The Best Backcountry Skis of the Year - Ski Mag

The line is blurry for many of these skis. more than a few can handle days on the chairlift, but they all shine in soft, untracked conditions far from pristine corduroy and resort villages.

GEAR OF THE YEAR: Scott SuperGuide Freetour

2021 Scott SuperGuide Freetour backcountry ski

The 2021 Scott SuperGuide Freetour Gear of the Year Backcountry Ski

Scott releases an entirely new line of SuperGuide backcountry skis this season, and they are all a massive step forward for the brand. With an uphill-friendly weight and perhaps the best downhill performance of any Scott ski in recent memory, the line’s flagship SuperGuide Freetour is particularly impressive. The key is in the ski’s construction: The wood core comprises a blend of lightweight paulownia and sturdy beech, plus blended carbon and aramid laminates keep the ski lively and energetic without the jitters that some backcountry skis with carbon are known for. The Freetour's well-behaved materials are perfectly suited to its progressive three-radii sidecut, which allows the ski to perform dynamic turn shapes that can quickly and comfortably adapt to different terrain, snow conditions, and speeds. Given the freeride-specific design of the ski, however, the SuperGuide Freetour begs to be taken off-leash so it can run fast down steep, open terrain. Best of all, the construction and shape add up to perform harmoniously on-piste as well as in the backcountry, giving the Freetour a solid claim on the podium for backcountry-loving skiers looking for an everyday ski that can handle occasional chairlift rides, too.

WATCH: SKI Review - Scott SuperGuide Freetour Backcountry Ski

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2021 Scott SuperGuide Freetour Factsheet

  • Available Lengths (In Centimeters): 178, 185
  • Tip-Waist-Tail Dimensions (In Millimeters): 134-104-122
  • Turn Radius (In Meters): 24 (178 cm length)
  • Weight per ski: 3 lbs. 8 oz.
  • MSRP: $850

See more about the Scott SuperGuide Freetour

Black Diamond Helio Carbon 104

2021 Black Diamond Helio Carbon 104 backcountry ski

2021 Black Diamond Helio Carbon 104 Backcountry Ski

With a full paulownia wood core, the all-new Black Diamond Helio Carbon 104 has an ideal weight-to-performance ratio for North American backcountry purists. The ABS sidewalls and near-perfectly engineered pre-preg carbon laminate remain so stiff and stable on descents, however, you’ll probably forget about the weight factor until you’re putting skins back on for another lap. Despite the feathery feel in hand, the brand was able to sneak in a Titanal mounting plate for added stability and energy transfer. No matter how fast our testers skied, the generous rocker in the shovel remained almost chatter-free, and the ski stayed silky smooth on death cookies and creamy corn equally well.

2021 Black Diamond Helio Carbon 104 Factsheet

  • Available Lengths (In Centimeters): 166, 172, 178, 184
  • Tip-Waist-Tail Dimensions (In Millimeters): 131-104-118
  • Turn Radius (In Meters): 22 (178 cm lenght)
  • Weight: 3 lbs. 3 oz.
  • MSRP: $880

Shop for the Black Diamond Helio Carbon 104: Backcountry | evo

Check out more info for the BD Helio Carbon 104

Völkl Blaze 106

The 2021 Völkl Blaze 106 Backcountry Ski

The 2021 Völkl Blaze 106 Backcountry Ski

The built-from-scratch Blaze series from Völkl fits in the gray space between affordable freeride ski and backcountry-oriented do-it-all tool. With a proprietary multi-layer wood core and a vibration-damping suspension system strategically placed in the tip and tail, the construction of the Blaze 106 is relatively simple but very functional. This Völkl is particularly versatile in the backcountry thanks to the brand’s 3D Radius Sidecut, which keeps the ski nimble at slower speeds and in tight spaces, but is especially capable when going fast down the fall line. Best of all, with an affordable price tag, this ski is a perfect choice for skiers looking for an intro-to-backcountry ski that is also very comfortable off the chairlift.

WATCH: SKI Review - Völkl Blaze 106

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2021 Völkl Blaze Factsheet

  • Available Lengths (In Centimeters): 165, 172, 179, 186 
  • Tip-Waist-Tail Dimensions (In Millimeters): 146-106-128
  • Turn Radius (In Meters): 19 (186 cm length)
  • Weight: 3 lbs. 14.5 oz.
  • MSRP: $700

Buy the Völkl Blaze 106 today: REI | Backcountry | evo | Skis.com | Amazon

Learn more about the Völkl Blaze 106

Faction Agent 3.0

The 2021 Faction Agent 3.0 Backcountry Ski

The 2021 Faction Agent 3.0 Backcountry Ski

The Agent 3.0 stands out as one of the more versatile skis Faction has produced in recent memory. Featuring a sturdy, lightweight caruba wood core, full carbon weave, and a Titanal mounting plate, these bright orange sticks are made for full-throttle descents beyond the gates. While the width and freeride-oriented shape warrants use on softer snow, the Agent 3.0 can maintain damp performance in variable snow and is especially fun in wide-open bowls of spring corn. Skiers with freestyle roots or freeride styles will be happy with this directional Faction as a backcountry quiver addition or a one-ski option ideal for trips into the untouched snow beyond the ski area via both touring and mechanized assistance.

