Featured Image: Matt Power
– Stiffer flex patterns and directional shapes
– Impressive power transmission and control at speed
– Ideal for charging spine lines and ripping big turns in open bowls
– Wide, stable platforms that excel in deeper snow
“Literally my new best friend,” said tester Madeline Dunn. “Super fun and playful in pow and crud but will rail the groomers back to the lift as fast as you want,” noted veteran Mikey Wechsler. “Rides the line of playfulness and stability quite well!” exclaimed FREESKIER publisher Damian Quigley. Earning top honors this year in the 115-mm-plus Freeride category, J Skis’ Friend is truly a top dog when it comes to all-mountain shredding capabilities. Master shaper Jason Levinthal employs a rigid maple core for torsional stability; a layer of carbon fiber for added strength without sacrificing weight; and a smooth, surfy, multi-radius sidecut that allows for effortless skiing in deep snow, as well as chunder, hardpack, the surface of the moon, you name it.
A favorite of our hardest-charging testers year in and year out, the Nordica Enforcer Pro is a burly, aggressive all-mountain destroyer. Featuring a poplar and beech wood core sandwiched between two stiff sheets of Titanal and with a traditional camber shape underfoot, this set of skis is designed for race car-like speed and energy transmission. Adding to its versatility are a blunt nose tip and tail shape and early rise rocker toward the front and back of the ski, allowing for easy snow sliding on a variety of snow surfaces. Our testers sum it up nicely with notes like: “What a beast,” “This is the boss hog,” and “Beefcake!” For the strong, aggressive skier, look no further than the Enforcer Pro.
The choice of spine-slaying, big-mountain rider Ian McIntosh, Völkl’s Confession skis are a set of powerful, directional pow slayers, light enough to play with yet sturdy enough to get you down the steepest high-alpine faces with confidence. Utilizing a beech and poplar wood core ensures a sturdy base, while a Titanal band and carbon stringers run through the center of the ski to further increase its strength without adding weight. The Confession’s rocker-camber-rocker profile allows you to carve an edge just as well as smear a turn. “Insane ski. Carve the sh#t out of it or attack the crud. Really impressed with the overall performance of this ski,” commented tester Willie Ford.
Inspired by swallowtail designs found in surfboards, Folsom’s PowFish aims to please powder hounds. In deeper snow, the ski’s tail design allows for increased planing to keep you above the snow and able to maneuver through it, too. Starting at the tip, which boasts a 150-mm width, the ski narrows to a comfortable 116 mm underfoot, ensuring you’ll plow through the deepest of the deep, while still maintaining control as you bomb it back to the chairlift. Tester Bridget Boyle couldn’t hold back her excitement about the new offering from Folsom, noting it was her “favorite powder ski,” while Alex Golden echoed this thought, saying this ski was so much fun, he “didn’t want to give them back!”
HEAD’s KORE series was met with a standing ovation last winter, and instead of messing with a great thing, the brand brings back the 117 unchanged for its encore. Tester Drew Ingardia raved that the ski was “so easy to move around the hill.” Chalk that up to the ski’s internal construction featuring a featherweight karuba wood core stiffened up with a layer of ultra-strong, ultra-thin Graphene and vibration-reducing Koroyd for ultimate firmness without compromising weight. Triaxial-woven carbon fiber further solidifies the sandwich construction, making it one heck of a crud buster and that 117 mm waist width boosts its capabilities as a powder hound. For a fall line skier that wants an aggressive, lightweight and agile choice for deeper days, the Kore 117 is your best bet.
“Embody the spirit of Glen Plake and play all over the mountain,” advised FREESKIER online editor Sam Taggart after skiing the Ripstick 116. “A wide waist width makes floating, slashing and slarving come naturally, while the unique construction boosts confidence on the crud and hardpack.” The Ripstick series is composed of a cambered inside edge for supreme snow grip and a rockered outside edge for easy turn transitions. This also means the skis have a designated right and left foot—so don’t cross up your skis. In addition, Elan employs three-dimensional carbon tubes to complement the versatile paulownia, beech and poplar wood core. This adds torsional rigidity and rebound, while composite tip inserts reduce chatter at speed.
