The 8 Best Backcountry Skis of 2019

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The Rundown

Best Overall: Blizzard Zero G 108 Skis at Amazon "Light and easy to maneuver when heading uphill, but rides like a proper freeride ski."

Best Buy: Black Crows Ova Freebird Skis at Amazon "Designed for a light ascent and a hot-headed descent."

Best for All-Mountain Skiing: DPS Alchemist Skis at Amazon "Delivers the demands of resort freeskiing without dragging you down in the backcountry."

Best for Hard-Charging Skiers: Black Diamond Carbon Skis at Amazon "Will provide the technical control you need, the lightness you want, and the power you have to have to ski."

Best for Steep and Deep Terrain: G3 Sendr 112 Skis at Amazon "The freeride performance on this big-mountain ski is unmatched."

Best for Women: K2 Talkback 88 Skis at Amazon "Designed to handle all conditions, from spring corn to deep powder to hard pack."

Best for Racing: Dynafit PDG Skis at Amazon "One of the lightest backcountry skins on the market, and has been crafted for durability and stability."

Best for Advanced to Expert Skiers: Atomic Backland 107 Skis at Amazon "If you want a do-it-all ski that’s at home in the backcountry as much as it is on the groomers, you’ve met your match."

Our Top Picks

01 of 08

Best Overall: Blizzard Zero G 108 Skis

Blizzard Zero G 108 Skis

 Courtesy of Amazon

Blizzard Skis date back to 1945, when Toni Arnsteiner returned from WWII and started building skis for his own use out of his father’s carpentry workshop. And since then, the company has learned what’s needed to construct the perfect backcountry ski. The Zero G 108 weighs a modest 1750 grams per ski, making it light and easy to maneuver when heading uphill thanks to the carbon integrated into the Paulownia wood core, but rides like a proper freeride ski, with high torsional stiffness and agile flex. A wide 108-millimeter waist lets it float in the deepest of powder, with a 27-meter turn radius and a tip-and-tail rocker profile that’ll blow through crud to deliver a really bouncy, playful ride.

02 of 08

Best Buy: Black Crows Ova Freebird Skis

If Blizzard’s history categorizes them as one of the ski industry’s elder statesmen, Chamonix, France-based Black Crows is definitely the new(er) kid on the block, and they’ve made a solid reputation within the backcountry space, as much for their bold graphics as for their high-quality skis. One of the lowest-priced models, the Ova Freebird was designed for a light ascent and a hot-headed descent, with an agile 17-meter turn radius and a tolerant, moderate flex. An extra-long classic camber profile affords solid performance on all terrain (including groomed runs), with a relatively thin waist (85 millimeter) and a light rocker construction that allows for a bit of pivot turning, with solid edge contact and a fair degree of float. Like most high-quality backcountry skis, the Ova Freebird includes carbon in its core, along with fiberglass stringers and Paulownia wood, weighing only 1,125 grams per ski.

03 of 08

Best for All-Mountain Skiing: DPS Alchemist Zelda 106 Skis

A relative upstart in the ski space, DPS altered the perception of what’s possible in a backcountry ski by radically rethinking the ski shape—and the Alchemist Zelda 106 only continues that revolutionary path to tour-skiing perfection. This women-specific ski delivers the demands of resort freeskiing without dragging you down in the backcountry thanks in large part to the use of vibration-tuned, aerospace-grade carbon, making the ride buttery smooth in all conditions. Its flex pattern is forgiving without being over-soft, with a modest rocker line that makes the skis feel like riding a roller coaster (in a good way), with a 106-millimeter waist that’ll float in powder but still find its edge on hardpack. Simply put, this ski takes all comers—and, if you opt for DPS’s Phantom Permanent Waxless Base Glide (another DPS innovation), you’ll never have to get your skis waxed again.

04 of 08

Best for Hard-Charging Skiers: Black Diamond Helio 105 Carbon Skis

Ideal backcountry conditions for the hard-charging skier can be articulated with two phrases: “low avalanche conditions” and “face-deep powder.” And should you be fortunate to hit that holy grail, Helio 105 Carbon Skis will deliver. But even in the most sub-optimal conditions, these high-end skis from Black Diamond will provide the technical control you need, the lightness you want, and the power you have to have to ski all the live long day. Pre-preg carbon fiber offers low weight, torsional stiffness, and balanced flex, with an ultralight balsa flax wood core and 5-millimeter beveled ABS sidewalls that help find your edge when you need it. Early rise in the tip and tail improve float and easy transitions, with an ABS tail protector and integrated skin-clip tab to make shifting from skinning to skiing a breeze.

