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The Best Indie Skis

Dozens of new ski companies have sprouted in the last decade. Are they making good skis? Last spring, we went to Aspen to find out. The answer is yes, and here are our favorites.

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112/85/101 | $580 Testers called the Eldorado “snappy,” “lively,” and “energetic.” It fired off short carves with authority. A great choice for an…

112/85/101 | $580
Testers called the Eldorado “snappy,” “lively,” and “energetic.” It fired off short carves with authority. A great choice for an East Coast ripper or park rat who wants all-mountain capability.
Lengths: 166, 176, 182
Turn Radius: 20 at 176

ABOUT MOMENT
Tool around on a Moment ski for a day and you’re likely to receive an asinine comment from some Joey about the squared-off tip and tail. But bottom line, the Reno-based company builds boards that rip. Founded in 2004 as an excuse to make skis for friends and family, Moment quickly gained a following and grew out of the garage. Now the line is 22 models deep, with everything from an Olympic bronze–winning mogul ski to an ultra-fat powder ski—all Tahoe-tested and Reno-built.

126)/136/115/133/(123) | $900 The new shape of powder skiing debuted in 2008–09: camber and sidecut underfoot; rocker and reverse sidecut tip and…

126)/136/115/133/(123) | $900
The new shape of powder skiing debuted in 2008–09: camber and sidecut underfoot; rocker and reverse sidecut tip and tail. The result: loose, slashy, floaty, get-after-it goodness—fresh as ever as the JJ heads into its fourth season. Testers still love it. Everyone loves it.
Lengths: 165, 175, 185
Turn Radius: 14 at 185

ABOUT ARMADA
He weighed only about 140 pounds, but when seven-time ESPN Winter X Games gold medalist Tanner Hall stomped his landing on the burgeoning new-school scene, the ski world shook. The Montana-bred Hall, never comfortable with authority, promptly ditched Rossignol and banded with other luminary park skiers to form Armada in 2002. The concept was brilliant: Star athletes would run the show, pimp the brand, design the skis they wanted, and control the message. Sales immediately took off, and now Armada, the giant of indies, rivals some of the mainstream brands for U.S. market share.

140/101/126 | $750 SkiLogik was the overall favorite brand among female testers, and the Goddess was admired for both its performance and its looks.…

140/101/126 | $750
SkiLogik was the overall favorite brand among female testers, and the Goddess was admired for both its performance and its looks. “Beautiful ski inside and out.” They skied the twin-tip version (TT), but there’s an early-rise, flat-tailed version (RL) as well. It’s an expert’s ski, they warn, but dynamic and exciting too.
Length: 168
Turn Radius: 15

ABOUT SKILOGIK
As much as Dave Mazzarella loved to ski, he was willing to move his family to an island in the South China Sea in order to build skis the way he wanted to. There, in the factory of his dreams, he makes the skis of his dreams, even if most of the time he can only dream of skiing. SkiLogiks are beautiful and unusual creations: wood sidewalls, clear-coated wood topsheets, gorgeous graphics created by Mazzarella’s wife, Mariella. More important, they perform well, and both male and female testers counted them among their favorites.

136/85/117 | $779 It might be the most confident carver in the bunch, but there’s more to the Jam than supreme groomed-snow performance. Like the…

136/85/117 | $779
It might be the most confident carver in the bunch, but there’s more to the Jam than supreme groomed-snow performance. Like the Sluff, it’s a metal-free cap/sidewall hybrid with no discernible speed limit. Supremely sturdy on edge but never difficult or disobedient.
Lengths: 164, 173, 182
Turn Radius: 17 at 182

ABOUT MOVEMENT
Looking for a little Euro flavor in your indie brand? Movement hails from the French-speaking region of Switzerland. It got its start in 2000, but its founder, Serge Baud, already had about 20 years of snowboard experience as cofounder of one of the world’s seminal snowboard brands, Wild Duck. Baud decided that big-mountain freeskiing was the future and gradually turned his attention to skis. As of last fall, the brand makes its U.S. headquarters in Boulder, Colorado, but Swiss attention to detail permeates its creations, which were among the most universally loved by testers.

