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2nd Look: 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: Tecnica Cochise 120 / Marker Griffon Demo (DIN at 12)

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

Test Location: Breckenridge & Arapahoe Basin, CO

Days Skied: 8

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

Intro

While much of the ski industry has lightened up or even ditched their directional chargers, Liberty, a company out of Avon, Colorado, introduced the Liberty Variant 113 for the 2014-2015 season. The Variant 113 is marketed as a big-mountain ski, a stable platform that is at home at speed in both variable conditions and powder.

I happen to be a big fan of the 2009-2010 metal Volkl Katana 190 cm (skiing it regularly), and having spent a decent amount of time on many other big mountain guns like the older ON3P Wrenegade 191cm and the DPS Wailer 105 T2 185cm, the real question for me was: Does the Variant 113 live up to its ad copy?

Jonathan made clear in his review of the Variant 113 that he believes it does, and I would agree.

But what makes this ski a bit different from the others is the compliance that the Variant 113 has in trickier terrain.

While the 2010-2011 Katana’s reverse camber shape will allow it to weave through tight slots and moguls, the Variant 113’s softer flex pattern allows it to feel more at home in this terrain. The tips are noticeably softer than the Katana, and the tails are slightly (but only slightly) softer. But what about when the terrain opens up and begs for speed? I could really lean into the ski and trust that it wouldn’t fold up or buck me, as much as any other ski I’ve been on, no matter the conditions. The softer flex profile of the Variant 113 was definitely not a liability.

Groomers

This is where the Variant 113 feels least at home. Jonathan nails it when he says these are one-dimensional on groomers (though he also admits that he enjoys the one dimension that the Variant 113 does have). I’m 175 lbs in normal street clothes, and the Variant 113 requires a lot of speed and force to bend into an arc that will generate noticeable rebound. It is definitely not the right tool if you’re looking to enjoy moderate speeds or quick, short radius turns on groomed snow, but you didn’t look to this ski for that purpose … I hope.

But if you like to blast down groomers as fast as possible, the Variant 113 will do that with authority.

Moguls

For a big-mountain ski that returns very little energy on groomers, the flex profile of the Variant 113 surprisingly lends itself to being worked through the sort of terrain and surfaces that tend to populate steep and narrow runs. (For those familiar with Breckenridge, this would be the ‘E’ Chair.) When I stayed committed to the fall line, kept my speed up, and skied deliberately / not lazily, I found the Variant 113 to be more compliant than other big-mountain skis I’ve been on in similar terrain (though to be clear, I don’t mean to suggest that the Variant 113 is an easy-going ski).

The flex profile seems to be responsible for some of this, coupled with the more modern mount point. Whether banging out quick turns in the zipperline, or pressing the nose into the face of a mogul to ollie onto the backside of another, the Variant 113 doesn’t feel out of place in this terrain in the hands of a skilled skier, and generates a hint of pop that I didn’t find it to have on groomers.

Steep, Smooth, and Firm

February in Colorado has brought very little snow and very high winds. These high winds transformed Breckenridge’s wide-open alpine terrain into a sheet of some of the most rock-hard snow (non-ice) I’ve ever skied. It’s the kind of snow where you look back up and there isn’t even a hint of your ski tracks. Hopping onto a short, steep pitch (Lulu’s in Horseshoe Bowl) the Variant 113 allowed me to slarve a few chattery turns before lining up a small rock to launch off.

The rather precise edging ability of the Variant 113 created more chatter in these very firm conditions – engaging and releasing its edge and requiring a finer touch to create a smooth slarve. However, it also would lock in with greater authority and hold its line once I lined up with the rock. While the 09/10 190 cm Katana is a noticeably damper ski, executing this same line required an even greater level of concentration and effort to keep myself on line. But on subsequent days, in more typical, chalky, wind-affected conditions (less firm), the Variant 113 was much more comfortable sliding around off-edge down Lulu’s, and chatter was minimal, if not gone completely. However, the Variant 113 still wasn’t as damp as the Katana.

In the air, the Variant 113 felt comfortable landing on firm snow from larger features. The ski felt very supportive both in the tips and the tails, and provided a solid platform for correcting off-balance landings.

Powder

While our deep days have been limited in February, I’ve been able to get the Variant 113 into some more dense, wind-affected bottomless powder. For someone of my size, the Variant 113 provides plenty of float in such conditions. I didn’t feel the need to get back on my heels to keep the tips up, and I could press into the shovels without feeling like I’d go over the bars. The Variant 113 is just as happy ripping large, fast turns in untracked snow as it is porpoising high-energy, shorter-radius turns. And when the snow gets tracked up?

