Ski: 2019-2020 Fauna Pioneer, 184 cm
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
Fauna is a new company based out of the UK 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.
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.”
All of Fauna’s skis are designed in the UK, tested around the world, and manufactured in the Czech Republic.
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…
Here’s how we’d characterize the flex pattern of the Pioneer:
In Front of Toe Piece: 8-10
Behind the Heel Piece: 10-9
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.
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.
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…