Jonathan Ellsworth (see Bio)
I. Which currently available skis would you pick for your own 3-ski quiver?
While I find quiver questions to be fun, I mostly find them to be painful. Who’s idea was this series anyway? (Cough)
I’m going to start off by breaking the rules and sneak in a 4-ski quiver selection to get started. Because not everyone has a dedicated touring ski, but a number of skiers have (at least) 3 skis that they use inbounds. So…
4-SKI QUIVER — (aka, my 3-Ski Inbounds Quiver + 1 Touring Ski)
Ski #1: HEAD Monster 98, 184 cm
For skiing hard and fast when the conditions are firm and fast, the Monster 98 is powerful, smooth, and you will not find its speed limit.
Ski #2: ON3P Kartel 108, 186 cm
Previously, the older Cochise could have occupied this space for me. Or the LINE Supernatural 108. Or the previous Moment Belafonte. And while I could add here the HEAD Monster 108, I’m pivoting a bit and going with a much more playful all-mountain ski (especially since I already have my sturdy ski for when the conditions are really beat).
Ski #3: Moment Blister Pro, 190 cm
For all the reasons.
Ski #4: 4FRNT Raven, 184 cm (my dedicated touring ski w/ Marker Kingpin)
My current favorite touring ski.
3-SKI QUIVER (for me, this means: 2 inbounds skis + 1 touring ski)
Ski #1: J Skis Masterblaster, 181 cm
While I think the Masterblaster is a really great ski that a lot of people will love, this is the selection that requires the most explanation.
If we’d done these quiver selections a year ago, without question, the 180 cm Blizzard Bonafide would have been my pick here. I love that ski. I also suspect that some / many / maybe even more people now might prefer the new Bonafide (I don’t know whether that’s true, but it wouldn’t surprise me). We’ll be talking more about the Bonafide soon, but in short, the new 180 cm Bonafide feels quicker to initiate a carved turn than the previous 180 cm Bonafide, and I’m not yet sure how that all translates to skiing steeps in variable conditions — which was where the previous Bonafide proved to be phenomenal as an all-mountain ski. So this is less about dissing the new Bonafide and more about going with what I’m sure of.
The other important thing to say is that, in my 4-ski quiver listed above, I got to include a sub-100mm-wide ski, plus a ~108mm-wide ski. But for my 3-ski quiver (since one of my selections is a dedicated touring ski), that means I only get 2 skis to cover about 100 days a year of inbounds skiing, across all conditions. That makes ski #2 a pretty easy choice for me … but ski #1 … that’s harder. Because this ski needs to work well when it hasn’t snowed in 2, 3, or 4 weeks, but I’d also like it to be fun in 4-6 inches of new snow — which could mean a nice little pow day with forgiving conditions, but it could also mean dust on crust — just enough new snow to cover up patches of windscour or bumps. In other words, more difficult and variable conditions.
And while I could still opt for the HEAD Monster 98 … or the HEAD Monster 88 … or the Nordica Enforcer 100 … or the new Bonafide … the J Ski Masterblaster has the weight of these skis (good for variable), but also a slightly more playful profile.
Again, for straight-up nuking, the Monster 98 is better. And the Nordica Enforcer 100 would be about as much fun in softer conditions. But that Masterblaster is that increasingly rare ski that has a fun profile, carves well, but is still heavy enough to not suck in variable conditions (where so many of the more playful — and lighter — skis fall short).
Ski #2: Moment Blister Pro, 190 cm
For all the reasons.
Ski #3: 4FRNT Raven, 184 cm (touring ski)
I think I’ve spelled out as best I can in my full review why I think the Raven is so versatile and so remarkable. And for when and where I tour the most, this ski very rarely feels out of place. I’d like to pour one out for the now deceased G3 Zenoxide (that ski raged) as well as for the LINE Sick Day Tourist 102. And if the Raven ceased to exist, I still think I could get along quite well with the Volkl BMT 109. But the Raven just nails it for me.
