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Best All Mountain Skis

last updated Mar 16, 2019

If when the first snowfall hits, many of us start to dread driving in the snow and staying warm but many of us see that ski season is upon us and we start to get excited. Skiing is one of those sports that allow you to glide down a mountain with the wind in your hair and shred fresh powdered snow. Then afterward hitting the chalet for a warm meal and some hot chocolate. There is truly nothing like a day at the slopes. But if you are tired of renting your skis every time you hit the slopes and want to invest in your own pair, then you have come to the right place. Below we have listed the top ten pairs of mountain skis of 2019, so check out our buying guide and find your next pair of skis.

In a Hurry? The test winner after 17 hrs of research

icon
Rossignol Experience 88
93/100 our score
Materials
93
Style
93
Durability
93
Size
93
Rossignol Experience 88
Why is it better?

50/50 piste and freeride

Superior carving and float

Wood core for plenty of pop without vibration

In a Hurry? Editors choice:
Rossignol Experience 88
Test Winner: Rossignol Experience 88
Researched Sources
17
Researched Sources
Reviews Considered
2k
Reviews Considered
Hours Researching
17
Hours Researching
Products Evaluated
19
Products Evaluated
Last Updated:
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By Jordan Coleiro:

This buying guide for all mountain skis has been put together to show you the best researched and reviewed skis to help ride down the slopes with ease and style this winter season. A great pair of skis to keep your eye on is the Rossignol Experience 88. We love these because they are known for their smooth ride, their ability to carve through the snow, and a natural feel.

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#1
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
93
Materials
93%
Style
93%
Durability
93%
Size
93%
Price Comparison Last Updated (18.03.19)
$664.99
#2
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
90.5
Materials
90%
Style
88%
Durability
92%
Size
92%
Price Comparison Last Updated (18.03.19)
$319.99
#3
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
90
Materials
91%
Style
89%
Durability
90%
Size
90%
Price Comparison Last Updated (18.03.19)
$219.95
#4
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
90
Materials
91%
Style
87%
Durability
91%
Size
91%
Price Comparison Last Updated (18.03.19)
$479.00
#5
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
89.8
Materials
90%
Style
90%
Durability
89%
Size
90%
Price Comparison Last Updated (18.03.19)
$385.95
#6
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
89.8
Materials
92%
Style
88%
Durability
89%
Size
90%
Price Comparison Last Updated (18.03.19)
$519.00
#7
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
89
Materials
91%
Style
87%
Durability
89%
Size
89%
Price Comparison Last Updated (18.03.19)
$599.00
#8
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
88.5
Materials
88%
Style
90%
Durability
88%
Size
88%
Price Comparison Last Updated (18.03.19)
$479.20
#9
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
88.3
Materials
88%
Style
88%
Durability
89%
Size
88%
Price Comparison Last Updated (18.03.19)
$319.99
#10
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
88.3
Materials
88%
Style
87%
Durability
89%
Size
89%
Price Comparison Last Updated (18.03.19)
$449.95
In Depth Review Top 10
  • Rossignol Experience 88
  • Atomic Vantage Theory
  • Elan Amphibio 88 Xti
  • Blizzard Black Pearl
  • Nordica NRGy 100
  • Blizzard Brahma Skis
  • Völkl Mantra
  • Liberty Envy
  • Atomic Alibi Skis
  • Rossignol Experience 75
Table of contents
  • Criteria Used for Evaluation
  • Other Factors to Consider
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Sources

Top Ten Pairs of Mountain Skis

1. Rossignol Experience 88

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
93
Rossignol Experience 88
Materials
93
Style
93
Durability
93
Size
93
best offer for today
$664.99
Pros:

50/50 piste and freeride

Superior carving and float

Wood core for plenty of pop without vibration

Cons:

Not for beginner skiers

The Rossignol Experience 88 brings superb versatility and high performance to an all-mountain ski that carves superbly on groomers and cruises effortlessly off-piste. A long-taper sidecut plus an ideal mix of camber, rocker and Air Tip technology enhance both control and float through variable snow and terrain while decreasing turn effort by up to 30 percent.

