2020 Salomon QST 99 Ski Review: // Ski Reviews
It's hard to decide if you want to fit in or stand out. Just like the first day of school, you have to decide if you're going to go along with the crowd or make a statement. It's a tough choice, and one that should not be taken lightly, as it can affect the entire year. Salomon has edged toward the bolder side for 2020, with an updated QST 99 that's built and designed to stick out from a crowded field of +/- 100mm underfoot popular kids. Salomon certainly has the capability to slap a couple of Titanal laminates around a stout wood core and call it a day, but they chose to go another route. The results are fantastic, as this versatile all-mountain ski has a similar overall shape and profile as its predecessor and competitors, but the build sets it apart. And for a large number of skiers, that's a good thing.
For 2020, the Salomon QST 99 is built using a full-length Poplar wood core. This is the starting point for a relatively complex recipe of ingredients that add up to make a unique and creative ski. Underfoot and extending slightly towards the tips and tails is the Ti Power Platform which adds strength and stability underfoot. The third, a very important ingredient, is the tip-to-tail laminate comprised of carbon fiber, flax, and basalt. This is where the QST distances itself from its rivals. Instead of metal laminates, this C/FX blend of materials does the heavy lifting in terms of overall ski power. The basalt is super-damp while the carbon is light and stiff. A new twist for 2020 is the addition of a cork "damplifier" in the tips. Whereas the older version had Koroyd in this area, the new ski has cork, which is a bit heavier, but also a lot more energy-absorbent. If you felt like the tips of the previous QST 99 were a bit light and twitchy, this new design will alleviate those concerns.
In terms of shape, the 2020 QST 99 is a bit less tapered than the previous 99, giving the ski a more precise feel in terms of turn initiation. Also, the cork plus the more squared-off tips make it more stable at speed, aligning the 2020 QST 99 more closely to some of the burlier skis in the category like a Blizzard Bonafide or a Nordica Enforcer 100. But overall, the ski is narrower in the tips and tails, slightly lengthening the turn radius, making it more of a directional ski. As always, it's one thing to talk about how it's made, it's completely another to get on it and feel the differences.
First off, I personally love how this thing skis. I tested the 181, but at 6'2" and 220 lbs, would most likely opt for the 188. Even so, the 181 had a ton of stability and strength. I started on the groomers, and the 99 is perfectly at ease and at home ripping the corduroy. You can definitely tell that the decreased taper and the longer turn radius make a difference at speed. The cork actually works, and the skis are super-silent, even on the firm snow. Without a full (or two) sheet of metal, Salomon skis have sounded sort of plasticky in the past, but those days are over. This is a solid ski with tons of power. At 2090 grams per ski at the 181 length, they're not feathers by any stretch, so if you're thinking that this is "less" of a ski because it doesn't have those full-metal laminates, think again-this thing rips.
Off-piste, the QST 99 really comes to life. As a 99 mm underfoot ski, it's going to get caught in the middle in some areas, but soft snow is not one of them. In the woods, the skis are very intuitive and have a natural feel to them that is very calming and confidence-inspiring. Even in our tighter trees here at Stowe, the QST 99 danced easily through the woods, and I appreciated the longer turn radius and its ability to be manipulated and coerced when the turns got tight. You could take a direct line and not feel like your tails were getting hooked or caught up in the snow. It plowed through the crud and chop with no problems whatsoever, as the flex of the ski is best suited for variable snow. The tips are flexible, not soft, so they're happy to take on anything in their path. The ski stiffens in the underfoot area and mellows out in the tail, making it ideal for a wide range of snow conditions.
It's a bit wide to be considered a bump ski, but that shovel and the straighter turn radius make it easy to zip out on some lines and really let them fly. They're supple but strong, and still quick edge to edge, so making those swivel turns in the moguls is a ton of fun. Again, not a straight-line bump ski, but totally manageable and better than most in this category.
In terms of touring and backcountry possibilities, the slightly heavier and narrower 2020 QST 99 is still a great option for getting your skin on, but the new design is more resort-oriented than not, probably bordering on a 60/40 in-bounds ratio. It seems like most skiers who are looking for a touring setup are going lighter these days anyways, and Salomon makes that stuff, too. We'd peg these as more lift-oriented than not, but certainly not out of the realm for backcountry use.
Salomon has come up with a pretty rich recipe when it comes to the 2020 QST 99. We're huge fans of how these ingredients come together in perfect harmony, as they really make the skis feel seamless and poised. More stable, damp, and fun than the older QST 99, this new concoction has a lot of positives going for it. For the most part, if you're not looking for a ridiculously stiff and burly ski for top speed and super-aggressive skiing, the QST 99 stands out as a primary option. There are always stiffer and heavier skis out there, but we're more impressed with the ones that separate themselves from the group and start their own clique. The coolest kid is usually the one that doesn't follow the crowd, and the 2020 QST 99 is a perfect example of the successful non-conformist.