2020 Elan Ripstick 88 Ski Review: // Ski Reviews
The ~90 mm all mountain segment is arguably the most popular and potentially the most important category in skiing. These all mountain skis offer tremendous versatility, and you see more people out on the slopes on skis around this waist width than anything else. We've already looked at a lot of 2020 skis that fall into this category, and there are some impressive new contenders like the Kendo 88 and Enforcer 88. This week, we're looking at another new ski in the ~90 mm all mountain range, the Ripstick 88 from Elan. Elan essentially took the design and construction of the wider Ripstick models, which carry over from 2019, and put it into this new Ripstick 88. The new 88 replaces the Ripstick 86, which did not have all the technology found in the rest of the Ripstick line.
Back in January we were lucky enough to meet up with Glen Plake for an afternoon of skiing at Pico here in Vermont. Closed to the public for an industry demo day, the slopes were relatively empty, which made for an excellent day of testing skis. If you're unfamiliar with the Elan Ripstick collection, you're really missing out, as these skis offer a unique option within their respective waist width range (there is now a Ripstick 88, 96, 106, and 116). While other skis are designed to deliver the most power, responsiveness, edge grip, weight savings, etc, the main focus of the Ripstick line, and Elan in general these days, is fun. That's right, fun. It's hard to quantify a ski's fun-factor. It's much easier to say this ski is the lightest, this ski is the stiffest, this ski has the best vibration damping, etc. Elan is reminding all of us that above all else, skiing is supposed to be fun, which is a very refreshing mindset.
Thus, the Elan Ripstick 88 isn't the stiffest, most powerful ski in this width range. It's not the lightest, it doesn't have the best edge grip, but there's a good possibility it's going to be the most fun for a whole lot of skiers out there. Let's take a look at shape and construction. Elan's unique Amphibio profile positions more camber along the inside edge of the ski with more rocker along the outside edge of the ski. There is specifically a right and left ski because of this, which is relatively rare across the entire industry and a concept Elan has been the leader of for quite a long time now. It's designed to boost edge grip on your inside edge, while giving the ski an overall extremely-maneuverable feel. This is further enhanced and supported by subtle early taper in both the tip and tail, corresponding to the rockered portions of the ski. Construction is also quite unique compared to other skis in this category. Elan's TNT construction is designed to provide strength, stability, and responsiveness, but also fun and accessibility. There is a wood core with tip to tail carbon tubes running through it, as well as Vapor Tip inserts. Plake talked a lot about these carbon tubes and the differences between 3-dimensional carbon fiber and the 2-dimensional sheets we see in most carbon applications. These tubes deliver more vibration damping and a smoother feel than most carbon skis. You don't get the same overly-responsive, twitchy feel that can come along with carbon.
So, how does the Ripstick 88 compare to the other skis in this width range? Simply put, compared to most competitors' skis, it's more playful, has a more even, natural flex pattern, and is more fun and easier to ski than most. Its flex pattern feels perfect for so many applications. It's not too stiff that it feels demanding, but it's not so soft that it feels unstable. Aggressive skiers have shied away from the Ripsticks from what we've seen over the past year, but they don't necessarily need to. Again, skiing is supposed to be fun, and the Ripstick 88 will remind you how much fun you can have on a pair of skis. On groomers they have such a smooth, predictable feel. You can carve turns with great finesse, you can release the tail edge and pivot the ski very easily, and overall you can make a whole bunch of different turn shapes. You can also ski them fast and aggressively if you want to. No, they don't have the power of skis with 2 sheets of titanal, but it's far less fatiguing than skis that fall under that description. Something we talked about in great depth with Plake is the average skier's desire to be on the stiffest, most-badass, highest-ranked-by-magazine-tests skis. This isn't necessarily the right thing to do for most skiers. A ski like the Ripstick 88 will satisfy experts, but is hands-down more appropriate for intermediates or advanced-intermediates than the heavier, stiffer skis in this category. It'll make you ski better, instead of feeling like you're fighting a ski that's too much for you.
Off groomers, their playful attitude really shines. It's easily one of the best mogul skis in this category thanks to the quickness achieved by its shape and construction. It's exceptionally easy to make quick pivoting turns, which in turn gives it a super-confidence-inspiring feel in moguls and tight terrain. Again. It's going to make you feel like a better skier. Here in Vermont, it rips through our tight trees. I found myself taking more direct lines and finding more little natural hits to pop off than I did on just about any other ski I've tested over the past year. They're just that much fun and that easy to ski. This Ripstick 88 doesn't have the most float in deep, soft snow, but there are 3 wider options for those that need the float-factor. Still, in soft snow, this shape is a dream. It's never catchy and it carries its smooth feel through just about any terrain and any kind of snow condition. Its shape is directional, but it loves to do little tricks along the way. Picture ripping your favorite bump line, then throwing a quick spraffy at the bottom. That's basically what this ski is all about: making the most fun out of whatever you encounter.
If you haven't already, we strongly encourage you to watch the video that goes along with this review. Glen Plake played a big roll in the design and production of these skis, and hearing him talk about them really gives you a good sense of Elan's direction and goals. The idea that skiing should be more about fun than anything else carries through to some of their other models as well, perhaps most notably the new Wingman series. We'll have some reviews of the Wingman skis down the road, but for now, if you're in the market for a ~90 mm all mountain ski, the Ripstick needs to at least be on your initial list of potential skis. Maybe you'll want something heavier, maybe you'll want something with less rocker. It is, of course, totally fine if you do, but this Ripstick 88 reminded a lot of the SkiEssentials.com staff just how much fun skiing is supposed to be.