Ski: 2020-2021 4FRNT Raven with TourLock skin system, 184 cm
Available Lengths: 170, 177, 184, 190 cm
Blister’s Measured Tip-to-Tail Length: 182.2 cm
Blister’s Measured Weight per Ski: 1736 & 1767 grams
Stated Dimensions: 121-104-112 mm
Blister’s Measured Dimensions: 120.5-103.1-111.7 mm
Stated Sidecut Radius (all lengths): 29 meters
Measured Tip & Tail Splay (ski decambered): 64 mm / 25.5 mm
Measured Traditional Camber Underfoot: 0 mm
Core: aspen + maple underfoot + carbon stringers + fiberglass laminate
Base: 1.3 mm sintered
Factory Recommended Mount Point: -5.7 cm from center; 85.4 cm from tail
I’ve been singing the praises of the 4FRNT Raven for years now as a do-everything, backcountry-touring ski, and Eric Freson and I go into a lot of detail in our review of the previous Raven. But the short story is that it offers an excellent blend of weight and downhill performance, particularly in weird, grabby, or otherwise challenging backcountry conditions.
For the 2020-2021 season, 4FRNT is adding a new edition of the Raven, which will be available alongside the standard Raven that’s unchanged from the 19/20 version, except for some new graphics. Both versions will be available for sale in August of 2020.
If you want to listen to the story of why and how 4FRNT and Pomoca came up with this new “TourLock” Raven, you should listen to my conversation with Eric Hjorleifson — episode 100 of our GEAR:30 podcast — who played a major role in the design.
I got several days on the TourLock version of the Raven this spring in Crested Butte, and Blister Members can check out my Flash Review for my initial impressions.
But here, we’ll go into what makes this special edition of the Raven different, how its design compares to the past iterations of the Raven, and how it compares to the rest of the market.
4FRNT Raven: a Brief History
The Raven has undergone several changes over the years, so first, we want to clarify what’s changed and which versions we’re discussing.
- 14/15, v1 Raven: First iteration; only available in a 184 cm length; dual-radius sidecut; edge-to-edge carbon laminate at the tips and tails.
- 15/16, v1 Raven: 184 cm version remained unchanged; introduced a 190 cm version that used a single-radius sidecut; core construction unchanged from 14/15.
- 16/17, v2 Raven: 184 cm length now used the same single-radius design of the previous 190 cm length; both versions feature a new, lighter wood core and new laminate construction with full-length carbon stringers tip to tail, but no longer edge-to-edge. The 184 cm v2 Raven is the one we reviewed here.
- 17/18, v2 Raven: No changes, apart from graphics.
- 18/19, v2 Raven: added a 177 cm length; switched factories, though with no reported changes to the construction, apart from graphics.
- 19/20, v2 Raven: added a 170 cm length; no other changes, apart from graphics.
- 20/21, v2 Raven + v2 Raven with TourLock skin system: no changes to the “standard” Raven from 19/20; added the TourLock edition, which we’re reviewing here.
So, according to 4FRNT, the standard Raven reportedly hasn’t changed (except for the graphics) since the 16/17 “v2” version we reviewed.
That said, there had been some reports that, when 4FRNT switched factories for the 18/19 season, the rocker profile had changed.
The TourLock version of the 20/21 Raven that we have is reportedly the same as the 18/19–19/20 versions in terms of rocker profile. This has given us a chance to evaluate those rumors, in addition to trying out the TourLock climbing skin system itself.
Alright, now let’s get into what actually makes the TourLock version of the Raven different:
TourLock Skin System
The Raven with the TourLock skin system features a cutout near the tail that pairs with pre-cut, custom, Pomoca Free Pro 2.0 climbing skins that you can purchase with the Raven through 4FRNT. 4FRNT is calling that cutout the “HojiHole” (insert shrug emoji) and you slot a custom aluminum tab at the tail of the climbing skins through the hole, rather than a more traditional tail clip that would attach to the very end of the tail.
