What are we riding into 2021? Below is our choice of powder, all mountain, inbounds, and backcountry/touring skis for this upcoming winter season (plus one additional wildcard that we just couldn't leave out).
Pow Ski: Nordica Enforcer 110 Free
Turn radius (191): 20.5m
Runner-up: K2 Mindbender 116
We’ll get it out of the way up front… I’m a big Nordica guy. Very underrated brand that pumps out some of the industry’s best planks: Soul Riders, Enforcers, Santa Anas (for my girlfriend). That said, the Enforcer 110 Free deserves the hype, and can easily go toe-to-toe with some of the industry’s more popular pow skis (Bent Chetler, Mindbender, QST, etc.). While the Enforcer Free does also come in a 115 underfoot, the 110 provides the best balance of float, playfulness and on-piste performance if you ever find yourself rippin’ hardpack or taking the groomers back to the lift line. Early rise in the tip and tail provides great float, the 20.5m turn radius (at 191cm!!) provides that ability to pop off those quick turns, and a stiffer core construction allows for a more aggressive and hard-charging ski style. Not quite a one-quiver ski, but definitely great if you’re no stranger to deep days and sailing through pow fields. The Nordica Enforcer 110 Free is outdoorpals’ Pow ski of 2021.
All Mountain: 4FRNT MSP 99
Turn radius (187): 19m
Runner-up: Atomic Bent Chetler 100
Bought my first pair of 4FRNT skis (Hojis) off an online classified about six years ago. Had never really heard of 4FRNT, but the deal was good, and the top sheet was mint (still hasn’t changed). Man was I missing out. I would actually argue that a lot of people are still missing out; 4FRNT makes some AWESOME skis with the best graphics in the game. The all mountain ski market has become a bit saturated (by all mountain, I’m talking ~95-104 underfoot with a bit of a rocker and decent turn radius), and frankly, a lot of these skis are riding about the same. The MSP 99 hit the market a few years ago and has since won our vote for best all mountain planks… by far. Highly versatile with incredible ability to ski groomers, side country, crud, pow… you name it. Surprisingly solid edge grip when carving keeps you locked in at high speeds and can offer great float in fresh snow! Almost a one-quiver ski (skill prefer something a little fatter for pow days), but definitely a good choice for a typical day up at the mountain. The 4FRNT MSP 99 is outdoorpals’ All Mountain ski of 2021.
Inbounds: Kastle FX86
Turn radius (185): 17.6m
Runner-up: Armada Declivity 92 TI
I grew up in New England where hardpack and blue ice is the name of the game (I live in Utah now but head back to the East Coast occasionally to visit). I landed a pair of Kastle FX86s by accident from a ski shop in New Hampshire (maybe a story for a different time). Had I heard of Kastle? Vaguely. Had I ever seen them on the slopes? Maybe once or twice. Was I excited to ride them? Eh. At 86 underfoot, this was by far the thinnest ski I had used since I moved from Boston to Utah years ago; my expectations were not sky high. First time I took them out was at Canon Mountain up in Franconia, New Hampshire, and true to classic East Coast style it was nothing but groomers, ice, and crap. BUT WAIT. These Kastles SHREDDED. Even in sub-par East Coast conditions, the FX86 performed like champs. Speed, stability, responsiveness… it was all there. I clocked my fastest slope speed ever (75mph+ on a sheet of ice at Loon Mountain) using the FX86s in 185cm, and even at that speed I never felt out of control or like I was losing edge grip on the hardpack (many other skis I have used do not perform this well at high speeds). While Kastle markets these as an “all mountain ski”, these are really made for on-piste skiing, with maybe the occasional venture into the side-country right off the groomers. Bottom line, they are a great East Coast skiing, and potentially West Coast if you have a propensity to stay on groomers (not ideal for deep/loose snow in my opinion). The Kastle FX86 is outdoorpals’ Inbounds ski of 2021.
Backcountry/Touring: Black Crows Navis Freebird
Turn radius (186): 19m
Runner-up: Black Diamond Helio Carbon 104
We’re big backcountry skiers (living in Utah, how could we not be). Choosing the right backcountry ski can be tough; it’s a constant battle of weight (for the uphill) vs. performance (for the downhill). A wider underfoot may lend itself to better pow turns and improved handling on variable terrain, but at the cost of a heavier, less versatile ski on the skin trail. A narrower underfoot lends itself to speed while going up, but limited application after you rip the skins (not the best for deep snow and variable terrain). To cut to the chase, my ideal backcountry setup starts with a ski that’s ~100 to ~105 underfoot which offers both performance on both the uphill AND downhill. At a 102 underfoot, the Black Crows Navis Freebird is great for fast, efficient uphill travel while still providing exceptional downhill performance. With a progressive front rocker and classic camber, the Navis Freebird is great for all terrain types and snow conditions (from spring corn to mid-winter powder). They are stiff enough to accommodate a more aggressive style of skiing, but also forgiving enough to be playful in tighter terrain. Pair these with some Fritschi Tectons or Marker Kingpins (topic for another day), and you are ready to rip. The Black Crow Navis Freebird is outdoorpals’ Backcountry ski of 2021.
Wildcard: Black Diamond Boundary Pro 100
Turn radius (188): 22m
Runner up: Nope
What is a wildcard? A wildcard is a great ski that that we just couldn’t leave out of our 2021 lineup. Is it an all-mountain ski? Backcountry ski? Powder ski? It’s up to you! The Boundary Pro 100s are great for it all. Stiff enough to handle big drops, steep terrain and whatever the mountain will throw at you. Surprisingly entertaining in deep powder and very stable on inbounds chop, as well as charging groomers and hardpack couloirs. Great for both resort use and touring! Out of the entire outdoorpals 2021 line up, this is the closest thing to a one-quiver ski. The Black Diamond Boundary Pro 100 is outdoorpals’ Wildcard ski of 2021.
Looking for new friends to ski with this upcoming season? outdoorpals is coming soon to the App Store and Google Play, and will be the best way for you to meet new people to hit the slopes with (or skin trail). Follow us on Instagram for updates and information about the app!