3-Ski Quiver: Reviewers’ Choices (17/18)

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.

Blister Review's 3-Ski Quiver Selections
HEAD Monster 98


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).

Blister Review's 3-Ski Quiver Selections
ON3P Kartel 108


Ski #3: Moment Blister Pro, 190 cm

For all the reasons.

Blister Review's 3-Ski Quiver Selections
Moment Blister Pro


Ski #4: 4FRNT Raven, 184 cm (my dedicated touring ski w/ Marker Kingpin)

My current favorite touring ski.

Blister Review's 3-Ski Quiver Selections
4FRNT Raven


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).

Blister Review's 3-Ski Quiver Selections
J Skis Masterblaster


Ski #2: Moment Blister Pro, 190 cm

For all the reasons.

Blister Review's 3-Ski Quiver Selections
Moment Blister Pro


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.

Blister Review's 3-Ski Quiver Selections
4FRNT Raven


II. What skis were the most difficult to leave off your list?

HEAD Monster 88, 184 cm

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…

#3: 189 cm and 182 cm Atomic Backland FR 109

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.

4th — Liberty: Origin 96 (touring); Variant 113; Origin 116

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.

3rd — LINE: Sick Day 104, 186 cm; Sick Day 114, 190 cm; Pescado

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.

Tie for 1st — HEAD: Monster 88; Monster 108; Kore 117 (with Marker Kingpin)

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.

Tie for 1st — Volkl: Mantra, 177 cm; V-Werks Katana, 184 – 191 cm; BMT 109, 186 cm

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


21 comments on “3-Ski Quiver: Reviewers’ Choices (17/18)”

  1. FYI about the BMT series and non-Marker binding compatibility: I’ve mounted the BMT 94 (also only made for Marker bindings) with the Vipec, but used inserts and haven’t had any issues to date. I’ve put 7 days on them last spring, Expert skier, style: 160 lbs and ski in a playful directional way, but fairly hard. I’ve even subjected them to a day of resort laps in firm, cruddy snow, that was just beginning to thaw a bit and they held up. They actually skied surprisingly well for their low weight..

    You guys really should have reviewed the BMT 94 before it was replaced with the now cambered BMT 90.. The 94 is soooo much fun as a narrow touring ski for firm / spring conditions. It has tenacious grip in firm snow, you wouldn’t even know it’s fully rockered! Until you try the first ankle initiated slarve in spring corn..

  2. Great write up, I was hoping you guys would drop a quiver article this year.

    There were a few mentions of using multiple binding patterns on the same ski with inserts. Have you noticed any change in performance or stiffness when there are multiple insert patterns drilled?

  3. The love for blizzards appears to be over compared to the last couple of years…. was it that good of a snow year in the US? ;)

    • For the Western side of the U.S., yeah. Some Californian resorts were open until August, and when the temps around 2 hours away were over 100f.

  4. Awesome stuff. Surprised the Nordica Enforcer 100 didn’t make anybody’s cut, since it reviewed well here (and everywhere else).

    Looking forward to the A/B of Monster 88 and 98. The 88 is on my short list, but may have a bit too much overlap with the Enforcer 100 sitting in my garage.

    • Hi, Tom – I mention the Enforcer 100 and offer my explanation. It’s a fantastic ski, no question. And others will prefer it to my pick – it’s such an easy ski to recommend.

      As for the Monster 88, I personally don’t think it has too much overlap with the Enforcer 100. On really firm snow, the Monster 88 blows the Enforcer 100 away in terms of stability at speed. Whereas in deeper snow, the Enforcer 100 would blow the Monster 88 away. The Monster 88 is simply one of the best / burliest firm-snow skis we’ve been on. I’m not 100% ready to put it in the same category as the Salomon X-Drive 8.8 … but I’m about 99.2% ready to do that. It’s really, really good.

  5. Pretty cool segment! Dialing in my 3 ski quiver has been a hobby of mine to kill time at work forever. It’d be nice if you mixed in a lady reviewer. I personally don’t like most skis over 115 underfoot because they drive me more than I do them. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a strong ass lady and am by no means small but still it’s often too much much ski for me. Since most of these reviews had skis bigger than that I’d like to hear some lady’s opinions. Cmon at least add one before you publish an article like this…. we are 40% of the market.

  6. Jonathan,

    The quiver section is my favorite. Quick question for you. My travel quiver is Kastle MX84 185cm and Bibby Pro 190cm. What would you choose for the middle spot the Masterblaster or the Kartel. I am 6′ 220 expert. Ski mainly Utah and Wyoming. Thanks Steve

    • Hi, Steve – for this middle ski, the more you care about its carving / groomer performance, the more I’d opt for the Masterblaster. Beyond that, you just have to make the decision: the Masterblaster is the better firm-conditions ski, but it can also handle some deeper snow – easily 6-12″, where I, at least, wouldn’t hesitate to then break out the Bibby. The Kartel 108 is going to overlap more with the Bibby, but it’s certainly a fun, all-mountain ride. So I’d think you’d want to go with it the more interested you are in — when you’re not skiing the Bibby — opting for 1 of 2 very different styles of ski, the MX84 (traditional carver) or the Kartel 108 (more versatile, way more playful, all-mountain ski). I.e., the MX84 anchors the groomer / carving side of the quiver. The Bibby anchors your deep snow / variable conditons end. Now just decide where you’re willing to overlap a bit / have zero performance gaps (MX84 + Kartel 108 + Bibby, or MX84 + Masterblaster + Bibby). Two good options, just depends now on your preferences.

  7. I am surprised you picked the Kartel 108 over the Wrenegade 108 given you prefer directional skis. I am assuming the bump up in playfulness of the Kartel is greater than the bump up in stability of the Wrenegade. Is that a correct assumption or were you looking for greater differentiation between skis in your three ski quiver?

  8. I realize this is not really what blister is about but I’m surprised that even though you pick skis specifically for groomers nobody chose an actual SL/GS carving ski like the Fischer RC4, Stöckli Laser, Nordica Dobermann etc.
    Has any of you ever skied something like that?

    • You and I may be in a club of two here at Blister, but I enjoy skiing my Head SLs and Titans as much as my wider skis.

      It doesn’t hurt that these skis usually come out on bluebird, windless days, and that crowds on those days tend to run around 20% of a good powder day!

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