Ski: 2020-2021 Armada Tracer 98, 180 cm
Available Lengths: 164, 172, 180, 188 cm
Blister’s Measured Tip-to-Tail Length: 179.1 cm
Stated Weight per Ski: 1575 grams
Blister’s Measured Weight per Ski: 1632 & 1637 grams
Stated Dimensions: 132-98-123 mm
Blister’s Measured Dimensions: 131.2-97.3-122.2 mm
Stated Sidecut Radius (180 cm): 18 meters
Measured Tip & Tail Splay (ski decambered): 55 mm / 22 mm
Measured Traditional Camber Underfoot: ~3 mm
Core: Caruba + Titanal Binding Reinforcement + “Adaptive Mesh” & Fiberglass Laminate
Base: “Comp Series” sintered
Factory Recommended Mount Point: -10.05 cm from center; 79.5 cm from tail
[Note: Our review was conducted on the 19/20 Tracer 98, which remains unchanged for 20/21, apart from graphics.]
As we noted in our First Look of the 19/20 Tracer 108, Armada is updating their backcountry-oriented Tracer series for 19/20. The skis are getting lighter and reportedly more durable in order to better compete in the growing backcountry and 50/50 category.
The Tracer 98 got the most significant update of the Tracer skis, so let’s take a closer look to see what’s new with the 19/20 ski.
What Armada says about the Tracer 98
“The crown jewel of the Tracer Series, the Tracer 98 is your everyday off-piste ski built with versatility in mind. A layer of Adaptive Mesh keeps the ride damp and stable while the beveled top-edges create a lighter ski that can handle anything your ski legs throw its way. For 19/20 we paired a superlight, 100% Caruba Wood core to a more durable fiberglass construction making the Tracer 98 even lighter and more durable. The quickest edge-to-edge and best performer on hardpack the Tracer 98 is the true 1-ski quiver from resort to backcountry.”
It’s interesting that Armada calls the Tracer 98 the “crown jewel of the Tracer Series.” I’m not sure what that’s supposed to mean, but given that it’s grouped with the big Tracer 118 CHX, versatile Tracer 108, and ultralight Tracer 88, we’re curious to see what makes the Tracer 98 stand out.
I think it’s also worth highlighting that Armada doesn’t seem to be pigeon-holing the Tracer 98 into the backcountry category, and is instead labeling it as an “everyday off-piste ski.” The Tracer 98 is quite light, so a big question for us is whether it’ll seem like more of a dedicated backcountry tool, or a 50/50 ski you could use inside and outside of the resort.
Lastly, the main update for the 19/20 Tracer 98 is a switch from a poplar / ash core to a full caruba core. Caruba is a lightweight wood and is likely a big factor in the new Tracer 98’s lower weight. Armada also tweaked the laminates of the Tracer 98, ditching the 18/19 ski’s “Xrystal Mesh” innegra weave for their new “Adaptive Mesh” and a lighter fiberglass layup. Armada says the Adaptive Mesh is a single-layer laminate that varies in orientation throughout the ski, with more of a longitudinal orientation near the tips and tails and more of a lateral orientation around the middle. This is similar in theory to K2’s “Carbon Spectral Braid” in that Armada’s Adaptive Mesh changes orientation throughout the ski.
Shape / Rocker Profile
The 19/20 Tracer 98 maintains the same shape and rocker profile as the 18/19 Tracer 98.
Looking at its rocker profile, the Tracer 98 is, again, fairly middle of the road. It has slightly deeper tip and tail rocker lines compared to the Wayback 96 and Salomon MTN Explore 95, but its tip rocker line isn’t as deep (or nearly as splayed out) as the Mythic 97’s. Compared to the Line Vision 98, the Tracer 98 has shallower rocker lines and lower tip and tail splay.
Here’s how we’d characterize the flex pattern of the Tracer 98:
In Front of Toe Piece: 8-9.5
Behind the Heel Piece: 9-8
Like the Tracer 108, the Tracer 98 has a directional, accessible flex pattern. The Tracer 98 has soft tips and shovels, ramps up smoothly to a strong midsection, and finishes with a soft tail. That said, the Tracer 98 is really only soft at the very end of the rockered portion of the tail, and is still pretty stiff behind the heel piece.
