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The best freeride skis, tried and tested to help you make the most out of your adventures off-piste this season.

the best freeride skis of

Once confined to the outcasts of the ski world, freeride skis now form a huge part of the market and it's not just the major brands who are getting in on the action - scores of independent manufacturers are giving the big guys a run for their money, building skis that compare, compete and sometimes even outgun them.

It's a given that most skis with a width of 90mm plus perform well in deep snow but it’s when the going gets rough and tough that you really get to know what an off-piste ski, intended primarily for deep powder is made of. It’s also important to know how well a freeride ski performs on groomed slopes so that you can get home after your epic day in the backcountry without looking like Bambi on ice.

 

How we test freeride skis

We test for float in the powder, how stable the skis are at speed, how playful they are on variable terrain and how responsive they can be in tricky situations.

We had some awesome off-piste powder conditions for our ski test in Kuhtai this season which allowed us to really get a feel for the float and responsiveness in the conditions they were intended for. We tested each ski with more than one reviewer to ensure that any subjective opinions were largely discounted.

Our band of merry men and women includes; Rob Stewart - an ISIA qualified ski instructor and former freestyle and freeride competitor with over thirty years skiing experience, Emma Norton - former British Team Alpine ski racer and now a fully qualified ski instructor based in Zermatt, and Ethan Davis - freestyle skier currently competing on the Junior Freeride World Tour as well as a load of other guys and gals with a range of abilities and experience under their belts.

The skis below represent the very best within the freeride category for the 2017-18 season, go forth and buy a pair from the selection below - you won't be disappointed.

Click through to our gear section for full reviews of these skis and many more.

 

Faction_2017-18_PRIME3-01.jpg

Faction Prime 3.0 | £879 Mens

BEST FOR Strong intermediate and advanced skiers who don’t want any compromise going uphill or down.

Being based in Verbier, Faction’s roots are embedded deeply in freeride culture and the Swiss manufacturer seems to have pulled off a bit of a coup with its brand-new Prime series.

The design has clearly been helped by having Freeride World Tour stalwart and all-round gnarly alpinist Sam Anthamatten involved in the process and the results are clear to see.

Straight out of the rack it’s hard not to start a man-crush on the 3.0s, which have a gorgeous white/grey/green top sheet with an eye-catching diamond-chequer pattern beneath.

It isn’t all form over substance though, as the ‘chequer’ you can see is the TeXtreme carbon weave across the length of the skis that’s thinner yet stronger than regular carbon construction.

A hybrid balsa/flax core continues the weight-saving crusade, but there’s still room for a top notch sandwich sidewall construction and titanal reinforcement underfoot. Unusually the tails have a little more rocker than the tips, with just a smidgen of camber underfoot.

What you end up with are 108mm wide skis that weigh just 1740g each (before you slap on some bindings), are super responsive, yet by some strange alchemy are strong and beefy.

VERDICT - 9/10

Match them with touring bindings and skins to glide uphill, before conquering everything you meet going downhill.

 

Salomon lumen 99_web.jpgSalomon Lumen 99 | £430 Womens

BEST FOR An expert skier who likes to charge both on and off piste, capable of working the ski to get the best out of it.

Salomon has absolutely packed these skis with technology and it shows in abundance. The Koroyd Honeycomb Tip, CFX Superfibre Construction, Spaceframe 3.0 AMB…the list goes on. But trust us, each bit influences the performance, with our testers even heading for a cheeky extra lap as they are really responsive and playful, with a stability that encourages you to crank up the speed.

Increased dampening and reduced swing weight comes from that Koroyd Honeycomb Tip making the skis even more manoeuvrable in difficult snow, allowing for those quick line changes that you need to make when heading down variable terrain. The 5-Point sidecut and a Hook Free Taper means the widest point in the sidecut tapers in toward the tips earlier for less drag in powder and prevents the tips and tails from getting hooked up, making for fab soft snow skiing.