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Auto Turn Rocker gives these skis a powerful edge grip that clings through tight turns on groomed trails while keeping tips afloat when gliding over powder. The Experience 88 wood/basalt core ensures superior dampness and pop out of the turns. For expert skiers looking for that elusive one-ski quiver, the Experience 88 fits the bill.

One ski for all terrains and snow conditions is what these E88s offer advanced skiers. The damp but stiff wood/basalt fiber core is responsive and lively on both groomed trails and untouched snow. These skis soothe the bumps and eliminate chatter at top speeds. Rossignol's honeycombed Air Tip technology lets you snap into curve, while the long edge taper provides solid full-length contact. In addition to reduced weight and increased reaction, these skis feel centered and solid underfoot even on steep descents. The generous tip shovel assists flotation on those deep snow days.

Conclusion

All mountain ski reviews from advanced skiers who like to ski hard on- and off-trail show plenty of joy with these Experience 88 all-mountain skis. They power through curves on steep hardpack while furnishing excellent flotation and control over powder, moguls and through the trees. If you ski a little of everything and want skis with top performance under any conditions, these planks are for you.

2. Atomic Vantage Theory

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
90.5
Atomic Vantage Theory
Materials
90
Style
88
Durability
92
Size
92
best offer for today
$319.99
Pros:

Shines off-piste, especially through crud

Excellent dampness

Good entrance and grip in the turns

Cons:

Wide turn radius

Atomic's Vantage Theory are well-balanced, twin-tip all-mountain skis built to work equally well on- and off-piste. The 95mm waist makes a savvy compromise shines on pow trails and groomers with good float and excellent turn bite. They have a very comfy 18.9m turn radius. The generous tail and tip rocker impart extra stability off the trail.

A 70 percent camber underfoot and step-down sidewall ensure full edge digs as you lean into the curves, while the wood core with carbon fiber backbone core damps out chatter at any speed plus adding excellent turn exit rebound. With a medium flex, intermediate skiers will be quite comfortable putting the Vantage Theory skis through their paces. Their easy maneuverability and unsurpassed versatility mean you can take them anywhere there is snow.

Read more

The Atomic Theory is an excellent choice in a highly versatile, well-built and economical ski. It gets top scores on groomed trails from intermediate skiers who also want to tackle the deep snowfall days. The rocker on both tail and tip glides right over powder, while imparting a powerful, reactive response to the skier especially when negotiating the trees.

The medium stiffness, camber and active wood/carbon core make these comfortable on hardpack as well. It does not have the biggest pop out of the curve, but it is definitely tangible and the sidecut produces a nice, tight turn radius with a taut grip. Vibration is never an issue even on the steepest slopes and iciest hardpack. If you are looking for a ski in this class with a bit more playfulness, then the Atomic Panic Ski might suit you better.

Conclusion

If you are an intermediate to advanced skier and have been dying to get off-piste into the powder, then Atomic Vantage Theory skis are the perfect tool to accomplish that. They are ideally balanced to perform under all snow and terrain conditions. You will never have to fret whether slope conditions are going to keep you home on the weekend after you buy these skis.

3. Elan Amphibio 88 Xti

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
90
Elan Amphibio 88 Xti
Materials
91
Style
89
Durability
90
Size
90
best offer for today
$219.95
Pros:

Versatile for piste or freeride

Fat ski stability with good reaction

Included Bindings

Cons:

More fitted for advanced skiers

The Amphibio 88 XTi Fusion is built for carving turns with a unique Amphibio® profile with two-dimensional camber/rocker for superb, even, sharp edge grip. They turn fast and direct even on the steepest slopes. The 88mm waist adds to each ski's maneuverability. A wood/titanium core assures chatter-free performance at high speeds with a dynamic pop coming out of turns. The wood-titanium blend lowers weight while imparting stiffness and high torsional stability. The tapered sidewall construction adds strength with reduced weight. These skis come equipped with ELX 12.0 Fusion Bindings that provide flex and superior energy transfer. Any way you cut it, the ELan Amphibio 88 Xti puts you in control over the most aggressive slopes.

