The top 30 big-mountain skis of 2017-2018

The top 30 big-mountain skis of 2017-2018

Featured Image: Erik Seo

For the most part, skis in the 100-113 mm freestyle category boast versatile waist widths, forgiving flex, ample tip and tail rocker and perhaps a touch of camber, allowing them to carve just as well as they smear—on both firm snow, the freshies and everything in between. For those who view the mountains as big playgrounds filled with natural features on which to jump over and around, these skis are your ticket to glory.

The adaptable 100-113 mm freeride offerings below are designed for speed-hungry skiers who demand performance in a variety of snow conditions, from perfectly groomed hardpack to the soft n’ choppy stuff left over a few days after the storm. If you enjoy making large, sweeping turns in bowls full of fresh snow; plowing through chunky, snow-filled couloirs; or airing cliffs into the white room, you can count on these skis to get the job done.


1. Blizzard Rustler 11

All-new for 2017-18, this ski simply blew our testers away. “This is the ski,” said one tester. “Fun, fun, fun. Versatile, jibby, smeary, sends, stomps, super poppy and easy to maneuver… it’s the poster-board freeride ski, an absolute hero.” A blend of balsa, paulownia, poplar and beech wood provide stellar weight savings, dampening, spring and torsional rigidity. Titanal underfoot and sandwich sidewall construction together yield stability and power. Two full-length layers of carbon-fiberglass reinforcement with even more carbon in the tips and tails brings about rock-solid stability and, again, weight savings. A rocker-camber-rocker profile provides for easy handling and waist-widths change by size, i.e. the longer the ski, the wider the waist. “This is the definition of a quiver-killer to a T,” said another tester. Click here for a closer look.


2. Nordica Enforcer 110

Middle children are sometimes stereotyped as the odd ones out, but that’s far from the case with the all-new, highly-anticipated Enforcer 110—which sits between Nordica’s Enforcer 100 and Enforcer Pro. The ski inspired comments like, “Ricky Bobby would love these skis,” and, “Really, really fun for someone who wants a playful ski in the tip and tail but wants stability in the gut.” Its 110 mm waist hits a sweet spot, fit for varying snow conditions, while a build consisting of two stiff layers of Titanal sandwiching a lightweight and forgiving balsa core yields a great balance of stability, dampening and spring. Last but not least, rockered tips and camber underfoot up the ski’s versatility, allowing it to handle all conditions. Click here for a closer look.


3. Faction CT 3.0

If you oft find yourself shredding in fresh, soft snow and demand playful performance from your ski, then you may have a match in the Candide 3.0—designed with input from Candide Thovex himself. This ski boasts a balsa and flax core that keeps weight on the DL and provides dampness in your ride. Rocker and taper in the tips and tails provide for on-a-dime handling in powder and crud. “I haven’t had this much fun flexing and buttering a ski in years,” said one tester. Sandwich sidewall construction also provides excellent edge hold and Titanal reinforcement brings power and torsional stability to the table. One tester went so far as to say, “Perfect for going full-send. The perfect one-ski-quiver for the freestyle-minded shredder.” Click here for a closer look.


4. Blizzard Rustler 10

“It’s a great all-around, go-anywhere, do-anything rig,” said one tester about the Rustler 10. “Playful, responsive, super stable and more carving-centric than its brother, the Rustler 11.” On the inside: balsa, paulownia, poplar and beech wood work together to produce an ideal mix of dampening, spring and torsional rigidity, all in a lightweight package. Traditional camber and Titanal underfoot provide strength when you’re edging like Apolo Anton Ohno. Two full-length layers of carbon-fiberglass reinforcement give you further bang for your buck, and even more carbon in the tip and tail do away with chatter. A dual rocker profile allows for smeary good times and waist-widths for the Rustler 10 change by size, i.e. waist width increases as the ski length goes up. Click here for a closer look.


