GearSnow Sports

Can you help me choose a black-diond-level ski?

I 13 and looking for a pair of all-mountain skis that are not too much above my level. I an intermediate skier who skis mostly black dionds on large mountains. Aaron Massillon, Ohio

A: Thanks for writing, Aaron. If you shop around, you'll find that most skis out there today are so-called "all-mountain" skis, which offer better speed and tracking than powder skis but can perform in soft snow and powder better than "carving" skis. Today you'll find many skis with integrated bindings, too, so that the boot sits lower on the ski and you get better feel for the slope, due to the lighter weight of the combo setup and the greater flex afforded by the integrated binding.

Salomon Scrambler Six

One good candidate for you is Salomon's Scrambler Six skis with S711 bindings ($499; They've got a big sidecut for great turning, edges that can be tuned to handle different needs (speed or edging, for example), and vibration-damping design. Nice skis for a decent price.

For a bit more ski—at a higher price, of course—consider Atomic's M:9 Puls ($699 with integrated Device 3.10 bindings; They're lighter than the Salomons, and a little stiffer, so can really power through cruddy snow and snap you through turns. If you do a lot of black diamonds now, you're only going to get better—and these skis can grow with you if the price doesn't set you back.

Lastly, a bit back down the price ladder (keep in mind, skis with bindings sold separately usually cost more than these integrated setups), there's K2's Omni skis with Marker IBC bindings ($479; This is a ski designed for intermediates, flexy and forgiving, so you can ski comfortably right off the start and not feel you have to muscle the ski to make it perform. A very popular ski for good reason.

So there you go. I'll be on the slopes very soon—we have more snow here in the Pacific Northwest than we had all of last winter.

For a look at the season's best ski gear, check out Outside's 2006 Ski & Snowboard Report.

Our mission to inspire readers to get outside has never been more critical. In recent years, Outside Online has reported on groundbreaking research linking time in nature to improved mental and physical health, and we’ve kept you informed about the unprecedented threats to America’s public lands. Our rigorous coverage helps spark important debates about wellness and travel and adventure, and it provides readers an accessible gateway to new outdoor passions. Time outside is essential—and we can help you make the most of it. Making a financial contribution to Outside Online only takes a few minutes and will ensure we can continue supplying the trailblazing, informative journalism that readers like you depend on. We hope you’ll support us. Thank you.
Contribute to Outside
Filed To: Snow SportsSkis
Lead Photo: courtesy, REI
More Gear