The 34 best big-mountain skis of 2018-2019

The 34 best big-mountain skis of 2018-2019

Featured Image: Matt Power

General Characteristics:

– Powerful, meant for hard-chargers
– Excel in a multitude of terrain types, from steep chutes to open bowls to moguls
– Directional in shape and offer a stiffer flex
– Wide enough for powder days, but no too wide for sunny, bluebird groomer laps

1. 4FRNT MSP 107

4FRNT reintroduced the MSP—the first ski it ever produced—last season, and added a slightly wider version for 2018-19. The MSP 107 combines poplar wood, a rocker-camber-rocker profile and neoprene rubber in the tip for a lightweight yet rigid, damp and reactive ski. Our testers were impressed, and that’s an understatement. “Me and the MSP 107. We just got married. There is no one else for me anymore,” rookie tester Karol Sawa informed us. Veteran tester Scott Kramer praised 4FRNT founder Matt Sterbenz’s vision, “Matt hit the nail on the head with this one! Such a magnificent piece of construction, fluid through every turn and has a great amount of pop.” Steve Karczewski simply said, “Ski of the test!”

2. J Skis The Metal

This marks the fourth straight year that Jason Levinthal’s The Metal has been named an Editors’ Pick. We love this ski so much, in fact, that we collaborated with J last winter for a small-batch run of FREESKIER 20th Anniversary Metals. They didn’t disappoint. The Metal employs a rocker-camber-rocker profile for a nimble ski that’s ultra-stable. J also matched the geometry of the rocker profile with that of the sidecut, resulting in a ski that’s smooth as butter from edge to edge, in all conditions. FREESKIER’s Damian Quigley enthusiastically characterized The Metal as “a badass ski for badass skiers.”

3. Black Crows Corvus

Black Crows was first founded in Chamonix, France in 2007. They released a single ski that was aggressive and strong enough to handle the wide-open glaciers of the French Alps but nimble enough to dart through the region’s tight lines. That ski? The Corvus. The 2018-19 iteration received a remodel in the form of a full reverse camber build with a 107 mm waist, poplar wood core and double layer of Titanal underfoot. This gives the Black Crows Corvus a lightweight feel, incredible pivot powers and an aggressive character that can attack any and all big-mountain conditions. Now, channel your inner Chamonix-local and bag some rowdy lines why don’t ya?

4. DPS Foundation Wailer 106

The DPS Foundation Wailer 106 utilizes a design tactic that builds the ski from underfoot outward to the tip and tail, rather than sandwiching materials on a pre-made mold. This, according to DPS, creates a smooth-riding ski across the entire Foundation line. This ski, specifically, features a 106 mm waist, rocker-camber-rocker profile (with minimal amounts in the tail), a tapered sidecut and a bamboo-poplar core that all translate to an everyday ski that’s as balanced as a nicely aged Scotch. Mike Filander compared its skiing style to “pairing a fine wine with a filet mignon—all upper class style.” Pinkies out, the Foundation Wailer 106 is pure luxury.

5. Icelantic Pioneer 109

The Icelantic Pioneer 109 is designed to attack the entire ski area like Lebron James drives to the rim. With tip and tail rocker, camber underfoot and a blend of lively poplar wood and triaxial-woven fiberglass in the core, it can dip and dodge as well as it can engage the afterburners. “I’m in love—the head over heels type,” said an infatuated Sarina Scott. “The Pioneer is a directional ski with some serious all-mountain talent.” Its 109 mm waist, combined with the aforementioned rocker profile make it a dependable powder ski, too. “For a powerful, directional ski, I loved how light, snappy and playful it was,” FREESKIER’s Donny O’Neill affirmed.

6. Folsom Primary

Folsom allows you to choose your adventure (literally) all over the ski hill. The Denver-based custom ski brand lets you tailor the Primary’s ingredients to your liking, whether it is the wood (poplar, bamboo, maple); the composites (fiberglass, carbon fiber); or the rocker profile, flex and tail shape. The whole Folsom Primary line is hand built, featuring full-length sidecuts for a boost in power and quick turn radii, making it an ideal candidate for the advanced to expert skier. At the test, the skis made Anna Tedesco a bit braggadocios as she commented, “I made the hill my b#tch on these babies, thank you very much. They were stable, responsive and oh-so-fun.”

