Overview

Salomon was riding a string of ridiculously successful product introductions when the brand introduced its first ski in 1989.  The monocoque shell was the big story, creating such a groundswell of demand that all the ski brands that came before had to re-tool to some kind of cap ski design or risk a swift, painful death.

Salomon followed up the ski launch a few years later with an idea that continues to reap rich rewards for all brands to this day.  Salomon declared that experts didn’t possess a single, monolithic skill set, but that they could be divided into 3 fields, Equipe, Force and EXP, each with its own rationale for an expert-level – and most importantly, expert-price – product.   This was the moment when the market began to invert its product pyramid, to go from a base of a gazillion, low-cost package skis to a foundation built from expert skis in a minimum of 7 iterations from every supplier.

To put things in perspective, Salomon’s initiation of multiple expert ski genres has been as beneficial to the entire ski market over time as the career of Tiger Woods has been to the golf world. 

Eventually, Salomon’s magic touch wore off. It looked down its Gallic nose at the arriviste shaped skis, raising eyebrows by being behind the trend for once. Its transition away from rear-entry boots wasn’t smooth, although it’s safe to say that rocky era is well behind it.  Although the brand would have star products again – X Scream and Pocket Rocket come to mind – it didn’t always display its formerly flawless feel for the market.  Important launches such as the BBR failed to get off the ground.

This led to a period of retrenchment during which Salomon relied on the lower cost of monocoque manufacturing to pursue a price-advantage strategy.  Consumers responded well to the easy-skiing style of the Q series, but opinion leaders shied away from skis they perceived as too soft.

This takes us up to the 2016/17 season, when Salomon unveiled the QST series of off-trail-oriented skis. With a weave of carbon and flax (C/FX), Salomon finally found a formula for a lightweight ski that didn’t flop around on hard snow like a carp on a hot dock.  With the QST series, the brand bid adieu to monocoque, building these models instead with square sidewalls from tip to tail.  The top 3 QST’s, the 118, 106 and 99, also inserted a segment of Titanal underfoot so the edge won’t wash out in ratty terrain. 

In 2018/19, Salomon doubled down on C/FX, adding transverse strands to create a carbon and flax grid that makes the many models that rely on it more powerful and responsive. C/FX3 was the defining ingredient across the top of four product families: QST, QST Women’s, XDR and the Aira collection for women.  The QST 106 and QST 99 also received a layer of basalt between the base and core to better withstand the battering of harbor chop.

It’s unusual to overhaul a product family’s design two years in a row, yet in 2019/20, Salomon again reconfigured its mix of basalt, carbon and flax fibers, separating out the flax into its own layer and braiding the carbon and basalt into crosshatched strands. Koroyd, a synthetic honeycomb integral to the QST design since its inception, was replaced in the tip and tail with bits of cork that Salomon assessed to be 16 times more shock absorbent than Koroyd.

And the suite of 19/20 changes didn’t stop there. Salomon also altered the shape and sidecut radius of every QST, reducing the width at tip and tail.  The prior generations’ deep sidecuts had a tendency to over-steer and didn’t slice as evenly through broken snow as the new editions. The net effect was that the last crop of QST’s were more directionally stable, quieter on edge and gave the pilot more control over trajectory.

While the 2019/20 QST’s were Salomon’s best off-trail collection ever, they still didn’t perform on a par with the Enforcers, Bonafides and Mantras of this world. The QST collection always prioritized light weight, so it minimized the role played by Titanal. To battle the big boys for dominance in the key All-Mountain genres, Salomon had to fight metal with metal. So last season Salomon introduced Stance, a 5-model series that added two full sheets of Titanal to the C/FX equation.

The Stances are all comfortable at speed, which is useful as their flat, narrow tails keep them close to the fall line. Their design is a hybrid of sorts: the rear is built like a Frontside ski, while the forebody has the rocker and slightly softer torsional flex associated with all-mountain models. The front end keeps them calm in crud while the rear gives them the propulsion and precision to tear through any terrain.

The 2022 Season

While the Stance series solved one problem, it created another. Now that Salomon had two complete off-trail series competing head-to-head for the same consumer, some redundancy was inevitable. The odd ski out turned out to the QST 99, which had finally found its ideal shape and construction only to be euthanized in its infancy.

The well-balanced QST 99 went bye-bye because it had gotten too good at hard-snow performance, encroaching on the turf being established by the Stance 96, a stout, fall-line attacking stick with a Frontside bias. The new QST 98 is in no danger of being mistaken for a Stance 96.

The 21/22 QST 98 skis much looser and lighter than either the QST 99 or the Stance 96. On hard snow, it’s as nervous as a 13-year old on a first date. It takes some fresh snow under it to calm it down.  There’s a market for step-up skis with an off-trail orientation, but this skier often spends more time on groomers, where the QST 98 seems out of its element.

