The 10 Best Backcountry (Touring) Skis of 2022

The Weston Summit Artist Series Ski lets you float above the powder

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TripSavvy's Pick

The Weston Summit Artist Series Ski is durable yet light, boasts a sharp turn radius, and offers great floatation in deep powder. If you are looking to maximize value, reach for the Rossignol Blackops Alpineer Ski.

The rapid growth of backcountry—or alpine touring—skiing in North America has helped fuel a ton of innovation in backcountry-specific skis, with established ski companies and startups alike delivering lightweight performance in innovative planks. Today’s backcountry skis use modern materials and construction techniques to thread the needle of lightweight skis that perform on the descent.

Harvey Bierman, the vice president of Digital at Christy Sports, says weight concerns are the biggest difference when shopping for skis to use in the backcountry. “Lighter weight skis and boots allow you to make the most out of your day. Skis with a lot of metal that are heavy will require much more physical exertion on the up-hill, making it harder to fully enjoy the reward going down,” he cautions.

Just how light you want to go is a combination of personal preference and trial and error. Keep in mind there's somewhat of a tradeoff between stability and weight, meaning the lighter your skis the less stability and power they offer. Also consider the shape and profile of the skis, essentially what you like in resort skis you'll like in touring skis.

Based on our research, these are the best backcountry skis on the market today.

Best Overall: Weston Summit Artist Series Ski

4.9
Weston Summit Artist Series Ski

Backcountry

What We Like
  • Durable construction

  • Impressive flotation for the width

What We Don't Like
  • A bit heavy for the longest tours

It was surprising when Weston, a company synonymous with backcountry snowboarding, started making skis a few years ago. It was even more surprising when the skis were really, really good. Weston only makes two models of skis and the Summits are their daily drivers with a 105 underfoot. These are the skis I grab when I don’t know what I’m going to get. Despite their fairly modest width, the rocker-camber-rocker profile keeps them afloat in deep powder. They’re not the lightest backcountry ski you can buy, but they’re substantial enough to eat crud and initial impressions are they’ve got a durable build that’s also backed by a four-year warranty.

The wide tip and tail splay combined with a fairly centered recommended mount point and gradual curves mean these skis are not at all “hooky” and pivot quickly to scrub speed or just spray a cloud of snow for the fun of it. The sharp turn radius (15 meters at the 176-centimeter length) backs this up and I’ve found it easy to make quick moves in tight trees. They’re still a light backcountry ski, so they’ll get tossed around more than some heavy-metal resort boards, but that’s about my only complaint so far.

Lengths: 156, 166, 176, and 186 centimeters | Waist Width: 105 millimeters| Weight: 3 pounds, 7.7 ounces (176 centimeter size)

Runner Up, Best Overall: DPS Pagoda 112 RP Tour Skis 2022

DPS Pagoda 112 RP Tour Skis 2022

Backcountry

What We Like
  • Resort-ski dampness

  • Floatation in soft snow at most speeds

What We Don't Like
  • Expensive

As someone who goes into the backcountry primarily to find soft snow, I’m biased towards fatter skis and have found that I like something near a 110-millimeter waist width if I’m only going to ski a single ski when touring. I find that width wide enough to stay afloat without too much effort but narrow enough that it doesn’t negatively impact the uphill experience too much. (Ascending the skin track on my 120-millimeter powder boards can be tough on the feet and legs if you’re side-hilling a steep face.) If you ski narrow skis normally, this ski isn’t for you. But if you’re someone that mostly goes out when there’s better than average chances of deep, soft snow, the Pagoda Tour 112 RPs might be your one-ski quiver.

From the flex pattern to the sidewalls to the topsheet, the Pagoda Tour 112s feel like a resort ski but they somehow only weigh about 1,500 grams (a little over three pounds) per ski. DPS pulls it off with a blend of aerospace foam, carbon, and wood that I won’t pretend to understand other than it translates to a light but driveable ski. Make no mistake: This is a powder ski at its heart, but the damp ride and tight turn radius separate it from dedicated pow sticks and make it work as a daily driver for soft snow hunters. 

Lengths: 158, 168, 178, and 184 centimeters | Waist Width: 112 millimeters | Weight: 3 pounds, 5.2 ounces (per ski at 178 centimeters)

Best Value: Rossignol Blackops Alpineer Ski

Rossignol Blackops Alpineer Ski

Backcountry

What We Like
  • Ultralight

  • Affordable

What We Don't Like
  • Narrow for soft snow

If you’ve done any shopping for backcountry skis, you’ll have noticed the price points are a bit higher than resort skis and there’s not a well-established budget segment of the category. While they won’t be a fit for everyone, the ultralight Black Ops Alpineer skis from Rossignol retail for just under $500 which is practically unheard of for a touring-specific ski.