7. Salomon QST 106

The QST is such a bomber freeride ski, it must stand for, “Quite simply, terrific.” These directional all-mountain planks offer up a smooth ride, anywhere and in any type of snow. A carbon/flax layer, a Titanal insert underfoot and Koroyd in the tip give it optimal stiffness, stability and dampness, while a rockered, tapered tip and tail ensure top-notch agility. “A confidence-builder and super snappy in the trees,” commented Adrian Bouthot. “I love this ski,” FREESKIER’s Donny O’Neill gushed. “Truly delivers on groomers, in the steeps, wide open bowls, tight trees, moguls, etc. Wow.”

8. Fischer Ranger 108 Ti

The good folks at Fischer didn’t mess with the build of this classic but did give it a sleek, streamlined new graphic. The widest directional driver of the Ranger line, the Fischer Ranger 108 Ti mixes light, energetic poplar and rigid beech wood (both offset milled for weight savings) with carbon fiber and titanium plates, yielding a ski that’s powerful, quick edge to edge and responsive. “Aimed at the fast and furious rippers out there. Light as can be for the amount of drive they deliver,” described Sarina Scott. “The connection between the snow and you is flush through and through,” Madeline Dunn described. “Thanks for the ride, Fischer!”

9. HEAD KORE 105

The HEAD KORE 105 is back for its sophomore season and once again garners glowing reviews from our ski testers. “Loved how smooth the turn initiation was on these puppies,” said FREESKIER staffer Cian O’Connor. Scott Kramer told us, “The KORE series is badass. The 105 is a great width for a little of everything,” and fellow tester Mike Filander described it as “so fun, these would make a bad boy want to kiss his mama.” The ski combines featherweight karuba wood with Graphene, Koroyd and carbon fiber, all of which boast incredible strength-to-weight ratios, to achieve its versatile character.

10. Nordica Enforcer 110

The Nordica Enforcer 110 is a master of the mountain. Groomers? It carves ’em like a butcher. Crud? It eats it for breakfast. Powder? It floats it like a dream. “The essence of fluidity, so smooth from edge to edge,” commented FREESKIER publisher Damian Quigley. “One of my all-time favorites; it’s stable, playful, surfy and fun,” added tester Drew Ingardia. Nordica sandwiches a versatile poplar, beech and balsa wood core between two layers of Titanal and a carbon prepreg laminate for a ski that’s smooth in all facets of the game. Its rocker-camber-rocker profile makes this race car a dream to handle, too.

11. K2 Pinnacle 105 Ti

The K2 Pinnacle 105 Ti is an aggressive assailant that should make any mountain tremble to its core. It utilizes a combination of burly fir wood with a metal laminate to achieve red line speeds each and every time down the mountain. K2 then employs a low-density composite core running from the extremities through the core to reduce swing weight and ensure the Pinnacle maneuvers like a hummingbird. “This ski is like a Swiss Army knife, it does it all really well,” said tester Adrian Bouthot. “It’s such a powerful ski in and out of the turn,” described Mo Mitchell. Rounding out our testers’ thoughts, Mike Filander called it a, “Jack of all trades and a master of many. Absolutely love its combination of playfulness and carving abilities.”

12. Sego Cleaver

It’s easy to hit the open road with the Sego Cleaver 110—it loves putting the pedal to the metal. “Meant for speed and serious direction. Jump, slash, haul ass and hit the brakes; the Cleaver is the tool for the job,” noted tester Sarina Scott. “The Cleaver acts like you would expect, just trying to slice the mountain in half,” added Scott Kramer. The Cleaver 110 owes that drive to a directional flex that employs slight tail rocker, camber underfoot and pronounced tip rocker for incredible power with the ability to hit the brakes and pivot on a dime. A 23 meter turn radius also makes this baby a dream blasting down wide open slopes down the backside of the mountain. Join Sego in turning your local ski hill into a butcher’s block with the Cleaver 110.

13. Lib Tech Wunderstick

When it comes to all-mountain cruising and floating a bit of fresh, the Lib Tech Wunderstick 106 is a downright wunderful time. It employs Lib Tech’s Magne-Traction edges—serrated like steak knives—to give itself incredible edge hold, whether it be on fresh corduroy, chopped up pitches or steep, variable snow in off-piste chutes. Gradual rocker in the tip and tail, camber underfoot and a squared off tail (great for clipping climbing skins to) also help its turning prowess. “Carved like a champion!” exclaimed tester Thomas Lampert. “It has a low swing weight, allowing it to move around easily, and the edge hold is impressive,” added Adrian Bouthot. Those design elements combined with a galactic topsheet design are guaranteed to have you blasting off into another dimension this winter.