Patented and exclusive to Salomon, CFX Superfibre Construction and Spaceframe Woodcore combines the incredible strength and nominal weight of carbon fibre for stability and reinforcement. superlight and strong – the perfect combination that will stand up to the strongest of female skiers. We really like the overall feel of these, performing well in short turns and a solid carving ability, and whilst they lack some playfulness off-piste you almost don’t need it as they don’t feel like a compromise, because you don’t quite notice it’s missing.

VERDICT - 9/10

The pricing is competitive at £430 without binding, and performs all over the hill despite being a little narrower than some others in the freeride category. For the expert skier who is looking for something to do it all, this is a real contender. Good job Salomon, but can you perhaps just adjust the topsheet to make it as pretty as it is powerful?

 

Head Kore 93_web.jpgHead Kore 93 | £645 Mens

BEST FOR Anyone considering embarking on all-mountain skiing right up to expert freeride skiers.

First impressions are important, like a well presented meal, somehow the food tastes better when it’s laid-out with care and attention. The same seems to go for skis and one look at the Kore range and you’re already thinking, ‘this is going to be fun’.

As you taste the first turn with anticipation, the excitement levels rise and moments later that turns to delight when you get the full-blown effect of a ski bursting with flavour, texture and complexity. There’s no disappointment throughout the meal as you ride through powder snow, over groomed slopes or rough, variable terrain – they suck it up and leave you feeling full and happy at the end.

If the Kore was a meal though, it would be like a buffet with a Michelin Star – a rare treat and one that can satisfy almost any palette. The lightweight construction providing a fun, responsive.

Scraping into the Freeride category, they could easily be treated as all mountain skis that provide for all your needs – even at speed they remain calm and stable, perhaps surprisingly considering how light they are.

VERDICT - 10/10

Ideal skis for advanced and experts looking to maximise their fun levels all over the mountain, in all kinds of conditions and at £645 flat, they are decent value for money too. Also available in a 105 and 117 width.

 

ROSSIGNOL_Sky-7-HD-W.jpgRossignol Sky 7 HD W | £525 Womens

BEST FOR Recreation and advanced female skiers looking to get into off-piste and all terrain skiing.

The 2018 Rossignol Sky 7 HD W replaces the Saffron 7 in the women's freeride collection. Incorporating the Carbon Alloy Matrix (ooh, sounds fancy!) and Air Tip construction means these seriously rockered skis travel over just about anything. Initially, they feel wider than expected underfoot which takes a bit of getting used to, but works nicely in the off-piste, giving tons of float.

On-piste we are not too convinced, which when you look at the side profile of the rocker and camber is understandable. The nose is very flappy and the ski-snow contact point makes us a little nervous of ramping up the speed, with the stability feeling questionable - though in fairness held the edge reasonably well. This does fit with the target audience of the entry level freeride skier too.

Off-piste is where the skis are designed to be. Rossignol’s latest core layer is the Carbon Alloy Matrix—a weave of carbon fibre and basalt—that gets added to the paulownia wood core to enhance performance and dampen the vibrations, increasing power and stability through challenging snow or at top speeds. The honeycomb-shaped Air Tip technology designed for flotation and manoeuvrability works well, and the stiffness that works against the skis on-piste gives power to the off-piste performance with the rocker simply gliding over the crud.

VERDICT - 7/10

The advanced skier needs some adaptability to make the best of them, and as long as they aren’t spending too much time on the piste, they could be worth the £525 without binding. The ability to ski with weight and power focused underfoot means we would recommend this to someone who is new to heading off the groomed slopes and into more variable, off-piste terrain.

 

ARMADA_Invictus_108Ti.jpgArmada Invictus 108 Ti | £600 Mens

BEST FOR Heavier skiers who like to go fast.

The Invictus 108 Ti are the big daddy’s of Armada’s boisterous set of freeride chargers.

For you Latin buffs out there, ‘Invictus’ means unconquered or undefeated and is probably pretty apt as the skis have been around for three years now and are still going strong.

Strong is the key word here, with the skis designed to have a rock-solid ride whatever the conditions.

The slimmer 85 and 95 models are a little softer, without the Ti label that signifies a stiff metal heart.

But in the 108 Ti - and the 89 Ti and 99 Ti – you get a dual layer of titanal, plus supporting struts in the tip and tail made of both carbon and kevlar. Even the woodcore has stronger stringers of hardwood running through them.

