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Elan Ripstick 106 Review

Heavy, big skis for hard-charging performance beneath a wide range of skiers in all backcountry ski scenarios
elan ripstick 106 backcountry skis review
Credit: Elan
Price:  $750 List
Manufacturer:   Elan
By Jediah Porter ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Nov 1, 2022
65
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#7 of 15
  • Weight - 25% 2.0
  • Firm Snow - 20% 7.0
  • Powder - 20% 8.0
  • Crud and Poor Snow - 20% 9.0
  • Stability at Speed - 15% 8.0

Our Verdict

The Elan Ripstick 106 is about as heavy as it gets before we consider a ski too heavy for self-propelled backcountry skiing. It is also as solid and fun on the downhill as backcountry skis get. To get better ski performance across the board than the Elan, you need to look at some of the best all mountain resort skis and consider taking on even more touring mass. You very well might justify the weight of the Ripstick, but we think you shouldn't. However, if you do choose to lug these around, you will be rewarded with smooth, balanced, predictable, and fun downhill performance.
REASONS TO BUY
Fast
Smooth
Reliable
Versatile
REASONS TO AVOID
Heavy
Editor's Note: We tested the Elan Ripstick 106 throughout a varied and engaging ski season. From December 2021 to May 2022, our tester skis saw almost 100k of vertical under a few testers with a spectrum of backgrounds. Note that the Ripstick got a new graphic for the 22-23 season, but the specs are the same as the model we tested here.

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elan ripstick 106 backcountry skis review
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Elan Ripstick 106
Awards  Editors' Choice Award   Best Buy Award 
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$800 List
$799.95 at REI
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Overall Score Sort Icon
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Pros Fast, smooth, reliable, versatileStable, damp, versatile, floaty, balancedStable, damp, predictableOptimized weight and performanceAll-around performance, damp, inexpensive, available, sweet-spot weight
Cons HeavyModerately heavy, not optimal firm snow performanceMid-weight, no real stand out performanceSlightly poor firm snow performanceSoft and damp
Bottom Line Heavy, big skis for hard-charging performance beneath a wide range of skiers in all backcountry ski scenariosThis is our favorite ski for modern, all-around backcountry skiing, bringing traditional reliability, modern dimensions, and performance balanceGood skis for good skiers in all kinds of conditions; the definition of all around backcountry skisAll-around, solid skis for all kinds of soft and poor-snow backcountry skiingInexpensive, proven all-around performance that's suitable for a wide variety of backcountry skiers and ski conditions
Rating Categories Elan Ripstick 106 Blizzard Zero G 105 Black Crows Camox F... Dynastar M-Tour 99... K2 Wayback 106
Weight (25%)
2.0
5.0
5.0
6.0
5.0
Firm Snow (20%)
7.0
7.0
8.0
7.0
7.0
Powder (20%)
8.0
8.0
7.0
7.0
8.0
Crud and Poor Snow (20%)
9.0
8.5
8.0
8.0
7.0
Stability at Speed (15%)
8.0
8.0
7.0
6.0
7.0
Specs Elan Ripstick 106 Blizzard Zero G 105 Black Crows Camox F... Dynastar M-Tour 99... K2 Wayback 106
Weight Per Pair 8.2 lbs 6.7 lbs 6.7 lbs 6.0 lbs 6.9 lbs
Weight Per Ski 1863g, 1852g
average: 1858g
1515g, 1510g
average: 1513g
1510g, 1509g
average: 1510g
1360g, 1371g
average: 1366g
1518g, 1557g
average: 1537g
Weight Per Pair 3715g 3025g 3024g 2731g 3075g
Weight Per Surface Area Ratio, g/cm^2 0.86 0.72 0.71 0.68 0.71
Measured Length 177cm 178cm 182cm 177cm 179cm
Manufacturer Length 180cm 180cm 183cm 178cm 179cm
Available Lengths (cm) 167, 174, 181, 188 164, 172, 180, 188 157.1, 164.3, 172.1, 178.4, 183.4 162, 170, 178, 186 172, 179, 186
Claimed Dimensions (mm) 143/106/120 133/105/118 130/97/115 127/99/117 136/106/124
Measured Dimensions (mm) 143/105/119 133/104/118 137/97/117 127/98/116 135/107/123
Construction Type Sandwich Sandwich Sandwich Sandwich Sandwich Cap Hybrid
Core Material Tubelite Paulownia Paulownia, poplar Paulownia Paulownia
Waist Width 106mm 105mm 97mm 98mm 107mm
Radius 19.5m 23m 18m 20m 22m
Rocker/Camber Tip and tail rocker, camber underfoot Tip and tail rocker Tip rocker, camber underfoot Tip and tail rocker, camber underfoot Tip rocker, slight camber underfoot