14. Faction Dictator 3.0

Skiers who love big lines in exposed terrain will drool all over the Dictator 3.0. Faction pairs light yet stable paulownia and medium weight poplar wood for an energetic ski that won’t tire you out. Dual Titanal layers are then added to power this baby up. A full traditional camber profile helps the ski dictate moves over tough terrain while its 105 mm waist allows it to excel in deeper snow. Dual turn radii—shorter in front of the binding for tight turns and longer in the tail for added stability—round out this ripper. Imagine this: four graceful hop turns down a skinny couloir with a straight-line exit to the apron. It’s made easy by the Dictator 3.0.

15. Atomic Vantage 107 Ti

Tester Tae Westcott summed up the Atomic Vantage 107 Ti with this statement: “I felt like I could ski 100 mph through anything!” His testing compatriot Mikey Wechsler added, “Super fun, playful, quick and nimble.” Atomic achieved this balance of power and weight savings through a new construction called Prolite. The brand begins the build with the slimmest possible chassis constructed around a centered layer of Titanium tank mesh, then builds up reinforcements where more strength is needed. Slight rocker in the tip and tail with camber underfoot also up the versatility. The end product is agile and easy to ski but rips down the mountain like a bat out of hell.

16. Elan Ripstick 106

“These Ripsticks carve fast,” noted tester Thomas Lampert. Casey Jillson added, “So reactive, smooth and really fun! This is an off-piste powerhouse.” Elan’s Ripstick 106 is a sports car that you can rely on day-in and day-out. The Ripstick’s smooth turn initiation can be traced to its early rise tip and Elan’s Amphibio profile. The ski has a cambered inside edge for precise grip on the snow and a rockered outside edge for easy turn transitions. Additionally, the ski uses carbon tubes that run the length of the ski for lightweight strengthening and special composite inserts in the tips to reduce chatter for a ride that’s as cool as the other side of the pillow.

17. Line Sick Day 104

“I am down with the sickness,” said FREESKIER editor Donny O’Neill in regard to the Line Sick Day 104. “These babies are just plain fun. They excel in all terrain—bumps, trees, airs, groomers.” Adrian Bouthot described them as “a great everyday ski for western skiers.” Line complements the Sick Day’s aspen wood core with carbon fiber laid from tip to tail to create a ski that’s lightweight, nimble and stable at the same time. Those ingredients paired with the ski’s rocker-camber-rocker profile make it a jackrabbit that wants to dart all over the mountain, all sick day long. And with that sexy retro topsheet, these planks won’t stay on the shelves for very long this fall.

18. Faction Prodigy 3.0

Don’t let the Faction Prodigy 3.0’s near symmetrical dimensions fool you, this thing charges down the mountain like it’s a chieftain leading a thunderous horde into battle. Its poplar and ash wood core strikes an ideal balance between stiffness and energy, while its dual-radius sidecut—less in front of the binding for tight turns and lengthier in the tail for added stability—ensures it can handle anything the mountain throws at it. “So much fun,” said Tae Westcott. “It’s super playful and I love the flex pattern in it.” FREESKIER art director Gunter Jones added, “It’s really controllable, perfect for skiers looking to crush any sort of terrain and launch every jump and hit in sight.”

19. Line Sakana

Line builds upon the success of the Eric Pollard-designed, swallow-tailed Pescado with the Sakana, tailored to everyday conditions. The ski’s directional shape, five-point sidecut, pulled back mounting point and rigid carbon flax weave in the core allow the Line Sakana to rail anything from tight turns in the trees to huge arcs in the back bowls to full 360-degree carves—if you have the skill. The swallowtail design, 150-mm shovel and 105-mm waist ensure it’s more than capable in the powder, too. Mike Filander summed up his experience as such: “I have never skied anything like this before. Pollard is an evil genius.”

20. Lib Tech Wreckreate

Developed in conjunction with pro skiers Lucas Wachs, Colby Albino and Tory Bland, the Lib Tech Wreckreate 110 is a certified wrecker of pristine powder fields. It also obliterates hardpack and variable snow—it doesn’t discriminate when it comes to its skiing exploits. It’s rocker-camber-rocker profile and 110 mm waist aids in flotation while Magne-Traction edges that are serrated like the teeth of a Great White make it a ripper on groomers and harder snow. “Very fun in tight trees but still whips down cruisers very fast,” said Mike Filander, while his cohort Thomas Lampert described the ski as “super stable with great float at speed. Lots of fun if you like to go fast.”

