It stings when you breathe. But you’re halfway up. Somewhere in the woods, zig-zagging. You didn’t want to wake up, but you’re glad you did. Every so often you stop to revel in the stillness. There’s glitter in the air—snow from tree tops spirals aimlessly with each breeze that passes overhead. A mellow objective brought you out. You find it meditative, walking in the woods. Your mind settles and you feel the friction of your skins sticking to the pitch beneath your feet.
Kick turn, pole plant, onward. You check the snowpack with your pole and talk with your partners. Always assessing—often telling jokes. That’s how it goes. Atop the ridge, the wind is stronger and the snow looks good on the face below. You envision the turns. Safe skiing; strong skiing. Smooth skiing. Out here, your skis will transport you through space and time.
4FRNT Raven 4-Lock
You know what they say: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. That’s the general consensus from the cult-like followers of the 4FRNT Raven, a freeride backcountry ski that’s remained largely unchanged since 2016. Designed and put to the test by legendary skier and engineer Eric “Hoji” Hjorleifson, the 104-waisted Raven is like a slimmer, slicier version of the 112-mm Hoji ski, with a schmeary, reverse camber construction that allowed testers to pivot their way through soft snow and variable terrain. For a reverse camber ski, it lays into turns remarkably well thanks to the long sidecut, an impressively stable ride for such a playful, creative ski. Sums up one FREESKIER tester: “World class. Light as a feather and stable as an ox.” While the Raven only sees an updated top sheet for the 2022-23 season, all Ravens will come with 4FRNT’s 4-Lock Skin Integration system, featuring the signature “Hoji Hole” for reliable skin retention.
Armada Locator 112
A surfy powder board with lightweight construction that you can haul to the top while leaving plenty of gas left in the tank, the 112-waisted Locator, one of the best backcountry skis of the year, is the girthy top dawg of Armada’s new freeride touring series. Massive float and a super stable design allowed testers to charge big lines with speed and confidence. A light caruba wood core keeps things nimble on the up-track while carbon reinforcements boost stiffness and energetic rebound when popping off cliffs and arcing big turns down steep faces. Testers reported stability and lack of chatter, even when conditions firmed up, thanks to a long turn radius and gentle rocker, although the Locator 112 definitely shines brightest while maching through the deep. If 112 is a little burlier than you’re seeking, the Locator series also features 88-, 96-, and 104 mm skis.
Atomic Backland 107 W
Part of the Backland freeride collection, the 107 W is a tried and true backcountry ripper, capable of charging hard on fast, steep descents, without dragging you down. Inside, an ultralight poplar and caruba wood core keeps things springy and energetic, while carbon and fiberglass reinforcements provide the stiffness you need to trust your platform when boosting airs or laying into an edge. HRZN Tech tips add extra surface area in the shovels, providing far more float than testers expected from a 107-mm ski. “Light on the uphill and very fun and responsive on the descent,” sums up one FREESKIER tester. “It is a wonderful all-around touring ski in a width that can ski corn and hard snow but also performs in powder. I would happily ski it in any conditions.”
DPS Pagoda Tour 106 C2
For those who want to ski fast and feel their edges, DPS’ all-new Pagoda Tour 106 C2 merges the Tour construction with the C2 shape, a lightweight ski with impressive downhill chops. The Salt Lake City-based brand’s C2 series skis feature a longer effective edge than the RP skis, a powerful directional build that favors fast, long-radius turns over tight, quick turns in the trees. Don’t let the sub 1,500-gram weight fool you; it’s not at all a wimpy touring ski, instead geared towards more advanced skiers who want to trust what’s under their feet while charging midwinter lines as well as spring corn, making it one of the best backcountry skis on the market this season. The 106-mm waist provides a solid platform for everyday touring, with a beefy 137-mm shovel that keeps you afloat when Ullr delivers.
Blizzard Hustle 10
Blizzard’s high-performance skis really sing to sepcific segments of skiers. You have big-mountain freeride staples like the Rustler and Sheeva that can conquer just about anything a resort can throw at them. There is the lightweight Zero G for the backcountry purists intent on earning their turns. But what about a line for the ski town dark horses? The pocket-bacon-munching, bell-to-bell charging, ski-it-all rippers? Enter the brand new Hustle lineup, and more specifically, the Hustle 10—a 102-mm tool to specifically engineered to ski backcountry and resort destinations across North America, and one of the best backcountry skis of the year. “For the Hustle 10, It was really just the right time for us to find that happy space between two success stories—the Zero G and the Rustler/Sheeva,” Blizzard’s Director of Marketing Frank Shine said. “We’re reaching out to a new group of people that want to get out there early with their headlamp, because that’s the only time they can go skiing. This ski is also for someone who might only have an hour to jump on the tram and go off the backside at Jackson, but they’re going to ensure that they make it happen.
