Evolution is a good thing. Just ask the human race. Or Ice Cube’s career. The same methodology holds true for Icelantic’s Pioneer line. After the success of its Pioneer 96, the Colorado-made brand introduced the next episode with its Pioneer 109, a ski designed to tickle the sweet spot between powder and piste.
Replacing the more directional Shaman in Icelantic’s lineup, the Pioneer 109 takes the float from its predecessor and the lively poplar core from its namesake, the Pioneer 96. Despite a larger waist than the 96, the 109 is built with the same aggressive sidecut, so expect to turn ’em, not slide ’em.
With conditions favoring hard-pack moguls at Big Sky, the twin-tip Pioneer 109 stood up to a steady workout of tight, precise turns. Its 19-meter turn radius is better than most in its width-class, and the 7 (count ’em) millimeters of camber, had me confident bouncing in and out of trees and bumps. Arguably, a little too confident, and with a 144-millimeter-wide shovel, the Pioneer 109 started to feel a little bit hooky, forcing me to pump the brakes a few times to keep from getting caught and going fall line ass backwards.
Despite catching up a bit in the tighter terrain, this same shovel tip design and tip-and-tail rocker eats softer snow for breakfast, brunch, and dinner. Coupled with the dampness of the poplar core, this shape provides versatility in high alpine terrain, where powder can give way to windswept ice over the next rollover. Even though Icelantic continues to grow year after year, the brand stays true to its “made in America” roots, manufacturing just outside of Denver and offering one of the best warranties in skiing. It also manages to keep its prices affordable. That’s a win-win. —Kade Krichko