21. Liberty Origin 106

Liberty Origin 106 pairs the bamboo with poplar and carbon for even more lightweight strengthening, resulting in a ski that’s powerful without crossing over into obese. Mikey Wechsler described it as “one of the top performers in this group, super fun and easy to ski, yet you can push it hard and it is right there. Really damp feel yet super nimble.” And that topsheet image is an added bonus, causing tester Greta Muxworthy to exclaim, “I mean, the graphics! I love the look and they thrive in the bumps and pow.”

22. RMU Apostle 106

After five years of the Apostle 105, RMU has released its successor, the 106. This do-it-all ski features a five-point sidecut, allowing it to excel in a variety of terrain, as well as an elliptical rocker for what RMU describes as a more efficient ski. The RMU Apostle 106 also boasts a longer effective edge than its predecessor, making it a dream laying trenches into the hardpack. “This ski gave me new sensations that I had never experienced,” explained tester Adrian Bouthot. “Stiff yet really light! Loved how springy they were.” Scott Kramer summed them up as “a true RMU staple.”

General Characteristics:

– Versatile waist widths
– Playful flex suited for pressing tips and tails
– Great for those who think of big-mountain features as a natural terrain park
– More pronounced use of rocker with camber mixed in

1. Atomic Bent Chetler

The Mini Me to the classic Bent Chetler fatty ski, its 100-mm waisted clone was a shagadelic hit among our testers. “The Bent Chetler series is always on point,” said Scott Kramer. “It’s about time they created a skinnier version ’cause this baby was a blast!” Thomas Lampert added, “I would pay retail for these bad boys. They cut trenches, are super playful—just good, clean fun.” As expected, the Atomic Bent Chetler 100 employs Atomic’s HRZN Tech, horizontally rockered ABS in the tip and tail, for an increase in surface area and buttery good times. It also boasts a slightly more directional shape than its father, allowing it to truly excel across the entire mountain. Grab these new planks this fall, they’re guaranteed to make you randy, baby.

2. K2 Marksman

The K2 Marksman hits the bull’s eye of what an all-mountain freestyle ski should be. The ski was conceived by Pep Fujas and features an elongated taper on the outside edge, allowing for incredible quick-turn ability. Meanwhile the inner edge is longer for better edgehold and stability. The pairing of rigid ash wood along the edges and a lively aspen wood and carbon stringer duo down the gut boosts that versatility sought after by Pep and the gang at K2. “This is my favorite ski thus far,” said Thomas Lampert. “It did everything I wanted and responded, carved well, was super stable and oh-so-playful.”

3. Fischer Ranger 102 FR

The Fischer Ranger 102 FR is a welcome addition to the storied Ranger line. The near twin tip shape with rockered tips and tails makes it ultra-playful and agile, while camber underfoot and Fischer’s Aeroshape—a slight arc in the ski surface from edge to edge—provides incredible power transfer. Fischer also mills the underside of the wood core in an offset manner to get rid of weight while still keeping the ski nice and stiff. Adrian Bouthot described it as a ski that “bashes the bumps and crushes the crud in an all-around, fun package.” Sarina Scott added that they were “super fun, poppy, carving skis. They’re a perfect width for everyday skiing.”

4. Blizzard Rustler 11

Adrian Bouthot described the Blizzard Rustler 11 pretty perfectly, stating, “Checks all the boxes for a skier that likes to push the speed barrier everywhere.” Blizzard threw a whole lot into the mixing pot to create this high-performance rig. A combination of balsa, paulownia, poplar and beech woods in the core cover the bases of dampening, spring, weight savings and rigidity. Titanal underfoot with a full sandwich construction ensure power transmission, while two full-length layers of carbon and fiberglass provide even more lightweight strengthening. “Knives on both the groomers and in the pow,” said Sarina Scott. “A super stable ski with the ability to handle the highest speeds.”

5. Icelantic Nomad 105

The Nomad has been a fan favorite since its release in 2012, and it has become Icelantic’s number one selling ski. The reason? It’s all about versatility. Tip and tail rocker with camber underfoot combine stability and deftness; a middle-of-the-road turn radius allows for quick turns and long arcing sketches into the mountainside; and a poplar wood core with triaxial-braided fiberglass provides pop, weight savings and stiffness. How’s that for do it all? “I’m always impressed by Icelantic’s lineup,” said Madeline Dunn. “The Nomad 105 is a poppin’ choice, and I’d pay to ski it again.” Ski tester Mikey Wechsler called it “an ultra-playful ski that can and will do everything.”

