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.
What should I carry backcountry skiing?
Backcountry Ski Equipment
- Backcountry Skis. Whether you’re ascending freshly-cut skin track or blowing down the mountain through deep powder, you’ll need a good pair of planks on your feet. …
- Ski Bindings. …
- Climbing Skins. …
- Ski Helmet. …
- Hardshell or Ski Jacket. …
- Baselayers. …
- Down Jacket. …
Can I use my downhill skis for backcountry?
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Skis. Any downhill ski can theoretically be set up for use in the backcountry, but alpine touring skis designed specifically for backcountry use usually feature lighter weight designs that make hiking uphill drastically easier.
Can you use backcountry skis on groomed trails?
Touring skis can be used on groomed or ungroomed trails. They are also known as ?backcountry? skis because of how rugged they can be. Generally, these skis are longer, light in weight, and a little bit thicker in width to provide more stability to skiers who decide to take on ungroomed trails
What is a good weight for backcountry skis?
For everyday ski touring or ski mountaineering, I like to stay above 1400 grams for my skis. For me personally, 1500?1600 grams is a good target for a ski-mountaineering ski while a few hundred grams heavier tends to work well for mid-winter / powder touring
Best Backcountry (Touring) Skis of 2022 – Switchback Travel
Switchback Travel | Best Backcountry (Touring) Skis of 2022 Unlike their lift-assisted alpine cousins, backcountry skis have two jobs: getting you uphill efficiently while retaining enough power to make the downhill worth the effort (and fun). The good news is that material and construction technologies are growing rapidly with the recent boom in the sport’s popularity, and many of today’s alpine touring skis are impressively polished and a treat to drive. Below we break down our top backcountry skis for the 2022 season, which range from lightweight models for long tours and mountaineering to hybrid skis that can pull double duty on the skin track and at the resort. For more background information, see our backcountry ski buying advice and comparison table below the picks. To complete your set-up, see our articles on the best backcountry ski boots and backcountry ski bindings. Best Overall Backcountry Ski 1. Blizzard Zero G 105 ($800) Dimensions: 133-105-119mmWeight: 6 lbs. 12 oz.Widths: 85, 95, 105mmWhat we like: A versatile touring set-up that is efficient on the uphill and fun on the descent.What we don’t: Not the best ski for serious, big-mountain objectives. Blizzard’s Zero G collection has legions of fans, and the latest model is about as well-rounded as it gets. Tipping the scales at well under 7 pounds for the pair, the ski is light and easy to maneuver on the climbs but really comes to life when you point it downhill. With a multi-layer carbon build, it’s sturdy enough for variable conditions and decently high speeds, and there’s a surprising amount of forgiveness that makes it a reliable partner in unfamiliar terrain. Further, the Blizzard’s 105-millimeter width hits the sweet spot for season-long use on all but the deepest days. Who is the Zero G 105 best for? Anyone from newbies to dedicated backcountry enthusiasts should find a lot to like with the construction. That said, it does come up a little short in edge grip and isn’t as burly on the descent as the DPS options or the Black Crows Navis below. In addition, the ski’s wide 23-meter turn radius makes it a little trickier to manage in tight spots, although this certainly plays a role in its trustworthy and planted feel. In the end, there are more capable descenders on the market, but the Zero G’s combination of low weight and confidence-inspiring performance make it our top backcountry ski for the 2022 season.See the Blizzard Zero G 105 Best High-End Backcountry Ski 2. DPS Skis Pagoda Tour 106 C2 ($1,299) Dimensions: 137-106-121mmWeight: 6 lbs. 13 oz.Widths: 87, 94, 106mmWhat we like: Top-end craftsmanship and standout performance with few compromises.What we don’t: Too pricey for casual backcountry skiers. The backcountry ski market has exploded in recent years with a seemingly endless array of options, but for true powder hounds, DPS Skis stand out from the pack. The beautifully crafted Pagoda Tour 106 C2 puts together the brand’s strongest traits: the ski is decently lightweight for climbing at 6 pounds 13 ounces, has a great shape for smooth operation on the downhills, and boasts a premium construction that’s built to last. These skis are made for soft snow, but in the 106-millimeter waist (as well as the slimmer 94), they’re also surprisingly versatile. The Pagoda Tour’s price at well over $1,000 might make it a quiver of one by necessity, but this is a case where we think the performance and build quality justify the steep fee. The design is absolutely packed with high-end materials, including two horizontal layers of wood sandwiched between layers of carbon fiber (both unique concepts) that deftly balance power, dampness, and weight. We’ve chosen their C2 shape here for its well-rounded nature, but those who prefer a nimbler and even more playful ride should check out the RP variations (offered in 100 and 112mm widths, the latter of which we break down below). With either option, you’re getting a true standout performer.See the DPS Pagoda Tour 106 C2 Best Ultralight Backcountry Ski …
