Backcountry Skis

Archive

GEAR OF THE YEAR “You can never have a bad day on the Coomback,” said one tester of the most adored ski in this year’s test. Returning with refined tip rocker—which allows the ski to plane, surf, and smear in powder without giving up control on hardpack—the Coomback was lauded…

Good for Alpine Touring All-around mid-fat dimensions make the Shazam our favorite go-to gun for resort-based adventures—it's just plump enough to keep afloat in a foot of powder. On firmer snow, testers found that the wood core provided dampness and torsional rigidity for quick, edge-to-edge responsiveness. 120/90/113, 6.8 lbs;…

All Mountain From a man who skied it all, a ski that does it all. The late C.R. Johnson spent years developing this ski, and testers found it a fitting legacy. It’s got full rocker at the tip for float, reverse sidecut for smearing, scrubbing, and changing direction, and just…

Designed by pro freeskier Alison Gannett, this lightweight twin-tipped big-mountain ski satisfied even our most aggressive testers. 134/100/125, 7.2 lbs; karhu.com      …

Alpine Touring The Starlet lived up to its name and was the center of many testers’ attention. “It’s superlight, but surfy and incredibly fun in pow and snappy on groomers,” said one. It’s also touring-friendly, with an aluminum skin clip and flat tail. 134/100/121, 6.2 lbs. TAGS: all mountain…

Good for Telemark With the same cut and rockered tip as the Coomback, the Gotback was our favorite all-mountain tele-ski. But if you ski mostly groomers, you might want something with more edge grip: Although testers loved the way the early-rise tip plowed effortlessly over crud, some wished it…

Fast and Light Designed to tackle the steepest Wasatch skin tracks and the deepest Utah powder, the three-year-old Switchback is still the lightest and least expensive free-pivot tele binding around. Testers gave props for its icing-resistant toe piece and its easy-to-operate, spring-loaded mode switch. “It’s not for driving big sidecountry…

All Mountain Aptly named for the exposed adjustable pivot beneath the toe, the Axl is a free-pivot touring binding like its forebear, the legendary Hammerhead. Testers found that the underfoot pistons, sleek cable routing, and heel throw provided more downhill chops than any similar binding on the hill. And unlike…

All skis this plump are a blast in powder, but the Goliath won our Gear of the Year award for its performance on firmer snow. During test conditions that ranged from teeth-rattling hardpack to boot-deep powder to crusty leftovers, the Goliath simply outperformed every other ski in its class. The…

Telemark This Colorado-made wood-core ski has traditional camber, making it extremely poppy and carvy in tight quarters, yet it’s easily “disengaged” due to its tapered tail. Loves floating in powder and chopped-up crud but lacks punch and bite on firmer snow. 160/110/130, 8.1 lbs. TAGS: powder, playful…

Call it whatever you want—sidecountry, slackcountry, or frontcountry. But as the line between resort and backcountry continues to blur, the differences are obvious: Where we're skiing is changing, and so is the gear we're using. And just as our favorite alpine ski—the aptly named SideStash —is equally adept on both…

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.

Fast and Light A standout as one of the most versatile skis in the test, this city kid is really a country boy. Testers found the slightly rockered, variable-sidecut Manhattan quick and snappy in tight trees but at its best with a good head of steam. “Turn it to 11…

Good for Big Mountain This year's Ravyn received a facelift (new graphics) but otherwise returns unchanged. It remains relatively light for its footprint but still impressed testers with its damp feel and edge-to-edge prowess. “The harder the Ravyn is pushed, the easier it is to ski,” said one tester.

TELEMARK Good for All Mountain With the same footprint as Doug Coombs's original namesake ski, the new Coomback features a low-rise rockered tip for better flotation. “Nimble, agile, lightweight, and able to handle heavy pow with ease,” said one Alta-based tester. With tip and tail holes for K2's new…

Built on the same chassis as Völkl's bestselling alpine ski, the Mantra, the M Rock is lighter (there's no metal in it), and its wood/PU core makes it slightly less forgiving—and more fun—in powder. 133/94/113, 7.8 lbs; volkl.com   Bonus: Hands-down the best resort AT ski we tested. “I'd put…

Big Mountain With the surface area of an aircraft carrier, aggressive rocker forward of the boot, and traditional camber underfoot and in the tail, the DarkSide dominates deep powder. “Scary fast and maneuverable in the fluff,” said one Utah tester. The stiff, flat tail provides a solid platform for…

