Fauna Pioneer

Ski: Fauna Pioneer, 184 cm

Test Location: Crested Butte, Colorado

Days Skied: 15

Available Lengths: 164, 175, 184 cm

Blister’s Measured Tip-to-Tail Length: 184.0 cm

Blister’s Measured Weight per Ski: 1787 & 1793 grams

Stated Dimensions: 125-105-120 mm

Blister’s Measured Dimensions: 123.4-103.2-118.3 mm

Stated Sidecut Radius (184 cm): 22 meters

Measured Tip & Tail Splay (ski decambered): 63.5 mm / 51 mm

Measured Traditional Camber Underfoot: 10 mm

Core: Paulownia/Ash + Carbon & Fiberglass Laminate

Base: Sintered 1.8 mm PTex 3000

Factory Recommended Mount Point: -7.1 cm from center; 84.9 cm from tail

Boots / Bindings: Nordica Strider 120; Dalbello Lupo SP I.D. / Tyrolia AAAttack 13

[Note: Fauna does not assign years to their products, so we’re not labeling the Pioneer with a year, but for reference, it was first made available during the 19/20 season.]

Luke Koppa reviews the Fauna Pioneer for Blister.
Fauna Pioneer
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Review Navigation:  Specs //  First Look //  Full Review //  Bottom Line //  Rocker Pics

Intro

Fauna is a new company that has been reportedly prototyping skis for several years now, but they just made their skis available to the public this year.

Currently, their line consists of the park-oriented, ~85mm-wide Alparka and the ski we’re reviewing here, the “freeride-oriented” Pioneer. Fauna also has three other models in the works, including the ~100mm-wide, freestyle-oriented Omni, ~115mm-wide Ibex that’s similar to the Pioneer, and ~120mm-wide, powder-oriented White Stag.

The Pioneer is Fauna’s more directional, do-everything freeride ski, and we’ll be getting it on snow very soon. For now, check out our video First Look and our full writeup for how this unique ski slots into the current market.

What Fauna says about the Pioneer

“Discover a new country for yourself, whatever the conditions. Be it slack-country, side country, or the back-country, just be prepared for an adventure with the Pioneer. Weighing just 1.7kg/ski this is a perfect ski for skiing all day, whether its out hiking, touring, or simply charging about the resort. The medium length turn radius, versatile rocker and directional sidecut will let you ride with confidence whether there is fresh snow on the ground, days old crust or you’re on the hard-pack. 175 & 184cm available now, 165 available 2020!”

This is pretty standard 1-ski-quiver talk for a ski of this width, but there are a couple things to note. First, as I’ll expand on below, the Pioneer is very light. Fauna says that it’ll work for human-powered or mechanical-powered skiing, but I think they’re right to emphasize its low weight. Other than that, the Pioneer is supposed to float in fresh while also handling firm conditions, which is something many other brands say about their ~105mm-wide skis.

Construction

Just looking at the Pioneer, its construction immediately stands out. With a full wood veneer top sheet, wood sidewalls, and a unique illustration at the tips, the Pioneer is one of the most visually striking skis we’ve seen.

Aesthetics aside, the Pioneer uses a paulownia/ash wood core, a blend of triaxial fiberglass and biaxial carbon fiber, extra-large 2.2×2.5mm edges, walnut wood for the sidewalls, and an extra-thick 1.8 mm sintered PTex 3000 base.

Both the wood veneer top sheet and walnut sidewalls are coated with epoxy to add moisture and UV resistance (the sidewalls are also treated with teak oil). Wood sidewalls are pretty rare these days, and Fauna says this about their choice to move away from the norm: “Unlike ABS or UMWPE plastic sidewalls, the hardwood contributes to the flex of the ski rather than dampening, adding to the liveliness and energy of the ski.”

Shape / Rocker Profile

Apart from its looks, the Pioneer’s shape and rocker profile are probably the two other things that make it very different from most other skis on the market.

