Which Skis Should I Buy? Comparing Men's Freeride Skis - 2019 Edition // Helpful Hints
For our third men’s ski comparison of 2019 products we’re focusing on Freeride Skis. These skis are all over 100 mm underfoot, with a range from about 105 to 116 mm. While they share similar widths, there is quite a bit of variety in this category. This comparison is intended to help you determine which ski in this width range might be right for you. Looking for more info? You’ll find links to the 2019 Ski Test results under each ski, as well as links to more in-depth reviews if they have been released on Chairlift Chat. As always, don’t hesitate to ask any follow up questions. Leave a comment on this article, on the YouTube video, or feel free to contact our customer service team directly. SkiEssentials.com is Gear For Skiers By Skiers, so give us a call and chat with a skier!
2019 Armada ARV 106:
The Armada ARV 106 is a freestyle inspired freeride ski that’s designed to give playful skiers the tool they need to turn the entire mountain into their own personal terrain park. This is a relatively traditional Armada ski. It’s a twin tip and relies on its wood core for its performance. Armada’s Pop-Lite wood core blends light weight wood with denser species in vertically laminated strips to boost its energy and stability. Overall, the ARV 106 is a very playful ski. It loves to butter and jump around the entire mountain, and you could even take it into the terrain park. It will hold an edge on firm snow, but it’s not designed or intended to be the most powerful ski in this comparison. Tip and tail rocker combined with early taper helps give it a smooth, catch-free feel in deep snow conditions. From the park to open powder fields and everywhere in between, the ARV 106 can do it all, and does it all with a distinctly playful feel.
Who it's For: Maybe you have a terrain park background, but these days spend more time exploring the whole mountain than between the ropes in the park. Even if you’ve never skied park, you should have more of a playful skiing style.
2019 Armada Tracer 108:
The Tracer 108 differs from the ARV 106 in the sense that it’s a directional ski. It does have some rise in the tail, and could be considered a twin tip still, but its design is intended for more directional skiing than the ARV series. It also uses Innegra Mesh and a Ti Binding Dampener, so it has slightly better stability at speed and a little more torsional stiffness than the ARV. Armada’s Hybrid Ultra-Light core helps bring the weight down, which is a nod to the fact that a lot of skiers will use the Tracer 108 as a backcountry touring ski. Long tip rocker and smooth early taper gives this ski a catch-free feel in soft snow, and also helps smooth out turn initiation on firmer snow. It’s distinctly maneuverable in nature, and loves to explore off-piste, soft-snow terrain. You don’t get the same amount of charging, super-stable performance as some stiffer, heavier skis in this comparison, but it will still respond well to aggressive skiing, especially in soft snow.
Who it's For: You’re an adventurous skier that loves to seek out new terrain and soft snow conditions. Maybe you’ll put a touring binding on it and go deep into the backcountry, or maybe you’ll use it as a versatile in-bounds freeride ski.
2019 Atomic Backland 107:
The Backland 107 from Atomic loves soft snow. It uses an ultra light wood core that’s strengthened by a carbon backbone. This keeps the weight very light, one of the lightest in this category. Like the Tracer 108, there will undoubtedly be people who choose this as their alpine touring ski. Atomic has a unique design technique called HRZN Tech, which essentially is side to side rocker on the tip of the ski. Think of a displacement boat hull, that’s essentially the concept. What it does in powder is the same thing a boat hull does in water, displaces material. That means it really gives the ski impressive amounts of float, and the tip isn’t prone to diving whatsoever. It doesn’t use super-pronounced early taper, but it’s there, and almost comes to a pin-tail in at the back of the ski. This tail shape really helps maneuverability, especially when trying to release your tail edge and pivot in soft snow.
Who it's For: Whether you’re going to put an alpine binding or an AT binding on it, you should be focused on soft snow performance and value a lightweight, maneuverable ski with a surfy feel.
2019 Blizzard Rustler 11:
The Rustler 11 from Blizzard, compared to everything else we’ve looked at thus far, uses the most metal. That metal is full width underfoot, then tapers and ends as it reaches the tip and tail. There is also carbon in the tips and tails, which helps give the ski more longitudinal stability without the weight that would come along with full-length metal. At a range of 112-116 mm underfoot, it’s also the widest ski in this comparison. The tips and tails both use long, although relatively low-rise, rocker. This helps give the ski exceptional float and a fun, playful feel, but because it’s low rise it also retains good edge contact. Lighter weight Blizzard athletes choose the Rustler 11 as their big mountain competition ski over the Cochise, which is a testament to its stability despite not using full metal. Overall, however, the Rustler 11 is more of a powder ski than a big mountain charger for most. The flex pattern of the tips and tails, its shape, and its width give it excellent performance in soft snow.
