Not only is our top pick here the Men’s Freetouring Ski of the Year, the Elan Ripstick Tour 104 Glen Plake edition is also our overall Ski of the Year. For the full, in-depth review check out the 2023 Gear Guide (click here to order), which features more Freetouring skis, tried and tested by us, as well as Piste, All-Mountain and Freeride setups, boots, poles, bindings, packs, airbags, goggles. It’s big…
Elan Ripstick Tour 104 Glen Plake
Lengths 166, 173, 180, 187
Radius 23m @ 180
Weight per ski 1,540g @ 180
The Elan Ripstick Tour was created for touring skiers with the intent to deliver the superior downhill performance of a freeride ski at a fraction of the weight for uphill efficiency. Glen Plake ́s first signature model has been a long time in the making and with the combined experience of Plake and Elan, a ski worthy of his signature is born. The Ripstick Tour 104 was designed and tested from the ground up by Elan ambassador and freeskiing pioneer Glen Plake, and blends the lightweight construction necessary for efficient ascents with the legendary performance and style of Glen.
The Fall Line Ski of the Year has to deliver a standout experience, be new, be available in the UK and not live in an exotic niche which is only great fun for the six people who can buy or bend it. Hence our innate concern as the results inexorably pointed to one ski which sits within a freshly-defined segment of skis: Freetouring. Freetouring encapsulates the concept of having an easy time going up and a blast going down. Like touring, but more fun. We’re now at the point where our tough requirements for Fall Line’s Ski of the Year is met by a remarkable lightweight ski which is excellent at the uphill and can truly thrill anyone heading back down.
A good skier using all of the mountain and wanting a lightweight high-performance ski to do it with. You bootpack or skin up to get lines, or maybe you’re a full-on tourer looking for a blast on those downhills. Would we buy these without fitting touring bindings? Lighter skis benefit from being driven by lighter boots through lighter bindings. It’s all about balance, see. Chapeau Mr Plake!
Faction La Machine Mega
Lengths 172, 178, 184
Radius 21m @ 178
Weight per ski 1,610g
La Machine Mega is the pinnacle in freetouring – our tool for the true backcountry aficionados. With dual carbon layers, La Machine is ultra-light for efficient trekking capability. Pair this feather-weight character with a soft flex pattern and exaggerated rocker profile, and the result is a dream float on the dream day, as well as effortless pivoting and smearing in mixed-bag conditions. Eco-conscious construction – including the bio base resin, recycled materials and sustainable wood core – complete the package. We know you care about preserving wild spaces as much as you love playing in them.
A rockered, lightweight wide ski is our idea of powder joy. With a decently strong tail it has the ability to hold a fast, stable line, but if you need to get on your twinkle toes between the trees the La Machine Mega is incredibly nimble. So that’s the downhill taken care of – now we need to get backup, and at well under 2kg per ski the Mega is a wide ski that isn’t going to drag you down. You’re paying for the tech to get easy access to the finest lines (and handling the inevitable not-so-great stuff too), which is the very essence of freetouring.
If you’re the sort of tourer that is seeking fast powder lines then the La Machine Mega is the ski for you. Getting to them is not an issue: “We tested it with Faction’s own skins,” said Lee. “And the ups were demolished with ease. Lighter than the Agent 3 (another firm FL fave for touring) we tested last year, this makes a massive difference when you’re on a skin track for several hours. While aimed at advanced tourers I felt it was super easy to get the best out of the ski, that flat camber underfoot pivoting really easily even at slower speeds and ‘moustache flex’ making mincemeat of any variable conditions that were thrown at the Mega. Andy: “This ski is going to be popular with freeriders wanting to push their baggy pants further into the backcountry and tackle bigger or more remote lines. It should also prove popular with tourers who want to take it from hut to hut while wearing a more modest girth of trouser, but still have a ski that won’t be out of place on an occasional day ripping in those baggy pants.