5. K2 Marksman

The Marksman is, first and foremost, an incredibly unique-looking ski that’ll catch your eye—thanks to an asymmetrical build and groovy topsheet graphic. And, fortunately, it performs just as great as it looks. Taper on the outside edge supplies a supremely surfy and floaty ride; aspen wood keeps things light and snappy; and fir wood delivers serious stability. Rockered tips, camber underfoot, a versatile width profile and K2’s esteemed double-barrel construction (denser core over the edges and lighter materials in the center for a reduction in swing weight) make it a great fit for those with a knack for playful skiing. “Super great shape!” gushed one tester. “Crushes turns of any size without objection and also smears with the best of ‘em, providing a super natural-feeling ride.” Click here for a closer look.


6. Black Crows Atris

The Atris garnered a FREESKIER Editors’ Pick one year ago, securing its place among the best of the best. Still, the Chamonix, France- based Black Crows was determined this season to increase the Atris’ stability without sacrificing its playful reputation. And so, Black Crows’ engineers upped the radius from 18 meters to 20 meters, softened its flex and added a touch more tail rocker to the equation. Testers took note of the new and improved balance of stiffness and sprightliness (they still plastered a perfect playfulness score on the ski) with comments like, “These babies float like a boat, hold up well to the stability test and are just an all-around fun set of boards,” and, “Playful yet stable in the chunder, poppy and responsive when called upon at speed.” Click here for a closer look.


7. DPS Alchemist Wailer 112

For 2017-18 DPS sought to provide an answer to the downfalls of carbon fiber skis of the past. Enter: Alchemist. Carbon’s attractive attribute—a low mass with high strength—is also its weakness, as it can cause chattering at high speed in variable terrain. The new Alchemist design seeks to smooth out the ride. DPS sandwiched an aspen wood core between two layers of pure prepreg carbon fiber laminate, blended with its own proprietary dampening materials. The Wailer 112, in particular, boasts a comfortable 18-meter turn radius, versatile rocker-camber-rocker profile and a tapered, flatter sidecut at the edge contact points for a smooth ski in any type of condition. Click here for a closer look.


8. Line Sir Francis Bacon

Inspired by Eric Pollard (the master of effortless powder skiing), the Sir Francis Bacon is forgiving, lightweight and downright fun. Adjectives that appeared frequently in report cards included, “playful,” “poppy,” “surfy,” “light” and “responsive.” One tester summarized his enjoyable experience, saying, “these skis boast an unbelievably fun flex pattern. They butter, smear, hop and pop all over. Excellent, high energy and springy carving.” A five-point radius allows for confident maneuverability and quick turning in tight spaces and sure-fire ripping at speed; sandwich sidewall construction lends to excellent edge hold; a symmetrical flex pattern is utilized for easy transitions between forward and switch riding; and a balsa wood core provides for a lightweight, snappy ride. Click here for a closer look.


9. 4FRNT Devastator

Our rip-roaring ski testers already coveted the Devastator, but a few updates for 2017-18 have elevated its appeal to a whole new level. The 108-mm-waisted ski (in 184 cm length) utilizes 4FRNT’s ReflectTech, a matching sidecut and rocker profile, which ensures the Devastator can carve with the best of ‘em while still maintaining the surfy, floaty characteristics its reverse camber profile provides. “I’m not a firm believer in reverse camber skis outside of pow, but the Devastator held its own anywhere I took it,” one tester said. Another celebrated its ability to handle anything and everything, noting, “Great at carving and charging with some playfulness added in, this ski can truly do it all.” Click here for a closer look.


10. Lib Tech UFO 100

UFO stands for unidentified flying object. This UFO, however, has been identified as a total champion. Skiers praised this bad boy for its hardpack performance— resulting in a 9.17 score in the carving department—but also loved its all-mountain prowess. Big-time tip and tail rocker made for mighty playful rides; an aspen core further lends to that playfulness while also handling well at speed; and Magne-Traction serrated edges effortlessly plow through all snow conditions. “I love this ski!” one tester bellowed. “Super lightweight, snappy, high-energy carver. Easy, quick pivots in the trees, stable at speed, jibby on the sides and rollers. Just an all-around fun ripper.” Click here for a closer look.


