Thanks to a plethora of new materials, skis are getting way more versatile.
Blizzard Rustler 10 ($780)
“Ski of the future.” When multiple test cards make that claim, you know an engineer just blew up the status quo of ski design. That’s the case with the Rustler 10. Until now, strong western skiers had to choose between burly big-mountain sticks made for charging steeps and playful freeride ones built to pivot and slough. Austria-based Blizzard decided to fill this void. Thanks to an entirely new construction with carbon in the rockered tip and tail, metal in the midbody, and a light wood core backed by a woven carbon layer everywhere else, the Rustler is easy to throw around in soft stuff, while still retaining Blizzard’s legendary thumping straight-line stability. We couldn’t find a type of terrain or skiing style that it didn’t excel at. Even cooler, the skis in the Rustler line—from 164 centimeters to 188—feature progressively fatter dimensions, so that the float is the same for somebody who’s 150 pounds as it is for someone who’s 210. Essentially, you’re buying custom skis. It’s the best one-ski quiver we’ve ever tried. “The most fun I’ve had all week,” said a tester who logs 150 days a year. 133/102/122
Salomon QST Stella 106 ($850)
Best For: Off-trail exploration.
The Test: The top-scoring ski on this page, the QST Stella is damp yet lively, stable yet nimble. “Amazingly agile, but the Stella digs deep trenches on edge, too,” said a tester. Those properties are attributed to the French brand’s new superfiber, which blends powerful, energetic carbon with lightweight flax. The material allows for less metal in the ski’s body, to keep the weight down and the dynamic feel up, though there is a single sheet of Titanal. On-trail, it could use a bit more energy return during a turn, but off-trail we found it excelled at hopping from trees to chutes to alpine faces.
The Verdict: Look here if you head straight to the back bowls each day. 138/106/125
Rossignol Soul 7 HD ($850)
Best For: Shredding powder in glades.
The Test: The old Soul 7 was the best tree-navigating powder ski we ever tested. The new Soul 7 HD is that plus a whole lot more. Rossi reinvented this wildly popular stick by incorporating new materials. The old Air Tip is gone, replaced with the 2.0 version, which is both lighter and stronger. On the hill, that translates to a more solid ride capable of blasting through crud. The entire ski feels more stable, thanks to the use of a new carbon-alloy weave. This construction boosts confidence when you’re wailing at speed through powder and when you’re knocking off metronome groomer turns. It’s a burlier ski all around, but don’t get us wrong: it’s still damn fun. It just no longer comes with a speed limit.
The Verdict: Still the most playful all-mountain pow ski we’ve ever tried. 136/106/126
Nordica Enforcer 110 ($849)
Best For: Your next trip to Jackson Hole.
The Test: Once snowpacks hit the 50-inch mark, the new Enforcer 110 is the only ski you need to haul to the hill. Our Snowbird testers praised it for its spot-on balance of stability and playfulness as they flowed from wet corn to firm groomers. As for powder, well, one tester couldn’t stop raving about how it slunk through steep trees like a pure freeride model, then locked into a big arc on an open face. Much of the credit for that adaptability goes to the construction, which features a lightweight wood core reinforced by a layer cake of carbon and metal. But it’s the Enforcer line’s shape that achieves most of the performance. A blunt tip and tail let the ski enter and exit turns with power or finesse.
The Verdict: If you spend 80 percent of your time hunting soft snow, chutes, and headwalls, demo the Enforcer. 140/110/129
Fischer Pro MTN 95 Ti ($849)
Best For: Carving it up when it’s not totally dumping.
The Test: The rockered carbon-fiber tip on the Pro MTN turns what would be a hard-to-handle fat carving ski into a fun all-mountain tool. “You don’t have to muscle your way into the turn at all, but once you’re on edge, you can lock into a beautiful GS arc,” said a tester. It prefers firm snow and a technical skiing style, but that same tip design keeps it nimble enough off-trail, especially if there’s an edgeable base beneath the fresh stuff. Fischer’s low-profile “razorshape” lets the
95 slice through surface snow with very low resistance. Back on the hard, refrozen morning corn at our test, the wood core and milled titanium internals made it the most adept at hooking up and hanging on.
