Ski Test // September 11, 2016 // By


All-Mountain Test 2017

ALL TERRAIN, ANY SNOW

Like the name says, these skis are made for doing it all: frontside, backside, or both, powder to hardpack, trees, bumps and even the park. These are skis for diehards like us, who love the whole hill. Just because it hasn’t snowed in a week, you don’t stay at home or even show up late. No, you catch the first chair and race the corduroys before the crowds clog your sightlines. When they do, you head to your favourite bump line or hunt for leftover hidden powder pockets. These skis are made for having fun, no matter where you turn.

This is by far Ski Canada’s biggest category in terms of number of skis tested. We could have shoved all these jacks-of-all-trades together in one class. But that felt akin to blindfolding you, splitting up your skis in a sea of racks and then leaving you to reunite them. Yeah, we’d all rather be skiing. Instead we’re colour coding the All-Mountain skis into three niches, based on what kind of an all-mountain skier they suit best.

 ALL-MOUNTAIN (50% off-piste; 50% on-piste) is the epitome of the category, a ski as comfortable off-piste as on.

 FRONTSIDE
(30% off-piste; 70% on-piste), a popular choice with eastern skiers, is happier on firm snow but copacetic to anything.

 FREERIDE
(70% off-piste; 30% on-piste) is for the powderhound who still wants to rail groomers.

HOW TO USE THIS GUIDE

There’s no one ski that’s perfect for every skier. There’s not even one perfect ski in any one category. That’s why Ski Canada doesn’t bestow awards and declare “winners.” Instead, we break our ski reviews into categories and then for each ski, highlight what kind of skier each ski will appeal to best. To help you match yourself to those two variables, read the descriptions of the different ski categories: What kind of ski do you need? Check out our graphic: What kind of skier are YOU?

Next, check out the profiles of our Test Team and match yourself to ones most like you. Their favourite skis in each category are listed under their bios. Once you’ve done all that, also try out our app and online tool SkiFinder at skifinder.com to rank test skis based on your personal skiing characteristics. All test skis are scored using the following criteria: Edge Grip, Stability, Agility and Versatility. Read more: skicanadamag.com/test.

Take your best matches and head to your favourite ski shop. Since every ski has a unique feel and personality, try to demo the models you’re most interested in. Ultimately, it’s the best way to know which one is right for you

FIND SKIS using Ski Canada’s interactive ski test tool – SkiFinder. Also available as a free app from the iStore for iPhone & Google Play for Android.

* Length tested at Marmot Basin

all-mt-jasper-600

ATOMIC VANTAGE 90 CTI

All-Mountain – men

$699

BEST FOR: Adaptable quiver killer

SKIER TYPE: Intermediate-advanced; light-heavy weight; short-long
turns; power

LENGTHS:  161, 169, 176, 184*

SIDECUT:   133.5/90/117

RADIUS:     17.8@184

Overall average score: 7.6/10.0

Sometimes you feel like givin’er—other times not so much. This ski’s happy either way. “Stable at high speed, lots of grip on hard snow, lively in the bumps,” wrote George Andrew. “A wonderful GS-style all-mountain cruiser that won’t let you down when you demand performance.” But Fritz Stephenson and a few others noted its stiff tail demanded balance and power: “Not for the lazy skier. You have to be well positioned to get the sweet spot right.” Testers were impressed with its carving ability on hardpack and love for speed, but many also liked its nice feel in the bumps and versatility with turn shape.

ATOMIC VANTAGE 90 CTI W

All-Mountain – women

$699

BEST FOR: All-mountain abilities in a lively ski

SKIER TYPE: Intermediate-advanced; light-heavy weight; short-long turns; finesse

LENGTHS:  153, 161, 169*

SIDECUT:   130.5/90/114

RADIUS:     16@169

Overall average score: 7.1/10.0

The definition of “zippy” may be ambiguous, but when several testers used it to describe a ski it’s easy to instantly imagine it weaving through bumps and trees and slaloming down groomers. “What a fun ski! It’s super lively and agile in all terrain,” said Barb Kupferschmidt. “Frisky, lightweight and easy to manage,” wrote Heather Robilliard. But unlike, say Speedy Gonzales, this zipster had multiple speeds. “At slower speeds it’s friendly and forgiving, but as the speed and pitch amp up, this ski becomes a rocket with great edge grip and carving characteristics,” commented Anne Terwiel.

All-Mountain Frontside – men

ATOMIC VANTAGE X 83 CTI

$999

BEST FOR: Eastern all-mountain ski

SKIER TYPE: Expert; medium-heavy weight; short-long turns; power

LENGTHS:  161, 168, 175*, 182

SIDECUT:   125.5/83/111

RADIUS:     16.4@175

Overall average score: 8.3/10.0

“Unbelievable grip on hard snow,” noted Erin Keam, echoing the opinion of just about every tester. The Vantage X family is the hard-snow equivalent to Atomic’s soft-snow-leaning Vantage skis. This model skied as expected, leaving twin trenches down the groomers, but was also surprisingly quick through moguls, happy in any turn shape and the 83mm waist didn’t get bogged down in blown-in Marmot Basin fresh. “Super versatile even if the snow was mixed,” Keam continued. But while Peter Eaton found “stability at speed creates confidence,” the consensus was this ski demands an expert’s hand to keep it under control.

