The Best All Mountain Skis of 2016
Do-it-all skis make resort days simpler—and more fun
In the gear world, the word versatile is supposed to connote “deft” and “multi-talented.” It’s overused to the point of cliché, but it’s also a totally accurate description of the new all-mountain skis. Finally, after decades of R&D, you can buy one pair of boards—not too fat, not too skinny, not too carvy, not too buttery—to replace a garageful of overly specialized confusion. In fact, the options are so adroit, we had to rethink our Snowbird, Utah, test. When a powder ski can rip a beautiful GS turn, it’s no longer just a powder ski. So, too, with a frontside ski that shralps a breakfast of hardpack and floats through the afternoon dump. Thus the simple premise behind what follows: buy the width you need for your favorite (or most commonly encountered) conditions. Then embrace your newfound versatility and go ski everything on the hill.
Kastle FX95 HP
Gear of the Year
Two sheets of aluminium, a silver fir core, and the fastest graphite base that money can buy are staples of this premium brand. In the new FX95 HP, Kastle designers overhauled the ski’s camber and profile, pairing a tapered tip and tail with just the right amount of rocker for a surfy feel in soft snow without sacrificing edge hold on hardpack. Result: the most adaptable all-mountain ski here. At 95 millimeters underfoot, it’s wide enough for most powder days, but with some traditional camber and the aforementioned Kastle engine under the hood, you can also rail groomer turns. 126/95/115
Price $1,199 Overall 5 Carving 5
Best For: Hunting leftover powder.
The Test: This is the only all-mountain ski here with full rocker—no traditional camber underfoot. The damp wood-core ski blasts through boot-deep powder and sun-cooked mank when opened up in big bowls. Not that it’s a slouch on groomers. Ski it balanced and the rocker engages the edges for an unctuous midsize arc.
The Verdict: If you were afraid of Völkl’s race breeding, get over it. The Mantra is now easy and fun. 132/100/118
Price $875 Overall 4.5 Carving 4.5
Atomic Vantage 100 CTI
Best For: Doing it all—for $350 less.
The Test: We didn’t think the Vantage line could get much better. Boy, were we wrong. By building a super-rigid woven-carbon mesh into the new Vantage 100, Atomic reduced weight without giving up the silky feel at speed on hard snow. Thicker sidewalls make for enhanced edge hold, while a titanium spine running above the cambered zones boosts stability even more. It’s fluid, fun, and easy. Push it on morning ice and it inspires even more confidence.
The Verdict: In all likelihood, you’ll run the do-it-all Vantage almost every day next season. 139.5/100/126.5
Price $850 Overall 4.5 Carving 4.5
Best For: Going wicked fast.
The Test: Lots of ski companies are removing weight from the tip and tail to reduce flutter and boost playfulness. Nowhere is the effect more noticeable than on the new Bonafide, with carbon in the front and back. The lower swing weight means the ski pivots in powder and crud, but there’s still ample punch in the belly of the turn for charging on ice.
The Verdict: This is still a Blizzard—there’s no speed limit. But it’s also very accessible. 133/98/118
Price $840 Overall 4.5 Carving 5
Best For: Surfing—with guts.
The Test: There are two sheets of metal and a wood core inside the brand-new Enforcer, but it’s not a pure carver. Rocker extends 25 percent down the ski from the tip (and 5 percent up from the tail), and it’s got a big 60.7-foot turning radius worthy of a powder ski. We praised it for thunking around in day-old powder and straightlining runouts. But while it excels off-trail, it’s the least groomer-friendly ski here; you need to drop the hip and ski the tail with plenty of pressure to get a nice round arc.
The Verdict: Ski fast and avoid tight glades. 133/100/121
Price $799 Overall 4 Carving 4
Best For: Flat-out charging.
The Test: Most Salomon skis fall on the user-friendly end of the spectrum. But the Quest line brings the heat. Our testers favored them for going all-out in chutes and sunny, wide-open bowls. Even the 103-millimeter-wide version has superb directional stability. But that doesn’t mean you’re limited to skiing 40 miles per hour all the time, courtesy of a honeycomb insert in the tip to keep swing weight manageable.
The Verdict: If you spend a lot of time off-trail but don’t need a massive powder ski to have fun, this is your best bet. 138/104/127;
Price $900 Overall 4.5 Carving 4.5
Dynastar Powertrack 89
Best For: Varied terrain.
The Test: When a designer finds the correct balance of rocker (upturn at tip and tail) and taper (subtle narrowing of the rockered sections), it’s possible to reduce width without sacrificing much float. That’s what happened with the Powertrack 89, which skis loose, surfy, and fun off-trail but easily powers up when it bites an edge into icy hardpack.
The Verdict: If your local hill offers plenty of steep, mixed terrain, these planks were made for you. 126/89/110
Price $875 Overall 4.5 Carving 5
Fischer Ranger 98 Ti
Best For: Hiking for fresh turns.
The Test: Until now, lightweight skis have been a bit of a liability. Rail them at speed and they’d deflect nervously off frozen chunks. It’s hard to shed ounces without sacrificing dampness and stability. The Ranger 98 changes that. A newly designed carbon nose built specifically for the Ranger line reduces swing weight, but classic wood and metal construction from the tip back keeps it powerful on tricky glazed snow.
The Verdict: The most promising in-bounds-to-out-of-bounds choice. 132/98/122
Price $750 Overall 4.5 Carving 3.5
Rossignol Experience 100 TI
Best For: Strong skiers who know how to finish a turn.
The Test: A few years ago, any board with this much raw power would have smacked you upside the head for every small high-speed miscalculation. Not so the Experience 100, which is both as smooth as a mushy rockered ski and as damp as a big-mountain charger. Thanks go to the honeycomb in the nose that cuts swing weight and the rocker that floats the tip.
The Verdict: If you already have a powder ski, get the Experience 100 for the rest of the season. 140/100/130
Price $850 Overall 4.5 Carving 4.5