Expert Review: 2023 Line Blade Optic 96 [with Video]
Ski Expert Rob and Theo tested the 2023 Line Blade Optic 96 skis on carving, freestyle, and freeride at Powder Mountain in Utah.
Curated Ski Experts Rob and Theo got their hands on the 2023 Line Blade Optic 96 this spring and put it to the test at Powder Mountain in Utah. Check out how it performed in the carving, freestyle, and freeride categories, but consider the fact that each and every skier is different. If you have any questions about the Blade Optic 96 or need recommendations on which ski would be best for you, reach out to a Ski Expert here on Curated.
One final point before we dive in: It's worth noting that Curated Experts are not sponsored by any brands. All of these reviews are completely unbiased.
What does Line claim about this ski? [Rob] So Line calls this ski a playful all-mountain ski, and that's exactly what it is. It's solid at carving shorter-to-medium radius turns. It's super poppy. It's got a nice, soft shovel, but it holds an edge through the turn.
[Theo] Line claims that the Blade Optic 96 is a freeride ski that takes its cues from the Line Vision and the Line Blade, which are both a couple years old. Compared to other skis in the freestyle lineup, they are pretty niche skis. The blade is a performance freestyle carving ski with huge sidecut and no twin tip. Whereas the Vision is a super light crossover, 5050, 7030 backcountry resort ski it's coming in at about 1600, 1500 grams, depending on the waist width. These are much heavier at about 2000 grams. So Line has constructed the Blade Optic 96 with both of those skis in mind and as influences. It's got the shape, the rocker camber profile of the vision, and it has the metal, as line puts it, gas pedal metal from the line blade.
What is your overall impression of this ski? [Rob] So this is, at 96 underfoot, this is a, sort of, in between that kind of Western all-mountain and Eastern all-mountain ski. I found that this ski was really good at making carved turns from a somewhat centered stance. Line says that they have a gas pedal metal on the ski. And I felt that, as I was initiating a carve, if I pressed through the center of the ski, it would make a really sweet carved turn. And at the same time, when I wanted to pop off a little hit, it felt really poppy and light and fun in the air.
[Theo] I really liked these skis. It's an odd ski. I'm not completely sure who it's for. It's fairly stiff underfoot. Line put a lot of segmented metal–that's what they call it, the gas pedal metal–throughout, I would say, the middle two thirds of the ski. And you can really feel that. It's not particularly flexible. It's not that easy to turn, especially on steeper firmer slopes which I was on. The tips, tails, however, are pretty loose, almost skiing like a park ski. They were kind of flapping around when I was going at speed. It doesn't bother me too much, but it's not a ski that you're laying on edge and noticing the entire thing carving as a full stiff piece of equipment.
It was super nimble. It was almost like skiing a GS ski in terms of the width, although, a GS ski would be much narrower. This went edge to edge very easily, almost too easily. I think an intermediate or beginner skier would find it hard to control and not super forgiving. That said, it makes snow conditions forgiving. You could be on a real sheet of ice. I just came down this morning, first run of the day at 9:00 AM here at Powder Mountain, and it's confidence inspiring. And I think that's because of the metal and because it does give you that edge hold.
My overall impression on this ski is I had a blast on my several runs with it on a pretty icy Powder Mountain this morning. I would love to own a pair of these. I think that they cater really well to my style on firm days. If I go back East–I live in Utah now–but if I was to move back there for a significant chunk of time and Line was still making these, I would absolutely get a pair. They're really fun.
In terms of length, I would size up on these. I ski to 184. I did not find it too long. That's usually about what I ski but not often in something as stiff and with as much metal as this ski. I think that is because, like I said before, the tips and the tails are pretty soft, so you're just not getting edge hold out of the entire length of the ski. It's really coming from that middle two-thirds to half of the ski. Anyone 5'9, 5'10, and above, I would say consider the 184s. Anyone below that, 177 should be fine. But I would definitely get on the 184s if I was to purchase this ski in the future.
How is the shape of the ski and the ski profile? And how does it impact the ride? [Rob] The ski's 129 millimeters at the tip, 96 millimeters at the waist, 119 at the tail. It's got a really nice progressive sidecut, and it's got a fair amount of tip rocker and tail rocker. So that makes for easy turn initiation and better float if you get soft snow.
What is the edge hold like? [Rob] The edge hold on this ski is pretty solid. We were skiing in pretty firm conditions here. I'd say this would do really well on Eastern groomers and could be a really great one ski quiver for someone in Northern New England or a harder snow ski for someone out west.