The Verdict: Spend most of your day railing groomers but don’t want to be limited to them? Buy this. 137/95/122
Kästle FX95 HP ($1,199)
Best For: Coast-to-coast all-mountain, year-round shredding.
The Test: There’s a reason the updated FX95 HP costs $350 more than even the most premium skis: the build. From the vertically laminated silver fir core to the ultrafine graphite racing base to the two sheets of Titanal, this is simply the highest-quality ski you can buy. The old version of the FX95 HP won a Gear of the Year award. The new version is even better. Kästle subtly increased the flex of this stable ski so it’s easier to lock into a carve on groomed snow. Yet we didn’t notice any loss of agility or tracking off-trail. “It’s the most powerful ski in the test, but you can slip it around in the trees and bumps, too,” said a tester.
The Verdict: For north of one g, you get superb precision. 126/95/115
Atomic Vantage 95 C W ($600)
Best For: Anyone who’s after a ski that does everything well.
The Test: Our testers ask a lot of our all-mountain skis. They need to be equally adept at ripping groomers and everything we find off-trail. The Vantage 95 C W crushed the category. “Finally, a women’s ski that feels great on edge but can handle crud snow and bumps, too,” said a tester. The big performance gains come from new materials. In Atomic’s case, it’s a new weave called Carbon Tank Mesh that, in the Vantage 95, takes the place of heavy layers of metal. On the hill, you experience a silky, damp ride previously impossible in such a lightweight ski. But it isn’t a noodle, either: a poplar wood core keeps it tough.
The Verdict: In knee-deep powder or on sheer ice, you’ll feel outgunned. On all other snow types, the Vantage stomped the ten other skis in its category. 132/95/118
Head Wild Joy ($750)
Best For: Extreme versatility.
The Test: The new Wild Joy is in our all-mountain frontside category, but it could just as easily compete with the true all-mountain sticks. First, there’s the waist width: 90 millimeters underfoot was once considered a fat ski, so there’s plenty of flotation here for most powder days. But, thanks to Head’s use of graphene (a superlight, superstrong carbon) and Koroyd (a honeycomb polymer that eats vibration while saving weight), the Wild Joy is nimble to steer and quick to get on edge. Once in a turn, the roughly 15-meter sidecut lets you hook up and hold on as you transition from short swing turns to sweeping arcs.
The Verdict: A ski this fat shouldn’t carve this well. 139/90/119
Blizzard Brahma ($780)
Best For: Hauling ass.
The Test: The old Brahma was a testers’ favorite. But despite its top-ranking stability scores and damp ride, it didn’t love carving linked turns. The new Brahma fixes that, and then some. A total reworking of the construction—the ski gets carbon inserts in the tip and tail—turned the Brahma into a ripping carver on hardpack. Still, it’s perfectly adept at slamming bumps or navigating trees and chalky chutes. Two sheets of metal keep it powered up, but those lightweight tips and tails let you pivot at will. “Most joyful high-speed carving of the day,” said a tester.
The Verdict: Strong frontside skiers who like to maintain speed, start here. 127/88/111
Rossignol Experience 88 HD ($800)
Best For: Carving instructor turns.
The Test: Eighty percent of frontside skiers would be happy 80 percent of the time on the Experience 88 HD. “Everything about this ski is spot-on,” said a tester. “It holds an edge as well as any ski in the class and offers an energetic pop out of the turn.” The rockered honeycomb tip and extra width in the shovel provide easy turn initiation: just roll your ankle to get into an arc. Another superfiber, a carbon-alloy weave, gives the plank enough oomph for hardpack and keeps metal out, without sacrificing stability.
The Verdict: For when there’s not a foot of fresh, get the Experience 88. 135/88/124