All-Mountain Frontside – women

ATOMIC VANTAGE X 80 CTI W

$799

BEST FOR: All-mountain performer for a powerful skier

SKIER TYPE: Advanced-expert; medium-heavy weight; short-long turns; power

LENGTHS:  151, 159*, 167

SIDECUT:   122/80/103.5

RADIUS:     15.5@159

Overall average score: 8.0/10.0

Don’t be nice to this ski—and it will be nice to you. That sums up the feeling from testers on this fun ride. Kathy Broderick found “the ski responded well to an aggressive approach. It loved an early edge and rewarded with a stable ride home.” It pulled in high marks in everything from initiation to edge grip, stability to agility. Wendy Anderson gave it a perfect score, writing on her test card, “Amazing rebound energy in short turns and fierce edge grip when carving. Super comfortable in all terrain and snow conditions.”

all-mt-1-550

All-Mountain – women

BLIZZARD BLACK PEARL

$749

BEST FOR: Skiing fast on- and off-piste

SKIER TYPE: Intermediate-expert; medium weight; short-long turns; finesse-power

LENGTHS:  152, 159, 166*, 173

SIDECUT:   125/88/108

RADIUS:     17@166

Overall average score: 6.1/10.0

Comments on this ski ranged from one extreme to the other: good for hard snow to only a powder ski; not easy to turn, to easy and fun at shorter turns. The female testers who got the most out of it at Marmot Basin love to go fast, like Wendy Lumby: “Speed is fun on this ski—it shines. Short radius involves more work. Solid in moguls and all terrain.” Britta Gretzmacher liked it for different reasons: “It turns on a dime, loves to carve on hard snow and the soft tip enjoys the bumps and crud.”

All-Mountain Frontside – women

BLIZZARD CHEYENNE

$649

BEST FOR: Stable platform for a cruising skier to explore the hill

SKIER TYPE: Intermediate-advanced; light-medium weight; medium turns; cruise

LENGTHS:  151, 156, 163*, 170

SIDECUT:   115/78/100

RADIUS:     16@163

Overall average score: 5.5/10.0

With a soft tip and a light feel, the Cheyenne was in no rush to get on edge or race to the bottom. “It would work for someone who likes to relax and smear her way down the hill,” wrote Anne Terwiel. Several testers noted difficulty getting this ski to carve, making it more suited to intermediate to advanced skiers who are happy skidding and smearing turns, where it’s responsive, forgiving and smooth on and off the groomers. “Easy turn initiation and feels like butter underfoot, but don’t overpower this one,” said Nina Gretzmacher.

All-Mountain Freeride – men

BLIZZARD REGULATOR

$649

BEST FOR: Heavier, more powerful skiers looking for a soft-snow cruiser

SKIER TYPE: Intermediate-advanced; medium-heavy weight; short turns; cruise

LENGTHS:  165, 172, 179*, 186

SIDECUT:   127/94/113

RADIUS:     18.5@172

Overall average score: 5.9/10.0

Let’s ride! The Regulator wanted to gallop for the soft stuff and liked to be reined in on the groomers by really working the edges. “Provides a stable platform in choppy snow and bumps. Definitely best in skidded turns,” said Peter Eaton. Some testers compared it to an easy-turning big-mountain ski with ample width for powder and twintips for getting playful. Bigger, more powerful testers found they could get a nice clean arc on groomers, but smaller guys had to work harder to put it on edge. For everyone, it performed best at controlled speeds in medium to small turns.

All-Mountain Freeride – men

BLIZZARD BRAHMA

$799

BEST FOR: Quiver of one for snowy hills at western resorts

SKIER TYPE: Advanced-expert; heavy weight; long turns; finesse

LENGTHS:  166, 173, 180*, 187

SIDECUT:   125/88/110

RADIUS:     19@180

Overall average score: 6.9/10.0

A little wider with more of a big-mountain feel than many of the skis in this category, the Brahma wasn’t the most agile or easiest to initiate on test day, especially for lighter skiers. But, according to big-boy Mark Stein, get it on edge and it railed: “Super carver! Rocker makes for great turns in the soft and bumpy.” Marmot’s own George Andrew was a fan too: “Stable yet nimble for a wider ski. Tip it over and do whatever you want—this ski responds.” Some testers felt it preferred long turns over short and it skied best in soft snow at high speeds.

All-Mountain – men

FISCHER PRO MTN 86 Ti

$699

BEST FOR: Skiers who play off-piste, but want to rail on the way home

SKIER TYPE: Advanced; light-medium weight; short-long turns; finesse

LENGTHS:  161, 168, 175*, 182

SIDECUT:   128/86/116

RADIUS:     16.5@175

Overall average score: 6.9/10.0

Mogul skiing may not be as popular as it once was, but this ski may change some minds. “Agile and quick carver with a nimble feel in the bumps,” stated Mark Stein, summing up what many testers thought. Peter Eaton felt its tip performance helped with initiation and in soft snow: “Firm but smooth tip flex helpful in the bumps. It’s stable in choppy snow.” For all that off-piste performance, many testers also noted excellent grip once the ski was on edge. “Initially felt light underfoot, but was surprisingly solid when skiing. Grip was good and consistent,” said Erin Keam. The quick ski performed best for lighter skiers.