123/86/112 | $969The Attack emphatically announces that it’s not just the moguls and aerials ski anymore. It’s a metal-reinforced wood-core twin tip…

123/86/112 | $969
The Attack emphatically announces that it’s not just the moguls and aerials ski anymore. It’s a metal-reinforced wood-core twin tip with a versatile 86-millimeter waist that goes anywhere with enthusiasm. It’s well behaved but never boring. “Slingshots you across the fall line, then dives eagerly into the next turn.”
Lengths: 158, 166, 174, 180
Turn Radius: 19 at 180

ABOUT HART
We know…Hart? The once-proud American brand has certainly seen some hard times—a long downward slide that started with its acquisition by Beatrice Foods a couple decades ago. So testers were shocked by the performance of recent models made on Vashon Island, Washington—former K2 headquarters—with the guidance of former K2 engineer Steve Ellison. Now Hart builds about half its skis, including the amazing Attack, on U.S. shores—not bad these days—and has relocated from Minneapolis to Ogden, Utah.

121/78/108 | $1,199Good East-appropriate rides are decidedly harder to come by among indie ski offerings, but the Cassiar is the exception. It’s…

121/78/108 | $1,199
Good East-appropriate rides are decidedly harder to come by among indie ski offerings, but the Cassiar is the exception. It’s light and energetic on the corduroy thanks to its carbon-laminate construction. Testers liked its balanced, responsive feel and racelike performance.
Lengths: 166, 178
Turn radius: 15 at 178

ABOUT DPS
Innovative designs and construction practices have helped DPS build techy powder skis since 2005. Featherweight fatties like the Lotus series and the Wailer 112RP have passionate followings, but DPS’s carving-oriented model, the Cassiar, was equally impressive. Most of the models are offered in two constructions: Pure (carbon-reinforced poplar core), or Hybrid (fiberglass, carbon, and bamboo). The former has a lightweight and lively feel, while the latter is a damper ride at reduced cost.

144/112/130 | $750One of the wider skis in the Western one-ski quiver category, the D-Sender still carved admirably. Testers noted its affinity for…

144/112/130 | $750
One of the wider skis in the Western one-ski quiver category, the D-Sender still carved admirably. Testers noted its affinity for softer conditions but liked its sturdy feel underfoot and its ability to make different turn shapes and sizes.
Lengths: 164, 174, 184, 194
Turn Radius: 25 at 184

ABOUT FAT-YPUS
It started with a prototype made from hacked-up snowboards. At 140 millimeters underfoot, the A-Lotta was unlike anything available on the market in 2005. But founder Jared Mazlish wanted a ski few had ever considered making. Since then, Fat-ypus has expanded to nine models, six men’s and three women’s, from a 72-millimeter bump ski to the unabashedly fat flagship. Fat-ypus strives for a balance of capable, athlete-driven skis that can still be approached by less aggressive skiers.

143/110/127 | $1,750 Wagner supplied a ski with a light aspen core and a carbon-fiber torsion box for a medium flex but high torsional rigidity.…

143/110/127 | $1,750
Wagner supplied a ski with a light aspen core and a carbon-fiber torsion box for a medium flex but high torsional rigidity. Testers found it ideal for railing groomers and mashing bumps. Its rocker helped in the soft stuff.
Length: 182
Turn Radius: 21.9

ABOUT WAGNER
Something about custom feels luxurious. But Wagner Custom Skis sees it more as common sense. A tailored ski helps you ski as a tailored suit helps you look studly. Wagner has developed proprietary design software to determine each customer’s “skier DNA,” and since 2006 the company has pumped out quality boards from its southwest Colorado factory. The custom treatment comes at a price premium, but the design possibilities are endless. For our test, Wagner brought skis built for typical Aspen conditions, and though the skis weren’t customized specifically for each tester, they loved them.

