SNOW SPORTS

Best Backcountry Skis: Finding the Right Gear for the Slopes

Best Backcountry Skis
Jerry Mueller
Written by Jerry Mueller

Are you thinking about the next time you’re planning to hit the slopes? Thinking about the cold winter wind in your face as you come down that steep hill and executing the perfect turn? It sounds absolutely perfect, right? But, do you know that you need the best backcountry skis in order to get that perfection?

Of course, it’s a little easier said than done, right? With so many different options out there, it can be hard to track down the perfect pair.

But, that is why we decided to write an article that will help you find the model you are looking for. We understand that it can be hard and exhausting to browse through all the models offered online, and we also understand that there are so many features that need to be considered before making the final choice. But, don’t worry, you are on the right page!

Backcountry Skiing

We’ve actually gotten everything together to help speed up the process so that you get what you really want for your next pair of skis but not get bogged down by the choices. We have prepared not only some great reviews of the top options, but some of the most important features you need to know before you even start looking as well. Plus, you’ll be able to find everything else you need to get your skis really ready for the trip. Let’s take a look!

Our Top Picks

ProductWeightLengthMaterial Price
Volkl V-Werks6.5 pounds186 cmLightwood core, carbon jacketCheck price on Amazon
Fischer Hannibal 945.6 pounds177 cmPaulownia wood core, carbon stringers, Titanal laminateCheck price on Amazon
Dynafit Cho Oyu5.5 pounds166 cmPaulownia wood core, carbon stringersCheck price on Amazon
G3 Synapse Carbon 1096 pounds175 cmPaulownia wood core, carbon jacketCheck price on Amazon
Voile V65 pounds173 cmAspen core, carbon fiberglass laminateCheck price on Amazon
La Sportiva Vapor Nano5.4 pounds164 cmKevlar weave and paulownia core, carbon nanotube laminateCheck price on Amazon
Black Diamond Carbon Convert6.2 pounds164, 172, 188 cmEngineered wood core, carbon jacketCheck price on Amazon

Things to Consider Before Buying

If you already like to ski then chances are you’ve got some of this down pat already. You know some of the important things in choosing skis, but you may not know what’s important for backcountry versus downhill skiing. Make sure you check out these features for each set of skis you want to buy.

Your Skiing Preferences

There are plenty of different places that you can actually go skiing and you’ll want to think about that before you pick out which skis you’re going to use. Think about if you’re going through deep, powdery snow or sheets of ice. Are you going to race and need speed or are you going to casually meander through?

Person is Skiing off the Trail

It’s also important to know if you will be jumping off cliffs and rocks or if you’re staying pretty solid on the ground. Each of these things is going to affect the type of skis that you want, including the materials, the weight of them and even the size and shape that you want to choose.

Width

The size of your skis is extremely important for anything that you want to do. You need wider skis if you’re going to be going through thicker snow or if you’re not planning on making it a speed trip. Wider skis aren’t going to turn as fast and won’t give you as much complexity.

Person with Wide Skis

If you’re going to be making sharp turns and keeping it a little more speedy you’ll want narrower skis, because they’re going to be much better at all that performance. Of course, if you don’t know what kind of snow you may encounter you may want to go with medium width skis that will help you out with everything.

Overall Profile

The profile of your skis is going to refer to the shape that they have, which is extremely important when you’re out there. You want a ski that fits just right with what you’re doing, such as a camber or a hybrid profile. The hybrid has a rockered tip, camber underfoot and flat tail to keep you moving in powder and variable snow types.

Skis in the Snow

The camber keeps you in contact with the snow more firmly and works better for those who are into the racing and mountaineering instead.

Overall Length

The length of your skis is actually going to be different as well. With downhill skiing, you generally see skis that correspond to the height of the skier but that’s it. With backcountry skiing, you might have something a little different depending on your style.

Ski Length

Racing and uphill travel generally require shorter skis that are going to give you more flexibility and movement without that huge ski weighing you down or hurting your turn. On the other hand, downhill skiing is going to work better with a longer ski.

Ski Makeup

So, what are your skis made of? Materials like carbon fiber, beech, poplar and bamboo are some of the best materials for light skis and help you get a little more flexibility moving through different types of snow, especially for racing.

Ski Makeup

If you’re getting lighter skis, however, you should know that they could give you problems with chatter and more. You want skis that combine the features of a lightweight ski without being too lightweight. Try to match your intended purpose and the rest of the features of your ski.

