THESE MEGA-VERSATILE EDITORS’ CHOICE AWARD-WINNERS ARE BUILT to tackle anything the mountain can throw at them. Multi-talented AND confidence-inspiring, you’ll be blown away by their grip on ice and how well they can carve up the groomers.
Aspiring freeriders and seasoned hooners – get ready to shred forth!
MEN’S FREERIDE SKIS
Dynastar M-Pro 99
It’s au revoir to one Legend and bonjour to another – the brand new M-Pro 99 from Dynastar. New for winter 2021, the M-Pro 99 takes its place in the French brand’s M-Line – a spankin’ new range of freeride and touring skis that represents the latest evolution of the super-popular Cham, Legend and Mythic series.
With an all-new outline shape and hybrid wood/PU core, the M-Pro 99 is a super-slick, well-designed ski that offers the smoothest of rides. Versatile, capable and built to go fast, it’s a mid-weight, moderate freeride ski with average rocker profile capable of doing a whole lot of things very well indeed. The new Rocket Frame Titanal laminate enables power on demand and the full width underfoot and tapering towards the tail combine to deliver a light, nimble ride with great edge contact in the hardest of conditions.
Tester Rich jumped aboard the new M-Pro 99 at the pre-lockdown Dynastar Test launch earlier this year and was impressed by its performance in-bounds. “When it comes to on-piste performance it has the stability and edge control to carve it up on the hardpack and the moderately deep tip rocker delivers a smoother and tighter turn that you’d expect.”
By all means take it for a spin on the groomers but it’s beyond the ropes where the M-Pro 99 really shines. Damp, lively and easy to pivot, the M-Pro 99 is most at home popping through the pow, floating on fresh and charging through the chop. If you’re into super-powerful, heavy and demanding skis it may not be your bag, but if you’re looking for a dynamic ski with a middle of the road weight that just feels ‘easy’, the new M-Pro 99 is an accessible, responsive and fun ski that’s guaranteed to become a firm freeride fave.
Lengths: 162, 170, 178, 186
Radius 20m @ 178
Weight per ski: 1900g @ 178
Elan Ripstick 96
This much-loved Fall-Line fave is back this year with some ‘minor’ tweaks to its construction. Glen Plake apparently warned the designers not to “mess around with it too much” and who are we to argue?!
Before you jump aboard a Ripstick you need to remember to get these on the correct feet. That’s right, they’re asymmetrical, which means they actually have a left and right ski.
Once you’re ripping you’ll immediately notice that the new carbon lay-up allows more direct transmission to the driving edge – these really do grip unbelievably well for something so bendy! “God these things are fun,” said Lee. “How something so smooth and easy to turn can grip this well on a carved-up piste is amazing!”
A new tip and tail profile provides less chatter in variable snow so they feel super balanced and floaty through every turn, and the extra grunt in the tail allows more drive through the exit of the turn over last year’s ski. Rob was loving them too: “a super-fun ski that you can easily bend and create a lot of turn shapes all over the mountain: a rippingly smooth operator that’s just so easy to ski.”
Lengths: 164, 172, 180, 188
Radius 18m @ 180
Weight per ski: 1650g @ 180
Nordica Enforcer 94
Following on from the hugely successful Enforcer 104 (a 2020 Freeride Ski of the Year) comes the all-new Enforcer 94. A hard act to follow, do you think? Not at all we tell you. This user-friendly, revised Enforcer has become even more fun all over the hill with a more usable waist width of 94mm. Dickie says: “Revised, softened and now the pokey, potent Enforcer gets semi-cuddly gaining nimbleness and pivotability without giving up much hoonishness”.
So, how does it do it? The carbon-reinforced chassis not only reduces weight but increases the skis strength and stability. Couple this with ‘True Tip Technology’, which trims heavy ABS plastic away from the extremities of the ski, replacing it with a lightweight wood core in these area, and you have a playful and nimble ski that still retains that classic powerful and stable Enforcer feel.
Lee loved both the new Enforcer 100 and 94, but the 94 pipped it for him due to its versatility – “this is the one to go for if you’re looking for a more ‘real world’ freeride ski that really can ski everywhere.”