First, this ski is very tapered. Fauna’s stated dimensions for the 184 cm version are 115-125-105-120-110 mm, and when doing our measured specs (where we only measure the single widest point at the tips and tails), the widest point at the tip of the Pioneer is about ~33 cm from the end, and the widest point at the tail is about ~24 cm from the end. Those are very deep taper lines, especially for a ski that’s only around 104 mm underfoot. Overall, the Pioneer’s shape looks a bit like a skinnier version of the original Armada JJ.

The Pioneer’s rocker lines aren’t crazy deep or crazy shallow, though it does feature a twinned tail with a deeper rocker line than some of the more directional options in this class. Conversely, the Pioneer’s rocker lines are not nearly as deep as some freestyle skis like the Moment PB&J, Faction Prodigy 3.0, and ON3P Magnus 102 / Jeffrey 108.

What’s really interesting about the rocker profile on the Pioneer is its camber. On our pair, we measured about 10 mm of camber underfoot, which is more than the vast majority of the skis we’ve reviewed. Combined with Fauna’s notes about the wood sidewalls adding to the energy of the ski, that camber makes me think that this ski is going to be extremely poppy. And this next part of the Pioneer’s construction makes me even more confident in that hypothesis…

Flex Pattern

Here’s how we’d characterize the flex pattern of the Pioneer:

Tips: 6
Shovels: 6-7.5
In Front of Toe Piece: 8-10
Underfoot: 10
Behind the Heel Piece: 10-9
Tails: 7.5-6

The ends of the Pioneer (basically just the rockered portions) are quite soft. But once you get to the cambered section where the core profile thickens, this ski stiffens up very quickly. Through most of the cambered section, the Pioneer is very stiff. The transition between the soft ends and stiff middle is pretty quick, but I wouldn’t go quite call it “hinge-like.” That said, this will definitely be something we’ll be keeping an eye on during our on-snow testing.

There aren’t a ton of skis that I can think of with very similar flex patterns (i.e., very soft ends w/ a very quick ramp-up to a quite stiff midsection), but one that comes to mind is the Amplid Facelift 108, a ski I ended up liking very much.

Mount Point

At around -7 cm from true center, the Pioneer’s mount point is more forward than most directional skis, but not quite in the territory of freestyle-oriented options. We suspect that this moderately progressive mount point should make the Pioneer versatile in terms of skiing stances (i.e., forward vs. centered), but we’ll see if that holds true on snow.

Weight

The Pioneer is very light for its size. At an average weight of 1790 grams per ski for the 184 cm length, the Pioneer is in the same weight class as some skis we consider to be dedicated touring options, though there are also some similarly light skis that we recommend for 50/50 use to some skiers.

So we don’t expect the Pioneer to be super damp, but we’re very curious to see just how stable it feels for its weight, and if it’s a ski that most people should only be using for ski touring, or if it’s a viable resort option, too.

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 to keep things apples-to-apples.

1476 & 1490 K2 Wayback 106, 179 cm (18/19–19/20)
1477 & 1482 G3 FINDr 102, 184 cm (17/18–18/19)
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)
1642 & 1651 Renoun Citadel 106, 185 cm, (18/19)
1642 & 1662 Atomic Backland 107, 182 cm (18/19–19/20)
1660 & 1680 Moment Deathwish Tour, 184 cm (19/20)
1692 & 1715 Moment Wildcat Tour 108, 184 cm (18/19–19/20)
1706 & 1715 Volkl BMT 109, 186 cm (17/18–19/20)
1733 & 1735 Blizzard Zero G 108, 185 cm (17/18–18/19)
1745 & 1747 4FRNT Raven, 184 cm (16/17–18/19)
1752 & 1771 Amplid Facelift 108, 189 cm (18/19–19/20)
1755 & 1792 Line Sick Day 104, 179 cm (17/18–19/20)
1787 & 1793 Fauna Pioneer, 184 cm (19/20)
1787 & 1806 WNDR Alpine Intention 110 (cambered), 185 cm (19/20)
1806 & 1862 Armada Tracer 108, 180 cm (19/20)
1814 & 1845 Elan Ripstick 106, 181 cm (17/18–19/20)
1825 & 1904 Black Crows Corvus Freebird, 183.3 cm (17/18–19/20)
1843 & 1847 Head Kore 105, 189 cm (17/18)
1848 & 1903 Line Sick Day 104, 186 cm (17/18–19/20)
1849 & 1922 Elan Ripstick 106, 188 cm (17/18–19/20)
1853 & 1873 WNDR Alpine Intention 110 (reverse camber), 185 cm (19/20)
1923 & 1956 DPS Alchemist Wailer 106, 189 cm (17/18–18/19)
1950 & 1977 Blizzard Rustler 10, 188 cm (17/18–18/19)
1970 & 1979 Atomic Backland FR 109, 189 cm (17/18)
1996 & 2012 Dynastar Legend X106, 188 cm (17/18–19/20)
2005 & 2035 Liberty Origin 106, 187 cm (19/20)
2011 & 2028 Moment Wildcat 108, 184 cm (19/20)
2013 & 2013 Moment Commander 108, 188 cm (18/19)
2030 & 2039 Rossignol Soul 7 HD, 188 cm (17/18–19/20)
2097 & 2113 DPS Alchemist Wailer 106, 189 cm (19/20)