129/104/121 | $699 A forgiving ski, the Turbo preferred to smear and slide and could do so with a variety of turn shapes. One tester called it a…

129/104/121 | $699
A forgiving ski, the Turbo preferred to smear and slide and could do so with a variety of turn shapes. One tester called it a “nice, gentle ride in the slush bumps and groomed snow.” Rocker helps in deeper conditions.
Lengths 168, 175, 182, 189
Turn Radius: 27.6 at 182

ABOUT 4FRNT
A Tahoe garage operation turned international ski brand, 4FRNT is an indie Cinderella story. Pro skier Matt Sterbenz founded it in 2002 to build fatter twin tips for the growing freeskiing movement. A decade later, 4FRNT still relies heavily on its pro riders to develop its freeride- and park-leaning boards, which are produced in Elan’s Slovenian factory. In an effort to regain some of the garage-shop flexibility enjoyed by indie brands, 4FRNT opened The White Room, a Salt Lake City mini-factory where its athletes hand-build prototypes and selected runs of pro models.

134/99/118 | $859 Can a 99-millimeter-waisted ski be the “quiver of one” that Movement promises? Evidently yes. The Sluff was a tester favorite—a…

134/99/118 | $859
Can a 99-millimeter-waisted ski be the “quiver of one” that Movement promises? Evidently yes. The Sluff was a tester favorite—a sophisticated design combines cap and sidewall construction for the best attributes of both. It carves like a race ski, tames the crud, and floats with the best.
Lengths: 174, 184
Turn Radius: 22 at 184

ABOUT MOVEMENT
Looking for a little Euro flavor in your indie brand? Movement hails from the French-speaking region of Switzerland. It got its start in 2000, but its founder, Serge Baud, already had about 20 years of snowboard experience as cofounder of one of the world’s seminal snowboard brands, Wild Duck. Baud decided that big-mountain freeskiing was the future and gradually turned his attention to skis. As of last fall, the brand makes its U.S. headquarters in Boulder, Colorado, but Swiss attention to detail permeates its creations, which were among the most universally loved by testers.

130/90/119 | $690 The Fringe, a midfat all-mountain generalist, is a solid effort for a freshman company. It’s damp and aggressive and likes to go…

130/90/119 | $690
The Fringe, a midfat all-mountain generalist, is a solid effort for a freshman company. It’s damp and aggressive and likes to go fast, with a GS-y sidecut that engages tip to tail and holds infallibly. Our 182 test ski had a 90-millimeter waist, but on shorter models, Klint adjusts dimensions and flex accordingly.
Lengths: 164, 173, 182
Turn Radius: 19 at 182

ABOUT KLINT
San Diego–based Klint, which debuts this year, looks like a sophisticated newcomer to the indie scene, one with considerable action-sports-marketing firepower behind it. Its founder, Frenchman Ludo Boinnard, grew up skiing the Alps, made a name in motocross, and now returns to skiing with a broad line of Chinese-manufactured skis and Tanner Rainville on the payroll. The constructions are rich, the topsheets crisp and eye-catching. Even the catalog and website are slick.

121/96/112 | $630Poppy and playful but stable on edge, the Tahoe trenched and could make several turn shapes thanks to a touch of tip rocker and a…

121/96/112 | $630
Poppy and playful but stable on edge, the Tahoe trenched and could make several turn shapes thanks to a touch of tip rocker and a multi-radius sidecut. Take it to the park, through shallow pow, or on firm groomers. It’s a great West Coast one-ski quiver.
Lengths: 170, 180, 188
Turn Radius: 24 at 180

ABOUT MOMENT
Tool around on a Moment ski for a day and you’re likely to receive an asinine comment from some Joey about the squared-off tip and tail. But bottom line, the Reno-based company builds boards that rip. Founded in 2004 as an excuse to make skis for friends and family, Moment quickly gained a following and grew out of the garage. Now the line is 22 models deep, with everything from an Olympic bronze–winning mogul ski to an ultra-fat powder ski—all Tahoe-tested and Reno-built.

