Freedom of the Hills

Black Diamond Verdict

Black Diamond Verdict     Photo: Photo by Mark Wiens

Of course you can ride the lifts with these skis, but the raison d'être of alpine touring and telemark setups is their ability to go up. We assembled the best new hardware into ideal setups for different pursuits. You'll find our favorite picks for utmost versatility in All Mountain, the lightest gear in Touring, and the widest skis and stiffest boots in Big Mountain. Or, if you just need new boards, consider Black Diamond's do-it-all Verdict, favored by both our alpine-touring and telemark testers.

Black Diamond Verdict (132/102/118, 8.8 lbs) $599 bdel.com

1. Black Diamond rolled out an impressive 11 new models this year. But our tele and alpine testers agreed: Of all the new skis we reviewed, the redesigned Verdict was the most versatile, wide enough for the deepest days and stable on hardpack yet still lightweight enough for touring.

2. Whereas previous iterations of the Verdict had an acrylic foam core, this year's model is constructed from solid poplar, which gives the ski a much damper feel. "It's much smoother overall," said one tester. "Less chattery on hardpack and busts through crud even better."

3. At 102 millimeters underfoot, the Verdicts are a blast on any type of soft snow. But unlike most skis with this much girth, they don't flop around on the hard stuff. On a bone-rattlingly firm day at Snowbird, the Verdict held its edge as well as boards with much narrower waists.

4. From Wyoming's backcountry to Colorado's sidecountry leftovers to Utah's champagne fresh, the Verdict was a constant companion. The reason: Black Diamond's Formula One technology, a sculpted design that saves weight by concentrating the ski's mass at the edges.

5. Even the graphics were carefully thought out. When you're slogging up a skin track, Black Diamond figured wild graphics would be distracting. So they concentrated all the surprisingly cool artwork on the tail of the ski. Like a mullet, "business up front,party in the back."

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