Best Ski Gear of the Past Decade (Ep.81)



TOPICS & TIMES:

  • Most Influential Ski, 2000-2009 (3:00)
  • Most Influential Ski, 2010-2019 (5:30)
  • Best Ski (13:40)
  • Most Influential Ski Boot (32:30)
  • Most Influential AT Binding (40:58)
  • Best Ski Binding (46:02)
  • Biggest Trends (51:30)
  • Best Product (56:24)

Each and every year we do our annual Blister “Best Of” Awards, but the time is right to think about not just this past year, but this past decade.

And so, of the entire past decade, what was the most influential ski, ski boot, and ski binding? What was the best ski? What were the biggest trends? And what was our selection for the Best Product of the Decade?

We discuss all of this and more, and in the Comments Section below, we’d love to hear what you think was the most influential or best gear of the past decade — and why.

Blister's GEAR:30 podcast — Blister discusses the best and most influential ski products of the the past decade
Jonathan Ellsworth on the Moment Bibby. (photo by Tom Bear)

22 comments on “Best Ski Gear of the Past Decade (Ep.81)”

  1. Oh this was great and on point! I made up my points before hand and you covered them all.

    Just to add something: I wanted to say the most influential was the Marker Duke because it might have created Freetouring and brought uphilling to Freeriders. “Touring” was not cool for younger people. It was for older men, on skinny skis, hoping down the mountain in small turns making braids, smelling stronly at the end of the day. However, the Duke seems to have come to market back in 2007 already.

    For the same reason, I wanted to mention the Tecnica Cochise 130, who let Freerdiers walk uphill.

    And then there is Blister Review itself.

      • +2 for Cochise. Was surprised that wasn’t mentioned in the boots paving the way for freeride touring. So many people had a pair.

        Dukes definitely came out before 2010 though no? Here’s my picks for “products of the decade”:

        Most influential skis: I agree with their grouping of S7 / JJ / DPS Wailer 112 as everyone was making one of these type of skis at one point. I’d definitely include the DPS as they helped start the trend of lighter skis and carbon usage

        I’d also give honerable mention to full reverse skis (Manta and other volkl skis, and Hoji skis)

        Best skis: This is going to be more subjective of course. I could be convinced of either the Mantra or Nordica enforcer as good choices

        Most influential binding: Again I’d do a group award to Dynafit Beast and CAST freetour. Can we just give this to Hoji for influencing people to go big on touring bindings?

        Best Binding: Shift. Hands down. It’s the pinnacle of the above idea

        Most influential Boot: Cochise for leading the freetour market to masses

        Best Boot: Atomic Hawx XTD

        Honerable mention equipment: BCA float bag. Has anything else changed safety as much?

  2. The most influential ski of the last decade was the Rossignol S7. This ski Incorporated hitherto disparate design elements (rocker, taper, side cut, width,… floppiness) into a single cohesive package. Moreover, Rossignol successfully marketed the S7 not as some niche tool, but as an all mountain ski appropriate for the general skiing public. Many very successful skis from other brands that were released latter (i.e. DPS Wailer, Black Diamond Amperage, Armada JJ, etc.) were essentially minimally modified iterations of the S7’s design. Latter Rossignol S series skis (Soul/Sin/Sky/Squad), hugely successful and influential in their own right, were based on the fundamental design elements first synthesized with the S7. Though the extreme design elements that typified the S7 are less prominent 10 years on, the majority of skis today more closely resemble the S7 then do skis that were on the market prior to the 2010/11 season.

    The best ski of the last decade, speaking from a utilitarian perspective, was the Rossignol S3. As with the S7 the S3 (the 2011 version) combined a number of emerging technologies into a single package but did so in a much more subtle/less extreme way then its larger sibling. The S3 was damp and heavy (2150+g) but had a ton of energy. It had a nice round flex and floated great for its size. It was easy to initiate a turn but was not hoocky (23m turn radius). There was a huge range of mount points and sizes. Beginners could learn on the ski, it could work as an all mountain freestyle/park ski, and aggressive directional skiers could get along with it perfectly well. For reference I detested the Soul 7 but could happily ski the S3 every day even if it was not my personal favorite. It is hard to argue against the Enforcer series. Nordica’s star shines a bit less brightly for me at the close of the decade when there is much more competition whereas the S3 better defines the zenith of the decades ski design in my mind.

    My personal favorite ski of the last 10 years was the full rocker version of the Mantra (M4). For aggressive, directional off piste skiers, who wanted to ski hard in variable conditions, especially in tight and/or technical terrain no ski has been able to match its level of stability and maneuverability. It was also amazing for carving big super G style turns on groomers. That’s very specific set of applications that does equal the greatest ski for the greatest number of people. In fact I can see how it would turn a lot of people off. It was the greatest ski for me. The only similar ski I am aware of in that width is the Daemon. Though fun, it doesn’t even come close to matching the M4’s prowess.

