Gear

Gear Guide 2019: Men’s Indie Skis

These independent brands are pushing the big guys to innovate, change, and just be better.

BEST IN TEST and BEST VALUE: 4FRNT MSP 107

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The wider MSP 107 is new for 2018-19 but features many of the same technologies as the narrower MSP 99, including a Titanal overlay and full wood core. Testers praised the ski’s playfulness, stability at speed, and dampness, calling it a perfect quiver killer for Western advanced/expert skiers. Wehrman: “Versatile beyond description.” Read more about the 4FRNT MSP 107 here.

  • Strengths: Stability at Speed, Overall Impression; Weakness: Quickness
  • Overall Rating: 4.17 / 5
  • Tip / Waist / Tail (in millimeters): 138-107-128
  • Lengths (in centimeters): 175, 181, 187
  • Radius (in meters): 20
  • MSRP: $599

*Best in Test for Men’s All-Mountain Wide, Best Value Overall.

DPS Alchemist Wailer 106

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This ski returned energy investment tenfold with some of the smoothest turns in the entire test. Featuring a tapered sidecut and an updated construction, the Wailer 106 remained damp and didn’t get kicked around like skis this light normally would. Two carbon fiber laminates sandwich an aspen wood core, and testers were stoked on its well-rounded turning abilities. Sebestyen: “Super light, easy to ski, and craves deep snow.” See mores scores for the DPS Alchemist Wailer 106 here.

  • Strengths: Forgiveness , Quickness; Weakness: Playfulness
  • Overall Rating: 4 / 5
  • Tip / Waist / Tail (in millimeters): 135-106-124
  • Lengths (in centimeters): 168, 178, 185, 189
  • Radius (in meters): 18
  • MSRP: $1.299 (BUY NOW)

BEST IN TEST: 4FRNT MSP 99

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The mellow shovel rocker satisfies skiers of all types by allowing the ski to charge in both forward and upright stances, but new school types will love the poppy tails for side-hits and drops. Testers found this ski to perform best at speed, yet still be approachable for intermediates looking to step up their game. Loomans: “A nice balance between stability and playfulness.” Check out more details about the 4FRNT MSP 99 here.

  • Strength: Stability at Speed, Crud Performance; Weakness: Flotation
  • Overall Rating: 3.96 / 5
  • Tip / Waist / Tail (in millimeters): 134-99-122
  • Lengths (in centimeters): 176, 181, 187
  • Radius (in meters): 18
  • MSRP: $599

*Best in Test for Men’s All-Mountain Narrow

J Skis The Metal

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Despite its rock ’n’ roll name, testers kept using the word “comfortable” to describe this ski. It tamed the entire mountain with a resilient playfulness that’s easy for nearly any advanced/expert skier to enjoy, plus it has a massive sweet spot that made the ski always seem at ease in all conditions. The dual-metal laminate and maple wood core construction adds weight, but testers could enter and exit turns with a delightful snappiness. Fuhrman: “Perfect for exploring all the nooks and crannies on the mountain.” Read more about J Skis The Metal here.

  • Strength: Hard-Snow Integrity; Weakness: Flotation
  • Overall Rating: 3.88 / 5
  • Tip / Waist / Tail (in millimeters): 136-106-125
  • Lengths (in centimeters): 173, 180, 186
  • Radius (in meters): 17
  • MSRP: $699

Sego Cleaver 110

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The first thing testers noticed about the Cleaver 110 is its very abrupt, directional early rise in the shovel. The second thing they noticed was that this ski is surprisingly versatile for being on the fatter end of the all-mountain wide spectrum. Sego, based in Wyoming’s Tetons, built the Cleaver for big mountain competitions where charging hard is the name the game, and this ski could handle all that and more, even on groomed runs. Loomans: “Performs great in all conditions and all turn shapes.” See more scores for the Sego Cleaver 110 here.

  • Strength: Crud Performance, Flotation; Weakness: Forgiveness
  • Overall Rating: 3.84 / 5
  • Tip / Waist / Tail (in millimeters): 135-110-126
  • Lengths (in centimeters): 175, 181, 187, 192
  • Radius (in meters): 23
  • MSRP: $879 

Liberty V92

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Liberty’s V-series is new for 2018-19 and features vertically-aligned metal struts be- tween the bamboo and poplar wood core, plus two layers of carbon and two carbon stringers. These lightweight skis charge on the frontside and in hard-snow conditions unlike any indie ski we know. The V92 is the widest model in the V-series lineup, and testers praised its corduroy-devour- ing capabilities along with its ability to handle variable terrain with finesse. Sexauer: “For a firm snow groomer day this thing is a no brainer.” You can find more details about the Liberty V92 here.