Best Backcountry Skis of 2022 | Tested by GearLab
Best Backcountry Skis of 2022Our Editors independently research, test, and rate the best products. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Learn more Best Overall Backcountry Skis Movement Alp Tracks 100 Weight 9.0 Firm Snow 6.0 Powder 8.0 Crud and Poor Snow 7.0 Stability at Speed 5.0 Weight: 1271 grams | Measured Dimensions: 131/100/118 mm REASONS TO BUYLightVersatileSolidly balanced downhill performanceREASONS TO AVOIDExpensiveHave a “speed limit” downhillThe Movement Alp Tracks 100 quickly rose to the top of our test roster. Mainly, it nails what we have long concluded is the sweet spot in backcountry ski gear. It balances uphill efficiency and downhill performance in a way that is ideal for the vast majority of human-powered skiers. If we had to pick one ski for all-season, all-conditions human-powered travels, this award winner would be the choice. 1271 grams for each ski is an excellent “weight point” to reach, as long as downhill performance is good. In the case of this Movement ski, the downhill performance is very well balanced. It does not excel in any one venue or condition, but it can do it all. We’ve long found that efficiency and downhill performance optimize around this weight point. Performance keeps improving at all weigh points but seems to be optimized against weight right around 12-1300 grams. You’ll pop in powder, edge confidently on the firm, and survive the tough stuff. At higher speeds, this ski is a little overwhelmed, but not as much as you might fear, given the gossamer weight. We’ve got a couple of full seasons now on the Alp Tracks, with no durability concerns yet. Nonetheless, it would be absurd to expect something in this weight class to hold up like something beefier. You don’t choose these for a decade of service or for huge cliff drops. Read review: Movement Alp Tracks 100 Daily powder touring, as conducted by the Teton ski guides on our test team, rewards light skis with just a little girth. The Movement Alp Tracks 100 is just right.Credit: Jediah Porter Also Best Overall Black Crows Camox Freebird Weight 6.0 Firm Snow 8.0 Powder 7.0 Crud and Poor Snow 8.0 Stability at Speed 7.0 Weight: 1510 grams| Measured Dimensions: 130/97/115 mm REASONS TO BUYForgiving in poor snowSolid at speedVersatile in powderREASONS TO AVOIDHeavier than direct competitionExpensiveThe Black Crows Camox Freebird took some time to grow on us. It also took expanding and further improving our test team to see its award winner status. We don’t rest, in any way, on the OGL backcountry ski gear test team. We first skied half a season on it and liked it. We kept it around for the first half of the next season and got it on even more and even more authoritative feet, and the conclusion became quite clear. This winner strikes all the right balances of downhill performance, versatility, and uphill weight. We granted the Camox a top award along with the Alp Tracks 100. In a direct comparison,…
2022 Alpine Touring Ski Comparison with SkiEssentials.com
The best backcountry skis of 2022 – Freeskier
The best backcountry skis of 2022 – FREESKIER 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. Armada Whitewalker 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. Kästle TX103 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…
The Best Backcountry Ski Gear of 2022 – TripSavvy
The Best Backcountry Ski Gear of 2022 We independently research, test, review, and recommend the best products—learn more about our process. If you buy something through our links, we may earn a commission. While backcountry skiing or “touring” is commonplace in Europe, it’s been slower to go mainstream in the United States where it’s been a pursuit of mostly diehard skiers. However, when the pandemic shut down ski resorts in the second half of the 2019-20 ski season, descent-hungry skiers flocked in droves to the backcountry in search of harder-earned turns. Sales of backcountry gear skyrocketed by 76 percent in October 2020 (ahead of the first full Covid-19 ski season) compared to the previous year, clearing out inventory. That winter, my local backcountry shops decided not to rent or demo gear and turned those items over to satisfy the demand coming from new backcountry skiers. Skiing in the backcountry compared to at a ski resort is akin