Slide Down the Slopes on the 10 Best Skis

There are a lot of really great companies out there that make really great skis. So how do you choose when there are so many good options?

If you're new to skiing or are buying instead of renting for the first time, we've gathered the best skis on the market and an explanation of how to choose the right pair for you. Your next winter camping trip is about to get a lot more fun!

TERMINOLOGY

snow skis


It helps to know some basic ski terminology when deciding on the best skis for you. Knowing how to talk to a salesperson will make it much easier to let them know exactly what you're looking for.



Ski shape

It seems simple, right? They're two long pieces of wood that you strap to your feet to slide down a mountain. But there's actually a lot that goes into ski construction.


Waist width

The first thing you want to think about is the waist width. The waist is the narrowest part of the ski and is measured in millimeters.

The wider the waist, the better it moves over fresh snow. The narrower the waist, the better it cuts into packed snow.


Turn radius

You've heard this in reference to your car. The turn radius is how sharply your skis can turn, measured in meters. It's closely related to the sidecut.


Sidecut

This is the profile of the ski and directly affects your turn radius. In general, the arc of the ski is consistent along its length, though some companies are experimenting with this.


Rocker

The rocker is how much above the ground the tip and tail rise. The more rocker, the easier it is to turn.


Length

Beginning skiers will likely want a shorter ski. If you're unsure what length you should have, use your height as a starting place.


Camber

The camber is how much of an arch the ski has. If you place the ski on a flat surface, a cambered ski will rise a bit in the middle. You can also have a reverse camber, meaning the middle sits on the ground while the tip and tail curve upward.


skis



FEEL

When you're talking about the feel of a ski, you're talking about how it performs at various speeds. A damp ski will absorb vibrations well and is stable at high speeds.

Powerful skis are more rigid, making them slightly harder to control. These skis are best for experienced skiers because they take a bit more energy and skill to maneuver.

Playful skis, on the other hand, are the opposite of powerful skis. These skis like to skid and are less rigid and more springy.


feet on skis



CONSTRUCTION

In terms of construction, you definitely get what you pay for in skis. If you ski a lot, you'll probably want to consider the top end of ski construction, as it will save you money in the long term.

The construction also determines how powerful, playful, and damp a ski is.


FLEX

The flex of a ski is how much it can bend at various points along its length. A flexible tip will help start turns and will absorb bumps while a less flexible tip will cut into the snow and is more suitable for carving.

A soft center will also absorb much of the vibrations and will also make the ski easier to turn. With stiff centers, you have a more powerful ski that is stable at high speeds.

When the tail is flexible, you have a smoother exit out of turns. A stiff tail is particularly good for landing jumps and for going over uneven terrain.


TOP SHEET

The top sheet is the topmost protective layer on the ski. This is where the graphics are printed.


SIDEWALL

The sidewall of a ski is the part between the top sheet and the base of the ski. A vertical sidewall makes a more powerful ski that is harder to turn.

On the other end of the spectrum is a sloping sidewall, in which the upper part is slightly wider than the bottom. These make turning much easier.


BASE

The base is the bottom of the ski and is made of plastic. The base is where when your skis are in need of tuning will take place. 


2 man on skis



MOUNTING TYPES

There are two mounting types: system skis and flat skis. A system ski has an integrated ski binding. Flat skis come without bindings, so you'll purchase that separately and screw them together.


TYPES OF SKIS

Now that you know a bit about the parts of a ski and the feel of different skis, it's time to talk about ski varieties.

Before you go to purchase your ski, ask yourself a few key questions: What kind of skiing do I like to do and on what kind of terrain? Am I going to purchase one set of skis or do I want multiple pairs? Do I like to skid or would I feel more comfortable carving into the snow?

And remember to test drive your options before you choose!


All-Mountain

These are your basic, do-it-all skis. All-Mountain skis are great on various types of terrains and in various types of snow. Think of them as your jack-of-all-trades.

This means, of course, that they are masters of none. However, most experts will tell you that if you're only going to purchase one pair of skis, these are the best skis to choose.


Powder

Powder skis are great for fresh snow, as the name suggests. These have a wider waist that makes them unsuitable for packed snow. This is also where you see a lot of experimentation with ski shape.


Carving

These skis are best for packed snow. Their slim waists make them easier to turn. If this is where you like to ski, look for a waist of 88 millimeters or less.


Park

If you're more into tricks and stunts, you'll want a more durable, stiffer set of skis. The best skis for parks will be twin-tipped, making landing easier. They'll also be softer in the tips with a firmer middle to provide stability.

HOW WE REVIEWED

ski race


In reviewing the best skis, we compiled reviews from users and professional reviewers alike. It's important that the best skis function well in real-life situations and also that they pass the intense scrutiny of professionals.

All of the skis on our list are fantastic, so these are presented in no particular order.

THE 10 BEST SKIS

The best skis will vary by personality and ski type. Make sure you know what you're looking for before you start demoing skis so that you make the best choice for you.