Armada’s Tracer 118 is designed for the skier who is continually seeking the next high-altitude objective and wants a pair of skis that can handle a multitude of snow conditions. Significant rocker in the tip as well as slight tail rocker keep the Tracer nimble, while camber underfoot ensures great snow contact. Inside the ski, you’ll find a combination of poplar and ash wood in the core reinforced by a layer of woven fiberglass and two strips of Titanal. The result is a reliable ski that holds up on the steepest of descents, while optimizing flex and maneuverability. According to Donny O’Neill, this ski is “more energetic than a gaggle of puppies. Lightweight yet stable; rails turns but is still nimble in trees and bumpy terrain.”
“Light, light, light like a feather,” said Steve Karczewski. “Take this playful, strong ski anywhere you dream,” noted Sam Taggart. Adrian Bouthot commented that these planks “hug the snow and provide a magic-carpet-like feel. Can and will pop at a moment’s notice and make slalom turns on a dime.” The widest of the QST series, the 118 is a true big-mountain powerhouse, with a fully rockered tip and tail to plow through variable snow conditions, a woven layer of carbon and flax that provides the strength of metal without sacrificing weight, a five-point sidecut for extra maneuverability and a Koroyd insert in the tip and tail for chatter reduction when you’re nuking.
DPS designed the Alchemist Lotus 124 with the deepest days in mind—like mid-January in Japan kind of deep. The ski features a squared off tail combined with extended sidecut and an arched tip, which allow you to really drive these skis through the snow. The Alchemist construction consists of a pure prepreg carbon fiber laminate and top-secret proprietary dampening additives that smooth out the ride for times when you’re not riding the deepest of the deep. “Very comfortable at 50 miles per hour in the powder,” described Mike Filander. “A powerful ski ready for deep snow aggression,” added Karol Sawa. Before you book that next heli or cat trip, you may want to consider copping a pair of these powder yachts.
– Flex pattern built for easy pressing and popping
– Wide waist widths meant for deep powder
– Near-symmetric dimensions
– Geared toward those with a propensity for finding deep, pristine snow
The all-new Ranger 115 FR takes the hard-charging characteristics of the Ranger Ti, and adds a bit of playfulness to the equation. The result is a ski that’s ultra-stable (check that score of 9.80, below) but is nimble and lively at the same time. Fischer utilizes a milled beech and poplar blend in the wood core for a solid ride that still shaves weight and promotes responsiveness, and adds in a Titanal reinforcement for a boost in strength. Our testers were blown away by the Ranger 115 FR. Andrew Benequista said, “Super fun in the fresh snow, crushed chopped up powder and railed groomers,” while Madeline Dunn stated, “Basically, I’m obsessed.”
The 2018-19 season marks the tenth anniversary of the very first Bent Chetler, and the powder planks have only gotten better with age—an attribute shared by its creator, Chris Benchetler. The Bent Chetler is a damn dream for surfing deep snow conditions, thanks to an ultra-light karuba wood core and HRZN Tech—horizontal rocker and lateral ABS sidewalls—in the tip and tails that transforms these babies into speed boats for the snow. Add in a carbon backbone and camber underfoot for stability, and you’ve got the whole package. “The poppiest pow ski ever,” described Adrian Bouthot. “Hops around like a butterfly but can put the landing gear down like a beast.”
The InThayne reflects its father, in-house ski builder Thayne Rich, and his own skiing sensibilities. Rich sought the ultimate freestyle powder ski, and so he fused characteristics of both the 4FRNT Devastator and Renegade to come up with a fully rockered ski with a stiffer flex in the tail for added “stompability.” The testing crew praised Rich’s efforts. Scott Kramer commented, “InThayne in the membrane! Such a great, jibby ski, it wants to pop and slarve,” and Casey Jillson said, “Very playful, maneuverable and user-friendly.” These qualities derive from the aforementioned full rocker profile, 117 mm waist width and blend of stiff maple and lively aspen in the core. Well done, Thayne.
