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The Best Resort Skis of 2017

The Best Resort Skis of 2017

Our testers whittled a field of 132 down to ten. Here are our three choices for best all mountain powder skis. Now shut up and ski.

Winter Buyer’s Guide
  Photo: Blizzard

Blizzard Quattro RX

Gear of the Year

Most of us bought fat rockered skis at some point in the past five years, and for good reason—in soft snow, the loose feel lets you surf the mountain. But what about the hardpack we usually find? Increasingly, the industry has taken lessons learned from fattie designs and applied them to all-mountain frontside skis. The result? User-friendly, lightweight, subtly rockered skis that lay trenches in corduroy. Our Gear of the Year winner sits at the apex of that new category. In Europe, the new Quattro line is co-marketed with the Audi of the same name. It’s not just hype: Blizzard’s Austrian engineers put all their high-­performance heritage into producing this ultrapremium ski built to shred groomed snow—the equivalent of a road rally. The company stacked layers of wood, carbon fiber, and titanium for maximum stability and power, while its unique IQ System, which embeds the binding in the guts of the ski, makes the Quattro RX respond almost instantaneously to pressure. So yeah, it’s a race car. But don’t be intimidated: a wide (for this category) 84-millimeter waist keeps it easy to ski. “The RX defines the top-end category,” said one tester. “You can achieve extreme edge angles—but you can back off, too.” 129/84/113

Price $1,320 with bindings

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All Mountain Frontside

Winter Buyer’s Guide
  Photo: Atomic

Atomic Vantage X 83 CTI

 

Best For: Everything from groomers to bumps to chalky steeps. 

The Test: Our testers called the brand-new Vantage X 83 CTI “the most versatile ski in the category, by a long shot.” It railed arced racer turns on groomed snow nearly as well as the Völkl RTM and Blizzard Quattro, but it’s both lighter and more nimble off-piste. Much of the credit lies with Atomic’s proven Carbon Tank Mesh. The open-weave fiber boosts the ski’s stability and smooths out the ride without adding excess weight. A smartly placed titanium backbone further cuts chatter and adds to the dynamic re­bound of the ski as you exit turns. The CTI can also crank out everything from short swing turns in the fall line to sweeping arcs at Mach speeds. 

The Verdict: “It begs to ski the entire mountain,” one tester said. “Super quick and super stable.” 124/83/109.5

Price $899

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Winter Buyer’s Guide
  Photo: Volkl

Völkl RTM 86 UVO

Best For: Many, many days in Vermont. 

The Test: Most people equate more width in this category with more float in soft snow. And while that’s true, a fatter waist, like the RTM 86’s, also lets you lay the ski way over on edge before you’re bucked out of the turn. Kit such a ski out with wood and metal innards, then top it off with a vibration-eating damper, and you get one of the most capable packed-snow planks we’ve ever tested. The powerful build and German pre­cision finish make it as adept as a race ski on a sheet of ice. But when conditions soften up, that ­extra width lets the edges bite deep to prolong the carving sensation. 

The Verdict: “It thunks into the belly of a turn like a dead bolt in a lock,” said a tester. 132/86/114 

Price $1,175

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Winter Buyer’s Guide
  Photo: Salomon

Salomon X-Drive 8.8 FS

Best For: Wailing turns in packed powder. 

The Test: Utah and Colorado are the perfect haunts for this versatile, fun ski. A honeycomb tip sheds weight and boosts playfulness on groomers, while a sheet of carbon fiber paired with a layer of basalt makes it stable at full tilt. It’s also fat and rockered enough to take off-trail in all but pure powder conditions, and its airy tip keeps the ski maneuverable. A couple of our heavier testers (they spent their meal vouchers on bratwurst) complained that the X-Drive was a little soft, but the svelte among us had no such issues. 

The Verdict: It’s not designed for solid ice. But out west, it’ll make those groomed-snow days between storms way more fun. 130/88/116 

Price $850

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All Mountain

Winter Buyer’s Guide
  Photo: Blizzard

Blizzard Bonafide

Best For: Your Colorado one-ski quiver. 