WATCH: SKI Reviews - Faction Agent 3.0

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Faction Agent 3.0 Factsheet

  • Available Lengths (In Centimeters): 164, 172, 180, 188
  • Tip-Waist-Tail Dimensions (In Millimeters): 134-106-124
  • Turn Radius (In Meters): 21 (180 cm length)
  • Weight: 3 lbs. 13 oz.
  • MSRP: $819

Shope for the Faction Agent 3.0: evo

Get some more info about the Faction Agent 3.0

Movement Alp Track 106

The 2021 Movement Alp Track 106 Backcountry Ski

The 2021 Movement Alp Track 106 Backcountry Ski

Swiss brand Movement is planning a re-launch into the North American market for 2021. The fattest member of the brand's backcountry-oriented Alp Track family provides enough quality engineering and solid construction features to make a good impression on any skier. In the category of “wide skis that are lightweight but ski well,” the Alp Track 106 is made for backcountry purists who want versatility and float without the extra grams. With a caruba wood core and full carbon weave, these skis are ideal for long days in the skin track, and are more than awesome on the descent with high energy from turn to turn. And, thanks to a sidecut that enables these skis to bite into snow, they really shine on steep, technical terrain.

2021 Movement Alp Track 106 Factsheet

  • Available Lengths (In Centimeters): 177, 185
  • Tip-Waist-Tail Dimensions (In Millimeters): 138-106-126
  • Turn Radius (In Meters): 19 (177 cm length)
  • Weight: 2 lbs. 14.5 oz.
  • MSRP: $1,125

Read more about the Movement Alp Track 106

Atomic Backland 117

The 2021 Atomic Backland 117 Backcountry Ski

The 2021 Atomic Backland 117 Backcountry Ski

The extra-wide Backland 117 was designed in part by Sage Cattabriga-Alosa, and as one might expect, it is a high-performance fat ski that can charge hard when needed. But, thanks to a nimble turn radius and a very poppy and playful tail, these skis can turn the backcountry into a playground for any skier. Directionally oriented carbon stringers keep the ski both damp and lightweight, and thanks to a wood core blend of poplar and beech—the same woods used in Atomic’s World Cup Race skis—the Backland 117 can get from the top of a line to the bottom incredibly comfortably at any speed. This is an ideal touring ski for deep days in the backcountry and can more than hold its own on powder days at the resort as well.

WATCH: SKI Review - Atomic Backland 117 and 107 W

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2021 Atomic Backland 117 Factsheet

  • Available Lengths (In Centimeters): 177, 184, 191
  • Tip-Waist-Tail Dimensions (In Millimeters): 140.5-117-129.5
  • Turn Radius (In Meters): 19 (177 cm length)
  • Weight: 4 lbs. 2 oz.
  • MSRP: $975

More info about the Atomic Backland 117

G3 SLAYr

The 2021 G3 SLAYr Backcountry Ski

The 2021 G3 SLAYr Backcountry Ski

Skiers looking for a superlight deep snow ski will find it in the new G3 SLAYr. With a balsa wood core sandwiched between two layers of Titanal, this fat ski barely tips the scales but can charge hard through soft snow with ease. The PU sidewalls add stability for descending in variable snow as well, but this ski really stands out on the skin track considering its girthy proportions. Lighter testers were enthralled by the downhill performance of the SLAYr, considering it to be unsinkable in deep snow and as playful as it gets. Bigger testers struggled a bit when skiing in crud, but found just enough float to keep happy so long as the snow was soft. A great choice for a backcountry-specific pow ski.

2021 G3 SLAYr Factsheet

  • Available Lengths (In Centimeters): 178, 185, 190, 195
  • Tip-Waist-Tail Dimensions (In Millimeters): 143-114-128
  • Turn Radius (In Meters): 22.7 (185 cm length)
  • Weight: 3 lbs. 10 oz.
  • MSRP: $999

Check out a bit of more info about the G3 SLAYr

Dynastar M Tour 99

The 2021 Dynastar M Tour 99 backcountry ski

The 2021 Dynastar M Tour 99 backcountry ski

The M Tour 99 has the same dimensions as Dynastar’s All-Mountain M Pro 99 resort ski, but changes the construction lay-up to create a lightweight backcountry-specific power tool. The brand mates PU with paulownia in the core to create energy and a unique, supple feel. Dynastar then adds a layer of basalt to quiet the ski when the snow gets chunky. The result is a very capable backcountry specialist with do-it-all dimensions that will feel just as at home in tight Northeastern trees as it will in the high alpine of the Rocky Mountains. Don’t be afraid to kick up the speed a notch on the M Tour to maximize performance, and, thanks to its featherweight classification, that goes for skiing up and down the mountain.

2021 Dynastar M Tour 99 Factsheet

  • Available Lengths (In Centimeters): 162, 170, 178, 186
  • Tip-Waist-Tail Dimensions (In Millimeters): 127-99-117
  • Turn Radius (In Meters): 20 (178 cm length)
  • Weight: 2 lbs. 14 oz.
  • MSRP: $900

Buy the Dynastar M Tour 99 Backountry ski: evo | Amazon

Read more about the Dynastar M Tour 99

DPS Pagoda Tour 94 C2

The 2021 DPS Pagoda Tour 94 C2 backcountry ski

The 2021 DPS Pagoda Tour 94 C2 backcountry ski

DPS’ new Pagoda Tour line is most notable for bringing back integrated foam into its core. But this isn’t the foam you’d find in a decade-old rental ski; instead it’s purpose-built space-grade material designed specifically for DPS touring skis, and has particular characteristics—including durability—as well as great downhill performance. When sandwiched between two pre-preg carbon laminates and combined with a generous amount of paulownia and some ash wood, the result is a foam ski that's strikingly lightweight but charges downhill like a boss. The Pagoda 94 C2’s shape provides plenty of versatility for every type of snow that skiers in continental snowpacks might face, but truly shines in springtime corn in the high alpine.

