Lead Photo Credit: Kane Scheidegger
Long before Covid-19 hit and forced people into being socially distant, backcountry skiing was on the rise. In fact, in a recent study by The NPD Group, sales of backcountry skis, boots and bindings have increased a whopping 137% over the past three seasons. That was pre-pandemic. Since then, it has gone up even more. Between August and October of 2020 NPD suggests that similar sales surged by 76% when compared to the previous year. In many cases this is similar to the way bike and stand up paddle board sales escalated this summer.
Even snowboarders are getting in on the action. Splitboarding is still in its infancy when compared to ski touring but there is proof it’s on the rise. Looking at the same NPD study, splitboards saw an increase in sales of 151%! That’s quite an increase in a short period of time.
People Are Tired of Being Indoors
Photo Credit: Kane Scheidegger
People are tired of being cooped up and instead are looking for any alternative to staying inside. Combine that with the new restrictions that ski resorts have in place due to Covid-19 and, BOOM, backcountry skiing is the newest outlet to take advantage of. Aside from getting out of the house, backcountry skiing offers other benefits to those who partake. Lower costs, being away from the crowds, a variety of health benefits and not having ski season cut short due to another potential lockdown all top the list.
So, with all this evidence of a growing backcountry scene it begs the question, what do you need to know when it comes to choosing the right skis or snowboard for your first or next expedition off piste?
Time to Start Thinking Custom
Photo Credit: Melissa Plantz
There are plenty of great brands out there making excellent touring skis. Freeskier Magazine recently rated models from 4Front, Armada, Atomic and Black Diamond at the top of this year’s options. But, what if there is another option besides stock models? One that can have you more dialed in than ever when transitioning from the resort to the backcountry. Turns out, there is, and maybe it’s time for you to start thinking custom.
Whether you’re on the resort or not, having a set of custom skis can really keep you dialed in. says Pete Wagner, founder of Wagner Custom Skis. “Given our ability to calibrate the shape, materials, weight, and flex exactly to the individual skier, we’ve seen more skiers than ever requesting our uber-versatile dedicating touring and 50/50 (resort/touring) ski designs.”
For most backcountry skiers, conditions can vary from day to day, coast to coast. That said, you are going to want a ski that can accommodate a variety of terrain and conditions. Although the aforementioned ski brands produce excellent skis, a well-designed pair of custom skis can meet all your needs far better. “You need the right balance of weight, performance, and float that works for you,” says Wagner. You’ll want something custom.
Four Reasons Why Wagner Custom May Be Your Best Option
Photo Credit: Kane Scheidegger
I recently caught up with Pete Wagner himself for a few key points on why many people believe that Wagner Custom makes the best touring/backcountry skis.
Easier on the downhill
A ski shape and flex pattern that is calibrated for you will be forgiving with easy turn initiation and easy turn release in tight terrain (ie. trees, couloirs, technical terrain) while also providing better stability in challenging snow conditions like chop and sun/wind crust. Most skis will perform fine in soft, deep snow but people need help when the conditions are not perfect. Most skiers report that Wagner Custom skis have a bigger sweet spot (so the work better in a broader range of conditions) and especially help when you most need it: in challenging terrain and snow conditions
Better efficiency on the uphill
The right combination of ski shape, lightweight materials, and stiffness distribution creates a balanced ski that makes climbing and uphill travel more efficient. Wagner Custom first designs the perfect shape and weight for you based on the snow conditions and terrain you most frequently encounter. Wagner Custom touring skis balance the weight, camber, and flex pattern around the ball of your foot which minimizes your energy output when climbing and improves your traction and uphill power.
Exactly what you want
You also get to dial in your top sheet graphic that not only makes the skis one-of-a-kind beautiful but can have performance and safety benefits as well. Choosing your ski top sheet graphic is often the most fun and most difficult part of the process. When designing a touring ski graphic, you can further refine the functionality of your skis. Want to minimize snow sticking to the top sheets to make breaking trail easier? Select a light color top sheet that will absorb less heat from the sun. Want a high visibility ski that makes it easier to locate your skis in deep snow conditions? Select bright color accents which visually pop to make ski retrieval easier. Wagner’s expert graphic designers will help you find the right combination and placement of light and bright colors to optimize your unique touring skis.
The smartest way to get the right ski
It doesn’t matter if you know a little or a lot about ski design. The process is simple: Wagner Custom’s expert ski designers will guide you through their Skier DNA fitting system that starts at www.wagnerskis.com/dna and curate your perfect touring ski. Every ski is specifically designed for the individual and optimized based on the ski length, width, sidecut, tip/tail shapes, camber/rocker, materials, flex, and graphics. Regardless of where you are located, an expert designer at Wagner Custom will quickly get you into the optimal ski. Wagner even mounts your bindings so you get a pair of skis that are ready for the snow. And, it’s all backed by Wagner Custom’s full guarantee of a 100% refund or rebuild if you’re not happy for any reason.
Rich Stoner is the founder of the après-ski lifestyle clothing and media brand, All About Après. No stranger to the ski and après-ski scene, Rich has been a long time contributor for many publications on topics like skiing, gear, beer and food. However, his passion is on the slopes and enjoying good times with good people. You can find him perfecting his craft carving turns and drinking beers in the Green Mountains of Vermont. @allaboutapres