Point and Shoot

From Alaskan powder to New England ice, these skis will make you better

dynastar, volkl, atomic

From top: Dynastar Legend Pro Rider XXL, Völkl AC4, and Atomic Snoop Daddy    Photo: David Clugston

The Testers

Lynsey Dyer, 24, 5'6", 130, pro skier;

Justus Meyer, 25, 5'7", 155, pro skier;

Jessica Smith, 25, 5'4", 135, ski coach and former U.S. Ski Team racer

Powder
Dynastar Legend Pro Rider XXL
Sidecut: 132/109/122
Dynastar originally designed the XXL for its big-mountain freeskiing team a decade ago. This year, for the first time, the French company will sell its fattest production boards to the general public. A word of warning, though: While the XXLs are perfectly suited to freeride romps in the powder, they can be unforgiving under less proficient skiers. With a hefty, rigid, wood-core-and-titanium-alloy construction and a fiberglass topsheet, the XXLs pop commandingly out of turns, and the 109mm waist provides enough float for bottomless pow. But that's assuming you feel comfortable in hip-deep snow, because these skis need high speed to get going and a skier who knows how to tell them where to go. $1,095; dynastar.com

All-Mountain
Völkl AC4
Sidecut: 125/82/110
Powderhounds in need of a speedy, all-around performer, rejoice. Though the AC4 has enough float for the fluffy stuff, we had no problem making them grab on an icy morning at Aspen's Ajax Mountain. Later that afternoon, the skis unflinchingly pounded through soft bumps and crud, and two days later floated through two feet of new powder. Credit the skis' Extended Double Grip technology an elongated wood core that adds material above the edges to provide a uniform hold in all snow conditions. That, coupled with the new Marker Motion iPT binding system, which integrates the binding directly into the ski for improved feel and energy transfer, makes the AC4 lively and dependable. "I loved this ski through all conditions and terrain," says Smith. $1,115 (with bindings); volkl.com

Sidecountry
Atomic Snoop Daddy
Sidecut: 125/88/111
No ski on the market better exploits the full potential of sidecountry skiing a growing trend toward hike-accessed backcountry runs just off the lifts than the Snoop Daddy. Mounted with the beefy new Naxo nx21 randonnée binding, the skis ripped high-speed, large-radius arcs on the groomers and handled late-day crud like it was a naughty child. But the fat yet feathery foam-core Daddy shined best when we unlocked the Naxos' heels for a 30-minute hike to some deep untouched snow, then set the skis loose to float through an untracked two-foot dump. "Forget trying to keep up with anyone skiing these on a powder day," says Meyer. $855; atomicsnow.com

Rossignol Zenith Z9, Fischer World Cup RC, and Salomon X-Wing Tornado

rossignol, fischer, salomon
From top: Rossignol Zenith Z9, Fischer World Cup RC, and Salomon X-Wing Tornado   Photo: David Clugston

Carving
Rossignol Zenith Z9
Sidecut: 126/74/105
The Z9's are kind of like performance-enhancing drugs you're going to go a lot faster, but you can't really take credit. Part of that is due to Rossi's new Twin Pulsion2 binding interface, which utilizes two raised ribs underfoot to boost power distribution to the edges for quick initiation and smooth exit. And with titanium-and-fiberglass laminate for added stiffness and pop and a wider waist than with most carving skis, the Z9's feel so stable that you'll find yourself skiing more confidently and aggressively than you ever have. $1,099 (with bindings); rossignol.com

Carving
Fischer World Cup RC
Sidecut: 112/66/96
Don't let the name scare you. While these skis were designed to arc proficient high-speed turns on Olympic-slick ice sheets, you don't need to be a racer to make them go. Fischer's new FlowFlex plate system allows the skis to bend independently of the bindings, making for virtually effortless turns and a surprisingly solid sensation underfoot. No chatter here. While the World Cups feel most at home on the groomers, they performed as well on hard snow as they did on fresh corduroy, even at slower speeds and on the flats. "I feel like a World Cup racer on these," exclaims Meyer, who spends most of his time hucking cliffs. "They're very confidence-inducing." $1,225 (with bindings); fischerskis.com

