The most honest and in-depth reviews of outdoor sports equipment on the planet.

2016-2017 Liberty Variant 113

Jonathan Ellsworth reviews the Liberty Variant 113 for Blister Gear Review

16/17 Liberty Variant 113

Ski: 2016-2017 Liberty Variant 113, 186cm

Available Lengths: 172, 179, 186 cm

Blister’s Measured Length (straight tape pull): 185.3 cm

Stated Dimensions for the 186cm model (mm): 145-113-132

Blister’s Measured Dimensions (mm): 144.5-113-132

Blister’s Measured Weight per Ski: 2345 & 2407 grams

Stated Sidecut Radius: 26 meters

Core Construction: Bamboo/Poplar + Titanal + Fiberglass Laminate

Tip & Tail Splay: 51 / 12 mm

Traditional Camber Underfoot: 2-3 mm

Boots / Bindings: Fischer Vacuum RC 140 / Marker Jester (DIN at 11)

Mount Location: “Standard” Line (~82.7cm from tail, ~9.95cm from center)

Test Location: Taos Ski Valley

Days Skied: 5

[Note: Our review was conducted on the 14/15 Variant 113, which is unchanged for 15/16 or 16/17, except for the graphics.]

Wow.

The Liberty Variant 113 is the first ski by Liberty that I’ve ever been on, and it’s been a compelling introduction.

But let’s back up for a minute…

We’d been getting more and more requests from readers to check out Liberty’s skis. So Will Brown took a closer look at Liberty’s line, and decided that we ought to start with the Helix and the Variant 113.

So far, Will has been quite impressed by the Helix. And I’ve been having a blast on the Variant 113 at Taos.

A big, fast blast.

Liberty’s Description of the Variant 113

I hadn’t read Liberty’s own description of the Variant 113 till I’d already put three days on it, but it’s on point. Allow me to highlight a few things from it:

Powerful edge grip and stability at speed on any snow surface. Titanal layer, stiff tail and Hammer Rocker inspire confidence in terrain with consequences. For charging hard no matter what comes your way, you can count on the Variant 113.”

I’m going to get to most of the stuff in bold, but yes: Powerful, Stable, Stiff, Charger.

And actually, Liberty has tweaked their product copy a little for 15/16. There is a line in their current description of the Variant 113 that I love:

“Whether touring to access the best lines, lapping the sidecountry, or just demolishing your resort, you can count on the Variant113.”

Designed to demolish. Get the idea?

The Variant 113 is a big, fun gun.

Jonathan Ellsworth reviews the Liberty Variant 113 for Blister Gear Review

Jonathan Ellsworth on the Liberty Variant 113, Kachina Peak, Taos Ski Valley.

And for those Volkl Katana owners who are still lamenting the demise of the metal Katana, you should pay very close attention to this review…

Flex Pattern of the Variant 113

Stiff tails, Medium shovels — exactly as Liberty describes them.

I’ve just spent about ten minutes hand flexing three rather similar skis that I’m going to be referencing a lot in this review: the Variant 113, the 190cm Salomon Q Lab, and the (now retired / discontinued) 191cm Volkl (metal) Katana. The tails of these three skis are similarly (quite) stiff, close enough that it’s difficult to place a clear rank on them.

As for the shovels, the Variant 113’s are stiffer than both the 191 Katana and the 190 Q Lab, by a noticeable but not huge amount.

And in terms of the consistency and feel of the flex patterns, I’d have to say that I like the Variant 113’s best—both in terms of the overall consistency of the flex pattern, and in terms of the progressive nature of the flex as you push into the tips and tails. It’s pretty money.

Blister’s Measured Weight per Ski (with Comparisons)

190cm Salomon Q Lab 109: 2571 & 2484 grams

191cm Volkl Katana: 2427 & 2397 grams

186cm Liberty Variant 113: 2345 & 2407 grams

As you can see, we’re talking about some pretty big, fairly burly skis here. If you feel tempted to write a comment like, “I like to ski hard and fast, but I also really like to mellow out and slow things down sometimes,” then none of these skis are probably going to be a great fit for you.

Conversely, if you find yourself saying things like, “I hate skiing slow,” or “I’m too lazy to ski slow,” then by all means, keep reading!

Groomers

The Variant 113 requires a lot of speed to hit high-angle carves. But once you do get going, the edgehold and stability of these skis is remarkable.

“Alarming” would be another apt word.

Again, for those who are too lazy to ski slow, or too lazy to make too many turns, you will get a big kick out of the Variant 113. They are pretty “one dimensional” on groomers in this regard, but they do this one dimension very well and like to make big turns at very high speeds.

When A/B-ing the Variant 113 against the 190 Salomon Q Lab, there’s no question that the Q Lab is the more natural fat “carver” — with its tighter, 20.5 meter sidecut radius and softer shovels, the ski is easier to bend and bring around, while also exhibiting tenacious edge hold like the Variant 113. And the Q Lab doesn’t require quite as much speed to hit high edge angles. The Variant 113 is – and feels like – a straighter ski.

So for pure carving, the Q Lab is still one of the very best 109-115mm skis I’ve ever been on.

But for huge, very fast, stable, GS turns, it’s tough to think of any skis in this width range that outperform the Variant 113.

“Stability on any snow surface”

In Liberty’s description of the Variant 113, they talk about the ski’s “stability at speed on any snow surface.” And so far, Yes.

I have yet to get the Variant 113 in really deep pow, but I have had them in thick slush, light pow, super sun-baked mashed potatoes, very firm moguls, icy afternoon groomers and chop.

And these pretty straight, fairly heavy skis with fat, flat tails have been at least good, and generally great, in all of the above.

Untracked Snow

It’s like cheating.