  • Strength: Hard-Snow Integrity, Forgiveness; Weakness: Flotation
  • Overall Rating: 3.75 / 5
  • Tip / Waist / Tail (in millimeters): 133-92-120
  • Lengths (in centimeters): 172, 179, 186
  • Radius (in meters): 17.5
  • MSRP: $950

Romp 94

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Crested Butte, Colo.–based ROMP makes custom skis that’ll get any skier excited, but most of its stock options are pretty sweet too. Case in point: The ROMP 94 is fairly traditionally shaped with a little rocker in the front and a flat tail, but keeps everything in a tight, high-performing package that is a carving knockout in variable and hard snow. While it could make a variety of turn shapes, it was most at home in GS- sized arcs. Fuhrman: “Hero ski for ripping groomers.” Read more about the Romp 94 here.

  • Strength: Hard-Snow Integrity; Weakness: Playfulness
  • Overall Rating: 3.73 / 5
  • Tip / Waist / Tail (in millimeters): 132-94-122
  • Lengths (in centimeters): 164, 172, 179
  • Radius (in meters): 19
  • MSRP: $750

Liberty Origin 96

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With a modified early rise and the same bamboo, poplar, and carbon core construction as last year, the Origin 96 proved to be more versatile than the category winner and remained easy to ski anywhere on the mountain. Testers found it still prefers frontside conditions, but the ski wasn’t bashful on steep, variable terrain in less-than-perfect snow. Fast or slow, on snow or in the air, this ski is a winner for a variety of abilities and locations. Sebestyen: “A happy camper in all conditions.” Read more about the Liberty Origin 96 here.

  • Strength: Versatility, Forgiveness; Weakness: Quickness
  • Overall Rating: 3.7 / 5
  • Tip / Waist / Tail (in millimeters): 130-96-118
  • Lengths (in centimeters): 171, 176, 182, 187
  • Radius (in meters): 17.5
  • MSRP: $750 (BUY NOW)

J Skis The Masterblaster

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If “fun” was a test category, The Masterblaster would top the chart. The dual metal laminate and maple wood core construction acted like a trampoline, and testers were popping all over the mountain with smiles on their faces. Those who kept it on snow noticed that it struggled to make shorter radius turns but shined brightly going fast and carving big swoops on edge. All this, plus a devilishly nice price, got testers stoked. Fuhrman: “I hope you like to go fast, because these do.” Check out the rest of the scores for the J Skis The Masterblaster here.

  • Strengths: Stability at Speed, Playfulness; Weakness: Forgiveness 
  • Overall Rating: 3.61 / 5
  • Tip / Waist / Tail (in millimeters): 125-96-114
  • Lengths (in centimeters): 168, 175, 181, 187
  • Radius (in meters): 18
  • MSRP: $666

BEST IN TEST: J Skis The Friend

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Recently, both indie and mainstream brands’ powder skis have gotten skinnier
and more versatile while sacrificing deep-day performance. The Friend takes the opposite approach but remained just as versatile as any powder ski. Builder Jason Levinthal completely redesigned The Friend for 2018-19 with an extra 3mm underfoot and tightened up its turn radius to 18.5 meters. Testers loved zooming The Friend around on fresh snow, groomed, and everything in between. Sebestyen: “Just wonderful.” See more about J Skis The Friend here.

  • Strength: Stability at Speed, Overall Impression; Weakness: Quickness
  • Overall Rating: 4.14 / 5
  • Tip / Waist / Tail (in millimeters): 143-117-133
  • Lengths (in centimeters): 177, 183, 189
  • Radius (in meters): 18.5
  • MSRP: $749

*Best in Test for Men’s Wild Card Category

Harvest Pow Cow

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Based in Steamboat, Colo., Harvest has three different models of skis designed for Western-oriented versatility and fun. Testers were over the moon about the brand’s fattest option, the Pow Cow, finding it to be floaty and schmear-able as they cruised through soft snow and even moguls. It tipped easily into and out of carves, but more aggressive testers were able to find its speed limit in variable conditions. Sexauer: “On a deep day with open bowls this thing will keep you out, skiing and smiling.” Jump here to see more specs about the Harvest Pow Cow.

  • Strength: Flotation; Weakness: Hard-Snow Integrity
  • Overall Rating: 3.66 / 5
  • Tip / Waist / Tail (in millimeters): 148-122-135
  • Lengths (in centimeters): 177, 187
  • Radius (in meters): 22
  • MSRP: $789

Icelantic Nomad 105

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Icelantic’s No. 1 selling freeride ski is good at everything. Made with three sheets of multi-directional fiberglass surrounding a poplar wood core, this ski seeks the soft snow but has a great time get- ting to it, too. Testers praised its confidence-building nature, how it charged through crud with ease, and found themselves chuckling as they raced down the mountain for last chair at top speed. Made in Colorado, the Nomad 105 is a great one-ski option anywhere in the West. Jay: “Solid all-around performer.” Read more about the Icelantic Nomad 105 here. 

  • Strengths: Crud Performance, Stability at Speed; Weakness: Forgiveness
  • Overall Rating: 3.61 / 5
  • Tip / Waist / Tail (In Millimeters): 140-105-130
  • Lengths (In Centimeters): 161, 171, 181, 191
  • Radius (In Meters): 19
  • MSRP: $699 (BUY NOW)