2021 DPS Pagoda Tour 94 C2 Factsheet

  • Available Lengths (In Centimeters): 157, 165, 171, 178, 185
  • Tip-Waist-Tail Dimensions (In Millimeters): 131-94-110
  • Turn Radius (In Meters): 19 (178 cm length)
  • Weight: 3 lbs.
  • MSRP: $1,299

Shop for the DPS Pagoda Tour 94 C2: Backcountry | Amazon

Check out more info for the DPS Pagoda Tour 94 C2

Kästle TX87

The 2021 Kästle TX87 backcountry ski

The 2021 Kästle TX87 backcountry ski

Skiers looking for a skinny ski for big ski mountaineering objectives—or those who want a quality lightweight ski for in-bounds fitness laps—should be excited about the updated TX line from Kästle. The Austrian brand increased durability across the entire line for 2021, and the new TX87 has the perfect mix of hard-snow performance with minimal weight to make long ups and big downs more enjoyable. With a full paulownia wood core wrapped in a carbon-fiberglass laminate and a captivating translucent Hollowtech tip, this lightweight ski begs to be taken somewhere far away quickly. And it will definitely reward any long-term investment in the skin track with solid skiing performance on the way back.

2021 Kästle TX87 Factsheet

  • Available Lengths (In Centimeters): 150, 158, 166, 174, 182
  • Tip-Waist-Tail Dimensions (In Millimeters): 124-87-111
  • Turn Radius (In Meters): 15.5 (174 cm length)
  • Weight: 2 lbs. 12.5 oz.
  • MSRP: $949

Read more about the Kästle TX87 backountry ski

The 11 Best Backcountry Skis of 2020

Jessi Hacket touring near Breckenridge

Tester Jessi Hackett touring near Breckenridge, Colo.

These skis are perfect for skiers who don't mind spending time going uphill to earn some turns. They are lightweight, capable, and designed to perform in untouched terrain. Headed beyond the resort gates? Always make sure to have a beacon, shovel, probe, partner, and a plan.

GEAR OF THE YEAR 2020: Blizzard Zero G 95

Blizzard Zero G 95 2020

The 2020 Gear of the Year Blizzard Zero G 95.

2020 Gear of the Year

Just like its race and freeride skis, Blizzard’s carbon mastery is fully expressed in the Zero G line. Featuring Carbon Drive 2.0, a 3D uni-directional carbon frame in the tips and tails, and an all- paulownia wood core, the ski is damp in chunder and has increased overall performance in better snow. The brand softened up the tip and tail to allow for optimized smearing capabilities when called for, but the Zero G 95 can hold an edge when it counts with some of the best torsional rigidity in the test. With bi-directional carbon reinforcement binding mounting plates, these skis handle a fair amount of speed too, and they tenaciously take on powder, corn, and all other backcountry conditions. 

2020 Blizzard Zero G 95 Factsheet

  • Tip / Waist / Tail (In Millimeters): 127-95-111
  • Lengths (In Centimeters): 164, 171, 178, 185
  • Radius (In Meters): 24
  • Weight: 1,310g per ski
  • Price: $700

Check out all of SKI's Gear of the Year for 2020
It's available on Amazon: Blizzard Zero G 95

2020 DPS Alchemist Wailer 100 RP

The 2020 DPS Alchemist Wailer 100 RP.

The 2020 DPS Alchemist Wailer 100 RP.

DPS’ Wailer 100 RP shape is destined to become a classic for those who spend a lot of time in the backcountry but still ride chairlifts. The brand’s Alchemist construction fits the bill for this type of skier with two pure pre-preg carbon laminates sandwiching an all-aspen wood core, plus heavy-duty sidewalls and a World Cup-grade race base. With a short turn radius and a soft-snow-specific effective edge, the Wailer 100 RP is nimble enough to take on tight trees but isn’t a slouch in big open bowls. “A great one-ski quiver for the backcountry enthusiast.” 

2020 DPS Alchemist Wailer 100 RP Factsheet

  • Tip / Waist / Tail (In Millimeters): 132-100-117
  • Lengths (In Centimeters): 171, 179, 184, 189
  • Radius (In Meters): 15
  • Weight: 1,805g per ski
  • MSRP: $1,299 [BUY NOW]

Read more about the DPS Alchemist Wailer 100 RP
It's available on Amazon: DPS Alchemist Wailer 100 RP 

2020 Armada ARV JJ Ultralite

Armada ARV JJ Ultralite

The 2020 Armada ARV JJ Ultralite.

Armada’s Zero Series is designed by the brand’s top-level athletes to create the tools they need to ski better. SKI’s testers swooned at the limited-edition ARV 116 JJ Ultralight in particular, which is 25 percent lighter than the regular ARV 116 but descends just as well as the full-weight version. Featuring “smear tech” spooned bases on the generously rockered tips and tails and a Caruba wood core, this ski is a top pick for backcountry skiers who only want to shred pow. “So freaking smooth and fun, not to mention super poppy in pow.”