All was explained when I saw a promo shot for the QST 98 in its element: upside down on the brink of a half-pipe. Little wonder it seems out of place on-piste.

A better solution for the less skilled skier is the new Stance 84.  Not to bury the lede, it’s arguably the best value in the 2021/22 market. It sheds a laminate of Titanal to make its $499 retail possible, but the single sheet that remains still packs a wallop. It performs as well on groomers as many skis selling for upwards of $100 more.

At the other end of the ability spectrum lies the new QST Blank, a 112mm-underfoot Big Mountain behemoth that’s meant for Salomon’s freeride team athletes.  If you’re not trying to out-race your own slough to the next cliff band, the Blank is probably not your ski.

S/Force Bold

The S/Force Bold is an unapologetic Frontside carver. If you want to find out how deep a new snowfall is, take a run on the S/Force Bold and you’re almost certain to find the bottom. Any ski this stable can make its way through off-trail porridge, but it will send out the occasional reminder that you’re running against its grain. The reason the S/Force Bold is laden with dampening agents and associated avoirdupois is to …READ MORE

Stance 84

The Stance 84’s most stunning achievement isn’t its podium finish among our Finesse Favorites, or even its elite, on-trail performance; the headline story about Salomon’s new Stance 84 is its off-the-charts value. The Stance 84 is slotted to sell at $499; there’s a slew of models slated to retail at $699 or more that can’t hold a candle to it. There’s always a reason why a modestly priced model punches above its weight.  In the …READ MORE

Stance W 84

Every so often a ski maker screws up and makes a ski that’s considerably better than it needs to be. Salomon removed half the Titanal from its pricier (and wider) Stances to extend the Stance family down to the $499 price point, intending to drop the performance level to fit the target skier’s performance expectations. Instead, it exceeded them. The Ti-C Frame Single Ti construction delivers a connected, carved turn that won’t wilt on crisp, …READ MORE

QST 92

Let the record show that no ski made as giant a leap forward last year as the Salomon QST 92. In its two earlier incarnations it barely met our Recommended minimum standards, hanging by a thread on the tail end of the Finesse ski standings. Now it resides near the top of our Finesse rankings, and the result is no fluke. When Salomon introduced the QST line, it needed to hit multiple price points, so …READ MORE

Stance 90

If you digest all the brochure copy expended on All-Mountain East models, you’ll find somewhere in every model description that it’s a “50/50” model, meaning it’s equally suited to skiing on-trail or off. What this seemingly innocuous shorthand term for a versatile ski masks is that no ski can ever truly be half-and-half, for every model is part of a design family that’s inherently biased to one side of the mountain or the other. This …READ MORE

QST Lumen 99

Since the QST series was launched by Salomon many moons ago, its male and female iterations have been indistinguishable beneath their decorated top-sheets. Not so this season, where the unisex QST 99 was singled out for transformation, while the QST Lumen 99 was unchanged except for a purely cosmetic makeover. The two generations could not be more different. The new QST 98 tilts its terrain interests decidedly in the off-trail direction. Its well rockered extremities …READ MORE

Stance 96

One way to grok the role played by the Stance 96 in Salomon’s line is to look at its counterpart in Salomon’s QST collection, the new QST 98. Earlier versions of this QST included on-trail features like super-wide tips and multiple doses of shock-dampening fibers, but the new QST 98 has a clear bias for off-trail conditions. Salomon can afford to tilt the QST towards side-of-the-trail conditions because the Stance 96 is so rock-solid on …READ MORE

QST 106

One reason the QST 106 is able to impose its will on combative crud, is it isn’t as light as you might expect for the flagship of a series dedicated to off-trail travel. Although it deploys a combination of fibers as its primary structural element – which doesn’t sound heavy – its stout sidewalls and Ti plate contribute to a total weight that’s roughly average for the genre. I confess I’ve been maintaining a soft-snow-days …READ MORE

QST Stella 106

QST is an abbreviation of Quest, Salomon’s umbrella label for off-piste gear, the first tip-off that the QST Stella 106 comes from a family of off-trail tools. While the Quest name and its various abbreviations have been part of the Salomon lexicon for over a decade, the skis that bear the QST mark have evolved considerably over that span. The current Stella 106 uses a trifecta of technical fibers to get just the flex and …READ MORE

Stance 102

To understand a ski’s purpose, one needs to know what void it’s filling in its brand’s big picture, as well as where it fits in the category in which it’s competing. Perhaps the best way to define the role of the Stance 102 in Salomon’s 21/22 collection is to identify what it is not, namely a QST. The Stance series wasn’t intended to go head-to-head with QST in the race for the lightest in-resort ski. …READ MORE