The main goals of the TourLock system are to make skin attachment more secure and easier to use, as well as decreasing the weight and size of the climbing skins since the pre-cut skins for the TourLock Raven are notably shorter than they’d be if you cut them for the full length of the ski to attach to the end of the tail. 4FRNT also says that the TourLock system is better in terms of reducing the amount of snow that gets under the skins, whether while skinning or when you need to jam the tails of the skis into the snow during transitions.
Since the Raven is a reverse-camber ski with pretty deep rocker lines, 4FRNT (and Hoji himself) decided that they didn’t need a full tip-to-tail skin. So the TourLock system and the custom skins are designed to maximize grip where you can actually use it (around the middle of the ski), while getting rid of the extra bulk and weight of the skin in areas where you don’t need it (at the very ends of the ski, especially the tail).
Other than the cutout and custom skins available with it, the Raven with the TourLock system is identical to the “standard” 20/21 Raven.
Shape / Rocker Profile
One of our biggest questions when we received the 20/21 Raven was whether or not its rocker profile would look significantly different than the 16/17 Raven we reviewed, which was made in a different factory but that was supposed to be identical to the Ravens produced in the new factory from 18/19 and on.
And I am very happy to report that, while there are some subtle differences, they are just that — subtle.
The Raven has always been a reverse-camber ski, and the main difference we notice between the 16/17 Raven and the 20/21 version is that the 20/21 ski’s tip and tail rocker lines rise a bit earlier, with a slightly shorter “flat” section underfoot. That said, this is really hard to detect unless you have the two versions right next to each other and are looking very closely. The bottom line is that they’re very similar.
Subtle differences aside, the Raven still stands out due to its reverse-camber profile, which is fairly rare for ~104mm-wide skis.
Compared to the reverse-camber version of the WNDR Alpine Intention 110, the Raven has much less of a “flat” section underfoot, with rocker lines that start much deeper / closer to the middle of the ski. The Raven’s rocker profile is fairly similar to the Volkl BMT 109, though the BMT 109’s rocker profile features a more slow and subtle rise of the tips and tails, with the base staying pretty close to the snow until the ends of the ski.
The 20/21 Raven’s shape is basically identical to the 16/17 version we have. This ski still looks very straight, with a moderately tapered tip and a more “pointed,” tapered tail. It’s again pretty similar to the BMT 109 and Intention 110 in these regards, and looks much “straighter” than more traditionally shaped skis with tighter sidecut radii like the Blizzard Zero G 105, Volkl Blaze 106, and Line Vision 108.
Here’s how we’d characterize the flex pattern of the 20/21 Raven with the TourLock system:
In Front of Toe Piece: 9-10
Behind the Heel Piece: 10-9
And here’s how we’d characterize the flex pattern of the 16/17 Raven:
In Front of Toe Piece: 9-10
Behind the Heel Piece: 10-9
These two versions of the Raven feel extremely similar, with the only noticeable difference being that the 20/21 version’s tips are a tiny bit stiffer at the very end. The 20/21 Raven still has pretty accessible tips and tails, but with a pretty quick, smooth increase in stiffness as you move from the ends to the middle of the ski (which is quite strong). The Raven’s tail is still a bit stiffer than the tips, but it’s not a huge difference, which we like. We’ve found that the fairly symmetrical or “round” flex pattern of the Raven works very well with its shape, rocker profile, and mount point.
As we alluded to above, the Raven is a pretty “straight” ski. All lengths of the Raven have a 29-meter stated sidecut radius, which is quite long compared to most other skis on the market. Combined with its reverse-camber profile, we think this is a big part of why the Raven is so predictable in unpredictable snow conditions. It also means that it’s far from the best ski for carving tight turns on firm snow — which, as I argued in my previous review of the Raven, should not be viewed as a criticism of this ski, since if you want to carve tight little turns, there are a zillion other skis on the market that will happily do that, while there are few skis on the market that do what the Raven does.