2020 Armada ARV JJ Ultralite Factsheet

  • Tip / Waist / Tail (In Millimeters): 139-116-135
  • Lengths (In Centimeters): 165, 175, 185, 192
  • Radius (In Meters): 18
  • Weight: 1,700g per ski
  • MSRP: $875

Get more details about the Armada ARV JJ Ultralite

2020 Black Diamond Helio Recon 105

Black Diamond Helio Recon 105

The 2020 Black Diamond Helio Recon 105.

Based on the successful Black Diamond Helio line, the Helio Recon series features a slightly heavier pre-preg fiberglass laminate instead of carbon. The result is a much more durable, stable, traditional freeride-oriented backcountry ski. Testers felt very comfortable in the Breckenridge backcountry on all types of terrain and snow conditions, noting that the Helio Recon comes alive with speed. It might not be the lightest in the skin track, but it rips on descents and doesn’t require a second mortgage. “Absolute charger in all conditions.”

2020 Black Diamond Helio Recon 105 Factsheet

  • Tip / Waist / Tail (In Millimeters): 134-108-119 
  • Lengths (In Centimeters): 165, 175, 185
  • Radius (In Meters): 22
  • Weight: 1,800g per ski
  • MSRP: $669 [BUY NOW]

Read more about the 2020 Black Diamond Helio Recon 105
It's also available on Amazon

2020 Black Crows ferox freebird

Black Crows ferox freebird

The 2020 Black Crows ferox freebird.

It might be cliché to point out that a fat ski handles hard snow better than expected, but some people still judge books by their covers. The Black Crows ferox freebird is certainly a powder champ, girthy enough to handle the deepest days, but is still lightweight for pleasant uphill travel. With a unique 3D profile that puts paulownia and poplar wood over the ski’s edges but integrates thin carbon and Isocore polyurethane throughout to keep the ski spry, the ferox freebird will be the talk of the trailhead every time you take it out. “Floaty, fun, and cool-looking.”

2020 Black Crows ferox freebird Factsheet

  • Tip / Waist / Tail (In Millimeters): 136-110-126
  • Lengths (In Centimeters): 170, 177, 181, 186
  • Radius (In Meters): 21
  • Weight: 1,800g per ski
  • MSRP: $1,020 [BUY NOW]

Learn more about the Black Crows ferox freebird
Get it on Amazon

2020 G3 FINDr 94

G3 FINDr 94

The completely redesigned G3 FINDr 94.

The FINDr line is a major step forward for G3 in terms of downhill performance. The made-in-Canada pure carbon layup and full PU sidewalls significantly tighten up the ski’s edge-to-edge responsiveness while damping the ski on variable snow. Testers preferred the versatile 94mm waist-width, finding it could turn on a dime and had minimal chatter, making the skis trustworthy at higher speeds and in exposed terrain. Bonus: Built-in magnets make the skis easier to handle, especially if your bindings don’t have brakes. “Great stability with no chatter.”

2020 G3 FINDr 94 Factsheet

  • Tip / Waist / Tail (In Millimeters): 126-94-113
  • Lengths (In Centimeters): 154, 162, 167, 172, 177, 182, 187
  • Radius (In Meters): 22
  • Weight: 1,450g per ski
  • MSRP: $899 [BUY NOW]

Read more about the 2020 G3 FINDr 94
Also available on Amazon

2020 Line Vision 98

Line Vision 98

The Line Vision 98.

While our regular testers liked the Line Vision 108 in the All-Mountain Wide category, our backcountry testers found the slimmed-down version to be more versatile in true backcountry conditions. Featuring three different laminates—aramid, carbon, and fiberglass—these skis hit the damp-yet-snappy sweet-spot without the pure-carbon jitters or the deadening weight of traditional fiberglass constructions. The forgiving tips and tails were appreciated in refrozen chop, and the narrow profile remained quick edge-to-edge. “Zippers the fall line and pivots easily.”

2020 Line Vision 98 Factsheet

  • Tip / Waist / Tail (In Millimeters): 131-98-119
  • Lengths (In Centimeters): 172, 179, 186
  • Radius (In Meters): 18
  • Weight: 1,515g per ski
  • Price: $420 

Read more about the Line Vision 98

Line's "Vision Quest" by Jake Strassman starring Dylan Siggers and Rob Huele

2020 Dynafit Beast 98 W

Dynafit Beast 98 W

The 2020 Dynafit Beast 98 W.

While much of the Dynafit ski line is dripping with skinny Euro sidecuts and spandex, the Beast family keeps things on a fun-loving level. The women testers were especially impressed by the Beast 98 W, which is lightweight for the skin track but descends like a much heavier ski. With an eager, take-on-anything shape, the Beast 98 W won testers over in softer snow, and the ash-poplar core with a carbon-glass overlay reduced chatter when conditions firmed up. “I’d let these skis take me to dinner at a hut and enjoy the ride down.”