Tails

Finally, the tail of your ski is going to be important as well. You want a tail that is flat, which is what you’ll usually find by default with touring or backcountry style skis. This makes it a lot easier for you to attach a climbing skin, which makes it easier for you to get out there.

Ski Tails

If you’re getting skis with a rounded tail, however, or any other style, you may want or need to get special attachments and accessories to help you put the climbing skins on.

Best Products on Today’s Market

If it’s your first time shopping for backcountry skis, it’s understandable if you feel overwhelmed, especially considering the number of choices out there. To help you out, we are going to highlight some of the best-reviewed backcountry skis out there. Hopefully, this should give you a fair idea as to which skis are right for you.

Volkl V-Werks BMT 94 Ski

Price: Approx. $200Volkl V-Werks BMT 94 Ski

Weight: 6.5 pounds

Length: 186 cm

Specific features: Multilayer light wood core, 3D ridge, full carbon jacket, tapered shape

Best use: Winter sports, backcountry skiing, alpine touring

When it comes ski manufacturers, Volkl has always been a highly regarded company. With these skis, it’s no different. The Volkl V-Werks BMT 94 Ski is perfect for those who are looking for a middle ground in terms of size and weight.

At 3.25 pounds, these are some of the lightest skis on the market, which makes them great for those who want a lot of speed and movement. The skis have a narrow profile that works for making sharper turns and can help you with your racing as well.

Sturdy and solid at higher speeds, these skis are also great when the snow gets a little more powdery. You’ll still feel comfortable and stable as you head around those curves or down that hill. These skis actually work very well when you’re out in the backcountry as well, keeping you on top of the snow just the way you want.

No matter where you’re heading you’ll be able to get a lot out of these fiberglass skis. That’s important for anyone who wants a bit more adventure and a whole lot more fun when they’re going out for a spin.

PROS:

  • Ultra lightweight
  • Narrow profile for sharp turns
  • Vibrant and fun colors
  • Ideal for any conditions
  • Fiberglass for durability
 CONS:

  • Somewhat narrow
  • Not as good at deep, slow flotation
  • Can be overly sensitive

Related: In order to use your skis properly, you’re going to need an ideal pair of ski boots and that’s what the Dynafit TLT7 Performance Ski Boots are. Available in two different color options and several sizes, these boots are easy to get on and off and are designed for speed. Moderately priced compared to other options, these are definitely going to help enhance your trip.

Check the price on Amazon

Fischer Hannibal 94 Ski

Price: Approx. $500Fischer Hannibal 94 Ski

Weight: 5.6 pounds

Length: 177 cm

Specific features: Paulownia wood core with Air-Tec milling, sandwich construction with ABS sidewalls, carbon stringers and Titanal laminate, aeroshape design, tour rocker, sintered base

Best use: Backcountry skiing

The Fischer Hannibal 94 Ski has the distinction of being one of the lightest and narrowest models on the market. Where many backcountry skiing companies have started to create larger and heavier skis, Fischer has definitely embraced the old style of light and narrow.

Great for just about anywhere you want to ski, these are going to get you moving a whole lot faster because of the light weight. The honeycomb style of the wood core is what really drops the weight, but still keeps your skis flexible and strong, no matter what you want to do out there.

The flat, square tail is designed to help with turns and overall stability and they make it a lot easier for you to attach skins when you need them. The mix of carbon and Titanal means that your skis will be stiff while also staying smooth, so they’re more comfortable for you to use for an extended period.

Inexpensive in price compared to similar options, these skis let you get through variable snow as well as the stuff you’re actually expecting.

PROS:

  • Moderate pricing
  • Made from skins
  • Great in variable snow
  • Ultralight overall
  • Narrow frame for speed
 CONS:

  • Not as ‘floaty’ as wider skis
  • Can be a bit fragile
  • Limited performance

Related: You need some good skins for your skis and the Fischer Profoil Hannibal 94 Climbing Skins are just what you should be looking for. They’re moderately priced and designed to fit these skis, so you won’t find a better fit anywhere.

Check the price on Amazon

Dynafit Cho Oyu Ski

Price: Approx. $500Dynafit Cho Oyu Ski

Weight: 5.5 pounds

Length: 166 cm

Specific features: Flex tip, carbon speed stringer, dual radius, micro sidewall, scoop-rocker

Best use: All-purpose skiing

At 2.75 pounds on average, Dynafit’s Cho Oyu Ski is, so far, the lightest ski on this list. You’ll immediately notice that the Cho Oyu has a very narrow profile. This leads to benefits like lighter skins, and being less likely to collect snow so it can stay light.

