The Icelantic Pioneer 96 was designed with the mindset that skiing should be FUN! Some ski companies take skiing as a serious business, and while we appreciate that, sometimes you just have to let loose. The Pioneer 96 is playful, soft and forgiving. 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. One of our testers described the Pioneer 96 this way, "like your fun-loving uncle who does tricks 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."
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.
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.
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 the top-performing models we tested, but what it lacks in stability, the Pioneer makes up in other categories.
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.
While the Pioneer 96 has decent edge hold, it lacks the power and energy in a carve that our testers found in other skis that ended up scoring better in this category.
A soft playful skis worst enemy…the crud. By far the worst category for thePioneer 96. 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.
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 thanks to its twin tip profile.
It does lack some of the consistent float of some of the fatter skis, but for being almost 10mm smaller underfoot, it was still able to stay on top of most powder days.
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.
Despite its substantial weight, 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. Our testers loved skiing switch on these Pioneers.
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.
Obviously, the 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. They benefit from the tip and tail rocker, which leads to the Pioneer 96 feeling a bit shorter than listed and very maneuverable.
Their soft flex and forgiving nature also make them fun when picking your way in, around, and over softer snow bumps. When the bumps firm/ice up, you'll need to slow down on the Pioneer 96 to stay in control.
This is one of the least expensive skis in our entire men's all-mountain lineup and is built to last. We think its a great deal on a great ski.
The 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.
There are a lot of skis on the market these days. They all...
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