All-Mountain Freeride – men

FISCHER RANGER 90 Ti

$ 749

BEST FOR: Making the move to the backside

SKIER TYPE: Intermediate-advanced; light-medium weight; long turns; cruise

LENGTHS:  165, 172, 179, 186*

SIDECUT:   122/90/111

RADIUS:     18@179

Overall average score: 6.0/10.0

Despite being a light-feeling ski, the Ranger never wavered in the saddle even when charging at the speed of a silver bullet. Indeed, stable at speed, especially in soft snow, was a common conclusion. Marc Ledoux was a fan: “Extremely easy to control and gives you the confidence to explore new terrain with ease.” Moguls, tracked-up snow and softpack in long turns were its forte. Mike Dempsey found it a breeze to turn in soft snow and on lower-angle terrain, easily rolling from edge-to-edge, but when he steered the ski onto groomers the ski changed: “Short turns on hard snow require more skill and effort.”

All-Mountain Freeride – women

FISCHER KOA 84

$ 549

BEST FOR: Playful skiers out west

SKIER TYPE: Intermediate-advanced; medium weight; short-long turns; finesse-power

LENGTHS:  150, 159, 167*

SIDECUT:   126/84/112

RADIUS:     15@167

Overall average score: 7.3/10.0

Zippy, fun and playful were the adjectives used over and over to describe the Koa 84. Wendy Anderson wrote: “Playful and easy to turn in the bumps. Zips through the tighter trees.” The ski was stable, responsive and quick edge-to-edge, leaving many testers smiling. “Handled well on the groomers, but excelled when I went into the bumps and chopped-up snow. It’s a great all-round, do-it-all ski,” noted Ally Wagorn. And even when a few testers ended up in the backseat, the Koa kept the happy vibe going with a supportive tail that helped them recover.

All-Mountain Freeride – women

FISCHER RANGER W 89

$ 749

BEST FOR: Back-bowl skiers looking to improve their carving without sacrifice

SKIER TYPE: Advanced; light-heavy weight; short-long turns; finesse-power

LENGTHS:  157, 165*, 172

SIDECUT:   119/88/108

RADIUS:     17@172

Overall average score: 6.6/10.0

Careful with first impressions. With the Ranger 89, testers saw the pronounced rockered tip and soft-snow shape and expected an off-piste dynamo. They weren’t mistaken. “This ski rocks. Stable underfoot, fast initiation, edgy turns, and takes bumps and crud like a rock star,” said Britta Gretzmacher. “Ideal in soft, powdery snow. Lots of tail to balance on,” added Kathleen Buffel. What surprised the women were its groomer skills. With a bit of power, there was “edge grip in spades,” commented Anne Terwiel. Others noted the sweet spot was small and a little back of centre, requiring skill and balance to get the most out of the ski on the groomers.

all-mt-2-600

 

All-Mountain Frontside – men

HEAD i.SUPERSHAPE TITAN

$1,199

BEST FOR: All-mountain with a bend toward speed and groomers

SKIER TYPE: Advanced-expert; medium weight; short-long turns; power

LENGTHS:  156, 163, 170*, 177

SIDECUT:   137/80/117

RADIUS:     14.1@170

Overall average score: 7.7/10.0

One tester called it a “carving knife”—it scored high in edge grip—while another said to wait for 20 cm, but most of the men thought this was a versatile tool for all conditions. “Small or big turns, this ski can do it all. Edge-to-edge power with no tail slippage,” wrote Sean Kerrigan. It performed best at high speeds in long turns, but could rip short turns. “Powerful, responsive edge grip with a smooth, stable ride, yet easy to operate,” said George Terwiel. This ski had enough girth to charge through boot-top powder, and enough agility to sashay through the trailside moguls.

All-Mountain Frontside – women

HEAD i.SUPERSHAPE RALLY

$1,199

BEST FOR: Mostly groomers with an option of ripping off-piste

SKIER TYPE: Expert; light-heavy weight; short-long turns; power

LENGTHS:  149, 156, 163, 170*, 177

SIDECUT:   131/76/109

RADIUS:     13.6@170

Overall average score: 7.9/10.0

Just as rally races are an exhilarating combination of on-road speed and off-road toughness, so is this ski. “It delivers an exciting and spicy ride with razor-like edge grip on packed groomers,” commented Martina Osman. A sentiment echoed by Anne Terwiel: “This ski dances down the hill with great turn-to-turn energy.” But when in the bumps, trees or trailside fluff, they were surprised to find an equally lively and energetic ride. “Powerful ski on the groomers and would ski nice in a racecourse, yet playful in the bumps,” said Barb Kupferschmidt. Bottom line: not a ski to be taken lightly, but a whole lot of fun in the right hands.

All-Mountain Frontside – women

HEAD TOTAL JOY

$799

BEST FOR: Mostly groomers but with the option when the snow is soft

SKIER TYPE: Intermediate-advanced; medium-heavy weight; medium-long turns; power

LENGTHS:  148, 153, 158, 163*, 168

SIDECUT:   133/85/113

RADIUS:     13.6@163

Overall average score: 7.6/10.0

With plenty of shape to this curvy ski, it delivered all kinds of fun. It preferred GS and bigger turns and slightly higher speeds, but didn’t care if the snow was rock hard or powder soft. “Loved it at all speeds and was surprised at its stability. Smooths out the bumpy terrain,” wrote Heather Robilliard. The ski felt a little heavier than some of the others, but Wendy Lumby found that its weight didn’t seem to impact its agility too much and allowed it to “power through any type of conditions” without losing an edge or getting bumped off-line.

