The Best Backcountry Skis of 2022: Black Crows Mentis Freebird
Skinny, blue, and incredibly powerful, the Black Crows Mentis Freebird is an ideal option for long uphills.
Brand: Black Crows
Model: Mentis Freebird
Tip / Waist / Tail (mm)
157, 164, 171, 178
Waist Width (mm)
Whether you’re looking for a super-light ski to take up the resort in the name of fitness, or a tool that will probably spend more time attached to your backpack than on your feet during a summer skiing mission, the Black Crows Mentis Freebird exists to make sure the downhill doesn’t suck. Yes, it’s narrow, it’s lightweight, and it’s sort of a weird blue color, but don’t be fooled: These tiny skis rip.
During a trip to four 14,000-foot peaks deep in Colorado’s San Juan Mountains, these skis practically lived on my back for four days (along with a metaphorical ton of overnight backpacking gear). Everyone else in the crew had 90mm-or-wider backcountry skis for the trip, but we were less than a mile into the first hike to basecamp when their eyes started to get jealous of these tiny blue sticks strapped on my backpack. They started prodding me about the performance of such dinky skis, but I just smiled and kept hiking.
Their question was answered during the descents of the mountains. The first two peaks featured hard, sun-cupped snow that hadn’t quite transformed into corn. The Black Crows Mentis Freebirds were stable, damp, and hardly chattered at all compared to the rockered planks of my companions. Skiing off the next two peaks in very soft, summery slush, the Mentis skis charged hard and stayed stable from top to bottom, providing some of the best summertime skiing I’ve had in years.
The weight-to-stability ratio comes from a full paulownia wood core, a mix of carbon and fiberglass laminates, and a Titanal reinforcement under the binding mount point. This is a pretty common construction for most of the backcountry skis on the shop wall these days, but putting it in a tight little package really shows just how capable it is.
Granted, these are definitely niche skis that you might not touch unless the approach is long and the forecast calls for corn. But the downhill performance is so great compared to SkiMo race skis that they are definitely handy during mid-season fitness climbs at the resort in addition to those big expeditions that come along in the late spring and early summer.
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See the full list of this season’s best backcountry skis
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More info: Black-Crows.com