Review: 2024 Elan Wildcat 86 C Black Edition
No other women’s frontside ski comes close to the Wildcat’s carving chops
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This article was first published by SkiMag.com.
At a Glance
- Brand: Elan
- Model: Wildcat 86 C Black Edition
- Overall Ranking: #1
- Overall Score: 9.31/10
- Strengths: Carving, Responsiveness
- Weaknesses: Crud Performance, Forgiveness
- Gender: Women’s
- Level: Advanced, Expert
- Tip/Waist/Tail (mm): 127-86-113
- Lengths (cm): 152, 158, 164, 170
- Radius (m): 14.7 (164 cm)
- Waist Width (mm): 86
- Weight (per ski in grams): 2,955 (164)
- Stability at Speed: 9.4/10
- Quickness/Maneuverability: 9.2/10
- Playfulness: 9.4/10
- Forgiveness: 8.8/10
- Hard Snow Performance: 9.2/10
- Crud Performance: 8.8/10
- Versatility: 9/10
- Responsiveness: 9.6/10
- Carving: 9.8/10
A frontside friend with benefits, the Elan Wildcat 86 C Black Edition earned the highest marks of all frontside skis for almost every trait, including near–perfect tens for Carving and Responsiveness. The Black Edition adds a higher level of performance to the Wildcat line, and testers appreciated its combination of characteristics that allow for aggressive skiing—without needing Mikaela Shiffrin’s thighs or precision. “I was blown away by this ski’s versatility for different abilities as well as its stability on hardpack and ice,” said Avery Pesce, a New England native who tested the Elan at Sun Valley, Idaho. “Wait, there’s more: It swings effortlessly in the short turns with zero resistance, holds solid in GS turns with no tail skid, and has just the right amount of rebound in the bumps.”
It might be a trope to say that you need only think “turn” and the ski reacts, but with the Wildcat 86 C Black Edition, there’s some truth to that. One of the elements that lets the ski get on edge quickly is the asymmetrical Amphibio Truline W Technology. Yes, there’s a right and left ski, which you’ll need to identify before clicking into the bindings. The asymmetrical design comes from the addition of structure-building material up and down the full length of the inside ski edge in order to add power and stability in the turn. Less material on the outside helps with quickness edge to edge. The Wildcat 86 C Black Edition also has carbon added to the laminated wood core, designed to increase rebound energy and reduce weight. Testers appreciated the construction and profile, peppering it with adjectives such as “balanced,” “smooth,” “nimble,” and “energetic.” “It turns with ease and feels like a trusty old friend,” said Driggs, Idaho, local Michelle Nicholson. “It’s a wicked-fun ski that really runs from groomers to off-piste to the trees.”
If the Women’s Frontside category prizes do-it-all skis with waists hovering in the mid-80s, then the Wildcat 86 C Black Edition did not miss the mark. In fact, testers were hard-pressed to find shortcomings. Not much came to mind, except this observation by Tracy Gibbons, hardgoods buyer and Pacific Northwest skier: “If moguls are your jam, you might find this ski a bit of work.” (Makes sense, since moguls always take a bit of work.) Testers recommended the ski for intermediate on up to ex-racers who ski “all but powder,” noted Pesce, considering that an 86-millimeter waist wouldn’t be any powder enthusiast’s chosen width.
All in all, the Wildcat 86 C Black Edition defines the Women’s Frontside ski. Moderate tip rocker? Check. Camber underfoot, with flat tail? Check. Easy turning and edge grip? Check. It’s no wonder that it ranked No. 1 in the category this year. It can handle the days that start with soft snow on groomers and turn into crud in the afternoon. It can make those groomers interesting again for advanced skiers. It can even guide entry-level skiers into carving. Perhaps the best feature? It can provide rebound energy without needing muscle to make each turn. “It’s an awesome ski for anyone who wants to keep progressing their skiing, and who doesn’t want that?” asked East Coast skier Caitlin Kelly.