All-Mountain Freeride -men

HEAD MONSTER 88

$749

BEST FOR: Improving intermediate-advanced skiers in the west

SKIER TYPE: Advanced; medium weight; long turns; cruise

LENGTHS:  163, 170, 177*, 184

SIDECUT:   133/88/114

RADIUS:     17.4@177

Overall average score: 6.8/10.0

It snowed about five cm the night before Test Day at Marmot Basin, but testers wished it had snowed more when they clicked into the Monster 88. “With 20 cm of snow, this ski would be tons of fun,” said Jeremy Badcock. As it was, the ample width and consistent flex from tip to tail created a predictable ride. “Wonderfully stable in high speeds and large radius, also lovely in soft bumps and hardpack,” wrote George Andrew. Erin Keam felt it was “a little sluggish edge-to-edge—not a lot of oomph. A cruiser ski.” For intermediates and advanced skiers working toward harder terrain, that’s exactly what you want.

All-Mountain Freeride – men

ICELANTIC PIONEER 96

$699

BEST FOR: Soft snow, short turns,
smaller skiers

SKIER TYPE: Intermediate-advanced; light weight; short turns; finesse

LENGTHS:  166, 174, 182*

SIDECUT:   131/96/118

RADIUS:     19@182

Overall average score: 6.1/10.0

The Pioneer 96 is for those who only use groomers to get to where they really want to ski. As Kristian Armstrong noted, “This ski belongs off-piste.” A heavier-feeling tip and lighter-feeling tail gave it pintail characteristics, something usually seen on some powder skis. Some found it chattery at high speeds and more suited to short turns than long. On the plus side, it floats nicely in powder and was easy to control in the bumps. “Amazingly easy turn initiation,” said Peter Eaton. “Just think about turning and you’re doing it, but edge grip is sacrificed. It feels like a much shorter ski when on edge.”

All-Mountain Freeride -men

ICELANTIC SABRE 89

$749

BEST FOR: Hunting the mountain for
fresh snow

SKIER TYPE: Intermediate-advanced; light weight; short-medium turns; cruise

LENGTHS:  164, 174*, 184

SIDECUT:   130/89/115

RADIUS:     16@174

Overall average score: 5.3/10.0

If your perfect ski day is all about linking secret stashes of powder, this might be your ideal ski. The soft-flexing tip and stiffer tail help float the ski in powder, and there’s plenty of waist for deeper days and variable conditions. In the bumps and tight trees that soft tip makes it nimble and predictable. Just don’t expect it to rail on edge on groomer laps, warns Peter Eaton: “Very much a skiddy ski, not a carver.” Some testers noted it was unstable in bigger turns, on harder snow and at higher speeds. “Light and playful in short to medium turns, but prefers moderate speeds,” wrote Paul Cunnius.

All-Mountain Freeride -women

ICELANTIC ORACLE 88

$749

BEST FOR: Skidding, smearing and cruising, mostly off-piste

SKIER TYPE: Intermediate-advanced; light-heavy weight; short-long
turns; cruise

LENGTHS:  155, 162*, 169

SIDECUT:   126/88/108

RADIUS:     16@162

Overall average score: 5.7/10.0

If you’re the kind of skier who likes to ditch speed with skids, spray up clouds of powder, smear down a spine, and toss your skis back and forth through the bumps, this ski is for you. “I think someone who doesn’t do a lot of carving would like it,” said Ally Wagorn. The wide waist and stiff overall flex made it stable at speed but hard to edge on hard snow, requiring patience and finesse on groomers, noted Anne Terwiel: “An easy, cruise, soft-snow-oriented ski. It really shines off-piste.” Heather Robilliard felt it was more like a big-mountain ski: “Surprisingly easy to turn and a smooth ride.”

All-Mountain Freeride -women

ICELANTIC ORACLE 100

$799

BEST FOR: A quiver of one for Whistler

SKIER TYPE: Intermediate-advanced; medium-heavy weight; short-long
turns; power

LENGTHS:  155, 165*, 175

SIDECUT:   138/100/120

RADIUS:     17@165

Overall average score: 7.1/10.0

Kathy Broderick summed this one up best: “A one-quiver ski for all conditions and a nice surprise for a wide-bodied ski. Super responsive and really lively. Loved the pow and crud. A little nervous on hardpack, but with such an even flex this sweetheart of a ski kept it together.” A few testers noted it required an attentive driver or it would pick up speed quickly. But as long as you’re paying attention, it’s an off-piste weapon happy in soft snow and steep terrain, with the width for any powder day and the edging to keep the good times going when all you have is groomers.

all-mt-3-600

 

All-Mountain – men

K2 PINNACLE 88

$699

BEST FOR: Doing it all, preferably in soft snow

SKIER TYPE: Advanced; medium weight; short-long turns; cruise

LENGTHS:  170, 177, 184*

SIDECUT:   128/88/110

RADIUS:     15@184

Overall average score: 7.2/10.0

The Pinnacle 88 felt happiest playing in the bumps and tracked powder on the test-run edges. “Variable conditions and soft snow are where this ski will perform best,” found Sean Kerrigan. But when asked nicely, it tackled hard snow with precision, said Mike Dempsey: “Holds an edge well on ice. Prefers shorter turns but handles big turns with ease.” Just keep the speed in check, warns Kerrigan: “No need to put the rpm’s up since this ski likes staying at the speed limit.” Some testers felt it skied a little farther back than some skis; great for skiers preferring cruising to charging.

