Top lightweight backcountry skis that float

Top 10 lightweight backcountry skis with good float 

 October 23, 2020

By  Marius Bulota

Go lightweight but dont sink!

This means you need to fint top lightweight backcountry skis that float. Lightweight skis for climbing are great, but would you sacrifice a few cm in length or a few millimeters in width to get lighter? Fat skis and longer skis are fun to ride in powder, but how much larger and how much longer before the extra weight makes you last at the top? This post is for you, backcountry skier, who is carefully choosing your equipment!

Backcountry skiing is booming

Backcountry ski sales have been booming over the past couple years. If you are getting into backcountry skiing this year, you’d better make up your mind fast, before the shops and manufacturers are out of supplies! But what should you buy? Of course, the first thing that pops in your mind is the weight of the skis. The lighter the better? It’s not that simple. Smaller skis (length and waist) would obviously be lighter since there’s less material. But you still want your skis to float in powder. So, you need a minimum surface area for that! Therefore, to compare weight, you must also consider the ski length and width, which gives you the area.

What are the options for lightweight backcountry skis that float

As I often do, I like to start a blog post by showing how the range of offer is wide. The diversification of skis is precisely what makes us enjoy the experience even more. Equipment is precisely developed for the greatest experience possible of a given type of skiing. But first, we must determine how we present all those options.

Ski waist width, length and radius versus weight

It would be fairly simple to plot a weight versus waist width chart and determine, for a given width, what skis are the lightest. We could then filter out the lengths for which we don’t really care. But we would still remain with too many options and we believe there’s a better way to sort the options. What we really need is a surface value. Even better, we believe, is to use a surface/weight ratio.

Using the surface/weight ratio

Calculating and using a surface/weight ratio is very useful. In simple:

  • Small surface / heavy ski = low ratio
  • Large surface / light ski = high ratio

So, if you’re looking for a lightweight equipment, but still want to float, consider the skis at the top of the plot area as your best options. Those have minimal weight considering their surface area.

Sort surface/weight ratio to waist width

Most skiers chose the ski waist width as one of the first selection criteria, we believe the best representation is to sort the surface/weight ratio by the ski waist width. Therefore, you determine what kind of ski you’re looking for. Usually, we adopt the following ranges for backcountry ski guidelines:

  • Skimo is less than 80mm (specific to climbing)
  • East coast backcountry 95 to 105mm
  • West coast backcountry 100-110mm
  • Any slackcountry ski can be slightly narrower for the east coast and larger for the west coast 90 to 120mm.

Searching in our database for best surface/wight ratio

In the following graph, you can see our entire database. The grouped options at the top are the ones that interest us. They are both light weight and have a decent surface area. 

The grouped options are what appears to be clusters, where designers probably had the same intention. At the left end, narrow and very light weight are skimo options. Then you have a few clusters per waist width: 80 to 85mm, 85 to 90mm, 90 to 100mm, 100 to 110mm and finally the fat backcountry skis with over 110mm width. The green callouts are women skis.

Top lightweight backcountry skis that float

Surface/weight to waist width is an easy an quick representation to identify good options for backcountry skis that are light, but still float.

Top 10  lightweight backcountry skis that float within 90 to 100mm and from 175 to 180cm

If light weight is important to you and you still wanted to float, here are the top 10 options within 90 to 100mm and from 175 to 185cm length.

  • Armada - Tracer 98 - 180 - 2020
  • Atomic - Backland 95 - 177 - 2020
  • Black Crows - Navis Freebird - 179,1 - 2020
  • Blizzard - Zero G 95 - 178 - 2020
  • Dynastar - Mythic 97 Pro - 177 - 2020
  • Faction - Agent 2.0 - 179 - 2020
  • Line - Sick Day 94 - 179 - 2020
  • Salomon - MTN Explore 95 - 177 – 2020
  • Scott - Slight 93 - 175 – 2020
  • Scott - Superguide 95 - 178 - 2020
Top 10 surface-weight for 90 to 100mm

Top ten skis with best surface-weight ratio presented for 90 to 100mm waist width and between 175 and 180cm

Interestingly, you can read endless reviews to find the best options, or you can simply add the maths and get them right way. We prefer the maths, it's more accurate and a lot faster!

Now that we have the top 10 best options, we can choose which one is specifically the best for you. At this stage, what matters is the geometry along with the bending and torsional stiffness. Even for backcountry skis, those properties matter! 

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The differences in the top 10 lightweight backcountry ski

Read our next article comparing specifically Armada Tracer 98 180, Atomic Backland 95 177, Black Crows Navis Freebird 179,1, Blizzard Zero G 95 178, Dynastar Mythic 97 Pro 177, Faction Agent 2.0 179, Line Sick Day 94 179, Salomon MTN Explorer 95, Scott Slight 93 175 and Scott Superguide 95 178. Those skis are great options for light weight backcountry options, but their specific flavor can vary a lot. That flavor, you'll be able to understand from comparing geometry, bending and torsional stiffness in our next article.

What is the floatability feeling?

Sooth is currently in the process of defining what floatability feeling is. Let’s call it a “metric”. A metric contains several ingredients. In this case we know floatability includes the surface/weight ratio. We know it also includes the bending stiffness distribution, mostly for the front part of the ski, the shape and angle of the tip and the mounting point of the skis as well. Our research will basically conclude into an algorithm that takes those ingredients into account and simply ranks skis floatability as we feel it while skiing power! The power of Sooth Floatability® metric will be revealed soon!

Marius Bulota

Marius is the co-founder of SoothSki. He's also an electrical engineer, passionate of innovative technologies. Marius skis at Mont-Sainte-Anne in Canada and has travelled the world on remote backcountry adventures.

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