How does it turn? [Rob] This ski is easy turning. If you put it on edge and put a little bit of pressure in the middle of the ski, it's going to make really nice carved turns and has a nice amount of energy out of one turn into the next.
How is the flex? [Rob] The flex of this ski is fairly soft in the shovels but stiffens up underfoot. I was really happy with the way that underfoot stiffness helped it hold an edge on firmer snow. But that soft shovel, I expect, would be really fun to ski in bumps, and it would be nice for butters.
How is the stability in the turn? [Rob] This is a playful ski that's designed for maneuverability, but within that, it is a fairly stable ski. It's got a layer of Titanal from here all the way down. It's not the stiffest ski I've ever skied, but I felt really comfortable when the ski was on edge carving those medium radius turns at fairly high speeds.
[Theo] This is a very stable ski, but I would say that comes with a catch, which is that it's turning radius is fairly limited. It likes making large radius turns. Small narrow slalom turns are not what this ski is going to be good at; that's because it's pretty stiff underfoot. It just doesn't have the sidecut that a slalom ski or the line blade has, which it is partly inspired from. It is stable on long radius turns, arching down the mountain. That said, the tip and the tail are a bit looser. They're super flexy as you can see. And it stiffens up once you hit the point where the early rise begins in the tip and the tail.
What about dampness? Any chatter in the ski? [Rob] The Line Blade Optic felt really stable underfoot.
[Theo] This ski is more lively than it is damp. It's not going to be something you can punch through cruddy snow with. It's going to be more like you bounce off of the cruddy snow with it, so more of a flexy, playful ski than a hard charger.
How does it perform at speed? How easy is it to control? What about it makes it harder to control if not? [Rob] This ski was very easy to control at moderate to somewhat high speeds. I felt it was maneuverable and stable at the same time.
How is the energy acceleration? [Rob] Well, the skis got really fun acceleration. I feel like on this ski, pressing through the middle of the ski just makes it go faster through the turn and builds up those g-forces in a turn, which is just a really fun thing to do when you're carving on groomers.
How playful is it? [Rob] For an all-mountain ski, this is a really playful ski. I would love to take this through over some tabletops and maybe even through some boxes in the park. If you're planning on spending 90% of your time in the park, this is probably not the ski for you. That Titanal adds a little bit of weight, and it's not going to be quite as easy to swing around as a pure park ski.
[Theo] This isn't a particularly playful ski. It's also not a ski I would take on jumps. If you're looking for a jump ski, I did ski and switch. It was fine. It has a little early rise in the tail. I did hit a few jumps with it. It's not going to stand out in any of those categories. This is a ski for beautiful turns of all shapes and sizes down groom and terrain, weaving through trees, and getting in some fresh snow, especially if you're on the East Coast.
How is the pop? [Rob] Well, the soft shovels and tails make this ski a really fun poppy ski. It's really easy to, sort of, get up and shovel, get up on the shovels and butter. And it feels really comfortable getting up in the air off these skis. I was having a lot of fun going off small side hits, and I would love to take them off jumps in the park.
How is it for skiing switch? [Rob] This ski is pretty good for skiing switch. It is not a true twin tip, but it's got a relatively centered mount. So when you're skiing switch, you've got a fair amount of tail in front of you. And it's got early rise in the tail, which allows the ski to plane over some soft snow if that's behind you.
How is it on jumps? [Rob] I would say this would be a fun ski to take on jumps. The relatively soft shovel gives you a little bit of extra forgiveness on the landing, and that 96 millimeter waist makes it a comfortable stable landing spot on jumps. I'd be very comfortable landing jumps on this ski. It's relatively tapered. It doesn't have an extreme sidecut. So it's comfortable landing on the flats, and the softness in the shovels and the tails means that if you're a little bit upfront or a little bit in the back seat, you're going to have an easy time regaining your equilibrium.
How would it be in powder? [Rob] This ski would make a great ski for 99% of all East Coast powder days and would be really fun to ski in anything from six inches to a foot of new snow. It is a little narrower than a true powder ski, and if I were going to be going and skiing two to three feet of powder, I'd ideally want something a little wider. This would make a great East Coast pat ski and certainly would be comfortable in moderate amounts of fresh snow out west.
