Salomon MTN Explore 95 Review
Cons: Ski “short”, powder skiing stability suffers at super high speed
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Salomon Mtn Explore 95 was a contender for our Editors' Choice Award. It was a very close contender. It wasn't decided until, in the final week of initial testing, we handed it off to our final tester for head to head comparison with another top performer. That tester broke a durable tie and chose the other product. However, we then realized just how much less expensive the Salomon is than the other top scorers. For the cost, the MTN Explore 95 is the best ski in our review. It was an easy choice for our Best Buy Award, and in 2020, it displaces a perennial favorite. The performance of the MTN Explore is tuned for all-around sending, and the touring weight is acceptable. It isn't the absolute lightest product available, but this just means it will be more durable. Greater durability further enhances the value.
At 6.8 pounds for the pair, the MTN Explore 95 is about average for a touring ski. We start to get bogged down, literally, at seven pounds for a pair of touring skis. We really like skinning with carefully tuned skis that weigh closer to six pounds. Our experience suggests that it is easy to make seven-pound skis go downhill real well, a challenge in the upper half of six pounds, and virtually impossible on the low end of six pounds.
In this price range, we don't expect an all-around backcountry ski to weigh less than 6.5 pounds. Salomon meets these expectations. It is how well they ski that really surprises us. Given the weight and cost matrix, we are very pleasantly surprised by the versatility and performance of the Salomon.
Stability at Speed
We were able to ski in the backcountry with resort-level speeds on the MTN Explore 95. Whether low angle and huge radius turns, or snappier steep turns, the Salomon did nothing unexpected. Heavier and/or more sophisticated skis perform even better, but nothing in this price or weight range comes close.
In assessing stability, we ski both open and fast and in the steeps. Steeper skiing bring out different things than high speed low angle terrain. In both venues, though, the Salomon was predictable and stable. Like anything, bigger boots helped. We also skied these with super light skimo style boots and found them to be reliable and predictable. We tested a relatively short pair of MTN Explore 95. For our test team. it wouldn't have been wrong to size up from 177cm to 184cm. With that step up, we anticipate even greater high speed stability. That we were able to find such stability in relatively short skis only enhances our faith in our own conclusions.
Testing firm snow in the Tetons in early season isn't an easy task. But we did it. We sought it out. We took the challenge and made opportunities to get the Salomon out in icy and scratchy conditions. We found the edge grip to be even and secure. They don't grab as well as some stiffer and narrower options, but we had all the confidence we need for routine steep and firm.
The biggest differentiator in firm snow performance is the evenness of edge grip. Some skis seem to grab more tenaciously in the tip or in the tail. Other reviewers will attribute this to some construction attribute or another, but we've found that strategy to be fraught. Just when we claim that, say, the sidecut of ski XYZ is to blame for this or that issue we observed, we find that ski ABC has the same sidecut but no semblance of that same issue. Ski construction is complicated and interconnected. You don't know how something is going to perform until you test it.
You don't know what is really making a ski perform the way it is until you dissassemble it, pry into the designer's mind, and then run all that information through a super computer. And that's impossible. What we can do, though, is test these skis thoroughly. When it comes to edge grip, we put in the miles to conclude that the MTN Explore is smooth, centered, and even.
They pop, they carve, and they slash. Even "undersized" a little bit, we skied the deepest of days with the MTN Explore and had a blast. One testing day, our lead test editor lugged this Salomon for 8000 feet of face shot perfection. He got home to social media and found others complaining of upside-down, slow, and heavy powder skiing. Was he wrong, or are these skis just that good?
These are great skis. They aren't perfect. We found ourselves experiencing a bit of a powder skiing "speed limit". We are curious to someday try the next longer size. As with one of our perennial Editors Choice winners, we tested the Salomon a little small. Multiple testers on our team found themselves wishing for a little more length.
Bad snow is never as fun as excellent snow. But backcountry skiing often involves "bad" snow. Breakable crust, deep slop, and tracked up conditions are going to happen. A good skier, on any gear, can revert to survival skiing tactics when the going gets tough. We've side-slipped entire mountains in tough conditions.
However, good skis can extend, into the spectrum of poor snow conditions, your "normal" linked and carved turns. If the best skis will push those linked turns into 85% of deteriorating snow conditions, and the worst skis can barely handle the first 15%, the MTN Explore 95 will make linked turns to about the 60% level. For the weight and the cost, this is more than acceptable.
We gave the MTN Explore 95 our Best Buy Award. These skis, as we went on and on about above, go downhill real well. The weight is average and acceptable. Their cost is significantly below average, especially given their lofty performance. They are an easy choice for our Best Buy award. The catch with the cost of backcountry skis is that the budget and average skis aren't that far apart. There are outliers on the high end, but the less expensive 80% of the market are all priced within about a hundred dollars of each other. These are great skis at a reasonable MSRP. Find them on sale and you really get a bargain. However, you might very well find other excellent skis at sale prices below that of this Best Buy.
A good deal, and great performance. You are going to dig the MTN Explore 95 and save some pennies for more breakfast burritos on big days.
— Jediah Porter