In terms of stability, the Cho Oyu holds up fairly well because it’s comfortable, tough and stiff in construction. This makes it a whole lot easier to take on steep or even technical terrains. Because it’s narrow, you shouldn’t have any problem on firm snow and the lightweight should keep you going on powdery snow as well.

Designed for those who really like to get out there and ski, these are moderately priced and provide a sturdy and comfortable style for those who really want to get out there in the snow. It’s good for those who want to get out there in the spring for skiing rather than the dead of winter, but definitely works well for anywhere you go.

PROS:

  • Great for technical terrain and steep hills
  • Lightest weight option
  • Great for firm snow
  • Narrow for speed and agility
  • Tough and durable
 CONS:

  • Not ideal poor snow performance
  • Can be a bit narrow
  • High price

Related: The right bindings keep your boots firmly attached to your skis so finding good bindings is crucial to enjoying your experience. The Dynafit TLT Radical Ski Binding is moderately priced and provides an easy fit for your boots while also being simple to attach to your skis.

Check the price on Amazon

G3 Synapse Carbon 109 Ski

Price: Approx. $600G3 Synapse Carbon 109 Ski

Weight: 6 pounds

Length: 175 cm

Specific features: Flyride construction combines stiff carbon with tough sidewalls, Lightweight, energetic poplar paulownia wood core, stealth rocker, freeride touring

Best use: Big lines and steep descents

Now, here’s a ski that’s big and burly, but still manages to be lightweight. The G3 Synapse Carbon 109 Ski hits that sweet spot between width and weight that lets you stay comfortable and enjoy your ride.

The weight-to-surface-area ratio is excellent, which is how you get that perfect balance. That means you get a lightweight ski that’s great for agility and speed, but also a slightly wider ski that’s great for the perfect amount of floating in powdery snow.

The stiff tail and full rocker are designed to keep you steady so there’s not too much of that float and the impact resistance means that it’s going to be durable and last for a long time. Not only that, but the quadraxial carbon stitching through the wood core helps to reduce the overall weight without sacrificing anything.

Rigidity and smooth power transfer throughout the ski will help you get right where you want to be and keep you upright and enjoying your trip for as long as you want to get out there.

PROS:

  • Stiff tail and full rocker for floating
  • Super lightweight but wide
  • Small turn radius
  • Durable and rigid in any conditions
  • Full-thickness base
 CONS:

  • Highly rockered tip
  • Not ideal in deep conditions
  • Not ideal in good snow conditions

Related: Perfect for any binding and ski combination, these G3 Ion Crampons make sure you’re going to keep going no matter what the conditions are. They’re moderately priced and made with high-quality aluminum that keeps them lighter weight but still strong and durable.

Check the price on Amazon

Voile V6 Ski

Price: Approx. $700Voile V6 Ski

Weight: 5 pounds

Length: 173 cm

Specific features: Traditional camber underfoot with a rockered tip, slightly raised tail, aspen core, carbon fiberglass laminate, tapered tail

Best use: Long distance backcountry touring

The Voile V6 Ski is one of the heaviest skis that we’ll highlight in this section of the article. Still, despite the weight, it is also a fairly narrow ski, which helps with things like speed and agility. Because of its higher weight, however, it also helps with different types of performance.

For example, the extra mass and mid-stiff construction allow for an extremely stable ride at speed, even when used on a tough terrain. The extra weight also proves to be quite a boon when skiing on firm snow.

On powder, the V6 is a joy which can be attributed to its fully cambered construction and rockered tip. If budget is an issue, you’ll be happy to know that the V6 is a very affordable ski.

Combine that with the solid, firm snow and powder performance and durability, it’s hard not to see that it provides some serious value. Overall, these are great skis if you’re skiing in an area with great powder and short approaches.

PROS:

  • Great in soft snow
  • Work well without skins
  • Great look and style
  • Good over multiple days
  • Durable and long lasting
 CONS:

  • Not ideal going down cat tracks
  • Compromise on downhill glide on slopes
  • Not good for all types of slopes

Related: Bindings are crucial so that you can keep your boots firmly attached to your skis as you travel and these Voile Telemark Bindings are designed to give you everything that you’re looking for and then some. They’re designed for these skis and they work great for touring and more.