Overall, the Tracer 98’s flex pattern is pretty similar to the Vision 98’s. The Tracer 98’s front half feels pretty similar to the MTN Explore 95 and Mythic 97’s, but both of those skis finish with stronger (and flatter) tails compared to the Tracer 98.
The 18/19 Tracer 98 had a stated weight of 1780 grams per ski for the 180 cm length. At that weight, the Tracer 98 sat pretty squarely in the 50/50 category of skis that are light enough for touring, but heavier than more dedicated backcountry skis in order to offer better downhill performance in the resort.
The 19/20 Tracer 98 cuts a significant amount of weight, coming in at around 1630 grams per ski for the 180 cm length. While the new ski still isn’t as light as skis like the MTN Explore 95, Vision 98, Mythic 97, and Wayback 96, the 19/20 Tracer 98’s weight closes the gap between it and some of the dedicated backcountry skis in its class.
For reference, here are a number of our measured weights (per ski in grams) for some notable skis. Keep in mind the length differences to try and keep things apples-to-apples.
1250 & 1256 Fischer Transalp 90 Carbon, 176 cm (18/19–19/20)
1353 & 1358 Majesty Werewolf CLT, 184 cm (17/18–19/20)
1353 & 1376 Blizzard Zero G 95, 185 cm (17/18–18/19)
1390 & 1439 Salomon MTN Explore 88, 184 cm (16/17–19/20)
1446 & 1447 Line Vision 98, 179 cm (19/20)
1469 & 1477 K2 Wayback 96, 177 cm (18/19–19/20)
1476 & 1490 K2 Wayback 106, 179 cm (18/19–19/20)
1477 & 1482 G3 FINDr 102, 184 cm (17/18–18/19)
1512 & 1523 Dynastar Mythic 97, 184 cm (17/18–19/20)
1543 & 1565 Salomon MTN Explore 95, 184 cm (16/17-18/19)
1547 & 1551 Black Diamond Helio 105 Carbon, 185 cm (17/18)
1562 & 1566 Scott Superguide 105, 183 cm (17/18–18/19)
1605 & 1630 Line Vision 108, 183 cm (19/20)
1606 & 1641 Blizzard Zero G 105, 188 cm (19/20)
1629 & 1684 Elan Ripstick 96, 181 cm (17/18–18/19)
1632 & 1637 Armada Tracer 98, 180 cm (19/20)
1633 & 1638 Faction Prime 2.0, 184 cm (18/19–19/20)
1642 & 1651 Renoun Citadel 106, 185 cm, (18/19)
1680 & 1707 Line Sick Day 94, 186 cm (17/18–19/20)
1706 & 1715 Volkl BMT 109, 186 cm (17/18–19/20)
1720 & 1747 Line Sick Day Tourist, 186 cm (16/17)
1734 & 1750 Renoun Endurance 98, 184 cm (18/19)
1745 & 1747 4FRNT Raven, 184 cm (16/17–18/19)
Some Questions / Things We’re Curious About
(1) Given its low weight, will the Tracer 98 offer enough stability for hard skiing inside the resort?
(2) This class of ~100mm-wide skis often try to blend firm and soft-snow performance, so will the Tracer 98 feel skewed toward one end of that spectrum?
(3) The Tracer 98 has a pretty moderate shape, rocker profile, and flex pattern. So what types of skiers (beginner, intermediate, advanced, expert, etc.) will get along best with it?
Bottom Line (For Now)
With their updated Tracer 98, Armada is now offering a lighter ski that — at least when it comes to weight — more closely competes with many of the other lightweight backcountry skis on the market. But unlike many of those skis, the Tracer 98 isn’t super stiff, flat-tailed, or packed full of carbon. Stay tuned for updates on its on-snow performance to see how the new Tracer 98 performs.