Some Questions / Things We’re Curious About

(1) With so much taper, how stable will the Pioneer feel at high speeds, how solid will it feel on edge, and how loose and pivoty will it be?

(2) Given the Pioneer’s low weight, how will it compare to similarly light skis in terms of damping and stability?

(3) On that note, is the Pioneer a dedicated touring ski, a 50/50 ski, or could it work as a daily driver in the resort?

(4) Given the high contrast between the soft tips / tails and very strong midsection, how intuitive will the Pioneer’s flex pattern feel?

(5) The Pioneer is beautiful, but are its wood sidewalls and wood veneer top sheet durable?

Bottom Line (For Now)

The Fauna Pioneer brings something very different to the table. It’s quite light, very tapered, pretty strong with soft extremities, and it tops all of that off with a unique construction and aesthetic. Stay tuned for our full review for more info…

Flash Review

Blister Members can now check out our Flash Review of the Pioneer for our initial impressions. Become a Blister member now to check out this and all of our Flash Reviews, plus get exclusive deals and discounts on skis and other gear, personalized gear recommendations from us, and more.

FULL REVIEW

This year Sam Shaheen and I spent time on Fauna’s lightweight Pioneer in the resort and in the backcountry around Crested Butte. And given the weight and target market of this ski, we’ll be discussing its performance both as an inbounds and backcountry tool. So let’s dive in:

Powder

Overall, the Pioneer feels most at home in softer conditions, and unsurprisingly, we had the most fun on it in fresh snow.

Looking at the very tapered shape of the Pioneer, I wasn’t surprised to find that it doesn’t float to the top of deep snow very easily (there’s not much surface area in the shovels). But like similarly tapered skis, the Pioneer also feels far from hooky, and is still very easy to maneuver when it’s under the snow. It doesn’t instantly rise above pow, but I also never had any “over the handlebars” experiences on the Pioneer.

Luke Koppa reviews the Fauna Pioneer for Blister
Luke Koppa on the Fauna Pioneer, Crested Butte, CO.

If I had room to make GS turns in fresh snow, the Pioneer’s tips would eventually rise, and it is totally capable of making big, carved turns in powder. But I felt like the ski really shined in tighter terrain where pivots and slarves were nearly effortless. In soft snow, there’s nothing grabby or difficult about this ski (despite its 10 mm of camber underfoot), which does set it apart from some ~105mm-wide skis that might plane up a bit easier but are more difficult to turn in deeper snow.

My favorite runs on the Pioneer were some of the “mini-pillows” (basically just rocky ridges) we have in Crested Butte, where I could actually make mid-line adjustments on the ski rather than being forced to commit to a straight-line and hope I came out on the other side with my skis under my feet and my head not under the snow.

So I wouldn’t recommend this ski if you want your 105mm-wide skis to quickly plane up to the top of deep snow (e.g., Liberty Origin 106), but for those who love to throw their skis sideways in fresh, the Pioneer is great for that.