2020 Dynafit Beast 98 W Factsheet

  • Tip / Waist / Tail (In Millimeters): 124-96-115
  • Lengths (In Centimeters): 163, 170, 177
  • Radius (In Meters): 17
  • Weight: 1,400g per ski
  • Price: $525 

Find more information about the Dynafit Beast 98 W

2020 Elan Ibex 84W Carbon

Elan Ibex 84W Carbon

The 2020 Elan Ibex 84W Carbon backcountry ski.

The lightest ski in the backcountry test, Elan’s women’s-specific Ibex model is ideal for women who want nothing but the easiest uphills possible. Featuring the brand’s proprietary TubeLite wood core, this ski has two hollow carbon rods that run tip-to-tail providing liveliness while reducing weight. Testers found the Ibex 84W’s descending capabilities smeary and fun, but a little chattery at high speeds. In the skin track, their weight was hardly noticeable, making them a nice pick for long tours. “Great for long, round turns in backcountry conditions.”  

2020 Elan Ibex 84W Carbon Factsheet

  • Tip / Waist / Tail (In Millimeters): 120-84-105
  • Lengths (In Centimeters): 149, 156, 163, 170, 177
  • Radius (In Meters): 19
  • Weight: 1,270g per ski
  • MSRP: $600

Find out more about the Elan Ibex 84W Carbon

2020 Icelantic Mystic 107

Icelantic Mystic 107

The Icelantic Mystic 107.

The über-rad-looking Icelantic Mystic caught a number of “sweet skis!” comments at the trailhead and in the liftline from testers, as did its snappy downhill performance. With enough size to handle the deep plus a capable weight for the skin track, the made-in-America Mystic 107 is a Western-based skier’s dream. The all-wood core is sustainably sourced, and the generous shovel rocker promises to keep skiers afloat no matter how deep it gets. Don’t be fooled, however, as the Mystic can hold its own in-bounds, too. “Looks great, skis better!”

2020 Icelantic Mystic 107 Factsheet

  • Tip / Waist / Tail (In Millimeters): 138-107-123
  • Lengths (In Centimeters): 162, 169, 177
  • Radius (In Meters): 18
  • Weight: 1,462g per ski
  • MSRP: $779 [BUY NOW]

Read more about the Icelantic Mystic 107
Also available on Amazon: Icelantic Mystic 107

2020 Black Diamond Helio Recon 88

Black Diamond Helio Recon 88

The 2020 Black Diamond Helio Recon 88.

The female testers praised the downhill capabilities of the Black Diamond Helio Recon 88 first and foremost. With a carbon-free construction, the versatile Helio Recon 88’s poplar wood core does most of the heavy lifting in ski mode, remaining damp and chatter-free at all speeds, no matter how steep the runs became. The downhill performance comes at a cost for uphill travel, however, making these skis better suited for day trips than for long expeditions. A solid option for most weekend warriors. “The ex-racer in me loved these. Solid on the steeps and zippy as hell.”

2020 Black Diamond Helio Recon 88 Factsheet

  • Tip / Waist / Tail (In Millimeters): 121-88-111
  • Lengths (In Centimeters): 158, 168, 178
  • Radius (In Meters): 17
  • Weight: 1,450g per ski
  • MSRP: $629

See more details about the Black Diamond Helio Recon 88

How We Test: 2020

Jon Jay ripping skins in Summit County, Colo.

Tester Jon Jay rips skins in the Breckenridge Backcountry.

For a week in May, SKI Magazine took the town of Breckenridge, Colo., by storm to test a slew of new backcountry products for the 2020 ski season. Now that Breckenridge Ski Resort is open well into the spring, we spent a day with recruits from Warren Miller Entertainment in lift-served terrain figuring out each ski’s personality.

We then toured deep into the mountains east of town to the spacious Sisters Cabin for three days testing in the actual backcountry. Spring skiing in Colorado’s Summit County provides a lot of variety in terms of terrain and snow, truly optimal conditions for our testers to determine the best from the rest. Getting into the high country on the 13,682-foot Bald Mountain via the hut was definitely a treat (the sauna at the cabin made for a great way to end the day, too).

Special thanks to testers Keri Bascetta, Chris Bivona, Renée Geary, Jessi Hackett, Jon Jay, Doug Kohn, Izzie Rait, Stephen Sebestyen, and Conor Sedmak, as well as the Town of Breckenridge and the ski resort for their help in making the test happen.

Best Backcountry Skis of 2019

McGillivray Pass Lodge, Squamish-Lillooeet, BC

We’ll let you in on a little secret: The best time of year for skiing is April. The holiday crowds of December and Spring Break already have bikes or boats on the brain, the days are long, and the snow is the deepest it gets all year. Sure, ski areas might be closing, but the alpine terrain beyond the chairlifts starts to go through melt-freeze cycles that provide delicious corn and late-season storms serve up powder that goes forgotten by the masses.

For these reasons, our staff calls in the most exciting backcountry gear and gets after it in Colorado’s high country and beyond in April, May, and June. This year, we tested in the Indian Peaks, off Berthoud Pass and Trail Ridge Road, and in northern Norway.

Just like in the other tests, our staff compares notes after skiing the same gear, and we also check in with our friends down the hall at Backpacker, who run a different style of test on many of the same skis, bindings, and boots. We test more equipment than is listed here but only write about our favorites to keep you on the lightest, best-performing gear out there.

2019 K2 Wayback 106

K2 Wayback 106 2019

The 2019 K2 Wayback 106.