4. K2 Catamaran
When you have the minds of legends like Pep Fujas and Sean Pettit helping to create a ski, you know that 1) It’s meant to surf the deepest of the deep, and 2) It’s playful “AF.” Don’t believe us? Take it from tester Adrian Bouthot, “You can feel Pep and Pettit’s influence on these bad boys. They pop, slash and tap better than most at this size. It’s also super stable and provides an amazing landing platform.” To reflect Pep and Pettit’s sensibilities, K2 employed an asymmetrical shape, an elongated taper on the outside edge, which shortens the uphill ski’s effective edge, allowing for seamless butters and slashes. The ski is also built with denser fir wood over the edges for strength and aspen with carbon stringers down the center to increase liveliness.
With tip and tail rocker, a near-symmetrical build, 115 mm waist width and a lively poplar wood core, the Nomad 115 is a terrific tool for the big-mountain skier who employs a more playful skiing style. Our testers praised its nimbleness, especially considering its size. “I have loved every single one of Icelantic’s models that I’ve had the opportunity to ride,” noted Madeline Dunn. “This Nomad 115 takes the cake. It carves just as well as the skinnier sticks while delivering that boaty, floaty vibe you need and crave in the powder. Strong work, Icey!”
The brainchild ski series of Candide Thovex (who many consider the G.O.A.T) takes the next step in its evolution with the Faction CT 5.0, meant to shine on the deepest of powder days as evidenced by its 122-mm waist width. “Super fun, quick-turning ski. Awesome for poppin’ off catwalks into the pow,” said Alex Golden. “Super stable, yet could still turn easily for such a fat ski,” added Bridget Boyle. Faction achieves this balance by combining a balsa, flax and poplar wood core for a lightweight yet responsive and stable ride. The CT 5.0 also uses what the brand calls a directional twin tip shape—camber underfoot and rocker in the tip and tail with a little less pronouncement in the tail to increase dependability at high speed on variable snow. It’s a hard charger that loves to play.
Now entering its fourth year in the North American mass market, Chamonix, France-based Black Crows brings back the picture-perfect-powder-plundering Nocta for 2018-19. Its full reverse camber profile, lightweight combination of poplar and paulownia wood and 122 mm waist width make it a dream to drive in deep snow—you can butter, pivot, spin and surf this baby to your heart’s content. In addition, the use of fiberglass and a bigger turn radius (26 meters) stabilize the ride. “Feels lighter than its size would suggest,” described Karol Sawa. “It’s nimble yet powerful at the same time. Very impressed with the balance between aggression and lightness.”
Last winter marked Wiley Miller’s first season riding for RMU. The freeskiing star wasted no time in helping to develop a signature ski. Anyone who has ever watched Miller on the big screen knows he enjoys bringing stylish tricks into the backcountry, and the RMU YLE Pro 118 is built to that standard. While its tip and tail widths are 137 and 132 mm, respectively, its tip and tail contact points both sit at 139 mm wide, which allows the ski to surf and spin like a boss but also hold an edge and charge in variable conditions. That build technique combines with a rocker-camber-rocker profile, resulting in a true do-it-all, big-mountain ski worthy of Wiley’s name.
Sego describes the Tait’r Tot 118 as a big-mountain jib ski, and with a fully symmetrical shape and beefy 118 mm waist, it’s easy to see why. The brand employs a “symmetrical moustache” rocker profile—pronounced in the tip and tail with traditional camber underfoot—to create a playful feel that doesn’t lack in stability. Our testers loved the balance Sego struck with the Tait’r Tot. “I love how smooth this ski is when cruising chundry moguls,” noted Madeline Dunn, who also praised the ski’s ability to “cruise through chop. I felt really comfortable transitioning edges at high speeds through variable snow.” Throw some ketchup on these tots and feast—they’re damn tasty.