8th Annual Blister Awards — OR / SIA


We’ve now had a bit of time to process and recover from the 2018 Outdoor Retailer / SIA Snow Show, which was just as overwhelming as it was difficult to figure out what the hell this tradeshow merger is actually called. That said, we all think this combination of Winter Outdoor Retailers & SIA makes good sense, so no complaints there. It was a good show.

We spent four very busy days meeting with a ton of different brands and checking out all the new gear for the 2018-2019 season. And now it’s time to start rolling out our extremely prestigious Blister SIA Awards.

You know the drill: we’re not going to declare anything the “Best Touring Jacket” or “Best Powder Ski” (since we haven’t spent enough time on most of these products yet), we are going to offer our takes on what impressed, surprised, intrigued, and / or confused us the most.

And if you haven’t already, you should definitely check out our GEAR:30 podcast from the show, where 5 of our reviewers discussed some of the trends we saw, and a highlighted a number of standout products.

So without further ado…


The “Rest in Peace” Award

Head Monster 98 and 108

This one hurts. I mean, far worse things have happened in the world in the last twelve months, but this feels like a final nail in the coffin. Not enough people care about supreme stability in their wider, all-mountain skis. Skiers like light, not heavy. Prefer softer and more playful.

And that’s cool. “Today’s” skis are lighter, more accessible, more playful.

8th Annual Blister Awards, SIA / OR
Head Monster 108 and 98

And the reality is, “we” — the population of skiers who purchases skis — that’s what “we” want. HEAD is enjoying a lot of success with their much lighter KORE skis (which, for the record, are still quite stiff and directional, they’re just also way lighter than skis like the Monster 98 and 108).

In other words, the people have evidently spoken.

And we now say goodbye to these beautifully constructed skis.

That said, the narrower Monster skis (83 and 88) still exist, but with a slightly different shape. And HEAD is also introducing a 99mm-wide KORE ski to their lineup. But we’re going to have to say adieu to these wider Monsters, the last of their kind.


The Sayonara (aka, the “Good Riddance”) Award

— Frame Bindings (No, really, we mean it this time.)

Two years ago, we gave frame bindings a “Good Riddance” award, but like Freddy Krueger or Friday the 13th’s Jason Vorhees, they just refused to die.

But we think it’s safe to finally relax. With the introduction of the Salomon / Atomic Shift MNC, and the continued success of the Marker Kingpin and Fritschi Tecton, we think we’ll finally start seeing a decline in the use of frame bindings as people move toward options that go uphill way better, but that preserve much of the downhill performance of alpine bindings (especially when it comes to the Shift). But then again, it’s really hard to get Jason and Freddy to go away for good.


The “Thank you for Not Screwing Up a Good Thing’ Award

Nordica Enforcer 100

It’s still really good.

Nordica Soul Rider 97

Yep, the Soul Rider 97 (and 87) is coming back unchanged apart from graphics for 18/19, and we therefore are giving it this award for what feels like the millionth year in a row. When you’ve got something dialed, you shouldn’t change it. And we’re glad that Nordica seems to agree.

Faction Candide 2.0

Though the Candide 3.0 and 4.0 received some updates to their cores, Faction left the 2.0 alone, and we’re happy about that. It’s a ski that does an excellent job of blending park and all-mountain performance, so we’re glad it’s sticking around.


The “Biggest Loser” Award

Atomic Bent Chetler 120

We talk about this in greater detail in our First Look of the new Bent Chetler 120, but in short, this ski is losing a lot of weight for 18/19. Coming in at around 1730 grams for the 184 cm, the new Bent Chetler 120 is around 400 grams lighter than the stated weight of the current 17/18 Bent Chetler. That’s a significant difference, and Blister reviewer Sam Shaheen is in Japan — right now — testing out the new Bent Chetler 120 in its ideal conditions: deep pow.