No real change here; the 20/21 Raven’s recommended mount point of -5.7 cm from true center is quite close to the 16/17 version’s -5.4 cm. This is still a ski with a fairly progressive, forward mount point, but it’s also a ski that has been versatile in terms of accepting both a forward and more centered stance.
The weight of the TourLock Raven itself isn’t drastically different than the standard, 16/17 version we weighed, though the custom Pomoca Free Pro 2.0 skins are very light at 175 g per skin for the 184 cm version of the Raven.
At an average weight of 1751 g per ski for the 184 cm length, the TourLock Raven is a pretty lightweight ski. Just like the standard Raven, it’s definitely not the absolute lightest touring ski, but that’s a big part of why many of us like it so much. It’s light enough for long days on the skin track, but it also offers much better suspension and overall downhill performance than ultralight skis.
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.
1337 & 1347 Movement Alp Tracks 106, 185 cm (20/21)
1476 & 1490 K2 Wayback 106, 179 cm (18/19–20/21)
1446 & 1447 Line Vision 98, 179 cm (19/20–20/21)
1489 & 1545 G3 FINDr 102, 179 cm (19/20–20/21)
1543 & 1565 Salomon MTN Explore 95, 184 cm (16/17–20/21)
1547 & 1551 Black Diamond Helio 105 Carbon, 185 cm (17/18–19/20)
1605 & 1630 Line Vision 108, 183 cm (19/20–20/21)
1606 & 1641 Blizzard Zero G 105, 188 cm (19/20–20/21)
1642 & 1651 Renoun Citadel 106, 185 cm, (18/19–19/20)
1642 & 1662 Atomic Backland 107, 182 cm (18/19–20/21)
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 (17/18–20/21)
1725 & 1774 Faction Agent 3.0, 180 cm (20/21)
1736 & 1767 4FRNT Raven TourLock, 184 cm (20/21)
1745 & 1747 4FRNT Raven, 184 cm (16/17–20/21)
1752 & 1771 Amplid Facelift 108, 189 cm (18/19–20/21)
1784 & 1790 Volkl Blaze 106, 186 cm (20/21)
1787 & 1793 Fauna Pioneer, 184 cm (19/20–20/21)
1787 & 1806 WNDR Alpine Intention 110 – Cambered, 185 cm (19/20)
1806 & 1862 Armada Tracer 108, 180 cm (19/20–20/21)
1818 & 1823 Folsom Cash 106 Carbon, 184 cm (20/21)
1820 & 1821 Majesty Havoc, 186 cm (20/21)
1825 & 1904 Black Crows Corvus Freebird, 183 cm (16/17–19/20)
1828 & 1842 Elan Ripstick 106 Black Edition, 188 cm (19/20)
1848 & 1903 Line Sick Day 104, 186 cm (17/18–20/21)
1918 & 1931 Sego Condor 108, 187 cm (19/20–20/21)
1951 & 1953 Elan Ripstick 106, 188 cm (20/21)
1959 & 1975 Volkl V-Werks Katana, 184 cm (15/16–20/21)
Some Questions / Things We’re Curious About
(1) The rocker profile of the 20/21 Raven looks subtly different vs. the 16/17 version we previously reviewed, so will those small differences actually be noticeable on snow?
(2) The TourLock skin system features a significantly smaller surface area of climbing skin material, so will it offer noticeably less grip on firm skin tracks?
(3) On the other hand, will the TourLock Raven, with its custom skins, glide noticeably better than if you were using a full, tip-to-tail skin?
Bottom Line (For Now)
The new TourLock version of the 4FRNT Raven could make this versatile backcountry ski even easier to use thanks to the new skin-clip system, and better for longer days thanks to the shorter, lighter, more packable skins.
Blister Members can check out our initial impressions in our Flash Review, and then stay tuned for our full review.
Blister Members can now check out our Flash Review of the TourLock Raven 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 personalized gear recommendations from us.