evolv 90

Little Liberty out of Avon, Colorado distinguished itself from scores of other small-batch brands when it made two momentous decisions a few years ago, one commercial, one technical. On the brand-building front, it opted to establish a viable network of specialty shops, despite all the hassle and expense compared to selling direct to the consumer. On the technical, ski-building side of the business, it created a new design that used vertical aluminum struts, in lieu of horizontal sheets of Titanal, to dampen vibration and maintain snow connection.

Vertical Metal Technology was first applied in a dual-strut format to a 3-model V Series for the 18/19 season. For a brand that had built a following for its lightweight, bamboo and carbon cores in fat, freeride dimensions, the slender V skis with their hard-snow, fall-line orientation were a considerable departure.

Leaping forward to this year, VMT is still an important part of the Liberty line, which is more than can be said for the V Series. While the pioneer VMT series had several admirable qualities, the market never embraced Liberty as a carving ski provider. So, the savvy lads who run Liberty applied a 3-strut VMT to the already established all-mountain series, evolv. The evolv 90 sits in the middle of the 3-model evolv series (the other evolv models are the 84 and 100) where it serves as the centerpiece, literally and figuratively, for the evolv family.

When you put the evolv 90 through its paces, its carving characteristics predominate. In a category chock full of skis with disconnected tips, its VMT struts keep it glued to the hill for nearly every cm of its length. If you look closely at its shape, its sidecut is very similar to that of the Kästle MX88, another AME anachronism that would rather carve than drift. Another similarity the evolv 90 shares with the MX88 is both need to be driven. It’s a powerful ski that strong, technical skiers can appreciate.

evolv 84

If you assembled a personality profile of the Liberty evolv 84 based on appearances, you could be excused for thinking it’s some variety of all-mountain ski. Which I’m sure it’s intended to be, but it behaves more like a GS ski with a fall-line fixation. Its sunny cosmetics suggest a free spirit that will float over anything fluffy; in reality, the evolv 84 is one of the most connected carvers in the Frontside genre.

The reason the evolv 84 is so well planted on planet Earth is its triple-ribbed core. A little background: Liberty grew up as a brand building bamboo and carbon skis that would bring both lightweight and stability to wide-body skis. Then designer and co-owner Dan Chalfant conceived of Vertical Metal Technology (VMT), aluminum ribs placed vertically in the core so they would resist deflection more than the putty-soft horizontal Titanal sheets that are the norm.

As embodied in the evolv 84, VMT creates a ski with a fall-line disposition. Short turns tend to be shallow, keeping close to the shortest path downhill. If you want it to head cross-hill, get forward and drive the evolv 84 as you would a race ski. Its tail provides a platform you can trust, so while its turn finish isn’t explosive, it’s totally trustworthy.

Because it’s not a system ski – there’s no plate or other interface between the skier and the snow – the evolv 84 has a clarity of snow feel that most carvers with its tenacity lack. John Beesley, head of the Mt. Rose Ski School,” praised the evolv 84 for its “great snow-ski feedback.”

evolv 100

Small-batch producers like Liberty have a tough row to hoe. Aside from zero name recognition, they have to either work with an established factory or try to start their own facility, both of which have their disadvantages. Their other two biggest problems are how to differentiate themselves from the pack and thereby generate a sense of mission when it’s highly unlikely they’ll have unique materials or processes, and how to make a consistent product when limited demand dictates they work in short production runs.

Liberty broke from the boutique brand pack with Vertical Metal Technology (VMT). As is often the case with new technologies, Liberty spent a few years trying to find the best formula for VMT’s deployment, settling last season on a three-struct configuration in its all-mountain evolv series. The vertical strips of alu are encased in bamboo stringers within a bamboo and poplar core that’s reinforced with carbon and glass. It’s a very rich and sophisticated construction that rises well above the norm among indie brands.

As executed in the evolv 100, VMT accentuates its carving traits, tipping its on-tail/off-trail ratio towards rocking groomers over ripping up crud. In a category in which most models can’t wait to smear, the evolv 100 prefers to carve, slicing long arcs (19m@179cm) that don’t deviate far from the fall line. To tighten your turns, apply a higher edge angle.

Over the past four seasons, our experiences with Liberty have illuminated a point we tend to brush over, namely the vital importance of base prep. All brands, big and small, struggle with ex-factory finish. To loosen up the evolv 100’s tight grip, consider using a grind like a thumbprint or chevron that will improve its willingness to drift and move laterally, a must in tight quarters off-trail.

evolv 90w

Forgive me, Dear Readers, for I have sinned. I’ve included the Liberty evolv 90w here without knowing, deep-down, how women will feel about its latest incarnation. You see, last year Liberty added a third alu strut to its innovative Vertical Metal Technology core, which requires a certain amount of energy to deflect.  I’m sure Liberty understands that any skier, regardless of gender, has to be able to bend a ski to extract its best behavior. Still, I hate to render judgment based on suspicions alone.

But I’m going to, anyway. The prior generation’s carving prowess, to which the fabulous Kim Beekman alludes, below, was already first-rate, and the unisex 22/23 evolv 90 is one of the brightest stars in this year’s pantheon of All-Mountain East models. There’s every reason to suspect the new evolv 90w will perform like an elite carving ski trapped in an all-mountain model’s body.

evolv 84w

When the fabulous Kim Beekman opined in her review of 20/21’s season’s evolv 84 W that it “definitely prefers to mach the groomed at eye-watering speeds,” she had her finger on what makes the evolv 84w special. Even though it belongs to an all-mountain family of which it is the narrowest member, it behaves as if it has a carving obsession. Over the 21/22off-season, Liberty encouraged this behavior by adding a third aluminum strut to its Vertical Metal Technology core.

Which is why the 22/23 evolv 84w has a distinct, carving-ski feel with a fall-line disposition. Short turns tend to be shallow, keeping close to the shortest path downhill. If you want it to head cross-hill, get forward and drive the evolv 84w as you would a race ski. As the sublimely powerful Megan Ochs somewhat cryptically encapsulated its personality, “this ski skied like a stiffer ski than what it actually is. Well done,” said the demanding Ms. Ochs, who, BTW, is a power-lifter strong enough to bend an I-beam.