[Theo] This would not be my choice for powder unless you're only getting out two, three powder days a year on the East Coast. Even then, you're going to be punching through the snow. It's not that heavy of a ski, but the metal gives it very little float underfoot. There's not a ton of extra rocker in the tip and the tail. I mean, it's inspired by the line vision, but 96 underfoot is not going to cut it on the West Coast. I would only buy this in the mountain west in California and the Pacific Northwest if you're looking to ski a lot of ice and you find yourself on firmer conditions. It would be fun in the spring. It's got good edge hold, it's heavy, and it can push around slushie, spring bumps. But any powder day, I would rather ski almost anything else.
How about uneven terrain and chunder? [Rob] I skied the ski in a little bit of chunder. It wasn't the dampest ski I've ever skied, but it handled that terrain pretty well. I didn't only ski the ski on groomers. I took it into some fairly rough chundery off piece conditions. And while it's not the dampest ski I've ever skied, for how poppy and playful it is, I was really impressed with how damp it was in those conditions.
How would this ski do in the trees? [Rob] This would be a really fun tree ski, especially out east. That tip and tail rocker that I mentioned earlier makes it super maneuverable.
What kind of terrain does it perform well on? [Rob] I would ski these skis all over the mountain. I'd take them into the trees. I'd love to ski it in the bumps, and they're really fun on groomers as well. I would avoid skiing gates with these. They're not designed for that. And they might be a little tough on a really frozen, icy day. This ski would be great in bumps, in trees, and on groomers in the steeps.
What kind of terrain does it not perform as well on? [Rob] This ski would not be great in a race course, either Slalom or GS, and in really, really deep powder, I'd want a wider ski.
[Theo] It's not going to be the best if you only ski groomers. You probably don't need the twin tip. It's going to be good for someone who's going in the trees. They're skiing side hits, they're skiing switch, but they're also spending a lot of time on icy groom slopes. I would not take this in the park. Line's durability in my mind has been suspect for a while. I'm not sure about these skis. But if you're taking these on rails, I think they're going to get pretty beat and lose that edge hold, because they're not just going to be de-tuned. They're not going to be as sharp. That is the most valuable thing about these skis.
Where in the country would you find yourself having the most fun on these skis? [Rob] I would love to have these skis on an Eastern or Midwestern powder day, and maybe ski these skis a few days after the storm out west.
Who would you recommend this ski to? [Rob] I would recommend these skis to advanced intermediate-to-expert skiers who like skiing with a relatively modern, neutral stance. I would not recommend these skis to racers who really like to drive through the front of the boot, through the ski.
[Theo] I would recommend this ski to anyone who might have been a park skier in the past, has a lot of experience on twin-tip skis, but finds themselves skiing not ideal conditions and going really fast on steep groomed and sometimes icy slopes. I'm thinking of someone in Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont, who isn't spending all their time in the park anymore because I would not take this ski into the park. They will also maybe want another ski that they can rip groomers with if they're teaching their kids. If they are traveling around the East Coast and skiing variable conditions in the Mid-Atlantic, I would recommend this ski.
If you're on the West Coast, in the Pacific Northwest, or in California, this would be a fun ski on firm days. Here in Utah, it didn't snow all February. I would've loved this ski in February. It would've been a blast on those firm days, because I still could have taken it in the trees, hit jumps, skied switch, buttered, nose presses, all of that. It's just not something I'm going to use in the park. Because of that metal underfoot, it's way too heavy.
That said, the swing weight on these is still pretty low. It doesn't feel that heavy in the air. It's nimble. It gets edge to edge quickly. It's just heavy in terms of not being something you're going to hit rails and boxes with. It's not maneuverable enough for that, and I think it's best used skiing around the mountain, all-mountain through the trees.
Like I said, I'm not sure who it's for particularly. It could be someone who skied a lot of park in their past and skis on the East Coast and is looking for something that has great performance on ice. But they can still ski switch on. They can still butter because it has those loose tips and tails. They're still able to ski trees with and get edge to edge very quickly.
Who would you not recommend this ski to? [Rob] I would not recommend these skis to racers and beginners.
[Theo] These skis are super niche. I don't think that most intermediate/advanced skiers who ski groomed snow would enjoy these. Stick to a non-twin-tip ski, a carving ski. I also don't think most park skiers would enjoy these. I think these are best for someone who has skied freestyle in the past but does love carving and enjoys going fast and skiing steep groom trails because that's what they're best for.
If you want help finding the best ski for your needs, chat with Rob, Theo, or any other Ski Expert here on Curated. We’ll help you get unstuck and find the right skis for you with free, personalized recommendations.