All-Mountain
Salomon X-Wing Tornado
Sidecut: 124/75/107
Though the new school may sneer at any skis that don't mimic the size and shape of an aircraft carrier, there's still something to be said for the easy-turning profile of a good sidecut, even in all-mountain planks. "The Tornado has a nice, yummy flex in a ski that's solid, springy, and powerful," says Dyer. That feeling is no accident. Salomon's integrated Z binding allows the wood-core skis to flex naturally, and also sits flatter than most bindings, providing a more balanced feel. Most important, though, is the deep sidecut, which allowed the testers to snap off turns of all shapes on the steeps and flats without losing speed. Plus the Tornado dominated crud and moguls. $1,100 (with bindings); salomonski.com

Easy Riders

This season's snowboards are more refined than ever—so you don't have to be

arbor, ride, flow
Arbor Element Alt, Flow Infinite, and Ride Prophet   Photo: David Clugston

The Testers
Othello Clark, 31, 6'1", 185, pro snowboarder

Mitch Stout, 30, 5'9", 165, snowboard coach

Freeride
Arbor Element Alt
The Element Alt's bamboo topsheet isn't just for looks; it delivers an explosiveness that park-and-pipe riders will appreciate. "I couldn't find much wrong with this board," says Stout. "I adapted to it right away." A dimpled base reduces friction for increased speed great on long, Vail-type traverses and a carbon-fiber leaf down the center provides torsional strength for high-speed turns. But our favorite part is that Arbor uses sustainable wood for all its topsheets. "They not only continue to get better each year," says Clark, "but they do it in an environmentally smart way." $499; arborsports.com

Park
Flow Infinite
A park junkie's dream, this fiberglass-and-carbon board is as lightweight and spry as a Russian gymnast lining up for the vault. The incredible responsiveness comes thanks to a titanium-and-aluminum fork that stretches laterally from the foot plates, transferring every toe twitch directly to the edges. Flow touts this as an all-mountain board, but our testers found it a bit chattery at high speed and less than stellar in the crud. So, like 2005 U.S. Open slopestyle champion Risto Mattila, who'll make the Infinite his everyday board this season, keep it in the park. $529; flow.com

Carving
Ride Prophet
Ride furthers its well-deserved reputation for smooth, stable boards with the Prophet, a high-speed fiberglass-and-aramid (another strong synthetic) carver that has carbon-fiber strands running diagonally from the center to the tips to distribute rider power over the full surface. "Super well made and feels like it will ride new for years," says Clark. Still, that Mercedes-Benz polish on the slopes comes at the expense of the liveliness required of a good park board. "It's an all-around great cruiser," says Stout, "but you really have to load it up for jibbing." $550; ridesnowboards.com

Easy Riders

Rome Design, Salomon Special, and K2 Podium

From top: Rome Design, Salomon Special, and K2 Podium   Photo: David Clugston

Powder
Rome Design
Though the Design was made for backcountry powder, X Games nuts will appreciate it for its proficiency in the park. The lightweight build intended for hikes to the deep snow results in a board that soars off jumps and rails. Specially designed hardwood plates underfoot keep the board in one piece after jarring impacts, and a carbon-fiber base layer gives it an energetic feel. But if you're looking to rip big-mountain steeps, the Design may be a bit too soft Stout suggests going for something slightly longer than your normal board length to compensate. $550; romesnowboards.com

Featherweight
Salomon Special
Salomon's ultra-lightweight (108 ounces at 159cm) construction took some getting used to. But once our testers realized that the secret lay in riding aggressively and diving hard into turns, the Special came to life. "It doesn't rip right out of the wrapper," says Clark. "You need to ride it some to understand the higher technology." That would be Salomon's hourglass-shaped aspen core, a slab of wood that's thick in the middle and tapered toward each end to produce soft, flexy tips for easy turn initiation and a meaty, rigid center that holds a tight line all the way through the apex. $480; salomonsnowboard.com

All-Around
K2 Podium
The only question is which podium, exactly, this board is supposed to put you on. "It's a great overall freeride board that can still get nasty in the park," says Stout. Both testers found that the board's springy tail allowed for "huge ollies." But it was the deep sidecut and capped tip and tail that enabled this K2 to easily initiate and hold turns it's usually one or the other in variable snowconditions. Added perk: The Podium offers more binding positions than most boards, for a wider variety of stance options. $420; k2snowboards.com

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