The Test: Our testers aren’t engineers. They’re skiers. But one bit of engineering they universally adore: when a manufacturer strips excess ounces from the tip and tail, reducing swing weight and making a demanding ski stupid easy to slough in and out of turns. To one degree or another, all the skis we selected for this category fit that description, but the Bonafide stands out. Blizzard took a proven rockered shape and damp wood core, then added carbon fiber at the tip and tail. That upgrade makes the ski more accessible without sacrificing the brand’s characteristic power. We took this new balanced, predictable iteration off-trail from opening bell and never looked back. 

The Verdict: Bottomless powder days are few and far between. In the West, you’d ski the Bonafide 90 percent of the time and never wish you’d hauled a second pair to the hill. 133/98/118

Price $840

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Winter Buyer’s Guide
  Photo: Fischer

Fischer Pro Mtn 95 Ti

Best For: A guy named Hard Charger. 

The Test: Yes, the brand-new Pro Mtn 95 Ti has user-friendly features like carbon inserts in the tip and tail, a hint of rocker, and a lightweight core. But it’s still an Austrian-made gun. We favored it for eye-watering super-G turns on groomers and chalky windblown snow on alpine faces. A sheet of titanium keeps it vibration-free at full throttle, while the thin construction keeps the ski from hanging up in powder. The edge hold is best in class. One tester called it “an aggressive rocket that vaporizes crud. Once on edge, it hangs on no matter how hard the surface.” 

The Verdict: Confidence-inspiring and powerful as long as you keep it on the open slopes. 137/95/122

Price $850

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Winter Buyer’s Guide
  Photo: Rossignol

Rossignol Experience 100 HD

Best For: Arcing turns on big mountains.

The Test: To our crew of testers, the Experience 100 HD is a beloved anomaly. In some ways it’s a fat carving ski, with a 59-foot turn radius and an extended-sidecut silhouette (that is, it has less taper in the tip and tail). But because the shovel is slightly rockered, 140 millimeters wide, and crafted with a honeycomb tip, the ski floats effortlessly in knee-deep powder, too. If there was a gripe about last year’s model, it was that the ski lacked rebound energy as you exited a turn. This year, Rossi addressed that by incorporating a carbon weave beneath the topsheet. The open matrix acts like an extra layer of metal, without the weight penalty. 

The Verdict: “Whether you’re on a groomer or an open face, you simply can’t overcook a turn,” said a tester. 140/100/130

Price $850

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All Mountain Powder

Winter Buyer’s Guide
  Photo: Rossignol

Rossignol Soul 7 HD

Best For: Steep trees and back bowls. 

The Test: One ski-shop employee said of the Soul 7 HD: “Anyone who demos this ski will buy it.” That sums up why Rossignol’s madly successful 7-series boards have sold so well. They’re incredibly appealing to a wide range of skiers and extremely high performance. With a lightweight honeycomb tip and tail, plus ample rockering, the 106-millimeter Soul 7 is arguably the best inbounds-tree-skiing ride of all time. You can whip it around in a pivot turn, slash through an alley, and float up and out of the wettest mank with barely a grunt. At speed, the HD version is more energetic and stable on open slopes than its predecessor because of the same open-weave carbon layer that’s in the Experience line. 

The Verdict: The old Soul 7 was a bit of a liability on groomers. The HD version is a rocket. 136/106/126

Price $850

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Winter Buyer’s Guide
  Photo: Armada

Armada ARV 106

Best For: Spinning, slashing, and then Maching back to the chair. 

The Test: A few winters ago, a true powder ski had to be fatter than 115 millimeters underfoot to offer the float needed for storm days. But today, a well-refined mix of lightweight materials, reduced swing weight, and rocker means that a 106-millimeter-waisted ski like the ARV is all most of us will ever need. A lightweight tip makes the front easy to control in deep snow, while an airy core keeps the ARV from sinking like an anchor. Carbon and Kevlar struts add stability, vibration damping, and dynamic rebound. Top it off with ample rocker that lets you pivot in crud and you get a ski that’s loose and playful but no limp biscuit. 