Add in Armada's durable Impact Edge, which is cushioned with a strip of rubber for a smoother, damper ride, to the width of the 108 and you’ve got a super-stable ride.

All that chunky internal tech does mean the Invictus 108 Ti is sluggish to turn at low speed though, but as the pace picks up the skis come alive.

The 108 Ti has pretty stiff tails that whip you out of long turns, but might catch out dedicated off-pisters who are used to softer skis with more rocker at the rear.

VERDICT - 8/10

There’s plenty of lift available in soft snow, although again you have to work for it. But get the Invictus 108 Ti charging downhill and their nose rears up like a speedboat’s prow crashing through waves. Anchors aweigh!

 

KASTLE_BMX105_2015_Ski_Test.jpgKästle BMX 105 HP | £925 (bindings incl.) Mens

BEST FOR An advanced skier looking to go to the next level and not want to buy a new ski when he gets there.

Kästle just seem to get things just right throughout their range and the BMX 105 HP is no exception to the rule.

Initially, just stepping into the bindings is a daunting prospect – these things look like they are going to give you the ride of your life and you know it. But, they also give you the confidence to let go and make that ride due to their extreme stability both on and off-piste and powerful feel from tip to tail. Beware though, experts only here, if you’re not on top of your game then they’ll throw you around and spit you out in seconds.

The name BMX stands for Big Mountain Expert – a freeride tool for the skier who plies his trade at the highest level. The perfect combination of rocker, camber, flex and width, gives them outstanding float and stability at speeds and in steeper terrain, allowing them to be more versatile than most other ‘Big Mountain’ skis. They ride hard and fast, making this ski just fun, fun, fun when pushed to its limits, though slows down with amazing ease too.

Surprisingly, when slowed down they turn from a monster into a sweetheart instantly. Unlike other skis with the same charging characteristic, they’re easy to handle in all terrain and easy to turn when you decide to relax a little more. We give them 10/10 for versatility, due to the handling over piste, powder and even moguls.

VERDICT - 10/10

Classic looking freeride skis from Kästle. High in price but worth every penny. Nothing but outstanding.

 

VOE-1718-Bash-116-W.jpgVolkl Bash 116 W | £525 Womens

BEST FOR Expert skiers looking for a versatile freeride ski.

One of the widest skis the Snow Magazine test team got to ride this winter and fortunately we had ideal powder snow conditions in the resort of Kuhtai to put these new skis through their paces. The re-branded Bash 116 includes a slightly stiffer nose and less rocker than their predecessor, but this just adds to the overall effect of fun you can have with this power of flower.

Despite the sheer volume of ski underneath your feet – their a true heavyweight in freeride terms but remains fairly light in construction - the Bash 116 floats like a butterfly and stings like a bee, in the words of the great boxer Ali, who was clearly thinking about these skis when he uttered those words.

Instantly, we forget about the size as they respond to the slightest command in the deep stuff to make short, sharp and snappy turns with ease. Usually, a 116mm width would be too much for zipping through a tight tree line, not these – they are playful and fun at both higher and lower speeds.

That access to the amount of power and finesse combined makes the Bash 116 one of the most versatile Big Mountain Freeride skis out there and one of our favourites for 2018. They’re liked by both our larger and smaller members of our test team too and perform a sterling job on groomed slopes, if you feel the need to get home quickly after that epic day in the pow.

VERDICT - 10/10

A lot of ski for your money at £525 (flat ski) that would suit expert freeride skiers looking to create fun and havoc wherever they travel on a powder day in the mountains.

 

NORDICA_ENFORCER_93.jpgNordica Enforcer 93 | £520 Mens

BEST FOR All-mountain skiers who don’t get hung up on labels.

Nordica’s Enforcers are a freeride-orientated collection of four models, which range from 93 to 115mm wide underfoot.

The slimmed-down 93 option was added to the line last season but shares the same blunt nose tip and tail shape with early rocker, which is designed to float in soft snow and help turn initiation on hardpack.

