GearSnow Sports
2021 Winter Buyer’s Guide

The Best Skis of 2021

This season's best boards charge hard, but they're a blast at all speeds

(Photo: Inga Hendrickson)
winter buyer’s guide

Rossignol Sender Ti ($900)

Best Skis
(Photo: Courtesy Rossignol)

For generations consumers have been taught to believe that expert skis are for experts only. Rossignol’s new Sender Ti proves that’s no longer true. It’s 106 millimeters wide underfoot—wide enough to handle deep snow days—and thanks to a wood core backed with a sheet of aluminum alloy, it has the power, dampening, and stability you’d expect from a western-mountain ski. At the same time, the Sender Ti offers a lightweight feel, easy turning, and a lively ride. The ski’s most notable new tech is a pair of unique core stringers crafted from plastics and a rubbery viscoelastic, which allow the ski to bend and rebound like a memory-foam mattress. The mix of materials makes for a smooth ride and adds a bit of pop. 

Another key performance element is the ski’s flex, which designers finely tuned in each length—not so stiff that it requires lots of muscling, but far from noodle soft. “No matter how fast or slow you’re moving, you stop thinking about the ski and focus on your line,” said one tester. We call this accessible power—the ability of a ski to perform with minimal user input. The industry has been chasing that concept lately, with much success. (See last year’s Gear of the Year–­winning Nordica Enforcer 104 Free, and the Bliz­zard Sheeva 10 on page 18.) Ample but not excessive tip and tail rocker and a stretched-out sidecut (the 187-­centimeter length has a 21-meter turn radius) work with the flex, so the Sender Ti rips as much or as little as you want. 138/106/128

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Blizzard Sheeva 10 ($780)

Best Skis 2021
(Photo: Courtesy Blizzard)

Best Women’s All-Mountain Powder

Blizzard has a reputation for building stout skis. In the new Sheeva 10, the brand bolsters that stoutness with surfiness. The design features just enough rocker for most powder days, with carbon fiber in the tip and tail to add float, and tapered metal underfoot to provide extra oomph for powerful edging when you need it. Early in the construction process, Blizzard also flips the materials in the mold so the skis cure in their natural rockered shape. On snow, the resulting ski is easy to swing around and has a lightweight and forgiving feel while still offering ­top-notch ­stability without chatter. “They feel perfectly balanced and so trusting deep in the turn,” said a tester. “They breezed through wonky snow without feeling tanklike,” said another. Look to the Sheeva 10 if you want versatile in-bounds powder boards that allow you to slash or arc your turns. 131.5/102/121.5 

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Dynastar M-Free 108 ($800)

Best Skis 2021
(Photo: Courtesy Dynastar)

Best Men’s All-Mountain Powder

Dynastar, which has forever crafted ­burly—if somewhat dead—off-trail skis, has ­completely reimagined itself. The brand designed its new M-Line range to deliver the perfect mix of agility, power, and lightweight feel. Its ­powder-loving unisex M-Free 108 skips the metal sheets most companies employ to add stability and quiet chatter in favor of a new unique core: poplar wood ­sandwiched between polyurethane foam, which shaves weight and adds dampness. That ­construction, paired with ample underfoot width and rocker, easily made the 108 our top pick for pure powder joy. It’s surfy and loose but also stable. Any experienced skier can pilot it. “They nailed the progressive flex,” said a tester who patrols at snow-blessed Alta. “It does exactly what you want it to off-trail.” If you’re in the market for a resort powder ski with a fluid feel, the M-Free 108 is for you. 138/108/128

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Nordica Enforcer 100 ($850)

Best Skis 2021
(Photo: Courtesy Nordica)

Best Men’s All-Mountain

Nordica claims the all-new Enforcer 100—the brand’s top seller for years—is “smoother and more playful than ever.” Our ten testers at Steamboat agreed. “This ski is still at home on wide-open slopes with the pedal to the floor,” said a race coach, “but unlike the old Enforcer 100, it has life at slower speeds.” That more energetic and inviting ride comes courtesy of a new carbon-fiber and wood chassis that adds pop to the turn and makes the 100 more versatile off-piste without detracting from its on-trail stability. Those same traits mean slow or slashy skiers will dig it, too. At once skinnier and more powered up than the Rossignol Sender Ti and Dynastar M-Free 108, this is your ski if you spend half your time on trail and half off. “It likes to go fast but it pivots too,” said one tester. 133/100/121

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Stöckli Nela 88 ($999)

(Photo: Courtesy Stöckli)