Our Analysis and Test Results

Elan's Ripstick 106 is a solid, hard-charging (as the name suggests) backcountry ski for strong skiers with confidence enough to go hard. They are on the heavy side of the whole spectrum of touring skis. The downhill performance is almost perfectly balanced for the entire breadth and depth of typical backcountry ski and ski mountaineering circumstances. Our testing was similarly broad and deep. Throughout an entire season, we got these skis out in wicked deep powder tree skiing, bulletproof icy couloirs, and mellow slog tours with a baby strapped to the skier's chest. Of course, we got tours in between all these extremes, too. Our below findings are confident and based on authoritative and varied input.

Performance Comparison



elan ripstick 106 backcountry skis review - in tougher snow conditions, as in this storm that ended a long...
In tougher snow conditions, as in this storm that ended a long drought, the Elan's optimized downhill performance is greatly appreciated.
Credit: Jediah Porter

Weight


We tested Elan's 180cm Ripstick 106. We measured it to be 177cm long. It skied somewhere between the numbers. It feels short for a 180 but big for a 177. On our calibrated scale, we found the pair to weigh 3715 grams (8.2 pounds). One ski weighed 1863 grams and the other 1852, which is less variation between single skis than many other pairs on the market.

elan ripstick 106 backcountry skis review - the weight and dimensions of the elan ripstick approach those of...
The weight and dimensions of the Elan Ripstick approach those of resort "all mountain" skis. This is good for downhill performance. That mass, though, will be a literal drag on the uphill.
Credit: Jediah Porter

Few other skis in the test are this heavy. 1800 grams is within the top end of what we consider to be "touring skis". It is no coincidence that this weight threshold marks the low end of weights for all-mountain resort skis. If you are considering backcountry skiing on skis past 1900 grams, you might as well be looking at the entire market of all mountain skis. That is undesirable to most human-powered skiers and beyond the scope of our review here. That doesn't mean that you can't backcountry ski on heavy skis, but it indicates that very few are doing so.

elan ripstick 106 backcountry skis review - the light binding pairing we chose for the ripstick certainly helped...
The light binding pairing we chose for the Ripstick certainly helped mitigate some of the impacts of its heavy weight. Bindings are an easy place to save weight for most skiers.
Credit: Jediah Porter

Firm Snow


We liked the smooth, confident edging of the Elan Ripstick 106 on firm snow, mid-season drought ski mountaineering. Our lead tester took the Ripstick, while guiding, on a rare January foray into Grand Teton National Park's Moonwalk Couloir. This 50-degree couloir was wind pressed to barely edgable, smooth "wind board" surface. After negotiating a ridiculously thin entrance (ask his "sandbagged" client about it someday — classic insta-adventure in abnormal conditions), the rare joy of abnormal early-season steep ski mountaineering was only enhanced by the Ripstick. There is a tight choke for jump turns and open steeps for faster, rounder action. In both settings, the edging confidence of ski and tester perfectly meshed. Other testers' experiences in other settings verify this conclusion and give us all the confidence we need to endorse the Ripstick for hard snow skiing.

elan ripstick 106 backcountry skis review - big boots and big skis demand more energy on the way uphill. this...
Big boots and big skis demand more energy on the way uphill. This tester, though, enjoyed one amazing run deep in Grand Teton National Park. The Elan Ripstick is heavy and skis well.
Credit: Jediah Porter

