Featured Image: Matt Power
– Boast a directional shape and flex
– Powerful, highly adept from edge to edge
– Meant to excel in a variety of snow conditions
– Ideal for those with a need for speed
1. Fischer Ranger 98 Ti
The Fischer Ranger 98 Ti’s versatility across every type of terrain and snow condition never ceases to amaze our testers. “Short turns, long turns, bumps, whatever—bring it on, these skis are ready for it,” commented Karol Sawa. Mikey Wechsler said they “do it all and do it all well. Bumps, crud, groomers—it doesn’t matter. This is a great everyday, all-mountain western ski.” The ski’s beech and poplar wood core gives it the combination of stiffness and energy that allows it to excel in the aforementioned terrain and conditions. Carbon fiber in the tip reduces chatter on hard snow, titanium inserts boost stability underfoot, and Fischer’s Aeroshape—a convex arc from edge to edge—allows for ultra-quick turn transitions. All hail the Ranger.
2. Völkl M5 Mantra
The Mantra has been an icon in the all-mountain world since 2005-06. The fifth generation Mantra, dubbed the M5, is set to do the same but with a new construction strategy. Völkl arranges Titanal around the perimeters of the tip and tail, while also utilizing a carbon inlay in the nose. This decreases the ski’s weight without losing the damp, stiff properties that a full sheet of metal provides. The Volkl M5 Mantra also features a rocker-camber-rocker profile, allowing it to perform in any situation. Justin Greene’s review says it all: “Has absolutely no speed limit on hardpack, cuts through the crud as if it’s not there, is nimble through the bumps and has so much life to it. 11/10.”
3. J Skis Masterblaster
J Skis’ Masterblaster is built to help you go faster. Jason Levinthal and his team use maple wood in the core to provide skiers with great power, stability and handling. Then a strip of Titanal is added down the center of the ski, ending at the tip and tail, to further enhance those characteristics without hindering the ski’s playfulness and swing weight. A sidecut shape that matches the ski’s rocker geometry also ensures consistent handling no matter where you take the Masterblaster. “It loves to be up on edge laying trenches, but the rocker profile helps its surfiness,” commented Adrian Bouthot. “An absolute blaster of a ski.” The Masterblaster skis like a racecar when you need it to, but leads this group of skis in the playfulness category. Thumbs up.
4. HEAD KORE 99
HEAD’s award-winning KORE series was met with rabid enthusiasm when it debuted last winter, so it makes perfect sense that the brand has added a versatile 99-mm waist width to the family for 2018-19. “This ski has no compromises,” commented Adrian Bouthot. “It has a super fun waist width and would be an ideal one ski quiver that excels in a lot of areas.” The Head Kore 99 utilizes the same construction found in the rest of the family—lightweight karuba wood, incredibly strong yet thin Graphene, rockered tips and tails with camber underfoot—but in a waist width that’s dreamy in a few inches of fresh or the chopped up crud from last week’s storm.
5. Völkl 90Eight
The Völkl 90Eight is hot… much like that Nick Lachey-led ’90s boy band with a similar name, only way better. The perennial Editors’ Pick utilizes a poplar and ash wood core that provides a mix of rigidity, stability and energy, along with carbon stringers for a touch of torsional stiffness. In addition, Völkl implements multiple layers of folded glass in the binding area to improve responsiveness and power transmission to the edges. The end result is a ski that can charge with the best of ’em and isn’t a slouch in the playfulness department, either. “These carved trenches around the entire hill,” commented Thomas Lampert. “They were also fun to pop off side hits and ride the tails.” Like we said, these cats are hot.
6. Salomon QST 99
Our testers all agreed that the QST 99 is a trench-digging machine that isn’t afraid to pop and play across the ski hill. “Very smooth with more of a new school feel to it,” commented Mikey Wechsler. “Can get really smeary if you want but still a confident carver.” A directional shape, a titanium insert in the binding area, full ABS sidewalls and camber underfoot allow the QST 99 to be an absolute barn burner on the groomers and hardpack. On the flip side, nose rocker and slight early rise in the tail make it super nimble, and carbon stringers with interwoven flax fibers in the core ensure an ultra-smooth ride no matter the snow conditions.
7. 4FRNT MSP 99
The MSP 99, a modern version of 4FRNT’s flagship ski from 2002, is an aggressive ski geared toward the expert all-mountain skier. A directional shape with camber underfoot and a Titanal laminate provide the ski with power and stability on harder snow surfaces. Its lively poplar wood core and rocker in the tip and tail ensure that it can change directions and take off on a dime. “Really stable through the turn at high speed but isn’t so stiff that you can’t pop off hits whenever you want,” said Thomas Lampert. Sixteen years after founding 4FRNT and creating his pro model, Matt Sterbenz’s legacy lives on with the MSP 99.