Best Women’s All-Mountain

A well-crafted ski makes you comfortable at speeds that normally scare you. Engineered with Stöckli’s World Cup racing legacy in plain view, the Nela features vertical sidewall and sandwich construction that delivers top-notch edge penetration and stability, no matter how fast you’re going. But like most high-end brands, Stöckli has found a balanced flex that lets lightweight slashers have as much fun as well-muscled technical skiers. We found that the Nela stands out more for its on-piste arcing abilities than for its chops in unpredictable off-trail crud. But for places like the East Coast or Colorado’s Front Range that see a lot of hardpack, it’s plenty fat for a daily driver, with slight tail rocker that adds some buttering forgiveness. Finesse skiers will benefit from the superlight balsa core, thin glass laminate, and light but rugged edge material. (Stöckli shaves grams where the edges ­attach to the core.) “They’re easy to smear, but smearing these would be a sin,” said a tester. “They carve beautifully.” 127/88/113

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Head Kore 87 W ($750)

Best Skis 2021
(Photo: Courtesy Head)

Best Women’s All-Mountain Frontside

“Carvaholics, the Kore 87 W will feed your addiction,” said one tester. It’s the newest and narrowest addition to Head’s ­all-mountain Kore fleet and fittingly, it emphasizes laying way out on edge on perfect corduroy. But it’s light and easy-­skiing enough to serve double duty for touring and shredding spring corn. Credit goes to graphene—the lightest and toughest material known to science—in the tips and the tails and a carbon layer in the body, which makes the Kore 87 W backcountry light and resort stable. “It has guts in steeps and hardpack but is surfy and playful, too,” said a tester. A mildly tapered tip makes off-trail skiing smoother and flattens the learning curve for aspiring carvers, taking away the need to battle for turn initiation. “You don’t need beautiful form to make perfect turns,” said one of our testers, a patroller at Steamboat. Another said: You don’t have to work hard for a good ROI.” 127/85/107

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Salomon Stance 90 ($800)

Best Skis 2021
(Photo: Courtesy Salomon)

Best Men’s All-Mountain Frontside

Though Salomon builds race gear as well as any brand, the French company has made a name for itself stateside by producing lightweight and playful off-trail skis—many of which revolutionized skiing. Now it’s proving it can make skis that flat-out charge on packed snow. The Stance 90 is more of a pure carver than most frontside skis but is still adept off-trail. “This is the most powerful ski in the all-mountain frontside category,” said a beer-league racer and 30-year ski tech. “It makes you want to ski harder.” Indeed, two sheets of aluminum alloy back a full wood core that’s reinforced with damp but lively flax and carbon. But as burly as the Stance 90 is at full blast, it’s not just for big dudes. Our smallest testers sang its praises, too. You can ski it at all speeds and even scrub turns awkwardly without paying a price. 126/90/108

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Völkl Blaze 106 ($700)

(Photo: Courtesy Völkl)

Best Crossover

Crossover skis need to be relatively lightweight for shouldering on boot packs or heading out the gates on middle-distance ski tours. The unisex Blaze 106 fits the bill, weighing just 3.9 pounds per ski in a 186-centimeter length. (The women’s version tips the scales at 3.5 pounds in a 165-centimeter length.) More impressively, both models are still damp and edgy enough for shredding in-bounds hardpack. Völkl paired a wood core, which runs to the very tip of the ski, with a thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) that eats chatter, smoothing out the turn initiation and keeping the ski on track into the belly of the carve. A relatively straight sidecut in the shovel helps with ease of turning as well, while boosting stability. “Even at 106 millimeters underfoot, the Blaze is effortless to smear and surf,” said a tester. “But it holds like crazy on hard snow.” 146/106/128

Men’s Women’s

Scott Superguide Freetour ($850)

Best Skis 2021
(Photo: Courtesy Scott)

Best Backcountry

Skis that are too lightweight wear you out on descents. Skis that are too heavy wear you out on the climb. Enter the relaunched Superguide series by Scott. At 3.5 pounds per ski in a 178-centimeter length, the lightweight Freetour climbs effortlessly. But the full beech and paulownia core backed by carbon fiber and Aramid means it’s not a liability on descents. In fact, given the relatively low speeds at which most people ski backcountry couloirs and powder fields, it’s a joy. It’s also soft enough to arc turns in lightweight touring boots. The performance comes down to the Freetour’s predictable flex, ample width, and relaxed sidecut with a 24-meter turn radius. “You sink into the turn with very little muscling,” said a tester, “and it’s fat enough to ski all manner of snow conditions.” For women, the Superguide 95 W ($800) skis much the same in a thinner silhouette (128/94/113)—and weighs more than half a pound less. 136/105/124

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Filed To: SkisSkiingBootsGear of the YearSnow Sports
Lead Photo: Inga Hendrickson

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