Our Best Backcountry Skis for 2020
The feeling of skiing in fresh snow, making new tracks is a very unique one, especially when the turns have been earned through sweat and effort, climbing uphill, step-by-step. These days, everyone with more than a season under their belts wants to head for the backcountry. With pristine pow, pillow lines and majestic tree runs, the off-piste slopes are becoming the winter playground for an ever-increasing group of riders.
Here are our winners and runners-up for 'best in class' backcountry skis.
The Backland 102 W is as much a freeride ski as it is a tour one. The Light Woodcore means it has the kind of weight you would expect for a ski built to ascend, but plenty of the features ensure that it skis well as a pure downhill option. The 102mm waist will handle the deepest of powder days, the Powder rocker at the tip and tail improve handling in all conditions and the ski is still nimble enough to feel responsive on hard snow.
Tester’s comments: Sarah (Aviemore) Perfect for the conditions I was in, deep soft snow. It was light and extremely manoeuvrable which made trickier terrain easy to handle. Lively, light and fun!
Radius 16m Waist 102mm Rocker Tip/Tail Weight 1510g
WOMEN’S RUNNER UP
Designed to climb easily on tours and handle any terrain encountered on the ski down. A Carbon Backbone through the length of the ski provides exceptional agility and edge grip, adding only minimal grams. The Ultralight wood core keeps the weight low and adds to the feeling of energy and life. HRZN Tech at the tip improves the handling and control in softer and rougher snow. Suited for those who are seeking an all-round, tour-anywhere set up.
Tester’s comments: Florrie (Covent Garden) A tour ski that surprised me handling a far wider range of terrain then I thought it would. Best thing is the balance of climbing efficiency to downhill performance!
Radius 15m Waist 85mm Rocker Tip Weight 1060g
This new Zero G 95 takes everything good about the old model and builds on it to make what is possibly the most versatile touring and freeskiing model you will find. The radius is longer to improve stability and the weight comes down slightly, which is impressive as it was already at the lighter end of the scale for this width of the ski. Downhill performance still comfortably matches or beats its competitors. Tip and tail rocker and a 95mm waist ensure all conditions are dealt with equally well. Carbon Drive2.0technology and a light paulownia wood core create a responsive, precise feel without being heavy.
Tester’s comments: Andrea (Covent Garden) One ski to do-it-all, whether you’re already into touring or just starting out then this is the one. Skis variable terrain easily and carves well too, a great all-rounder.
Radius 23m Waist 95mm Rocker Tip/Tail Weight 1250g
MEN’S RUNNER UP
Atomic Backland 107
The Backland 107 blurs the lines of freeride and backcountry, proving that you can have a lightweight ski that packs a punch. Even though the waist reads 107mm underfoot it feels manoeuvrable and playful, especially compared to similar models. It’s stable and locks into a carve nicely on hard snow. Take it into the variable or deep stuff and the smoothness and stability created by the HRZN Tech tip and tail will ensure your smile is wide.
Tester’s comments: Benj (Castleford) When skinning up I was surprised by their lightness even though they are 107mm. I was impressed with the handling on the way down in deep snow and on firm conditions too.
Radius 18.5m Waist 107mm Rocker Tip/Tail Weight 1550g