All-Mountain – women

K2 OOLALUV 85Ti

$899

BEST FOR: Exploring beyond the groomers

SKIER TYPE: Intermediate-advanced; light-heavy weight; short-long turns; cruise or power

LENGTHS:  156, 163*, 170

SIDECUT:   126/85/114

RADIUS:     14@163

Overall average score: 7.1/10.0

A true all-mountain ski, the OolaLuv performed everywhere our testers took it. In chopped-up powder it floated smoothly. It felt nimble in the bumps and tight trees. And never shied from a carve on firm snow. “Super solid and stable in steeps. Floats effortlessly in powder and cuts through crud like a knife,” was Wendy Anderson’s synopsis. On edge it seemed to prefer running in big arcs, but off-piste short turns were snappy too, stated Nina Gretzmacher: “Holds a stable edge in long-radius turns, but is playful off-piste.” Some thought it would suit a cruising skier, while others thought it danced under power.

All-Mountain Freeride – men

K2 PINNACLE 95

$749

BEST FOR: Tearing the backside apart—then the front

SKIER TYPE: Advanced-expert; light-heavy weight; medium-long turns; power

LENGTHS:  170, 177, 184*, 191

SIDECUT:   132/95/115

RADIUS:     17@184

Overall average score: 7.0/10.0

Ryan Petersen summed up this charging ski succinctly: “Really a cliff-drop, trees & bowls type of ski, yet I would still take it in the park or on the groomed.” Jeremy Badcock is still wondering how it could feel ideal for high speeds on a groomer and charging through trees, bumps and powder: “I felt like a World Cup GS racer—on a powder ski. A great versatile ski at all speeds on lots of different terrain.” With so much surface area don’t expect it to snap slalom turns or wiggle through moguls, but for everything else, according to Marc Ledoux, “If you have limits, it will help you push them.”

All-Mountain Freeride – women

K2 ALLUVIT 88

$699

BEST FOR: Softer snow and smaller ladies

SKIER TYPE: Intermediate-advanced; light-medium weight; short-long turns; finesse-power

LENGTHS:  156, 163, 170*

SIDECUT:   128/88/110

RADIUS:     13.5@170

Overall average score: 8.1/10.0

What can’t this ski do? “This is a hero ski. It’s agile in the bumps, soft enough to float through the pow and even happy when you ramp it up on the groomers,” gushed Katie Joyce. The AlLUVit was highly responsive, yet stable at speed, easy to initiate and good carving. Anne Terwiel was enamoured: “On the off-piste side of wonderful. This ski dances through bumps, trees and soft snow. The rockered tip provides great float but engages easily on-piste for smooth, carved turns.” Donie Blunden added: “So reliable, the ski convinces you to just go. Any turn shape, any speed, super versatile.”

all-mt-4-550

All-Mountain – men

KÄSTLE FX95 HP

$1,249

BEST FOR: Freeride with frontside chops

SKIER TYPE: Advanced; medium-heavy weight; long turns; power

LENGTHS:  165, 173, 181*, 189

SIDECUT:   126/95/115

RADIUS:     20@181

Overall average score: 7.8/10.0

On- or off-piste, point the FX95 HP and hold on. “This ski begs for speed and won’t let you down when you need it to perform,” said Sean Kerrigan, but as one of the lightest testers, he found he had to stay balanced or the ski would buck him. Heavier guys didn’t have this problem. “This ski inspired me to go faster, play more and ski harder. A versatile ski that performed just as well on the groomed as off,” raved Jeremy Badcock. Most of the men echoed his feelings on the highly scored ski, though a few noted short turns took a little more effort.

All-Mountain Frontside – men

KÄSTLE MX89

$1,299

BEST FOR: All-mountain rocket for charging experts

SKIER TYPE: Expert; medium weight; short-long turns; power

LENGTHS:  156, 164, 172, 180*, 188

SIDECUT:   129/89/113

RADIUS:     17@172

Overall average score: 8.0/10.0

If you’ve got the skill, power and strength to handle this stiff but even-flexing ski, then you’re in for a good time. Sean Kerrigan was tossing around 10s on his score card: “This ski rips and keeps upping the ante the more you ask of it. Total edge control and fast transitions between turns.” Fritz Stephenson found the sooner he got the ski on edge, the more explosive it skied: “Engage the edges high in the turn and it takes off like a rocket.” Kristian Armstrong noted that this versatile, fun ski was “easy to steer, stable and predictable; a great shape that lends itself to most turn shapes.”

All-Mountain Freeride – men

LINE SUPERNATURAL 86

$600

BEST FOR: Aggressive/heavier skiers looking to conquer western mountains

SKIER TYPE: Intermediate-advanced; heavy weight; long turns; power

LENGTHS:  165, 172, 179*

SIDECUT:   125/86/112

RADIUS:     17.8@179

Overall average score: 6.6/10.0

Quality trumps quantity when it comes to turns? Take the Supernatural 86 for a rip. It prefers long turns at higher speeds and softer snow. “This ski is happy on the groomed but loves the powder,” said Paul Schmidt. George Terwiel added, “Solid and stable at speed with excellent edge grip. A good ski for a fast, aggressive skier or a heavy skier who wants to be.” Short turns were work and ice was not nice, so best if you tend to shy away from bulletproof and non-stop groomer laps. Not everyone loved this ski, but even those who didn’t gave it credit for a predictable feel and easy turn initiation.

