ExoticSkis.com is the World's largest collection of links, information and independent tests about 512 small, obscure, unknown, little-known, unique, independent, microbrew, craft or just plain bizarre skis, ski designers, ski companies and custom ski manufacturers from around the globe.
The "mega" ski companies such as Atomic, Blizzard, Rossignol, Dynastar, K2, Salomon, Fischer, Kästle, Volkl, Elan, Stöckli, Head, Nordica and others have captured the bulk of the skiing public's attention through media saturation and brand recognition on the slopes using millions and millions of dollars of marketing efforts and they dominate the racks at nearly any ski shop. They make some great skis, but other brands are out there...maybe built in your neighborhood or near your favorite mountain by a crafty group of people you'd like to meet.
Mass-produced skiers use mass-produced skis. Rip it up with something different.
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THE MISSION: Raise awareness about lesser-known ski builders!
Yes... there's algae in these skis. (Well technically, the polyurethane components in the skis are created with a proportion of polyols derived from algae instead of petroleum.) WNDR Alpine is one of the consumer product spinoffs from Silicon Valley biotech startup Checkerspot demonstrating performance-specific applications of bio-derived materials replacing petroleum-derived materials in consumer products. Armed with ski industry veterans Matt Sterbenz and Daniel Malmrose, alongside Pep Fujas and Xan Marshland, WNDR (Wonder) Alpine designed new backcountry skis utilizing polyurethane components in the core and sidewalls (Vital 100) derived in part from algae oil instead of the traditional petroleum oil.
Skis have traditionally been built from the various mixes of wood, plastic, fiberglass, metal and carbon fiber materials builders have used for decades, with some adventurous companies using flax and other "natural" fibers in place of fiberglass and carbon here and there. WNDR Alpine and Checkerspot have pushed the envelope of "green" materials technology into a new era for consumer products with their algae-derived polyurethanes, and are using their first backcountry-oriented ski products to showcase the application of this technology in purpose-built components to achieve desired performance. Algae producing the oils needed to manufacture the polyurethane components can be "grown" in vats in the lab in a matter of days instead of being extracted from deep in the ground with petroleum oil drilling, refineries and long-distance material transportation.
Renewable, sustainable materials technology is great to reduce dependence on petroleum for building our toys and other products, but the bottom line is how the products perform using these "greener" components. If the skis end up being dull, fragile, low-performing or underwhelming in any way...the fancy visionary technology may fall flat in the marketplace. Luckily for WNDR Alpine, the Vital 100 skis we tested are superbly versatile and perform better on backcountry descents and even better at the resort than we expected, beating out many established brand skis in the same category. If you give expert ski designers access to cutting-edge materials, a brand-new workshop and laboratory, they can indeed produce really effective skis to make skiers happy. The Vital 100s are the real deal. Great performance, Cutting-edge environmental technology to reduce dependence on petroleum, a certified "B-Corp" company with social responsibility and a cradle-to-grave lifecycle program to recapture the skis and their materials after their life is over. All for a $699 retail price direct from the factory. If you don't love the skis, WNDR offers a 100% refund when you return them. This is shot across the bow for all ski builders and recreational industries everywhere.
Waiter... on second thought... I think I'll have another pair of skis with algae in them....I really like them...
Cyrus Schenk and the team he recruited to develop a ski designed by women for women at Renoun have an award-winning ski on their hands. Utilizing Renoun's patented application of its non-Newtonian VibeStop™ (HDT) polymer, the woman-specific geometry and componentry of the Earhart 88 has been refined through focus group testers on-snow and the result is pretty darn impressive. The Earhart 88 is an all-mountain, frontside-oriented ski which is superbly easy to ski for a wide range of skiers, yet can deliver an authoritative carving prowess at low, medium and high speeds under a variety of intensities with smooth, quiet, precise and energetic performance.