READ THE FULL DEEP DIVE REVIEW — [ CLICK HERE ]
DPS Pagoda Tour 90 RP
Light as a feather and easy to whip around in tight couloirs and steep terrain, the new Pagoda Tour 90 RP is a springtime hero. It’s the slimmest in the Tour RP collection, with a 90-mm waist that’s geared towards exploring lines deep in the backcountry. DPS’s new Pagoda Tour construction features an updated wood and foam core which optimizes strength-to-weight, as well as new algae-based sidewall technology, a sustainable material engineered for its damping characteristics and durability. That all translates to a smooth, stable ride in a lightweight package, energetic and stiff enough to trust through high-consequence turns, with a zippy feel and short turn radius that keeps you feeling light on your feet, whether you’re stepping into your skis on the summit or blasting down the resort for a few laps before the work day.
Dynastar M-Tour 99
The crown jewel of Dynastar’s freeride-touring skis, the M-Tour 99, one of the best backcountry skis of the year, is agile and powerful, a trustworthy ski for tackling big objectives. It’s the widest touring-specific ski in Dynastar’s lineup, with a capable 99-mm waist that allows for a bit of float when you need it, and optimal grip and edge-to-edge contact in variable snow. The Hybrid Wood core features light and springy paulownia wood, reinforced with polyurethane for a smooth feel underfoot when railing high speed turns in firm conditions. Dynastar’s unique approach of wrapping the core with basalt fibers adds stiffness and energy to the ski. Directional rocker allows the ski to float through fresh snow while maintaining solid edge grip when firm conditions replace the fluff, ideal for skiers who want to lay into their edges instead of pivoting their way down the mountain.
Faction La Machine 3 Mega
The original La Machine made waves when it was released in 2020, and Faction is expanding the line to include an entire family of playful, smeary touring skis ranging from 91- to 126-mm. The 109-waisted 3 Mega is a more versatile version of the original 126-waisted powder hungry ‘La Machine,’ with a super lightweight paulownia wood core that lets you access lines deep in the backcountry. “This ski commands your fullest attention on the descent and thrives in the freshest cold pow,” said one FREESKIER tester. “Silky flotation on the way down with enough backbone to handle sections of variable snow.” The rockered design makes it one of the best backcountry skis and allows you to pivot and slash your way through everything from low-density fluff to afternoon mank, laid up with carbon to keep weight down and boost stiffness for a smooth ride. Faction is also making a big push to prioritize sustainable production, with bio-based resin, recycled materials, and a sustainably-sourced wood core.
If you’re looking for a ski that can handle inbounds chuck and backcountry variability, G3’s ROAMr 100 is a solid option; and it’s one of the best backcountry skis of the year. This touring ski can take the heat while riding lifts as well as exploring the backcountry. It’s definitely on the heavier side of skis in this category, built with a lively poplar and paulownia core and Titanal sheets. If you’re not a weight weenie, it certainly pays off to have a ski that keeps its cool in the chunk. A long effective edge inspires control and confidence in firm snow, with early rise tips and flat rise tails that provide stability and a solid platform for kick turns. Like other G3 skis, magnetic contact points hold the skis together, which doesn’t affect the ski’s performance but it sure is convenient.
Elan Ripstick Tour 104
With the help of Glen Plake, one of the most iconic champions of our sport, Elan created a super light ski for avid backcountry skiers who like to travel far and wide, hunting for steep, remote lines. The Ripstick Tour 104 is all-new for 2023, is one of the best backcountry skis of the year and builds on the successes of the all-mountain Ripstick line. The Tour 104 is a skier’s ski, for people who like to work hard for the perfect turn. Testers agree that for those that live for massive springtime corn harvests, the Tour 104 is your ticket to glory. REESKIER testers celebrated the Tour 104 for its ability to handle less-than-great conditions without the weight of heavier and bulkier touring skis. However, the Ripstick Tour 104 isn’t meant to charge. It wasn’t designed that way, says Plake. “I wanted a touring ski that was specifically for tech bindings, allowing me to move freely in the mountains, up and down. It’s neutral and calm, good for anyone who wants a light, wide-body touring ski.”
READ THE FULL DEEP DIVE REVIEW — [ CLICK HERE ]
Icelantic Mystic 107
A playful platform for slaying the backcountry, Icelantic’s Mystic 107 is the Colorado brand’s signature women’s powder touring ski, a blast and a half for ladies looking to get creative out of bounds and one of the best backcountry skis of the year. It’s the floatier, more powerful big sister to the spring-oriented Maiden 97, both featuring directional rocker for stability and easy turn initiation, and a slight bit of camber underfoot for solid edge control on firm snow. The Mystic skis feature Icelantic’s Featherweight Wood Core, a combo of balsa and flax that keeps you feeling light on your feet on the up-track, with plenty of energy on the way back down. “I think that a more relaxed skier would enjoy this ski because it flows with the snow and the terrain nicely,” said one FREESKIER tester, who added that while it excels in powder, it’s not the ski for laying into your edges on firm snow. Lady freeriders will rejoice with the playful opportunities the Mystic 107 presents, and strong intermediates will be psyched to progress on this friendly yet confidence-inspiring skis.