The 86-millimeter waist isn’t going to float as well as some heavier, more expensive options, but that lightness makes the ascent a breeze which is great for both beginners to the backcountry as well as the race-minded mileage-counters. Rossignol has concentrated the weight in the center of the ski, so it’s easier to drag uphill on the skin track and to swing around when you need to move quickly in tight trees or couloir.

Lengths: 154, 162, 168, 176, and 182 centimeters | Waist Width: 86 millimeters | Weight: 2 pounds, 12.4 ounces (per ski at 176 centimeters)

Best for Racing: Dynafit DNA 3.0 Ski

Dynafit DNA Ski

Backcountry

What We Like
  • Pro-level weight-to-stiffness

What We Don't Like
  • Narrow use case

The DNA skis from touring pioneer Dynafit represent the current height of technology to push the ultralight boundaries and still deliver a ski that performs downhill. This is a specialized tool for serious racers as it’s half the weight of most “ultralight” touring skis for recreationists. Dynafit achieves the remarkable weight through a combination of select-grade paulownia wood and unidirectional carbon for low-density stiffness.

The shallow 24-meter turn radius is built for going fast to make up time on the downhill, not making quick moves in the trees. Tails are flat to keep you going fast and straight ahead, but there’s a tip rocker so you don’t get grabbed blasting over chop.

Lengths: 153 and 162 centimeters | Waist Width: 64 millimeters | Weight: 1 pound, 8.3 ounces (per ski at 162 centimeters)

Best for Powder: Atomic Bent Chetler 120 Ski

Atomic Bent Chetler 120 Ski

Backcountry

What We Like
  • Float well at all speeds

  • Nimble for their width

What We Don't Like
  • Not ideal for hard snow

The Bent Chetler 120s are a powder fiend's dream ski in the backcountry. The award-winning design doesn’t change much year-to-year except for a few years back when they somehow shaved off more than a quarter of the weight without sacrificing performance and made it backcountry-capable. They’re the lightest fat ski I’ve been able to find and they’re just plain fun. I’d describe them using an overused ski adjective of “playful” since they have flexible tips and tails combined with a rocker-camber-rocker profile. But that wouldn’t do them justice, because in soft snow you can absolutely scream at high speeds on the Bent Chetlers if you want to and they plane cleanly, don’t dive, and don’t chatter. The fairly centered recommended mount point makes these great for those who like to pop off every lip and spin their way through a run, but they’re just as fun if you directionally slash your way across the pitch.

Unless you live in a powder paradise, these probably aren’t an everyday ski, but I’m surprised at how often I’m able to justify taking out these powder gobblers in Colorado’s Rocky Mountains where the powder is cold and light, albeit sometimes infrequent. I call the Bent Chetler 120s an “optimistic” ski because it’s perfect for the backcountry joy-seeker that’s willing to deal with the wider planks on the uphill because she believes there are a few moments of bliss surfing soft snow to be found on the downhill.

Lengths: 176, 184, and 192 centimeters | Waist Width: 120 millimeters | Weight: 3 pounds, 15.5 ounces (per ski at 184 centimeters)

Best for Mountaineering: Black Crows Orb Freebird Ski

Black Crows Orb Freebird Ski

Backcountry

What We Like
  • Lightweight

  • Stable

What We Don't Like
  • Need another ski for deep days

While most people head into the backcountry for soft snow untouched by the resort crowds, ski mountaineers chase far-off objectives like tight, steep couloirs that demand a certain type of ski. For one, you need a ski that’s as light as possible since you might have a five-mile approach. You also might encounter harsh ski conditions such as concrete slab snow that hasn’t warmed enough to offer any give or couloirs so tight you have to jump-turn your way down them and falling isn’t an option.

From the French Alps, Black Crows come with a ski made for these missions. At 90-millimeters underfoot, it’s narrow enough to edge hard when needed but just wide enough throughout to manage float when you hit the snow just right. These are also light enough to leave you with the energy you need to survive and enjoy the descent.