All-Mountain Freeride – men

LINE SUPERNATURAL 92

$650

BEST FOR: A tool if the mountain is your playground

SKIER TYPE: Advanced-expert; medium weight; short-long turns; cruise

LENGTHS:  165, 172, 179*, 186

SIDECUT:   131/92/118

RADIUS:     19.6@179

Overall average score: 8.0/10.0

Sure, call this ski a lightweight, just don’t expect it to ski that way. Erin Keam was pleasantly surprised when he amped up his demands on the ski: “It felt light on the foot but stable and powerful on the snow.” Others noted its quickness in bumps, trees and other tight turning situations. “Even though it’s wide underfoot, it was still easy to initiate and put into a short turn. A great ski for varied conditions,” wrote Chris Senecal. But racer Dave Gollogly warned against expecting too much hard-snow performance: “Soft, bumpy terrain is what this ski was born for. Still, a good everyday ski,” especially in B.C.

All-Mountain Freeride – women

LINE SOULMATE 86

$500

BEST FOR: If your idea of all-mountain is everything but groomers

SKIER TYPE: Intermediate-advanced; medium-heavy weight; short turns; power

LENGTHS:  151, 158, 165*

SIDECUT:   125/86/111

RADIUS:     13.2@158

Overall average score: 6.1/10.0

Britta Gretzmacher summed up the Soulmate 86 succinctly: “This is a ski that doesn’t do well on hardpacked groomers, but performs well in soft snow and shines in the bumps. Mogul enthusiasts will love it.” Stronger and heavier testers liked it more, but few could find a way to make it carve consistently on firm snow. “A good ski for sliding around on. Throw it sideways anywhere, anytime but don’t try to find the edge,” warned Heather Robilliard. The trees, powder and moguls were another story. The Soulmate gobbled them all up in short, snappy turns and moderate speeds.

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All-Mountain Freeride – women

LINE SOULMATE 92

$600

BEST FOR: Mostly skiing off-piste

SKIER TYPE: Intermediate-advanced; light-heavy weight; short-long
turns; cruise

LENGTHS:  151, 158, 165*

SIDECUT:   127/92/115

RADIUS:     14.6@158

Overall average score: 5.8/10.0

If there’s more to life than groomers, the Soulmate 92 will be, well, your soulmate. “It’s soft and forgiving, loves fresh powder, cuts through crud well, and is playful in the bumps and trees,” wrote Wendy Anderson. Shelley Johnston backed that up with “it has issues initiating carves on groomers,” where several testers noted that the ski preferred to skid rather than hold an edge. Off-piste and even in the park, it will provide a platform to improve on, said Nina Gretzmacher: “It’s a sturdy, adaptable ski. It goes through anything and feels stable underfoot. Definitely a confidence booster.”

All-Mountain – men

MEIER QUICKDRAW

$749

BEST FOR: Tree skiing and bump bashing

SKIER TYPE: Advanced; medium weight; short turns; finesse-power

LENGTHS:  156, 161, 166, 171*, 176, 181, 186

SIDECUT:   134/88/111

RADIUS:     17@171

Overall average score: 5.7/10.0

There was very little agreement on this ski. A small majority of testers, like Wil Comrie, thought it was a soft-snow ski, best for 10-cm-plus rule followers: “In the soft bumps and the loose bits this ski excelled. On-piste it ran out of gas.” Erin Keam and the others recommended restricting the Quickdraw to groomers: “Hooked up and never let go; unfortunately for the groomers only.” Likewise, the men were equally divided over speed, some saying it handled best below the speed limit, while others felt it needed to fly. Most agreed it was an energetic ski that could handle the tightest turning situations.

All-Mountain Freeride – men

MEIER WILD BILL

$799

BEST FOR: Speedy vigilantes hunting for powder

SKIER TYPE: Intermediate-advanced; light-medium weight; long turns; power

LENGTHS:  170, 175*, 180, 185

SIDECUT:   129/98/125

RADIUS:     20@175

Overall average score: 6.2/10.0

This is a ski you’ll want to demo before you buy. The tester feedback spanned the spectrum from a wide-body slalom ripper to a soft-snow cruiser. In averaging out the reviews, a playful ski that prefers speed, longer turns and softer conditions emerged. Dave Gollogly said, “Playful, happy-go-lucky kind of ski. Whatever you want to ski, no matter how fast, it can handle.” Erin Keam added that it takes a diligent, active skier: “You can’t be timid; must stand on the gas. Did not and would not make a smaller turn without effort.” Sean Kerrigan noted that the ski “excelled at busting through crud and variable conditions.”

 

All-Mountain Freeride – women

MEIER BIG NOSE KATE

$749

BEST FOR: Avoiding the law on soft snow

SKIER TYPE: Expert; medium-heavy weight; long turns; power

LENGTHS:  165*

SIDECUT:   125/92/112

RADIUS:     20@165

Overall average score: 5.2/10.0

Big Nose Kate was western gunslinger Doc Holliday’s girlfriend. This ski would have fit in well with the vigilante. “Show this ski some respect and it will give you everything you need to ski the whole mountain,” wrote Sandra Haziza. “This ski likes speed and aggression,” stated Shelley Johnston, “just don’t get caught in the back or you’re going for a ride!” Indeed, less-powerful testers found the ski a bit uncontrollable. Lightweight Gillian Browning thought it “awesome in long turns—short turns, not so much.” If your idea of all-mountain means everywhere but groomers, this one should be on your dance card.