6. Armada ARV 106

According to Armada, it completely redesigned the ARV 106 with longevity in mind, hoping to cater to “skiers tired of tossing sticks in the trash every half season.” With that goal, the brand reinforced its sidewall construction for better impact absorption and durability. In addition, the new Armada ARV 106 utilizes ash wood stringers for a boost in stability and strength. Armada also imitated the shape of the beloved JJ, making the ARV 106 a surfy, slarvy good time. “Playful like a new puppy and smooth like melted butter,” commented Tae Westcott, while Mo Mitchell said, “The ARV series is the best. Can literally take them anywhere and have the most fun.”

7. Surface All Mountain Blanks

While the Surface All Mountain Blanks may boast a stiffer character than the rest of the skis in this category—thanks to a full camber profile—they’re still playful S.O.Bs. Just take a look at its score in that category. Near symmetrical dimensions help make this ski adept at jibbing around on natural terrain features, while a directional taper ensures it can keep up the pace when you’re racing your friends to the bar on the groomers. “The near-center mount makes the ski playful, yet it’s stiff enough to provide confidence when airing out,” gushed Sam Taggart. “This baby shoots anything but blanks!”

8. DPS Alchemist Wailer 112

The Alchemist Wailer 112 plays in the snow like Carlos Santana plays the guitar: fun, lively and with hips-a-swingin’. The Wailer’s aspen wood core provides energy and pop, supplemented with a prepreg carbon fiber laminate and other proprietary dampening materials to yield a ride as smooth as Santana’s 1999 hit single featuring Rob Thomas. The ski’s 112 mm waist, rocker-camber-rocker profile and tapered sidecut also add to its versatility. “A much more playful and buttery feel than many in this class… super smooth,” commented Mikey Wechsler, while Adrian Bouthot said it “makes skiing easy!”

9. J Skis Vacation

Jason Levinthal claims that the Vacation is “the ultimate getaway… from traditional stiff fat skis.” And he ain’t lyin’. The Vacation combines a soft flex pattern with a gradual rocker profile and snappy 17-meter turn radius for a ski that’s most at home jibbing, spinning and pressing across natural features at your local ski area. Levinthal utilizes a maple wood core with carbon fiber and full height sidewalls to promote stability in an otherwise buttery ski. Adrian Bouthot commented, “It has the most accurate name ever. This ski is a nice break from the generic ski build. It shreds like a true American party skier!”

10. Blizzard Rustler 10

Blizzard relies on a unique construction called Carbon Flipcore DRT to boost the Rustler 10’s versatility. It also utilizes a specially shaped layer of Titanal that runs through the middle of the ski for incredible torsional stiffness, catering to harder snow conditions. In the tip and tail, Blizzard includes a unidirectional carbon frame for sustained strength lengthwise without stiffening across the ski to allow for easy turn initiation in deep snow. “Skis like a bullet from a gun,” commented Tae Westcott, while Mikey Wechsler added, “It’s definitely one of the best in this category. It’s quick and playful yet can still arc a fast turn on the hardpack.”

11. Black Crows Atris

A repeat Editors’ Pick, the Black Crows Atris is the flagship model of Black Crows’ big-mountain line. “Another great ski from Black Crows,” commented Mikey Wechsler. “It’s a stable carver yet playful as hell off the groomed stuff.” Black Crows achieves this versatility via an energetic poplar wood core, as well as tip and tail rocker with a more radical rise in the tip for easy turning and planing through deep snow. Medium camber underfoot and an extended sidecut (over the previous model) allow it to perform like a sports car on groomers and hardpack. Drew Ingardia called it “one for the books. It maintains stability through crud, groomers and likes to spend time in the air!”

12. 4FRNT Devastator

“Devastatingly awesome,” commented Scott Kramer about the Devastator, a perennial favorite from 4FRNT. The ski boasts a full reverse camber profile, which promotes surfing, slarving and floating in softer snow. However, 4FRNT matches the ski’s sidecut with the rocker profile, which boosts its carving capabilities considerably. “Didn’t know what to expect from this ski, but had me giggling through the crud and bumps,” said Justin Greene. “Popped right when I wanted it, and provided a stable landing no matter where it was.” In regard to its acumen on-piste, Thomas Lampert noted it “cruised from groomed to chopped up at high speed, and I didn’t notice the difference. I would buy these skis for any frontside day.”

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