Elan describes their new Playmaker 101 as “the ultimate freeride-twin for the next generation of skiers that see the mountain through a creative lens and blend freestyle into every line they ski. From pillows and spines, to wind lips and jump lines, the Elan Playmaker turns the entire mountain into a playground.” Having spent nearly a month testing them, I’m inclined to agree. The Playmaker 101 is a versatile ski which does a good job adapting to variable snow conditions and terrain options, maintaining its playful and forgiving characteristics across the board - a jack of all trades.
As we’ve seen in many new skis over the past few years, the Playmaker’s flex pattern is soft in the tip and tail, and stiffer underfoot, which allows the ski to remain stable at speed, but allows for quick adjustments and speed checks without too much effort when cruising piste at speed. While Elan might not be the most well-known brand this side the pond, the new Slovenian-made Playmakers are designed to satiate our appetite for skis that can hang all over the mountain - on piste, off piste, all with a playful and jib-inspired twist.
The shape (132/101/122) with long, subtle tip and tail rocker and a twin-tip design is spot-on for a modern all-mountain freestyle ski. It blends characteristics from directional freeride skis (even flex pattern and a directional mount point) with those of a bi-directional ski (soft tips and tails and a largely symmetrical shape) in a way that takes the best of both worlds.
2023 seems to be the year that ski brands have finally gone all-in on sustainability, and Elan is following suit. The ski’s construction reduces a claimed 10 percent of material use thanks to its 3D shape. During manufacturing, Elan leverages inter-production recycling that re-uses excess materials from other stages of the process. All of this goes down in Elan’s factory that runs on 100 percent green energy.
When skiing steep and chalky moguls (think Tower 3 at Jackson Hole), the skis were soft and maneuverable enough to make tight turns at speed, and stiff enough underfoot to shut down speed when necessary. In powder, the skis 101mm underfoot means that it’ll never be a dedicated deep-powder setup, but the wide tip allows for enjoyable jaunts into soft snow. When airing into powder, the soft tails encourage landing with centered balance; backseat landings definitely led to a few humbling moments where the skis shot out from beneath me.
On jumps and sidehits, the flex pattern and poppy construction allow for excellent butters and tweaked grabs, but off-balance landings can lead to the soft extremities of the skis washing out.
On the whole, the Playmakers do what they were designed to do: Encourage playful freestyle riding across a wide gamut of inbounds terrain. As far as who should consider picking up a pair, I would encourage intermediate to expert skiers who spend a fair amount of time inbounds looking for creative lines and sidehits to take a look. It wouldn't be my everyday ski at places like Jackson Hole, but it's a fantastic option for those days where the good snow is hard to find.
The Bottom Line:
The Playmaker isn’t a traditional Mountain-West powder ski, but as temperatures rise and the snowpack transitions to icy mornings and soft afternoon slush, I’ve enjoyed adding a playful inbounds-specific setup to my otherwise powder-focused quiver, and would encourage others to do the same.