Featured Image: Erik Seo
Generally, the 85-99 mm freestyle skis below employ softer flex patterns and mixtures of rocker and camber, allowing them to walk the line between playful and powerful. If you get all tingly inside thinking about airing off of wind lips, moguls, cat tracks, cliffs, etc., while also craving high-speed carving experiences, these might just be the skis for you. In the 85-99 mm freeride section, you’ll find directional skis that put a premium on stability and carving prowess. Ideal for those seeking to mimic the skiing of Ted Ligety.
1. CT 2.0
The CT 2.0—pro model of Candide Thovex—is a stellar option for playful skiers who delight over opportunities to pop, press, smear, butter and carve up a storm across ski slopes of all shapes and sizes. A poplar/ beech wood core fits squarely in the “fairly rigid” category; poplar is there to balance weight, dampening and spring while the beech provides serious torsional rigidity, stability and power. Sandwich sidewall construction also ensures rockin’ power transmission to the edge of the ski. Camber underfoot lends itself to hard-charging edge hold, while tip and tail rocker take care of the smeary good times, and a bit of float for when the going gets rough (or awesome, depending on your outlook). A symmetrical sidecut also translates to optimal switch skiing and playful performance. Click here for a closer look.
2. 4FRNT Vandal
Vandals—a group of East Germanic tribes that sacked Rome in the fifth century—were characterized as barbarians. Like its namesake, the 4FRNT Vandal pillages and plunders en route to conquering all targets on the mountain. One tester, referencing its all-mountain expertise, noted, “A very fun ski on all surfaces. Handled turns well, super fun in the tight trees and bumps.” Rockered tips and tails aid in its maneuverability and playfulness (a tester exclaimed, “tail butters galore!”), while a rock solid poplar and birch wood core complemented by camber underfoot ensures a supportive platform on which to rail turns down groomers or mob through chunder. Click here for a closer look.
J Skis hypes this offering as “a vacation—the ultimate getaway from traditional, stiff, fat skis.” Testers call it one of the “‘funnest’ skis of all time. Plush, buttery and silky smooth.” The utilization of pre-stretched and cured carbon fiber (costs more, performs better) delivers that coveted pop factor and torsional strength all while keeping weight at a minimum. Sandwich sidewall construction and maple wood in the core ensure you’ll hold tough when you’re getting up to speed on the firm stuff. “Ideal width for shredding anything and a nice balance that allows you to have a load of fun but also charge hard without worries,” said another tester. J Skis will build only 100 pairs of The Vacation with this specific graphic for 2017-18—will one be yours? Click here for a closer look.
Turn the fun factor up to 11 with Sego’s Big Horn 96. The liveliness of this all-mountain ski is attributed to its a symmetrical rocker profile as well as a poplar wood core that’s snappy and provides a low swing weight. The playful nature of the Big Horn 96 is complemented by a directional sidecut profile, allowing it to lay down a serious carve and be ultra-quick edge-to-edge. Its versatile waist width allows you to shred any terrain, like that of the Tetons, for example—Sego’s multi-faceted testing ground. “A playful, poppy little demon,” said one tester about the Big Horn 96. “Carved darn well, too.” Another tester followed pro shredder Sander Hadley for a lap and “ended up popping over some s#it [he] definitely shouldn’t have,” but was pleased when the skis ate it all up just fine.” Click here for a closer look.
This ski falls perfectly into that, “crushes the terrain park and the rest of the mountain, too” category. As far as park performance goes, testers confirm it’s “poppy and ‘stunty’ and full of good times,” and also “super playful and buttery.” Considering its prowess elsewhere on the hill, those same testers said, “It’s a trencher, love that trademark Völkl carve action,” and “surprised me with its quickness and agility in the muck. Awesome in the crud and bumps. Fun to ride on all aspects.” This twin-tipped ski boasts carbon stringers for lightweight strengthening and full sidewalls for edge hold. A beech/poplar wood core emphasizes stability and spring, while tip and tail rocker provides coveted maneuverability. Click here for a closer look.
