The 8 Best Freeride SkisPublished on 07/12/2023 · 11 min readConquer untouched terrain with the best freeride skis. Our expert guide showcases top picks for ultimate performance and exhilarating off-piste adventures!
Photo by CSNafzger
If you've tuned in to the Freeride World Tour (FWT), you've likely been captivated by the daring descents and spectacular jumps of the world's top freeride skiers. In this competition, skiers are evaluated on their chosen line, control, fluidity, jumps, and tricks. The skis they use play a pivotal role in their performance, and the technology from these expert-loved skis just gets better and better the more these top athletes push the boundaries of freeride skiing, benefiting all freeride enthusiasts. Freeride skis are specifically tailored to help you easily and precisely navigate deep snow and rugged, ungroomed terrain.
In this article, we'll discuss what freeride skiing is, what specifics make freeride skis stand out from other skis, and list the top nine freeride skis on the market today. We've got options to suit a variety of skiing styles and conditions. Each of these skis comes with unique characteristics and technologies designed to enhance your freeride experience, whether you're carving your own path in the backcountry or replicating those awe-inspiring jumps from the Freeride World Tour. Let’s jump in!
What Is Freeride Skiing?
Before jumping into it, let’s talk about freeride skiing. Freeride skiing encompasses a wide type of skiing and terrain, but it always refers to out-of-bounds skiing. It can include getting off a chairlift at a resort and hiking up, traversing across from the top of a lift to somewhere out of bounds, or full backcountry skiing, where you hike to the top of a hill and ski down.
Freeride skiing is generally in more remote areas that cannot be as easily accessed as other off-piste terrain. Freeride terrain is generally a lot steeper and more technical than anything off-piste or lift-accessible, and there is usually deeper snow and more snow when freeriding due to its location and remoteness. A lot of freeride skiing also involves getting air or doing tricks off natural features such as cliffs.
Freeride skiers are generally advanced to expert skiers and have extensive knowledge of backcountry safety and how to use avalanche rescue gear.
What Makes a Freeride Ski?
A few specific things make a freeride ski different than powder skis, all-mountain skis, or touring skis. However, there can be some overlap between these categories of skis.
- Width: Freeride skis are wider to handle deep snow. They generally have a 104-120+mm waist width.
- Stability and Flex: These skis must feel stable when cruising at high speeds or landing big jumps. Generally, they are constructed with metal sheets in them to add stability, making them a bit heavier than dedicated powder skis or backcountry skis. The metal and stability requirements also give the skis a stiffer flex than many other types of skis, which is great for advanced to expert skiers but can be hard to control for newer or not experienced skiers.
- Shape: Freeride skis come in both directional and symmetrical options. “Directional” means they ski best pointed forward, whereas “symmetrical” means the ski has a twin or partial twin tip, making it easier to ski out of a jump where the skier lands backward.
- Rocker Camber Profile: The rocker camber profile varies slightly across different freeride ski options, but they always have some camber underfoot (to hold an edge easily) and some rocker in the tips and tails (to float over new snow better and offer more maneuverability). The rocker-camber-rocker profile is also seen in all-mountain skis. Still, the tips and tails of freeride skis have a more exaggerated rocker than the tips and tails of all mountain skis since all-mountain don’t need as much float in new snow as freeride skis. The more dramatic rocker also gives freeride skis a smaller turn radius than all-mountain skis, which can come in handy for turning in tight, technical areas.
Considerations When Picking Out a Freeride Ski
There are a few personal considerations to consider when choosing a freeride ski as well:
First and foremost is skill level. If you don’t have extensive ski experience or backcountry safety knowledge, a powder ski would be a better option for you. This ski will ease you into cruising big lines and deep snow without all the risks and skill requirements associated with freeride skiing.
Suppose you are an experienced skier looking for a good intro freeride ski. In that case, you’ll want to get something on the narrower side that is a bit more maneuverable. This will be more forgiving as you build your freeride skills.
Next up, where do you plan on freeride skiing? If you plan to go on helicopter ski trips to Alaska, you’ll want something lighter and wider (close to 120mm) than you would if you plan on freeride skiing in Washington, where the snow is generally heavier, and there are more trees. For freeride skiing in Washington, you would want to prioritize maneuverability and have something with a midrange width closer to 112.
Though freeride skiing covers a wide variety of types of terrain, freeride skis are less versatile than all-mountain skis. If you are looking for a ski to use daily for both resort and out-of-bounds skiing, an all-mountain ski better suits your needs. Freeride skis can carve on-piste if needed, but it’s not an ideal option for on-piste skiing since they are wider and harder to hold an edge on. They are an ideal addition to your quiver if you want to get into new terrain, but it’s not a great one-quiver ski.
Lastly, when getting a designated freeride ski, you’ll want to go a few centimeters longer than you normally would for other types of skis. Freeride skis have a less effective edge due to their rocker profile, so getting a longer ski will help hold an edge when needed and offer extra float in new snow.
Now that we’ve gotten the basics out of the way let’s jump into our list of the best freeride skis!
Top 8 Freeride Skis
The Faction Prodigy 3 is a staple ski in the freeride world. In any given year of the freeride world tour, you’re bound to see several of these skis being ridden by some of the best freeride skiers in the world. Check out the shots below of Freeride World Tour Champion Andrew Pollard on the Prodigy 3s during the 2023 FWT.
Designed to glide through deep snow and handle ungroomed terrains, the Prodigy 3 features a core made of a poplar and ash blend, delivering robustness and shock absorption when navigating through natural features and hard landings. It has a progressive shape and is super responsive to your every move. The Prodigy 3s flared tip and tail, along with a generous rocker profile, further enhance its performance in powder, providing smoother turn initiation and improved flotation.