With a softer tip flex than its bigger bro, the Enforcer 94 is a more progressive turn initiator and gives back heaps when it comes to grip – as we found out while ripping down the ‘slalom run’ at Glenshee.
“This new Enforcer brings a six-pack full of fruity fun to the powder party” says Dickie. Worth a shot then…
Lengths: 165, 172, 179, 186, 191
Radius 17.1m @ 179
Weight per ski: 2015g @ 179
Rossignol Black Ops Sender
The new Rossi Black Ops Sender follows firmly in the footsteps of the Soul 7 and manages to fill those boots with a large dollop of pop and a whole lot of freeride fun to boot.
So, what have those creative dudes at Rossi done? By extending the paulownia wood core into the shovel and doing away with the full honeycomb, they’ve increased the contact point and torsional stability in the ski. The result is a really easy to ski winter weapon with super-smooth turn initiation that’s playful and pivoty in a variety of terrain.
The Damp Tech inserts at the tip help absorb irregularities in the terrain to give it a really consistent, confidence-inspiring feel. Lee says: “I loved this ski. So smooth, playful, yet planted. All over the mountain. Harder chargers may want to go for the stiffer bigger brother – the new Sender Ti – but if you like your rigs on the fun side of the mountain, the straight-up Sender will have you grinning like a Covid-19 vaccine creator.” Dickie agreed: “I skied both and being of the larger stature, I did enjoy the Ti more, but the regular Sender was a real laugh”.
Ideal for aspiring freeriders looking for a ski to take them all over the mountain, the new Sender will play, slide and surf through the fluffy stuff in stealthy Black Ops style.
Lengths: 164, 172, 178, 186
Radius 18m @ 178
Dimensions: 138-104-128 @ 178
Weight per ski: 2100g @ 178
Volkl Blaze 94
Best known for their solid performance piste skis, serious backcountry chargers and nimble touring uphillers, the new smile-inducing Blaze range from Volkl blasts into the line-up with a massive injection of freeride fresh air.
Light, playful and designed to do it all, the narrower of the two new men’s Blaze options – the 94 – came up trumps for us due to its straight-up versatility. Quick, turny and super playful, the Blaze 94 features Volkl’s infamous 3D radius sidecut, which really contributes to its agile nature.
“This thing just encourages shorter radius turn shapes,” says Rob. “Lightweight and good in soft and light chop, it’s a playful ski laden with top Volkl tech.”
The titanal under the binding area of the ski gives strength where you need it and the new suspension tip and tail ensure smooth turn initiation and a fun, lively flex.
“If you are looking for a light playful poppy freeride ski that loves a spot of touring then stop right here,” says Lee. “The Blaze 94 is a fun, pivoty ski with plenty of grip underfoot that likes to move.”
Hard-charging, cliff-hucking stompers might want to look elsewhere, but if you like your skis on the agile side of the mountain, the Blaze 94 will ignite your freeride flame.
Lengths: 165, 172, 179, 186
Radius 17m @ 179
Weight per ski: 1570g @ 179
WOMEN’S FREERIDE SKIS
Blizzard Black Pearl 97
Updated for winter 2021, the legendary Black Pearl 97 is back to inject a whole new level of epicness into your freeride game.
At 97 underfoot it’s a super-adaptable ski that sits happily on the all-mountain/freeride fence, but we’ve popped it into our freeride category as the dimensions and characteristics are ideal for aspiring female skiers looking to develop their freeride potential.
The big news for winter 20/21 is that this year’s Black Pearl 97 packs a whole new construction designed to make your progression to full blown freerider a rapid and grin-inducing blast.
With a brand new sidecut, a spankin’ new TrueBlend wood core with different densities of wood stringers running through the ski and a little more camber underfoot, the new and improved Black Pearl 97 was noticeably confidence inspiring and excelled at medium speeds.
“The new construction all adds up to a ski with more strength underfoot and an easy release through the tip and tail that makes turn initiation super smooth and easy going,” Amy explained. “I was able to crank it up a level when needed but it was still light and narrow enough underfoot to feel manoeuvrable through tight chokes or over the bumps”.
Our female Testers rated the Black Pearl 97 as a generous, low-maintenance ski that doesn’t ask much but gives out heaps in return.