Lengths: 161, 167, 173, 179, and 184 centimeters | Waist Width: 90 millimeters | Weight: 2 pounds, 15 ounces (per ski at 173 centimeters)

Best Custom: Wagner Summit 105 Factory Skis

Wagner Summit 105 Factory Skis

Wagner

What We Like
  • Customizable graphics

  • Durable construction

What We Like
  • Likely heavier build not ideal for long tours

Telluride-based Wagner only made custom skis for years until they launched their semi-custom Factory lineup which includes a single touring-focused option—the Summit 105 Touring. While they were used to making one-off skis, they had thousands of ski designs for their customers to sift through for these stock offerings. The construction of this backcountry-minded ski shares the same basics as all Wagner skis: high-end materials, hand-made, thick bases, and thick sidewalls for durability.

While it’s a lighter composition than their other Factory builds, Wagner doesn’t list weight and it’s likely not the lightest touring ski you can buy, but that’s sort of the point. Lighter isn’t always better and Wagner is known for delivering performance and durability in all their skis. While they’re far from cheap, the Factory lineup allows you to try Wagner’s product at a lower price point, and if budget permits, you can try a custom build with them that tweaks the skis to your personal ski style and preferences. Even with the Factory lineup, you can customize top sheet graphics using one of the dozens of stock and artist series options.

Lengths: 164, 171, 178, and 185 centimeters | Waist Width: 105mm | Weight: Not Listed

Best Speed Touring: Dynafit Blacklight 88 Ski

Dynafit Blacklight 88 Ski - 2022

Backcountry

What We Like
  • Stable for the weight

  • Ultralight for big tours

What We Don't Like
  • Not a one-ski quiver if you also ski deep pow

If you value pushing yourself towards faster times on the ascent, but actually want to enjoy the ride down, Dynafit’s Blacklight 88s offers an ultralight ski that’s still wide by skimo standards and delivers mild rocker in both tip and tail to keep a bit of fun in your objective-chasing.

Unlike many skis, the shape of each different-length ski is proportional so the dimensions are different for each length and they retain the same performance. Despite being a lightweight all-around hard snow ski, it features a full ABS sidewall so it can hold its own in the chop and crud frequently encountered on those big late spring missions.

Lengths: 158, 165, 172, 178, and 184 centimeters | Waist Width: 88 millimeters | Weight: 2 pounds, 8.2 ounces (per ski at 172 centimeters)

Best 50/50: Salomon QST Blank Ski

Salomon QST Blank Ski

Backcountry

What We Like
  • Resort ski performance

  • Capable in a wide range of conditions

What We Don't Like
  • Heavy for frequent touring

If you’re on a budget or only spend a handful of days in the backcountry each season, a single ski for both resort and backcountry may make sense. Pairing a ski that prioritizes damp, stable performance with a crossover binding such as the Salomon Shift or the Marker Duke PT series gives you one ski to rule all conditions. The QST Blank hits the sweet spot of being ready to make the most of a powder day, but just narrow enough to have fun in mixed resort conditions where you want mass to help blast through crud. The early-rise tip and tail rocker plus camber help you plane in powder, but the tight turn radius and burly sidewalls mean you can also dig trenches on groomers if you want.

Inevitably, you have to make some compromises when choosing a ski to do both backcountry and lift-assisted skiing, but at almost five pounds per ski, the QST Blank is manageable for shorter tours chasing soft snow when the resort is chopped up. If you go big in spring and chase far-off descents, you’ll want to save up for something lighter, but for casual touring for those that don’t want to spend thousands on dedicated setups for each, the QST Blanks offer a fun, stable ski that’s just light enough.

Lengths: 178, 186, and 194 centimeters | Waist Width: 112 millimeters | Weight: 4 pounds, 10.1 ounces (per ski at 178 centimeters)

Most Eco-Friendly: Weston Grizzly Skis Artist Series

Weston Grizzly Skis Artist Series

Backcountry

What We Like
  • Lightweight for its width

  • Nimble, playful in deep snow

What We Don't Like
  • Could be too much underfoot for some. But is there ever too much underfoot?

The fatter sibling of our Best Overall pick, the Weston Grizzly skis are a substantial 120-millimeters underfoot and are likely as close to the float of a snowboard as skiers can get, which is not surprising for a ski from a snowboard company. How fat are they? Because the skis remain mostly proportional across their different lengths the ski waist actually ranges from 112 to 120-millimeters underfoot. The tip shovels are big, too, and the playful flex invites you to slash, pop, and spray your way down the slope.

