My shortlist for top lightweight, good float, 90-100mm underfoot from 175 to 180cm backcountry options
In my last blog post, I showed how we can identify the top 10 lightweight backcountry skis that still provide you with a great float. I introduced the Surface/Weight ratio as an easy value for us to pull out, since we have all the data on skis. In a few seconds, we immediately identified the best options around. I then focused on options from 90 to 100mm underfoot and from 175 to 180 cm in length. Here's the list.
- 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
Comparing average levels of bending and torsional stiffness
The quick way to get an idea of the general feeling of those options is to plot the average bending stiffness versus the average torsional stiffness. We’ve done this kind of analysis for various all-mountain options already for men and for women’s skis.
Before starting anything too specific, let’s state some overall facts:
- The average bending stiffness has a 30% variation from the softest to the stiffest of those options. This is subtle, so in terms of pop and of speed limit, those skis do not present a huge difference, but it’s still noticeable.
- The average torsional stiffness varies 100% from the softest to the stiffest. This means that for example, the Faction Agent 2.0 has twice the average torsional stiffness that Salomon MTN Explorer 95 has. This is huge and you will definitely feel it on the edge grip, the precision required from the skier, the playfulness and the forgiveness.
Armada Tracer 98 180
If you look at the image that shows the detailed distribution of bending and torsional stiffness distributions, there is a very clear “plateau” on the bottom chart that represents the torsional stiffness distribution. Don’t be fooled, this “plateau” is under the bindings. Consequently, it won’t have a huge impact on the feeling. What triggers more my attention is how soft the tail is. This ski will provide a good cruising feel on a hard surface and surfy feel in powder. The tip area being quite stiff, the Armada Tracer 98 will engage in the turn quite early. It will also have less edge grip compared to the other options. I would consider this ski is more suited for skiers who will use it mostly in powder.
Atomic Backland 95 177
First, the Atomic Backland has a camber of 3mm, so it would be considered flat, which will make it easier in powder. Next, it has a very low torsional stiffness distribution. The only other ski that will feel similar is the Salomon MTN Explore 95. However, the Atomic Backland 95 has a stiffer front part of the ski, which will make a bit less playful than the Salomon MTN Explorer 95. Finally, if weight is very important to you, this is one of the lightest of my shortlist.
Black Crows Navis Freebird 179,1
The Black Crows Navis Freebird 179,1 is a higher average in terme of stiffness of my top 10 selections. It provides a good support in the tail on both bending and torsional stiffness distributions. This means you’ll appreciate the edge grip if you need it. The front part is on average, so this ski would be considered as a great compromise between playfulness, forgiveness and precision in this category. The camber is regular at 7mm, so if you happen to ski on piste, you’ll appreciate the stability of this ski.
Blizzard - Zero G 95 178
If you want a distinct feeling of stability at higher speed while remaining playful in your turns, the Blizzard Zero G 95 is your choice. In my top 10 selections, it’s the stiffest on average bending and among the softest in torsional values, so it prioritizes playfulness to edge grip. You don’t need much precision to appreciate this ski and you can crank it up to higher speeds without shaking. It’s got a flat camber (3mm) such as the Atomic Backland 95, which means it will make it easy to maneuver in powder. If you tend to ski slower than average, you may find it too stiff at low speed.
Dynastar Mythic 97 Pro 177
The Dynastar Mythic 97 Pro is very similar to the Salomon MTN Explore 95. It’s got a softer level of torsional stiffness, but not as soft as the Salomon MTN Explore 95. It’s very playful but will be better than the Salomon MTN Explore 95 for edge grip. Also, you’ll feel more support from the tail, so it should be considered more energetic and less cruzy.
Faction Agent 2.0 179
Say I’m looking for a ski that does it all, but I know I’ll spend a significant time on piste or on any type of harder snow (couloir, spring, crust…), the Faction Agent 2.0 would be the option to consider. It’s stiffer than the average within my shortlist. The torsional stiffness in the tail of the ski is the highest. This results into a ski that will procure superior edge grip and energy at the end of the turn. The Faction Agent 2.0 also has a fairly stiff front area. It will engage quickly in a turn. Alternatively, it will feel less playful or surfy in powder.
Line Sick Day 94 179
Line skis are often considered very distinct and super soft compared to their peers. In this case, the Line Sick Day 94 is not the softer of this selection. It remains in the lower average, so more playful, easy to adapt, less energy and less edge grip compared to others. It has a regular camber at 8mm, so it will feel stable on hard surfaces. It resembles more the Salomon MTN Explorer 95 and the Dynastar Mythic 97 Pro.
Salomon MTN Explore 95 177
The top playful ski in my selection would be the Salomon MTN Explore 95. It’s significantly softer in torsion, so playful, but poor edge grip as a tradeoff. But don’t be fooled, as despite its overall low stiffness, its bending stiffness in the tail is the highest. This will provide great support. This ski would serve better skiers who do not intend to use it a lot on grooms. It will serve best on powder days in resorts and in the backcountry.
Scott Slight 93 175
The Scott Slight 93 is among the stiffest of my selection. It will be appreciated by skiers who have a well-tuned technique and ski with precision. The front part is especially stiff for both bending and torsional values. The edge grip is superior and as a consequence, it’s less playful. However, the tail is soft, so you won’t find this ski to have too much support in the back. This ski is the opposite of the Salomon MTN Explore 95, it will serve very well on piste while being a great occasional backcountry option.
Scott Superguide 95 178
Clearly, if you’re not sure what’s your specific taste, the Scott Superguide 95 is the ski for you. Within the shortlist, it’s the average of all, except for the camber. Which also makes it a great ski for piste. It would be the ideal ski to travel with, as it’s the compromise among all those good options, so it will deal with anything you need. A true all-mountain option including great backcountry advantages. Scott Superguide 95 versus Black Crows Navis Freebird 179,1? Well, I have to admit I’d have a very hard time pointing out the obvious difference in bending and torsion patterns, but one thing is considerably different: the weight. The Scott Superguide 95 is the lightest of this shortlist. Take note that in the graph, you can see 2 bumps in the center. This is normal, it’s the effect of inserts for the binding mounts. Our measuring technology detect any change in the construction, including those small metal inserts! But you won’t feel it on snow, as it’s under the boot.
Ski fitting anyone?
It’s normal to feel a bit confused with all the available options out there. In my next article, I’ll discuss what’s a “ski fit”. Equipment fitting services is quite common in other sports such as golfing. Identifying the correct equipment for someone requires extensive knowledge of skis. Unfortunately, knowledge can be hard to find. Additionally, any shop will push you towards options they have available, not necessarily the ideal option for you. At Sooth, we’re developing a unique ski fitting service along with a gear recommender system. As you can see, we have quite a competitive advantage: we measure hundreds of skis every year. If you want to follow our progress, you should subscribe to our newsletter.
Wishing snow for everyone, take care.