2020 Liberty Origin 96 Ski Review: // Ski Reviews
Before we dive into the 2020 Liberty Origin 96, we have a few pieces of news to share with you. First, if you're reading this between 3/28 and 4/2/2019, head on over to our Instagram page, @skiessentials, because we're giving away a pair of these Origin 96s! We're also wrapping up the Rossignol SkiHappy Photo Contest for the month of March. Finally, we apologize for the lack of content over the past two weeks, but we've been extremely busy. Two weeks ago we hosted our first annual Nordic Ski Test at Trapp Family Lodge, and this past week we held our 3rd Annual Alpine Ski Test at Stowe! We took it to a whole new level this year with the alpine test, increasing the amount of brands to 18 and the total skis tested to around 230! Look for those results later in the summer. And now, let's talk about these Liberty skis.
We've reviewed a lot of 2020 skis already this season on Chairlift Chat. The Origin 96 from Liberty is a refreshing ski to review, as it's more focused on fun than precision, power, torsional stiffness, etc. In a sea of new designs, construction concepts, and new technology, a ski like the Origin 96 is, in a word, refreshing. A poplar and bamboo wood core is supported by a center strip of carbon fiber. It is a relatively straight forward construction, even among Liberty's own line of skis now that they've added their V-Series and the new Evolv collection. That isn't, however, a bad thing. Not at all. Skis like the Origin 96 remind us that skiing is supposed to be fun, and we are very thankful for that. After a season of testing hundreds and hundreds of different skis, it's really fun to get on an Origin 96 and just have fun.
That construction, known as Speedcore Carbon, is paired with a rocker/camber/rocker profile with 10% tail rocker and 20% tip rocker. The tip rocker is noticeably longer than the tail, just with a quick glance at the skis. It is distinctly a twin tip, a homage to Liberty's past and also an important design characteristic on a ski like this. The mount point, and where we did most of our testing, is relatively traditional, not centered like a lot of park-specific skis. We'll talk more about that later, but it's a good thing to remember about this ski. Just because it's a twin tip that's fairly lightweight does not mean it's just a park ski. The Origin 96 is much more than that.
The first thing you'll notice when you click into an Origin 96 is how light they feel. The pair(s) we've been testing use Attack 13 demo bindings, which certainly aren't the lightest bindings in the world. Picking the skis up with these bindings they don't feel super light, but when they're on your feet the light swing weight is very noticeable. The first thing we did on them was cruise some groomers and test their performance on-piste. I certainly didn't expect them to be the most powerful groomer ski in the world, or even anything close to that. I was, however, pleasantly surprised by their energy when linking turns. The twin tip shape and rocker profile reduces the effective edge, but if you're achieving a high edge angle they hold an edge quite well for a ski like this. I was initially testing the 176 cm length, which did feel a little short for me at 5'10 and 150 lbs. I have some skis in my quiver around this length, but they use less rocker. Still, although I didn't push it super hard, I never felt nervous about edge grip on groomers. They don't have the best vibration damping and don't have that tank-like feel that some heavier all mountain skis achieve on firm snow, but they're still really fun. The 176 cm length has a 17.5 m turn radius, which in my opinion is just about perfect for a ski like this. The flex profile is relatively soft, but not so soft that you feel like you're going to flex right through the camber of the ski. The carbon helps in this regard and gives the ski some nice pop and energy coming out of a turn.
That's probably enough about carving, as that's not really the focus of this ski. Releasing the tail edge and getting the ski to pivot is super easy, both on firm snow and ungroomed, softer terrain. This is where the ski really starts to come alive, in my opinion. With the tail rocker, on the recommended mount point, you really don't have much ski behind you, which makes them an absolute blast in moguls and other tight terrain. I had a lot of fun just swishing turns on the sides of groomers too. They have a predictable, smooth feel when you're linking those pivoting, smearing turns on groomers, and I think a lot of skiers will really like it. It actually felt like the ski was helping me achieve a good rhythm while I was skiing in that style. Some softer skis just feel like they're folding underneath you, while stiffer skis fight you when you're trying to smear and pivot.
This performance translates really well to performance in trees. We quickly wanted to take the Origin 96 into some tight, Vermont-style tree runs, and it really shined. I have a good friend who skis Sugarloaf who swears by these skis, and I can understand why. They're super playful in un-groomed terrain and love to hop and jump around. The light swing weight makes it easy to make quick adjustments or slow yourself down if you get a little too rambunctious. If you have a balanced skiing style and like to smear, slash, and play, you'll absolutely love them. Sometimes my instincts are to go straight and fast, even when I'm in the trees. This is where I felt a little unnerved, mostly because of the soft flex and not having much ski behind me on the 176 cm. Full disclosure, I spend a lot of time on center-mounted skis, so am used to having a lot of ski behind me. A couple times I tried airing through some mini-mogul fields and felt a touch unbalanced upon landing, but that's more a result of the way I ski. Most skiers will really like the way the softer flex pattern helps give you a smooth landing. It's not so stiff that it'll buck you or give you instant shin-bang if you land a little backseat, which is always nice. I think the sweet-spot length for me would be the 182 cm, and I personally would mount it a little bit forward from the recommended line. I don't think this is a ski you'd necessarily want to center-mount, as you'd be forward in the camber, but if you have a park skiing background you should consider going a little forward.
Which brings me to another topic for the Origin 96. As a somewhat-washed-up park skier who's now 33 years old, the Origin 96 would be an awesome ski for me, and a great choice for anyone else in the same position. I do like to ski in the park still, but I value all mountain performance more and more every season. The Origin 96, mounted a little forward, would retain good performance in the park, and allow me to have fun around the rest of the mountain too, which, in my opinion, is ideal for skiers like me. Would I want another ski in my quiver for hard-charging or deeper snow? Yes, but the Origin 96 would satisfy my expectations from my skis on most days.
So, who's this ski best for? For starters, people like myself that I just described, but that's definitely not the only type of skier that will enjoy it. Anyone who likes to seek out tight lines and is always looking for soft snow, especially here on the east, will love this ski. I keep thinking about my friend in Sugarloaf. Any time I see social media posts from him he's deep in the woods somewhere and is obviously very happy with his choice of ski. I also think this is a very good choice for less aggressive skiers who want good all mountain performance, but not something that feels really demanding. It's easy for people to gravitate towards the biggest, stiffest, baddest all mountain skis, because those often get the most press and media, but a ski like the Origin 96 is arguably more appropriate for the vast majority of skiers compared to those heavier, stiffer skis. Here at Stowe, I can picture about 80% of the skiing population absolutely loving the Origin 96, and being blown away that it makes skiing easier than their (insert heavy, powerful ski from brand X). Skiing's more about having fun than being the best, at least in our opinion, and the Origin 96 is a perfect example of what a fun-loving ski should feel like.