The best backcountry skis of 2021

The best backcountry skis of 2021

For many die-hard skiers, the backcountry is a welcome escape from everyday life. The skis we’re featuring here are FREESKIER-approved to get you there and back. If you’re a backcountry aficionado, we trust you’ll find the the best backcountry skis. If this winter will be your first time venturing into the backcountry, we’ve got the right gear for you, too.

4FRNT Raven w/ Tour Lock

The Raven is designed to be light and fast, and it’s one of the best backcountry skis on the market this season. No surprise, since it’s a collaboration between big-mountain rider Eric “Hoji” Hjorleifson, 4FRNT and Pomoca. The ski features an understated hourglass profile that matches up with a long, smooth rocker design and lightweight build. Hoji’s innovative Tour Lock skin system is also all-new this year, a feature that reduces the length of the skin by 12 percent. It also eliminates dreaded tail clip failure; the custom, pre-cut Pomoca Free Pro 2.0 skins are included with your purchase and have a self-locking strap that connects via a hole in the tail of each ski. With this affectionately named “Hoji Hole,” you’ll save energy on the uphill by removing a part of the skin that wasn’t adding much climbing power anyway.

Armada Whitewalker

In the realm of pillow-poppin’ and pow plundering, Sammy Carlson is one of a select few leading the charge. The groundwork for this touring tool, one of the best backcountry skis in the list, begins with a featherweight core; then, exaggerated tip and tail rocker. The Whitewalker also features an all-new tip/tail shape that saves weight and cuts down on drag when you’re slicing through the deep end. Finally, a softer flex pattern and three-dimensional, beveled base, dubbed “Smear Tech,” provide you the ultimate feeling of… well, smearing through all that snow as you get jibby with your line. The end result here is a freeride equivalent of a samurai sword fine-tuned for creative skiers.

Atomic Backland 107 W

best backcountry skis

Atomic’s Backland series now features all-new women’s-specific models. Here, we’re highlighting the widest in the bunch—the Backland 107 W—which offers freeride versatility in package that won’t bog you down on the skin track. For deep snow success and confidence riding big-mountain lines, HRZN tech tips and tails offer a three-dimensional plane for slashing and slarving while the Ultra Power Woodcore, originally a race-focused build of beech and poplar wood, and Carbon Backbone reinforcement ensure stability on the way down. The directional shape of this ski is designed to charge, if that tickles your fancy.

Black Diamond Helio Carbon 104

best backcountry skis

Longer, more demanding off-piste missions require gear that’s easy
to transport; you don’t want to haul bulky planks up the bootpack, do you? Built with weight-savings on top of mind, the revamped Helio 104 is constructed with a pre-preg carbon layup, full ABS sidewalls and two layers of paulownia wood at the core, creating a ski that performs better than previous Helio models. Hefty rocker in the tip, semi-rocker in the tail, a Titanal binding plate underfoot and five-millimeters of camber are all factors in its enhanced downhill performance. The tail is also notched for pre-cut Black Diamond skins that come included with every purchase. This is one of the best backcountry skis—exactly how it’s designed.

Decathlon MT90

The skinnier waist width of the MT90 make this touring-focused ski ideal for spring corn harvests or late season jaunts out of bounds. Inside, a full karuba wood core paired with carbon fiber running the length of the ski offer responsive performance. Complemented by tip/tail rocker and a touch of camber underfoot, this plank is primed for whatever comes its way, and the tighter, 18-meter turn radius ensures nimble navigation in steeper, consequential terrain. Better yet, the MT90 ski is a one-stop-shop—every pair comes with pre-cut skins and Tyrolia Tour Free bindings—and, for that price tag, it’ll be hard to find a better deal.