K2 Dispatch 110
We’re psyched about the launch of K2’s new Dispatch line this season, a family of skis that tears up terrain with a vengeance. The Dispatch 110 sits in the center of the new lineup, with a beefier 120 and slimmed-down 101 on either side of this versatile powder chaser. The core is made up of lively and light paulownia wood, and K2’s Hex Beam technology moves mass towards the tip and tail to improve directional stability and power. A higher swing weight combined with a long turning radius means this ski likes to attack fall lines, suited for advanced skiers who know how to drive ‘em. It’s not feathery light—favoring stability at speed and performance in crud—so it can hop back inbounds for a few front side laps when the time is right.
Nordica Enforcer 104 Unlimited
Nordica took the downhill prowess from the popular Enforcer series and lightened it up for a touring-friendly design. The Enforcer 104 Unlimited, one of the best backcountry skis of the year, is the most pow-hungry in the bunch of all-new skis, utilizing more carbon in the construction to keep you light on your feet while climbing. “A super-light feel for the superb downhill performance,” raved one tester. FREESKIER testers appreciated “having a capable ski to crush descents,” after a long slog in the backcountry, noting the easy steering and stability while blasting through crud. Nordica’s True Tip LT technology sheds weight in the tip, contributing to intuitive turn initiation and quick maneuvering in tight trees. It’s a capable touring ski that intermediate and advanced skiers will love, inspiring confidence and reminding us we don’t need to say yes to flimsy noodle skis to get deep into the backcountry.
Rossignol Escaper 97 Nano
An all-new offering from Rossignol, the Escaper series is built to explore new depths of the backcountry, keeping your legs fresh for the sweet reward of a long slog. The Escaper 97 Nano is the widest in this uphill-oriented lineup, featuring a springy and agile paulownia core and lightened-up Air Tips for intuitive steering while weaving through tight trees. Ultra-thin layers of Titanal, carbon and basalt boost strength and stability without weighing you down, and the v-shaped anchor is a nice touch for skin retention on long walks. Although it’s not the ski to rail fast turns on hardpack, the Escaper 97 Nano provides a surprising amount of grip and power for its weight, keeping you in the driver’s seat when you point it down terrain where it really counts.
Scott Superguide Freetour
Light and agile on the ascent with a surprising amount of power on the way down, the Superguide Freetour impressed our testers, making it one of the best backcountry skis of the year. “A great balance of maneuverability and stability,” reported one FREESKIER tester. “Ideal for longer days in the backcountry since it’s easy to ski, but even easier to hike!” Lightweight paulownia and beech reinforced with carbon and aramid, keep this ski strong and stiff, with solid edge hold through turns on icy firm snow. Rockered tips and tails allow for smooth, intuitive steering, and at 104-mm, the waist is floaty enough to enjoy a low-density storm in the Rockies, just stay away from Cascade Concrete. Stable at speed, expert skiers will love the reliability and solid feel underfoot when charging big lines, and intermediate skiers will love the vast amount of terrain these lightweight skis unlock.
Völkl Mantra V-Werks
A freeride touring ski that knows how to slice and dice variable snow, Völkl’s Mantra V-Werks sees a new top sheet this year but otherwise remains unchanged. A beech and poplar wood core makes for a light and durable foundation, boosting strength thanks to carbon and Titanal bands. It’s stiff, springy, and ready to be driven by an aggressive skier, impressing testers with its performance-to-weight ratio. Camber underfoot delivers a solid bite in hardpack (although keep your speed in check if it’s really firm), with early rise tip and tail that allow turning to feel intuitive. The 99-mm waist made for quick edge-to-edge transitions and the 135-mm shovel kept us afloat after a low-density storm, proving to be a solid daily driver in areas that don’t see quite as much snow.
WNDR Alpine Intention 108
The all-new 108 replaces the well-known 110 this year, and while we were skeptical of the slim-down, we have to admit: We’re not mad about it. Built for adventurous backcountry skiers who see the mountain as their playground, the new 108, one of the best backcountry skis of the year, features a slightly shorter turn radius and stiffer flex than its predecessor, a trusty platform to boost cliffs and arc fast turns. “The Intention 108 is for someone who’s ready to charge,” reported one FREESKIER tester. “I like the shape of the tail… and the stiffness [of the ski] for terrain that demands a ski with a backbone. The more aggressive the skier, the better they will like this ski.” The updated ski also features WNDR’s new SpiralMade technology, utilizing production waste from their own manufacturing to build new products. Like all WNDR Alpine skis, the Intention 108 comes in either reverse camber or camber profiles (we tried both) and is constructed with algae-based materials, so you can grab the ski that suits your style and feel good about the commitment.