Gear Review: Women’s Elan Ripstick 102 W Skis

I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again. Skis in the mid-100s give me déjà vu. Lots of directional skis with a moderate flex and carbon laminates that clock in at 1700g. They’re accessible to progressing intermediates, but supportive enough for experts, and pretty versatile around the mountain in soft snow climates.

The Elan Ripstick 102 is no exception, but there are a few special touches that make the Ripstick stand out. Most notably, they have a dedicated left and right ski, and the outside edges of the tips are a little thinner, softer, and more rockered than the inside edges. This combo makes the skis easy and rewarding to carve and ski with good traditional form.

Construction (size 170)

To really appreciate how the Ripstick 102 W handles, it helps to understand it’s made and how it’s different from its peers before connecting those features to its on snow performance.

We’ll dive in to how these specs inform how the Ripstick handles, but to learn more, check out the Construction Cheat Sheet.

Ripstick 102 W & Ability Level

As you can tell from the chart, the Ripstick is very vanilla and designed to work for lots of different skiers. And that definitely holds true for the Ripsticks and ability level. If you can connect turns, you can ski the Ripstick, so long as you’re sized appropriately. However, if you spend most of your time on groomers, the Ripstick 88 W and 94 W both share the same construction with fiberglass and carbon, and reinforcement along the inside edge of the ski. The narrower width will take less work to get on edge and there’s less weight to carry around.

The Ripstick 102 W has just enough rocker in the tails to make intermediate, skidding turns. But the Amphibio tips make the ski really rewarding when you get forward, drive the tips, and carve the ski. The Amphibio profile makes the outer edges of the ski a bit more rockered, thinner, and softer. (The Amphibio design is slight. I couldn’t see the subtle difference between the inside and outside edge of the ski. But I could feel a difference in thickness when running my hands along the edges of the tip). That softer outside edge is easier to bend and roll up on edge for more classic, carved technique.

In other words, for progressing intermediates and advanced skiers, if you want a ski that rewards good traditional technique, these skis check the box in a way that its peers doesn’t.

Next, we’ll get into the Ripstick 102 W’s performance in various types of terrain and snow conditions, from best to worst:

Groomers

Starting with the Ripstick 102 W’s greatest strength, I was really surprised with how well the Ripsticks skied groomers. Before anyone fights me on this, they’re certainly not a frontside ski. But compared to other skis with 100-something width and around 1700g, I experienced less tip chatter at speed. This is also where the Amphibio design makes itself most obvious. The outer tips are not only more rockered, but thinner and softer than the inside edge of the ski. It’s easy to bend the shovels and roll them up on edge, and when you do, the Ripsticks reward you for it. They’re also capable to slide around with skidded turns, but it makes the skis feel much more planky. The harder I laid these over, the better they felt, and I couldn’t find a top end of them on the groomers (but given my size and ski background, that might not be the case for everyone).

Compared to the Pandora 104, the Ripstick 102 had a bit better torsional stability and felt more secure up on edge. And compared to the Sheeva 10, the flatter tails kept more of the ski’s edge in contact with the snow in firm conditions and made it feel a slight bit more locked in.

Moguls, Trees, and Tight Terrain

The light weight and easy turn initiation make the Ripstick 102 Ws easy to make quick, nimble turns through bumps, and if you take more of a pivot-y, smear-y approach, the tips and tails are just soft and rockered enough to make it easy. And the fairly forgiving tails make the Ripsticks forgiving if you pop out of the zipper line or get off balance.

In the trees and tight chutes, the Ripsticks reminded me a lot of the Blizzard Sheeva 10, in that they turn on a dime with little effort. Stevens has phenomenal steep tree skiing, and they’re way more enjoyable on a nimble ski where you can adjust your line or shut down speed at the drop of a hat. However, where the Sheeva 10s felt limited to short radius turns and felt nervous pointing down the fall line, the Ripsticks offered more turn shape versatility and still felt stable letting them run in more open areas.

Powder

I found the Ripsticks to be decent, but not exceptional in powder. They planed well from a centered or slightly forward position, but I could get the tips to dive if I really drove the skis. Sitting in my quiver beside a Black Crows Atris Birdie and 18/19 Nordica Santa Ana 110 – two skis that have proven unsinkable for me over the years – it’s been easy to leave the Ripsticks behind on deep days. If you’re looking for a 1-ski quiver or vacation ski that makes minimal sacrifices on deep days, this is it. If you’ve got a well-rounded all-mountain ski in the high 80’s or 90’s underfoot, there are other skis in the 100-something width class that will offer points of differentiation and prevent less overlap between skis. I’m partial to the Salomon QST Stella 106 and Black Crows Atris Birdie.

