivot very easily at any time. With sizes ranging from 173 to 194 centimeters, the Beast 108 comes in a full spectrum of options for skiers of all heights and weights.

    After a few hot laps of chalky wind buff under the Challenger Chair, our group migrated over to a mid-mountain lodge for margaritas followed by some groomers. Considering that Dynafit is a backcountry ski company, the Beast 108 skied well here, too. The ski tracked well, maintained solid edgehold, and was extremely predictable and damp at speed.

    Overall, this is an excellent ski that’s light for touring but perfectly at home in variable snow conditions and lift-served terrain. It’s also Dynafit athlete Cody Barnhill’s go-to choice for ski touring, Screamin’ Seaman 360s in the park, and everything in between. —Sam Cox

    Guide-type

    Hardgoods

    Brand Name

    DYNAFIT

    Brand Website Click Here
    Skiers Choice

    No

    Dimensions

    136-108-126

    Lengths

    173, 181, 188, 194

    Radius

    22

    Guide-year

    2018

    Product-collection

    The Best Skis for the Backcountry

    Product-type

    skis

  • 4FRNT

    Col

    $675.00

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    Manufacturer's Description

    Every run I took on the 4FRNT Col, I pointed the first pitch and then I stood on the outside ski with all the pressure I have in my 5-foot-9-inch, 190-pound frame. I was blown away by how well the Col responded, even on a shorter size than I normally ski (a 181, whereas I usually prefer a 188 or 190).

    That 4FRNT built this ski as part of its Uptrack series intended for backcountry touring surprised me even more. The Col is quite at home descending big mountain terrain. The 4FRNT Col has a clean, understated graphic and is constructed using semi-cap construction with a poplar and paulownia wood core. The construction lends a damp feel and torsional stiffness for any speed.

    The ski has a slight rocker tip with a tapered tail that seemed slightly drawn out, and a traditional camber underfoot. It skied quietly and felt stable at high speeds. I played around with the size of my turns, from big super Gs to quick slalom arcs, and the ski responded to my every whim.

    On my last run, I dropped into a mogul field. This ski surprised me again. Despite a 25-meter turn radius and 110-millimeters underfoot, I could rip the bumps. The Col quick edge to edge and had the feel of an old school bump ski. For a versatile ski with a large turning radius that can access diverse terrain inbounds and beyond, look to the 4FRNT Col. —Dave Stergar

    Guide-type

    Hardgoods

    Brand Name

    4FRNT

    Brand Website Click Here
    Skiers Choice

    No

    Dimensions

    126-110-121

    Lengths

    174, 181, 188

    Radius

    25

    Guide-year

    2018

    Product-collection

    The Best Skis for the Backcountry

    Product-type

    skis

  • Icelantic

    Nomad 105 LITE

    $749.00

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    Manufacturer's Description

    The Nomad 105 was already my favorite ski from Icelantic because of its shape and rocker profile. New this year, Icelantic trimmed the fat on their most popular freeride ski, building the Nomade LITE to suit the uphill market.

    Over the years, I have really started to prefer lighter and lighter ski equipment, whether it’s the skis, boots, bindings, or the beer. (OK, maybe that last one was a little too far for my Double IPA homeland, Vermont!) In all honesty, lightweight ski equipment allows your body to attack the hill harder and longer, and that is always a plus.

    By using an Ochroma core, more commonly known as Balsa, a very lightweight wood, the Nomad LITE drops 30 percent of the weight compared to the straight-up Nomad 105. I appreciated the lightness, especially when conditions got deep. The ski was easy to navigate and manage, even in the 191-centimeter size. The 105-millimeter waist keeps the ski versatile. It can be an all-mountain fun tool or a straight park stick. It has a decent amount of rocker in the tip and tail connected by just a touch of camber underfoot, a profile that allows the Nomad LITE to swivel and slarve around the mountain like it’s a playground.

    I only found a few negatives. Just 2 millimeters of camber make the LITE less snappy out of a turn. The softer core is not great for big skiers in chunky or firm conditions and makes the ski a little chattery.