Good for Big Mountain The Zealot is unchanged for this year; it's still big and brown. More important—thanks to its snappy wood core and strategically placed rubber woven into the tip, tail, underfoot, and along the edges—it's better at holding an edge on firm snow than almost any other…

ALPINE TOURING Good for All Mountain The ZenOxide owes its lightness to a Paulownia-poplar core and its edge-to-edge quickness and control to its round flex pattern. Capped construction at the tip and tail make for high-torsional rigidity at speed, while the laminate build underfoot maintains the ski's solid and…

From ripping the steeps at Silverton to carving groomers at Loveland, these twin tips were the ultimate hero skis. Their wood core makes them feel indestructibly stiff while bombing descents, yet their lightweight construction means they climb easily too. 128/98/121, 8.4 lbs; rossignol.com   Bonus: Super stable in crud.  …

Big Mountain The Freeride has been the go-to AT binding for years. Why? It’s an all-around performance-driven binding that accepts alpine and AT boots. Switching between ski and walk mode, as well as adjusting the heel riser, happens with the flick of a pole. Taking a cue from its little…

Good for All Mountain The Anti Piste has the exact same dimensions as K2's popular Coomba but with a bit of rocker in the tip. You can tell. Testers loved the way the subtle tweak to the shape allowed them to smear turns in a flash but noted…

TELEMARK Good for All Mountain With the same dimensions as Rossi's S7 Barras alpine ski, the Mancini has a traditional camber and shape but adds a mega-wide rockered tip for float and a narrower pintail for scrubbing turns. The result is a ski that's equally adept at abrupt direction…

Liked last year's Mt. Baker? These are the same, only lighter. By using thinner steel, K2 shaved off almost a pound per ski, which testers noticed on the way up: “I felt like I could run in them,” said one. 120/88/108, 6.5 lbs; k2alpineterrain.com   Bonus: In all other conditions—especially…

All Mountain “Gobs of power and stability and no speed limit,” said one tester. The rockered Alias floats through powder like a much larger ski and cuts through crud like a GS racer, with just enough camber in the aspen-and-poplar core for snappy rebounds. Warning: This ski is not for…

Good for All Mountain Don't let the new costume fool you. El Hombre's guts are unchanged, and he still controls all corners of the ring–er, mountain. “It has good western all-mountain dimensions,” said one tester, “and enough shape and torsional stiffness to rail on variable snow.” It can be…

ALPINE TOURING Good for All Mountain Reengineered for 2010 with an early-rise, rockered tip that sucks up crud, the Overlord wowed testers with its take-no-prisoners, high-speed onslaught through choppy conditions. “The rocker, width, and length absorb every bump on the mountain,” reported one tester. Meanwhile, the squared-off pintail allows…

At a pound less than Karhu's in-bounds version, the Jak BC is a featherweight climber made with carbon components and the new environmentally friendly Greenlight Core, which is made of sustainably harvested Chinese wood. 124/90/113, 7.1 lbs; karhu.com   Bonus: Lots of pop for such a light ski.   Bummer:…

All Mountain A few years ago, Marker wowed side-country fans with the burliest (and heaviest) AT binding in history, the Duke. And two years ago the company came out with a lighter version, the Baron. The weight-loss trend continues with the Tour F10 and F12, which both come in at…

There's the gear you want, and there's the gear you need. After much internal debate, we present the 25 products every guy should own.

1. Most frontside skis are too precise and exhausting for freeskiing. Not the pared-down CX 80, which does away with heavy add-ons like complex binding plates for a more responsive feel. It’s ten millimeters fatter than most, but its World Cup­–inspired…

The 37-year-old Victor, Idaho, resident spends over 100 days a year in the field, often chasing the world's best skiers around in snowy ranges from Bolivia to Morocco. Here's what he usually takes along.

In the Store: If you’re buying just one pair of skis (and not building a quiver), look for a set that matches your style of skiing and the terrain you frequent 70 percent of the time. And don’t be afraid to upgrade: Buy skis slightly above…

Hint: It's not the toboggan.

The year's six best new skis

In the Store: Know where, what, and how you’re skiing, and make sure the shop guy knows. And don’t be swayed by brand name or graphics. If possible, demo a few different pairs and go with whatever works. Guys: Don’t lie about your ability. If you’re an intermediate skier,…

The best skis and boards for gliding up and carving down