DPS Pagoda Tour 100 RP

best backcountry skis

The engineers at DPS know that a touring-focused ski isn’t fun to ride if it can’t handle the way down. So, they developed all-new Pagoda Tour construction. It features a Tetris-like build that includes vertical strips of ash and paulownia wood integrated with an aerospace grade foam, a full paulownia overlay and two sheets of carbon that sandwich everything together. A cozy carbon sleeping bag, if you will. The on-snow result of that mouthful is a noticeable increase in the dampness of the ski as you descend your objective. Combine that with a healthy dose of tip and tail rocker and a versatile 100-millimeter waist width, and you’ve got a ski that can certainly do it all.

Dynastar M-Free 108

best backcountry skis

This freeride-focused plank from Dynastar offers everything an aggressive skier could want—it’s that simple. For uncertain conditions, the notable tip/tail rocker and progressive geometry of the sidecut, that steadily transitions underfoot out to the tip/tail, make it easy to carve huge GS turns down an open face or perform tight, nimble hacks through crunchier snow. The interior makeup combines a hybrid poplar-PU core surrounded by a fiberglass torsion box—a feature in every M-Line ski—offering vertical reinforcement for an incredibly responsive ride. Basically, the M-Free 108 is the ski equivalent of a multi-tool: It’s packed with features, reliable in a variety of scenarios and fits in your pocket. Well, we lied about that last one.

Faction Agent 4.0

The Agent 4.0 is a fresh debut from Faction, one that’s ready for some serious big-mountain powder pillaging. Let’s start with the rockered and tapered tips: They’ll surely keep you floating on top of the goods. Paired with dual-radius sidecut, this ski enables smooth-as-butter turn transitions while flat tails power you through the finish. During the ascent, you’ll no doubt appreciate its lightweight construction—a paulownia wood core with carbon weave—but when it comes time to transition to the downhill, that core construction and a bit of camber underfoot provide a solid base for just about anything.

Fischer Hannibal 106

best backcountry skis

The Hannibal series from Fischer is built on a proven platform that helps you charge lines without cannibalizing your energy on the way up, earning its spot on our list of the best backcountry skis. Here, a milled Paulownia wood core eliminates weight but avoids weakening the ski, which is further reinforced by carbon stringers and two-directional carbon fibers. There’s also an extended Titanal plate underfoot for binding retention and a touch more reliability. While skiing, especially in variable, unmitigated snow, a healthy dose of tip-rocker provides effortless navigation while a slightly rockered tail engages powerful turns. The Hannibal 106 is a solid tool for solid skiers. 


best backcountry skis

All-new for this season, the SLAYr is the most “freeride” styled ski G3 has ever constructed. As with all of G3’s planks, it’s specifically engineered for uphill/downhill reliability, its many part coming together for an amazingly fun downhill experience. The build goes like this: four layers of triaxial-woven carbon fiber (two on top, two below) and two layers of Titanal (one on top, one below) sandwich a balsa wood core for stiffened, responsive skiing. Full sidewalls and a textured nylon topsheet help with durability and dampness, too. But that’s not all. The new tip shape with a wide shovel, minimal camber and early rise in the tips/tails offer the freedom to ski how you want, when you want. Magnetic contact points near the tips are a bonus for those who want to eliminate gear “futzing” from the routine. 

Icelantic Maiden Lite

The all-new Maiden Lite takes a proven women’s Icelantic ski and transforms it into one of the best backcountry skis available this year. Similar to the men’s Nomad Lite, this ski utilizes an agile balsa wood core to ensure you don’t get gassed on the way up while its “bombproof build” provides a solid foundation for the downhill reward. It features two millimeters of camber underfoot to grab an edge on hard and variable conditions but, since you’ll mostly be pow-seeking on this ski, it boasts 30-plus millimeters of tip and tail rocker for easy turn initiation, extra float and a most importantly, a fun and surfy feel. 

J skis The Friend

best backcountry skis

For powder-hunters, The Friend should be considered essential when traveling out of bounds. Designed in collaboration with Giray Dadali, this plank is specifically honed to surf through deep snow, keeping you afloat with a wide shovel and 117-millimeter waist width; the tight sidecut, however, ensures ridiculous edge-to-edge prowess in between storm skiing. Inside, balanced, durable construction is defined by a pure maple wood core and carbon stringers, which provide a stable ride and an extra bit of pop when you want to boost off that cliff. They say to never travel into the backcountry without a partner—don’t forget your Friend, too.