Who it's For: You’re looking for a powder ski to add to your quiver and want a relatively stable, yet playful and smooth powder ski. It handles both steep terrain and deep snow conditions very well.
2019 DPS Alchemist Wailer 112:
The Wailer 112 Alchemist from DPS is another that’s one of the widest skis in this article. It differs from the Rustler 11, however, in the sense that it uses very pronounced early taper. So pronounced, in fact, that it could almost be described as 5-point sidecut. DPS doesn’t list 5 dimensions, but they probably could. It also doesn’t use metal, rather relies on aerospace grade carbon fiber to deliver its impressive performance. It’s relatively lightweight among skis this width, while the carbon fiber delivers impressive power and stability. The early taper and pronounced tip and tail rocker give it both great float as well as a very maneuverable feel in deep snow, even at slower speeds. This is another ski that could be justified as an alpine touring ski thanks to its width, but its focus should really be deep, soft snow. It’s more of a powder ski than anything else, as the rocker and early taper does shorten the effective edge on firmer snow conditions.
Who it's For: You love deep powder and you prefer maneuverability over power. While it’s not a noodle by any means, its highlighting performance is its maneuverable nature and how easy it is to flick around.
2019 Fischer Ranger 108 Ti:
The Fischer Ranger 108 Ti is one of those skis that can play a lot of different roles. Fischer’s Air Tec Ti construction and Carbon Nose delivers impressive power and the performance benefits of metal, but at a reduced swing weight compared to most skis with metal. That thin, carbon nose really helps make the ski feel lighter on your feet than it is on paper. Arguably the best vibration damping of anything we’ve looked at thus far as well. It’s not the lightest ski in this comparison, but it’s light enough to be used as an AT ski, which is supported by the fact that Fischer designs this ski with a skin attachment point on the tail. With that flat tail, it’s a specifically directional ski; no skiing switch on the Ranger 108. On the other hand, it tracks very well through choppy snow, stays quiet and stable, but it’s not overly stiff or too demanding. There’s a little bit of forgiveness that comes along with the high levels of performance.
Who it's For: You’re a relatively aggressive skier who values stability and vibration damping. You don’t want to feel held back in terms of top-end speeds, but you also don’t want a ski that’s super unforgiving.
2019 Head Kore 105:
The Head Kore 105 has been around for a few seasons now and has carved itself a bit of a niche in this category. Head’s construction is quite unique, utilizing Graphene, Koroyd, carbon fiber, and Karuba wood. The result is a ski that’s quite lightweight, but also relatively stiff. This gives it a super quick, very responsive feel. It loves to make short quick turns and will do so in just about any snow conditions and any terrain you take it to. That construction also gives it a nice stable feel. It doesn’t have quite the vibration damping of metal, but it’s also arguably more energetic and responsive than skis with metal. Relatively long, fairly pronounced rocker, combined with early taper, helps give this ski really good float despite it being one of the narrower skis in this comparison article. It’s definitely another ski that could be used for touring, but also feels perfectly appropriate as an all-mountain freeride ski or a resort powder ski.
Who it's For: You value lightweight, maneuverable skis. You’re willing to give up some vibration damping for a quicker, more responsive ski. You ski the whole mountain, but typically prefer shorter, pivoting turns over long, fast, Super-G turns.
2019 K2 Marksman:
The K2 Marksman is, quite certainly, one of the most unique skis in this comparison. While the Pinnacle 105 Ti is particularly versatile, the Marksman is specifically focused on soft snow performance and playfulness around the entire mountain. We have Pep Fujas to thank for the Marksman, and his influence shows. This ski uses asymmetrical sidecut that’s designed to improve performance in deep snow. The outside edge of each ski uses much more early taper than the inside edge. This really helps in deep snow conditions as it eliminates the phenomenon of skis wanting to hit each other in soft snow. You can’t evenly weight in deep snow as well as you can on firm snow, which changes each ski’s effective turn radius. This design not only provides a surfy, catch-free feel, it also helps create a more even feel between each ski in deep snow conditions. On firm snow, that asymmetrical sidecut isn’t making contact, as it’s only positioned in the rockered portion of the ski. You actually see a fair amount of skiers taking the Marksman into the terrain park, where it performs very similarly to a ski like the ARV 106.