Sam Shaheen reviews the Atomic Bent Chetler 120
Atomic Bent Chetler 120

The “Dying to Try It” Award

—Dynastar Proto

8th Annual Blister Awards, SIA / OR
Dynastar Proto

Nice, clean graphic. Fairly straight shape. Solid flex pattern through the shovels and tails. It’s not that this is some crazy design, it’s just that this ski looks like it could be really fun, and in soft / deep conditions, and good at going fast.

Volkl Mantra M5

Sam Shaheen reviews the Volkl Mantra M5 for Blister
Volkl Mantra M5

While Sam Shaheen has already spent time on this ski and offered his initial impressions, examining the Mantra up close reveals a beautifully-constructed ski. We’re looking forward to getting a lot more time on the new M5, and hopefully in multiple lengths.

—Armada Invictus 108 Ti

For those of you who still have a thing for ~108mm-underfoot directional chargers, this ski just looks really nice. We thought the original Invictus 108 Ti was good, but had room for improvement. So we’re very curious to see what Armada’s latest iteration of the 108 Ti can do.

—Atomic Vantage 97 (and 107 and 90 and 86)

Atomic completely redesigned their Vantage series, and the skis look interesting. Atomic is using a mixture of milled-out titanal and carbon fiber mesh to reinforce the ski and decrease weight, and it’s pretty remarkable how thin they went in parts of the ski (see photo below).

8th Annual Blister Awards, SIA / OR
Atomic Vantage 107 — Core Profile

But if we had to single out a particular model that we’re most eager to check out? It’s actually the Vantage 97. The ski feels very solid (perhaps a bit burlier than skis like the Nordica Enforcer 93 and 100?) and ready to rage on groomers or handle a range of off-piste conditions, while the shovels of the Vantage 107 feel (appropriately) more tuned to handle deeper conditions.

And if we want to get even more specific here, we’re extremely interested in A/B-ing the Vantage 97 with the new Rossignol Experience 94, because that ski looks like a very direct competitor. Let the games begin.

—Venture Paragon Carbon Split

For 18/19, Venture is introducing an all-carbon version of their all-mountain splitboard, the Paragon, and it looks like a really interesting option in the lightweight-yet-versatile splitboard category.

—Black Crows Corvus

Black Crows is overhauling their flagship ski, the Corvus, next year, and you can learn all about the new version in our podcast with Black Crows’ co-founder and head ski designer.

—Fischer Ranger FR 102

For those that liked the Ranger series, but wished they were a bit more playful, you’re in luck. The Ranger FR 102 shares the same construction as the Ranger 108 Ti and 98 Ti, but has a bit more of a freestyle-y rocker profile. It’s flex felt pretty sturdy at the show, so we’ve got high hopes that it could be a playful-yet-stable all-mountain ski.

8th Annual Blister Awards, SIA / OR
Fischer Ranger FR 102

—Spark R&D Surge Pro & Arc Pro

Spark took their standard Surge and Arc bindings (which we very much like) and refined most of the components (even down to the individual screws) to make the bindings even lighter. The new bindings look pretty sweet, and we should be getting time on them soon.

8th Annual Blister Awards, SIA / OR
Spark R&D Women’s Surge (top) and Men’s Surge Pro (bottom)

—Line Sakana

We’ve found Eric Pollard’s 125mm-underfoot Pescado to be a lot of fun in any sort of soft conditions, and for 18/19, Line is introducing a 105mm-underfoot version, called the Sakana, which looks like pretty much the ideal ski for ripping soft spring groomers.

8th Annual Blister Awards, SIA / OR
Left to Right: Line Pescado, Sakana, and Magnum Opus

— Tecnica Zero G Tour Boots

Tecnica is overhauling their Zero G touring boots, and they look impressive. We’ll say more about this in our other awards, but main story is that Tecnica is claiming a stated weight of 1320 grams for the 130 flex version.

