2021 Elan Wingman 86 CTI Ski Review: Lead Image

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2021 Elan Wingman 86 CTI Ski Review

In recent years, when discussing Elan skis, one word has come up a lot: fun. That might seem like a vague word to use to describe ski performance, but it’s true, their skis are just fun. We talk about it a lot with the Ripstick all-mountain/freeride skis. In a lot of ways, those skis aren’t chasing superlatives like “most powerful, best edge grip, lightest, softest…” the list goes on and on. Plenty of other manufacturers like to make those claims. “Our skis are the best at ____.” That’s an understandable assessment of your own skis, but what’s refreshing about Elan, is they don’t seem particularly worried about things like that, rather are focused on making well-rounded skis that are, plain and simple, just fun to ski. We’ve spent a good amount of time talking about the Ripstick models over the past couple years, and the Wingman skis have been featured in our Ski Tests, but we’ve never done a deeper dive into what makes them special, until now.

If you follow our channel and are familiar with Elan skis over the past decade or so, you’re equipped with a good understanding of some of the company’s technology and ideas. Like the Ripsticks, and like most of Elan’s skis, the Wingman 86 CTI uses their Amphibio profile. That means the skis themselves are asymmetrical, not in sidecut shape, but rather in rocker profile and construction. We get more rocker along the outside edge of the ski and more camber along the inside edge of the ski. It’s not as pronounced as in skis like the Ripsticks, so it’s kind of hard to see with the human eye when you’re just holding a pair, but you can definitely feel it. There’s also just less rocker in general compared to the Ripsticks, as well as less early taper. The shape is more inspired by a race carving ski, which makes sense as the Wingman skis lean more towards firm snow performance.


2021 Elan Wingman 86 CTI Skis






160, 166, 172, 178, 184 cm

15.6 m at 172 cm

130 / 86 / 115 mm

Tubelite Wood Core with Carbon Rods and Mono Ti

Edge Grip, Responsiveness, Stability

Then comes construction, which unlike the Ripsticks, utilizes a partial sheet of metal along the inside edge. If you recall, the 2021 Ripstick skis get a layer of carbon along the inside edge, but here we have metal. It’s full width underfoot, then about half of the ski through the forebody, then tapers, then juts out a little, then tapers again before the tip. The same is true in the tail, without that little extra triangular piece that sticks out. Then we also get Elan’s Tubelite construction. Three dimensional carbon rods run longitudinally through the core of the ski, giving is really good energy, and as we’ve talked about before, better vibration damping than you get in most skis that use carbon. Those carbon tubes are relatively unique to Elan, which when combined with the asymmetrical shape and construction, gives them a relatively unique feel as well.

2021 Elan Wingman 86 CTI Ski Review: Full Camber Image

The Wingman 86 CTI has some serious competitors to go up against. Skis like the Brahma 88, MX 88, RC One 86 GT, and plenty of others, are pretty heavy hitters in this category. These mid-80 skis are designed with carving performance as their main focus, and I think it’s fair to say that about the Wingman as well. The difference is the feel. For one, this ski has a slightly shorter turn radius than most in this category. The 178 cm length that I tested over the past 2 days has a 16.5 m radius. That’s a touch shorter than what we usually get, which is fun. Also, the construction of the ski allows for a little more energy, or rather that energy is more easily accessible at slower speeds or when making more moderate radius turns. Heavier, stiffer skis with more metal can feel like they need to get up to speed before they really come alive, but the Wingman 86 CTI feels great from the moment you get off the lift.

Does it have the raw power of those heavier skis? No, but that’s fine, and is in line with Elan’s offerings in other categories. Is the stability, edge grip, and power still good? Heck yeah it is. The Wingman 86 CTI asks for more and more and more and is very hard to push past its limits. Can you do it? Yeah, there is a moment on really firm snow where the ski might slip a little but, but it’s honestly something that not many skiers will even get to. We’re talking really firm snow, really high speeds, and a really high edge angle. Even then, the times I felt the ski slipping in a turn, it quickly recovered and grabbed the snow again without even giving me time to feel worried. That, in my opinion, is really good. It performs at a super high level, but there’s a touch of forgiveness even when making really precise, fast carving turns.

2021 Elan Wingman 86 CTI Ski Review: Full Width Action Image 1 2021 Elan Wingman 86 CTI Ski Review: Full Width Action Image 2

The other side of their carving performance is how fun and responsive they are. Like we said, you don’t have to go a million miles per hour to enjoy them. That 16.5 turn radius and the slightly softer flex pattern compared to some of those heavier skis allows the ski to come across the fall line really easily. That means a couple things. You can make rewarding carving turns on moderate pitches, and you can also keep carving when it get steeper as the shorter radius allows you to more easily control your speed. It’s one of those skis that almost feels like it’s going back up hill as you finish your turn, which is a very rewarding experience. There’s also something to be said about that asymmetrical shape and construction. It promotes proper technique as if you’re weighting your outside ski properly in a carve, the metal really holds and gives it a strong feel. Then, when you’re ready to transition to the next turn, the outside edge of your downhill ski is already kind of flexed into a position ready to make the next turn. It gives them a very smooth, intuitive feel when linking turns.

