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Backcountry Skis

2023 Head Kore 97 W Review

It’s not the lightest backcountry option out there, but if you’re plowing through backcountry crud, this is the ski you want underfoot

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Brand: Head

Model: Kore 97 W


Tip / Waist / Tail (mm)


Lengths (cm)

156, 163, 170, 177

Radius (m)

15.3 (170cm)

Waist Width (mm)





Intermediate to Expert


Stability at Speed, Crud Performance


Playfulness, Forgiveness

Stability at Speed

7.5 / 10

Quickness / Maneuverability

7.5 / 10


5.5 / 10


5.5 / 10

Crud Performance

7.5 / 10


7.5 / 10


7.5 / 10


5.5 / 10

This ski proves that lighter isn’t always better for the backcountry. Energetic and confidence-inspiring, the Head Kore 97 W is a solid crossover ski for spending time in the resort and backcountry, an ideal choice for anyone looking for more performance and response than a traditional touring ski (and isn’t afraid of hauling a few extra grams).

Like any good Head ski, the Kore 97 W likes to go fast, with a stiff yet springy caruba and poplar wood core and 97mm waist that can hold its own in everything from boot top powder to chopped up leftovers. It’s a ski with a strong backbone, inspiring trust when you’re trying to keep your rhythm through crud. “A maneuverable and energetic ski that inspires confidence in variable terrain as well as soft snow,” reported tester Lily Krass, who spends most of her time in the Jackson Hole backcountry. “This one’s great for an adventurous skier looking for reliability in variable snow.”

Learn more: Ski technology and terms to know

Carbon and Graphene in the tip and tail cut chatter and keep the weight down, allowing for easy turn initiation in steep chutes and dense trees with short lines of sight. “The Kore offers a lot of energy and personality, with each turn propelling you into the next,” observed tester Jordan Garrett.

At 3,350 grams per pair, the Head Kore 97 W definitely wasn’t built for weight weenies, but the stable and powerful feel is proof that a little extra meat goes a long way when you point it downhill. For areas that see more snowfall, testers agreed the slightly beefier Kore 103 W would be our choice for a daily ripper. The 97 W excelled in wind buff and chopped up powder, but definitely isn’t the most fun or playful ride in knee deep fluff. Her little sisters, the Kore 91 W and the Kore 85 W, are a sleeker option for spring missions and resort fitness laps for those in search of slim skis that won’t feel like toothpicks on the way down.

Testers found that the Kore 97 W, like many of the other skis in the Head Kore line, comes alive the more energy you give it, rewarding strong technique and a hard-charging attitude. The long turning radius contributes to a less forgiving feel, one that newer skiers might not take to initially. “

While it’s accessible for an intermediate skier, it’s definitely more fun for someone who knows how to carve,” added Krass. Still, cruisy skiers shouldn’t be totally deterred; while this ski likes to get on edge, it also provides seemingly unlimited opportunities for progression, a ski that you won’t outgrow anytime soon. “Although I think this can be enjoyed by a more aggressive skier, I still found it pretty approachable,” concluded Garrett.

Compare the Head Kore 97 W to the other best backcountry skis of 2023

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