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
How’re you going to find th time to ski all of those Jason?
I may need some assistance… is that what you’re getting at? 🙂 I should actually have all of these, except maybe the K2’s in the quiver this season. We’ll see how it goes.
Yes – you should come to Whistler where I’ll host you, break trail for you and show you some bluebird pow runs (ask Kendall – it’s all true) and you can test these to heart’s content
I know full-well the amazing terrain you’ve got at your fingertips. Great stuff for sure. I do need to hit Whistler… haven’t been in 10 years (shaking head).
Nice writeup. I gotta say, there are so many skis on the market that kill it now a days, it really up to the rider to choose one and enjoy. However, a MUST HAVE for the backcountry setup is the rocker / early rise. With this, I think you are much better off in the BC cause you can run into many different conditions and slay them all a little easier. I think it makes the experience that much better.
ROCKER. GET SOME!
I haven’t built up a touring setup with a rockered ski as yet, but should have a few to ski this year. I’ve heard that breaking trail is sublime with the rocker and obviously they plow through anything. Lots of great skis this year!
I would suggest checking out the Liberty Helix. Its a zero-camber, early rise twin tip which floats amazingly, carves like its on rails (65 MPH according to the GPS at Solitude last year) and is super light due to its bamboo core. My 187s (Marker Baron bindings) are way lighter than my wife 176 Kiku’s (same binding) and my 2nd pair mounted with BD01 bindings is seriously a featherweight. This ski might truly be the single-quiver solution for the Wasatch, both for resort and touring. Just my $.02
Thanks for mentioning the Helix… also looks like a great ski. 65mph on groomers with a fat, rockered ski? WOW!
’tis the season to drool.
a new documentary ski film.
Yo Swift! The film is sweet indeed! Not sure about drool-inducing, but sicko film about the Jackson Hole Air Force. Thanks for hijacking the comment thread! Since it’s a killer film, I’m letting the comment stand. Pray for snow!
Thanks for the props. As far as skis go, I always look to the waist: seems like 120mm is the new 115mm is the new 105mm is the new 95mm is the new 90mm… eh? There’s always a trendy look to the waist each year, like girls and and the way they wear their jeans…(remember the high-waist jeans from the ’80s? yeah.)
Surfing is fun.