to car camping at a campground instead of backpacking into a remote campsite—the general idea is the same but you need a little more preparation. Ethan Greene, director of the Colorado Avalanche Information Center, helps get avalanche forecasts to the public to help them safely recreate in the winter backcountry and says there are just a few big differences between resort and backcountry skiing to keep in mind. “At a ski area, the ski patrol is there to help with avalanches, rescue, and first-aid. In the backcountry, you need to take care of all of that yourself. It sounds like a lot, but it is really just part of the fun,” Greene says. That additional responsibility means additional gear and the list (and price tags) can seem intimidating at first. But once you have some core pieces in your kit, you can add to it as you grow your skills and figure out the gear that helps you stay out longer and have more fun skiing out of bounds. In that spirit, we present our top picks for all the gear you might need or want for your backcountry skiing gear list. The Rest of the Pack Best Baselayer Bottoms: BN3TH Men’s Classic Full-Length Pants at Moosejaw These thin, form-fitting leggings are meant to be worn without underwear which helps keep your lower half from getting overheated on the ascent, especially on warm spring tours. The MyPakage pouch helps prevent the chafing that can be common with the repetitive striding of uphill touring. The merino blend is also naturally odor-resistant. Best Baselayer Tops: Blackstrap Summit Top at Backcountry This synthetic top is my go-to for colder days because it’s a thicker, almost wetsuit-like material that fits snugly but still breathes well on the way up. The hood provides a nice windbreak when you push above treeline and the thumb holes help keep sleeves above the wrist. There’s a double layer in front to help keep your core insulated when wearing the Summit Top without a shell on the outside. Best Liner Gloves: Baffin Glove Liners at Amazon I love these snug-fitting, medium-weight liners because they’re warm enough to wear independently on the uphill on all but the coldest, overcast days. The snug fit helps keep them in place unlike flimsier liner gloves and makes it…
Essential Backcountry Ski Gear For 2022 – Skyblue Overland
Essential Backcountry Ski Gear For 2022 Skyblue Overland may earn a small commission from affiliate links in this article. Introduction to Backcountry Skiing Backcountry Skiing can be the stuff of legends. For the effort, a good backcountry adventure will deliver untracked lines, deep powder, and ample memories. With a wide variety of ski videos out there, from Warren Miller to TGR, showing off untracked glory deep in the mountains, nothing quite stokes the winter fire like backcountry skiing. While growing in popularity and widely embraced as a test piece for committed skiing adventurers, backcountry skiing comes with a fair number of serious challenges. Two of the most dangerous challenges include the potential for serious injury far from help and avalanches. So, what is backcountry skiing? Why are we obsessed with it? And what kind of gear does the average skier need, at a minimum, to feel prepared enough to give it a shot? Warning: This is part of a series on backcountry skiing and only encompasses a brief overview of the sport and breakdown of essential gear. For tips and best practices for planning a backcountry skiing adventure, please refer to our Backcountry Ski Planner. For ANYONE traveling into avalanche territory, consider enrolling in an Avalanche training course by AIARE; it absolutely save lives. Table of Contents: Article Navigation: Click on any of the listed items in the table of contents below to jump to that section of the article. Similarly, clicking on any large, white section header will jump you back to the Table of Contents. Backcountry Skiing: What it is and why we love it Essential Terms Gear Breakdown Avalanche Preparedness Conclusion Backcountry Skiing: What it is and why we love it Backcountry skiing is exponentially more dangerous than resort skiing, but there are many reasons people take the risk. Before the invention of the ski lift, skiing involved human powered ascents. If you wanted to ski, you had to earn your turns. The modern backcountry skier takes that concept and uses it to access areas where ski resorts might never exist, such as remote and mountainous terrain either federally protected (like a national park or wilderness area), or in an area that doesn’t see enough human traffic to warrant infrastructure creation. People don’t generally start with backcountry skiing; they tend to graduate into it after learning how to ski at a resort. This distinction doesn’t always hold true, but generally speaking, resort skiing occurs first, followed by a growing interest in terrain that lies outside the resort boundaries. Backcountry