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Amphibio 88 XTis from Elan are some of the most aggressive skis you can buy. They are super-stiff, but Elan's Waveflex Technology spreads out the flex over the entire ski. Each ski has a cambered inside edge and rockered outside edge, which means you have a left and a right ski. This design makes for snappy turn entries, authoritative edge bite and lively exits. Turning radius is sharp enough, in part thanks to the 88mm waist so sharp and long turns are handled equally well. These are all-mountain skis, so they do fine off-piste as well, but their greatest strength is carving up fast, groomed slopes. They are definitely for advanced skiers.

Conclusion

Elan Amphibio 88 Xti skis are high-performance all-mountain skis built for serious, aggressive skiers who want to challenge themselves and carve up the steepest slopes. Their unique camber/rocker design, lively core and powerful construction spell power, control and the highest maneuverability that will take you places on the slope you have never experienced before.

4. Blizzard Black Pearl

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
90
Blizzard Black Pearl
Materials
91
Style
87
Durability
91
Size
91
best offer for today
$479.00
Pros:

Strong carver, especially at high speed

Medium flex provides control and power

Generous rocker makes this a good off-piste ski too

Cons:

Graphics could be better

The Black Pearl is by far most versatile ski in the Blizzard women's ski product line. These reward your skill as an intermediate to expert skier with lightweight, energetic construction, a medium flex, biting turn initiation and a popping exit. These skis live for carving on hardpack, groomers, through crud and even on powder. That is all thanks to the 88mm waist, an early rise tip and plenty of underfoot camber.

The Black Pearl core features a tuned core of poplar, beech and ISO wood with a phenomenal strength-to-weight ratio for power on every turn, reduced vibration and firm control. Off-piste it performs admirably thanks to a rocker/camber/rocker profile that floats effortlessly on pow trails. Tapered Sandwich Compound Sidewalls add to these skis' impressive torsional stability and improve edge grip. The solid feel, power and maneuverability of this ski match or exceed anything else on the slopes. These are nothing short of the best intermediate all-mountain skis for women.

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What is wrong with a two-ski quiver? Combine the Blizzard Black Pearls and a pair of Liberty Envys to equip the perfect quiver for performance on any type of snow in any region of the country. The Black Pearls excel at carving and are incredibly quick skis through the turns and trees. The all-wood core provides ample rebound and nearly eliminates chatter on icy flats. Buyers of these skis love how they work over all terrains, cut through crud and confidently power over bumps, moguls and rough trails.

Conclusion

If you are a female fanatic planker who prefers the frontside of the mountain, then you probably already have a pair of Blizzard Black Pearls. If you do not yet own these snappy skis, they definitely have a place in your quiver. These skis are more nimble and latch onto the edge better than any other 88s you will find. Buy these to increase your speed, skill, repertoire and as a complement to your all-mountain powder skis. You will never regret it.

5. Nordica NRGy 100

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
89.8
Nordica NRGy 100
Materials
90
Style
90
Durability
89
Size
90
best offer for today
$385.95
Pros:

High versatility for all conditions

Fat ski stability with good reaction

High tip rocker for pow trails

Cons:

Heavy

Built around a lively wood/metal laminate core, sintered base and full sidewalls, the NRGy 100s are ideal on- or off-piste skis with plenty of control and power through turns and on moguls or over the crud. These skis feature Nordica's i-Core Torsion Bridge Ti Construction with vertically laminated wood for stiff flex without excessive weight.

Nordica's All Mountain camRock supplies camber/rocker that snaps into turns and tip rocker for floating over the soft stuff. Flaired tails add maneuverability as you charge through trees or winding trails. NRGy 100s let you take charge of any terrain or snow condition with three-dimensional responsiveness and a stable sidecut.

Read more

These skis get high marks for stability and versatility. They are decent carvers with good edge contact for a solid lean-in bite. They have a comfortable turn radius, high stiffness and solid underfoot camber for a feeling of control with minimal vibration at high speeds. These skis excel off-piste through soft snow, powder nuts and gliding over moguls. These will charge through all your moves on the groomed trails with plenty of float off-trail as well.