1. VOLKL MANTRA M 5

Volkl 2020 M5 Mantra Skis (184)
  • Sidecut: 134/96/117 mm at 177...
  • Wood Core
  • Titanal Frame Construction
  • Rocker/Camber/Rocker Profile
  • Carbon Tips

The Mantra M 5 is one of the best free-ride skis out there. Volkl has always been a reputable brand, and this latest iteration of their Mantra line is a prime example of why.

This is an all-mountain ski, with a pretty damp feel. It's a bit stiffer underfoot than other all-mountain skis, making it very stable at speed.

The turn radius on this ski is really great at 21.4 meters. This improved radius is due to the smaller waist width of 96 millimeters, compared to the 100 millimeters of previous iterations.

This version has a full camber underfoot, giving you plenty of support on powdery snow, and the rockered tips help the ski deal with freestyle skiing better than most all-mountain skis.

Pros

  • Versatile
  • Damp feel
  • Stable at speed
  • Nice turn radius
  • Decent in powder

Cons

  • Not made for intense powder
  • Not great with moguls

Where to buy

2. LINE SICK DAY 88

Line Sick Day 88 Ski, 179
  • Dimensions(mm): 127-88-113
  • Profile(mm): 7-5-2
  • 5-Cut Sidecut Radius Avg(m):...
  • Stance Back From Center(mm):...
  • Mounting Distance Fromt...

The Line Sick Day 88 is another all-mountain ski with a damp feel. It's a bit less of an investment than the Mantra M5, but that doesn't make it a less fun ski.

The 88-millimeter waist and the five-point sidecut on this ski give it an incredible turn radius of 17 meters and make it great for carving packed snow. It's a fairly snappy ski, which allows turning with minimal effort, but this snappy feel does slightly reduce its stability at speed.

Its full camber and rockered tip allow you to ski in most powder situations as well.

Pros

  • Less of an investment
  • Versatile
  • Damp feel
  • Great turn radius
  • Decent in powder

Cons

  • Not as stable at speed
  • Not meant for moguls

Where to buy

3. ARMADA ARW 86

Armada 2019 ARW 86 170cm Womens Skis
  • AR75 Sidewall
  • Pop-Lite Core
  • AR Freestyle Rocker
  • S7 Base
  • Spin Tip

This park ski is versatile enough to handle, not only freestyle skiing, but also some fresh powder and bumps. Because of its versatility, this ski deserves to be in the list of some of the best skis available.

The Armada ARW is able to withstand landings, rails, and crashes due to its stiffness, especially in the tail. It also has a rockered tip and tail to assist with getting into and out of jumps and bumps. The give of the tip with the stiffness of the tail makes moguls much more enjoyable as well.

The 86-millimeter waist means this ski has a great turn radius and can carve into packed snow quite well.

Pros

  • Great with moguls
  • More versatile than most park skis
  • Solid construction
  • Handles both powder and hard snow

Cons

  • Some loss of stability at speed

Where to buy

4. FISHER 102 FR

Fischer 2019 Ranger 102 FR Skis w/Marker Griffon 13 ID...
  • Sidecut: 136/102/126 mm at 177...
  • Sandwich Sidewall Construction
  • Air Tec Ti Technology &...
  • Freeski ROCKER
  • Weight per Ski: 2000g at 177...

The FR in this model name stands for freeride, a more playful feel to a ski and best suited to softer snow. This is a ski you'd want to take off the piste.

The Fisher 102 is an All-Mountain ski that does particularly well on powder, due to its wide 102-millimeter waist. This is a new iteration of the 98 Ti, which was a powerful All-Mountain ski that tended to be difficult to control for most users. By adding four millimeters and removing some of the metal, Fisher made this ski much lighter and easier to control.

The flexible rockered tip and stiff rockered tail allow this relatively wide ski to maintain an 18-meter turn radius and gives it better control on packed snow than other comparably wide skis.

Pros

  • Versatile
  • Made for powder
  • Good turn radius
  • Lightweight
  • Playful yet sturdy

Cons

  • Some users found it difficult to cut through chopped snow

Where to buy

5. DPS FOUNDATION CASSIAR

DPS Foundation Cassiar 94 Ski - Green 178cm
  • The Foundation choice will...
  • C2 chassis
  • Weight: 1590g-2110g

The Cassiar is an almost-perfect All-Mountain ski. DPS has done away with the sidecut, making the tail virtually flat. This unusual shape makes turning the Cassiar much easier.

The tip is heavily rockered and fairly flexible, making turn initiation a breeze and allowing it to float pretty well in powder. It performs well both on moguls and at speed. Its 94-inch waist gives it the versatility to perform equally well on groomed snow as on powder.

If you decide you only need one pair of skis, this is very likely the ski for you.