8. Icelantic Pioneer 96
Icelantic has always been known for its incredible graphics featuring artwork from co-founder Travis Parr, and the Icelantic Pioneer 96 continues that tradition. Its topsheet utilizes bamboo wood and a topographic outline paying tribute to the Rocky Mountains, where Icelantic is based. As for how the Pioneer skis, take it from our testers. “Solid all-mountain ripper,” commented Sarina Scott; “Ski delightfully locks into turns,” added Karol Sawa; “So fun and nimble,” said Scott Kramer. Icelantic utilizes poplar wood with triaxial-braided fiberglass for a combination of stiffness, weight savings and energy, while tip and tail rocker lets the skis swivel when called upon.
9. Blizzard Rustler 9
Tester Adrian Bouthot called this ski, “the most accessible Rustler of them all. Anyone could get on this ski and have a blast. It’s stable enough for railing turns but also has some forgiveness for when you want to dial it back.” The Blizzard Rustler 9 is geared, in general, to those who spend the majority of their time ripping the frontside. The ski features a full camber construction and full-length sidewalls, giving it tremendous power. Blizzard implements specially shaped Titanal underfoot and unidirectionally-shaped carbon fiber in the tip and tail. This ensures torsional rigidity through the gut of the ski but a decrease in stiffness in the tip and tail for incredible maneuverability.
10. Armada ARV 96 Ti
Armada built the ARV 96 Ti for those who prefer a little more giddy up in their skiing step. It utilizes the same chassis as the ARV 96 but features two layers of Titanal, running the length and width of the ski, stiffening it up, allowing you to max out the speed limit each and every time down the mountain. “Oh man, does this thing bang down the slope,” said Adrian Bouthot. “It’s super quick and turny but can also just straightline a run-out like a champ with no chatter or noodly feeling.” Scott Kramer described it as “such a beastly ski. Guaranteed to keep you smiling all day.”
11. HEAD KORE 93
The 93-mm waisted member is the skinniest of the KORE family, but don’t let its figure fool you: It’s a hard-charging machine. While it is featherweight, thanks in large part to its karuba wood core, the use of Graphene, Koroyd and carbon fiber in its sandwich construction stiffens it up without any added bulk. It’s a carving machine that’s easy to throw around all over the hill. “Absolutely blown away by the handling of this ski. It’s a damn sports car,” commented Drew Ingardia. “If this ski could hold me at night, we would be dating.” If you, too, are seeking romance with a speed-centric downhill race horse, get up the nerve to ask the KORE 93 for a dance.
12. Black Crows Daemon
The Black Crows Daemon belongs in a cinematic chase scene; it can stop and change direction at the drop of a hat and has a serious need for speed. Black Crows built this ski with full reverse camber and a flat profile underfoot, allowing it to pivot like a dream and handle everything from tight trees to steep chutes. The Chamonix, France-based manufacturer utilized poplar in the core for a blend of stability and energy, then added a Titanal plate covering the middle two thirds of the ski for dampening and rigidity. This ski truly does it all. “A superb turner, it easily engages the edge, and it has white-knuckle edge hold,” commented Adrian Bouthot. “Loved the 20-meter radius, but it’s still super sound off-piste,” added Mo Mitchell.
13. Elan Ripstick Black Edition
Elan has refined the award-winning Ripstick with this sleek, sexy Black Edition, available for 2018-19. The premium ski boasts an all-black topsheet supported by a high-tech carbon construction for a boost in both performance and flair. The Ripstick chassis continues the use of Elan’s Amphibio asymmetrical profile, three-dimensional carbon wood core and composite material in the tips. However, the Black Edition utilizes a carbon power shell that wraps the paulownia, birch and poplar wood core from edge to edge for improved rigidity and weight savings. An external carbon finish on the topsheet provides that ultra-sleek look. “These are Jeff Gordon’s favorite ski,” commented Donny O’Neill. Adrian Bouthot added, “It’s like driving a manual. You feel connected to the machine, and you can feel its power through your legs.”
14. DPS Foundation Cassiar 94
Our trusted ski tester Willie Ford called the Cassiar 94 “the best DPS ski I have ever been on. This ski is the bomb.” Frankly, our testers loved how smoothly the Cassiar skied. Light, strong and durable bamboo and elastic poplar wood combine with dual layers of triaxial-woven fiberglass and two strips of unidirectionally-oriented carbon fiber for a ski that’s equipped to rip without any bulk to bog you down. “This is a frontside machine that turns everything it touches into gold,” said FREESKIER’s Sam Taggart. Mikey Wechsler summed it up as “super easy to ski. It’s equally at home on all snow and terrain.”
15. Atomic Vantage 97 Ti
Atomic took a different vantage point—pun intended—when it came to making a ski that’s strong enough for incredible downhill performance but light enough to keep you on the hill longer. The builders at Atomic began with an ultra-thin chassis constructed around a layer of titanium mesh. Then it added stronger materials only in areas where reinforcements are needed, yielding a ski that rips but without the added grams. “A reactive, lightweight, ripping ski. It’s a genuine quiver killer,” said Casey Jillson. “Don’t let the lightweight design fool you, these skis charge. Atomic always delivers versatile winners,” commented Madeline Dunn.
