Why stay on trail when you can go off?
If your asking yourself this question you may be interested in one of the best backcountry skis.
There’s a few things to consider when making a purchase and I’ll show you what’s most important – after you’ll see my top picks for the 2017-2018 season.
By the time you’re done reading I’m sure you’ll see a product you love.
Let’s get into it!
How To Choose A Backcountry Ski
- Ski profile
The first thing you should consider is the width of the product and this comes down to where/when you’ll be skiing. If you plan on facing conditions with deep powder, you’ll want a wider ski – in the 90 to 115mm range. The wider width helps you surf powder more effectively.
If you’re someone that doesn’t expect to face deep powder, you can go with a more narrow ski. With a narrow ski you’ll be more nimble because it’s lighter.
After you have this figured out you’ll want to check out the ski profile. There’s mainly two kinds of profiles and they are:
- Traditional: A traditional ski profile is found on narrower skis and thus should be used in terrain that doesn’t have deep powder. This profile gives you sharp turns and edges too.
- Hybrid: A hybrid profile is found on wider skis and features a rockered tip. This kind of tip let’s you cruise over powder and punch through crud. You get good edging with this type of profile but not as good as traditional.
Lastly, you need to get the right length. Alpine touring skis should be measured the same way you do a regular ski. This chart will help you in this department:
Now that you know what to look for, let’s check out my top pick.
DPS Wailer 112 RP.2 Pure3
Any person that wants to hit the backcountry hard this year should consider the DPS Wailer 112’s. This product is extremely high quality and one that any performer will love.
One feature that you’ll appreciate is the Infinite Flex Pure3 construction. This construction maintains its pop and liveliness season after season. This ski will feel good today, tomorrow and three years from now.
Other aspects you’ll like include:
- Paddle Tech Sidecut helps in the turning department. You’ll be able to make sharp and smooth carves.
- S.S. Enhanced core is both lightweight and strong. It also excels with dampening and is another reason these give you a smooth ride.
- Carbon fiber laminates provide power and takes away from weight.
- Graphite World Cup Race Base gives you speed (who doesn’t love speed!). Also, this base is durable and won’t break down easily.
- Perimeter Weighted Inserts place the weight on the outside and this makes the Wailer’s useful in both hard packed snow and powder.
- While this product excels off trail, it’s all mountain and can be skied on trail.
This set of skis isn’t made for everyone, however, and should be reserved for people that are quite skilled – beginners and mellow intermediates should look elsewhere.
How much do the Wailer’s cost? A little extra. This is a superior piece of equipment and that’ll always cost extra.
Black Diamond Helio 105
Here we have another high quality piece of equipment and the Black Diamond Helio can tackle the challenges of ungroomed terrain – many people think this is a top 3 pick for backcountry skis.
One thing that stands out with the Helio is how lightweight it is. You don’t want to lug around a heavy set of skis and that won’t happen here; these skis only weigh a bit over 6 pounds. You can go all day long with out exhausting yourself.
Some other top features include:
- 105mm width means you’ll be able to surf powder with out getting stuck.
- ABS Sidewalls keep you stable and comes in handy when you open things up a bit. You’ll be able to cruise around with this product strapped to your boots.
- Early rise tip and tail is nice when things get a little tight and you need more handling.
Here’s a video that goes a little more in depth:
Pretty cool, right?
These skis are a little less expensive than the ones you just saw but are by no means cheap. I personally think they’re well worth that price.
Rocky Mountain Underground Apostle
The Rocky Mountain Underground Apostle is a set of skis that work in all kinds of backcountry conditions. Because of its 5 point rocker with camber underfoot the Underground Apostle can tackle powder, hard pack and choppy snow.
This rocker and camber underfoot is useful in tight spots too – you’ll get good maneuverability and carves with this product.
You’ll also like that it comes with:
- World Cup Sintered Base is durable and provides high speeds. If you’re someone that needs to go fast you’ll like this base.
- Extra thick edges are also good in the durability department. You can ride these skis hard and not worry about them chipping or cracking.
- Can be taken on most conditions and is equally effective on trail as it is off trail.
This is another product that isn’t cheap. If you like to divide your time, however, between groomers and ungroomed terrain, you’ll like what you get here.
You’ll be able to mix it up through out the day with out any problems with this piece of equipment.
The Armada Norwalk is versatile product and is one you’ll enjoy when resort skiing and when you duck off trail. One thing I really like about this set of skis is how fast you can go with them and how stable you’ll feel when doing that.
That’s mainly because of the rocker tips and camber underfoot. This feature is a godsend to high performers and people that like to open things up a bit.
You’ll also like that it comes with:
- AR50 sidewall construction adds a bit of durability so you can use this ski season after season. These sidewalls create a low swing weight.
- Matrix laminate helps dictate flex pattern.
- Hybrid Ultra Light Core is made from lightweight materials and this aids in maneuverability and agility.
- Comp Series Base will satisfy everyone’s need for speed – you’ll be able to cruise because of this.
I wouldn’t really recommend this product for anyone new to skiing or anyone that considers themselves a mellow intermediate. The Norwalk is made for people that can handle themselves no matter where they’re skiing.
These aren’t the most expensive skis on this list but they’re not cheap eithe that’s a fair price in my book.
Atomic Backland 95
So far the skis you’ve seen have all been on the wider side. The Atomic Backland is a little narrower than the previous products (the waist is 95mm) and that means more agility – because there’s less weight you can take tighter turns.