Scour the Earth for primetime skiing—from the peak to the park—with Icelantic’s Nomad 95. The skinniest ski in the Nomad series, this model is built with tip and tail rocker, camber underfoot and a poplar core that collectively provide heaps of playfulness. These specs also mean the ski is quite versatile, which earned it a perfect 10 in that category from our esteemed testing squad. “This ski rocks. Super solid, holds an edge like a boss and has some pop in ‘er so you can play around,” said one tester. Another tester “skied the 191 and just nuked down the mountain with a big smile.” Feel free to beat these babies up in all types of terrain, as Icelantic has a three-year, no questions asked warranty. Click here for a closer look.
“Fun on repeat.” That’s Faction’s marketing pitch for this twin-tipped, dual-radius ski, and that’s exactly what our crew experienced while testing it. “Damn, that was a fun ride,” said one tester candidly of his experience with the Prodigy 2.0. “So easy to ski these. A park-esque ski for the entire mountain. Unreal control and maneuverability with crazy pop.” Another tester gushed, “Bumps, groomers and slush, these skis are top-notch through it all, with effortless turning and excellent handling through choppy terrain.” Poplar wood in the core provides dampening and spring, while beech wood brings about a sturdiness that is greatly appreciated when you’re putting the landing gear down after going airborne. Click here for a closer look.
1. 4FRNT MSP
2017 marks 4FRNT’s 15th birthday. To commemorate a decade-and- a-half of excellence, the Salt Lake City-based manufacturer is re-introducing the MSP, the first ski it ever produced, with rockin’ upgrades. Testers were elated from their very first run on the skis. Meant to excel every day, across any terrain, the MSP utilizes a poplar core for a combination of weight savings and rigidity and boasts a rocker-camber profile for versatility. The use of neoprene—a synthetic rubber—in the tip provides added dampness and reactivity. One tester concisely praised its do-it-all character, noting, “Superb camber to rocker profile—it really complements the ski. It’s a playful, every day ski that can rip any part of the mountain.” Click here for a closer look.
Fischer’s Ranger series impressed our testing squad, big time, and chief among that line-up is the ever-impressive 98 Ti. If you prefer a directional ski that isn’t afraid of pivoting on a dime, the Ranger is for you. Built with a beech/poplar core, carbon nose and titanium inserts, the ski is equipped to take on the burliest of objectives while also delivering top-notch everyday performance, both on- and off-piste. Its “Aeroshape” cuts out unnecessary material to reduce weight, resulting in a smooth, cambered design; i.e. engaging these suckers in a turn is easy-peezy. “This ski inspires fuzzy feelings in the belly,” described one tester. “Super stiff but forgiving. Incredibly lightweight and easy to slash and throw sideways.” Click here for a closer look.
The Foundation Cassiar 95 is built to rip the frontside from boundary to boundary through moguls, groomers, trees—you name it, it tames it. “Take it from the gates to the trees. These are strong, capable and ready for whatever you want to rip,” noted one tester. Another stated, “This baby handles everything with ease, laying some of the best carves of the week.” The carve-ability is attributed to the following: Dual layers of triaxial-woven fiberglass translates to top-notch torsional rigidity; two layers of unidirectional carbon add further lightweight strengthening; and a combination of light, strong, durable bamboo and springy, damp poplar round out this frontside hero. Click here for a closer look.
4. 4FRNT Arête
An Arête is a sharp, steep mountain ridge. As such, 4FRNT’s Arête is built for steep descents down towering hallways of rock. A member of the new backcountry-specific Uptrack Series, the Arête has varying waist widths, 91 to 99 mm depending on length, and a versatile rocker-camber profile, an ideal combination for hop-turning down any mountainous nook or cranny you may discover. “Maneuvers really well in tight spots and is light and easy to throw around,” one tester said about its nimble character. A fusion of lightweight paulownia and mid-weight poplar help this ski walk the line between uphill efficiency and downhill confidence. Click here for a closer look.
Behold the Pinnacle 95 and its perfect score in the versatility department—that’s right, this thing laughs in the face of variable terrain and snow conditions. A slim 95mm waist and camber underfoot help it knife down groomers and hardpack, while a wide, rockered tip gets the job done if a few inches of fresh have blanketed the mountain. A wonderfully light, yet durable Nanolite composite core runs throughout the middle of the ski and dense fir wood supplies stability along the edges. A metal laminate rounds out the build, resulting in a ski that masterfully balances weight and performance. “I love this narrower Pinnacle,” said one tester. “It’s snappy, nimble and easy to switch into ‘slarve’ mode. A great choice for the everyday rider.” Click here for a closer look.
