Elan Ripstick 106 Review
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Elan Ripstick 106
|Price||Check Price at Backcountry|
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|Check Price at REI|
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$799.95 at REI
|$849.95 at Amazon|
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|$749.95 at Amazon|
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|Pros||Fast, smooth, reliable, versatile||Stable, damp, versatile, floaty, balanced||Stable, damp, predictable||Optimized weight and performance||All-around performance, damp, inexpensive, available, sweet-spot weight|
|Cons||Heavy||Moderately heavy, not optimal firm snow performance||Mid-weight, no real stand out performance||Slightly poor firm snow performance||Soft and damp|
|Bottom Line||Heavy, big skis for hard-charging performance beneath a wide range of skiers in all backcountry ski scenarios||This is our favorite ski for modern, all-around backcountry skiing, bringing traditional reliability, modern dimensions, and performance balance||Good skis for good skiers in all kinds of conditions; the definition of all around backcountry skis||All-around, solid skis for all kinds of soft and poor-snow backcountry skiing||Inexpensive, 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|
|Firm Snow (20%)|
|Crud and Poor Snow (20%)|
|Stability at Speed (15%)|
|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
|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|
|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|
|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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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