FREESKIER’s Backcountry Ski Test, presented by POC, went down this week at Bluebird Backcountry, just outside of Steamboat, Colorado, featuring a mixed bag of snow conditions—ideal for pushing our gear to the limit and deciding which products we’ll feature in the annual Buyer’s Guide come fall. Over the course of two days, our group of 15 gear-savvy testers stepped into nearly 50 pairs of skis primed for touring adventures, rating and reviewing every pair based on uphill performance and downhill ski-ability.
It all began at the Muddy Creek Cabins in Kremmling, where our testers converged from all over Colorado and Utah on Monday evening, ready for our big outings on Tuesday and Wednesday. While the FREESKIER crew twisted screws on pin bindings, cut G3 Alpinist+ skins to size and prepped the skis for two days of touring, POC’s Cam Price outfitted the group with an assortment the brand’s newest gear set to hit shelves in the fall, including the lightweight Menix helmet designed specifically for freeride skiers, the Zonula goggle that pairs Zeiss lenses with an oversized frame for an outstanding field of view, Devour sunglasses that merge the comfort of sunglasses and protective quality of goggles and the touring-ready Dimension VPD backpack.
On Tuesday morning, with finely tuned skis from 4FRNT, Armada, Atomic, Black Diamond, DPS, Dynastar, Elan, Faction, G3 Fischer, Icelantic, J skis, Kästle, Rossignol, Scott, Völkl and WNDR Alpine ready to rock, beacons beeping and backpacks strapped up, our group split into two to explore the entirety of Bluebird Backcountry’s avalanche-evaluated inbounds terrain riddled across 1,200 acres on the Continental Divide, just a stone’s throw from the Rabbit Ears Pass. As one group headed up Bluebird’s eye-catching Bear Mountain to explore steep shots, tight trees and higher elevations, the other opted to see what the sweeping, undulating West Bowl dotted with Aspen trees had to offer. Despite variable snow conditions and grey skies, our collective of experienced backcountry skiers navigated both areas with style, all the while taking mental notes about each ski’s performance on the up and down. Ending the day with a bone-warming bonfire at the base of Bluebird, we shared laughs, beers and stories from the day. Back in Kremmling, we refueled with ribeye steaks, “Smuggler” burgers covered in gravy, enjoyed cinnamon buns for dessert and—of course—opted to have a few more bevvies by the fire pits before turning in for the night.
Day two of the Backcountry Ski Test provided a completely different experience, as we opted to ski as one group and make the West Bowl our base camp—one big, happy, Covid-free ski family. With blue skies and the warm sun baking the terrain, we tested the skis in proper spring-like conditions, enjoying a hefty helping of mashed potatoes by day’s end. All damn day, we skinned and boot-packed around the west-facing bowl, airing wind lips, busting crud and navigating the few steeper shots along the ridgeline that topped out around 9,300 feet. Party laps through the Aspen groves and one final run up “Meat Hill” brought the event to a close in the blink of an eye.
With a stack of comprehensive reviews in-hand, tired legs and hearts full, we packed up and navigated the muddy service road back to the highway—Backcountry Ski Test complete. But the event was just the beginning. Come September, we’ll be publishing the results from the test in the annual FREESKIER Buyer’s Guide, skiing’s biggest gear bible, so you can find your next pair of touring skis primed for big-mountain descents, multi-day hauls or sidecountry shots. We put in the work at Bluebird Backcountry this week, so all you have to do is head to the shop, mount ’em up and hit the backcountry next season.
Backcountry Ski Test Gallery
Photography by Drew Clark & FREESKIER’s Sam Taggart