Designed for women, by women, the Black Pearl 97 is a great first choice freeride ski that will grow with you as you begin to venture into big mountain terrain.
Lengths: 153, 159, 165, 171, 177
Radius: 15m @ 165
Dimensions: 136,5-97-118,5 @ 165
Weight per ski: 1900g @ 165
Nordica Santa Ana 104 Free
The Santa Ana range just keeps on growing, and this year sees the arrival of the mid-fat Free 104 that’s got our hearts pumping and thighs burning.
All the skis in the Santa Ana range have been given a new construction for this winter; a carbon-reinforced chassis, lower swing weight due to a reduction of plastic and extension of the wood core in the tips and the metal sheets in each ski are specifically shaped for use, giving each ski in the range a defined personality.
Strong freeriders looking for a bit more width to make those deeper days all the more epic will want to get onboard the new Santa Ana Free 104. With less metal than her slimmer sisters, but more flexibility and bounce, the Free 104 is most at home in softer conditions.
The rocker profile gives the tip and tail a pronounced rise for full-blown floatage on pow pow days or sailing over chop when you’ve slept in and missed first tracks (you fool!).
Girthy she may be, but the new Santa Ana Free 104 still packs an impressively punchy performance on regular days when pistes are crunchy and hard. Eyebrow-raisingly obliging across the full spectrum of conditions, the Free 104 earned herself a heap of pals among female Testers.
“A best friend,” said Keren. “Can turn, get steep, get deep and boost through the windblown snow, but still felt light and was easy to get in the air.”
Engaging, amiable and so much fun – the Santa Ana Free 104 will help you bring your best game into the big mountains with a massive smile on your face.
Lengths: 158, 165, 172, 179
Radius: 16m @ 165
Dimensions: 133-104-122 @ 165
Weight per ski: 2125g @ 165
Rossignol Black Ops Rallybird
The folks at Rossignol have overhauled their entire women’s freeride collection for winter 2021. It’s au revoir to the much-loved 7 Series (cue sniffing!) and a super-stealthy bonjour to a new Black Ops range (cue hurrah-ing!).
With their sustainably sourced wood cores and recycled steel edges, the new Black Ops series are a multi-talented bunch that command you ‘Ride Free’, which quite frankly, we’re more than happy to do. We’re all over liberating skis that encourage riders to do what they like, in their own particular style, and the new women’s Rallybird is exactly that – a veritable weapon that will help you unleash your inner freeride agent and start ticking off those big mountain missions.
Described by our female testers as a ‘friendly freeride ski’, the Rallybird ripped around the variable conditions at this year’s Ski Test, sailing through the crud with fluidity, carving up the piste with stability and popping off bumps and jumps with just the right amount of spring.
Super accessible for the progressing freeride skier, it’s a confidence-inspiring and well-balanced steed for taking on more challenging terrain. At 101mm underfoot with a 13m radius in the 162cm version we tested, it’s uber turny for tight corridors but can still surf through wider turns when you reach those open powder fields.
The extended wood core keeps things torsionally stable when you’re travelling at speed but if you’re looking for more to push against, you might want to look at the slightly punchier Rallybird Ti, with its extra metal injection. The narrower and lighter Stargazer is another cracking Black Ops offering if you want to take things in the other direction and scale it back a touch with an even more reassuring rig.
Lengths: 154, 162, 170
Radius: 16m @ 170
Dimensions: 137-102-127 @ 170
Weight per ski: 1800g @ 170
Grab a copy of our 2021 Gear Guide to find out more about these skis and all the other top gear for this winter.
* It’s a mega 168 page PRINTED AND DIGITAL issue – our biggest yet!
* It features all the best gear for winter 2021 including our EDITORS’ CHOICE and ONES TO WATCH award winners
* There’s BUYER’S BETA GUIDES, INTERVIEWS AND GEAR INSIGHTS from some of the biggest names in the industry
* IT’S NOT JUST ABOUT THE SKIS – there’s boots, bindings, backcountry accessories, snow safety kit, splitboards, telemark gear, goggles, helmets, poles, packs, avy bags, kick-ass clothing, kids gear and much, much more!