The Best Ski Gear for Backcountry Touring
The right ski is magic. Nothing conjures joy (or adrenaline) like ripping down the slopes. While good ski boots are critical, those boards are your direct interface with the snow. They’ll enhance your turns, make crud feel like powder, and boost confidence. Buying skis is a complicated calculus. There’s length, sidecut (dimensions), turning radius, width of shovel (tip), waist, and tail. Add camber, rocker, float, profile, and other jargon and you might as well learn a new language. That’s why we put together a list of the best skis of 2022, to help you find clarity.
When you pick a ski, consider where you’ll be skiing the most—dream vacation aside. If you live on the East Coast (or close to it), consider a narrower carver ski for hardpack (aka ice). If you reside in Colorado, California, and Utah, chances are you’ll want a wider powder tool. In the Pacific Northwest, split the difference with a ski that’s at home on groomers, concrete, and that occasional day of perfect powder. Keep in mind that unless you’re headed deep into the backcountry, narrower waist skis generally carve better while those that are wider underfoot tend to be powderhounds. Also, consider length. There’s a tendency to think “bigger is better,” but that’s not always the case—especially if you’re just starting out.
Over the years, our team of testers has skied thousands of days on over 150 pairs of skis. Here are our favorite choices for this season that you can buy now. Inventories are at an all-time low due to Covid supply chain issues, so don’t hesitate if you need new boards. We considered skis for their versatility of performance, best-of-class construction, and general ski-ability. The best skis of 2022 will help improve your technique, whether you’re dreaming of corduroy, powder, or just plain all-mountain fun.
Surfing the soft stuff or slaying the hardpack, the Maverick has serious all-mountain mojo. This ski was developed in North America, and it’ll take you from Stowe to Mammoth in style. The wood core is sandwiched with double titanium and fiberglass sheets, which provides stability when things get fast and reliable float in soft conditions. There’s underfoot camber, some tip and tail rocker, plus a turning radius that lends itself to GS-style turns. The rocker blended with camber underfoot offers maximum edge contact. A moderate waist combined with broad tip lets you move from hardpack to off-piste without missing a beat.
Lengths (cm): 164, 172, 180, 188; radius (m): 19.3-180; dimensions (mm): 129-94.5-113; weight (g) for 180 is 1,800.
If we had to sum up this ski in one word, it would be “money.” The Volkl Blaze is the benchmark of versatility, whether you’re heading deep into uncharted backcountry or carving up a storm in Aspen. This ski has it all: stability, floatation, quickness, rebound, and it’s eminently forgiving. This is the best one-ski quiver for people who challenge themselves with ever-changing terrain. There’s an underfoot plate that adds edging power, plus a TPU strip that parallels the edges for vibration dampening and tracking. Pair it with the Marker Duke PT 12 binding ($700) for a setup that transitions effortlessly from resort to AT (alpine touring) mode.
Lengths (cm): 165, 172, 179 and 186; turn radius (m): 17 (180); dimensions (mm): 146/106/128; weight (g) for 179cm is 1,828.
Chances are you spend the season searching for perfect snow, but the quest is not always a success. The FX106 TI is a skier’s ski that rewards skill but has an uncanny ability to find the sweet spot in any condition. Kästle’s Tri-TI technology involves a triple wood core with titanal inlays. Couple that with the brand’s Hollowtech 3.0 tech, which removes unneeded layers in the front of the ski to save weight, and you have a ski with precise steering, great vibration control, and excellent edge grip. With a rockered tip and tail, the ski pivots on a dime—and the flex is like velvet.
Lengths (cm): 168, 176, 184, 192, turn radius (m): 16.8 (176), dimensions (mm): 137 / 106 / 125; weight (g) for 176cm is 2,030.
[Price varies; search local distributor]
Chamonix-based Black Crows has a fun vibe. “There’s a slight hint of French arrogance with sexual undertones,” says ambassador Mattias Gerard, aka Super Frenchie. Apt adjectives abound for the Serpo: fun, powerful, poppy, and fast. The flat-tail ski is light in the nose and tail with a lightning-like transition. A unique H-shaped titanal plate gives it a quick, agile feel. Serpo is the little brother to the brand’s Justis, a powerful performance ski that doesn’t tolerate mistakes. Serpo is ideal for the rest of us mortals, offering plenty of power and stability at speed but sufficient forgiveness.
Lengths (cm): 168.2, 174.1, 180.1; turn radius (m): 20; dimensions (mm): 131 / 93 / 115; Weight (g) for 180.1 is 3,650.
If you ski raced in your youth, or wish you had, this ski is the best trencher of the season. It’s built for big, sweeping turns that channel your inner WC chops. The wood-core ski is stable and precise without being grabby. Testers gave it high scores for hardpack, and while the ski has plenty of top-end muscle, it’s not punishing. The carbon fiber underfoot is designed for increased edge hold while titanal reduces weight while increasing stability. You can carve like a pro but also feather for quick pivots when necessary. Just stay out of the backseat. Pro tip: Pair the ski with the new RC4 Curv boot ($600-$800).
Lengths (cm): 161, 168, 175, 182; Turn Radius (m) 16.5 (178); Dimensions (mm) 125 / 76 / 109; Weight for 178 is 2,500g.
This powder puppy is built to float. The Pagoda 100 RP is made in Utah with premium materials. DPS says the all-mountain ski is designed to provide at least a decade of turns. The ski features a top layer of ash and a lower core of aspen and paulownia. DPS (aka the king of carbons) then adds two finely tuned carbon laminates and wraps the package with a full sidewall construction. The short radius of 15m in combination with the large amounts of rocker creates a ski that’s floaty and maneuverable with a quickness now found in every deep-day charger.
Lengths (cm): 155, 165, 171, 179, 184, 189; turn radius (m): 15m (179); dimensions (mm): 132 / 100 / 117; weight (g) for 179 is 1,805.
We love this ski for its sweet price and all-around versatility. Line Blade performs in all conditions, but really excels in situations when you want quick turns and plenty of pop. Testers called this ski “balanced and even tempered.” It’s ideal for everything from slaloming trees to busting crud and, thanks to its moderate waist, it handles groomers with a surprising deftness. The ski features an aspen wood core, Line’s Gas Pedal Metal layup (titanal) across the width of the ski, with two independent tip and tail titanal pieces to increase power and energy.
Lengths (cm): 169, 176, 181; radius (m): 13.5; dimensions (mm): 154-95-124; weight (g) for 169 2,050.
This new ski is the backcountry cousin of the legendary resort tool, the Enforcer 94. The Unlimited is a whopping 43 percent lighter, but still retains excellent carving ability and explosive power for downhill turns. To achieve this fine balance, Nordica refined every aspect of the traditional Enforcer construction, utilizing a strong Carbon Chassis LT in place of metal, a unique poplar beech core, a proprietary layer for damping, thinner top sheets, shorter edges, and the brand’s True Tip Technology. If you want to escape resort crowds in search of untracked powder, without sacrificing downhill turning ability for uphill lightness, here’s your ski.
Lengths (cm): 158, 165, 172, 179, 186; turn radius (m): 17.1 (179); dimensions (mm): 127-94-115.5; weight (g) for 179 is 1,540.
This is Glen Plake´s first signature model and, although we haven’t tested it yet, we can’t wait. The chassis is 104mm underfoot, with carbon construction. The ski legend wanted a blend of freeride power and touring agility, and the ski is reputed to excel at both. Plus the ski’s gorgeous topsheet has the best colors of the season.
Length (cm): 173,180, 187; turn radius (m): 23 (180); dimensions (mm): 128-104-122; weight (g) for 180 is 1,540.