Best Overall Backcountry Skis
Volkl V-Werks BMT 94
Narrower than is trendy
We had a unique situation in our 2016-17 season backcountry ski award scoring. After crunching all the numbers, we had an almost exact tie for the top spot. The Volkl is a mid-fat, mid-weight, high-performing ski machine. The Fischer Hannibal is the exact same width underfoot, lighter than the Volkl, but doesn't ski as well. The Fischer is more fragile and a lot less expensive. With durability not reflected in our matrix (we did not do any destructive testing to truly evaluate durability. Our assessment of durability is purely anecdotal) we used that distinguishing characteristic, plus a minimal five-point overall advantage, to tip the award to the Volkl V-Werks BMT 94
. At a much lower price, granting the Best Buy to the Fischer was an easy choice. The full reverse cambered construction, extensive use of carbon fiber, minimal sidecut, middle-of-the-road width, and Volkl's secret sauce of engineering mystique combine to make a tool that is bouncy and fun in powder, solid on the firm, and predictable in poor snow. The skis are easy to ride, yet make the skier feel as though he or she is in charge.
Best Bang for the Buck
Fischer Hannibal 94
Fragile, with limited poor snow performance
The Fischer Hannibal 94 is one of our lead test editor's favorite backcountry skis ever
, and it earned this praise from our all-mountain resort ski lead tester Mike Phillips as well: "Overall they feel snappy and responsive
especially for something 94 underfoot."
The Fischers are among the narrowest skis we reviewed, and far narrower than the average product in this category sold currently in the U.S. As one of the lightest skis in our test, the Hannibal had an early lead. On powder and corn it performs reliably and predictably. In steep terrain the lightweight construction snaps around fast, while the narrow and stiff make up grabs the firm like tractor tires. Landing steep jump turns onto this little platform is a pleasant surprise. That said, at a bottom dollar affordable price we have no problem recommending the Fischer for all kinds of ski touring and mountaineering.
Top Pick for Powder Touring
DPS Wailer 99 Tour
Get pushed around at speed and in funky snow
Squirrely firm snow performance
For the 2016 season, DPS launched their "Tour1" construction, which significantly lightens the narrower versions of the venerable Wailer shape. The Tour1 construction is entirely different from the "Hybrid
" construction we tested in our All-Mountain review
, but the essential "Deep Powder Snow" experience shines through. The DPS Wailer 99 Tour1 is lighter, but it is telling that in the resort review and in this backcountry review it is DPS skis that earn Top Pick awards for soft snow. Incidentally, this conclusion was reached completely independently. It is mere grams from the lightest ski in our review, and is among the widest skis we tested. In perfect powder and the occasional crusty turn, the Wailer is fun and predictable. If your ski life is blessed with miles of deep powder touring, and little else, consider the Wailer Tour1.
Top Pick for Steep and Firm Ski Mountaineering
Dynafit Cho Oyu
Excellent steep and firm performance
Compromised poor snow performance
The Dynafit Cho Oyu, named for a wind swept 8000 meter peak in the Himalaya
, is a ski built for the high and fast. The light construction (just grams separate the four lightest skis in our test: Cho Oyu, DPS Wailer, La Sportiva Nano, and Fischer Hannibal) and strong materials, all sandwiched and capped into a tight, stiff, relatively narrow package makes for a steep and firm terror. The Cho Oyu grabs ice and just won't let go. The extra girth is forgiving on the breakable and soft, without compromising that edge hold. The Cho Oyu exemplifies this archetype, and is still fun in perfect powder snow. This latter fact is no mystery, however. All skis are fun in perfect powder. If your tendencies are toward firm and steep with a healthy dose of spring corn, please consider the Cho Oyu. It may not have trendy dimensions, but the edge hold, lightweight, and smooth corn performance will make all that non-powder fun all over again!
Top Pick for Fast and Open Riding
The Dynafit Chugach is a touring-branded ski
that would fit right in in our All Mountain Ski Review. That alone is a strong testament. Generally, we expect touring equipment to compromise on downhill performance. Dynafit is a company specializing in human powered mountain travel, and the Chugach could go up against the gravity slaves at the resort. The catch is the weight; the Chugach is also on par, weight wise, with the resort skis. To get the confident, hard charging performance on the way down, the user will pay with effort on the way up. The Chugach is 173 percent the weight of the lightest skis in our review. That is almost twice the weight of the La Sportiva Vapor Nano. The Chugach, however, is also hard charging, stable, and fun. If you have the boldness, the terrain, and the skill to open it up, you'll greatly enjoy the Chugach. It doesn't like to turn sharp, but in big, fast turns the user can hang on for the ride of his or her life. All that mass blasts through slop and breakable, surfs along on top of even the most low angle powder, and even carves the firm. The Chugach is a great downhill rider.