Ski Recommendations: Blister’s Best Bets


We make a lot of ski recommendations around here.

Over the past five years, we’ve answered thousands and thousands of questions from readers about which ski (or skis) they should get. It’s not an easy thing to make recommendations to people you’ve never met or skied with, but we’ve gotten to be pretty good at it. (Evidence: we get feedback from readers all around the world who have purchased skis that we’ve recommended. And it is extremely rare that someone comes back to us and says that we steered them in the wrong direction.)

That means a lot to us, since skis are expensive, life is short, and time on the mountain is precious. So we want you to spend your money wisely and help you have the most fun out there.

Everything we do at Blister is designed to get the right skier (or biker or hiker or boater) on the ski (or bike or boat) that will work best for them. And our full reviews, our Flash Reviews and Deep Dive Comparisons, and our Buyer’s Guide (with Blister Spectrums), are all vehicles to that end.

And we’re introducing another vehicle:

Blister’s Best Bets

Over the past five years, there are certain skis that have stood out as being pretty sure things, easy recommendations. I.e., if you end up really hating one of these skis, then we’d argue that you’ve probably (a) misrepresented your ability level, (b) failed to read our review accurately, or (c) didn’t really know what you were looking for.

Caveats & Notes:

(1) This is not simply a list of the “BEST” skis out there—that is a different question, and the answer depends on who you are, how you ski, and where you ski. So don’t get it twisted, and see our full index of reviews to see all of your options.

(2) This list is going to evolve over time. And one of the reasons why we’re publishing it now is because we’ve got a wave of the new 16/17 skis coming in, and it’s going to be interesting to see which of the new skis knock off or replace our current selections.

(3) 88, 98, 108, and 118 millimeters are arbitrary widths. But we’re using them as a rough guideline here to help whittle down the field a bit. Again, see our list of full reviews if you really want to go find the ski that might be the absolutely perfect fit for you, but the skis here are a good place / way to get started. And we’ll give some leeway on widths — plus or minus 2 mm in either direction.

For now, we’ve got four Categories

(1) Versatile & Easy (yet Stable)

(2) Versatile & Stable (without being overly demanding)

(3) Freestyle

(4) Women’s Skis

Today, we’ll publish the first category, Versatile & Easy. And we’ll roll out the other categories over the coming days. You can also check out episode 9 of our podcast where we talk about our Best Bets in general, and our “Versatile & Easy” selections in particular.

Blister’s Best Bets: Versatile & Easy

Versatile: There are no dedicated skinny carvers or pow-only, super-fat boards here. The skis in our list don’t feel terrifyingly out of place—they work in low angle or steep terrain, and in very deep or very firm conditions.

Easy Yet Stable: These skis are relatively forgiving and super intuitive—but they can also be pushed. So the skis here can be enjoyed by many less-experienced skiers, as well as many high-level experts. They simply work well for a broad range of skiers.

88 mm – Fischer Motive 86Ti, 182 cm

Jonathan Ellsworth's Safe bets 88, 98, 108, 118 for Blister Gear Review
2015-2016 Fischer Motive 86 Ti

We’ll keep banging this drum: we’ve not reviewed a ski that is simultaneously (1) so good at carving on-piste, while (2) still being so fun in moguls and (3) so at home in steeper, off-piste terrain. It is a powerful ski that is not difficult to ski. Fischer killed it with this ski, yet they are replacing it / tweaking it in 16/17 with the Big Mtn Pro 86. We hope to get on the new ski soon, but what we know now is that it has some big shoes to fill.


98 mm – Nordica Enforcer, 185 cm

Jonathan Ellsworth's Safe bets 88, 98, 108, 118 for Blister Gear Review
2015-2016 Nordica Enforcer

We’ve recommended this ski to a lot of very high-level skiers, ski designers from other companies, and lower-level skiers, and everyone has come back quite impressed. Some people will definitely want ‘more’ ski, and others may find it to be a little more ski than they want or need (though on the right length, I still doubt that many people will find the Enforcer to be difficult to ski). But the fact is that Enforcer was in large part the ski that got us thinking about these ‘Safest Bets in Skiing’ categories.

Possible Challengers in the Category for 16/17?