Pros

  • Most versatile ski on this list
  • Accessible for beginning to intermediate skiers
  • Stable on moguls and bumps
  • Can handle powder

Cons

  • At incredibly high speeds, the tip can flap a bit

Where to buy

6. SALOMON S/MAX BLAST

SALOMON S/Max Blast Skis w/ X12 TL Bindings Mens Sz 165cm...
  • Edge Amplifier
  • Full Sandwich Sidewalls
  • Full Woodcore
  • Instinct Tip
  • Double Ti Laminate

These are high-performance carving skis and are meant for experienced, techiniquely-sound, athletic skiers. If you can handle them, they are some of the best skis available.

The S/Max Blast is a much stiffer ski, which is one of the aspects that make carving so easy for this ski. Likewise, the Edge Amplifier, a layer of top sheet material that creates a rail over the edge of the ski, allows it to turn easily and quickly, with only a 13-meter turn radius on some of the shorter lengths.

This is not a ski you'd want if you're only planning to get one pair. Its 72-millimeter waist makes it as unsuitable for powder as it is suitable for packed snow.

Pros

  • Performs well at speed
  • Great for experienced skiers
  • Made for carving
  • Small turn radius

Cons

  • Not an all-purpose ski
  • Not for beginners

Where to buy

7. K2 WAYBACK 106

K2 Wayback 106 Ski 2019 - Men's 179
  • Sidecut: 136/106/124 mm at 179...
  • Wood Core with Carbon,...
  • Rocker/Camber/Rocker Profile
  • 1550 grams per ski
  • Ability level: Advanced and...

The K2 Wayback 106 is one of the best skis for the backcountry. The Wayback has a 106-millimeter waist and fully rockered tip, making it float on fresh powder perfectly. However, while most wide-waisted powder skis are terrible for carving, this ski is able to carve fairly well, despite a pretty wide turn radius of 22 meters.

These skis are firmer than typical backcountry skis thanks to a spine of Titanal, but they're still quite light because of the light wood core. The stiffness of the tail makes it easy to dig in on switchbacks despite the lightness of the ski.

Pros

  • Better at hard snow than most powder skis
  • Great in powder
  • Lightweight
  • Stable

Cons

  • Wide turn radius

Where to buy

8. HEAD KORE 99

HEAD Women's Kore 99 W Graphene Violet Freeride All-Mountain...
  • TOPLESS TECH: Head uses a...
  • KARUBA LIGHT WOOD CORE: It's...
  • GRAPHENE: The strongest,...
  • KOROYD: A honeycomb shaped...
  • BINDING: The tough, compact...

The Kore 99 has a honeycomb core material and a top sheet of polyester fleece, making it more lightweight than many other park skis.

But the reduction in weight does not correspond to a reduction in capability. This hard-wearing ski is great on rougher terrains, jumps, and tricks, thanks to the graphene infused in the tip and the tail.

This ski is fairly rigid, providing more control in and out of jumps as well as a great turn radius of 15 meters, while the wider 99-millimeter waist allows it to function in powder as well.

Pros

  • Lightweight
  • Hardy
  • Gives a lot of control

Cons

  • Not suitable for beginning or intermediate skiers

Where to buy

9. ROSSIGNOL SOUL 7 HD

Rossignol Soul 7 HD Skis Mens Sz 180cm
  • Sidecut: 136/106/126
  • Radius: 18m @180cm
  • Weight: 3.8 kg/pair @180cm
  • Tech: Air Tip 2.0 w/...
  • Core: Carbon Alloy/Paulownia

This wide-waisted powder ski is made for freeriding. With its 106-millimeter waist, it can handle any powder you come across, while maintaining the versatility you need in the backcountry.

The carbon-alloy in its construction reduces the vibrations underfoot and gives this ski a more stable feel. At the same time, the rockered tip flexible enough to give this ski a respectably 18-meter turn radius. A stiffer, flat tail gives you more control coming out of turns.

The Air Tip 2.0 infused into this ski decreases its weight without decreasing its stability at speed.

Pros

  • Good in powder
  • Decent radius
  • Versatile
  • Lightweight

Cons

  • Not particularly suited for carving

Where to buy

10. NORDICA NRGY 90

Nordica NRGY 90 Skis Black Mens Sz 177cm
  • Sidecut: 126/90/110
  • Radius: 19.5 @ 177
  • i-Core Torsion Bridge Ti
  • All Mountain camROCK
  • Skill: Intermediate to...

The Nordica NRGY 90 is another great all-purpose ski, especially for advanced skiers. Its sturdy construction gives it a solid, predictable feel, and this ski performs equally well in powder and on groomers.

The 100-millimeter waist lets this ski float above powder almost as well as a dedicated powder ski. At the same time, because of the rigid edges of the NRGY, this ski is better at carving than most skis of its width.

This same rigidity allows the ski to maintain its stability at speed as well as handle the bumps you'd expect to find in freeriding. This is another great option if you're looking to purchase only one set of skis.

Pros

  • Versatile
  • Performs in powder and on groomers
  • Sturdy construction

Cons

  • Not specifically tailored to either powder or carving

Where to buy

HIT THE SLOPES

Now that you've bought the best skis for you, it's time to try them on the slopes! Happy skiing!

If you found this guide helpful, please comment below.

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