Fritschi Freeride

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Ask any five ski experts what freeriding is and what makes a great freeride ski and you’ll get six different opinions, at least. Marketing suits will bore you with talk of freeride being more than just skiing but a combination of clothing, attitude, drink, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll at the bleeding edge of underground youth counter-culture. Well that’s almost what we read in one brochure and is maybe why Rossignol and Quiksilver have recently hooked up… all they need is cross marketing deals with Sony Music and Coke and they will have the whole package.

Freeriding is essentially lift served off-piste skiing with the emphasis on freedom. There are no rule or objectives, just having a blast away from the hubble and bubble of groomed runs. Freeriders may carve powder fields, huck cliffs, ride natural pipes and other terrain feature or drop down couloirs. In essence the mountain is their playground.

Freeride skiing has been inspired by snowboarding and indeed a number of darksiders are now crossing over to the twin plank world. Freeride skis need to cope at speed with a variety of conditions, powder, hardpack, crud. You don’t want a ski that is flapping and chattering all over the place. Freeride skis are generally wide, shaped, built of exotic sounding materials and fit somewhere in the top end of any manufacturers lineup.

Bucking recent trends for shorter skis Big Mountain skis are just what they say on the package. Big! Usually available in one size only, somewhere around 190+cm they require powerful skiers to exploit them to the max but in return offer the reward of amazing floatation on powder and extreme stability at speed in all conditions. In a development from snowboarding “swallowtails” have made an appearance over the last couple of years. These are planks for surfing powder, fast. Another development is the integrated binding and skis. Manufacturers claim that integrated bindings provide smoother overall ski flex for enhanced control and performance. The go on to state that they eliminate consumer confusion (aka consumer choice) as to which binding works with which ski. Oh and of course they get to sell you a binding as well as a ski.

Most skis can still be bought naked if you want to fit another binding. In particular some big mountain skiers have combined their heavy skis with the Dynafit TLT Speed? or Tourlight Comfort? binding to create a package that is both performant in the steep and deep but light enough to hike to those special runs. If you have come from outside the ski touring world the Dynafit binding may look like a fast track to blown knees but in fact it offers little disadvantage over a traditional alpine binding for good skiers. The Rossignol Scratch 120 Wide Brake Binding? is one of the favorite alpine bindings for freeride skis. Manufacturers have ski/boot packages but any top end ski boot front entry four buckle boot will give the control needed.

Freeride Skis


Big mountain skis

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