The shoulder season is well upon us. It gets cold at night and the occasional storm passes and dusts the upper elevations of the Wasatch with a few inches of snow–just to tease us. While some have actually had the legs to hike for early-season turns, I’m waiting for the snow level to lower to the point where I don’t have to perform the hike/skin combo. So, I’m biding my time and drooling over a few new skis for this season that look like great backcountry tools.
While they do make a fatter skis in their Backside category (K2 DarkSide), the SideStash seems to have an excellent combination of sidecut, girth, lightweight and yes, indeed… a rockered tip. It appears this ski could flourish at a myriad of Western resorts that pile it high and deep, but it’s also built with backcountry-friendly features as well. A flat tail offers utility in the backcountry and is definitely welcomed in my book. This ski has more awards on the shelf than should be possible: Outside, Skiing and Powder all dig it. Visit K2Skis.com.
Performance: Soft Snow 80% Variable Snow 20%
Lengths: 174, 181, 188
Radius: [email protected]
Construction: Hybritech Sidewall Metal Laminate
Weight (pair): 4100g@ 174
A rockered tip and tail, the all-new Maestro was my companion on a great, but bitterly-cold powder day at Alta last year. I was amazed at the float and versatility these skis provided–so much so that I’ll have a pair at my disposal this year and will bring you my detailed thoughts on this ski. I’m interested to see how well these tour with the rockered tip/tail, but we’ll see. Visit BluehouseSkis.com.
Performance: Big mountain
Construction: Torsion Box Sidewall
Core: High density Stabilite™ wood
Weight (pair): 4600g
MSRP: $749 ($374.50 right now)
Black Diamond Justice
Billed as the “everyman” version of the much-heralded Megawatt, the Justice is more of an all-mountain cut with BD’s signature rockered tip. It should prove to be more versatile than the Mega with 115mm underfoot and a little bit more sidecut yet still essentially a flat-camber ski for smooth soft-snow performance. Me likie and so does Outside Mag who awarded it “Gear of the Year”. Still may not be the best option for tree skiing though. Visit BlackDiamondEquipment.com.
Performance: Powder / All-mountain
Dimensions: 140-115-125 (185 cm) or 138-111-123 (175 cm)
Lengths: 175 or 185
Radius: 33.0 m (185 cm) or 31.0 (175 cm)
Construction: Formula One / Double Torsion Box
Core: CNC’d Poplar wood core
Weight: 4300g (185 cm) or 4100g (175 cm)
Not nearly as fat as the others on this list, but lightweight and versatile are both excellent attributes for a fine backcountry ski. The Nanuq is built from the original Mantra mold, but lightened up for efficiency. 95mm waist isn’t skinny, but it’s not burgeoning either. Combine all that with classic Volkl edge-grip and sheer power, the Nanuq might be the perfect “one ski quiver” for in and out of the resort. Visit Volkl.com.
Performance: Versatile Backcountry With Frontcountry Prowess
Lengths: 163, 170, 177, 184
Radius: 21.0 @184
Construction: Traditional Power Construction
Core: Sensorwood Core Light
Weight: 4003 g (184)
Surface Live Life
A small Utah company with a ton of style and a slew of innovative ski designs–Surface Skis re-designed the Live Life for this season by adding a few centimeters to the length and refining the early-rise tip. This ski looks great on paper and I hope to give it a whirl on the slopes this year when it’s high and deep. Definitely the best bargain of the bunch. Visit SurfaceSkis.com.
Lengths: 181, 191
Radius: 20.5m @181
Construction: Traditional w/ABS Sidewall
Core: Maple/Poplar wood core
Weight: 4445g @181