Crud

Thanks to Washington’s warmer climate, powder that’s smooth and light in the morning turns into skied out hot chop after noon. The Ripsticks made it easy to ski hard in the morning and then call it a day just in time for a late lunch.

Like most people, in cruddy conditions, I prefer a heavier ski with a metal laminate that can bust right through it. But even within lighter classes of skis, I prefer ones that have softer tips and shovels, and ramp more dramatically through the mid-section of the ski like the Atris Birdie or Sheeva 10. The soft tips deflect easily, but I’ve learned to trust the stouter, heavier midsection of the ski to keep my skis planted and my turns on track. The softer flex seems to absorb vibrations. With the Ripsticks, the flex doesn’t rise and fall quite as dramatically, and when the tips danced around in choppy snow, I really felt that underfoot. The skis flex is more consistent throughout the length of the ski, so when the tips get thrown off course, the rest of the stiff, light ski goes with it. Once the snow gets chunky, the Ripstick’s best options are to slow down and gingerly pick your way through it.

Who should buy it?

Intermediate to expert women looking for a 1-ski quiver, all-mountain ski in regions with heavy snow. It’s a great fit for progressing skiers who want to improve their technique but would prefer their skis give positive reinforcement instead of punishment.

Ripstick 102 W vs. Ripstick 106

These are the same skis with different mount points. I know, it sounds like they’re different widths. And they come in different sizes. But it’s all smoke and mirrors to make them seem different.

Elan scales the width and length of these skis. So the smallest women’s ski is 102 wide, and the longest men’s ski is 106 wide, but most of the middle sizes are about 104mm in width. For width, they take the men’s measurement before pressing and the women’s measurement after the ski gets its slight bends in the rocker and camber. So the women’s 170 and men’s 172 both nest inside each other perfectly.

I wholeheartedly despise how Elan has labeled these widths and sizes. Women tend to be more cautious with pre-purchase demos, and it’s so helpful for us to know when we can demo from the men’s side of the aisle if a demo shop doesn’t carry both versions of the ski or only carries a few lengths.

And again, the women’s ski has a recommended mount point +1cm forward compared to the men’s version, which makes it a little easier to turn and a smidgen less stable, but the difference is slight. If you end up with a men’s ski to demo or keep for yourself, you can recreate the women’s ski just by asking the tech to mount at +1cm.

Is the Ripstick 102 W a good touring ski?

The Ripstick is light enough to be a 50 / 50 ski with a Shift binding. It’ll get the job done for shorter tours and can be humped up to Helens or Adams with a little extra effort. I could see using the Ripstick as a 50 / 50 ski and having something light in the 80’s or 90’s designed for high vert, spring skiing that I could reach for on days when I have to also carry overnight or glacier gear.

But I do think the new Ripstick Tour line is a better option for a dedicated touring ski that has the versatility for year-round touring. The Tour version knocks off 15% of the weight in the 180 size (so I’d ballpark my 170s would be around 1500g).

A word about Elan’s marketing

I always check the product copy to see what brands say about their skis and to search for hints on how a ski handles. Here’s what Elan says about the Ripstick 102 W:

The Ripstick 102 W is designed by women for skiers who aggressively push their limits and seek out the toughest lines and deepest pow – all while putting the boys to shame.

Is the last line really necessary? You never see the marketing for men’s skis mention women. But men are the standard and they’re seen as better skiers than women. “Keeping up with the boys” or “leaving the guys in the dust” is pitched as the ultimate flex for a female skier. In reality, some guys are good, some are recreational. Some gals shred hard and others cruise. Gender is not indicative of talent, and I think Elan can do better than tired marketing tropes. For more discussion on gender comparisons in ski marketing, I’ve got a whole post here.

2 thoughts on “Gear Review: Women’s Elan Ripstick 102 W Skis

  1. We have the 94W in our household, and I would say similar things form watching my daughters ski it.
    Carves well when laid over, but pivots easily in moguls or deep snow.

    And for that one at least, and I would assume for the 102 as well, know that they do not “ski long”.
    My oldest daughter grew out of them this year. My 11 y.o. daughter (5’5”, 100 lbs) was using a pair of 150cm kids skis, that seemed short. I was worried that the 163cm Ripstick (just about head height, and meant for adult weight) would be to long for her, as we ski a lot of moguls and steep, tight chutes, but are not expert skiers.
    After trying it out at home, we took them to Utah, and she had no problem with them, even in the biggest moguls or the narrowest chutes.

    Like

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