Conclusion

Medium to expert skiers find the Nordica NRGy 100s tackle all snow conditions, which makes them the best all mountain skis for any region. They delight through the curves on steep hardpack and float like feathers over less certain terrain and soft snow. If you like to try out different trails or different mountains, the NRGy 100s will not disappoint.

6. Blizzard Brahma Skis

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
89.8
Blizzard Brahma Skis
Materials
92
Style
88
Durability
89
Size
90
best offer for today
$519.00
Pros:

Very responsive in turns

High stability on and off-piste

Hard-charging carver

Cons:

More for advanced skiers

Strong, aggressive skiers love Blizzard's Brahma on the steep slopes, pounding the bumps and blasting through crud. It is a ski that loves to carve as it grabs an edge and holds on tight until the exit when it pops like a cork. The rockered tip dives into turns and damps out chatter on the iciest hardpack. The rockered tail adds smooth maneuverability.

Brahma wraps a poplar/beech core with two layers of titanium for bucket loads of power and stability and adds titanium at the binding points as well. The core and a generous camber provide plenty of rebound and full edge clamp-on. Besides being a hard charger, this ski performs quite admirably off-piste as well. It has excellent flotation and dashes nimbly around trees. If you like fast, action-packed skiing, the top-selling Blizzard Brahma is just what you need.

Read more

If you take charge on groomers or powder, there is much to love in the speed, mobility, bite and turn pop the Brahma brings to any slope. It regularly receives top ratings from expert skiers for its superior stability and responsiveness. Although it has a phenomenally solid underfoot and high torsional stiffness, it is very quick on the snow, around the trees and through the turns. It is probably most at home on hardpack, but the early rise tip and tail rocker floats quite well on powder and trashes the crud. Less skilled skiers might be put off by the stiffness of the dual-jacketed wood core, but if your confidence is high, this is the ski you need to take you to the next level.

Conclusion

The Brahma is Blizzard's narrow-waist version of the Bonafide, both of which are great skis. The Brahma is the better carver of the two and loves hard snow, although it performs quite well off-piste too. If you are looking to elevate your ski game or are an expert skier looking for more speed, the Blizzard Brahma's speed, pop and mobility are at your command. These are unbeatable as responsive carvers for all snow conditions.

7. Völkl Mantra

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
89
Völkl Mantra
Materials
91
Style
87
Durability
89
Size
89
best offer for today
$599.00
Pros:

Best all mountain skis for off-piste

Good entrance and grip in the turns

191cm length for tall skiers

Cons:

Wide turn radius

The Völkl Mantra enters their second year on top of the all mountain ski reviews with a slightly wider sidecut and all the great features and technology that won awards last year. The same know-how that goes into Völkl racing skis is also in the Mantra whose conditions profile is 40/60 piste/off-piste. These skis feature poplar wood tips and tails plus denser ash underfoot to add stiffness where it counts and for secure binding hold.

A top layer of titanium adds the power, stability and torsional flex that high-charging skiers love. A full rocker profile shortens turns, provides full-on edge contact and adds to the Mantra's well-known soft snow capabilities. A super stiff flex makes this a favorite among the strongest, most able skiers on the steepest trails. Whether it is off-trail or hardpack groomers you want to conquer, the Völkl Mantra is the best weapon in the quiver.

Read more

From 2014 to 2015 Völkl widened the Mantra's waist a couple of millimeters to 100mm. They added full rocker and gave an earlier taper to the tip to improve its float on soft snow and improve its crud-blasting power. Despite improved off-piste performance, it is still a superb carver. The sidecut width does show up in the 25m turn radius, however.

These skis are brilliant off-piste, where they float through clouds of pow or damp snow with ease thanks to the full rocker design. That same full rocker with tip and tail taper makes sloughing through turns a breeze. Super hard, iced-over snow will present a challenge compared to narrower waist skis though.

