2022 EDITORS’ CHOICE AWARDS – FREERIDE SKIS

SEEK OUT THOSE SIDECOUNTRY HITS AND SECRET STASHES ABOARD THESE FLOATY FREERIDE FAVES

Dynastar M-Pro 99

£540

Lengths: 162, 170, 178, 186

Radius: 20m @ 178

Dimensions: 127-99-117

Weight per ski: 1900g @ 178

New last winter, the M-Pro 99 takes its place in the French brand’s M-Line of freeride and touring skis that represents the latest evolution of the super-popular Cham, Legend and Mythic series.           

            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 a hybrid wood/PU core and average rocker profile that’s capable of doing a whole lot of things very well indeed. The 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 last winter’s Dynastar Test launch 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 M-Pro 99 is an accessible, responsive and fun ski that’s rapidly becoming a firm freeride fave.

dynastar.com

Nordica Enforcer 94

£540

Lengths: 165, 172, 179, 186, 191

Radius: 17.1m @ 179

Dimensions: 127-94-115,5

Weight per ski: 2015g @ 179

Updated last winter, this user-friendly Enforcer has become even more fun all over the hill, with an accessible waist width of 94mm. Dickie says: “Revised and softened, 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 areas, 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 four-pack full of fun to the powder party,” says Dickie. Worth a shot then…

nordica.com

Rossignol Black Ops Sender

£585

Lengths: 164, 172, 178, 186

Radius: 18m @ 178

Dimensions: 138-104-128 @ 178

Weight per ski: 2100g @ 178

New last winter, the Rossignol 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 winter weapon that is really easy to ski, 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 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 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.

rossignol.com

Volkl M6 Mantra

£640

Lengths: 163, 170, 177, 184, 191

Radius: 18m @ 177

Dimensions: 135-96-119           

Weight per ski: N/A

It feels like the M5 Mantra was only just out of the blocks before it’s being upgraded. Missing a season means we barely got to know it. “I did almost the last run before lockdown on a pair”, Dickie lamented: “Just as well the memories are sweet”. The memories will be pretty similar on the M6s, which share the same core, shape and rocker, but get a shaped titanal layer to tune the flex for each length.

The same goes for the carbon stringers, which look a little like the pattern in the RTM84 über-ski. They’re flared out at the tip and tail and again are bespoke to each length. The result is a very consistent and pretty stiff freeride ski. The M5 was a beast on-piste, delivering incredible hardpack and chopped snow performance. With the new construction designed to build on these qualities, we suspect the M6 will be carving with the best of them.

            Stiff, powerful skis tend to be chargers rather than poppers, so skiing off-piste is more about picking a line than dancing and smearing your way down. That said, the control and consistent power delivery means you can push and drift skis like this. You just need to line up your legs, technique and commitment…

voelkl.com

Atomic Maven 93 C

£550

Lengths: 156, 164, 172

Radius: 17.9m @ 172

Dimensions: 127.5-94-111.5 @ 172

Weight per ski: 1630g @ 172

Designed in North America and built in Austria, the introduction of Atomic’s new Maven series is undeniably one of the biggest female all-mountain/freeride ski stories this winter.

Developed through extensive testing across the ski planet, the new Maven series replace the harder snow-oriented Vantage series to deliver performance and versatility for all snow conditions, terrain and skier types.

Gear ed Soph reckons the Maven 93 C is the one to go for if you’re looking for a freeride ski that can seek out fresh laps in the sidecountry in the morning, rip up the resort in the afternoon and hike and ride with the best of them all winter long.

Versatility is the name of the game here and it comes courtesy of Atomic’s OMatic core, which uses poplar wood core, titanal layers, fiberglass and carbon stringers to provide energy, flex and stability throughout the ski.

Soph skied it in a full white out and complex Scottish conditions and was really impressed by the wide HRZN Tech tips that provided excellent float in fresh snow and crud.

Grippy, fluid, powerful and smooth edge to edge, the super-versatile Maven 93C is best suited to advanced skiers who like to drive their skis and push their limits.

atomic.com

Rossignol Black Ops Rallybird

£580

Lengths: 154, 162, 170

Radius: 16m @ 170

Dimensions: 137-102-127 @ 170

Weight per ski: 1800g @ 170

With their sustainably sourced wood cores and recycled steel edges, Rossignol’s Black Ops series is a multi-talented bunch that command you ‘Ride Free’ (that’s the slogan for the range), which quite frankly, we’re more than happy to do.           

Described by our female testers as a ‘friendly freeride ski’, the Rallybird ripped around the variable conditions at last 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 über-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.

rossignol.com

Head Kore 91 W

£700 including bindings

Lengths: 149, 156, 163, 170

Radius: 14.7m @ 170

Dimensions: 130-91-113

Weight per ski: N/A

Redesigned and reinvented for winter 2022, the brand spankin’ new Kore 91 W looks set for even more greatness this winter.

Winner of multiple awards in its previous life as the Kore 93 W, this new version comes with a brand new karuba/poplar wood core, 2mm shaved off the waist, and new lengths to balance stability and playfulness.

The original was already poppy, nimble, responsive and balanced but definitely demanded solid input to reap its rewards; the new construction will make this latest version even lighter, funner and crucially, more accessible to a wider range of skiers.

Perfect for a whole range of intermediate to advanced riders looking to push their performance in crud, pow and hard pack, the new Kore 91 W is a seriously impressive high-tech, lightweight super-charger that’s guaranteed to be even more popular than ever this winter.

head.com

Volkl Secret 96

£640

Lengths: 149, 156, 163, 170

Radius: 14m @ 163

Dimensions: 135-96-119

Weight per ski: 1840g @ 163

Volkl’s Secret series has been in our freeride lives for several seasons now so we’re psyched to see the brand spankin’ new Secret 96 added to the lineup for winter 2022.

A replacement for the Secret 92, the new 96 drops in this winter with a wider underfoot platform but a narrower centre radius, designed to make it even more responsive and versatile than ever.

Laden with tech, including a tailored titanal frame, tailored carbon tips and Volkl’s infamous 3D radius sidecut, this is a ski designed to adapt to the individual.

Longer lengths come with more metal so they offer increased power and damping for more aggressive skiers, while the strategically placed carbon strands ensure the ski responds precisely and directly when fired into the turn.

As you move through those arcs, the flex gets softer and the ride more playful and flowy. A muted topsheet keeps things stealthy but this is an undeniably compelling new ski.

voelkl.com

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