130/87/114 | $1,750 Many testers noted a well-built and solid feel to the ski. Layers of metal gave it a nice personality on hardpack and in chunder.…

130/87/114 | $1,750
Many testers noted a well-built and solid feel to the ski. Layers of metal gave it a nice personality on hardpack and in chunder. “Great energy and reaction,” said one tester. “This ski is crazy fun to rip.” [Pictured with an Australian myrtle wood topsheet]
Length: 175
Turn Radius: 16.1

ABOUT WAGNER
Something about custom feels luxurious. But Wagner Custom Skis sees it more as common sense. A tailored ski helps you ski as a tailored suit helps you look studly. Wagner has developed proprietary design software to determine each customer’s “skier DNA,” and since 2006 the company has pumped out quality boards from its southwest Colorado factory. The custom treatment comes at a price premium, but the design possibilities are endless. For our test, Wagner brought skis built for typical Aspen conditions, and though the skis weren’t customized specifically for each tester, they loved them.

145/101/131 | $750 The Chariot is a worthy ride for the god of snow. Testers universally applauded its solid feel and predictable performance. It’s a…

145/101/131 | $750
The Chariot is a worthy ride for the god of snow. Testers universally applauded its solid feel and predictable performance. It’s a true expert all-mountain twin tip, they said, and one that begs for speed. There’s a tip-rockered, flat-tailed version as well in SkiLogik’s Rocker Logik line.
Lengths: 168, 178, 188
Turn Radius: 15

ABOUT SKILOGIK
As much as Dave Mazzarella loved to ski, he was willing to move his family to an island in the South China Sea in order to build skis the way he wanted to. There, in the factory of his dreams, he makes the skis of his dreams, even if most of the time he can only dream of skiing. SkiLogiks are beautiful and unusual creations: wood sidewalls, clear-coated wood topsheets, gorgeous graphics created by Mazzarella’s wife, Mariella. More important, they perform well, and both male and female testers counted them among their favorites.

126/94/119 | $629 Testers appreciated the Morphic’s performance in the springlike test conditions. It has an even flex for carving and enough beef to…

126/94/119 | $629
Testers appreciated the Morphic’s performance in the springlike test conditions. It has an even flex for carving and enough beef to power through the crud. The bamboo core keeps it light and poppy. An East Coast one-ski quiver or Western ride for firmer conditions.
Lengths: 164, 171, 181, 186
Turn Radius: 19.5 at 181

ABOUT LIBERTY
Liberty got its start in 2003 when Dan Chalfant and James Satloff won $38,000 playing craps in Vegas. (They were there for the annual ski-industry convention.) The first company to put bamboo into the cores of its entire ski line, Avon, Colorado–based Liberty builds skis for every aspect of skiing—from the backcountry to the park—using the lightweight yet durable material. We liked the Morphic, but those looking for something fatter but still versatile might enjoy the Helix.

136/104/126 | $680High Society offers three waist widths—92, 104, and 122 millimeters—in its FR (freeride) series, including a tip-rockered version…

136/104/126 | $680
High Society offers three waist widths—92, 104, and 122 millimeters—in its FR (freeride) series, including a tip-rockered version of the 122. Testers loved the 104, available only in a 186-centimeter length. Solid on edge, smooth in crud, with a powerful top end.
Length: 186 | Turn Radius: 23

ABOUT HIGH SOCIETY FREERIDE
It’s a classic indie-brand story. Shop rat Reggie Charles and his Aspen ski/ride buddies weren’t happy with the durability of the skis and boards offered back in 2002. “We just destroyed those skis, and for $700 you want something to last.” So they built their own and have been perfecting the FR (freeride) models, available in three different flavors, ever since. They’re still based in Aspen and happy to be pressing their skis at the Never Summer (mostly snowboard) factory in Denver.