The Verdict: We see kids running the ARV 106 all over the mountain, searching out leftover powder stashes and booters in the woods. 133/106/123

Price $700

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Winter Buyer’s Guide
  Photo: Völkl

Völkl 100Eight

Best For: Your daily driver in snowy Utah.

The Test: If this was a pure pow category, the 100Eight might drop a rank or two in the general classification. But when snow totals tallied fewer than ten inches, it was our testers’ clear favorite. A milled ridge backed by carbon stringers sheds excess material, keeping this Völkl lightweight and flotacious in powder. And a fully rockered design (no camber underfoot) makes it easy to pivot and smear in forest crud. Still, as playful as it is, it’s no noodle, laying out clean super-G arcs. And at 108 millimeters underfoot, it can get up on edge without dislocating your hip. 

The Verdict: If you live in Salt Lake City, it’s your all-mountain ride. For the rest of us, the 100Eight is a powder ski. 141/108/124

Price $825

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Tech

The Best Alpine Boots of 2017

The holy grail of the ski world? A comfortable boot that doesn’t sacrifice power for roominess. Gear designers have wrestled with this problem for years, but we’ve seen some significant gains this season with three major developments.  First, companies are offering stiffer, speed-hungry models in medium and wide widths. Behold the best-in-test Rossignol Allspeed Pro 120 (100 millimeters; $750), which let our broad-footed testers enjoy race-car speed and precision. Full Tilt, a cult-favorite brand championed by Seth Morrison, introduced the wider Descendant (102 millimeters; $750) to let big dogs enjoy the shin-cushioning benefit of three-piece construction.  Next, custom fitting, which started with

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Tech

The Best Women's Resort Skis of 2017

Presenting the three winners from our ski test.   Photo: Elan Elan Ripstick 94 W  Head’s Total Joy is a frontside ripper, the Salomon Stella is a big-mountain tool—and the Ripstick falls right in between. It may be the most precise carver on this page, staying positively glued to the snow when laying down everything from short-radius slalom moves to sweeping super-G tracks. It did best in soft snow and bumps, nimbly leaping from turn to turn. “Comfortable, effortless, and powerful,” raved one tester. “For chargers who want a ski with spark, spunk, and personality,” said another. The only caveat: you’ll have to

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Tech

The Best Après Shoes of 2017

Casual kicks to face down winter’s wrath.   Photo: Reef Reef Rover Hi  Reef took its popular, summery Rover line and updated it for winter commutes. This new iteration has a waxed-leather upper that fends off light snow. (Spray it with a waterproofing treatment if you’ll be in really wet conditions.) The fleecy lining paired with a springy midsole makes it downright slipper-esque. Price $120 Buy Now   Photo: Sanuk Sanuk Beer Runner  It’s all in the name. We loved the classic jogger look of the Beer Runner for six-pack shuffles to the corner store. A herringbone-patterned rubber sole gave enough traction, while the

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Tech

The Best Snowboards of 2017

The best new boards for all kinds of riders.   Photo: Ride Ride Alter Ego Gear of the Year This spring, more than 30 snowboard testers stormed Crested Butte, Colorado, to evaluate some 85 new board models. Over a week, we rode everything from powdery steeps and playful jump lines to early-morning ice and last-chair slush. In the end, we picked the following eight boards as our favorites. The biggest surprise: falling in love with the Alter Ego. Initially we were skeptical. The locking split-tail design, which allows you to ride it as either a pliable powder board or a hard-carving all-mountain