• Rossignol Sky 97 – this is the updated “Sin 7”. See notes below about the updated Soul 7 HD…

• Salomon QST 99 – see notes below about the QST 106…


108 mm – J Skis ‘The Metal”, 186 cm

Jonathan Ellsworth's Safe bets 88, 98, 108, 118 for Blister Gear Review
J Skis “The Metal”


We’re getting more time on this ski, but we can already place it here with confidence (Blister Members can check out our Flash Review of The Metal). It’s fun, intuitive, and has a big sweet spot. An easy recommend for sure.

Possible Challengers in the Category for 16/17?

• Salomon QST 106 – it looks like it might also strike a great balance of easy yet stable…

• Rossignol Soul 7 HD – Special mention needs to be given here to the current Soul 7, because (1) Rossignol killed it with this ski and has sold a ton of them, (2) many skiers out there have come to love it over the past several seasons, and (3) every ski company is jealous of the success Rossi has had with the Soul 7.

But the Soul 7 works best in softer (to deep) conditions. It can be skied in firm conditions, certainly, but The Metal provides a bit more inherent stability than the Soul 7 in more firm, difficult conditions. But we are very curious to see what the new Soul 7 HD brings to the table…

DPS Wailer 106, Foundation – DPS is stiffening up the shovel a bit on this ski, and that could bring the Foundation 106 a bit closer to the bull’s eye we’re looking for.


118 mm – Liberty Origin, 190 cm

Jonathan Ellsworth's Safe bets 88, 98, 108, 118 for Blister Gear Review
2016-2017 Liberty Origin

Full disclosure: the Origin is a good ski (review coming soon), but of our four categories here, I think this the most vulnerable current leader. Because…

Possible Challengers in the Category for 16/17?

• Salomon QST 118 – we are hearing a lot of hype, but the QST 118 could be making a claim for this category (and possibly our next category — Versatile & Stable).

• K2 Pinnacle 118 – it’s stupid that we haven’t reviewed this yet. We’ll see…


NEXT: Blister’s Best Bets: Versatile & Stable

36 comments on “Ski Recommendations: Blister’s Best Bets”

  1. In the 118 category (well, 122), PLEASE don’t leave out the K2 Pettitor 122, as long as it’s mounted (Schizoed maybe) between +3 to 3 1/2 (for tip drivers) and +4 to 4 1/2 (for quicker, more upright turns and tricking). These ski like a truck, crazy easy, crazy stable.
    Thanks, you guys.

  2. If you guys like the Motive 86, you should check out the big brother (Motive 95). It comes in adult sizes (unlike the 86) and is both stable AND fairly forgiving.

    • I ski the Motive 95 in 180cm. I am 6’2″ and 200 lbs. I suppose really big guys might need the 186cm, but I have never found the 180 lacking in anything at all. I’ve never skied the Motive 86, but I bet the 182cm would be plenty of ski for somebody my size. It has a flat tail and the early rise combined with the aggressive change in sidecut at that point make for a great contact point. Even ignoring the splay, my 180cm M95 has more effective edge than my 187cm Moment Underworld.

    • I ran across your comment about the Motive 95ti I have to chime in. I completely agree with Mcbob. I’ve been skiing the Motive 95in a 168cm (I am 5’8″, 145) 2014/15 model and am absolutely stunned how versatile, easy, powerful, intuitive, fun this ski is (did leave anything out?). Out here in Tahoe we had a great early winter with many small storms ,so I skied the Motive 95 in perfect new soft snow conditions, bumps, trees, groomers, off piste (my preference) and powder <10". This ski is awesome in these conditions. For the past 3 weeks we've had spring conditions with a lot of ice in the morning and heavy slush in the afternoon. The Motive 95 is amazing here too; bites like shark teeth on ice thanks to the wide flat tail and floats over and through the slush piles with ease. I also own the Blizzard Brahma and The Line Supernatural 108 and am seriously considering selling them both as I now rarely use them and when I do I wish had taken my Motive instead. I think Fischer is crazy to drop the Motive line because this ski is going to be hard to beat.
      John A

      • I also have both the Motive95 and Brahma, sizes 186 and 187 respectively, at 200 lbs. These are BOTH great skis. Now that we have gone into 2D snow in Tahoe, I am having a hard time deciding which I like better. The 95 is probably a little more versatile overall, a tad easier to ski and more forgiving. But the Brahma is so fun to ski at mach speeds, carves groomers crazy good, and a bit quicker edge to edge in the steeps. Owning both is a tough problem to have.