The Blizzard Hustle 10 is a go-to choice for those looking to do most of their freeride skiing in the backcountry with long walks to the top of their lines. The ski is crafted with the brand’s innovative Carbon Flipcore technology, providing torsional rigidity and reduced weight without sacrificing its power or stability. Adding a multi-layer wood core enhances its responsiveness, allowing for precise control when tackling steep descents and unpredictable snow conditions. A noticeable rocker in the tip and tail provides excellent flotation in powder and easy turn initiation. The stiff flex of these skis makes them hard to control for newer freeride or intermediate skiers who don’t want to put a ton of energy into their skis.
The Nordica Unleashed 108 is another favorite among Freeride World Tour skiers, including Valentin Rainer, as seen below.
The multi-radius sidecut of this ski allows for versatility, catering to short quick turns or longer drawn-out arcs, giving skiers the freedom to explore various styles on ungroomed terrains. The Energy 2 Titanium construction provides outstanding stability and response, reducing vibrations even at high speeds. These skis are meant to be skied fast and hard, and an expert rider will feel maneuverability and pop coming out of every turn. The added metal layers make them a bit heavier, so they are not a fan favorite for freeride skiers who strongly prioritize weight.
4. Salomon QST Stella 106
The Salomon QST Stella 106 is a women-specific freeride ski offering an agile ride that doesn’t compromise stability. Its construction features a light poplar wood core and carbon/flax blend for reduced weight without loss of power transmission or damping capabilities. The introduction of the brand's C/FX technology maximizes edge control. At the same time, its tip-to-tail rocker offers superior float in deep snow.
This ski is a great option for women who expect to do some hiking in their backcountry pursuits since the carbon/wood combo makes for an overall lightweight ski. It’s also a great intro freeride ski for women expanding their terrain since it is a bit more forgiving and less stiff than other women’s freeride skis.
K2's Reckoner 112 is a freeride game-changer that doesn’t shy away from the deep stuff. This ski showcases K2’s Torsion Control Design philosophy, which optimizes flex and torsion for a well-rounded performance in the backcountry. Its impressive 112mm waist width offers a sublime floating sensation in deep powder. At the same time, the Spectral Braid technology, a variable angled fiber reinforcement, guarantees durability and playfulness from the flex pattern. The twin-tip design makes it a favorite for skiers who frequently jump off features, such as FWT athlete Max Hitzig.
Though these skis don’t have as much dramatic tip and tail rocker as other freeride skis, they have a much wider tip and tail than the waist, so they still provide plenty of float in the deep stuff. With a 112mm waist width, they aren’t as quick for carving or making turns in more variable conditions, but they really shine on deep days or skiing big-mountain lines.
The Black Crows Atris Birdie is another women's freeride option that shines in varied terrain. Its semi-cap construction offers the perfect combination of durability and weight savings. Featuring a versatile 108mm waist and extended double rocker, this ski floats effortlessly in deep snow and handles turns smoothly. Although it is a gem for advanced to expert skiers in search of off-piste thrills, its wider profile and softer flex do not cater well to beginners.
The Dynastar M-Free 108 is a versatile freeride performer that is as nimble as it is stable. Dynastar has strong roots in manufacturing race skis, and they use their carefully perfected race technology to ensure that the M-Free 108 is stable at high speeds and over variable snow conditions. The M-Free 108 has a Hybrid Core technology, which combines poplar and Polyurethane, providing efficient power transmission from your ski boots through the entirety of your ski and keeping the weight low.
The ski’s distinctive five-point sidecut and tapered tip and tail design provide excellent maneuverability and float in powder, with a reduced swing weight that gives it a playful feel. It’s another favorite among FWT athletes, such as Megane Betend, who got third place for women in the 2023 FWT.
The Dynastar performs well in freeride terrain and can crush through powder, crud, bumps, and slush. It’s on the wider side, so it’s not an ideal option if you want to use your freeride ski to ski much icy or groomer terrain. The wider width makes it a bit harder to get an edge hold or carve.
The Armada ARV 106 is a great option for freeriders who want a ski that can handle freeriding but isn't limited to only freeride terrain. It’s designed with a blend of rocker and camber that provides a playful yet stable ride. Its poplar ash core ensures durability and absorbs shock, while the AR Freestyle Rocker offers a smooth, surfy feel in powder and adaptability in varied snow conditions. The ARV 106 is great for freeride skiing, but it can also handle some park laps and groomer runs better than many other freeride skis, so it is one of the most versatile options for freeride-capable skis!
Safety Tips When Freeride Skiing
The perfect ski can enhance your backcountry or out-of-bounds experience, but it isn't a substitute for skill and preparation. Freeride skiing offers the thrill of exploration and the joy of connecting with nature in more remote locations. However, it also requires a heightened sense of awareness and responsibility.
The backcountry is dynamic, with changing snow conditions and potential hazards. Being prepared is critical. Equip yourself with the necessary safety gear, including avalanche safety equipment like a beacon, probe, and shovel, and ensure you know how to use them before hitting the slopes. Take an avalanche safety course and regularly check local avalanche forecasts. Ski with a partner and let someone know your plans before you head out.
Though these are necessary safety precautions, the more you understand snow, the terrain, and your equipment, the better your overall freeride experience will be. Here's to many thrilling and safe adventures on these top freeride skis!
Find the Right Freeride Ski for You
Hopefully, this guide has guided you on which freeride ski suits you best. The final choice ultimately depends on your personal style, preferred terrain, and preferences. If you still aren’t quite sure which ski to go with or want to chat things over, reach out to a Curated Skiing Expert or me. We would be happy to help you with recommendations tailored to your needs.