All-Mountain – men

NORDICA ENFORCER 93

$749

BEST FOR: Moving from blue to black and beyond

SKIER TYPE: Intermediate-advanced; light-heavy weight; short-long turns; power

LENGTHS:  169, 177, 185*, 194

SIDECUT:   126/93/114

RADIUS:     18.5@185

Overall average score: 7.2/10.0

Unlike its name suggests, the Enforcer 93 proved to be friendly and easygoing, as Mike Dempsey found out: “First turn you take, you know this ski is there to help you. It initiates a turn well and is versatile in fast and slow turns.” Peter Eaton added that it could make any kind of turn on everything from greens to blacks: “It works well in all turn sizes and in both skidded and carved turns.” Its width and easy flexing suggested the ski would be even better in soft snow, making Wil Comrie comment: “Can rip the front, but wants to go to the back.”

All-Mountain – women

NORDICA SANTA ANA 93

$699

BEST FOR: Getting better at skiing the entire mountain

SKIER TYPE: Intermediate-expert; light-heavy weight; short-long turns; finesse-power

LENGTHS:  153, 161, 169*, 178

SIDECUT:   124/93/112

RADIUS:     15.5@169

Overall average score: 7.7/10.0

All our female testers liked this ski. Nina Gretzmacher gave it some of the highest scores: “This ski makes you feel like a hero. A versatile ski that loves the off-piste but holds a stable edge on-piste. Easy edge-to-edge transitions, and turn initiation feels effortless.” This lighter-weight ski with minimal swingweight will make it easy to ski all day, and yet in tracked-up powder or dust-on-crust moguls it plowed through like a tank. It could do the driving for relaxed turning, but also handled as much power as our testers could give it. “Nimble and playful in the bumps,” said Wendy Anderson, and “totally bulletproof at speed.”

All-Mountain Frontside – men

NORDICA GT 84 Ti EVO

$1,249

BEST FOR: All-mountain leaning toward the groomed

SKIER TYPE: Advanced-expert; medium weight; short-long turns; finesse-power

LENGTHS:  162, 168, 174*, 180

SIDECUT:   134/84/114

RADIUS:     14.5@168

Overall average score: 8.5/10.0

In every performance characteristic this ski scored near the top. Everyone had only nice things to say. Jordan Kozak handed out several 10s: “Incredible initiation, this ski turns very easily but holds an edge well.” George Terwiel said it inspired confidence: “Versatile with solid performance and easy to operate in bumps, groomed and off-piste.” While Mike Dempsey felt it was the epitome of an all-mountain ski, especially where the snow falls less consistently: “A great ski for carving on hardpack. It has the ability to switch easily from long to short turns. The flex is a dream for bumps.”

All-Mountain Frontside – women

NORDICA BELLE 84

$649

BEST FOR: A demanding, fall-line lover

SKIER TYPE: Advanced-expert; medium weight; short-long turns; power

LENGTHS:  145, 153, 161, 169*, 178

SIDECUT:   120/84/104

RADIUS:     15.5@161

Overall average score: 7.5/10.0

Like to be on top, take control, bark orders? (Yes, we’re talking skiing.) “You need to own it to make it perform, but once you take control it will work for you,” wrote Sandra Haziza. The sweet spot is small, but easy to find right under the foot, said Britta Gretzmacher: “Super-lively ski that demands your attention, but once you find the sweet spot it turns where and when you want, in and out of bumps, crud and hard groomers.” Kathy Broderick felt it would suit an aggressive, athletic skier who likes skiing the fall line in any conditions: “Confidence builder for someone who wants to point it down.”

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All-Mountain – women

SALOMON GEMMA

$799

BEST FOR: Cruising between hot laps

SKIER TYPE: Advanced-expert; heavy weight; short-medium turns; finesse and cruise

LENGTHS:  157, 163*, 169

SIDECUT:   131/85/112

RADIUS:     14.4@163

Overall average score: 7.4/10.0

Sure, it’s fun to play with a lively ski, but sometimes you just want to chill and relax. There’s a ski for that. “Mellow. A large sweet spot allows for easy balance and recovery,” noted Anne Terwiel. Heather Robilliard found it was fun in the bumps and trees: “Easy to turn. It performed well in shorter and medium turns and would suit those who ski at a moderate pace.” It was silky smooth on harder snow and groomers, but it took a heavier skier to work the ski. “The tip and tail are quite stiff, so I found it challenging to flex and arc,” said Nina Gretzmacher.

All-Mountain Frontside – men

SALOMON X-DRIVE 8.0 FS

$899

BEST FOR: Carving everything from groomers to back bowls

SKIER TYPE: Advanced; medium weight; short-long turns; finesse

LENGTHS:  161, 168, 175, 182*

SIDECUT:   126/80/111

RADIUS:     16.8@182

Overall average score: 7.4/10.0

A great technical skier never skids or smears his turns—he carves Cs from top to bottom, no matter the terrain. That’s what this ski wants to do, too. “Awesome turns. This ski holds an edge very well,” wrote Jordan Kozak. A dynamic combo of smooth flex and lively feel popped our testers from turn-to-turn. “What a turner. Fast or slow, big or small, it will eat it up,” raved Chris Senecal. The stable ride at all speeds and predictable feel in all terrain prompted several to suggest this would be a good ski for advancing from blacks to double blacks. “This will take you to new heights,” concluded Dave Gollogly.