Who it's For: You either have a terrain park background or are a very playful skier overall. The Marksman is best on the feet of someone who wants to slash, smear, hop, and play around the whole mountain.
2019 K2 Pinnacle 105:
The Pinnacle 105 from K2 is one of the most versatile skis in this category. At 105 mm underfoot, it floats relatively well in soft snow, but it’s also quicker edge to edge than some of the wider skis in this comparison. K2 uses metal along the edges of the ski, which really helps boost edge grip and stability when you’re skiing hard and fast and riding your edges. When you’re skiing a flatter ski, the rocker profile and early taper makes it impressively easy to maneuver considering the stability and performance it achieves on firm snow. K2’s rocker profile is quite abrupt, which almost gives it two personalities depending on the edge angle you’re achieving. By positioning the metal along the edges of the ski, K2 reduces overall weight compared to skis with full metal laminates. This helps reduce fatigue over a long day of skiing and also makes the ski easier to throw around. It could easily be justified as a one-ski-quiver for a western skier.
Who it's For: You want a ski for soft snow, but you don’t want it to be so focused on soft snow performance that it lacks groomer appeal. You like to ski a little bit of everything, value a high performance ski, but don’t want something too demanding.
2019 Liberty Origin 106:
The Liberty Origin 106 is another ski with some freestyle/freeski influence. It uses a twin tip shape with tip and tail rocker, although it doesn’t use early taper like we’ve seen in a lot of the other skis. This gives it excellent edge contact on any snow conditions, which when combined with the carbon fiber in the ski’s construction, gives it an impressively stable, relatively powerful feel. For a ski without metal, you can ski this thing pretty darn aggressively without it feeling out of place. 30% tip rocker and 20% tail rocker gives this ski a great feel in soft snow. You’ll get a little bit more pivoting performance out of skis with more early taper, but not all skiers want something with ultra-pronounced taper. The Origin 106 can rip on firm snow when you lay it over, and has a fun, relatively intuitive feel overall. It’s on the playful side of things out of skis in this comparison, but certainly is no slouch in terms of skiing fast and hard. If you think Liberty is all soft-flexing, lightweight park skis, you’d be very wrong.
Who it's For: You’re a relatively playful skier, you don’t want a heavy ski, yet you consider yourself fairly aggressive. You ski the whole mountain, but you either prefer soft snow, or these are going to be your powder skis.
2019 Nordica Enforcer 110:
The Enforcer 110 takes the performance of the Enforcer 100 and repackages it into a wider, more rockered, and slightly softer flexing ski. The Enforcer 110 still uses two full sheets of metal, but the wood core is a little lighter than that of the Enforcer 100. This retains excellent vibration damping and stability, arguably one of the best out of this comparison, but the overall flex pattern shouldn’t be described as stiff. It has a nice even flex pattern from tip to tail. It’s plenty of ski for charging through choppy snow conditions, yet it’s also relatively forgiving and allows for a lot of skier input in terms of manipulating turn shape. It has excellent float in soft snow, but can also hold an edge and carve turns on groomers. Some western skiers are choosing the Enforcer 110 as a daily driver ski, although it’s a bit wide for daily use on the east. Overall, you get a ripping ski that feels like it has some big mountain influence in its stability and freestyle influence in its shape.
Who it's For: You’re a relatively aggressive skier who values metal in your skis, but you don’t want a super-stiff, dedicated big mountain charger. The Enforcer 110 blend stability and playfulness seamlessly, an impressive feat.
2019 Rossignol Soul 7 HD:
Rossignol’s Soul 7 HD is another ski that has carved itself somewhat of a niche within this category. Its performance is focused on maneuverability over stability. Like the DPS Wailer 112, it uses very pronounced rocker and early taper. This gives it a very maneuverable feel, and a relatively short effective edge. You can foot-steer it and pivot it on a dime, making it a favorite for skiers who like quick turns and/or like skiing in really tight terrain. Lots of skiers here in Stowe, VT choose a ski like the Soul 7 for their powder ski, as it’s a strong contender in tight eastern trees. If you like long, drawn out, fast turns, it might not have the stability or edge contract you’re looking for, but it makes quick turns with the best of them. Rossignol has strengthened the ski in recent years, reducing tip flap and chatter, but the highlighting performance of the Soul 7 HD is still its maneuverability, the ease of releasing your tail edge, and its soft snow performance.