  3. The Motive 86 is awesome as is the Pro Mountain 86
    2016 but the Pro Mountain 80 Ti is outrageous for a combo front side, trees, calf deep. Check it out and just say, WoW!

  4. For the 88mm do it all(rip groomers, off piste, and bumps) category, check out the head monster 88. My favorite in that class by far.

  5. What about the Black Crows Atris in the 108 Category (138/108/128 in the 184 and 139/108/129 in the 189 length)? I have not analyzed any sales statistics, but during this and last season I have seen many people with these skis in the chair or tram next to me, in liftlines on the slopes and in the sidecountry in different resorts in the alps, so I assume it is quite a success. “Intuitive, nimble – yet stable, very good float for its width, good groomer performance” was what most people had to say and whenever I came by a demo tent or shop that carried Black Crows this ski was no longer available. Well, maybe time for blister to find out whether there is some truth behind the “hype”…

  6. I love this feature. I am about to purchase skis and have an overly long (I apologize in advance) and (at least to me) complicated question about it. I am 38 years old, 6’4 and 260 lbs and have an athletic background. I started skiing late in life (upon meeting my wife 8 years ago) and have progressed to be a comfortable intermediate skier who lives in New England and until the last 3 years got to go ski 1-2 times/year. I feel good on blue runs and am staring to feel comfortable on blacks, but will still probably end up at about 15 days total this year. I have read a lot of the reviews on the site but now I’m confused.

    I have generally been on rentals and because it is New England, they typically have been about 75 mm waist skis. This year I have tried several demo skis including the 2015 Volkl Mantra in 177 cm, the Nordica Enforcer in 184 cm, Blizzard Brahma in 180 cm (it was the longest they had) and the Salomon Q-Lab in 183 cm.

    I used the mantra first and liked how it felt, I felt under control and able to turn well whenever I wanted. The only thing that didn’t feel great was as my speed increased I began to feel less stable. The Enforcer was good, but didn’t feel quite as stable or as enjoyable to turn as the mantra. I thought I would love the Brahma and skied it the same day as the Q-Lab, a couple of weeks after the two previous skis. For some reason, it did not feel fun. I felt out of control, struggled with my turns and didn’t want to ski fast. The conditions were rougher that day (a week of warm weather and low snow followed by a dip to the low 20’s made for a fair bit of ice), but as soon as I switched to the Q-Lab, things felt great or at least really good and I was back to feeling in control and feeling like turning was easy, though conditions still felt challenging for me.

    There are a ton of variables including the day, the condition, the mountain for each ski. But I think I would rank as follows:
    1. Mantra
    2. Q-Lab
    3. Enforcer

    My question, finally, is how to think about a few factors. My height and weight are not that common in at least the people who work in the gear shops here or among most of the reviewers here or elsewhere. I think my ability level would call for a smaller and softer ski, but particularly my weight makes me think I need something bigger. I’m also really curious about how damp and stiff a ski I should be seeking and if I will experience skis that might be considered difficult for a lighter skier as difficult in the same way. I found the Q-Lab worked great but the Brahma didn’t, and I really don’t know why.

    I ski on groomed runs in New England and it makes me think that a wide ski like the Q-Lab is probably not quite the right tool except that it worked well, but I wonder if that added width along with added length is part of what felt better about the bigger skis.

    To further complicate things, I have had a hard time finding some skis I’d like to try as a demo like the X-drive 8.8 (I’m curious if it would be a challenge like the brahma or if it’s stiffness would overcome that), or any skis from Liberty or Moment.

    I have been thinking about the Mantra, X-Drive, Liberty Variant (I think the 97), Bonafide (which I haven’t tried yet), or maybe even the Parlor Cardinal (though that seems like an expensive option–I’d been wondering about going with the full rocker like the mantra with the stiffer customized flex and hoping that might be the sweet spot).

    I know it’s not possible to point to a single ski and know it will work, but I’m hoping for at least some way to think about this and the multiple factors involved beyond the many helpful things I’ve learned in reading the reviews on these skis and in the skiing 101 and beyond articles. I would start with an “easy” ski but worry a little bit that the softer flex will not match as well with my weight and my hope to continue progressing towards more difficult terrain. Along with all this, I’m unsure of sizing. A part of me thinks something longer in the Mantra or any of these options would be good for my size, but I worry a little bit about particularly that model given the experience noted in the review and general thinking about ski length, particularly with some of the stiffer flex models.

