Review: The 80-90mm Category: A Melting Pot of Technology and Design


Philpug and Winks talk about the 80-90mm segment
The 80 mm to 90 mm segment of skis has the most diverse mix of shapes as any millimeter-width range in the industry. Along with having many different types of offerings, it is probably the segment in which many skiers look for that elusive one-ski-quiver. For this reason, choosing the right ski from this category can be overwhelming and confusing. We will talk about what to look for in a one ski quiver in a later article.

The first consideration should be where you want your 80-90mm skis’ biases to be. Do you want a ski that is going to excel on hard snow or be more versatile when the snow is fresh or gets variable? If so, we are asking this ski to do a lot. Therefore, you need to think about the conditions you actually ski versus conditions you hope to ski. Are you an East Coast or Midwest skier who stays mainly on groomers and takes a trip West maybe once a year? Or are you in the West and ski mile(s) long groomers, but also venture in the trees and other wilds off piste? Either way, this segment has a ski for you.

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Andy Mink on the 2023 Volkl Kendo 88

Plan for the worst and hope for the best
Don’t believe the marketing; not everyone gets a foot of fresh snow on a trip to Colorado, Utah, Tahoe, or where ever your flight takes you. Chances are that trip West might just be a better version of the conditions you usually ski at home, just on runs that are 2-3 times longer and much steeper with less oxygen to breathe. This is why a ski from this segment can be your best and safest option for that once a year trip.

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Wider narrow skis versus narrower wider skis

The 80-90mm segment can be broken down into two segments. Wider narrow skis are on piste-biased skis that were made wider to add some versatility. Narrower wider skis, on the other hand, are a more versatile version of a powder or soft-snow ski. The former tend to be more traditional in shape with less rocker designed to perform better in firm conditions. These, for the most part, will be on the narrower side of the spectrum, perhaps below 85 mm, and also tend to come with a system or integrated binding.

Narrower wide skis contain DNA and design trickled down from their wider counterparts in the 95-100 mm category. (We will be talking about that segment in another upcoming article). These skis perform well on hard snow under the feet of a more accomplished skier, yet they still prefer mixed and off piste conditions. Like their wider brethren, the narrower wides tend to have more rocker/rise at the extremities, along with some varying shapes.

So when choosing a ski in this category, how do you proceed? It is a tough decision, especially if you might be looking for that elusive one ski quiver. Knowing what you don’t want and where you don’t have aspirations to ski is as important as knowing what characteristics you do want in the ski and where you do ski. Having the answers for these soul-searching questions before you start reading reviews, or walk into a shop with a wad of hard earned cash in your pocket, is imperative to preventing an expensive mistake.

As I mentioned earlier, the 80-90mm segment is a melting pot, and some might say a compromise. Compromises can put some on the defensive. The purist will suggest that you need to be on a narrow ski for most conditions: After all, that is the way they learned, so you should suffer too! The Gen X/Y’er will suggest that you be on a 100 mm plus. Take both of those suggestions with a healthy dose of pink Himalayan salt. Try to be honest with yourself, and take the best of those two segments to find the most appropriate 60-40 or 50-50 balance for where you will be skiing.
About author
Philpug
I started skiing in the mid-70s in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania; from then on, I found myself entrenched in the industry. I have worked in various ski shops from suburban to ski town to resort, giving me a well-rounded perspective on what skiers want from their gear. That experience was parlayed into my time as a Gear Review Editor and also consulting with manufacturers as a product tester. Along with being a Masterfit-trained bootfitter I am a fully certified self proclaimed Gear Guru. Not only do I keep up with the cutting edge of ski gear technology, but I am an avid gear collector and have an extensive array of bindings as well as many vintage skis.

Replies

Great review
 
This is a great way to think about this segment - the overlap in this range is often confusing but the paradigm of wider/narrow vs. narrow/wider is a really smart way to define what one is actually looking for.
 
This is a great way to think about this segment - the overlap in this range is often confusing but the paradigm of wider/narrow vs. narrow/wider is a really smart way to define what one is actually looking for.
Thank you. We thought it would be most simple/layman way to help people understand the segment.
 
i dont think that an 80 to 90 mm waisted ski is going to be a great all mountain ski, so you might as well pick the more carve oriented 80 to 90 mm ski. it will be more fun for the 90% of the time that its groomer skiing, and ski better on the hard stuff. an 80 to 90 carve oriented ski will also ski well enough when its powder on groomers, or firm off piste.
 
A couple years ago I got myself a pair of Nordica Enforcer 100's (185cm.) I am a hard charger, ski mostly on piste with a preference for groomers. (Although I used to be all about the moguls, as I've aged, they just beat me up too much to truly enjoy any longer.)
The Enforcer's truly are a one quiver ski that can take anything I toss at them. That said, I was really intrigued by the Carving Class (I view the Frontside Class as what you have described as "narrower wide skis") Last season I added a pair of Nordica Dobermann Spitfire 80RB's (174cm) and OH MY, those dogs bite. When I know the snow will be hard, that is what I will be skiing. They have no speed limit, (and I do ski really fast too!) rocket out of turns and just plain rip up the slopes.
Next skis I get will be a pair of Peak's (If/when I'm ready to retire my daily drivers, the Enforcers) still trying to decide between the 88 and 98, currently leaning towards the 88.
I agree that for most folks and conditions the 80-90 range is hot. the 104+ to surfboard size skis are probably great if you are skiing pow all the time, trekking up mountains to ski down, heliskiing etc. But, for the rest of us in bounds skiers I think 80 to 100 is the sweet spot, and IMHO the 80-90 will perform better for most skiers, there are some pretty stout skis in that width range.
 

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