Kästle TX103

Austrians are no strangers to inter-mountain travel, so it comes as no surprise that Kästle’s all-new TX103 is one of the best backcountry skis in high-alpine terrain. Triaxial fiberglass, carbon and paulownia-poplar wood form the core of this semi-cap sandwich and provide a ski of an agreeable weight. Kästle’s Luminous Hollowtech 2.0 tip now glows in the dark—which is a bit of a novelty, if you ask us—but is designed to help illuminate the skin track when the sun is low in the sky. The tip of the ski features “Progressive Rise” tip, which is the most pronounced rocker in the Kästle TX lineup, and a touch of early rise in the tail to add maneuverability. All-in-all,
this is a precisely built, Austrian touring machine.

Liberty Origin 106

best backcountry skis

Designed at Liberty’ headquarters in Avon, Colorado, the Origin 106 is the perfect blend of all-mountain freeride performance with just enough backcountry DNA to keep it top of mind for high-alpine assault missions. At the center of it all, the Speedcore Carbon bamboo and poplar core with carbon fiber and a triaxial glass wrap is noticeably easy to slog up the skin track, but powerful enough to perform on the downhill. A medium-sized turn radius of 20 meters will please most skiers and a rockered tip and tail ensure the only thing you’ll be thinking after your run is: “Let’s do that again.”

Rossignol BlackOps Sender Ti

best backcountry skis

A bit heftier than a touring-specific ski but with all the makings of a freeride line crusher, the Rossignol Sender Ti ensures your ride down is a good as it gets. Minimal camber underfoot with early rise in the tip and tail instill a surfy ride—a trait coveted by modern skiers—while a 21-meter turn radius ensures you can “open it up” and really fly down wide-open bowls. A poplar wood core, reinforced with Titanal and diagonally woven Diago Fiber are the foundation here, dampened with inserts near the tip of each ski. Slap a set of do-it-all bindings (think: Marker’s Duke PT) on these skis and you’ll be ready to say “yes” to everything.

Scott Superguide Freetour

One of the best backcountry skis on the market, this ski was built for bagging lines on multi-day excursions and the interior makeup of the Superguide Freetour is a culmination of Scott’s finest engineering; it features a paulownia/beech wood core strengthened by carbon and Aramid fibers that run the length of the ski. Beyond the confidence-inspiring rigidity and dampness of this ski, it offers a three-dimensional sidecut that blends a wider radius at the tip and a shorter one at the tail. This allows you to quickly maneuver between wide, arching power turns and agile navigation through the crux of your line. 

Völkl Blaze 106

best backcountry skis

Völkl is expanding its all-mountain freeride roster this year, adding the Blaze series to its already coveted lineup. At an approachable, 106-millimeter waist width, the Blaze 106 was designed from the ground up with a new, three-dimensional sidecut—so skiers can switch between long, arching turns or tighter slashes easily. The hybrid wood core is also remarkably lightweight, yet maintains edge grip extremely well thanks to a Titanal plate under the binding and “Suspension Tip” construction, which extends the core through the tip of the ski. The all-new Blaze 106 was made for you: An ideal choice for skiers who want a one-ski quiver, who want to ride inbounds and out, no matter the conditions. This is one of the best backcountry skis available this year.

WNDR Alpine Vital 100

best backcountry skis

WNDR Alpine is revolutionizing the ski industry by incorporating bio-based materials derived from mircoalgae into its ski construction. On the all-new Vital 100, the brand’s first mid-waisted ski, which complements the brand’s wider, 110-millimeter trademark ski, an aspen and algal core provides a true-natured, responsive feel while avoiding the use of unsustainable materials. Two camber profiles are available with your customizable order—standard camber and reverse camber, for more freestyle-oriented riding—as well as pre-cut skins and pre-mounted bindings. The future of ski construction has arrived in this environmentally-friendly package.