For many die-hard skiers, the backcountry is a welcome escape from everyday life. The skis we’re featuring here are FREESKIER-approv
For many die-hard skiers, the backcountry is a welcome escape from everyday life. The skis we’re featuring here are FREESKIER-approved to get you there and back. If you’re a backcountry aficionado, we trust you’ll find the the best backcountry skis. If this winter will be your first time venturing into the backcountry, we’ve got the right skis for you, too.
Much like its freewheeling designer Sammy Carlson, the Whitewalker is comfortable schralping the deep going backwards, forwards or sideways. Built with Armada’s lightweight Caruba Wood Core, the heavily rockered, pin-shaped tip and tail keep the swing weight low and the vibes high. The symmetrical flex pattern begs to be buttered, while just the right amount of carbon in the core construction provides pop when you want it. Armada even went one step further to incorporate the “Smear Tech” base, a three-dimensional bevel in the tip and tail, to ensure you don’t get caught up in the deep-deep. This floaty surf machine should be at the top of your list when the tide is high.
Scott Superguide 95 Women’s
Adaptability is often the name of the game in the backcountry. The extra-versatile Superguide 95 Women’s Ski from Scott features a paulownia and beech core beefed up with a unique blend of carbon and Aramid stringers to give you a boost in confidence when you’re opening up the throttle on fast descents. A touring-specific, three-dimensional sidecut, and a flat, tapered tail keeps the ski agile and precise, no matter the turn shape. The vibration-dampening tip smooths out rough snow, but the ski stiffens underfoot to provide lots of edge hold when you need it most. In a package that is light enough for peak-bagging missions and long hut trips, the Superguide 95 will handle any adventure you throw at it.
Known for ripping downhill performance, Kästle lives up to its race heritage with the TX103. A carbon/fiberglass wrapped poplar-paulownia core keeps the ski quiet on the snow and gives you the power to charge down the burliest lines with the confidence of a four-year-old in a Batman cape. Balanced and precise on firm terrain, the TX103 will make you feel at home in steep, techy zones. The early rise in the tip and tail makes the ski easy to turn over without sacrificing edge hold or engagement. Kästle also added a “luminous” feature—charged via UV light or headlamp—to its signature Hollowtech 3.0 tip for increased visibility on full moon laps.
4FRNT Raven w/ Tour Lock
Direct from the lab of mad-scientist Eric “Hoji” Hjorleifson, the Raven is designed to maximize uphill efficiency while still giving you a ripping ride on the way down. Built with the innovative Tour Lock System, this collab with Pomoca features a shorter-length version of the amazing Free Pro 2.0 skins that clip into the lovingly named “Hoji Hole,” a cutout 20 cm from the tail of the ski, making for fast transitions and eliminating tail clip failure. The Raven’s unique Reflect Tech rocker profile makes quick work of breaking trail and allows the ski to pivot effortlessly in tight trees and steeps. When the terrain opens up, lay these babies over and the deceptively long turn radius that matches up with the reverse camber will take you to Trench Town.
Atomic Backland 107
Atomic continues to push the weight versus performance boundary of its backcountry skis with the Backland 107. Utilizing some of the Austrian brand’s tried-and-true weight-saving construction features, including a lightweight poplar-beech core and carbon stringers, the Backland is primed for long days on the skin track. Patented HRZN Tech tips eat up tough terrain and mixed snow while adding a touch of float to the package, too. Add the stiffer and flatter backend into the mix, and you’ll be charging down big lines, no problemo. But don’t worry, the tight turn radius and tapered tail will let you shut things down quickly. Weighing into the featherweight category—sub-1600 g/ski—the Backland 107 is a true backcountry quiver killer.
Black Diamond Helio Carbon 104
Long haul missions in the mountains require gear that is equally capable of going the distance. Black Diamond knew this when it teamed up with the expert craftsmen at Blizzard’s factory in Mittersill, Austria, to bring the Helio Carbon to life. Starting with an ultralight paulownia wood core, the ski features a pre-preg carbon layup and full perimeter ABS sidewalls that dampens the ride when conditions are less than ideal. Increased torsional rigidity and a longer effective edge give you plenty of hold, but the early rise tip and taper in the tail (with a pre-cut tail notch) allows you to slash your turns when the powder is deep. The only question left is: Can your ski partner keep up on the booter?
DPS Pagoda Tour 106 C2
Not all carbon is the same and no one knows this better than DPS lead engineer Peter Turner. When not designing PPE for First Responders, Turner continues to push the envelope on how skis are constructed. The new Pagoda Tour series centers around an innovative core that utilizes an aerospace grade foam, along with paulownia and ash. This core is sandwiched by two sheets of DPS’ new pre-preg carbon laminate to provide remarkable performance at a flyweight. The Pagoda Tour 106 is built with a sportier profile than the well-known Wailer, giving featuring more effective edge, a longer turn radius and a flatter tail; this translates to a responsive ride that is as comfortable on early morning bulletproof as it is in deeper snow.
Elan Ripstick 106
While not the lightest choice for a pure touring ski, the Ripstick 106 punches in well above its weight class making it an ideal 50/50 resort-backcountry quiver of one. Loaded with more tech than a Space-X rocket, the patented Tubelite wood core is reinforced with full length carbon rods and ABS sidewalls for seamless power transmission. Pair this with Elan’s unique asymmetrical Amphibio rocker profile, and you get an easy turning ski that rails when you lay it over. The large shovel at the tip gives the ski lots of float in deep snow and chop, while the round flex pattern and energetic tails provide a responsive feel. Put all this together and the Ripstick 106 will have you charging down the mountain no matter what terrain appears below.