The Völkls exhibit a bit of shudder and vibration on well-traveled, hardened piste but it is barely noticeable even on steep slopes. These are very stiff skis, by the way, which hard chargers love, but which may put off less confident skiers. Overall, these are an excellent choice for expert skiers who spend more time off-piste than on.

Conclusion

The Volkl Mantras are terrific all mountain wide skis made to tackle snow conditions good and bad. Although it really shines as an off-piste ski, it is versatile enough to behave as a carving ski with great turn latch-on. If you are a hard charging skier and favor high performance, stability and off-trail versatility, this ski is bound to please you.

8. Liberty Envy

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
88.5
Liberty Envy
Materials
88
Style
90
Durability
88
Size
88
best offer for today
$479.20
Pros:

Lightweight, responsive, soft flex

Forward shifted binding for women's center of gravity

Stealth Rocker improves edge contact through turns

Cons:

Better used on fresh powder

Liberty Skis receive tons of buzz for their unique XCore design that utilizes a laminate core of bamboo, paulownia and poplar wood for high energy, durability and weight reduction. Despite the 105mm waist, built for silky smooth gliding over powder, Liberty Envys provide excellent carving on groomers and hardpack. The Liberty Stealth Rocker features rockered tip, plenty of camber underfoot and a flat tail that improves floatation and turn entry. You get a firm edge grip with the softer tail and tip and plenty of liveliness from the camber and snap that bamboo provides. Whether you are flying over the moguls or gliding on pow trails, these lightweight, highly responsive skis will please any advanced female skier.

Read more

Plenty of pop, an eco-friendly core, smooth gliding over powder and the ability to carve the groomers is what the Liberty Envy skis offer advanced women skiers. At well under 3kg, you hardly know you are wearing them. That 105mm waist does not mean these are only for powder. Liberty's specialized rocker and the snap of bamboo provide plenty of grip and pop through the turns. The bamboo-paulownia-poplar core plus rugged sidewalls and top sheet spell durability. These stand up to ice, chocolate chips, kids and marathon skiing days without complaint.

Conclusion

Liberty Envys not only look great, but have loads of energy for whatever type of skiing catches your fancy on a particular day. Their eco-friendly and female-friendly materials and design feature lightness, pop and maneuverability with stable, smooth handling. If you are looking for the best all mountain women's skis that reward finesse plus style thrown in, you have found them.

9. Atomic Alibi Skis

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
88.3
Atomic Alibi Skis
Materials
88
Style
88
Durability
89
Size
88
best offer for today
$319.99
Pros:

High degree of versatility

Medium stiffness with plenty stability

Plenty of pop out of the turns

Cons:

Not the best if not guiding on fresh powder

Atomic's new Alibi skis are their top line skis from their Vantage collection. They feature a titanium backbone inserted into the wood core for a medium to stiff flex pattern and powerful exits out of the turns. These best all mountain twin tip skis are stable and bite firmly on sharp turns with plenty of width to float over the pow trails. Stability is provided by Atomic's All Mountain Rocker profile and the 98mm waist, which is not so wide to reduce their awesome carving abilities. There are all-terrain, all-snow, all-regions skis that you can take anywhere on the trails and beyond.

Read more

The Atomic Alibi is remarkably nimble and stable underfoot, which you would expect from a 98mm waist, but that does not mean it cannot do its share as a carver. For a mid-fat alpine ski, it has an impressive 18m turn radius. Both tip and tail have a good deal of rocker, which provides plenty of float through the powder but super maneuverability through the trees.

Eastern skiers might prefer a ski with zero chatter on icy hardpack, but it is minimal with the Alibi. Otherwise, it can do it all, especially in typical Midwestern and Western snow conditions. If your specialty is off-piste and crud, this ski will amaze you, while still yielding good performance on the groomers.

Conclusion

The Alibi is a high-quality ski that performs fantastically under all conditions and over all terrain. It does not carve quite as well as the Atomic Theory, but it more than makes up for that off-piste. Beginner skiers might find it a bit squirrely, but more experienced skiers love the versatility, bite and speed. These planks could absolutely fill out your one-ski quiver.

