The Top 7 Most Recommended Backcountry SkisPublished on 08/31/2023 · 9 min readLooking to get away from the resorts and ski some untouched powder all while getting a great workout in? Check out these top skis for exploring the backcountry!
Photo by Gaspar Janos
TL;DR: If you are ready to jump into the world of backcountry skiing for the ultimate adventure, this guide offers a selection of the best touring skis of 2023—from the skier about to head out on their first tour, to the expert ski mountaineer racing down an untouched couloir.
Venturing into the realm of backcountry skiing offers a truly unparalleled experience for those seeking untouched powder, beyond the confines of your favorite ski resort. Whether you're a novice eager to jump into the world of ski touring, or a seasoned expert craving the challenge of navigating couloirs and no-fall zones, choosing the right backcountry ski is essential.
I love spending all my spare time in the backcountry and I’ve skied around all the major mountain ranges around Oregon and Washington. I’ve traveled in avalanche terrain frequently and prefer hunting down untouched powder over ripping on the groomers. The backcountry is my home away from home.
In this comprehensive guide, I've handpicked a selection of the best backcountry skis of 2023, tailored to accommodate skiers of all skill levels and preferences. From the pure joy of carving through unspoiled powder, to conquering icy conditions, this list encompasses every aspect of backcountry skiing. Whether your pursuit demands ultimate float for those mesmerizing powder days or lightweight construction to optimize uphill efficiency, there's a perfect backcountry ski for every adventure seeker.
Factors to Consider when Choosing Backcountry Skis
Before considering backcountry ski gear, it is important to identify your priorities when it comes to touring. Understanding your specific needs, intended usage, and expectations is essential to finding the perfect backcountry skis for you.
Weight is paramount in the world of backcountry skiing, and it deserves careful consideration. Engaging in lengthy ascents while carrying unnecessary weight can quickly drain your energy and diminish the overall experience of your tour. However, it's necessary to strike a balance between weight and downhill performance. While ultralight skis might be indispensable for ascents lasting 6-8 hours, they can compromise stability and control during descents, especially if you’re not an expert skier. For powder chasers and those who love aggressive skiing, a slightly heavier ski can provide the added stability required to conquer more challenging terrain.
Expert Insight: Optimal backcountry skis typically weigh between 1300-1600 grams, which offers well-rounded performance for most backcountry skiers. If weight is a top concern, consider skis in the 1100-1400 gram range. For a hybrid setup (catering to both resort and backcountry use), a weight range of 1500-1850 grams is recommended.
The waist width of your backcountry skis should align with your skiing style and the terrain in your region. For ski mountaineering or predominantly icy conditions common on the East Coast, narrower skis in the range of 80-95mm provide excellent edge control and maneuverability on uneven surfaces. If your backcountry adventures lead you to deeper powder, skis ranging from 105-120mm deliver ideal floatation for dreamy powder descents.
Expert Insight: A ski width between 90-110mm strikes an ideal balance, enabling versatility to tackle the varied conditions encountered during most backcountry tours. Personally, I find my go-to pair, with a width of 102mm, offers exceptional performance across a broad spectrum of terrains and conditions out on the West Coast.
When transitioning to a pair of alpine touring skis, there's no need to significantly change the length in comparison to your resort skis. While shorter lengths can facilitate easier kick turns during ascents, these adjustments are typically reserved for more seasoned mountaineers or backcountry skiers, with ample experience navigating technical terrain.
Expert Insight: Unless you possess expert proficiency in navigating challenging backcountry routes, it is best to stick to a familiar ski length.
The Best Backcountry Skis
Best Overall Backcountry Ski: Blizzard Zero G 105
- Weight: 1510 grams for 178cm
- Width: 105mm
- Available Lengths: 164, 171, 178, 185cm
The Blizzard Zero G 105 is a reliable choice for any backcountry skiers seeking a versatile ski that performs well in any condition thrown at it. Crafted with precision and attention to detail, this ski finds a sweet spot between lightweight design and downhill performance. Its carbon frame construction significantly reduces weight without sacrificing stability, ensuring a responsive ride. Whether you're navigating challenging ascents or turning down steep shoots, the Blizzard Zero G offers dependable edge-to-edge control and impressive float.
This ski's rockered tip allows for smooth turn initiation, while the camber underfoot delivers excellent edge grip on firm or hard snow. With a waist width of 105mm, it strikes a good balance between agility and stability, enabling comfortable skiing on various terrains. While it excels during ascents due to its lightweight design, the Blizzard Zero G 105 truly shines during descents, delivering a playful and enjoyable ride. If you're seeking a well-rounded ski that performs consistently in different conditions, the Blizzard Zero G 105 is a reliable companion for nearly every backcountry adventure.