6. Head Kore 93
The name of the game these days is building a ski that’s incredibly lightweight without compromising downhill performance—no easy feat. However, HEAD has accomplished this goal with flying colors with its new KORE series. The secret: Mind-numbingly light and poppy Karuba wood complemented by Graphene and Koroyd. Graphene (incredibly thin, yet strong as a silverback gorilla) in the tips and tails allows the ski profile to be thinned and weight reduced without loss of stiffness; Koroyd also has a high strength-to-weight ratio and provides dampening; and triaxial-woven carbon fiber bolsters torsional rigidity. One ski tester, who shared the sentiments of many, fell in the love with the ski: “There’s zero nervous energy, the flex is absolutely perfect, they’re springy and fun, ideal for any day, any time.” Click here for a closer look.
Sick Day returns with all-new waist widths for 2017-18; the 94, here, is best suited to those who frequently blaze up a storm across the frontside. “This ski defines high energy. Really stable at speed. Excels on hard stuff and also charges through goofy snow so well,” said one tester. “Can lay an edge with the best of them, lightweight and nimble. So springy, lively and downright fun to ski on,” said another. Line employs an aspen core to strike that ideal balance of weight savings, dampening and spring. “Magic finger” carbon filaments add strength to the overall package without sacrificing weight. A five-point radius also yields a healthy mix of quick-turning maneuverability and rock-steady performance. Click here for a closer look.
The individuals who purchase a pair of the 2017-18 Masterblaster will enjoy sh#t-eating-grin-inducing, rip-roaring performance. A directional shape, low tail, sidewall construction, rigid maple wood core and a strip of Titanal bring about top-notch torsional rigidity and power. “Easy to push your speed and feel confident with it,” said one tester. Another noted, “Wants to go so fast and is crazy stable… holds up like a boss on edge.” Thanks to rockered tips and multi-dimensional radii, the ski also provides playful performance when called upon. “Maneuverable in all situations,” confirms one tester. “Super fun and ‘shreddable,’ it launched some fun-sized cliffs into sludge and it mashed through crud like a snow plow.” Click here for a closer look.
The Beast 98 takes the downhill performance of last year’s award-winning Meteorite ski and shaves 250 grams of weight; the result is an incredibly versatile ski that can be relied upon both in-and out-of-bounds. A combination of dense ash and lighter poplar wood in the core provides stiffness and stability while reducing weight and adding pop. Dynafit also employs carbon fiber in the tips to help dampen the ski and reduce vibrations through variable terrain. One tester noted that it excelled in technical terrain: “Shredded the entire resort like a beast—fittingly. The techier the terrain, the better… loved skiing the chutes and bumps on this thing.” Click here for a closer look.
10. Head Monster 98
“Fast,” “stable,” “beast,” “great edge hold at speed,” “snappy edge-to-edge,” … See a trend, here? The powerful characteristics of the Monster 98 earned it perfect scores in the carving and stability categories. This ski allows you to ski with both the speed and handling of a world-class race car. A burly silver fir wood core along with Titanal and Graphene—a crazy-strong, ultra-light material that allows the ski to be thinned without loss of stiffness—work together to provide incredible stability sans bulk. Camber throughout the ski with a touch of tip rocker also up its carving prowess while providing ballerina-like nimbleness in soft snow, crud, etc. Click here for a closer look.
11. Elan Ripstick 96
“This ski pretty much skied itself,” said one tester alluding to the Ripstick 96’s ease of use. Another said, “This baby carves so hard. Lightweight, powerful, responsive, smeary, everything you could want.” Elan utilizes a “TubeLite” wood core to keep weight down; two carbon tubes run the length of the ski providing torsional strength and allowing for material reduction in the core (i.e. less wood equals less weight). Inserts made of a special, rigid composite in the tip and tail also cut down on weight and eliminate dreaded chatter. Additionally, the ski employs a cambered inside for edge grip and a rockered outside for maneuverability. That means you have a designated left and right ski. Click here for a closer look.