A 105-millimeter waist means this ski is very much at home in the soft stuff; this isn’t the ski for in-bounds lapping on groomers or through the bumps, but in soft snow, it excels.

Continue to 5 of 8 below.
05 of 08

Best for Steep and Deep Terrain: G3 Sendr 112 Skis

With a waist that measures 112 millimeters, the Sendr is the fattest backcountry ski on this round-up, making it powerful enough for the deepest snow and most challenging terrain. The freeride performance on this big-mountain ski is unmatched, with 7000-series titanal aluminum sheets for dampness and power, polyurethane sidewalls for durability and dampness, and a durable texture co-extruded nylon top sheet that shrugs off ice and snow.

But, thanks to the application of quadraxial-stitched carbon fiber and the lightweight polar Paulownia wood core, it still weighs a backcountry-friendly 1644 grams (at the 174-centimeter length, the shortest of four options, which top out at 195 centimeters). Given its turn radius, which starts at 21.3 meters, it’s more suited for big turns than nimble navigation through the glades. 

It boasts a traditional flat camber with early rise to help you lift yourself out of the snow, and many skiers report that the Sendr actually helped them to become better skiers—provided you charge into the deep the way this ski was meant to do.

06 of 08

Best for Women: K2 Talkback 88 Skis

Built for the expert backcountry femme skier, the Talkback 88 from K2 has been designed to handle all conditions, from spring corn to deep powder to hardpack. Built on K2’s proprietary “Talkback” construction, the layered architecture of the ski comes with a Paulownia wood core that’s reinforced with carbon stringers and fiberglass at the top and bottom, along with damping strips to reduce chatter, and a full metal edge for confident turning.

It also employs K2’s Ti SpYne tech, titanal laminate that branches out from the boot to increase dampening and predictability (features that can often disappear when skiing on carbon), while improving stability and edge grip. With a waist that measures in at a slender 88 millimeters, this is one of the more slender skis in this round-up, but women typically need less surface area to float through the deep stuff, and an all-terrain rocker—a short, low rise in the tail, with a gradual rise in the tip—amps control in all conditions. At 160 centimeters long (the middle of the three length options), each ski weighs a modest 1154 grams.

07 of 08

Best for Racing: Dynafit PDG Skis

Backcountry racers are a special breed—in love with the relentless, nonstop uphill grind as much as they are with carving efficient turns during the descent. And the least amount of time transferring from skin mode to ski mode, the better. At only 790 grams per ski, it’s one of the lightest backcountry skins on the market and has been crafted for durability and stability, proffering nimble and forgiving descents and lightning-fast climbs. A 3D shovel construction helps you float and find your edge in equal measure, with a turn radius of 20 meters and a tip rocker that's twice as angled as the tail to help you plow through variable conditions.

The Paulownia wood core is reinforced with fiberglass and strings of carbon to amp the stability, but really, the PDG is all about giving the racer that extra edge by trimming any metaphorical fat off the ski—they even crafted openings at the front and back of the binding mounts to eliminate additional density.

08 of 08

Best for Advanced to Expert Skiers: Atomic Backland 107 Skis

Consider the Backland 107s the Goldilocks of backcountry skiing—with a waist that’s 107 millimeters, it’s neither too fat or too skinny—it’s just right, and the NRZN tech in the tip, which adds 10 percent more surface area without impacting the swing weight, provides even more flotation. An S-shaped profile—20 percent at the tip and 10 percent at the tail, with 70 percent camber underfoot—will let you pop, smear, and glide through the deep stuff with aplomb. A backbone of carbon fiber runs the entire length of the ski, adding strength and control without layering on the grams.

Targeted for advanced- to expert-level level skiers, the full sidewalls provide plenty of forgiveness, especially on hardpack or ice, which makes them both race- and resort-ready. If you want a do-it-all ski that’s at home in the backcountry as much as it is on the groomers, you’ve met your match.

Our Process

Our writers spent 15 hours researching the most popular backcountry skis on the market. Before making their final recommendations, they considered 10 different backcountry skis overall, screened options from 12 different brands and manufacturers, read over 17 user reviews (both positive and negative), and tested 6 of the backcountry skis themselves. All of this research adds up to recommendations you can trust.

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