Soft Chop

At ~1790 grams per ski for the 184 cm version, the Pioneer is a very lightweight ski. But I’d also say it performs pretty well for its weight, especially if the snow is still somewhat soft.

The Pioneer’s combination of a very tapered shape and a very stiff flex pattern through most of the ski let it slice through soft chop quite well for its weight. It doesn’t do a great job of blowing straight through patches of chop, but as long as I wasn’t trying to make super long turns, I could ski pretty aggressively on the Pioneer in soft chop. Where some skis feel like blunt instruments that you just mash into whatever lies in your path (e.g., the skis in the “All-Mountain Chargers” section of our Winter Buyer’s Guide), the Pioneer feels more like a precision tool that is well suited to quick adjustments and subtle inputs from the skier.

To be clear — this is very far from a charger, and those who appreciate a ski that blasts through everything (especially rough, inbounds conditions) should look to much, much heavier skis with less tapered shapes.

Luke Koppa & Sam Shaheen review the Fauna Pioneer for Blister
Sam Shaheen on the Fauna Pioneer, Crested Butte, CO.

But for those who like to slash and pop their way through soft chop and prioritize maximum quickness and maneuverability over stability, the Pioneer makes more sense. It definitely required that I ski more light-on-my-feet when coming from 2000+ g skis (e.g., Rossignol Soul 7 HD), but the Pioneer’s design works very well for that style.

The other nice thing about the Pioneer is that, while it’s super tapered and easy to slash and pivot, it doesn’t have a very tight sidecut radius like some of the super tapered skis of old (e.g., Armada JJ, Rossignol S7, DPS Wailer 112). So when you find some clean, forgiving snow, the Pioneer actually feels pretty comfortable making long, fast turns. It’s nice to have options.

Firm Chop / Crud

The Pioneer’s preference for a light-on-your feet style is most noticeable on firm, rough snow. Again, I was surprised that this lightweight ski didn’t feel harsher. With apologies to the English language, I’d say that it lacks the “ping-y” or “carbon-y” feel that you find with a lot of lightweight skis. So I think its fair to say that its suspension / damping is quite good for its weight.

That said, I think those super tapered tips are the main thing that holds this ski back when it comes to skiing fast in rough snow. While it does a good job of absorbing impacts for how light it is, the tips are pretty prone to getting knocked off track and deflect in inconsistent conditions.

The good news is that, just as with soft snow, the Pioneer is a super maneuverable ski with an incredibly low swing weight, so making quick adjustments on it is really easy. Most skis as light as the Pioneer won’t let you blast through rough snow anyway, so it’s nice when skis this light make it easy to change direction on the fly.

So if you tend to make a lot of turns and ski at slower speeds when the snow in the resort is rough, the Pioneer can work. And in the backcountry where I basically never just charge through rough snow (e.g., sastrugi or random wind-affected patches), I’d be pretty happy on the Pioneer.

Moguls, Trees, & Tight Terrain

When the snow was remotely soft, I really liked the Pioneer in tight spots. It was super easy to pivot, incredibly easy to flick around from my ankles, and supportive enough for me to get over the shovels in steep sections.

At first, there were a few times skiing firm bumps where the area behind the bindings on the Pioneer felt surprisingly strong. On firm snow, the tails hooked up a bit when I got backseat, and it took me a couple turns to get back in control. But after detuning the contact point of the tail, this issue went away for me. The ski is still very strong through its cambered section and it’s not super accepting of backseat skiing. But as long as I stayed centered or forward, the Pioneer felt quick and pretty easy in tight terrain.

For skiers who don’t tend to get back on their tails very often, the Pioneer makes for a very nimble ski in bumps, trees, etc. If that tight terrain is very firm, just as in firm chop, the Pioneer will get knocked around a good bit. But in smooth conditions in tight spots, the Pioneer will reward dynamic skiers.