K2’s widest touring-specific ski caters to backcountry enthusiasts who demand uncompromised downhill performance in an easy-to-tour package. Featuring a paulownia wood core, the Wayback 106 gets its drive from a single Titanal overlay, but forgiving tips and tails accommodate those less-than-perfect backcountry conditions that you’re likely to stumble upon. Capped off with a snow-shedding topsheet, this ski might just be the best option for nearly every backcountry skier in the West. “Powerful, playful, and fun.”

  • Tip / Waist / Tail (in millimeters): 136-106-124
  • Lengths (in centimeters): 172, 179, 186
  • Radius (in meters): 22
  • Weight: 1,550g per ski (179)
  • MSRP: $850

Read more about the K2 Wayback 106 here

2019 Völkl Mantra V-WERKS

Völkl Mantra V-WERKS 2019

The 2019 Völkl Mantra V-WERKS.

Völkl took its renown freeride technologies and put them into a ski that is made for the downhill but remains light so the uphill is no problem. Built around Völkl’s 3D.RIDGE, a pre-shaped wooden core, the ski is very thin but has integrated carbon and Titanal overlays to remain damp and capable at very high speeds. This construction in an all-terrain dominating shape and flex pattern launched the Mantra V-WERKS towards the top of SKI’s list of best backcountry skis for 2018-19. “Skis like a much heavier ski, but tours like a dream.” 

  • Tip / Waist / Tail (in millimeters): 135-99-117
  • Lengths (in centimeters): 170, 178, 186
  • Radius (in meters): 20.8
  • Weight: 1,690g per ski (178)
  • MSRP: $1,350

See additional details about the Völkl Mantra V-WERKS here

2019 G3 SEEKr 100

G3 SEEKr 100 2019

The 2019 G3 SEEKr 100.

Canadian brand G3’s SEEKr line provides all-mountain, playful performance in a lightweight, backcountry-oriented package. We particularly enjoyed the surfy, floaty SEEKr 100 when skied in an upright stance. The ski’s core consists of pre-shaped poplar and paulownia wood, sandwiched between two layers of triaxial stitched carbon. But what really boosts the downhill performance is the full polyurethane sidewalls that noticeably damp the fairly soft ski when the going gets tough. “Poppy, slarvey, fun.” 

  • Tip / Waist / Tail (in millimeters): 132-100-120
  • Lengths (in centimeters): 162, 170, 178, 186
  • Radius (in meters): 18.3
  • Weight: 1,440g per ski (178)
  • MSRP: $799

You can find more details about the G3 SEEKr 100 here

2019 Black Crows Camox Freebird

Black Crows Camox Freebird 2019

The very red 2019 Black Crows Camox Freebird.

The French brand Black Crows transforms most of its flagship alpine models into touring-dedicated, monochromatic backcountry skis (look for the “Freebird” connotation). Our favorite is the Camox Freebird, redesigned to be lighter and livelier. Featuring a full paulownia wood core with Titanal reinforcements and a carbon-infused fiberglass wrap, this Camox garnered praise for being significantly stiffer than the prior version, increasing confidence in less-than-perfect snow conditions. “Looks cool, skis better, and weight is on point for a ski this size.” 

  • Tip / Waist / Tail (in millimeters): 133-96-130
  • Lengths (in centimeters): 160, 166, 172, 178, 183, 188
  • Radius (in meters): 17
  • Weight: 1,375g per ski (178)
  • MSRP: $720 (BUY NOW)

Read more about the Black Crows Camox Freebird here

2019 Black Diamond Helio 105

Black Diamond Helio 105 2019

The 2019 Black Diamond Helio 105.

The Helio line from Black Diamond utilizes a pre-preg carbon laminate and ABS sidewalls surrounding a balsa-flax wood core. These technologies are seen individually with some other brands, but BD is the only one with this particular recipe. Verdict? This ski rips. The Helio 105 is stiff underfoot and can arc big turns down open bowls, but tip and tail rocker shorten the footprint to make it manageable in tight spaces. Not the lightest backcountry ski on the rack, but it makes up for it in downhill performance. “Not for the meek, just let ’er rip!” 

  • Tip / Waist / Tail (In Millimeters): 132-105-119
  • Lengths (In Centimeters): 165, 175, 185
  • Radius (In Meters): 21
  • Weight: 1,450g per ski (175)
  • MSRP: $880

Find out more about the Black Diamond Helio 105 here

2019 Icelantic Natural 101

Icelantic Natural 101 2019

The beautiful Icelantic Natural 101 from 2019.

Made in Colorado, the Natural 101 proved adept and damp at high speeds. The ski’s lightweight and soft shovel floated well in powder, and didn’t get kicked around by crud and chop when conditions deteriorated. The ski’s core is ochorma wood (in the balsa family), which keeps it lighter than most of Icey’s other offerings. Add in a capable, tapered sidecut and an intermediate/advanced-friendly flex pattern, and the Natural is a solid choice for all-around back-country domination. “Solid, versatile ski for backcountry adventures and beyond.” 

  • Tip / Waist / Tail (In Millimeters): 132-101-117
  • Lengths (In Centimeters): 171, 178, 185
  • Radius (In Meters): 21
  • Weight: 1,578g per ski (178)
  • MSRP: $749

Find more info about the Icelantic Natural 101 here

2019 Elan Ibex 94 Carbon XLT

Elan Ibex 94 Carbon XLT 2019

The 2019 Elan Ibex 94 Carbon XLT.