Best Backcountry Ski for the East Coast: Armada Locator 88
- Weight: 1225 grams for 171cm
- Width: 88mm
- Available Lengths: 164, 171, 178, 185cm
If stability on icy terrain and in unpredictable conditions is your priority, the Armada Locator 88 is for you. While I’ve ranked this ski as a top contender for folks out on the East Coast, it also makes for an excellent mountaineering option as well. Despite the crazy-lightweight construction, the Locator still offers stable and confident descents. If quick edge-to-edge turns when you need them—but the versatility to make long sweeping arcs if you want to—sounds good to you, the Locator should be on your list.
Best Backcountry Ski for Park Rats: Atomic Bent Chetler 110
- Weight: 1750 grams for 180cm
- Width: 110mm
- Available Lengths: 164, 172, 180, 188cm
While not technically a backcountry ski, the Atomic Bent Chetler is the pair of sticks I’ve seen out in the backcountry the most. Despite their park-oriented and all-mountain focus, the Atomic Bent Chetler 110 is more than capable of handling backcountry adventures. These skis are at home when exploring ungroomed terrain, navigating powder-filled bowls, and sending off your favorite jump. They boast a twin-tip design, and the ski's rockered tip and tail ensure seamless maneuverability, especially in soft snow conditions, enhancing overall control and confidence. With a waist width of 110mm, the Atomic Bent Chetler 110 strikes a fine balance between playfulness and stability. In addition to being a great option for a backcountry setup, they also make for a solid hybrid setup, too.
Best Backcountry Ski if Budget is No Concern: DPS Pagoda Tour 100 RP
- Weight: 1370 grams for 171cm
- Width: 100mm
- Available Lengths: 153, 163, 171, 179, 184cm
For good reason, the popularity of DPS Skis has been steadily on the rise since the company was founded in 2005 in Salt Lake City, Utah. They push the bounds of ski technology and prioritize high quality materials to produce durable skis that are not only phenomenal to ride, but also last for years. DPS added aerospace-grade foam to the construction of these skis to lighten them even further, without sacrificing stiffness. They also feature a 15-meter turn radius. This is a cream-of-the-crop ski that has the versatility to make dreamy turns in deep powder, but also the ability to hold up on chunks and corn when it hasn’t stormed in a couple weeks.
Best Backcountry Ski for Powder: Moment Deathwish Tour
- Weight: 1670 grams for 179cm
- Width: 112mm
- Available Lengths: 174, 179, 184cm
Coming in at a width of 112mm, the Moment Deathwish Tour is a beast in the powder. It’s capable of handling everything from blower powder to chunky garbage. It uses Moment’s Triple Camber technology, which includes tip and tail rocker, camber underfoot, and two small camber pockets near the center of the skis. These adjustments maintain pop and playful performance in the tip and tails of the ski while stiffening the overall profile. This means you can turn hard over the most difficult of terrain, but still float and turn in the powder like a dream. If you’re looking for a versatile ski that shines in the powder, this is the backcountry ski for you.
Looking for another great backcountry ski from Moment that comes in shorter lengths, or one that was designed for women? Check out the Moment Sierra Tour.
Best Backcountry Ski for Hard Chargers: Black Crows Corvus Freebird
- Weight: 1875 grams for 183cm
- Width: 107mm
- Available Lengths: 176, 183, 188cm
The Black Crows Corvus Freebird is not for the faint of heart. Coming in at a whopping 1875 grams per ski, this is the burliest touring-specific ski on the list. This is the ski for those who demand the best on their descents, and expect their ski to hold up while jumping off cliffs or racing down steep terrain. The camber profile makes this ski exceptionally stable in all conditions. While the trade-off for such a hard-charging and burly ski is some sacrifice on uphill performance, this ski takes no prisoners when you are racing down the mountain.
Looking for another great Black Crows option that you can take out into the backcountry that comes in a shorter length? Check out the Black Crows Camox Freebird.
Best Backcountry Ski for Mountaineering: Blizzard Zero G 95
- Weight: 1245 grams for 178cm
- Width: 95mm
- Available Lengths: 157, 164, 171, 178, 185cm
The Blizzard Zero G 95 is the little brother of my number one pick on this list, the Zero G 105. A slightly smaller package with a lighter weight, it’s ideal for expert skiers who are looking to enter the world of technical ascents and no-fall-zone descents. It boasts the same construction as the Zero G 105, but the narrower waist, less tip and tail rocker, and greater camber underfoot creates a more responsive, stable, and versatile ski. This is the best partner in mountaineering crime one could ask for.
Next Steps for Picking the Right Backcountry Ski For You
Once you step into the backcountry world, skiing in the resort won’t ever feel the same. There’s a lot that goes into building your perfect backcountry setup - beyond just the skis. From deciding the best bindings—whether that be pin bindings, frame bindings, or tech bindings—to all of the necessary avalanche gear you’ll need (including a beacon, backpack, or probe…), myself or any of the Skiing Experts here on Curated would love to help you!