When it comes to purchasing new skis, there’s a dizzying array of ski choices. It can feel a little overwhelming—whether you’re gazing at a wall of skis in your favorite ski shop or looking online. However, it’s important to note that ski manufacturers pay careful attention to the design of each ski. Every model has an intended use, which includes specific terrain and snow conditions.
Therefore, the first question you should answer is, what type of skiing do you plan to do? A savvy ski shop employee will help you translate that to a range of waist widths. For example, skis with a narrow waist, somewhere between 70 mm and 84 mm underfoot, are considered best for carving up groomers. These are widely considered to be frontside skis because they excel on the frontside of the mountain, which is often heavily groomed. At the other end of the spectrum are powder skis. Powder skis are generally anything over 100 mm underfoot because the wider the platform, the better performance for surfing snow or handling windblown or cutup snow after a storm.
What Is an All-Mountain Ski?
“All-mountain skis can carve a turn on the groomers and are also fun off-trail or in the bumps,” says Tracy Gibbons, owner and hardgoods buyer for Sturtevant’s, located in Bellevue and Tacoma, Washington. “With a variety of waist widths in this category, a good thing to help guide you is to determine how much time you really spend on groomed runs verses off-piste. If you spend most of your time on the groomers, then look to the slightly narrower skis in this group. If you are more adventuresome and like off-piste more often, than look to the wider skis in this group.”
What to Look for in Skis?
If you’re an all-mountain skier, that is you enjoy both carving on groomers and skiing new snow off the groomers or poking around in bumps, then you’ll look for waist widths that range between 86 mm and 100 mm underfoot. The narrower the waist in this category, as mentioned, the tighter the turn radius a ski will make, however, it will still be able to handle the terrain and snow conditions you find on the backside of the mountain. The wider the waist width, the more versatility and flotation the ski will have, though the ski will have a larger turn radius. The all-mountain category is the go-to place for a one-ski quiver for skiers who can encounter either groomers or new snow on any given day.
What all-mountain skis should you buy?
Before you go into the store, however, educate yourself by reading the following ski roundup. You can learn a lot about the technologies featured in these new models for the upcoming ski season. Remember that skiers shopping in this category ski the entire mountain—frontside and backside—and need a ski to handle a variety of snow conditions.
Some of the skis lean toward the narrower side in waist width and will favor carving with occasional trips off-piste or out-of-bounds while others have waists for more snow and different terrain. Whichever terrain you lean toward, all-mountain skis will provide you the access to a great adventure.
How to Choose the Right Ski Length
Men’s All-Mountain Ski Round-Up
Nordica Enforcer 94 (All-Mountain Advanced)
The Nordica Enforcer 94 stands out as a top-of-the-line all-mountain ski. The early-rise tip and tail rocker make for flowing turns in deeper snow, while the camber underfoot holds tight while carving on groomers. The 94mm waist is that perfect middle ground for excelling in both powder and hardpack. Additionally, Nordica redesigned this ski to be exceptionally lightweight by using a carbon chassis, making it a great option in the backcountry as well. The Enforcer 94 really is a do-it-all ski.
Fischer Ranger 102 (All-Mountain Advanced)
The Ranger 102 is built for the skier who revels in carving on groomers just as much as surfing through powder. It is agile, stable, and responsive, helping you ski your best in any conditions. The calibrated Flex Cut and Shaped Ti reinforcement provide a quality ride. At 102mm underfoot, it is a little on the wider side for floating on deep snow, while the exacting sidecut provides traction on hardpack. “A full array of fully thought-out features makes the Ranger 102 usable in any situation,” say the pros at Fischer. “It’s the ideal choice for freeriders who like flying down a groomer as much as making a turn in powder.”
Rossignol Experience 82 Ti (Carving)
“Every turn. Any terrain. Across the entire mountain,” writes the experts at Rossignol. “The Experience 82 Ti ski responds with energy to every ask for a high-performance all-resort feel.” The Experience 82 Ti is a hard charging, precision ski great for laying down hard carves on corduroy. The 82mm waist is on the narrow side, meaning this ski transfers from edge to edge like a dream and slices through chopped up afternoon snow like no other. Vibration dampening technology woven into the core of the ski ensures a smooth ride, and the rectangular sidewall construction delivers professional level edge control.