Elan is on top of the light-weight, high-performance game in the Ripstick lineup, so it makes sense that its backcountry-specific Ibex line presents capable, easy-touring and easy-skiing boards. Featuring the brand’s signature Tubelite woodcore plus a damping carbon laminate and aluminum plate underfoot, the ski goes uphill like a dream and savors soft snow on the way down. The shovel was a bit soft and can get kicked around in less-than-ideal conditions, but the stiff tail compensates for when the going gets tough. “Very light, craves soft snow.” 

  • Tip / Waist / Tail (In Millimeters) 130-94-111
  • Lengths (In Centimeters) 163, 170, 177, 184
  • Radius (In Meters) 21.2
  • Weight: 1,150g per ski (163)
  • MSRP: $1,050

Discover more details about the Elan Ibex 94 Carbon XLT here

2019 Völkl VTA 98

Völkl VTA 98

The Völkl VTA 98 from 2019.

The VTA 98 exceeded our expectations for both uphill capabilities and overall downhill performance. Featuring a lightweight wood core, a carbon tip with rocker, and a very effective ICE.OFF topsheet that nearly eliminated snow on top of the ski, the VTA 98 won tester accolades for its skiability on corn and refrozen crud. With a versatile width, tapered sidecut, and damp feel, it might not weigh as much as a traditional Völkl, but it certainly handles like one. “Feels like wearing nothing at all on the uphill, but stable and charging on the down.” 

  • Tip / Waist / Tail (In Millimeters): 133-98-116
  • Lengths (In Centimeters): 156, 163, 170, 177, 184
  • Radius (In Meters): 20.1
  • Weight: 1,370g per ski (177)
  • MSRP: $825

You can find out more about the Völkl VTA 98 here

2019 K2 Talkback 96

K2 Talkback 96 2019

The 2019 K2 Talkback 96.

K2’s women’s Talkback 96 offers all of the fun you’d expect from K2 in a tight package that can get serious when needed. Featuring a single Titanal laminate, a full paulownia wood core with carbon built-in, and a snow-shedding topsheet, this is a rock-solid backcountry one-ski quiver for nearly anyone. On top of that, a percentage of all K2 Alliance women’s-specific ski sales will be donated to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. “Snappy edge to edge, but just enough flex in the tip and tail to keep things playful.” 

  • Tip / Waist / Tail (in millimeters): 128-96-115
  • Lengths (in centimeters): 156, 163, 170
  • Radius (in meters): 18
  • Weight: 1,250g per ski (163)
  • MSRP: $850

See more about the K2 Talkback 96 here

2019 DPS Zelda 106 Tour1

DPS Zelda 106 Tour1 2019

The 2019 DPS Zelda 106 Tour1.

While our Indie Brand testers loved the Alchemist construction of the Zelda 106, our backcountry testers preferred the Tour1 construction. Made with a lightweight balsa wood core sandwiched between DPS’ industry-leading pre-preg carbon laminates, the Zelda 106 Tour1 is super easy to get uphill but stays damp and takes on every type of downhill condition with ease. It’s been our Director of Photography’s go-to backcountry ski for a few seasons now, and that’s not likely to change. “Smooth, surfy, and perfectly responsive.”

  • Tip / Waist / Tail (In Millimeters): 130-106-120
  • Lengths (In Centimeters): 158, 168
  • Radius (In Meters): 18
  • Weight: 1,340g per ski (168)
  • MSRP: $780

Read more about the DPS Zelda 106 Tour1 here

Best Backcountry Skis of 2018

Deep in Montana’s backcountry, our testers ventured to the Bell Lake Yurt in the rugged Tobacco Root Mountains to test skis made for human-powered adventures.

2018 Black Diamond Route 95

Black Diamond Route 95 2019

The 2018 Black Diamond Route 95.

Based on BD’s much-lauded carbon Helio series, the Route series comes in a fiberglass and poplar wood core construction that adds nearly a pound of weight—but reduces the price by more than $200. The 95 is a steady all-rounder, and testers loved its easy, predictable handling and quickness. It planed nicely in up to a foot of powder, and held its ground in mixed conditions at moderate speeds, making it an excellent choice for spring tours. 

  • Dimensions: 125-95-114
  • Lengths: 163, 173, 183
  • Weight: 3lbs 1oz (183)
  • MSRP: $629 flat

Learn more about the Black Diamond Route 95 here

2018 Blizzard Zero G 108

2018 Blizzard Zero G 108

The 2018 Blizzard Zero G 108.

Returning unchanged for 2018, the carbon-infused Zero G 108 remains a test favorite for its power and agility—especially given its very tourable weight. Testers found it could make turns of any shape, but preferred longer arcs and higher speeds. With just enough rocker tip and tail, soft snow performance was solid, but what set the Zero G apart was its handling of mixed conditions and hardpack: “steady and damp,” one tester commented. 

  • D: 136-108-122
  • L: 171, 178, 185, 192
  • W: 3lbs 10oz (178)
  • MSRP: $960

More info about the Blizzard Zero G 108 here

2018 DPS Wailer 99 Tour1

DPS Wailer 99 Tour1 2018

The 2018 DPS Wailer 99 Tour1.

