Note: (This review is of the 2014 Liberty Variant97. The graphics are the only thing that have changed from last year's model.)
About Liberty the company:
“Liberty makes high performance skis rooted in functional innovation and respect for the environment. Every material we use, and design we produce, is done with the ultimate goal of elevating your experience on skis. Liberty skis perform so well because they are designed and built without regard to marketing hype or the latest trend. We test all our designs and materials ourselves to see if they improve the way our skis ride in a variety of conditions. If they do not improve the ski experience, then they don’t go in our skis. A great example of functional innovation is our exclusive use of bamboo laminate cores in our skis. Liberty was the first and remains the ONLY ski company to use bamboo in all our skis. Bamboo is strong, light, eco friendly, and gives our skis a unique stability and liveliness not found with any other material. Bamboo helps you ski better. Combining unique designs and the best materials available, we hand build skis to exacting standards, allowing Liberty to offer the best warranty in the industry at 3 years. We hand select bamboo from southern China, edges from Germany, bases from France, adhesives from the US, high tech composites from Germany, topsheets from Austria and plastics from Japan to create the most fun and versatile skis available.”
About the skis: Liberty Variant97 172 Dimensions(mm): 132-97-119 Radius(m): 18.5 Weight(g): 2100 "The Variant97 will carve in all snow conditions, yet has an easy-going personality that inspires trust at any speed. Precise turn initiation from the Hammer Rocker profile and multi-radius tip, combined with an energetic bamboo and poplar core make it a worthy partner anywhere on or off groomed terrain. A skin-friendly tip and tail keeps your terrain options open."
Here’s a little bit about me and what I ski: Me: Chica, 30 years, 5’9″, 135lbs, love deep fluff, fast groomers, and wide powdery glades!
Location of skiing: Mostly Western and Central Colorado
Type of skiing: Downhill-mostly resort, some side and backcountry
Skis I own: ’11 Liberty Double Helix 174, ’13 Liberty Helix 176 and ’14 Liberty Variant 97
Boot: Salomon Quest 10 25.5
Binding/AT Setup: Liberty/Tyrolia Adrenaline 15 AT Bindings and the MFD Alltime/4FRNT Gr8ful Deadbolt 15
Last year, I spent almost the entire season on the Variant 97s in and on every condition imaginable in Western Colo. On groomers, there's no comparison, they can straight line it at top speeds. Or make the most beautiful turns of any kind at whatever speed on groomers and untracked pow. Once I got them out in the wide open powder filled chutes and bowls, that "hammer rocker" tip rose right up and we had some good floatacious shmeary turns! They have a perfect amount of pop, always feel super stable and never feel like they'll ski away without me. In powder up to 1'+ they give me the perfect amount of float and are so easy to turn while still allowing me to get in deep for some serious face shots. The thing I love most about this ski is that on days where I want to rip as hard and as fast as I possibly can, these skis rip and then some, never feeling too stiff and definitely never too soft. When asked too, they ski FAST. I hit a top speed of 80mph straight-lining the one run I feel completely comfortable going that fast on (I'm not telling which run...can't have ski patrol hunting me down). And on days where I just want to take it easy, they are absolutely great for some breezy cruising! That month or so in January that the San Juan Mountains see hardly any new snow, and the snow available turns into boilerplate ice didn't affect the Variants any. They still cut right in and were able to make perfect arcing turns that felt completely in control, none of that skidding/sliding scary stopping nonsense.
Their weight combined with the Adrenalin A/T binding was just right when it came to hiking Telluride's Black Iron Bowl and Palymya Peak multiple times, Bald Mountain and up to the Gold Hill stairs. I loved its stiff flat tail. I feel like that tail made tight maneuvers at the top of chutes easy peezy! And with these shred sticks, skinning for some mild backcountry laps was a breeze!
There were only a few times when the snow got well more than a foot deep that the ski became a little difficult to maneuver. I figured it was because of three reasons: Either I wasn't going fast enough (it did seem with speed in open bowls they lifted right up), because they are <100mm wide they just weren't able to float quite as well or because of their weight and the fact that my womanly muscles weren't quite strong enough to control the skis. I'm going to say it was a combination of all three. But like I said, this particular situation only occurred only a few times in certain conditions. I've taken some good hits to the base and edges over rocks (due to those certain times where I just couldn't get them to float more and some very sneaky, barely covered chunks of granite), the Variants stood up to anything! There were a number of times where I expected to receive a major core shot and only a hardly visible scrape showed up. Over the 2013-14 winter season, I determined the Variant 97s are super solid skis that killer daily drivers for just about any condition, all over the mountain!