10. Rossignol Experience 75

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
88.3
Rossignol Experience 75
Materials
88
Style
87
Durability
89
Size
89
best offer for today
$449.95
Pros:

Excellent ski for learning to carve

Lightweight and soft flex

Short turning radius

Cons:

Could be more stylish

For beginner to intermediate skiers, the Rossignol Experience 75 is all the ski you need to gain confidence and up your abilities on groomers or hardpack. It has a very soft flex, excels in the turns and its full rocker means it performs well off-piste too. It is an excellent ski for progressing from plowing to parallel turns up to carving. The extended sidecut lets more of the edge come into contact as you lean into your turns, especially as your speed increases.

Rossignol's Air Tip technology with air-filled honeycombed tips cuts down on the chatter over icy hardpack. The lighter tips along with full rocker make for a shorter edge and high mobility that requires the least effort when initiating turns. The full rocker also means these skis float well over crud and powder. Experience 75 skis come with breakaway Rossi Xelium 100 bindings, so they are ready to go at a bargain price.

Read more

If you are just getting into skiing or have been skiing a while but want to perfect your carving, the Rossignol Experience 75s are an excellent way to get going. These are comfortable, lightweight, soft flex skis made for groomers. The extended sidecut and narrow waist support carving without being overly aggressive.

Their stability is superb, which is a big plus for those skiers still shaky on the trails. It has a responsive, all-wood core with adequate rebound and plenty of rocker to facilitate turn entry and float over powder. Despite these skis' relatively short turning radius of 15m, they handle well on larger turns too.

The under-$250 price of the Experience 75s does not include fancy titanium backbones and they use cap sidewalls, but once you have perfected your carving you are going to be moving on anyway, right?

Conclusion

These are just what the doctored order to cure sloughing the turns and starting to take a bite out of them instead. Despite their softness and stability, you will be amazed how quickly your carving skills progress with these skis. They are no slouches over the powder either. Experience 75s come with high-quality, breakaway bindings, which makes them a one-stop buy for your next pair of skis.

Criteria Used for Evaluation

Materials

Regardless of your skiing style or the conditions you prefer, investing in high-quality skis made from the best materials and designs makes a big difference in how much enjoyment you derive from the skiing season.

Unless you are a novice skier using rental skis, you will notice the difference in performance between run-of-the-mill planks versus the ones we have listed here. As you grow your skiing skills, the nuances of quality skis such as these will definitely impress you.

As skill level rises, you will look to a stiffer flex and a narrower sidecut to support higher speed. The right rocker/camber profile will achieve better edge grip in the turns. You will notice in our all mountain ski reviews, except for the Rossignol Experience 75s, that our selected skis are biased towards those ski characteristics.

Those types of high-performance characteristics are rarely found in cheaper skis, and in our opinion cheaper skis will not hold up over the long run, so you are throwing money away for a short-term benefit. For instance, here are just a few ways manufacturers shave costs:

-Use cheap foam cores that hold up for only one season.
-Add minimal amounts of materials to wood cores such as carbon fibers or metal that are short on performance but long on hype.
-Use top sheet/cap construction, which detracts from performance and durability, but looks cool.
-Skimp on sidewall material instead of using the best.
-Employ thinner bases that blow out the first time you glide over rock.
-Use cheaper binding material that leads to edge separation.
-Utilize poor reinforcement at binding points. Thus, your bindings are in danger of coming loose.

In contrast, buying quality skis that cost a bit more, enhances rather than hinders your skill progression, adds confidence to your skiing plus makes you safer. Top quality skis also have greater resale value, which is important should you decide to trade-in skis after a couple of seasons. Like most things in life, it boils down to the old adage that you get what you pay for.

Style

-Frontside Skis are fast and used to make skidded or carved turns on groomers.

-All Mountain Skis are designed to handle all terrain and snow conditions. This name usually applies to skis with a waist width from 85-95mm.

-All Mountain Wide Skis, or Fats, are all-terrain skis with waists in the 95-105mm range. They typically perform well on powder, plow through crud and sail over bumps.