With a five-point shape more often found on fat powder-specific skis, the Wailer 99 provides deep snow surfability in spades, along with incredibly low weight, predictable edge hold on all but the firmest surfaces—and with a huge fun factor. Testers were wowed by the feathery Tour1 carbon construction, which makes the 99 one of the lightest skis available by size. But the 99 isn’t for rock-hard snow— chatter is a factor, as with any carbon ski. 

  • D: 125-99-111
  • L: 168, 176, 184
  • W: 3lbs 3oz (178)
  • MSRP: $1,099 flat

Find more info about the DPS Wailer 99 Tour1 here

2018 DPS Wailer 106 Tour1

DPS Wailer 106 Tour1 2018

The 2018 DPS Wailer 106 Tour1.

As a backcountry daily driver, the Wailer 106 Tour1 is tough to beat. It’s ultra-light for touring efficiency, girthy and rockered enough for all but the deepest pow days, can hold an edge on everything but pure ice, and provides enough “fun factor” to be more than just a reliable mountain tool. Testers found that the 106 does get tossed around a bit in difficult, mixed conditions, but overall the 106 was a crowd favorite every day.  

  • D: 133-106-122
  • L: 168, 178, 185
  • W: 3lbs 3oz (178)
  • MSRP: $999

More info on the DPS Wailer 106 Tour1 here

2018 G3 FINDr 102

2018 G3 FINDr 102

The 2018 G3 FINDr 102.

In its sophomore year, the FINDr 102 returns as one of the most versatile all-around backcountry skis on the market this season. Carbon construction keeps weight to a minimum, while excellent all-mountain dimensions serve up a solid, reliable ride. Rockered tips provide float, while flat tails give the 102 ski-mountaineering utility (a big plus for some testers). Bonus points: It’s an excellent value for a carbon ski of this caliber. 

  • D: 133-102-120
  • L: 174, 179, 184, 189
  • W: 3lbs 4oz (174)
  • MSRP: $799

More info about the G3 FINDr 102 here

2018 G3 ROAMr 100 Elle

G3 ROAMr 100 Elle 2018

The 2018 G3 ROAMr 100 Elle.

Carbon does a great job at shaving weight, but it isn’t cheap. G3’s latest removes carbon from the equation, instead opting for a glass layup between lightweight poplar and Paulownia and Titanal aluminum. The result is a ski that’s wallet-friendly—and still light enough for climbing. The carbonless construction—paired with PU sidewalls for shock absorption—also makes the women’s Elle damper and more confidence-inspiring on the downhill. 

  • D: 135-100-120
  • L: 167, 172
  • W: 3lbs 12oz (172)
  • MSRP: $629

More info on the G3 ROAMr 100 Elle here

2018 G3 SENDr 112

G3 SENDr 112 2018

G3's 2018 SENDr 112

The 112’s robust surface area surfs great in deep snow—no surprise. But the poplar and Paulownia wood core, four layers of carbon, and two sheets of Titanal provide resolve on hard snow. PU sidewalls aid dampness and durability. Testers also appreciated snow-shedding top sheets—great on sticky spring days. This wasn’t the lightest ski in our corral but also wasn’t the heaviest. It could be a quiver-of-one contender for BC and inbounds use. 

  • D: 139-112-127
  • L: 174, 181, 188, 195
  • W: 3lbs 12oz (181)
  • MSRP: $929

More info about the G3 SENDr 112 here

2018 Kästle TX 98

Kästle TX 98 2018

The 2018 Kästle TX 98.

The stoutest offering in Kästle’s TX line, the TX98 is a solid all-purpose backcountry workhorse. Designed to be playful in softer conditions and in tight terrain but still hold an edge on hard surfaces, the TX98 features a semi-cap sidewall construction and Karuba wood core that aid stability at speed, with low camber underfoot for immediate turn response. What’s it all mean for you? The 98 can hard-charge as easily as it hop-turns, just like you. 

  • D: 128-98-117
  • L: 168, 178, 188
  • MSRP: $950

More info about the Kästle TX 98 here

2018 Salomon QST 106

Salomon QST 106 2018

The 2018 Salomon QST 106.

The QST brings the meat and the heat. It likes to go fast, but can make any turn, anywhere, in any conditions without hesitation. It was the favorite ski of our resident ex-racer, but also got props across the board for its snow feel, stability, and energy. Of course, all that stability comes at a price: there’s more ski here to haul uphill, to the tune of a pound or more. But as an inbounds/backcountry do-it-all crusher, the QST is a fun, rewarding ride. 

  • D: 140-106-126
  • L: 167, 174, 181, 188
  • W: 4lbs 3oz (181)
  • MSRP: $850

More info about the Salomon QST 106 here

2018 Voile Ultra Vector

Voile Ultra Vector 2018

The 2018 Voile Ultra Vector.

In deep powder and set-up spring snow, Voile’s Ultra Vector proved a dependable partner. Splitting the difference between the original Vector and the popular Supercharger, the Ultra retains an aspen wood core, with softened flex and more sidecut. The Ultra happily initiated turns of virtually any size, held back only by a speed limit on the upper end of what testers considered normal. Available in sizes from 154-184cm, it’s a strong unisex option. 

  • D: 130-96-114
  • L: 154, 164, 171, 177, 184
  • W: 3lb 6oz (177)
  • MSRP: $695

More info about the Voile Ultra Vector here

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