Powder


Our test notes prompt recall of an amazingly deep and engaging day on the Elan Ripstick 106 on Teton Pass in mid-April. Most had long prior given up on chasing pow. A sleeper storm blanketed the region and complicated spring road matters. Avalanche hazard spiked in odd patterns. Skiing got both amazing and complicated. Our lead tester's two-month-old baby at home provided blessed, but real, distraction. Threading the needle and reawakening the testers' "powder brain" this day was all-consuming. What we didn't have to think about was the powder ski performance of the Ripstick 106. It floats when needed, planes on command, turns short, turns long, and slashes to a stop at a moment's notice. Technique, polished or sloppy, seems to make little difference, overall.

elan ripstick 106 backcountry skis review - virtually any skis are going to excel in this sort of amazing snow...
Virtually any skis are going to excel in this sort of amazing snow condition. In true bottomless conditions, the Elan supported three-dimensional ski technique with even flex and supportive tips.
Credit: Jediah Porter

Crud/Poor Snow


No skis "like" poor snow skiing, and few people like it, either, although our test team contains a disproportionate number of people who enjoy crappy snow skiing. This is a testament to how people's "tastes" are variable and fluid. Poor snow skiing really draws out differences in ski performance. The Elan Ripstick 106 rewards the crap-snow-seeking tester with very, very forgiving performance. It catches less, dives less, and tips diverge less than most other touring skis. When the snow is crusty or sloppy, the Ripstick lets you maintain high energy, parallel turning technique longer than other skis do. We don't like to oversimplify the impact of ski construction and materials, but our experience also supports the assertion that it is likely the greater weight of the Ripstick that affords this high performance in tough snow. There are always tradeoffs in backcountry ski selection. For the greater weight on your feet, the Ripstick's first gift to you is tough snow ski performance.

Stability at Speed


That same weight that lends confidence to tough snow and sucks energy on the climb makes the Elan Ripstick 106 pretty darn stable at higher speeds. The whole package of design choices and attributes in the Ripstick add up to a form that will readily stick with you up to and beyond speeds that are otherwise responsible in the backcountry. Charge on. Unlike some other hard-charging backcountry skis, the Ripstick brings this same confidence to a broader spectrum of users. Intermediate backcountry skiers (which are probably expert or beyond skiers at the resort, incidentally) reap rewards similar to those enjoyed by high-level backcountry skiers.

Should You Buy the Elan Ripstick 106?


Most of our review text above is very positive. This Ripstick skis very well downhill. Don't forget, though, that these skis are heavy, and their wide stature requires wide and heavy skins. These are demanding to tour uphill with. Yes, we like these skis and know that there is a cadre of skiers that will and should choose them. But it isn't a majority by any means. Chances are you, dear reader, are one of those in the majority that should use lighter backcountry skis than these. If you really know the difference and want optimum downhill performance, check out the Elan Ripstick 106.

elan ripstick 106 backcountry skis review - we noticed nothing different about the left and right versions of...
We noticed nothing different about the left and right versions of the ski. We suspect that this is a graphics-only difference that some will use to differentiate different tuning strategies for left and right.
Credit: Jediah Porter

What Other Backcountry Skis Should You Consider?


Let's closely compare these to the Black Crows Corvus Freebird. They are similar in weight and dimensions (the Elan is slightly lighter, but not by much). In our testing, the Ripstick 106 skis better by quite a bit. The Black Crows are more widely available for purchase and for demo, and much more visible — both literally and in terms of branding/promotion. If you are in that small sector of the population that will justify heavy touring skis, you will likely be considering the Corvus and might even get a chance to try them out. If you find them unruly and somewhat "lifeless" you will almost certainly enjoy the Ripstick 106 more. If both of these are too heavy for you (and they probably are), any of our award-winning skis closer to 1500 grams — like say, the Blizzard Zero G 105 — are a much better choice.

Jediah Porter
 
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