    The most influential boot of the last decade was the Dynafit TLT5. This was the first boot that had a truly huge, low friction, hiking boot like, ROM. It was astonishingly light for the time. It incorporated #carbon ! (Anachronism intentional), it cost $1k. While it was very much a light touring boot it skied orders of magnitude better than other light (or not so light), touring boots available contemporarily. For a few years people tried to convince themselves the TLT5 was a freeride boot. Obviously it was not which quickly led to the development of the Vulcan/Mercury which was essentially a burlier Tlt5. Later TLt spin offs (TLT 6,7) have been hugely successful. Boots like the Maestrale were an attempt to make a boot with similar weight and ROM to the TLT5 that were actually skiable and affordable. Today no company is making a boot with an advertised 25 degree walk mode and $800 MSRP is typical. We can thank the Tlt5 for that.

  3. Great Pod!

    I see two major trends in ski design over the past decade: 1) in the first half of the decade, the industry figured out what effects rocker, camber, and taper had on skis and dialed in using all of these elements; 2) in the second half of the decade, the ski industry increasingly made lighter skis (for both resort and backcountry), and figured out how to improve lighter designs.

    Rossignol actually exemplifies both trends. As Rome476 (and Jonathan) point out, the S7 was one of the first skis to combine the rocker camber package into something of what we now consider a typical ski shape. The Soul 7 nicely illustrates the ski industries march towards lighter skis. I would say that these are the two most influential skis of the decade. Other honorable mentions are the Volkl Mantra (for the reasons in the pod), and the Blizzard Cochise (one of the best chargers that spawned a ton of clones).

    Favorite skis… I would like to start by saying the Nordica Enforcer 100 is probably my LEAST favorite ski of all time. It is absolutely terrible in any type of heavy snow typical of off piste skiing in Tahoe. Okay, now that I have gotten that out of my system, I would say 1) Moment Bibby, 2) Line Sick Day 104, 3) Blizzard Cochise. All completely different skis but all excel at their intended purpose.

  4. You know the decade ends at the end of the year, right?
    You may have to revisit the article if something groundbreaking comes out this year.

  5. opinion: the tlt speed radical is more refined than the ion. they both have reputations for exploding heel pieces, but the tlt speed radical is the o.g.

  6. I thought the Dynastar Cham would come up as an influential ski? I don’t know the timing in terms of the years, but I just remember that being the first “different” ski I saw.
    I also thought the Duke/Baron brought uphilling and frame bindings to the mainstream because people did (and still do) choose that binging ‘just in case’ they want to go uphill a few times a year but mostly ride the lift. I also think it is a gateway for lots of people, including myself, to touring. I toured with barons and regular plug boots for a season with lots of vert, then pulled the trigger on a dedicated touring setup of touring boots, pin bindings and light skis. Wow what a difference! But that would have been a big investment for something untried.
    If something like a Shift binding came down in price that could be the next frame binding.
    Were there any big developments in avalanche beacons in the last 10 years? It’s kind of a debate because I have an old beacon (DTS) and some guides say it’s fine and others say to replace it.
    What was the best-selling ski of the decade (excluding rental skis)? Enforcer 100 because it was around for so many years? Soul 7?
    Finally for your crystal ball prediction episode: is this peak AT gear sales? Had that debate with a buddy on the uptrack. He thinks lots of folks threw on frame bindings on their latest ski purchase, but never really toured much because it’s hard. So next skis will have regular bindings. I’m not sure. I think it depends on access to places that are easy to find and navigate because they are documented on the internet like Granite Backcountry Alliance glades here in NH. And price difference between a frame binding and regular, which is pretty small.

  7. Just got off a brand new pair of Volkl Mantra 102s. Wonderful ski, but a bit stiff. They delaminated on day 1. That titanium frame they put in there is a marketing gimmick and is what broke apart.

  8. Bibby/Blister pro…Bibby/Blister pro….Bibby/Blister pro…Bibby/Blister pro………..
    ATK Raider 2.0 14
    Boots depend on the feet shape

  9. I know it’s out of y’all boys’ wheelhouses as a somewhat narrow women’s ski, but how have I made it 25 minutes with no mention of the Black Pearl?

    • I also thought I would hear the Brahma come up. Very very popular ski in New England and I think people coming from a dedicated frontside carver like an RTM to a Brahma 88 that has a little more tip off of the snow were like “wow, this is actually fun in a little pow and crud and chop!” I have seen it as a gateway ski to 2 and 3 ski quivers of wider skis.
      But I don’t really know the chronology of it and if it’s just a copy or evolution of the other skis.

      • Brahma’s definitely a great ski, but the BP88 outsells it by 2-3x. Looking at retail data, women’s ski sales are surprisingly low vs. men’s since men are more likely to have quivers/have larger quivers and women buy less often.

        A great women’s ski is going to work for her across a variety of snow conditions, off piste, on piste, bumps, ski vacations regardless of what coast, and then work for her for years – which is great if works for a broad range of ability levels.