Chop

The Variant 113 crushes chop. It’s a bit more suited to deeper chop than something like the DPS Wailer 105 T2, and feels very similar to the older ON3P Wrenegade (191 cm) and the Volkl Katana 190 cm in this respect. Arc large radius turns, and the Variant 113 will smoothly steamroll right over the typical resort mix of tracked and untracked pockets.

Durability

On my most recent day on the Variant 113, we had 10” of dense powder after a fairly long dry and warm spell. As a result, I hit an ample number of hidden rocks. The hardness of the base material appears to be similar to that used by ON3P (one of the most durable brands out there, in my experience), and I expect these bases to hold up significantly better than the base material used by the majority of mainstream ski companies. Despite hitting a large number of rocks, I came away with only minor base scratches.

Bottom Line

The 09/10 metal Katana has been my go-to one-ski-quiver for resort skiing for a few years now. While the Variant 113 doesn’t quite have the same damp, rubbery smoothness, it’s more locked in when firm conditions are encountered, and more compliant in steep moguls and other tight terrain. In this aspect, it feels to me like a blend between the DPS Wailer 105 T2 and the Volkl Katana: a little better charging through deeper snow than the Wailer 105 T2, while being more locked in than the Katana. It also handles tighter and moguled terrain better than either.

NEXT: Rocker Profile Pics

7 Comments

  1. JayT March 18, 2016 Reply

    Hey it’s Lindahl on Blister. Does this mean you have to quit the TGR forums now? ;-)

    Good review.

  2. Bob McBob March 18, 2016 Reply

    Can you compare the Variant more to the ON3P Wren? They seem to be of the same purpose, and very similar dimensions, same core material, etc. Which do you prefer and why?

  3. Author
    Brian Lindahl March 21, 2016 Reply

    The ON3P Wrenegade that I have experience with isn’t exactly comparable to the current Wrenegade. Mine is from 11/12, where not only is it 191cm, the mount point is also 3-4cm further back, it has a different rocker profile, and also a stiffer flex.

    The only relevant comparison I can make is the dampness. Despite having metal, the Variant 113 isn’t quite as damp as the ON3P Wrenegade that I have experience with. I’m pretty sure ON3P hasn’t changed their construction much, so I’d wager a guess that the latest ON3P Wrenegade is also damper than the Variant 113.

    That said, the new ON3P Wrenegade 108 is definitely a ski I’d like to get my hands on for a review. So maybe I’ll be able to give you a more definitive answer in the near future.

  4. Blister Member
    Big K March 22, 2016 Reply

    “While much of the ski industry has lightened up or even ditched their directional chargers” Why is this?
    Last spring SA at ON3P gave me a beat down over the phone when I called to see if they could press an out of production model because directional chargers were outdated. So what the #@$% happened? I don’t want jibby, I don’t want park, I don’t want made in China. I hope ON3P kills it with the upcoming Wrenegade and it remains a directional charger. I have never skied a damper, tougher ski than what they build. And they do it in Oregon while choking down the associated expense.

    • JayT March 22, 2016 Reply

      The Wrenegade never stopped being a directional charger. It’s been there the whole time.

  5. Blister Member
    John May 9, 2016 Reply

    Great review!

    How does this ski compare to the new (last two years) Volkl Katana 112? I have that ski, and while it’s less of a crud charger than the older Katana, it is for me, a pretty light weight skier, really good in crud still, at speed, seems like. But I’d love to get a comparison.

    Thanks.

  6. Brian Lindahl May 18, 2016 Reply

    I’ve only skied the current Carbon Katana for 2 runs in the early season (limited terrain). In my experience, there is no comparison. The Carbon Katana is NOT a charger like the old, nor like the Liberty Variant. While it is relatively damp, it deflects noticeably compared to all heavier construction skis that I have experience on. I would not personally use it as an inbounds ski, but I demand a lot of crud busting capability from my skis. I could see it working for someone who doesn’t ski ‘heavy’ and has a different style from myself. I could also see it working for someone that wants to ski a lot of backcountry but would like a stable ski, and perhaps use it inbounds in powder conditions and then go out of bounds for some sidecountry powder.

    Jonathan may have more insight, however, as I believe he has skied both extensively.

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