Firm, Bumpy Conditions
Firm, bumpy terrain is often the place where stiff, lightweight skis start to become much less predictable due to an increased tendency for deflection. Despite spending most of my time skiing the Explore 95 with the Atomic Backland Carbon (a relatively stiff boot that’s lacking in progressive flex / dampening), I was surprised how composed these skis remained even when pushed hard.
Compared to some of the similarly lightweight or lighter DPS skis (I have brief time on their Tour 99) or the Dynafit Manaslu, the MTN Explore 95 is much less flappable at speed in hard, bumpy snow. The G3 Ion bindings do have some elasticity which I’m sure helps, but I attribute most of this to the construction of the ski. I also think that some of this predictability and stability is related to the relatively long sidecut profile and an excellent balance between the camber and tip rocker.
It’s been awhile since I’ve skied pow on a 95mm-wide ski (although I still remember how floaty and fat my 95mm-wide Seth Pistols felt in powder circa 2003), and was surprised how much fun I had on the MTN Explore 95 in boot top, low-density pow while touring in the Mt. Cheeseman backcountry of New Zealand. I was generally able to keep the tips up, and with a little effort, could break them free into most turn shapes.
I made six runs on the same slope that afternoon, and swapped out onto the G3 Synapse 109. It only took a few turns on the Synapse 109 to realize that its heavily rocked and tapered shape offered much more flotation and playfulness in powder than the MTN Explore 95 (the Synapse 109 is not only wider, it has a much more powder-specific shape than the Explore 95), but at least in relatively shallow, low-density snow, I still had blast on the Salomons. Compared to similarly categorized skis like the Dynafit Manaslu, I prefer the MTN Explore 95 (especially at higher speeds) due its increased stability and just the right amount of tip rocker to stay on top.
To me, 95 mm is about as narrow as I’d want to go when breakable crust is on the menu for the day. Any skinnier, and my 190 lbs plus gear makes it a lot more difficult to work my tips and downhill edges up onto the crust for some semblance of control.
As is the theme for me on the MTN Explore 95, I’ve found them to be highly predictable even when the snow is highly unpredictable. This characteristic alone puts them high on my list of skis that I want to be on when bopping around in serious terrain and no fall zones, and makes them a great choice for endeavors that might verge on ski mountaineering (usually involving ropework and highly technical, exposed ascents and descents).
Relative to their weight and intended use, the MTN Explore 95 provides a remarkably stable and predictable ride in soft or deep chop, even when the snow is set up and a bit heavier. That said, regardless of whether I was skiing them with the Atomic Backland Carbon or the Salomon MTN Lab, the MTN Explore 95 certainly isn’t going to be on anyone’s list of great skis for charging around the resort off-piste. They are reasonably damp and the medium-stiff flex provides more power than expected, but compared to any dedicated resort ski or even some other lightweight (but not quite as light) touring skis like the Blizzard Zero G 108, the MTN Explore 95 gets knocked around quite a bit.
Smooth Corn / Groomers
Down in New Zealand I had the opportunity to ski groomers a few times, and I even spent some time arcing around on the MTN Explore 95 coupled with the Atomic Backland Carbon boot.
On firm groomers, this combination worked well enough to carve some clean turns on hard, refrozen corduroy, and was reasonably fun—though I never felt like I had quite enough power out of the boot to really bend the skis into the top of the turn. On sun-softened groomers or smooth backcountry corn runs, however, the MTN Explore 95 really came alive with powerful, carved turns and excellent grip.
As of now, it will be hard to force myself to grab any other ski this spring if I get out for some big days of smooth corn carving.
I love bouncing down tight, steep terrain, and have written about the nuances of different types of skis for this type of skiing. Typically I prefer a ski with minimal early tip taper, and a smooth, relatively low tip rocker profile. This combination allows for easy pivoting on the shovel of the ski, and gives the skier the option of landing on a hard or soft edge depending on the desired turn shape and speed of descent.
The MTN Explore 95 exhibits these design features as nicely as any ski I’ve used, and as expected, is an exemplary ski for jump turning down steep terrain, whether firm or soft.
Backcountry skiers looking for a remarkably stable and predictable ski, and who don’t mind an extra ~300 grams (in comparison to other companies similar offerings) should put the MTN Explore 95 high on their list. There is a large and growing assortment of 90-100mm-wide lightweight touring skis, and the MTN Explore 95 sits on the slightly heavier, more powerful side of the spectrum.
I am very interested to see how the MTN Explore 95 stacks up to skis like the Blizzard Zero G 95 and the Volkl BMT 94, but I suspect that the MTN Explore 95 will continue to be a top choice for me when I’m headed out for a long day and I’m not sure what sort of conditions I’ll encounter.
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