-Freestyle Skis are for skiers that enjoy catching air in parks or on trails. Typically, they have twin tips to allow forward and backward skiing.

-Powder Skis have widths greater than 105mm with plenty of rocker to achieve maximum flotation and stability on deep days.

-Race Skis are simply designed for speed all day long.

-Alpine Touring Skis are very lightweight to accommodate hiking and skiing down fresh snow on non-groomed slopes.

-Skis with bindings are called system skis, whereas those without bindings are referred to as flat skis.

Durability

Core

All-mountain skis come with one of three core types: wood, foam or composite. Each type has differences in cost, durability, liveliness and vibration damping.

Wood cores are highly prized for their ability to store and release energy between the trail and the skier. Furthermore, it imparts more “dampness” than other materials, which contributes to a stable feel. Foam core quality and cost varies between manufacturers and between ski models. None of them provide the damping and “pop” that wood cores do. Composite cores use a combination of fabric and epoxy and sometimes wood. Usually, the fabric is fiberglass, but carbon fibers and Kevlar are utilized too. Heat and pressure form the core and cure the epoxy. In general, composite cores provide adequate stiffness. Fiberglass cores are the least expensive but also the heaviest. Look out for skis that tout carbon, Kevlar or aramid fibers, however, as sometimes the amount used is only enough to improve marketing hype.

Base

Every ski maker uses ultra-high-molecular-weight polyethylene for their ski base. UHMW-PE comes in either extruded or sintered form. Sintered is preferred for improved wax hold. The most important characteristic for would-be ski purchasers is the base thickness. Thicker, harder bases resist tears, are easier to re-finish but add weight.

Top Sheet

The top sheet’s function is to keep out water and support the application of graphics. Some top sheets are clear to show off the core beneath. Top sheet materials can be decorated in several ways including being directly printed on by specialized equipment.

Sidewalls

Sidewalls protect the core and support the edge. They contribute to stiffness, vibration and hold the edge firmly in the turns. Tapered sidewalls reduce weight. Some manufacturers use side caps instead of sidewalls by simply wrapping the top sheet.
This reduces cost but also performance and durability. Sidewalls are made from thermoplastic polyurethane, ABS or UHMW-PE. TPU is the cheapest but also the heaviest material. UHMW-PE is the slipperiest on snow and lightweight.

The Edge

Edges have specially designed teeth that dig into the snow on turns to increase control. They are made from special formulations of tough, ductile steel. These properties vary according to the expected use of the ski. Touring skis use thinner, lightweight edges, whereas park skis need tough, heavier edges.

Size

Skis range in lengths from 70 cm for kids up to 200 cm for tall adults. The general rule of thumb for length for adults is that the tip should touch the face between the eyebrows and nose. For kids under 6, the length should be no longer than their chin.

The preferred ski length depends on other factors such as the sidecut, the amount of camber or rocker, the snow conditions and your level of experience.

Generally, beginning skiers prefer a shorter length because they turn more easily.

Ski weight is a tradeoff between stability and how often you carry your skis and how much weight you want dangling on your legs on the lift.

Sidecut is designated by three numbers in millimeters. These designate the widest part of the tip, the narrowest part under your feet and the widest part of the tail in that order.

Thus, a fat all-mountain ski might have a sidecut of 140/95/126.

Of these, the underfoot width or waist size tells you the kind of snow conditions on which the skis work best. Skis smaller than 95mm are best for on-piste skiing and firm snow.

Wider waists up to 105 mm are called “fats” and work well off-piste in soft snow due to their greater flotation.

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Ski Buying Checklist

-Make an honest appraisal of your skill level so you do not buy skis you cannot handle well. It is OK to buy one level higher to help you progress, however.

-Buy skis the right length for your height, body style and the type of skiing you most expect to try. In general, shorter skis are more stable and easier to turn, whereas longer ones are for higher speed.

-Match the ski width to the type of snow you expect the most: wider for powder, narrower for groomers.

-Likewise, match the rocker to the conditions you expect: full rocker for soft snow and tighter turns, less if you expect to be on groomers mostly.