    Thanks in advance for any thoughts and I will deduct 100 points from myself for the massive failure of brevity.

        • Ok, Curtis – I’ve re-read your comment a few times, and a couple thoughts:

          * for what you describe, I’d really love for you to get on a 184 cm Salomon X-Drive 8.8. Yes, it concerns me a little that you had such a poor experience on the Brahma, but you are a big guy to be on a 180 cm Brahma, and it almost sounds like there was something going on with the tune of that ski… Anyway, gun to my head, I’d have the most confidence recommending the 184 cm X-Drive 8.8 to you. On very firm / icy east coast days, the X-Drive 8.8 will simply be the better tool than the Mantra, especially if you’re tending to stick to groomers. Having said that…

          * I agree with Kent’s comment below that the 184 cm Mantra could be a good option for you. Keep in mind: my hesitations on the 184 Mantra really were focused on the fact that it felt a bit sluggish for its size in very big, very firm bumps at speed, something that I never experienced on the 13/14 184 cm Mantra, or the current 177 Mantra. But for what you’re describing and at your size, I really don’t have deep reservations about the 184 cm Mantra. So it’s my 2nd recommendation for you.

          * 187 cm Blizzard Bonafide – also worth considering, though I haven’t skied the 187

          * a custom Parlor Cardinal could also be really interesting, and it would be worth a phone call to those guys. The Cardinal 100 that I reviewed had a fat tail (that I loved), and it is a tail shape that will work best for those who are carving hard. You *might* find that tail shape to not be the easiest tail to release / smear around, but then again, the Q Lab has a relatively fat, flat tail … and Parlor may have modified the tail a bit for this season. Again, it would at least be worth a phone call.

          * I’m really wishing I’d already skied the Liberty Variant 97 (hopefully in the coming weeks?), but the Liberty Origin 96 (in a 187 cm length) could work well for you … and, roughly speaking, combines some of the things you like about the Q Lab in a longer, stiffer, narrower package. To be honest, if you found yourself overwhelming the 177 cm Mantra, I’m surprised that you didn’t also feel like you were overwhelming the 183 cm Q Lab…

          Finally, to answer your question: Yes, as a generalization, a heavier skier ought to be on a stiffer ski to get an appropriate level of support. And you’ve already discovered this — the 185 cm Enforcer sounds like it fits your current ability level well, but it doesn’t match up well with your weight. The 184 cm X-Drive 8.8 would, and see how many times I’ve now said that it’s a stiff, stable ski that still isn’t a horribly demanding beast to ride. That seems like a very good fit, and the 88mm-width makes more sense if you’ll primarily be on groomers.

          Anyway, hope that helps a little. I think you’ve got some options that will work for you, and I’m happy to try to answer any further questions!

          • Jonathan (and Kent with the assist!), that was an incredibly helpful and detailed response. I really appreciate it! I have read the X-Drive review several times and thought a lot about picking one up, but the Brahma did spook me a little and made me reconsider. I think considering the length and differences between the X and the Brahma, I will call around and see if I can find a place to demo it. I may also see if I can demo the Mantra in the longer length and maybe the bonafide if it is in the 187.

            I think I can answer why I didn’t feel like I overwhelmed the Q-Lab. I skied it after a few hours of wrestling with the Brahma and my legs and confidence were hurting. The latter improved after the first run and so we headed for more challenging runs which were very fun, but the combo of fatigue, higher degree of difficulty, and lower confidence led to me slowing down and turning more frequently. I don’t think I got close to as fast as I was on the Mantra.

            I’m intrigued by the idea of one of the Liberty skis (or waiting to see what the Variant 97 review if you get to ski it and Monster Head reviews look like). I also am really drawn to the idea of the Parlor, but I really want to buy new boots and I think to fit with our family budget, spending less on the ski would probably be best (though if it lasted a while . . .or if it was really fantastic. . .I may end up calling). Having said all that, if I can’t find the demos to try, I think I will give the X-Drive the nod with the Mantra a backup choice. I’ve seen both at good prices. The track record or your recommendations looks stellar, so I feel good about it even if I can’t try them.

