ZAG may be a ski brand you've not yet heard of but we hope to change that. They make amazing skis and our favourite is the UBAC 102 which is a touring machine. Light, stiff, fat and fun—everything you want in a backcountry ski and more. These skis do not disappoint which is why we've awarded them our Gear of the Year Award. Congrats ZAG.
The Backcountry Skiing Canada Team.
You may not (yet) heard of ZAG Skis and for this, I’ll forgive you as they were just recently introduced to Canada this winter. They have been a staple in Europe for the last 15 years where they are developed in Chamonix France. ZAG's off-piste freeride heritage shines through in their UBAC 102 Skis which are the lightest freetouring ski in their line-up. They come in a 95 and 102 version and are a dedicated touring ski which can still carve at the resort. If you are looking for a more freeride orientated ski then be sure to give my review of ZAG’s SLAP 104 Skis a read here.
At the heart of the UBAC 102 Skis is their 100% paulownia wood core which ensures they are lightweight for those long ski tour adventures. Added to this is a combination of glass, kevlar and carbon fibres which makes them torsionally stiff. This Multi-Axial Fibre hybrid Carbon-Glass laminate makes up ZAG’s ‘Freerando core’ which gives the Ubac skis the ideal lightness versus performance ratio. They're stable and fun in soft snow conditions and have excellent skiability in most terrain, qualifying them as a freeride touring ski.
To keep the ZAG UBAC 102 Skis light and nimble I mounted them with Marker's new Alpinist 12 Bindings.
Moderate camber underfoot keeps the UBAC 102’s nimble and snappy while also improving edge grip while the half cap construction transmits power effectively through the ski from skier to snow.
The ABS sidewalls not only increase shock absorption and dampen but also keep them responsive and surprisingly powerful.
The five-point shape of the UBAC 102 Skis bring the widest points of the ski as close as possible to its centre which makes the ski playful and easy to turn. This allows ZAG to increase the manoeuvrability making it easy to turn in difficult terrain and maintain edge grip on firm or challenging snow.
The variable radius of the UBAC 102 Skis in the tip, centre and tail means that there is a much shorter radius underfoot for increased handling while keeping the tips and tails in contact with the snow. This multi-radius shape results in a more versatile and fun ski overall.
In order to ensure this lightweight ski remains that way, I mounted the UBAC 102 Skis with Marker’s Alpinist 12 Bindings as you can see below.
ZAG manufactures skis in a way that reduces the overall impact on the environment as well as influencing the activity of the skiing community and raising awareness of pressing environmental issues. Their ZAGreen Program which launched in 2017 is committing to not only greener ski production with the use of FSC Wood cores, recycled edges and scrap base materials but also ensuring that 95% of their ski’s materials come from and are made in Europe. They are also a member or POW, 1% For The Planet and have committed to donating 1% percent to the Mountain Wilderness Association.
Core - 100% wood Paulownia, purified and lightened with reinforcement fibre glass / carbon
Sidewalls - ABS
After reviewing ZAG’s all-mountain SLAP 104 Skis which are a ‘do-it-all’ kind of ski that remains super fun in any conditions, I found the UBAC 102's to be a much more focused ski that's ideally suited for long days in the backcountry. While the UBAC 102’s are not the lightest touring ski out there they do provide a good mix of easy climbing and high-performance skiing. Given that the UBAC 102's are a fairly stiff ski I think you’ll find they are quite responsive on hardback and groomers but where they really shine is in the untracked backcountry pow. Since they have ample camber underfoot they're lively and fun when rebounding from one turn to another and their subtle tip rocker ensures they float despite their modest waist width of just 102mm.
I tested the UBAC 102 Skis this spring after the local ski resort was prematurely closed due to the pandemic which provided ample opportunity to get these skis on hardpack snow while the high-pressure system dominated the area for what seemed like weeks. I was surprised by how well they skied old groomers, melting snow, and re-frozen crud given that these are not the conditions they are primarily designed for. They were able to confidently carve and hold an edge and weren’t as skittish as most other touring skis I've tested which is impressive given their minimal weight. When the sunshine finally gave way to moisture-laden clouds which lavishly covered the mountains with snow, this is when the UBAC 102 Skis really came into their own.
Given that they are only 102 underfoot the UBAC 102's had an impressive float in the pow and after each hard carving, deep-diving turn they would effortlessly bounce back up for the next surfy acceleration. Even in really deep (and sometimes heavy) snow, you could feel the rockered tips bring the ski back to the surface for the next turn. It goes without saying that the climb up the skin track for the next lap was never a huge ordeal given the diminutive weight of the UBAC 102’s. In steeper terrain, diving the tails under the snow for kick turns was never an issue thanks to that relatively flat tapered tail which is ideal for not only this but also for finishing off long arcing turns on hardpacked snow.
If you are looking for a ski that’s light on the up and powerful on the down no matter if the snow is powdery soft or hard pack, then ZAG’s UBAC 102 Skis are one I would recommend you check out.
Price: $1099CAN / $859US
Weight: 1.69kg / 3.73lb (188cm length, per ski)
Lengths: 174, 184, 188
Dimensions: 136.5 / 102 / 119.5mm
Turn Radius: 22m
|Powder Performance 1.5/2
Groomer Performance 2/2
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