Dynastar M-Tour 99
The idea for the M-Tour was simple—to avoid the twitchy, nervous feel that plague so many backcountry-focused skis and create something more akin to its alpine-specific counterparts. Utilizing its factory on the backside of Mont Blanc, Dynastar tested and developed the M-Tour 99 in the big-mountain mecca of Chamonix and around the greater French Alps… Read the full review in our Deep Dive into the M-Tour 99.
With a weight of 1700 g/ski, the SLAYr feels noticeably lighter on the uphill than most planks this wide, which means you can earn more turns when the snow is deep. G3 keeps the weight down by utilizing a balsa wood core sandwiched between two layers of carbon. The wood grain in the core is laid up in an alternating 45 degree offset, creating a unique X-shaped pattern that provides an impressive strength-to-weight ratio. To live up to its 1980s head-banging namesake, a sheet of titanal is added underfoot for binding retention and additional power. Generous tip rocker combined with a round flex pattern gives the ski easy engagement in mixed snow and tons of float, and will likely have you yearning for another lap.
Faction Agent 4.0 POW Collab
Faction sees the writing on the wall The Verbier, Switzerland-based brand recognizes that global temperatures are climbing at potentially disastrous rates, likely having a significant impact on skiing if the global industry doesn’t change its behavior. With that in-mind, Faction launched a project in 2019 to increase its offering of eco-conscious materials and products… Read the full review in our Deep Dive into the Agent 4.0 POW Collab.
Fischer Hannibal 96 Carbon
You gotta get up to get down. No one knows this better than the engineers at Fischer. Drawing on years of podium-level downhill performance, the Hannibal 96 was built to be equally adept on the descent as it is on the climb. At a nearly anemic 1300 g/ski, it is ideal for long couloir climbs and spring corn harvests. The carbon reinforced paulownia core provides plenty of stiffness and confidence on firm snow, while the versatile rocker profile will let you drive the skis easily in cruddy conditions. The Fisher-branded Kohla skins (sold separately) slot easily into the custom tip to make for easy transitions, so you won’t waste time once you’re at the top.
Icelantic Natural 101
Icelantic made big news last spring by becoming Certified Climate Neutral. For the Natural 101, the Colorado-based brand turned to an eco-friendly flax fiber and sustainably sourced balsa wood to comprise the core. This lightweight combination gives the Natural plenty of pop and a smooth ride in choppy and mixed snow conditions, and won’t tire out your legs if there’s more to plunder. Significant rocker up front provides plenty of float while the tapered tip and tail gives the ski great maneuverability in tight trees. Backed by Icelantic’s Bombproof three-year warranty, Natural 101 is built with full thickness edges, bases and sidewalls, which means you don’t have to worry about sharks lurking in the deep. this is a precisely built, Austrian touring machine.
J skis The Slacker
Playfully named “The Slacker,” this is the first backcountry brainchild from Jason Levinthal. The self-proclaimed “least nerdy touring ski in the world” is built with a lightweight aspen wood core, and reinforced with maple and carbon stringers to add extra pop and plenty of dampening for a beautifully balanced feel on the ride down. With a deep tip rocker and a supple flex, the Slacker will have you surfing through the deep like Mick Fanning rides Pipeline. All this at a weight that will have you beating your lazy buddies to the top of the skin track. Just leave the spandex at home, would ya?
Rossignol BlackOps Rallybird Women’s
Who said the boys get to have all the cool gear? Rossignol gives it up for the girls with this mid-waisted everyday touring machine. Here, a full paulownia wood core is reinforced with fiberglass while Damp Tech inserts in the tips produce an impressively smooth ride. A twin tip-esque rocker profile keeps the Rallybird playful, and the balanced flex ensures a relaxed ride when you want it but a confident one when you need it. Air Tip inserts lighten the load and reduces swing weight making the ski nimble and quick in the air, too. With just the right amount of pop, we won’t blame you for getting too sendy.
Scott Superguide Freetour
What’s the point in a hard-earned summit when you can’t rip the down? Scott’s Superguide Freetour is light and agile on the way up but compromises nothing on the descent. It’s the ski pro rider Sam Cohen uses 90 percent of his inbounds days, especially when he’s sending rowdy lines off Alta’s Wildcat chair. He’s been with Scott for seven years and says this ski is his favorite so far… Read the full review in our Deep Dive into the Superguide Freetour.
Völkl Rise Beyond 96
To create a lightweight touring ski with a lively and playful flex profile, Völkl went back to skiing’s roots and ditched the fancy carbon and next-gen foams. Instead, the Tourlite Hybrid wood core in the Rise Beyond 96 relies on a combination of beech and poplar stringers to stiffen the lightweight paulownia core. The end result is a remarkably lightweight ski that is a reliable partner on long ascents. The 3D Radius Sidecut allows for easy variation of turn shape whether you are picking your way through a tight chute or opening it up down a powdery bowl. It also features Völkl’s new Smart Skinclip system, which allows you to pull the skin off from either the tip or the tail, depending on your preference.
WNDR Alpine Reason 120
Matt Sterbenz made waves throughout the industry when he launched eco-focused WNDR Alpine in 2019. To help achieve a company goal of being 100 percent Climate Neutral, WNDR utilizes a liquid casted bio-based polyurethane sidewall that provides increased durability and dampening when compared to traditional ABS/petroleum based plastics. The widest (and newest) addition to its line up, the Reason 120 is a playful ski with ample suspension. With a burly construction and responsive shape, it excels in chop and charges effortlessly through deep snow. Like the rest of WNDR’s unique lineup, it is available in both a traditional rocker-camber-rocker and full reverse camber profiles, depending on the buyer’s preference.