When we’re talking about these high-performance, mid-fat carving skis, we generally talk about some amount of unforgiveness, or a lack of versatility. The Wingman feels a little easier when making shorter, skidded turns and in tight terrain than most skis in this category. Is it as easy as something like the Ripstick 88? No, but an advanced/expert level skier will love how quick and easy it is to throw them side to side. Moguls? No problem, as long as you have the technique. Trees, little chutes, other off-piste terrain? Again, it can handle that stuff, it just requires good technique. What’s nice about it is it’s not as jarringly stiff as some skis, and it’s lighter, so less fatiguing when you have to make a series of quick movements and quick turns.

Overall, I think there are a lot of skiers who would really enjoy skiing the Wingman 86 CTI, and I think it would be a beneficial ski for a lot of skiers to own as well. It made me feel like a better skier than most skis do. It’s so rewarding the way it comes across the fall line and feels like it has a super high performance ceiling, while also not requiring me to ski as hard and fast as I can at all times. I like that, and I think a lot of other skiers would too.

2021 Elan Wingman 86 CTI Ski Review: Buy Now Image

Written by Jeff Neagle on 12/30/20

8 thoughts on “2021 Elan Wingman 86 CTI Ski Review

  1. I'm sold on these ski's but I have two questions. I'm 65 years, 5"101/2, 210#. I consider myself to be an advanced intermediate skier that can ski some expert trails. For the last 12-13 years I've been skiing a Blizzard Intervention ski at a length of 163.
    I understand the Wingman ski's "shorter. I like to make a lot of quick turns and would like to purchase a nimble ski. I'm not into speed and I think that's why I like to turn a lot. My first question is about the length of ski I should purchase. I had one shop tell me 178 and then another tell me 172. Can you describe the difference I may feel as I transition from the Blizzard ski I'm now using and which length you recommend?
    Also, is it worth it to me to buy a 2021 ski versus the 2020 ski?

    1. HI Richard!
      First, the 2020 and 21 are the same, so there's no difference there. At your size and with your desire for shorter turns, I think the 172 is the way to go. You get a shorter turn radius, but still the same stability versus the 178. Also, going from a 163 to a 178 will be a far bigger leap than to the 172. You'll notice tremendous tip to tail edge contact in the CTi, and almost limitless stability. In addition, the amphibio rocker profile makes them smooth as silk--very little work to be done in the transitions of the turns. Have fun!

    1. HI Jacob!
      Only insofar as when the ski gets wider, there's more material, so it is heavier and more stable as well in the 86. But same everything else. Have fun!

  2. Hi, I would love some recommendations. I just destroyed a pair 2017 Rossignol Experience 88HD on some rocks due to the lack of snow we have this year on the west coast, and I'm looking for something to replace them. I ski mostly mammoth, occasionally socal, and usually one trip to Utah/Colorado a season. I have the 2020 Ripstick 106 Black edition (188cm) for the soft snow and powder days. I love the lightweight and maneuverability of them. I am 6'2",185#, strong fitness level, Ski pretty aggressive and fast, but also play between the trees and hit little jumps. Advanced+ skill level, but know I have more to learn to consider myself an expert. I prefer the steeps, but ski all trails including occasional park depending on the friends I am with. I want something for the firm snow days that is a better carver than the Rosi's, but still playful with all mountain performance as I like to get off the groomers. There are so many options it's hard to decide. I really like the idea of this Wingman 86 CTI but not sure if it has enough all mountain performance. I was also thinking about the Ripstick 88 for that all mountain performance but thinking it might not carve and hold an edge as much as I want; and thought they might not be different enough from the 106's I have. Besides those 2 I have been considering a new Experience 88Ti, Dynastar Legend X88, Liberty Evolv90, Salomon XDR 88Ti, and Nordica Soulrider 87. Not stuck on this width range, just want it to feel different enough from the Ripstick 106 to be worth buying. I know it's a bit of a variety I am considering, not sure exactly what is right. Maybe 2 different pairs? I can only justify one pair right now, but will likely buy another pair in the fall to build out the quiver. Any of these sound like they would be good for me, or something different that I haven't considered? I appreciate all your reviews and have watch hours of them trying to find the right one. Cheers!

    1. HI Graham!
      I think the CTi is a good choice for a second ski to the 106, especially if you're looking for strong carving power. The shape is a bit more piste-oriented, but can be used in an all-mountain application for sure. As you move to the other skis on your list, with the exception of the Evolv90, you're getting more versatility. Also consider the Wingman 86 Ti, for a bit more forgiveness without the additional carbon. Have fun!

  3. Hey Graham...I've used Elan Amphibio 18ti2 in the past and really love them. I was just wondering what your thoughts are as a comparison of the two and if the Wingman may be a superior option.

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