Not for nothin’, either, the skis with the custom Backwoods Fellowship art by John Fellows look awesome with a snarling grizzly across the front of the skis. As a bonus, in addition to their regular participation in 1% for the Planet, Weston has agreed, along with some other like-minded brands, to plant ten trees through the National Forest Foundation for every pair sold. 

Lengths: 166, 176, and 186 centimeters | Waist Width: 112 or 120 millimeters | Weight: 3 pounds, 14.1 ounces (per ski at 186 centimeters)

What to Look for in Touring Skis

Weight

One of the specs that backcountry skiers obsess over is weight. If you’re really serious, you talk about it in grams only. Early in my touring career, I suffered with heavy resort boots, heavy frame bindings, and heavy resort skis. I lagged on the skin track but had fun on the descents with whatever energy my legs had left. 

I’ve since learned to appreciate longer tours and hence learned to appreciate lighter gear. My personal cutoff for a ski that I intend to use in the backcountry is a nice, round 2,000 grams (just over four pounds per ski). I’ve found that skis much lighter than that can give me most of the performance of a heavier ski in a lighter package that lets me ascend faster and go further and still have energy left for the descent. While lighter skis generally sacrifice some performance in chopped-up, variable snow, I’m generally touring when conditions are softer so I’m okay with a lighter ski that requires more favorable conditions to be at its best.

Everyone’s tolerance for weight is different and dedicated skimo racers would consider my lightest ski unbearably heavy for their style of ski touring. A larger skier that sticks to shorter tours might be able to happily ski a 2,400-gram ski. 

Just keep in mind that lighter skis sacrifice power and stability to some degree and that lighter isn’t always better in the backcountry. Finding that sweet spot between weight savings and performance for you and your skiing style will take time and ideally, you can demo some skis or try out the touring skis of friends to get a feel for what will work for you.

Shape and Profile

It’s beyond the scope of this article to walk you through the different profiles of skis and how they affect a ski's behavior in different conditions. There are plenty of resources discussing rocker, camber, reverse camber, tip and tail splay, and sidecuts if you want to go down those rabbit holes. 

What I can say about ski shapes is that if you have a ski profile that you enjoy at the resort, look for a lighter-weight touring version of that ski to take into the backcountry. While conditions are often much different away from the resort, your skiing habits and style don’t change from one venue to the other, and the adjustment to skiing on touring equipment can be hard enough without having to adjust to a completely different type of ski.

If the manufacturer of your favorite resort ski doesn’t have lightweight touring options, consult your local backcountry ski shop and ask them what skis in the touring market are most like your preferred resort ski.

Frequently Asked Questions
  • What do I need to be safe in the backcountry?

    Entering the backcountry shouldn’t be done lightly since the safety precautions normally handled by ski patrol and operations crews at a resort are fully in your hands when you head out for a tour. That said, the costs and time required for all the appropriate gear and formal avalanche education can be intimidating. 

    Ethan Greene of the Colorado Avalanche Information Center suggests building avalanche awareness before you pursue formal education or having basic rescue gear by using free resources. “Once you get a basic travel setup together, start reading the local weather and avalanche forecast (you can find it at avalanche.org in the US) and get familiar with the information your avalanche center is presenting. You'll need a little education. There is a lot of material online and www.kbyg.org is a good place to start.” 

    There are also lots of “Intro to Backcountry Skiing” courses that aren’t formal certifications and are cheaper but still provide a venue for you to ask questions and practice in the backcountry in a controlled environment. Bluebird Backcountry is a ski “resort” north of Kremmling, Colorado that provides avalanche mitigation and education in a venue that lets novice backcountry skiers practice their skills in a safe environment.

    You’ll eventually want to purchase the basic rescue gear of a beacon, shovel, and probe, but they’re not much good to you and others without at least some basic education and practice with the equipment.

  • What makes a ski a “backcountry” ski?

    Touring skis don’t necessarily have any concrete differences from traditional alpine skis. What generally makes manufacturers label a ski as designed for touring is a concerted effort to keep the weight of the ski down to make ascending less painful.

    Some skis will come with some touring-specific features such as notches for skins, but for the most part, touring skis are just weight-conscious versions of the skis you’re used to seeing at the resorts.

Why Trust Tripsavvy

Author Justin Park is a lifelong skier based in Breckenridge, Colorado. He logs over 50 days each year in the backcountry, has worked with the Colorado Avalanche Information Center on media projects, and regularly updates his backcountry safety education. He rides on the Atomic Bent Chetler 120s more than any other ski in the backcountry because he’s always optimistic he’ll find enough powder to justify them.

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