All-Mountain Freeride – men

SALOMON QST 92

$549

BEST FOR: Straightening and bombing big terrain

SKIER TYPE: Expert; heavy weight; long turns; power

LENGTHS:  161, 169, 177*, 185

SIDECUT:   130/92/113

RADIUS:     17@177

Overall average score: 5.7/10.0

When big-mountain skis are too wide for the conditions, click into the QST 92. Stiffened with an innovative combo of sheets of carbon and flax, this ski took muscle and power to turn, especially in tighter radius. “This ski likes to stay on edge. It’s slow in transitions,” commented Paul Schmidt. But when it came to going fast in challenging terrain, it left a “mark on the mountain with long, arcing turns on a stable platform. Take it off the groomers for maximum fun and performance,” reported Sean Kerrigan. Paul Cunnius called it a “super strong ski that holds both edge and pressure in the fall line well.”

All-Mountain Freeride – women

SALOMON LUX 92

$549

BEST FOR: Skiing fast in deep snow

SKIER TYPE: Advanced-expert; medium-heavy weight; long turns; power

LENGTHS:  153, 161, 169*, 177

SIDECUT:   129/92/112

RADIUS:     16.2@169

Overall average score: 5.4/10.0

The Lux 92 is a tank of a ski; only the speedsters and powerhouses could handle its demanding nature and serious stiffness. “If you’re brave enough to put the hammer down, this is the ski for you! Speed is the name of the game and then the possibilities are endless,” wrote Katie Joyce. But even at speed and on the feet of a strong tester, it was difficult to carve or make short turns. “It needs someone to stand on it to take control,” warns Donie Blunden. Wendy Anderson felt it showed its potential in soft snow: “A beefy, solid powder hunter that loves big turns in big pow.”

All-Mountain – men

VÖLKL KENDO

$749

BEST FOR: Optimists who think the skiing is always great

SKIER TYPE: Advanced-expert; light-heavy weight; short-long turns; cruise

LENGTHS:  163, 170, 177*, 184

SIDECUT:   127/90/110

RADIUS:     18.7@170

Overall average score: 6.8/10.0

When there’s powder, you ski off-piste. When there’s not, you carve all day long. If you’re one of those skiers who’s always positive, the Kendo can keep up with your psyche. “It carves like a race ski, and tackles crud and powder with float and ease. Exceptionally versatile,” stated Ian March. Indeed, some testers raved about its groomer performance, while others called it a powder ski. The true fans loved its agility and stability in short and long turns, fast and slow. “It prefers soft snow, but it’s also great on hardpack. The sweet spot allows powerful turns and it kicks you into the next arc,” wrote Fritz Stephenson.

All-Mountain – women

VÖLKL KENJA

$749

BEST FOR: The fat bike of skis, no rush but can go anywhere

SKIER TYPE: Intermediate-advanced; light-heavy weight; short-long turns; cruise

LENGTHS:  149, 156, 163*, 170

SIDECUT:   127/90/110

RADIUS:     16.8@163

Overall average score: 7.6/10.0

Like the introvert in the corner, this wasn’t the flashiest ski or the hardest charging, it just quietly got the job done. “An all-mountain ski that loves both groomers and the off-piste. It turned effortlessly in bumps, and felt light but stable,” said Heather Robilliard. The Kenja didn’t demand a lot of power or technique to perform, either. “It can switch from short radius to long radius easily, but prefers a larger turn. A great cruising ski,” wrote Wendy Lumby. No one could come up with a diss for this ski, with Katie Joyce noting it was “perfect for a one-ski quiver.”

All-Mountain Frontside – men

VÖLKL RTM 84 UVO

$1,299

BEST FOR: 60% hard snow, 40% everywhere else, 100% skiing fast

SKIER TYPE: Expert; medium weight; long turns; power

LENGTHS:  162, 167, 172, 177*, 182

SIDECUT:   131/84/112

RADIUS:     17.9@177

Overall average score: 8.6/10.0

Völkl made this ski to rail on groomers and eat bumps by combining a freeride-inspired tip and tail rocker with construction inspired by race skis. The result is a ski that teleports between soft and hard snow with ease. Like several of the testers, Fritz Stephenson wanted a pair. “Versatile on- and off-piste,” he wrote. George Andrew felt it was quick, lively and responsive: “It’s good in bumps and on groomers. It moves from edge to edge in the blink of an eye.” A few of the men noted that there was a need to stay on top of this ski; cruisers and the speed conscious need not apply.

All-Mountain Frontside – women

VÖLKL FLAIR 81

$1,149

BEST FOR: One-ski quiver for an aggressive skier

SKIER TYPE: Advanced-expert; light-heavy weight; short-long turns; power

LENGTHS:  149, 156, 163*

SIDECUT:   128/81/109

RADIUS:     14.7@163

Overall average score: 8.3/10.0

Flair indeed. Living up to its name, this ski impressed all our women testers with its powerful edging, stable platform and versatile turning. It could handle high speeds or cruise, and seamlessly transitioned on and off runs. “Tip this over and it’s glued to the slope. It has sensational edge hold and stability through the turn. Perfect for the category,” raved Kathy Broderick. Martina Osman backed that up with its off-piste cred: “It’s lively and predictable on soft snow, too. This ski rewards a solid and strong operator.” Sandra Haziza has the last word on the Flair 81: “Your everyday, go-anywhere best friend.”

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