— Armada Trace 98 and 108

These skis look fantastic. We’ve had a bit of initial time on the Trace 98 (with great results), and the 108 looks equally interesting.

— RMU Apostle 106 Metal

Blister reviewer Scott Nelson has really liked the RMU Apostle 98 as a stiff park / all-mountain ski, and the metal version of the wider Apostle 106 definitely has our attention.

Next: Part 2, featuring more Blister Awards like the famed “Swagger Award,” Most Interesting Outerwear, and Most Interesting Women’s Gear.

20 comments on “8th Annual Blister Awards — OR / SIA”

  1. Lots of chatter from industry dinosaurs now trying to catch up to new trends.

    What happened to Blister’s love for Indy brands?

    • Huh? Seems like maybe you wrote that before we’d rolled out all 3 parts of the awards? Furthermore, there were a number of notable indies that weren’t presenting at the show. Finally, as we published in our Manifesto back on day 1, just because you’re indie, doesn’t mean you’re awesome. Being small doesn’t guarantee you’re great. Neither does being big. We’ve been over this.

  2. Seems like the new MX99 could fill the void left by the departing Monster 98. Any plans to get on that ski, or anything else from the Kastle lineup? (MX67!)

  3. RE: Goretex stretch: They made some stretch garments about 15 years ago, but they suffered from horrible durability.
    (I have some pants and the indes of the 2 layer fabric shows the membrane basically shredded in any spot where it stretches.)

    Curious to see how they do on the at front this time around.

  4. Re: frame bindings, if I might submit a humble theory … I bet that if those do go into a decline (which I doubt), it will have less to do with the performance of pin bindings than the availability of dual-compatible (pin + traditional alpine) boots. Based on the people I ski with, a lot of folks only have the budget to replace either boots or skis in a season. Until pin-compatible boots that could work with their old skis started hitting on the market, pin bindings just weren’t an option! I’ve noticed a bunch more of those boots available now, so I wonder whether we’ll see a delayed uptick in pin binding usage. Could be a good topic for a feature article…

    • But I think the question isn’t *whether* we’ll see a decline in frame bindings, it’s simply a question of how quickly that change will come about. Because you’re definitely right about the fact that not everyone can or wants to upgrade boots AND bindings at once. But we’d maintain that the writing is now officially on the wall.

      • Sure, I’ll just be curious to see how it plays out around me. It’s looking like it won’t be long before people buying alpine boots are able to get tech-compatibility without really seeking it out, and then they might turn around the next season and decide to try out tech bindings on their next ski. We’ll see!

        And, to be clear on where I’m coming from – I’m a happy convert, bought the Tecnica Cochise last season so I could still use my old alpine stuff, and mounted a new pair of skis with the Tecton this season. Everything feels super solid, which I think is a testament to the newer tech.

    • There is a void developing in the 108mm-wide-true-charger category. As I wrote above, I don’t know that we’ll ever again see something as heavy and as stiff as the Monster, but I do think we’ll see some new developments in the next year or two for some company to take a serious crack at this category. We shall see.

      Currently, we’ve got the Cochise, the revised Armada Invictus 108 (which we are very eager to ski) … and good news … we’re very shortly going to be getting on the 189 cm ON3P Wren 108. The 184 Wren 108 is definitely a bit less ski than the Cochise; the 189 should fill the gap a bit. But the Monster 108 is still a very different ski.

  5. RIP-Volkl Nunataq….no taper, big sidecut, stiff consistent flex pattern and affordable. Carbon fiber is great, but these skis are great without the eye-watering price tag for the black stuff.

    And….there are fewer backcountry skis in particular with this much horsepower being pressed regardless of cost.

  6. Did you get hands on the 2019 Kastle MX99? I saw a vid online with Davenport hyping it. The tip and tail shape look awesome. I demoed the MX89 yesterday. Take that ski, add a cm of width and a touch of tip rocker and I might have my next firm condition ski to replace my E98s.

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