Völkl M6 Mantra (Speed)
The M6 Mantra was built for those who love to rip. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a ski that performs as well at high speeds as the Völkl M6 Mantra. The 3D radius sidecut and tailored Titanal frame optimizes the tip and tail weight distributions ensuring the perfect amount of contact right where you need it, thereby maximizing responsiveness. This is a stiff ski built for the aggressive, surefooted skier, yet is lighter and more agile than previous generations of the Mantra. “In summary, the Mantra M6 is even more versatile than its predecessor and once again offers maximum fun!” writes Völkl.
Salomon QST 106 (Powder)
The QST 106 is a ski designed to take on the whole mountain, with an emphasis on deep powder surfing. “The new QST 106 maintains a 106mm underfoot platform that excels when the snow gets deep,” boast the ski makers at Salomon. “Longer rocker in the tip and tail make navigating face shots a breeze.” Yet still, the carbon backbone and double sidewalls make this a powerful ski, providing control over hardpack and choppy snow as well, while cork inserts in the tip and tail absorb shock and create a smooth ride. What more could you ask for?
Icelantic Pioneer 96 (Trees and Moguls)
The Pioneer 96 is a playful ski, great for those who love bobbing and weaving through bumps and trees. The underfoot camber makes this a snappy and responsive piece, ideal for whipping turns on a dime. The agility and maneuverability of this ski are top notch, making it wickedly fun in tight spaces, while tackling the gamut of snow conditions with ease. “It offers power, versatility, and responsiveness in a shape that excels all over the mountain,” writes Icelantic.
Atomic Bent 90 (All-Mountain Intermediate)
For intermediate skiers looking to up the ante with a fresh pair of all-mountain skis, the Atomic Bent 90 is a great choice. The HRZN Tech Tip and Tail floats though powder and park alike, and a Lightwood Core keeps the weight low. “While the Bent 90 is a narrower ski than the bigger Bent Chetler 120,” write the experts at Atomic, “it still maintains the same attitude of creativity, self-expression, and versatility that make the entire range so effective.” The Bent also features stunning topsheet art designed by pro skier Chris Benchetler. At the affordable price of $600, these skis are tough to beat.
Blizzard Brahma 82 (All-Mountain Intermediate)
For mid-level on-piste riders, the Blizzard Brahma 82 will be your partner in crime. Blizzard designed this ski with a thoughtful blend of poplar and beech woodcore, providing precise flex throughout the ski—stiffness underfoot for control, softness at the tip and tail for forgiveness. A waist width of 82mm is on the narrower side, optimizing edge control on hardpack. “Strong at heart with an easygoing attitude makes the Brahma 82 the go to choice for skiing all over the mountain,” says Blizzard. “With a Flipcore design and Trueblend woodcore inside, the Brahma 82 gives you the confidence to rip or cruise on hard snow or soft, anywhere your skis want to take you.”
Rossignol Experience 78 (All-Mountain Intermediate)
For newer and more intermediate skiers alike, the Experience 78 is the ski to boost performance on the slopes. 78mm underfoot is a great width for bouncing from edge to edge, making for fluid carving. Carbon layers reduce the weight of the ski for a feathery feel on your feet, while vibration dampening material is woven throughout the core for a smooth cruise over choppy terrain. The Dive Tip design coupled with the sidecut of the ski makes for easy turn initiation and an overall responsive ride.
Elan Ripstick 96 (Fun)
The Ripstick 96 from Elan is a lightweight but high-performing ski that is also playful and forgiving. This ski is great for dancing through glades and moguls, popping off side-hits, cruising through powder, and still carves hard on groomers. “If a smoothness indicator existed for skis, the Ripstick 96 would be off the charts!” Elan boasts. “A true freeride ski that doubles as an all-mountain ski for those who want ultimate versatility on the mountain.”