Meant to excel in powder, variable snow, steep terrain and hardpack (that means everywhere) the Foundation Wailer 99 can be relied on day-in and day-out—like your favorite pair of pants or a bottle of top-shelf bourbon. Its 99 mm waist width is adept at handling a variety of snow conditions and rockered tips and tails help boost this ski’s performance in deeper snow. An 18-meter turn radius (@ 184 cm) walks the line between quick, snappy turns and larger swooping ones, and a longer sidecut length (extending further toward the tip and tail) helps promote edge hold on anything from mellow groomers to near-vertical chutes. “Damn solid all around,” noted one tester. “Great at maneuvering tight spaces, very lightweight, yet still holds up on the hardpack and steep chunder.” Click here for a closer look.
Wreck the mountain, create memories and do it all with excellence via Lib Tech’s Wreckcreate 100. This ski boasts a versatile waist width and Magne-Traction edges that are uniquely serrated like steak knives to blast through rough snow conditions—the collective result is an admirable 9.2 versatility rating. On top of that, rocker in the tips and tails and camber underfoot provide ample playfulness as well as prime arcability, respectively. A light yet stable aspen core rounds out the ski as a real contender. “Such an enjoyable ski!” exclaimed one tester. “Super solid at high speeds but plenty flexible at the same time, providing the best of both worlds.” Click here for a closer look.
“It’s a super stiff and stable ski that loves to go fast…” was a sentiment shared by, well, everyone, about the all-new Dictator. Testers described this ski using words like, “rocket,” “railer,” “charger” and “pinner.” This flat-tail, dual-radius ski boasts a paulownia and poplar core, supplemented by two layers of Titanal; the wood core combo provides excellent response and rebound while the metal ensures dampness and stability. A longer radius in the tail lends to excellent control when you’re maxing out the speedometer and a shorter turn radius up front provides nimbleness and maneuverability for trees, bumps, etc. Tip and tail rocker also enhance quick-turning and/or crud busting experiences. Faction built this ski for those, “who want to ski at Mach 10 everywhere they can.” Do you fit the bill? Click here for a closer look.
15. Völkl 90Eight
The 90Eight returns as an Editors’ Pick and boasts one major, noteworthy change for ’17-18: The implementation of what Völkl calls 3D.Glass. Without getting too techy, this entails multiple folded glass layers in the binding area, above and behind the sidewall, making the ski more torsionally rigid and improving rebound; the end benefit to you is enhanced power transmission and agility. Couple that with an already celebrated and multiple-award-winning construction—including Völkl’s 3D.Ridge, carbon stringers, full sidewalls, slight taper, tip and tail rocker and a mix of ash and poplar wood in the core—and you’ve got a combo that had testers raving. “This is a seriously sweet ski, it’s so snappy and nimble,” said one, who continued, “It’s strong enough to charge absolutely anything yet so energetic and playful.” Click here for a closer look.
The Origin 96 debuted last season and it’s already earned a stellar reputation across the industry, especially among our testers. Its versatile width profile is ideal for the skier who’s looking for an everyday driver. The abundance of tech packed inside seals the deal: Its core is built with bamboo, poplar and carbon, which results in a stable yet playful experience. Additionally, moderate tip and tail rocker with camber underfoot combine forces and allow you to shred any terrain—from rock-hard groomers to dreamy pow. “Fun in the air, has a lightweight profile, is great for shifties and carves incredibly,” listed one of the many enthused testers. Click here for a closer look.
Our testers concur that the Daemon is as playful as a puppy and can carve like Freddy Krueger, making it an ultra-versatile, do-everything offering. “Great directional, all-mountain tool,” said one tester. Another said, “Pivots and smears super easily, yet rails turns on groomers.” The Daemon achieves this balance thanks to a full reverse camber profile that allows for easy pivoting and maneuverability and a 120 cm-long plate of Titanal (at 183 cm) that brings stiffness and stability to the table. A more rigid flex underfoot with softer tips and tails help round out this elusive do-everything frontside ski. CClick here for a closer look.
These babies seek to carve up the frontside like those velociraptors did to just about everyone in Jurassic Park. The performance is mind-blowing. Free-milled titanium keeps the ski delightfully stiff and a milled poplar/beech wood core delivers power, dampness and spring. “It’s a trench carving machine! Heavy machinery that clobbers anything in its path,” said one tester. Another noted, “This ski eats up crud very well. Carved like a dream.” Whether you’re trying to relive your old race days or simply attempting to see how low you can dip your hip, the Pro MTN 95 Ti will serve you beautifully. Click here for a closer look.