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Tech

The Best Women's Snowboards of 2017

Best-in-class picks to match your style.   Photo: Amplid Amplid LoveLife Best For: Aggressive Riders  Amplid got the memo that not all women crave soft flex and graphics that look like Disney-princess wallpaper. Despite the unfortunate name, expert testers endorsed the LoveLife for its tip-to-tail stiffness, created by a low-density poplar core and a carbon stringer that runs along the vertical axis. The design delivers energetic flex and snappy ollies without preventing playful turning. “It threw butters left and right,” said one tester. Multiple contact points afforded by the slightly set-back camber profile gave riders confidence in no-fall zones.  Price $520 Buy Now   Photo: K2 K2 Wildheart Best

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Tech

The Best Backcountry Skis and Bindings of 2017

The race is on to create the perfect beyond-the-ropes setup.   Photo: Vollé Voilé Supercharger Gear of the Year This season our team of more than four dozen tested 210 skis, 53 boots, and 13 bindings—and crunched the num­bers on 1,400 review forms—to come up with this: the best backcountry gear of the year. The 19 products featured continue the trend toward lightweight performance. The skis all have at least some carbon (although you wouldn’t know it from how they rip), the boots come in well under eight pounds, and only one of the bindings has a frame. So yeah, a lot of brands are making great stuff, but there

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Tech

The Best Women's Backcountry Skis, Boots, and Bindings of 2017

Superior setups for heading beyond the ropes.   Photo: Dynafit Dynafit Meteorite It’s not a women-specific ski, but testers preferred it to the Sphinx—the Meteorite’s softer, lighter sister. One of Dynafit’s new freeride offerings, it has an ash and poplar core overlaid with carbon at the rockered tip and tail for added float and lower swing weight. 125.5/97/115.9; 8 lbs Price $699 Buy Now   Photo: Salomon Salomon MTN Explore Last year, Salomon introduced the 120-flex, unisex MTN Lab. Now women get another option: the 90-flex, two-buckle MTN Explore. With a shorter cuff, lighter liner, and 63-degree walk mode, it’s designed for the backcountry but

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Tech

The Best Alpine Touring Ski Boots of 2017

What hikes up must shred down.   Photo: Lange Lange XT Freetour 130 Lange brought its World Cup pedigree to the new XT Freetour. The boot got some uphill-friendly upgrades, such as tech inserts and a rockered sole so grippy it wouldn't be or of place on a running shoe. But it relishes driving big sticks through crud. Only one gripe: with all those backcountry details, its walk mode should have a wider range. 7.8 lbs Price $950 Buy Now   Photo: Salomon Salomon QST Pro 120 This boot focuses on fast descending, with an oversize ankle pivot and burly shell. But with a 40-degree

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Tech

The Best Nordic Skiing Gear of 2017

World Cup skinny-ski gear for your local skate track.   Photo: Bridgedale Bridgedale Vertige Light Socks  The merino Vertiges mix polypro­pylene to wick moisture and Lycra for a snug fit. Subtle padding at the ball of the foot gives you exactly what you need for hours of glide.  Price $25 Buy Now   Photo: Salomon Salomon Condition-Specific S-Lab Skate Skis  The new S-Lab line offers a range of highly specialized weaponry, with variations in stiffness, base hardness, camber profile, and finish for specific snow types and temperatures. Pick the one that best matches your track. Just be sure to get the wax right.  Price $700 Buy

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Tech

The Best Splitboarding Gear of 2017

You don’t need no stinkin’ chairlifts.   Photo: Northern Playground Northern Playground Ziplongs 3/4 Wool Tights  Thanks to full zippers along the legs of these calf-length long johns, they go from toasty to ventilated in moments.   Price $100 Buy Now   Photo: Discrete Discrete Touque Beanie  A tuque or a beanie? Depends on whether you’re in Canada or the States. Whatever you call it, this one’s luxurious and warm, with a tight weave. Price $20 Buy Now   Photo: Black Diamond Black Diamond Carbon Whippet Poles  An ice ax feels extraneous until you need it. The Whippet, with a steel head above the grip, keeps one at the ready.  Price $140 Buy

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