            To finish, I just want to say thank you for all of the reviews. I love gear and get obsessive about it (if that wasn’t already obvious from the long question) when it’s time to buy and I’ve not found any other site or reviewers that go to this level of detail, descriptive but accessible writing, and self-awareness (what got me thinking about all of this was seeing the reviewer height/weights listed and the several times this was addressed in thinking about skis) about individual variables that might affect the experience. Please keep up the great work and thanks again for all your thoughts and your help with this! I will try to remember to circle back and let you know what I choose and how it goes.

            • Curtis – I like you am a big guy 6’3″ and 260. Also like you I have an athletic background (Football and Baseball in College.) Unlike you I have been skiing since I was about 4 years old (first lessons at Cranmore in North Conway!) I used to avergage north of 15 days (and in good snow years 20 days) per season on the hill. Nowadays a good season is 10! And those 10 are typically split between 5 days out west and 5 days up in the Adirondacks of New York State. I have two sets of Dynastar skis which I have had for a long time and are both in immaculate condition, the problem is one is a slalom ski (Dynastar Autodrive 66, 186cm) and one is a GS ski (Dynastar Autodrive 74, 192cm.) Like you I am gear obsessed and this time last year I resolved myself to purchase one of the newer generation all mountain skis. After the requisite amount of research (you know what I am talking about) I chose a pair of Blizzard Bonafide 187cm. I got the courage to go with a ski this wide after having skiied a Rossignol Soul 7 out in Crested Butte in February of 2015. I was shocked how a ski with a 106mm waist performed on the groomers, crud and hard-back. I did have a little concern with tip flapping in the Soul 7 as I like to ski fast and hard. Based on this feedback the Bonafide was recommended to me. Coming in at 98mm underfoot the Bonafide is slimmer than the Soul 7 but still substantially enough to give true all mountain versatility. My first day on the Bonafides was March 2015 at Mt. Snow. The temperatures where cold (for March) high of 30 degrees and lows in the low teens overnight so the the snow was hard and firm. The Bonafides crushed with grace and finesse. No chatter, no bouncing, they just railed to the snow like I was a train on track. I took them for pace in a few bump runs at the end of the day that had softened just a tad with the March sun and they ate them up. Nimble, quick, flexing appropriately I was shocked that I was on a 98mm waisted ski. The Bonafides are substantial but they are a really easy and friendly ski with a pretty high top end (for when you get there.)

              This February (2016) I traveled to Telluride for a week of skiing. Unfortunately it was about a week after the last prolific snow they received for the season (over 40″ the first week of February.) I decided to bring my Bonafides with me from NY as the Demo prices in Telluride where too steep (over $60 per day!) I couldn’t have been more pleased. The Bonafides railed Plunge and See Forever and where comfortably quiet all the way up to 60 mph (clocked on Ski Tracks app!) On hard pack steeps in Revelation bowl (39 degrees) the Bonafides gripped with ease. There wasn’t a place on the mountain that they felt out of place.

              My guess is you are probably about to enter the phase or level of skiing where almost all of the mountain opens up to you. If that is the case you will really appreciate the Bonafide. It will take you everywhere you want to go and it will do it with ease!

              For the record I am currently researching my next purchase – a bigger waisted ski that will still function back east on hard groomers and bumps but one that will give me a truer float should I manage to line up a west coast trip with fresh snow. I am currently zeroing in on the Line Supernatural 108’s based on everything that I am reading here.

              P.S. On my Bonafides I have the Rossignol FKS 120 bindings and they are phenomenal, light but beefy with great release properties. They pair nicely with the Bonafides!

              • Bill – I’m curious what you would recommend in terms of size in the Bonifide’s (180 or 187?). I have a racing background in high school ~30 years ago!), and this week have have spent two days on Bonifide 180s demos in Crested Butte. The skis are awesome: great in steep, hard pack, speed (solid gripping GS turns at over 50 mph). I’m 6’3″ and ~185 lbs. I can’t find 187s to demo, but sense I would happier with a slightly longer ski (at speed), but still want a maneuverable ski for everyday use and slow speeds. I grew up on 203cm SL race skis, so the new skis/technology is new to me. What would recommend: 180 or 187s?