skiing unlocks access to millions of acres of mountainous terrain and does so while providing all the other benefits of wading into remote areas, like a sense of adventure, a stellar workout, and a deeper connection to the outdoors. For some, the effort needed to access these areas is enough to turn them off to the idea; for others, it’s one of the many reasons to get excited about it. “We love backcountry because of the untapped potential for winter nirvana, enhanced connection with nature, adventure, and the sense of pride involved in earning our turns. ”— Timo Holmquist Two big reasons to get into backcountry skiing are potential and powder. Ski resorts, while expansive, only cover a fractional part of the larger mountain ranges where they are located. If a resort has a bad snow year, there isn’t a whole lot you can do in-bounds to rectify that. Backcountry skiing opens up all sorts of terrain where conditions may be much, much better. Another reason to get into backcountry is the prohibitive cost of resort skiing, which seems to increase every year. At the height of the…
The Best Backcountry Skis of 2023 – SKI Magazine
The Best Backcountry Skis of 2023 Get full access to Outside Learn, our online education hub featuring in-depth fitness, nutrition, and adventure courses and more than 2,000 instructional videos when you sign up for Outside+ Sign up for Outside+ today. Whether you’re looking for a dedicated backcountry ski that strikes the perfect balance between weight and performance, a lightweight ski to charge up the biggest peaks, or a slackcountry ski that will pull double-duty at the resort and beyond the ropes, you’ll find something right up your alley on this list of the best backcountry skis of 2023. If you’re in it for the downhill, peruse the skis that are a little wider underfoot and weigh closer to 2,000g per ski. Trying to set a Fastest Known Time on your dawn and dusk patrols? Then you’re looking for something light and narrow underfoot. Whatever adventure you’re in the market for, you can’t go wrong with any of these unisex backcountry skis designed to maximize fun on the ups and the downs. Looking for the best women’s backcountry skis? You’ll find those here How We Test Testing backcountry skis is tricky, because every skier is looking for something different in a backcountry setup. Of course, you want a backcountry ski to be lighter than the skis you charge on at the resort. But the total weight you’re lugging up the skin track depends on your binding, boot, and ski combination; plus, not every skier cares about having an ultralight backcountry ski, especially if downhill performance is compromised by the lightweight construction. For this reason, we primarily considered downhill performance when testing and reviewing this year’s crop of backcountry skis. Testers Jordan Garrett (left) and Lily Krass (right) run through the 2023 backcountry ski lineup at SKI’s 2023 gear test. (Photo: Ray J Gadd) To be entered into SKI’s gear test, each backcountry ski had to weigh in under 2,000g per ski and be mounted with a tech or hybrid binding. A crew of 15 testers then put these skis to test at Sun Valley and in the Colorado backcountry to assess how well they performed across seven skills categories—Versatility, Crud Performance, Responsiveness, Quickness, Stability at Speed, Flotation, and Forgiveness. Go deep: Learn more about SKI’s testing process Testers, a mix of advanced and expert skiers with extensive backcountry skiing experience, rated each ski in each skill department on a 1-10 scale (10 being the highest). The 13 unisex backcountry skis reviewed below are those that rose to the top of the pile after impressing testers with their performance across all seven scoring categories. Meet the Testers Testers Jordan Garrett (left) and Lily Krass (right) take some backcountry skis into the glades of Sun Valley. (Photo: Ray J. Gadd) Lily Krass Age: 36 | Height: 5′8″ | Weight: 110 lbs Krass is a freelance ski journalist based in Jackson, Wyoming with work featured in SKI, Powder Magazine, Freeskier, Teton Gravity Research, and Ascent Backcountry Snow Journal. She spends winters backcountry skiing in Grand Teton National Park and riding lifts at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, with the occasional trip to the Alps (for the food, obviously). Luke Larsen Age: 39 | Height: 5′10″ | Weight: 190 lbs Larsen owns and operates Salt Lake City’s Lifthouse ski shop with his brother, Zac Larsen. Larsen practically grew up in the shop, a family-owned business, and spent his free time chasing gates on the Snowbird Ski Team. He has been gear tester for SKI for more than a decade. Keri Bascetta Age: 38 | Height: 5’7″ | Weight: 140 lbs SKI’s former photo director Keri Bascetta has spent her whole life on skis, and almost as long behind the lens shooting skiers and ski gear for SKI. She lives in Denver, Colo.,…