II. What skis were the most difficult to leave off your list?
Once I’m back on snow, near the top of my “To Do” list is A/B-ing the 184 cm Monster 88 and the 98. There is significant performance overlap here, and both skis are beautiful chargers at their respective widths. A/B-ing them will be fun, and will scratch this itch.
- A true carver — Fischer RC4 The Curv; K2 Ikonic 84 Ti
These skis are so good. But the fact is that I very rarely spend an entire day on groomers. If I did, these two skis would be at the top of my current list — just pick your width. But given that I tend to spend my time all around the mountain on most days, my narrowest ski is going to be a bit wider and better-suited to off-piste steeps and variable conditions.
This ski is just a ton of fun, and — while this statement is most definitely subjective — it is my favorite Rossignol that I’ve skied. And I’ll say it again, reports of the burliness of this ski have been exaggerated. You don’t have to be physically strong to ski it — it’s pretty light, quite poppy, feels good in the air, and provides good stability — Very Fun. Those who don’t want or need all the stability and chargeability of the 190 Bibby … check it out.
*Of course, there are a zillion other skis that I hate to leave out, but we’ll be talking about some of those skis later on….
III. What skis do you imagine have the greatest likelihood of making your list, if and when you get to ski them, or get to ski them more?
Let’s talk about 3 skis I’m very curious about, but we’ll end with the one that I suspect has the best chance of making my list next year…
I would see it as an upset if the Backland FR 109 were to unseat the Raven as my current favorite touring ski … but damn, the more Cy has been talking about the 189 cm FR 109 … and given that I just gave the 182 cm FR 109 a very thorough examination … I just really think these are gorgeous skis with a fantastic, consistent flex pattern. We’ll be getting more time on both the 182 and 189, and maybe I’ll manage to sneak some time in on the ski myself.
#2: Faction Dictator 4.0
This is the ski I’m most absolutely curious about, just because I’m really not sure what, exactly, it delivers, given how interesting and specific the Dictator 3.0 turned out to be. The 4.0 is said to be stiffer (??) and heavier (!!) than the 3.0 … and that has me very, very intrigued.
#1: Folsom Primary (Hammer edition)
As I noted above, a number of my favorite skis no longer exist in that space of the ‘variable charger’. But I think the Hammer has a chance to occupy that space.
IV. If you had to choose a single brand from which to build your 3-ski quiver, which company would you pick?
Surprisingly (well, at least it was a surprise to me), I don’t have a clear-cut winner / answer to this question at the “3-ski quiver” level. So once again, here’s my rankings:
5th Place — Faction: Prime 2.0 (touring); Candide 3.0; Dictator 4.0
I’m breaking the rules here, since I haven’t skied the Dictator 4.0. But if you are okay with a lighter ski on the skinnier end of the spectrum (e.g., the Candide 2.0 + Candide 3.0), then Faction gets you maybe the most interesting potential combinations of skis out of anybody.
Honestly, we need to get on the 17/18 Variant 113. Because I’m not entirely sure how similar or different it now is compared to the actual pair of Variant 113’s I reviewed several years ago. But if the Variant 113 is still as good … this would be a very solid collection.
LINE is offering a number of softer-snow / deep-snow oriented skis that are really interesting, but they don’t currently have that bad conditions / variable conditions ski that I’d be dying to grab when it hasn’t snowed in 3-4 weeks.
This would be a sick 3-ski quiver. And I have gone back and forth on this lineup vs. our next lineup for about an hour now, trying to figure it out. So I’m declaring it a draw.
As would this. The BMT 109 is currently a top-2 touring ski for me. And while I would be tempted to switch to the 191 Katana, I haven’t skied it, so I can’t say for sure. But I probably would go ahead and do that. And the 177 cm Mantra is still quite good at its job.
NEXT: Cy Whitling’s 3-Ski Quiver Selections