The world's most in-depth and scientific reviews of outdoor gear

Icelantic Pioneer 96 Review

The Pioneer 96 is a super fun ski that would rather be flying through the air than railing a groomer.
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Price:  $599 List | $598.95 at Backcountry
Compare prices at 4 resellers
Pros:  Fun!
Cons:  Soft (too soft?), chattery
Manufacturer:   Icelantic Skis
By Andrew Pierce ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Mar 13, 2018
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68
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#9 of 10
  • Stability at Speed - 20% 6
  • Carving - 20% 7
  • Crud - 20% 6
  • Powder - 20% 7
  • Playfulness - 15% 8
  • Bumps - 5% 7

The Skinny

The Icelantic Pioneer 96 was designed with the mindset that skiing should be FUN! Some ski companies take skiing as serious business, and while we appreciate that, sometimes you just have to let loose. The Pioneer 96 is playful, soft and forgiving. Just like life, ski performance is all about trade-offs. One of our testers described the Pioneer 96 "like your fun-loving uncle who does tricks with you on the trampoline and builds sweet jumps in the street for your bike but isn't always clean shaven and probably doesn't own a business suit."

Graphics Update

The Pioneer 96 has been updated since our testing period with new graphics. This season Icelantic opted for an allover wooden look on the ski's topsheet, which can be seen in the photo above.

October 2018


Compare to Similar Products

Our Analysis and Test Results

Icelantic is a company that may not have the name recognition of Volkl or Rossignol, but they definitely deserve a spot in our All-Mountain ski review. All of their skis are handmade in the USA (Denver, CO), and have a reputation for being one of the most durable ski brands on the market. They make a full line of men's and women's skis and have recently begun to accumulate many accolades in the ski industry.

We tested their all-mountain ski, the Pioneer 96 in a 182cm length. It is a twin tip ski with more rocker up front than in the back, and camber underfoot. It has a soft flex compared to most of our other skis and is handled well by almost all levels of skier ability.

Performance Comparison


Air time on the Icelantics!
Air time on the Icelantics!

Stability at Speed


The Icelantic Pioneer 96 continues to feel more stable the faster you go, especially in smooth snow conditions, but at low speeds, the ski feels a bit squirrely, and in variable conditions, the ski tends to chatter. Unfortunately, the Pioneer 96 does not have the stability of, say, the Volkl Mantra, but what it lacks in stability, the Pioneer makes up in other categories.

Pushing the Pioneers to their speed limit
Pushing the Pioneers to their speed limit

Carving


Icelantic claims its Pioneer 96 has a 19m turn radius in the 182cm length, but most of our testers felt like it skied shorter. It is quick edge to edge transitions, and that makes short poppy turns fun.

Short carving turns on steep groomers with the Icelantics under your feet...FUN!
Short carving turns on steep groomers with the Icelantics under your feet...FUN!

While the Icelantic Pioneer 96 has decent edge hold, it lacks the power and energy in a carve that our testers found in other skis like the Blizzard Rustler 10 and the Black Crows Daemon.

Crud


A soft playful skis worst enemy…the crud. By far the worst category for thePioneer 96. Although it has a different profile than the Line Sick Day 95, they performed similarly when taken into the chunder. The tips of these skis are subject to chatter and are prone to be deflected. Most of the vibrations underfoot travel directly to your knees. If the conditions are poor, you might want to choose a different ski off of your rack.

Powder


The Pioneer 96 performs exactly as you expect a soft and playful ski would in the powder. It is plenty surfy and can slarve and slash turns like the Moment PB&J, thanks to its twin tip profile.

A little bit of soft snow is found up top  while scouting a powder filled landing for the Icelantics
A little bit of soft snow is found up top, while scouting a powder filled landing for the Icelantics

It does lack some of the consistent float of some of the fatter skis like the Rossignol Soul 7 HD and the Rustler 10, but for being almost 10mm smaller underfoot, it was still able to stay on top of most powder days.

Playfulness


Playfulness is the category for the Pioneer 96 and it seems like the designers over at Icelantic had it as their main focus when making this ski.

Lesia playing around on the Icelantic Pioneer 96
Lesia playing around on the Icelantic Pioneer 96

Despite weighing almost twice as much as the DPS Foundation Cassiar 95, the Pioneer 96 still feels light in the air, and is easy to swing around. Its soft flex allows for cushy landings, even if the conditions aren't ideal and the camber underfoot provides good pop off of jumps and side-hits. Skiing switch isn't quite as easy as on the PB&J but is still fun.

The Pioneer 96 is fantastic for skiers who spend all day seeking out side-hits and building small booters. Do you like to butter everything? Are you a converted snowboarder? Is the mountain your version of a playground? Do you find yourself in the park a few times a day? If yes, grab a pair of these skis.

Bumps


Obviously, the Icelantic Pioneer 96 isn't designed exclusively to ski bumps, but our testers still had fun when they put them to the test in the moguls. Like the PB&J they benefit from the tip and tail rocker, which leads to the Pioneer 96 feeling a bit shorter than listed and very maneuverable.

Beginning to navigate a bump line on the Icelantics
Beginning to navigate a bump line on the Icelantics

Their soft flex and forgiving nature also make them fun when picking your way in around and over bumps. Like the Cassiar 95 though, when the bumps become firm, you'll need to slow down on the Pioneer 96 to stay in control.

Best Applications


The best application of these skis would be under the feet anyone who jibs everything but still likes to lay down some nice carving turns. This a ski for the fun-loving skier who finds themselves in all corners of the mountain.

Value


This is the cheapest ski in our entire Men's All-Mountain Lineup. It retails for $599 and is built to last. We think its a great deal on a great ski.

Conclusion


The Icelantic Pioneer 96 is near the bottom of our list in the All-Mountain category, but that doesn't mean it isn't still a great ski. In fact, the Pioneer 96 is downright awesome if you find yourself in the air than on the ground, but want a forgiving ski when gravity takes hold. While it doesn't excel in every area, it is still a ski that should make your shortlist when buying a pair of all-mountain skis that will keep you jumping off everything.

Dropping! Loving the Icelantic Pioneer 96
Dropping! Loving the Icelantic Pioneer 96


Andrew Pierce