-Choose the right kind of poles for your desired pair of skis

-Look at construction details such as whether the ski uses a cap or real sidewalls. Compare base thicknesses, how the binding area is reinforced, what type of core is used and ski weight.

-Check out as many buyer reviews as you can to see if the skis match expectations.

-After rating all these features, then compare prices so you can come up with the best quality-to-price ratio for skis that match your skills and the type of skiing you like to do.

-Don’t forget to invest in additional ski gear like ski helmets and goggles.

Other Factors to Consider

Use

In general, ski with a short turn radius is more agile but a higher turn radius indicates a faster ski. A smaller waist size contributes to a tighter turn radius, but the overall length and amount of rocker also affect this. A turn radius in the range of 16 to 20m is comfortable for most intermediate to expert skiers.

Stiffness refers to the ease with which you can flex a ski along its length.

This depends on the type of core material used and how composite materials are distributed throughout the ski’s length.

There is no hard and fast rule for measuring stiffness, so you have to rely on subjective measures or try skis yourself to ascertain their stiffness.

Camber and rocker are blended in varying proportions in all-mountain skis. Both create arcs along the ski’s length in the vertical plane but in opposite directions. Camber is the upward arc along the center that supports the skier’s weight. Rocker, sometimes called negative camber, is the upward arc at the tip and tail.

Camber compensates for the weight of the skier in order to maintain even pressure along the length of the edge for improved turn bite. It also contributes to the pop of the ski as it exits a turn.

Rocker effectively shortens a ski, which decreases turn radius. Full rocker improves flotation on powder and improves performance over crud. In general, look for less rocker if you are mostly skiing on groomed trails and more rocker if you spend more time off-piste or in powder.

Frequently Asked Questions

q: I am an intermediate skier who needs a ski that will work coast to coast. Which single ski of the bunch would you recommend?
a:

You are still going to have to make a choice, but we will narrow it down to just two based with different stiffness. The Nordica NRGy 100 with medium to stiff flex or the Völkl Mantra with its very stiff flex and waists of 95mm and 100mm, respectively, are excellent high-performing, all-around skis that handle almost any conditions you can throw at them. These float well on fresh, deep days, blast through chop and crud and dodge trees with fast, tight turns on the groomers or ice.

q: How do you measure ski stiffness?
a:

Unfortunately, unlike other characteristics of skis, the ski industry has no standard measure for stiffness other than to say “soft, medium, stiff,” which means it is somewhat subjective. Other clues to stiffness include how much camber there is and the type of core construction. If you want more distinction than that, then the best you can do is try them yourself or rely on buyer reviews.

q: Where should I look at buying my skis?
a:

When you are ready to make your purchase, buy from online retailers such as Amazon who have the best return policies in the business. Naturally, we think you will be pleased with buying any of the skis reviewed in this guide, but we want you to have the fullest confidence in your purchase.

q: Can you not just rent your skis every time?
a:

You could rent your skis every time you head to the slopes but the issue with that is that it can get quite expensive. To rent skis runs you a little bit of money as you have to rent the boots, helmet, goggles and all the other gear to get you safely down the mountain so it is best if you enjoy skiing and will be hitting the mountain a couple of times this year to buy a pair as it will be cheaper in the long run.

q: What does the different signs mean on different hills?
a:

When you hit the slopes you will find that each run has a color and sign associated to that hill. If you are a beginner skier and are just learning the basics you may want to stick to the green circle hills as these tend to be quite simple and you will not have too much trouble getting down them. If you have been skiing for a year or so and are comfortable on your skis you can not only hit the green circle runs but may also want to try the blue square runs as these are for intermediate skiers. If you have been skiing for years and consider yourself a pro on a pair of skis, you will be able to handle the green and blue runs and will also be able to hit the black diamond runs which are for experts. So make sure to check out a map of the runs when you get to the ski hill to ensure you will be able to get down at your skill level without issue.

Sources

  1. Shawn Little , How to Choose Downhill Skis, Dec 12, 2018