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 two years ago, 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. An unexpected star in the Stance series is the Stance 84, arguably the best value in the ginormous Frontside genre. 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 $100’s more.
The 2023 Season
Salomon’s R&D mavens just can’t keep their mitts off its stellar QST series. Last year, they converted the since-retired QST 99 into an all-mountain park ski (the current QST 98) and added the QST Blank, essentially a Big Mountain park ski. Both skis were the first recipients of a new C/FX figuration that ran tip to tail. For 2023, the QST 92 and QST 106 also got the full-C/FX treatment, along with new ABS rails underfoot that reinforce pressure over the edge. A lowered rocker profile creates better snow contact in all conditions.
These tweaks may not sound consequential, but it bears noting that both 2023 models rose in our rankings compared to last year, and skis they outperformed were already very good. The new QST 106 had the highest Power score among our top 3 Finesse finishers, which is saying a lot, considering the quality of the competition.
The QST 92 continues to amaze. We were obliged to evaluate it in a 176cm, which one would expect to handicap its ability to compete in the very well-served All-Mountain East genre. Yet it held so well in mixed snow conditions, it earned the third-highest aggregate score for Finesse properties. One consequence of all the benefits being bestowed on the QST 92 is an inevitable rise in its MSRP, to $675, but it’s still a bargain relative to the rest of the Recommended models in the crowded AME category.
Salomon’s QST 106 was already pegged as a star product when it was introduced in 2016/17, and Salomon has been enhancing the QST flagship on a regular basis ever since. The latest batch of improvements aim to boost power and grip while trimming a few grams off its total weight. First, the woven mat of carbon and flax (C/FX) that is the QST 106’s primary structural element now extends the entire length of the ski, …READ MORE
The Salomon QST 92 has risen from humble origins to its new position among the elite of the genre. Originally conceived to meet a lower price point ($500) and therefore underserved in the technology department, Salomon has been steadily enhancing its construction to match the latest innovations already added to pricier models, like the flagship QST 106. Just last year, the QST 92 adopted two features introduced two years ago in the QST 98, Double …READ MORE
Like a fairy tale princess, the Salomon QST Lux 92 was born in humble circumstances, endured an awkward adolescence and gradually transformed into a raving beauty. You see, the first edition of the Lux 92 was clearly intended for intermediates, first-time buyers and bargain hunters, as it sold for $499 and didn’t share much of the high-tech construction of its wider siblings, the Lumen and Stella. The latest Lux 92 has top-of-the-line features, including a …READ MORE
Salomon’s R&D department must be constantly fiddling with fibers, for every few years they re-arrange carbon, flax and basalt into different combinations that somehow out-perform the previous generation. In 2023, Salomon applied the same, end-to-end layer of C/FX’s latest incarnation that debuted two years ago in the QST 98. The 2022 Stella already had a Titanal mounting plate in its mid-section, a critical component in that its stabilizing influence extends beyond its borders. The fact …READ MORE
When Salomon launched the first edition of the Stance series in the 20/21 season, they were well aware that they were entering all-mountain categories already brimming with options. Most of the established image leaders in the pivotal All-Mountain West genre were Power models loaded stem to stern with dual Titanal laminates. To create some space for Stance in this crowd, Salomon had to both match what the category leaders were doing yet somehow be different …READ MORE
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 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 case …READ MORE
To understand where the updated Salomon Stance 90 fits in the All-Mountain East pantheon of Recommended models, it’s helpful to first understand its role within Salomon’s line, where it is cagily categorized as All-Mountain Frontside, a mash-up of two adjacent Realskiers categories. The blended genre succinctly captures the intent of the Stance series, to create what are essentially Frontside skis with wanderlust, always interested in what lies off-trail yet easily persuaded to lay down a …READ MORE
Last winter I was able to ski all the new Stances from Salomon on several occasions, from a foot of fresh to manicured corduroy. More by accident than design, I even skied them with two different boots. The more I skied them, the more I was led to a conclusion that, at first, I didn’t quite believe: they all ski remarkably alike. That may sound like a particularly unremarkable observation: if they’re all built the …READ MORE
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