Groomers & Firm, Smooth Snow

This section requires a caveat: after talking with Fauna about our experience on the Pioneer on firm, smooth snow and looking at the ski, we really wanted to try it with a fresh tune and a more aggressive base bevel. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to try it with a new tune before all the ski resorts shut down for COVID-19 reasons, so we’ll need to update this review when we can get back out on it with a fresh tune.

But skiing the Pioneer with the factory tune, the ski felt pretty good on firm, smooth snow when either pivoting turns or making big, Super-G-ish turns at moderate edge angles. Trying to make carved turns smaller than that, however, was a bit unpredictable on the ski. Sam Shaheen and I both struggled to confidently lay it over and make GS turns on firm snow, finding that the ski required a very specific stance to confidently get it on edge.

Overall, we’d say the Pioneer has a preference for a centered stance on firm snow. The ski felt prone to sliding out if we tried to drive its shovels very hard on firm snow (which wasn’t an issue in other conditions). If we skied more neutral, the ski felt more predictable, but we still had a difficult time really laying it over.

That said, the Pioneer is still totally happy to slide turns on firm snow and doing so is very easy and predictable. I had little difficulty carving it on smooth snow that was the least bit soft (it’s a blast on corn and windbuff). And there’s a chance the issues we encountered will be gone with a new tune.

But given the shape of this ski, it’s still safe to say that those who love skis that pull them into a turn and who want their lightweight, ~105mm-wide ski to rip groomers have several better options.

Playfulness

The Pioneer is super poppy; it feels ridiculously light in the air; it’s very easy to throw sideways; it can be skied very centered; it feels solid on landings; and it skis switch pretty well. So yeah, overall, the Pioneer is a very playful ski.

Luke Koppa reviews the Fauna Pioneer for Blister
Sam Shaheen on the Fauna Pioneer, Crested Butte, CO.

One of the only drawbacks here is the very stiff, cambered section of the Pioneer. Butters / presses took some getting used to, mostly because the cambered portion of the Pioneer is super stiff, while the rockered portions are quite soft. Buttering the ski in fresh snow was pretty intuitive and the tips and tails are far from hooky, but figuring out the leverage point for firm-snow butters was a bit tricky (and as I’ve noted before, I’m pretty bad at butters anyway, so take this with a grain of salt).

Other than that, this is a very playful ski, and I think it’d feel pretty intuitive for skiers used to skis with mount points around -4 cm or closer to center.

Who’s It For?

Intermediate to expert skiers looking for a very lightweight, nimble, maneuverable ski.

If you want a ~105mm-wide ski that carves very well on firm snow, or blows through rough snow, or lets you drive the shovels super hard on firmer conditions, this is not your ski. Those who prioritize damping / suspension and stability at speed in rough inbounds conditions have many better, heavier options.

But the Pioneer could work very well for those looking for a 50/50 ski that they’ll use mostly in soft-ish conditions in the resort, and in a variety of conditions in the backcountry. And its low weight could make it a very appealing option as a dedicated touring ski.

The big things that set the Pioneer apart from the other skis on the market are its low weight, its tapered shape, long-ish sidecut radius, and strong flex pattern (and it’s beautiful top sheet). Its low weight and tapered shape make it feel super quick and maneuverable, while its radius and strong midsection also make it feel comfortable making longer, faster turns when the conditions are good. So if you like to make big turns when the snow is nice and the terrain allows it — while maintaining easy maneuverability in tighter spots — the Pioneer warrants consideration.

Bottom Line

The Fauna Pioneer is a very lightweight ski that blends much of the quick and easy nature of very tapered shapes with some of the stability and versatility of less radical designs. The result won’t be for everyone, but for the right skiers, it offers something not found in many other skis.

Deep Dive Comparisons

Become a Blister Member or Deep Dive subscriber to check out our Deep Dive comparisons of the Pioneer to see how it compares to the Moment PB&J, Line Sir Francis Bacon, Sego Big Horn 106, Rossignol Soul 7 HD, Line Sick Day 104, WNDR Intention 110, Moment Wildcat 108, Salomon QST 106, Liberty Origin 106, Moment Wildcat Tour 108, Line Vision 108, Amplid Facelift 108, 4FRNT Raven, Renoun Citadel 106, Atomic Backland 107, Blizzard Zero G 105, & Black Diamond Helio 105.

