Winter is coming, as they say, and with it the arrival of new and improved mountain-shred essentials. We tested the best skis and snowboards on the market, and these came out on top.
Head Wild Joy ($750)
Best Women’s All-Mountain Frontside Skis
Head embraced the light-done-right style to produce a ski that’s feathery but not skittish. The company utilized high-tech materials like Koroyd and graphene, a metal made from a single layer of carbon atoms that’s ultralight and 200 times stronger than steel. When those ounce savers are built in with a traditional vertical wood core and sidewall construction, you end up with a ski that’s weighted more proportionally for most women yet still holds an edge at speed. Our testers were consistently blown away. “It’s light but substantial,” said one. “The Wild Joy offers great on-trail carving, but there’s enough girth for some off-piste exploring.” 139/90/118
Rossignol Experience 94 Ti ($800)
Best All-Mountain Skis
Say hello to perhaps the most versatile all-mountain ski ever made. The Experience 94 Ti is wide enough (94 millimeters at the waist) for most powder days, and the tapered tip and tail make it easy to turn off-trail. The central rail—a vertical strip of Titanal that runs nearly the length of the ski—both steadies the Experience on edge and boosts stability by limiting counter flexing. The effect is enhanced by new vibration dampeners in the tip. “Loaded with energy,” said a tester. “It begs to be pushed hard on-trail or off, but responds to slow speed changes of direction.” 132/94/122
Kästle MX99 ($1,399)
Best Ultrapremium Skis
Kästle’s new MX99 doesn’t feature the world’s most radical shape or the latest superfibers, but it was a star of our test because of the unmatched build quality. Of course, a silver fir and beech core augmented with two sheets of Titanal and one layer of carbon—all laid out by hand—doesn’t come cheap. But the return on that investment is clear: this Kästle is more durable and skis better. “Nimble yet stable,” said a tester. “The edge-to-edge transitions are fast enough that even at nearly 100 millimeters underfoot, you can have fun on groomers all day.” 135/99/120
Atomic Vantage 97 C W ($600)
Best Women’s All-Mountain Skis
With the new Vantage 97 C W, Atomic again sought to make a powerful ski that weighs less but doesn’t chatter. To do it, the brand devised a new design—a poplar core sandwiched in carbon mesh—that reinforces the ski without weighing it down. On the hill, that translates to a silky ride with exceptional edge hold, so you don’t need to muscle the Vantage into cooperating. “It’s lightweight, which saves energy,” said a tester, “but it’s also crisp and solid, with limitless stability.” We’d ski the 97 daily in the Mountain West. 128.5/97/117.5
Fischer Ranger 102 FR ($699)
Best Powder Skis
Rangers are known for their lightweight and surfy feel, perfect for backcountry turns. This new model is all that, but features a hardier and damper vertical-sidewall-sandwich construction that adds power without sacrificing playfulness. At 102 millimeters underfoot, the Ranger FR is plenty fat for all but the deepest storm days. “It’s predictable at high speeds,” said one of our testers at Snowbird, Utah. “And just because you can throw it sideways to scrub speed doesn’t mean you can’t rail turns on icy snow too.” We’d ski it about 80 percent of the time off-trail in soft snow, but it’ll also make short work of chalky resort steeps. 136/102/126
Gnu Klassy ($470)
Best Women’s Directional Board
The compact, all-mountain Klassy was designed by pro Kaitlyn Farrington, and testers were quick to call it one of the best carvers of the year. It combines a wide waist and stubby directional shape with rocker between the feet for hoverboard-like buoyancy, while camber toward the tip and tail offers ample grip in turns. All that lends it plenty of versatility: the Klassy handles choppy moguls and lays trenches in corduroy with aplomb.
Lib Tech T. Rice Orca ($600)
Best Shortie Board
This potbellied powder board, with a cutout tail and plenty of float, is designed for surfing steeps. But we appreciated the Orca’s ability to rip turns on groomers too: it’s astonishingly nimble edge to edge in spite of its wide shape, and serrated rails offer “professional masseuse-like grip,” according to one of our freeride testers.
K2 Overboard ($480)
Best Big-Gun Board
K2’s fat-nosed, pin-tailed Goliath is primed for charging hard. The 165-centimeter length has a relatively puny effective edge—the area of the board that comes into contact with the snow when turning. Still, the carbon-reinforced Overboard subsequently surprised testers with its ability to hammer powerful carves on hardpack and draw tight, graceful lines when needed. “Weird, in the right way,” said a tester of this smooth operator.
Nitro Team ($500)
Best Directional-Twin Board
With serious pop potential and dependable edge hold, Nitro’s Team is a solid directional-twin shape that proved fun wherever we took it. All-mountain riders and park rats alike dug the snappy, reactive, semistiff wood core, as well as the high-density base, which allows you to quickly pick up speed for a few more miles per hour.