        I might not be their key customer, but having dominated the market for a decade and influenced so many other brands (just look at how many others are matching the 88 waist within the past year with the new Santa Ana 88, Mindbender Alliance 88, Ripstick 88, Kenja 88 trying to vie for the advancing intermediate, all mountain skier) – it definitely deserves a spot.

  10. Very interesting Podcast!

    I have only been on the 110 Enforcer, and honestly, its tails seemed weirdly soft to me for an all mountain charger. I am 6’5” though. It’s probably fine for “regular size” skiers.

    As for the Salomon Shift, I wouldn’t consider it as big a game changer as Jonathan does, since the Cast system has been around for a while before. The shift simply makes the concept of pin-touring + full alpine binding on the downhill a little bit more convenient and affordable.

    Other than that, I mostly agree (even though it hurts my soul to give that much credit to the soul 7, in my opinion the original JJ was the MUCH better ski, and it came in a proper length of 195)

    A trend I noticed that I don’t like at all is that more and more companies remove the long options from their skis, which is extremely limiting to me as a tall guy. As an example, Völkls powder skis went from the 203 shiro (which I loved) to the 196 two / bash 124 (which was alright) to the 191 Revolt 121 (which I probably would love), but it’s too short for me.
    Even my alltime favourite 4frnt renegade has shrunk from 196 to 191 (luckily I still have a backup pair chilling in my basement)

    • Having used both (admittedly the first gen CASTs) I do think the shift binding is a game changer. Or just that the convenience/refinement/etc difference shouldn’t be understated. CAST was cool, but definitely felt like a bit of a hack. The analogy I’d use coming from the computer world is installing OSX on a Lenovo thinkpad. You can do it, but you’re a bit on your own and it is definitely rough around the edges. Shift binding felt like buying a new macbook pro.

    • CAST is not really available in shops like shift is. It’s niche. It’s $675 including the Pivots. And you have to use pivot 18, which most people can’t use.
      I see Shift as the new Baron/Duke. Lots of people just get it when they get their skis and boots that happen to have pin inserts. I was on the lift with a guy who was skiing with the toe lever up and he had had them for a year and did not even own skins.
      Another woman with Shifts said she skinned up the resort once and “it was hard”. She had the most expensive brand new everything, including bindings.

    • Not sure , but can think of two guesses:
      1 for a while, there was Walk to Ride AND Gripwalk. Same concept, but not cross compatible for bindings.
      2: it creates a new sole type that is not normed, and arguably offers the worst of both worlds(poor release in non tech bindings AND poor walking.

  11. Excellent conversation, interesting to hear you guys talk about the evolution of skiing the last decade, something I recently tuned into again.
    As mark mentioned can you digress a little further on the fiasco of grip walk? I was under the impression that this was becoming the holy grail of ski boot binding interface. Should I in general abandon the idea of one boot for alpine and touring use?
    I have come to understand that touring soles are not good for alpine bindings nor frame bindings because the grippy rubbery sole messes with the AFD giving higher release values. These higher release values seem not to be measurable by torque wrench testing style. Only in labaratory style testing and in real life have caused damage. Jeff Campbell Phd student from Washington University has an excellent video on this.
    Gripwalk was to solve these problems.

    Jeff Campbell:
    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=XZ7Y5EzCiEg

    • WTR and Gripwalk are fine technologies when looked at in a vacuum, but in the greater scheme of boot sole norms and binding compatibility, they created a lot of confusion and didn’t really solve any problems. It was more of a jockeying of several companies to be the one to come out on top with the new norm rather than a technology that was really beneficial to customers (think Blu-Ray vs HD DVD – if existing DVD’s already had quite good picture quality).

      As Tjaard said, the fact that the two norms weren’t cross-compatible, existed simultaneously, and were not normed was what made the whole thing so confusing.

      To address Jeff Campbell’s work, his thesis brings up some extremely important points (especially regarding the durability of tech fittings on boots). But I personally do think that people tend to overstate the value of his claims about the higher release values of MNC bindings with touring norm soles. His research is a good first step and does an excellent job of bringing a lot of the problems we are currently facing to light — specifically how to understand binding safety release in a multi-norm world. The key thing I take away from his work is that, while no binding is particularly safe, touring bindings are the worst offenders, and the further you stray from historical norms, the more you likely increase your risk.

  12. hi
    most influencal ski : more or less the dps lotus 138 because it combines the rocker revolution with taper and carbone construction wich show a light way for twenty year

    on the last decade also the 4fnt renegade who mellows the shape off the lotus, less taper and reverse camber with this new fantastic shape of tip combined with a foward mount ans straight outline.

    for the shoes yes TLT5 with his motion and weight but for me most influencal were La Sportiva spectre with their grilamid and grilamid/fiber who show something without charbon (dynafit vulcain) is possible to make a game changer boot.
    too years after the ato XTD and zéro G pro make the miracle
    Best boot ever : full tilt full chair 10 or dalbello Krypton

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