The 93s have a poplar-beech-balsa woodcore that keeps the weight down a little but still provides plenty of energy, while they are beefed up with the addition of two layers of titanal metal.

The 93s were put forward as freeride skis at our annual test in Kuhtai in Austria, probably because the range contains that comparatively fat 115mm-waist option in the Pro model and Nordica could only pick one category for the Enforcers!

But with a traditional camber shape under their versatile 93mm waist, the 93s are pretty friendly to ski on-piste too.

A good chunk of the construction – which includes carbon sheets over the edges – is shared with Nordica’s full-on piste skis including the lauded Dobermann range, so it came as no surprise when the 93s proved a hoot when being railed down hardpack runs.

Although they’re a pretty stiff ride, the 93s still retain that stability when taken into soft and chopped-up snow and display bags of float and manoeuvrability for their size.

VERDICT - 9/10

In a 93mm width the Enforcer are crushingly good all-mountain skis, while their fatter cousins should be considered if it’s free-ride skis you’re truly after.

 

NORDICA_SANTA_ANA_100.jpgNordica Santa Ana 100 | £550 Womens

BEST FOR An advanced skier who wants a ski to push them on wherever they take it on the mountain.

Nordica’s Santa Ana is designed by women for women, and the use of technologies used in them has influenced the new men’s range. With excellent floatation they feel really playful - nice and stable for drop offs and jumping. In light, deeper snow they are incredibly fun to ride, but on harder crisp snow they start to lose edge hold particularly in shorter radius turns.

The Balsa Core is a Microlam construction made up of many thin balsa wood stringers stacked side by side, which provide a strong and damp metal like feeling at an extremely light weight. On picking them up they feel like the lightest skis in the category - however the construction means they are less floppy than other lightweight models, providing more confidence to charge harder. Longer, wider turns is where they perform best and they cut through crud with ease and float well through the powder.

They feature Nordica’s Hammer Head Nose (picture the blunt nose of a hammerhead shark), with tip and tail rocker the low, broad tip shape that maximizes on edge snow contact while reducing unstable tip vibration. Turn initiation feels easy when skiing hard however at slower speeds they aren’t quite as agile and you need to work a lot harder. They are ideal for an advanced skier who is looking to up their game, but those who want to ski all day with comfort may find them a little challenging.

VERDICT - 8/10

Value for money is ‘good’ but a little pricey for the category. We loved the graphics and the ride when we were skiing them with a bit of speed and animation. The carbon reinforcements keep the skiing experience smooth and damp when chopped up.

 

VOE-1718-Katana-V-Werks.jpgVolkl Katana V-Werks | £870 Mens

BEST FOR A serious off-piste skier who might want to do a tour here and there.

For expert skiers who are looking for powerful freeride skis with ultimate ascent qualities, look no further than the Volkl Katana V-Werks 112 – simply outstanding.

The V-Werks really looks the part, beautifully crafted and so light for skis with so much surface area. Oooh…and then there is the performance, and we say ooooh, oooooh, ooooooh.

The flex, weight and carbon construction makes the V-Werks one of the most versatile skis out there. Although we didn’t test them as a touring set up, we firmly believe that despite the 112mm width, they would perform quite happily when travelling uphill.

Their weight and build makes them so easy to turn and you can decelerate rapidly on-piste and in powder – they carve, they pivot, yet perform way above what you’d expect for something so light, giving you confidence in spades, remaining incredibly stable, even at higher speeds on-piste. But it’s away from the groomed slopes where they really come into their own.

In deep powder snow conditions they make it feel like you’re being wrapped in silk and gently placed into the next turn, time and time again - the V-Werks, regardless of the snow, just do what they are made to do, which is slice right through everything in their way. The flex pattern and the torsional stiffness produce a performance that’s worthy of the highest praise – an Oscar winning soundtrack that’s pitch perfect.

VERDICT - 10/10

For expert skiers not afraid to let ‘em go, let ‘em rip and enjoy the ride every second of the way – our top expert freeride skis of the year and deservedly so. Yes the price is high, but you don’t question that, because you understand why as soon as you make the first turn.

They certainly Werk for us.