      • Jonathan (& Curtis) — my 184cm Mantras are the previous version (rockered tip with traditional camber under foot and in the tail). My apologies, as I should have noted that. But for Curtis’s height, weight and athletic background, my concern is that he may overwhelm a 177cm Mantra, whether in my previous or its current, fully-rockered design.

        On a personal note, Jonathan, at Blister’s recommendation I bought a pair of the Moment Blister Pro’s last winter. I ABSOLUTELY LOVE them! Although I live in New Hampshire, I mainly ski in the Rockies at this stage in life, and when out there I ski a lot of trees. So I opted for the 184cm length (the same as my Mantras). But the Blister Pros feel so friendly and quick, I think I could have gone with a 190cm and sacrificed little of the 184s’ maneuverability.

        In any case, thanks for Blister Gear’s tireless efforts to revive and promote this remarkable directional powder ski. And I look forward to your upcoming review(s) of the all-new Volkl Confession.

  7. For what it’s worth, I live and ski in northern New England, and find Volkl’s Mantra to be a beefy, versatile, responsive all-mountain ski. Given Curtis’s size, he will benefit from its substantial construction — both in its performance on firm-to-icy Eastern snow and in durability over time. I suggest going a little longer than 177cm. I am 6′ tall and 195-200 pounds, and ski the 184cm Mantra quite happily. That length might better support Curtis and be a good compromise for his needs.

  8. Great article. I’ve been skiing the 4frnt YLE 187 for two seasons and have to give them a plug for versatile and stable. Just sold my rossi sickles because I’d rather ski the YLEs in any condition–better on ice and in powder.

    • +1 to James, except replace Europe with New England. As I have built out a quiver I might buy an MX83 as off piste/soft snow versatility less important to me in this ski now that I have some bigger boards, but for a daily driver the narrow end of the MX series rocks in any lower snow area.

  9. Any thoughts on the Supernatural 115? Do you think it would be as versatile as the 108 but with a little more float? I am trying to decide if I should replace my Prophet 98s in 179cm with a 186cm SN108s or try the 115s as a second set. I am 5’11” 205 and the Prophets feel a little short sometimes. But I love the ski’s versatility – just want something a little more soft snow orientated. I ski Telluride and Alta/Snowbird mainly, want to ski more of Southern CO. Especially some more time at Silverton – such a cool place.

    • Hi, Eben – apologies for the delay – I missed your comment. Did you already pull the trigger. FWIW, I skied 2 previous iterations of the Supernatural 115 (the Influence 115 and the Influence 115 2.0), but we haven’t been on the Supernatural 115. But given that you’re coming from a 179cm Prophet 98, I think you would be pretty thrilled with the 186 cm Supernatural 108. It might not have as much float as the Supernatural 115, but coming from the Prophet 98, I suspect you will prefer the 108 everywhere other than deep snow. I fear I may be too late with this info … but if you did pull the trigger, I’d love to hear how it’s working out!

  10. Given you are placing the Bibby in the versatile & stable category would the PB&J also be closer to the Bonafides than the Enforcer? Would the PB&J be a contender for one of the categories? If not, what disqualifies it?

  11. Thinking about the women’s best bets in terms of the “versatile and easy” category, any opinions about the fun/easiness of the Moment Sierra for an intermediate wife who (in contrast to Julia) mostly likes to skid her turns, whether on good groomers in Vermont or skiing soft snow and easy trees in Utah?

    • Hi Jonathan!

      Thanks for reading. I would say that the Sierra could work for your wife, though it might be a touch on the stiffer side. A ski I’ve recommended to many intermediate skiers is either the Rossignol Savory 7, or the Saffron 7, which is a little narrower and a bit easier to manage. But everyone who I’ve recommended these skis to has loved them – they’re easy skis that work great on firmer and soft snow, and leave plenty of room to improve, since they can still be skied hard. Let me know if you have any questions about those options, but think they’d make a great alternative if looking for a ski that would be a little more fun for an intermediate.

      • Julia – thanks a million for the thoughtful reply and suggestions. Did you ever have a chance to try the Blizzard Black Pearl? Just 88 underfoot but well-liked by others–maybe similar to the Sierra in being not quite as easy as the Savory/Saffron duo? Much appreciated!

  12. What else it is possible to add to category “Versatile & Easy – 108” ?
    Maybe there was something in new season?
    How about Faction, BC.. ?

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