Paul Forward (see Bio)
I. Which currently available skis would you pick for your own 3-ski quiver?
Ski #1: Firm-Snow Resort Ski
Alyeska is my home hill (5 min away), and since I’ll always have a big pow board mounted up with alpine bindings, I can have something a little skinnier in the quiver for firm-snow riding. I love carving at high edge-angles on groomers, smashing through crud, and hop turning down the steepest parts of the hill, even when it’s not powdery. The ski I had the most fun on last year in this sort of terrain was probably the 191 cm Volkl Mantra. The 184 cm Mantra is a little easier to swing around in tight spots and hop turn, but the 191 cm feels like a missile on Alyeska’s big terrain and can still pivot and skid when needed.
Ski #2: Backcountry Touring Powder Ski
I still try to spend a large portion of my season touring for powder, so a lightweight ski that can float well enough in pow but still handle some variable or firm conditions is a must. Lightweight is important, but downhill performance is even more important for me. I spend most of my time touring on skis in the 115-125 mm range during much of the winter, but if I’m going to ride one touring ski all season, I’d probably opt for for something skinnier. From what’s currently out there, the ski that probably best fits this description is the Volkl BMT 109. I’d miss the float of the BMT 122 on the big lines, but the 109 will handle all terrain pretty well and will do better on anything firm.
Ski #3: Mechanized Backcountry / Resort Powder Ski
The final ski will have to be the 191 cm DPS Lotus 124 Alchemist Spoon. I spend 10-12 weeks per year guiding heli skiing for up to 7 days per week. Some days I’m skiing long glacial pow runs, but many days I’m riding steep, deep conditions and sometimes I’m on the biggest lines of my life. I need a strong, stable ski that can handle chundery late-season runouts but still be quick and light underfoot to handle super steep and technical terrain. The Lotus 124 Alchemist does this as well as any ski I’ve used but is still versatile enough that I’m happy to smash around Alyeska on them in just about any condition. The 124 is also light enough that if I was really stuck skiing just 3 pairs all season, I could either insert them for tech bindings or just redrill for big spring touring trips after the heli season is over.
II. What skis were the most difficult to leave off your list?
In reality, I do most of my touring on pretty fat skis. While the BMT 109 is quite versatile, the BMT 122 or Moment Bibby Tour are skis that I’d probably spend a lot more time on each season, but they wouldn’t be as fun for late spring/summer or early season adventures when I’d want a fourth pair of skis like the Salomon MTN Explore 95, 4FRNT Raven, or Black Diamond Helio 105 Carbon.
It’s also hard to leave off a 105-110 mm damp inbounds ski. I could easily go for a Blizzard Cochise or 4FRNT Devastator in place of the Mantra, but as long as I have the DPS Lotus 124 Alchemist for anything soft, I’ll probably take the skinnier Mantra for some hip dragging and firm-snow smashing.
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?
I’m quite impressed by the DPS Lotus 124 Alchemist and I’m excited to check out the Alchemist version of the 189 cm DPS Wailer 106. I wasn’t blown away by the 185 cm Foundation version, but the additional length and different construction could create a very versatile ski.
I’m also cautiously optimistic about the Black Diamond Helio 116 Carbon as it’s weight-to-width ratio is impressive, and if it skis like a fatter version of the Helio 105 in soft snow, it could be a great ski for big days of human-powered pow skiing.
The Black Crows Anima Freebird is probably also a candidate in the category of the Bibby Tour or BMT 122 as a reasonably light pow touring ski. Based on my brief time on the regular Anima, the lighter Freebird version likely shares the same excellent width-to-float ratio but will likely be even less stable on edge than the normal version.
Also, the Black Crows Daemon sounds super interesting to me based on Jonathan’s review. If it’s an overall better ski than the Mantra, sign me up!
IV. If you had to choose a single brand from which to build your 3-ski quiver, which company would you pick?
This is a tough one for me. I could make do with a Volkl quiver consisting of a Mantra for firm lift-served days, a BMT 109 with a tech binding for touring, and a BMT 122 with an alpine binding for heli skiing and inbounds pow skiing. This quiver isn’t ideal, and I’d really miss the Lotus 124 or some other big mountain pow ski, but the 122 is a respectable pow ski and more fun for inbounds pow than the Volkl Three (now called the Bash 135) or Volkl Two, and the Volkl Confession doesn’t have the powder performance that I’m looking for.
A DPS quiver could work with the Lotus 124 Alchemist, Wailer 106 Alchemist, and one of their skinnier frontside carvers, but I’m not sold on the Alchemist construction enough to expect that an Alchemist version of the DPS Cassiar could match a ~100 mm metal-laminate ski.
The company I’m most curious about is Black Crows. The Nocta looks like it could be a sweet heli ski, the Anima Freebird would suffice for soft-snow touring, and the Daemon sounds like a great choice for firm days under the lifts. But I’ve yet to ride any of those skis.
NEXT: Kara Williard’s 3-Ski Quiver Selections