Check the price on Amazon

La Sportiva Vapor Nano Skis

Price: Approx. $1,200La Sportiva Vapor Nano Skis

Weight: 5.4 pounds

Length: 168 cm

Specific features: Tip and tail rocker, camber underfoot, carbon torsion box (cap construction), Kevlar weave and paulownia core, prepreg carbon nanotube laminate layers, carbon fiber reinforcement plates, 103 mm underfoot width

Best use: Backcountry skiing, mountain descents

Skiers who are in the market for a premium lightweight ski should definitely take a look at La Sportiva Vapor Nano Skis. It’s safe to say that they’re amongst the lightest skis on the market, but unlike most light skis, the Vapor Nano is quite wide.

In terms of weight and surface area, these are a trailblazer. The top sheet is pure white, so it’s less likely to collect snow and maintains its lightweight profile. This ski also handles speed and energy well, thanks to its weight, length and carbon construction.

It is clear that the Vapor Nano is a highly specialized ski with its ultralight, mid-fat profile. It’s certainly not a cheap ski but it easily delivers on most fronts, which makes it a great choice for those who are getting started or for professionals who don’t want to compromise.

Great for technical terrain and big mountain descents, this ski is one that you can take just about anywhere you want, especially since you can easily attach your climbing skins.

PROS:

  • Feather-light
  • Does not collect snow
  • Works well on technical terrain
  • Made in the USA
  • Easy to attach skins as needed
 CONS:

  • Not as stable as some
  • More expensive
  • Plain style

Related: The Salomon Quest Access Ski Boots here are definitely going to be great for skiing out in the backcountry. They are comfortable and warm enough while providing just the right amount of support while you’re going through even a rougher terrain.

Check the price on Amazon

Black Diamond Carbon Convert Skis

Price: Approx. $900Black Diamond Carbon Convert Skis

Weight: 6.2 pounds

Length: 164, 172, 188 cm

Specific features: Engineered wood core, lightweight for its size, ABS sidewalls, SkinLock tail tabs, skis all conditions, 105 mm waist

Best use: Gram conscious skiers

The Black Diamond Carbon Convert Skis are certainly some of the better lightweight skis that money can buy. The weight per surface area has a respectable ratio even with its additional width. At speed, this ski scores rather well, especially when it comes to landing steep jump turns.

For firm snow performance, the Carbon Convert manages to hold considerably well but with lesser tenacity. Plus, it’s a great option in the powdery snow because they’re lightweight and versatile for anything. If you’re going out touring or anything else in the backcountry area you’ll definitely like these.

With a mix of carbon and engineered wood, the core of these skis is able to keep you comfortable, stable and moving right along, without compromising anything at all. You’ll be able to easily attach your skins and keep your hardware up and off the snow with no problems, making it a whole lot easier to enjoy the entire experience.

PROS:

  • Very lightweight overall
  • Wider skis for better performance
  • Work well in various types of snow
  • Skins are easily attachable
  • Great for anything out in the backcountry
 CONS:

  • Not ideal for beginners

Related: The Black Diamond Bugaboo Pitons are designed to help reduce weight and improve your overall performance. They’re inexpensive and come in different sizes to make sure you’re getting the fit you expect.

Check the price on Amazon

Wrap Up

There are plenty of choices out there if you’re looking to get into backcountry skiing. There’s no reason that you should have to spend a fortune just to get started and there’s no reason you should be wasting some of your skiing time with trying to figure out which skis you want. Just get out there and start having fun.

Hopefully, this article helped you get an idea of what’s out there and how you can get a great experience skiing on the trails and off. You’ll also have a better idea of what you should be looking for if you decide to choose something else entirely, so you’re definitely prepared.

Best Backcountry Skis

Now it’s your turn. We want to know what you like and don’t like about these skis and any others, so make sure that you let us know.

Are any of these features ones you look for in skis? Do you think there’s something else it’s important to consider before buying your skis? Are there skis that you think are the best that we didn’t include here? We want to hear all about it.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jerry Mueller

Jerry Mueller

Jerry ‘Boy Scout’ Mueller spends 99% of his time camping or teaching others how to live in the wild. He became an Eagle Scout which is the highest rank attainable in the Boy Scouting division when he was 17 and after that he still lives the scout life. Jerry always plans neatly every trip, takes leadership very seriously and if you listen to his tips and stories, you can learn tons of useful things.