– Built with a near-symmetrical shape
– Softer flex meant for pressing and popping
– Cna be relied upon both in the park and across the mountain
– Built with more pronounced rocker in the tip and tail
1. 4FRNT Vandal
A tranny-finder at heart, this fan favorite from 4FRNT is the ideal choice to vandalize every natural hit across the entire mountain. The rocker-camber-rocker profile combines with a mid-sized waist width and snappy 17 meter radius to produce a ski that’s playful, stable and can carve in and out of your favorite natural jump line like a champion. Karol Sawa said the Vandal “just wants to pop, jib, bounce and carve. A very versatile and playful ski,” while Adrian Bouthot exclaimed, “Sweet mama, this ski goes hard! It’s super bomber at speed but still wants to pop and jump between turns.” Hard chargers who seek out wind lips, cliffs and side hits, the 4FRNT Vandal is for you.
2. Folsom Trigger II
Folsom custom skis builds its planks to your liking (including graphics), and the Trigger II is a top-notch choice for the skier that spends equal time in the air and on the snow. The company suggests a profile featuring tip rocker with camber underfoot for those who put charging at a premium; or tip and tail rocker with camber under the binding for skiers more likely to toss big tricks off natural hits. Either way, our testers confirmed that the Trigger II is a must-have all-mountain freestyle ski. “Yes, yes, yes! Finally a ski that rails turns and can shmear,” exclaimed Madeline Dunn. “In no way is stability sacrificed, the connection between snow and ski is soft, smooth and yummy.”
3. Nordica Soul Rider
These planks have got soul, and they’re super bad…in a good way, of course. Testers raved about the ski’s versatility, with comments like “fun to carve, very responsive, great in bumps, groomers, trees,” from Maddie Jimerson, and “so much fun and really can do everything,” from Scott Kramer. Tip and tail rocker help it plane above soft snow and maneuver like a boss, while camber underfoot lends to its carving prowess. Twin strips of carbon on either edge keep the Soul Rider strong like bull but without any of that added beef. Scott Kramer advised, “All ski brands, take notice, Nordica’s comin’ for ya!”
4. K2 Poacher
“Probably the poppiest ski out here, for sure,” said Adrian Bouthot of the Poacher. And he wasn’t lyin’. Thanks to lively aspen wood and tip and tail rocker, this thing is bound to send you to the moon if you’re not careful. But you can rest assured that when you come down from such great heights, you’ll be able to stomp your landing with the aid of traditional camber underfoot and the addition of fir to the wood core. With a 19-meter turn radius (in the 184-centimeter length) and the use of carbon in the core, the Poacher rails turns like a speed demon, too.
5. Armada ARV 96
The Armada ARV 96 keeps you G’d up from the feet up just like that dachshund on its topsheet. A combination of springy poplar and stable ash wood in the core ensures this baby is playful, strong and responsive, all at once. A rockered tip and tail boost the ARV 96’s maneuverability, ideal for the skier that enjoys playing in the trees or floating through a couple inches of fresh. “Playful like the puppy that graces its topsheet,” surmised Tae Westcott, while Scott Kramer praised its hardpack capabilities, “Great ski for anybody. You can hit laps in the park and go rip some corduroy with absolute confidence.”
6. Line Chronic
If you’re wondering why the Line Chronic seems so familiar, it’s because it’s been around since 2005. That’s thirteen years of ski evolution under its belt. While the Chronic has been a go-to park ski in year’s past, the 2018-19 version boasts a wider footprint, redesigned five-point radius, new shape and updated rocker profile. In the words of Bob Barker, “It’s a brand new car!” This allows the new Chronic to play, pop, stomp and change direction in any environment you throw at it. “A legend for a reason!” exclaimed Adrian Bouthot, happily. “Super fun to jib the whole mountain and tranny find all damn day. Took it through some spicy crud, and it performed really well, staying stable and powering through the garbage.”
7. Völkl Revolt 95
Adjectives like playful, maneuverable, poppy, solid and stiff were all used by our testers to describe the Völkl Revolt 95. Translation: This ski is über-versatile. It can take off and stomp in any terrain your local ski area throws at you. Full sidewalls, camber underfoot and carbon stringers in the core all aid in its stable character, while tip and tail rocker, a freestyle flex and a near twin-tip design boost its agility. A mix of sturdy beech and lively poplar wood brings the best of both worlds, too. It’s developed with the help of Ahmet Dadali, so you know it’s a damn fine freestyle ski. Revolt against the established all-mountain order and put on a show with these planks from Völkl.
8. Surface Odyssey
Let this ski from Surface take you on an odyssey to surf, shmear and slarve your favorite ski area—from park jumps to jibs to wind lips to infinity and beyond. The Odyssey boasts a fully symmetrical shape, a pronounced three-stage rocker profile and a lively poplar wood core that all add up to a ski that’s at home floating through fresh and pivoting through the trees. Adrian Bouthot certainly took notice, saying, “I could feel the rocker and the giant surf zone this ski has. Fun to do giant slashes, and it moves a ton of snow around easily.” Someone should get Kelly Slater on a pair of these, seriously.