Icelantic Pioneer 96 Review

Updated: Jan 25

By Greg Gardner and PJ Walsh

Best Price Available: evo $679


Length Tested: 174

Width: 96

Test Bindings: Look Pivot 14s

Test Locations: Vail CO, Crested Butte CO, Park City UT, Snowbasin UT, Sun Valley ID, Galena Pass ID


Reviews:

Groomers: 8

Moguls: 8

Powder: 6

Technical Terrain: 9

Less than ideal conditions: 8

Freestyle: 6


Intro

The Icelantic Pioneer 96 is one of Icelantic’s flagship all mountain skis. As the name suggests, the ski is 96 underfoot with a rocker-camber-rocker profile. As a part of the pioneer series, the 96 is designed to be the most versatile of the bunch allowing the ski to excel regardless of condition. The shape is responsive, yet playful allowing for aggressive edge work in conjunction with the ability to easily butter and pop. Additionally, it retails for only $599 making it one of the most cost effective high performance all mountain skis on the market. Not to mention the pioneer is a ski that is suited for beginner/intermediate skiers in addition to experts, making it an excellent ski for developing your skiing technique.


Groomers

As with any all mountain ski, performance on groomers is critical and the pioneers do not fall short. While the pioneer is a fairly soft ski when it comes to carving, the ski still performs quite well. Due to the 17m turning radius and camber the 96 can easily lock into its edges, and spring you right out of a turn into the next one. Additionally, the radius is perfect for all mountain skiing in the sense that it is neither to wide nor too narrow, creating a vast set of opportunities for turn shape. Lastly, despite being a softer ski, the Pioneer 96 is a stable and reliable platform and its unlikely that you will experience chatter or instability at high speeds.


Moguls

The pioneer 96 is a fantastic all mountain ski for skiing moguls for several reasons. To begin, the ski is twin tipped allowing for easy exit between moguls without the hooking sensation that many directional skis create due to their longer edge profile. Additionally, at 96 underfoot this ski is nimble enough to easily navigate harsh turns without getting caught up or clipping between bumps. The pioneers are a great option for those who truly want to be able to tackle moguls with precision and prestige.


Powder

Due to the thin waist that makes mogul and groomer skiing a breeze, the pioneer struggles a bit in the powder. It simply is just not as good for this purpose as it is for other categories of skiing. The thin waist means that the ski will sink further into the powder and provide less float than some wider all mountain options. Despite this, the large front shovel (~130mm) and slimmer tail (120mm) brings the tips up, allowing the ski to have just enough float to make the ride super fun for sub 8 inch days. While not intended for deep snow, as a true one ski quiver, the pioneer 96 will perform well enough for your occasional powder day needs.


Technical Terrain and Trees

Our tester, PJ, found the Pioneer 96 to be incredibly reliable in technical and tight terrain. The skis are incredibly light and nimble, allowing for quick edge work and pivots. The ski does what you tell it to and allows skiers to quickly charge through terrain when it matters. As PJ said, when you're on the pioneers there are “no concerns about them not being able to do whatever line or make whatever moves you need to in tough situations.”


Less than Ideal Conditions

As with the other categories, the Pioneer 96 does not fall short in performance in less than ideal conditions. Our tester PJ described these skis as confidence inspiring in crud and chop. Additionally, he has tested these skis on the icy east coat mountains, to which he has felt confident and sure of the ski everytime.


Freestyle

Last but not least, the pioneer is a great ski for someone who wants to bring freestyle elements to an all mountain setting. With a slightly off center mounting position, the pioneer is definitely more adapted to all mountain skiing, however it still performs very well in this category. Being a twin tip it is able to handle switch skiing, but it is technically a directional ski so this is a bit more difficult than park specific models. Additionally, the pioneer has a low spin weight making it easy to throw threes and fives with confidence.


Conclusion

The pioneer 96 is one of our favorite all mountain skis for its versatility and price. This is due to its confidence inspiring, but playful nature. As our tester PJ stated, the pioneer is “one of the most fun pairs of skis I have ever skied.” While I would personally choose a wider ski because I spend most of my time in the Rocky Mountain region which sees better conditions, this ski is perfect for any beginner/intermediate to advanced skier looking for a one ski quiver that will perform nationwide!



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