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Skialper 2019 Gear Test: What's hot right now?

Skialper 2019 Gear Test: What's hot right now?

The annual SkiAlper Magazine buyer's guide aka the best backcountry skiing gear review out there just came out this morning! Forget North American magazines ethics where reviews are mostly paid for by manufacturers rather than objective opinions. Welcome to the land of benchmarked assessment of skis, bindings, boots and skins. 

At SkiUphill, we try to ski on many different brands and test as much equipment as possible with the help of local skiers and guides. While we get to try lots of equipment, SkiAlper is an amazing resource to find out more about what is being liked or not out there. Rigorous lab measurements come first. The same binding is then mounted on all skis to allow for the same stance across the entire test fleet. Want to know weights, camber heights, edge contact, rocker length? SkiAlper measures absolutely everything about every ski they test. 

It is always exciting to read over the buyer’s guide and to compare our ski selection to the top reviewers in the industry and see what we got right and what we missed… Here is a first look at what has made the “best of” skis, boots and bindings this Winter. Remember, the best reviewed skis are not necessarily what you have to ski. There are TONS of great skis out there that will fit a variety of skiers, from first timers to professionals. Those are skis that impressed the reviewers and are usually suited to intermediate to experts. 

The SkiAlper 2019 Buyer’s Guide is available here. Unfortunately you’ll need either an Italian friend or some mad Google Translate skills. 

The Best of Free-Touring Skis 

At SkiAlper, this is the “I tour for powder turns” category. Forget about super light skis, those skis will be hauled uphill to enjoy deeper snowpacks and make the most of good snow. Black Crows is performing well this year in that category, with lively skis that are both powerful but also very accessible. Agile and snappy are two words that come out very often about Black Crows. As DPS is starting to lose traction, expect the brand from Chamonix (and manufactured by Elan) to be the next, best “hipster” brand to ski. K2 is also unsurprisingly making it to the top of the category. SkiAlper this to say about the new Wayback 106:

“While other skis are in the 90-100 mm underfoot range, the Wayback 106 is no less versatile. While its width won't offer the best edge hold on difficult and icy snows, it is fantastic on softer surfaces. A great companion for difficult and long days out, it will satisfy a vast audience of skiers.” 

The DPS Cassiar is the first DPS to make it to the top of a category since SkiAlper started reviewing them. The Euros aren't fans of noodles that can’t keep an edge on anything harder than powder, so the Wailer is usually annually roasted and delegated to the category of a “North-American” ski. The Cassiar show DPS’s quest for versatility in harder conditions. The Cassiar is still a soft ski that beginners and intermediate skiers will like, but strong skiers will quickly reach its limit.

A mention of excellence was also given to Dynastar’s Mythic 97 CA. SkiAlper thought it was an ideal option for a wider range of users with constant performances in all snow types and amazing floatation in deep snow for its waist. 

The Best of Classic Ski Touring Skis

This category is a bit under-represented at the moment in North-America, despite being the bulk of backcountry skis sold on the other side of the Atlantic. We are looking at the workhorse skis, those that will take you from October to June through everything you will throw at them, except deep (let’s say 40+ cm) powder.  

Ski of the year for K2’s Wayback 88. Lots of effort was put in K2’s new line-up, and they are getting noticed:

“The brand new lightweight construction of the Wayback meets the most widespread expectations in classic touring and is the perfect tool for difficult descents that require impeccable behaviour. Whether it’s difficult snow or slopes or steep lines, the Wayback 88 is, in our opinion, the ski that can help the greatest number of ski-mountaineers to climb efficiently and ski down everything that can be thrown at them. It is no longer the elastic and round Wayback from before and is geared towards stronger skiers although it will stay enjoyable for less aggressive skiers”

Salomon makes the cut this time again. Both their MTN Explore 95 and 88 are well liked in general, although we have found that they have some issues with durability in the long run. Expect a playful and easy ski that wont disappoint when the angle of the slope kicks up. The Ova Freebird from Black Crows is described as a “soft and cooperative ski”, reminiscent of the rest of the Freebird collection. 

The Best of the Light Skis

The kilo-ski category, optimized for long days with tons of vertical gain, traverses and big objectives that will involve lots of skinning and bootpacking. 

Ski of the year: Dynastar Eagle / Vertical Factory. 

“More precise and more suitable for higher speeds than the Salomon X-Alp, it needs a skier who know what he is doing on difficult snow. Precise, clean, responsive, it does everything well despite his super light weight for 87 mm underfoot.”

The rest of the selection includes the super-classic Backland 85 UL which has been around for many years, the Salomon X-Alp  and the Scott Superguide 80. 

A mention of excellence was also given to K2’s Wayback 80 and Fischer's Transalp 82, establishing the Wayback line as probably the one to beat this Winter. 

What are your thoughts? How much do you usually look for or care about product review before making a purchase? Let us know in the comments below! 

Any question about backcountry skis, boots or any other piece of equipment? Our experts are there for you. Visit us in store or online or send us a message via Facebook or directly here by using the Contact Us page. 

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