95mm isn’t too narrow, though. When you face powder you won’t have a hard time and you’ll be able to cruise right over it. Not to mention you can get your fill of groomed trails too.
Some other features you’ll like include:
- AT Tip 2.0 helps you bust through crud and any other hardpack snow conditions.
- HRZN Tech combines ABS sidewalls with a large surface area. What this does is let’s you float over powder, which is especially good off trail.
- Ultra Light Woodcore is made from poplar and caruba wood. Even though it cuts back on weight you’ll still get the performance you desire.
- Carbon backbone reduces even more weight and adds a bit of stability.
- Atomc Base 7000 Series gives you good edging and durability. You’ll be able to rock these skis for many winters.
This is a high end ski and you’ll always have to pay extra for high end equipment. Do I think this product is worth its price tag? Absolutely.
But if you can’t afford that, there’s other products on this list that should work for your budget.
Rossignol Sky 7 HD
The Rossignol Sky 7 HD is one of the more affordable products on this list and you can find one for both men and women. One thing you’ll enjoy about the Sky 7 HD is the fact it can be used on trail and off. I personally like to mix things up and having a ski that handles everything is convenient to have.
It’s good all over the mountain because of its waist and ski profile. The waist is 98mm which is wide enough to handle powder but nimble enough to go on groomers. Also, it comes with a rocker camber rocker profile and that’s good for everything too.
Other aspects that make these skis worth it include:
- Light wood core made from paulownia wood and this takes away from the overall weight of the product. This gives you more agility and maneuverability.
- Carbon Alloy Matrix is a nice feature and gives this piece of equipment a boost in the performance department. It improves gripping ability too.
- Minicap Sidewalls are durable and it’ll handle everything that you throw at it.
- Air tip technology and this pushes the center of gravity to the middle of the ski. This adds a bit of stability.
Here’s a video that goes a little more in depth:
Like the video says I would recommend this product for strong intermediates to advanced riders.
The price is great too. You’ll have a hard time finding a set of skis this good for that low of a price, that’s for sure.
The Dynafit Hokkaido is a really wide ski at 116mm and up, and is a product that’s made for powder. If you’re someone that loves waist high powder, the Hokkaido is a ski you should consider.
I’m not sure I would get this piece of equipment if you plan on going through trees and glades, though. For that, you’ll want something a little more narrow and nimble.
If you don’t expect too much of that, you’ll like that these have:
- Double Eclipse Rocker comes in handy when you’re facing icy conditions – it enhances the skis ability to edge here.
- Ash poplar core is lightweight and dampening. This makes sure you’re nice and stable, even when you’re going quite fast.
- Full Carbon Tip also helps in dampening and reduces vibrations for a smoother ride.
- Full ABS Sidewalls makes this product extremely durable.
- Sintered Graphite Base is resistant to chipping and won’t break down.
One thing that I think is cool is the Hokkaido comes with 2 year warranty. Most backcountry skis only have a 1 year warranty so it’s nice to see one with multiple years.
These skis aren’t overly expensive either. This is an excellent value for what you’re getting.
Black Diamond Boundary 107
The Black Diamond Boundary 107 is another ski that you can take to the frontside with ease and hop off to the backside with ease too. It’s wide enough that it surfs over fluffy powder but not too wide where it’s not fun to take down groomed trails.
I also like Black Diamond as a company too. They make a ton of ski gear that I love and even make high quality ski gloves. When you purchase from them you know you’re getting top of the line stuff.
I know you’ll agree with that, especially when you consider the top features, which include:
- 3D CNC Poplar Wood core is lively and delivers a smooth ride
- Pre-Preg Fiberglass laminates makes this product very strong and ensures you’ll get good turning and carving.
- ABS Sidewalls makes these skis lightweight and high performing.
- There’s a layer of rubber on the sidewalls too and this adds a dampening effect which eats up vibrations.
- P-Tex 4000 Base is very easy to maintain and won’t break down.
Even though this is a high quality piece of equipment from a well known company, it’s no too expensive. I wouldn’t say its cheap but it shouldn’t deter you.
The Dynafit Chugach is one of the heaviest skis on this list (9.6 pounds) and because of this, you’ll need to be a pretty competent skier to handle it.
Also, keep in mind you may get tired carry around a ski that weighs this much. I personally would recommend this product only if you’re in good shape and pretty strong. Otherwise you might get too tired and have to call it quits early.
If you can handle this, you’ll like the top features which include:
- Ash Poplar Ride Core adds a ton of strength and ensures you get a smooth ride, even if you’re going quite fast.
- Carbon Speed Stringers gives you more speed and will quench anyone’s need to go fast.
- Full carbon tips eat up vibrations and makes sure you’ll be comfortable
- Full ABS Sidewalls adds durability and edge control. You’ll be able to make precise turns with these skis on.
The Chugach is one of the more affordable skis on this list too. That’s a price that basically everyone can afford.
Hit The Backcountry With The Right Equipment!
The first time I went off trail was in Steamboat Springs in Colorado. I was skiing with my older cousin and he took me back there – I fell in love with that area of the mountain.
There’s something great about going to untouched parts of the mountain and not being surrounded by day skiers. Ever since then I go to the backcountry whenever I get the chance.
I’ve learned you need the right skis to do this, though. No matter your needs or budget, there’s a product on this list that you’ll love.
If you have any questions, you can comment below and I’ll make sure to respond as fast as possible. You can search around the ski section up top for more tips and gear reviews.
How excited are you to get out there this season?