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19 comments on “Fauna Pioneer”

  1. Also makes me think of Zai skis in Switzerland, they use wood veneers, though do not recall if their edges are wood too. Bizarrely they also use some granite, which I can never quite get my head round! Be keen to hear how the Faunas go – as a Brit it’s good to hear that there are at least 2 ski manufacturers in the UK (albeit production may be elsewhere)

    • The zai skis are a wild concept. It would definitely be interesting to see what they’re like. Thanks for the support. While our production models are produced elsewhere, all our prototypes are hand built in the UK first, and we’d like to expand to production of some more niche skis here in the future.

  2. “Manufactured in the Czech republic” — by whom? Sounds a bit like the designers followed the wood/glass/carbon construction of the Fischer Wateas from several years back, while adding the wood veneer topsheet & wood sidewall ideas from Igneous. Graphics appeal aside, it would be good to know the QC from the actual maker and the expected longevity. Are these skis that will feel & perform well for 30 days? 50 days? 100? More? There’s more to making a good ski than cobbling together ideas from others and making slick graphics on the skis — unless you’re someone who just needs latest/hottest/rarest design and ski only 10 days/year when it’s perfect snow, and sell off your hottest/greatest after 20 days’ time. But maybe that just described the biggest or most eager portion of the buyer/consumer sector, I don’t know.

    • Our skis are produced by a small factory called Praefect. They produce skis boards and kite/wake boards for a few small companies. I went out to Czech for the beginning of production of the pioneers and worked through some of the finer issues I had in samples and early run skis like carbon direction affecting base flatness and how the tip spacer interacted with the end of the edge and sidewall, so I have had a real hand in making sure they are as close to the intentions and vision of the hand built prototypes. On personal pairs I have 100+ days without major issue or faults and would expect that from the rest of the production. They also come with a 2 year manufacture defect warranty as required in the EU.

    • While I like new approach, niche design and so on, I am still not sure if these small companies can make the skis that ski twice as a mass produced skis – given that the price is usually doubled.

      Btw Czech have pretty good ski factories and make skis for big players.

      • Yep, we have the same question, which is why we’re eager to get it on snow and see how it compares to some of the more established players in the market. But FWIW, the Pioneer retails for €575, which isn’t all that out of the ordinary.

          • None of our skis will be ever €1k+ that’s a promise. It’s one of the reasons we’ve prototyped without sale for 5 years. We wanted to hone the designs and then work with the factory to get affordable skis which don’t compromise on our original intentions which was to provide beautiful, high quality and performance skis without the custom ski price tag. I didn’t get into skiing and freeride with all the gear available to me because of prohibitive cost and so didn’t want to add to that problem.

    • The topsheet shouldn’t have any affect on performance as far as I know. It’s the wood sidewalls that are going to make a difference according to Fauna.

  3. You guys should check out Smart Skis! They’re based in Vermont and it’s all handmade stuff! Incredible quality and I think they do customs!! I got a pair and I’m in love

  4. Hi,
    Another small company using wood veneers as topsheets – custom designs also available – is PUSU Skis from Finland.
    Website: https://pusu.ski/
    They also have a splitboard in their range.
    Manufacturing done in Puuppola, Finland :-)

  5. That combination of stiff center flex and high camber looks unusual to me. Usually even the “chargiest” freeride skis have one or the other but not both (for example the Pro Rider has a fair bit of camber but softer flex, while the Dictator 3.0 is stiffer but fairly flat). This sounds like it has the center section of an FIS GS.

    As you noted in the on-snow, the problem with that combination is that lighter skiers will require dynamic pressure for initiation, either from old-school “up and down” or modern diagonal initiation (i.e. glide the skis up on edge and then initiate, such that the turning forces plus gravity are enough to bend the ski). The problem IMO is that neither of those is really a suitable technique everywhere on the mountain. A 220-pounder like me would probably enjoy it, though.

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