The Earhart 88 has a vast range of excellent performance across a variety of surfaces and terrain conditions, which is really the holy grail of "all-mountain" ski design. The Earhart's ability to let the skier intuitively tackle smooth groomers, bumps, tree runs, big turns, small turns, cruddy snow, skied-out snow, soft snow and hard snow without the ski really having any shortcomings is impressive. Squarely aimed at the majority of female resort skiers, Renoun's design achieves its target with a ski that feels intuitive, delivers a huge range of superbly mannered behaviors (thanks to the damping characteristics of the patented application of the HDT VibeStop material in the ski's core) and requires very little effort from the skier to achieve high levels of performance in many conditions. With a "love them for three days on snow or return them for a refund" policy, and a two year warranty, Renoun has a compelling ski that sets a reference standard for what "all-mountain" resort-oriented skis should do for their skiers. We gave the Earharts a Distinguished Performance designation for their impressively wide range of superb performance in so many terrain and snow conditions for the women it was designed for.
Read the whole review of the Renoun Earhart HERE.
Jens-Martin Johnsrud started Stereo skis in 2008 by making twin-tip wakeboards and brought his passion to snow skis with design help fron Norwegian ski champions. Jens-Martin has launched a full fleet of powder, freeride and carving skis designed in Norway and manufactured by the modern, renewable-energy powered Skandinavian ski facility at Åre Skidfabrik in Sweden. We were lucky enough to discuss Stereo's skis and their introduction to a wider World market with Jens-Martin and Marshal Olson of the The Reimagining Retail Group who is dedicated to bringing Stereo into select retail shops in North America. (Marshal was previously Sales Director for DPS skis when they exploded from cult status to mainstream brand around the World...so he knows the industry and knows great skis when he sees them!)
Stereo Piste/RS skis sunning themselves in the Green Mountains of Vermont, USA.
Stereo Piste/RS, Stereo Piste V3, Stereo Apex
Marshal arranged to bring in 3 pairs of Stereo's models for us to test (the race-plated Piste RS for high-level GS carving, the versatile Piste V3 for all-mountain GS cruising and the jack-of-all-trades Apex all-mountain model). Needless to say, we were blown away by the quality of the Swedish-built Norwegian designs and the frankly stunning performance each model delivered. Never underestimate the ability of small companies to produce World-class products, and Jens-Martin's Stereo has really delivered. Read the reviews of the Stereo Skis HERE.
Since incorporating in 1968, Onyone has been expanding their outerwear lineup and supplying international ski organizations such as the Liechtenstein national ski team, Japan Professional Ski Teachers Association, Swiss Ski School Association, Ski Association of Japan, Finnish National Ski Team and French National Mountaineering Ski School. Onyone also creates custom althetic sports apparel in many other disciplines, so they have extensive experience and expertise in crafting clothing for active sports.
We recently received a two-piece men's outfit to test and will be letting you know how it compares to other offerings by some of the larger brand names out there. As a side, note, Onyone also contracted with Italian helmet/goggle/wax maker Briko to distribute their products back in 2005!
Image courtesy of Onyone Co., Ltd.
Whitedot's skis for "freetouring" have evolved from their original CarbonLite series of freeride skis to embrace the all-mountain touring demands seen around the World. Whitedot took their skills at designing and constructing lightweight, agile freeride skis and created their Ronde freetour models. These freetour skis have a signature aluminum skin clip tail insert, light construction for efficient uphill performance, and a polyvalent design to handle a wide variety of downhill surface conditions and terrain for alpine environments. The goal is to design a ski to take out all day in the mountains and come back happy since the skis can handle all kinds of situations with reliable performance and predictable behaviors with a spunky fun feel for adventure.
Whitedot's Ronde 96 is indeed a light-feeling, agile and extremely friendly ski for backcountry, and it does a decent job in-bounds for resort iusage as long as you don't expect it to be a hard-charging race carver on the groomers or a rock-solid freight train powerhouse through cut-up conditions after everone has skied out the fresh powder. It's agility and energetic feel in the tight trees makes it a nice choice when you clamp down your heel in woodsy conditions. While a ski this light has some speed limitations in intensely hard, rough boilerplate conditions and becomes a bit loose at high-speed, GS-like pressure situations, it hits the mark as being a ski with a huge sweet spot for 95% of what every backcountry skier wants in a sub-100mm waisted ski for. There are wider skis in the Ronde lineup (110mm and 108 [previous models]) if you adventures dictate a fatter ski with more mass underfoot for your type of skiing and downhill antics. If you watch the sale page on the WhitedotSkis.com website, you can often find their Ronde series on sale for significant discounts.
See the full review HERE.
Whitedot Ronde 96 mounted with Salomon S-LAB MNC 10 bindings for backcountry
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