Light and Free: Freeride skis catch a weight-saving wave

Tester Jamie Krakowiak floats through the Powder Mountain goods with ease. [Photo] Matt Kiedaisch

The Gear Guide used to have an unofficial 10-lb. limit. We wouldn’t consider heavier skis. They flat out would not make the cut, and even the most freeride-focused testers would begrudge those portly profiles. But things have changed.

We haven’t gotten soft, though there is one 10-pounder from J skis, The Friend, in here. Rather, skis have changed, including those most focused on downhill dominance. Even among the widest backcountry-leaning boards, weights seldom creep above 8.5 lbs.

That’s because full sheets of titanal (metal) are as uncommon as new telemark boots. Lightweight cores of poplar and paulownia (versus heavier beech, ash or maple) are more prevalent than rockered tips. And stiff-yet-light carbon (used as stringers embedded into a core or laminated above and/or below in woven sheets) has surpassed fiberglass in its usage. Manufacturers have found the secret formula to combine these materials in ways that hold up in tough conditions.

“I’m really liking that freeride skis are continuing to come in at reasonable touring-ski-fighting weights,” says Lake Tahoe, Calif.-based tester Alec Sandberg, whose favorite skis this year included the Atomic Backland 107 (7 lbs. at 182 cm) and Salomon QST 106 (8.1 lbs. at 181 cm). “I prefer a more stable ride, and I appreciate that these skis are tourable.”

And if trimming weight in skis isn’t your pleasure? The crop of tour-friendly three- and four-buckle boots is becoming lighter than ever.

SALOMON QST 106

$850 – salomon.comSIZES (cm): 167, 174, 181, 188 | DIMENSIONS (mm): 140/106/126 | WEIGHT/PAIR: 8.1 lbs. (181)

ATOMIC BACKLAND 107

$850 – atomic.com | SIZES (cm): 175, 182, 189 | DIMENSIONS (mm): 137/107/125 | WEIGHT/PAIR: 7 lbs. (182)

Grab your copy of the 2019 Gear Guide here.

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