Who it's For: As mentioned, you value quick turns and like to ski in tight terrain. It’s also a great choice for skiers who have slowed down a little bit. Maybe you used to charge, but these days you prefer skiing at more moderate speeds.
2019 Salomon QST 106:
A lot of different materials go into the QST 106, and all of them are important for its performance. Salomon blends a wood core, carbon fiber, flax fibers, metal, and basalt into a ski that’s very versatile, especially among this comparison. It’s kind of like the Pinnacle 105 in the sense that it will perform well in a variety of snow conditions and terrain, but the feel is different. The materials in this ski make it very quick and responsive, while flax and metal help smooth out its performance and absorb vibrations. Another ski that could be mounted with a touring binding (Salomon Shift, we’re looking at you) as it’s relatively lightweight and still has excellent downhill performance. The QST series in general has a knack for transitioning smoothly across different snow conditions, something that results in a confidence-inspiring feel in un-groomed, sidecountry or backcountry terrain. Not super pronounced early taper, but there is some, which helps give it a smooth feel in deep snow conditions despite it being on the narrower side in this article.
Who it's For: You’re an adventurous skier who likes to ski a bit of everything and you value a ski with an even mix of performance characteristics. It’s playful, but will also hold an edge when you need it to and stays relatively stable.
2019 Volkl 100Eight:
The 100Eight provides an interesting choice among this category. While it doesn’t use much early taper at all, it is the only ski in this comparison that is full rocker (reverse camber). That takes away some quickness and responsiveness on firm snow, but really boosts its maneuverability and also its float in soft snow. It’s a ski that’s quite torsionally stiff, and holds an edge really well, yet allows you to pivot it and smear it surprisingly easily. We have the rockered shape to thank for that performance. Plenty of skiers use the 100Eight as a touring ski as its construction results in a relatively lightweight ski, and like the Salomon QST 106, it has a confidence inspiring feel in the way it holds an edge. It’s not the most playful ski in this category, although it is quite energetic and responsive thanks to the carbon construction. It also has a pretty long turn radius. It rides long carves really well, but requires a lot of skier input if you want to shorten up a carving turn.
Who it's For: Despite its full rocker shape, it has relatively traditional performance. You don’t want a soft-flexing ski, but you also want the ability to pivot and smear the ski. It rewards good technique in all applications.
2019 Volkl Confession:
The Volkl Confession is designed for slaying big mountains. It’s stable, solid, and can rip at high speeds. It has a long turn radius and doesn’t use very pronounced rocker. For skiing fast through variable snow conditions, it’s a great choice. Volkl uses their Titanal Band construction, which gives it excellent longitudinal vibration damping, but sheds some weight compared to full metal construction. Still, this is on the heavier side among skis in this category and this comparison article, so keep that in mind. It’s one of the less forgiving skis in this comparison as well, so it rewards skiers with good technique and an aggressive mindset. It’s the polar opposite of a ski like the K2 Marksman or the Atomic Backland 107. If those skis are designed for playfulness, the Confession is a much more serious ski. Why so serious? Aggressive big mountain skiers demand stability, edge grip, and specifically asked for a ski like the Confession.
Who it's For: The Volkl Confession is designed for slaying big mountains. It’s stable, solid, and can rip at high speeds. It has a long turn radius and doesn’t use very pronounced rocker. For skiing fast through variable snow conditions, it’s a great choice. Volkl uses their Titanal Band construction, which gives it excellent longitudinal vibration damping, but sheds some weight compared to full metal construction. Still, this is on the heavier side among skis in this category and this comparison article, so keep that in mind. It’s one of the less forgiving skis in this comparison as well, so it rewards skiers with good technique and an aggressive mindset. It’s the polar opposite of a ski like the K2 Marksman or the Atomic Backland 107. If those skis are designed for playfulness, the Confession is a much more serious ski. Why so serious? Aggressive big mountain skiers demand stability, edge grip, and specifically asked for a ski like the Confession.