2018 Gear Test Preview: Five Skis to Stir Up the Lineup

Next week, for the 10th year running, Backcountry Magazine staff and over 50 testers are heading to Powder Mountain, Utah to ride and test the latest in skis, boots and bindings as part of the 2018 Gear Test. And to make sure that we’re testing the most contemporary gear, we operate under a simple rule: Only first- and second-year skis, boots and bindings, or older models with construction updates, are eligible for review. Luckily for us, companies exceed this standard each year, leaving us with new technology, construction and shapes to look forward to.

This year, as we prep for the upcoming week (shotski, anyone?), we’ve decided to share an incomplete list of some of those incoming goods that have us drooling: including everything from new-to-the-test ski models to redesigned AT-boot favorites. Below, learn more about some the skis expected to shake things up.

The La Sportiva Nano Gets a New Shape
La Sportiva wowed weight-conscious testers at our 2014 test with their Vapor Nano, a 103-underfoot powder-touring machine that impressively tipped the scales at just over 5 lbs. per pair. It earned an Editors’ Choice Award for 2015 and now returns with the same carbon-nanotube construction but with an updated shape. That refresh is designed to be more stable, with slightly less tip rocker, a rounder tail and a mildly stiffer flex.

The Vapor Nano, new and improved. [Photo] Courtesy of La Sportiva

DPS Gets Damper with Alchemist
This year, “tuning out the bad vibrations” isn’t just your local yoga teacher’s motto: DPS is adopting it, too. Enter Alchemist construction: designed as an update to their carbon-plumbed, heavily awarded Pure3 construction. The new construction is implemented in DPS’s tried-and-true rockered and tapered shapes—like the Yvette, Nina, Wailer and Lotus models—and features a fresh, proprietary dampening additive to the carbon-fiber laminate, intended to create a smoother ride. We’ll also be testing DPS’s lightest-weight Tour1 construction, which was introduced last year and earned the Wailer 112 RP2 an Editors’ Choice Award.

Alchemy, explained. [Photo] Courtesy of DPS

RENOUN’s Hyper Damping Technology
Burlington, Vt.-based RENOUN is throwing their skis into our test ring for the first time this year, including their Endurance, intended as an “all-mountain, lightweight-ish” ski. And while that may come across as the description of an everyman’s ski, the models’ HDT—Hyper Damping Technology—construction is designed to allow testers to ramp things up on the descent. The technology hinges on a patented polymer embedded in strips from tip to tail. When those strips encounter changes in vibration frequency, they undergo a molecular change to firm up or soften, creating a ski that’s stiffness is designed to adapt to conditions and how hard a skier drives it. Not yet proven if it also boosts testers’ IQs.

RENOUN’s Z-Line model, which employs HDT. [Photo] Courtesy of RENOUN

Völkl Expands their VTA Line
Last year, Völkl’s VTA 88 Lite earned an Editors’ Choice Award for its solid prowess and alarmingly scant weight—just 4.6 lbs. (170cm, 88mm underfoot). This year, the VTA line expands with two new offerings measuring 98 and 108cm underfoot. The construction of these new models varies slightly from the 88 Lite (a different core and without Völkl’s signature 3D.Ridge construction), but the models are notably feathery for their size—the VTA 108 weighs a mere 7 lbs. per pair in its 181cm length.

The VTL 108, for deeper days. [Photo] Courtesy of Völkl

Voilé’s Vector Goes Ultra
Voilé has a proven track record of backcountry excellence, going all the way back to 2011 and 2012 when their Charger and Vector won back-to-back Editors’ Choice Awards. Last year, the Charger received a complete overhaul with new dimensions, rocker profile and flex pattern that earned the SuperCharger top honors. This year, the Vector gets its turn, having been updated with a rounder flex and shorter turning radius.

Voile’s David Grissom debuts the updated Ultra Vectors at the 2017 OR show. Photo courtesy backcontryskiingcanada.com.


  1. Ped Antic says:

    pedantic note to DPS: “dampening” = getting something wet. “damping” = reducing the amplitude of a motion
    Renoun manages to get it right.

    Also, since you mention the new shapes for the Vector and Nano, sure would be nice to just print the previous shape numbers and the current numbers so we could see what the change is.

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