Blister SIA Trip, 2016 skis, Taos Ski Valley

Jonathan Ellsworth on the Liberty Variant 113, Lower Cabin Chute, Taos Ski Valley.

And if you’re talking about untracked snow on big-mountain faces, then these are like Heaven.

Liberty nailed the formula for going big and fast in fresh untracked snow and sun-baked untracked; pretty much whatever. And I wouldn’t hesitate to ski these in deep snow, so long as very tight trees or very low-angle pow fields are not involved. The Variant 113 was not designed to noodle around at low speeds.

23 Comments

  1. Robert Nugent February 10, 2015 Reply

    Great review. Looks like there is a pair of new 186s on ebay for $200 right now- nice!

  2. Blister Member
    Big K February 11, 2015 Reply

    Jonathan,

    Sounds like a fantastic ski and with a titanal layer now is the perfect time to ask, why do so few of the microbrewski’s use titanal?

    Thanks for the insiders view Big K

    • Author

      It is a fantastic ski. And I think as a very gross generalization, one of the reasons some smaller companies don’t use titanal is that it can be difficult to work with.

      And some companies say that they prefer the on-snow feel and performance of non-titanal skis.

  3. Jim February 11, 2015 Reply

    Will you be getting around to skiing the Wrenegades and if so when? I am curious to see your impression of the newest iteration (tweaked for 2014-2015 I believe). Inquiring minds want to know!

    Appreciate all you guys do.

  4. Ben February 12, 2015 Reply

    Great work as always. Any comparison to the 186 Governor? Sounds like the Variant may be a little more stout and not as quick. Is that accurate?

    • Author

      Thanks, Ben. The Variant 113 is definitely more stout than the Governor. For sure. I keep saying it, but the Governor is truly not that demanding of a ski – it’s just a nice ski.

      So yes, the Governor is probably a bit quicker and more maneuverable. But the Variant is so stable – and stable at speed – that I don’t find it to be sluggish. You’ll work a bit, but you can ski fast and hard with a ton of confidence.

  5. Lindahl February 17, 2015 Reply

    Sweet! Looking for a less-washy Katana. Something to replace my Wrenegade and Head m103. Really want to know how the dampness compares to the Katana 191. Is it just as silky? Also, powder performance – just as good or better? Mount point sounds perfect, too – love -9ish. And in a 186 is great too! Really excited about this ski.

    • Author

      Hey, sorry for the late reply, Lindahl. The Variant is certainly less washy than the Katana.

      And I’m afraid that we’ve been so busy with the new stuff that I haven’t yet A/B-ed the Variant against the 191 metal Katana.

      But I think you of all people ought to check out this ski. As far as dampness – I’ll say very close. I have not wanted or needed more dampness out of the Variant. And as for pow performance, I never really skied the 191 Katana in deep pow, but I can tell you that in fresh pow (not necessarily super deep, but light untracked and heavy untracked) the Variant performed very well.

      I really, really like this ski.

  6. Freestyle Dilly February 17, 2015 Reply

    Sounds like the Variant is the quickest from edge to edge if you are carrying any type of speed, would you agree? On balance that one definitely sounds like the best one for my kind of skiing: 50% groomers, 25% side country, 25% crud.

    Thanks for all that you do for us!

  7. Mike Fleming April 3, 2015 Reply

    would you deviate (forward) any from the standard line mount point if you have a 306mm BSL?
    just picked up a pair of these 113 Variant’s and some Governor’s. Will be a fun and interesting comparison. Thanks for any reply.

    • Author

      Hi, Mike – I’ve only skied the Variants in a 306 BSL (Fischer Vacuum 130s), so nope, I wouldn’t (and didn’t) deviate.

      And yes, Variant vs. Governor will be fun. I think both are really good, interesting skis, the Variant 113 is more ski – but I guess we’ll see if you agree.

  8. Lindahl May 7, 2015 Reply

    Any updates vs. the Katana?

  9. Lindahl July 9, 2015 Reply

    I guess we’ll see if this is the real deal or not. Just ordered some closeout Liberty Variant 113s in 193cm. Looking forward to comparing them to my 191cm Katanas, 183cm Head m103s, 191cm ON3P Wrenegades and 191cm ON3P Billygoats. Quiver overlap much? haha

  10. Lindahl July 14, 2015 Reply

    Looks like they’ve been re-designed for this year. The ’13-14 pair that I received has a little more than 1cm of camber (quite a bit), and has very little, if any, tip rocker. It’s more early-rise. The profile of the skis look very different than what’s pictured above. I’ll be sending them back – they won’t be as loose as I would want them to be.

  11. Diane Ahern September 23, 2015 Reply

    Thanks for the review! I’m convinced.

  12. Roy October 14, 2015 Reply

    Hi Jonathan awesome review! I’m really interested in the smaller version of the Variant, the Variant 97, it has identical dimensions and turn radius as the Bonafide, but with the same flex pattern and construction of this larger version variant. Was wondering if you’d tried out that ski and if not what you think it would ski like given your experience with these two skis. Thanks and looking forward to demolishing my resort this year!

  13. BB King November 21, 2015 Reply

    How would you say it compares to the cochise? Rocker profile looks similar….

  14. will December 16, 2015 Reply

    I’ve been riding the Liberty Helix and found it lacking a bit when traveling with speed through chop, crud and other variable conditions. Feels like the tips deflect more than I would like. But I really enjoy the energy and rebound of the Helix in light pow in trees and on groomers. Also appreciate the maneuverability. Basically looking for a more stout/beefier Helix that I can push harder in variable conditions. Is the Variant 113 the answer? Going to be a daily driver in Telluride so it needs to able to handle firm/variable conditions and be able to rally the groomers. Have a dedicated powder ski already. Thanks for the review!

  15. will January 4, 2016 Reply

    And has anyone at blister experimented with different mounting points?

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*