    Overall, the new Nomad LITE is for the person who wants to escape the crowds. That’s an enviable mission, as is Icelantic’s commitment to make all their skis in the USA, and their three-year warranty that’s supported by their bombproof construction. For the fun havers that like to slide around on the mountain, give the Nomad LITE a spin. —Ryan Rubino

    Guide-type

    Hardgoods

    Brand Name

    Icelantic

    Brand Website Click Here
    Skiers Choice

    No

    Dimensions

    140-105-130

    Lengths

    161, 171, 181, 191

    Radius

    19

    Guide-year

    2018

    Product-collection

    The Best Skis for the Backcountry

    Product-type

    skis

  • FACTION

    Prime 3.0

    $1,289.00

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    Manufacturer's Description

    A balsa/flax core with a layer of carbon and Titanal underfoot, the Faction Prime 3.0 is a stiff high-altitude tool that weighs less than 2000 grams per ski. The Prime 3.0 is Swiss mountain guide and skier Sam Anthamatten’s design.

    Anthamatten grew up under the shadow of the Matterhorn in Zermatt and spends his days touring the highest peaks in the world. So it makes sense that his ski of choice is one the Powder Union called a “beast.‰” Union skier Wally Phillips took the Prime straight into the Big Couloir, the most visible line at Big Sky that drops steeply for 800 vertical feet. It’s a beautiful, steep, rock-walled lined shot that has reliably chalky snow. “It completely excelled due to an easy pivot with a damp but predictable turn and feel,‰” said Phillips. “Add some good float with no edge catch and you have one of the better big mountain skis.‰”

    Capable drivers are required, however. The tail is stiff, meaning any backseat driving will send you off track. As such, the Union would not recommend this ski to an intermediate skier who needs a big sweet spot to get down the mountain. For those who charge, though, the Prime is ready to ride. —Julie Brown

    Guide-type

    Hardgoods

    Brand Name

    FACTION

    Brand Website Click Here
    Skiers Choice

    No

    Dimensions

    133-108-123

    Lengths

    170, 177, 182, 189

    Radius

    23

    Guide-year

    2018

    Product-collection

    The Best Skis for the Backcountry

    Product-type

    skis

  • LA SPORTIVA

    Vapor Nano

    $1,299.00

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    Manufacturer's Description

    Throw your Spandex or lightweight outerwear on and get ready to go for long walks in the mountains with the La Sportiva Vapor Nano. If you are looking for a very lightweight ski for the uphill that can still provide a higher level of performance on the downhill, the Vapor Nano is an excellent option.

    The core of the ski is a Kevlar weave composite that is layered with carbon nanotubes, so there is no question of whether or not its lightweight. In fact, it will shock you when you pick it up. To help make it more fun for the downhill, La Sportiva has given the ski a little bit of a rounder tail than previous models, which definitely makes turning smoother and not as uphill speed driven. The Vapor Nano also has a very tapered tip to allow for smooth gliding through the snow, which effectively helps you out on both the uphill as well as the down. You may find that this taper comes back a bit too far when you are skiing down some steeper and more technical terrain, but it is something that is easy enough to adapt to.

    When buying this ski, obviously keep in mind that it is intended for the backcountry. It can hold an edge on groomers (surprisingly well actually), but it is not made to be there. One suggestion that could help the ski perform even better for the downhill: mount your bindings a centimeter or two forward of the recommended mount point. This will reduce the overall length of the tip and give you a little more tail to surf your turns more, making you feel more balanced.

    I would absolutely recommend this ski, especially the 190-centimeter version, to a strong skier who is very concerned about weight when it comes to touring, but still wants to enjoy themselves when skiing down. Get out there and log some serious vert. —Dane Weister

    Guide-type

    Hardgoods

    Brand Name

    LA SPORTIVA

    Brand Website Click Here
    Skiers Choice

    No

    Dimensions

    130-105-120

    Lengths

    168, 179, 190

    Radius

    24

    Guide-year

    2018

    Product-collection

    The Best Skis for the Backcountry

    Product-type

    skis