11. Icelantic Nomad 105 Lite

An experienced nomad knows traveling light is key to success. The same wisdom applies to Icelantic’s Nomad 105 Lite—a brand-new touring-centric ski with serious freestyle capabilities that testers described as “well-rounded” and “maneuverable.” An ochroma wood core (a variation of balsa wood) is to thank for said weight reduction, and rest assured it holds up damn well when the time comes to really charge. To further increase on-hill performance, the ski also has tip and tail rocker as well as camber underfoot—everything you need for day-in and day-out versatility. “Insane that it is intended for touring… This thing absolutely pounds,” said one impressed tester. Icelantic also throws in a three-year, no questions asked warranty—thrash away, friends. Click here for a closer look.


12. Sego Tater Tot

Based on the name alone, Napoleon Dynamite would love the Tater Tot. You’ll love it for its on-hill prowess. The ski is designed with playful big-mountain rippers in mind. A lightweight poplar core, 100-percent symmetrical design, low swing weight and “butter zones” in the tip and tail lend to its ability to spin, press and fly off cliffs and backcountry booters alike. Camber underfoot provides pop and a stable platform to land said aerial maneuvers. This is your “do-it-all, one ski quiver for the big-mountain, jib-oriented skier,” noted one tester. “Nothing is sacrificed with the center-mounted version we skied and it has strong camber underfoot but is still playful.” Click here for a closer look.


1. Head Kore 105

The middle child of the new KORE series is intended to be an everyday ski that keeps skiers on the hill longer; its light weight and effortless downhill performance helps shredders cut back on energy expenditure and thereby get the most out of their ski days. Testers took notice of the effortless riding style that’s afforded by the KORE 105, with one noting, “Incredibly light and playful. The ski dips into the turn and initiates so frickin’ easily.” A combination of featherweight Karuba wood; thin, strong and light Graphene; lightweight, stiff and damp Koroyd; and triaxial-woven carbon make up the recipe for this delicious KORE sandwich. Click here for a closer look.


2. J Skis The Metal

You’re probably glancing at that perfect score in the playfulness department— yeah? Well, don’t mistake this thing for a noodle. On the contrary, it’s highly adept in the carving department. Our testers’ primary comments about this ski almost always centered on its downhill performance, with one tester affirming The Metal “carves like a race ski on hardpack and groomers.” This balance of power and play is achieved in part by the implementation of Titanal strips on top of, and below, the maple wood core. The strips of metal don’t extend edge-to-edge nor into the tip and tail of the ski; the result is power, stability and dampening where most of the edge-to-snow contact occurs, without sacrificing swing weight in the tips and tails, lending to maneuverability and play factor. “It’s basically perfect,” said one tester. Click here for a closer look.


3. Faction Prime 3.0

Faction’s engineers worked hand in hand with Freeride World Tour athlete and professional ski guide, Sam Anthamatten, to produce the Prime 3.0—a lightweight, “tour-able” big-mountain board that’s a delight on the up and absolutely bomber on the down. One tester said about the Prime 3.0,“It’s a great everyday tool that shreds all conditions like a champ. Light, sturdy and playful all at once.” A balsa and flax core brings about that light character and provides dampening, while tip and tail rocker allow for crud-busting and powder surfing. A proprietary carbon lay-up supplies torsional stability without sacrificing weight and sandwich sidewall construction ensures optimal edge hold. Furthermore, a multi-dimension sidecut allows you to go full-bore on the open snow one minute and handle like a race car through the trees the next. Click here for a closer look.


4. Nordica Enforcer 100

Built for the all-mountain charger who needs a reliable, everyday ski, Nordica’s Enforcer 100 utilizes carbon, two sheets of Titanal, lightweight balsa and heavier beech for a stable yet playful ride that our testers raved about. Rockered tips and camber underfoot provide a versatile ride-beastly on groomers and variable snow alike. “Party in the front, business in the back,” one tester noted. “Nice and stiff in the tail to charge hard, but soft enough in the nose for playful maneuvering in open moguls or tight trees.” In other words, skiers looking for one tool to crush the entire mountain, day-in and day-out, will be more than pleased with this continuously-esteemed model. Click here for a closer look.


5. Dynafit Beast 108

“Pivot-y. Smeary. Quick. Solid in bumps and excels in deeper snow and trees,” described one tester of the Beast 108, while another commented, “Held an edge on groomers really well, very quick edge-to-edge and also remarkably nimble in the trees.” Awarded a perfect 10 in the versatility category, you can see where those sentiments come from. Take it for a tour (one tester called it, “[his] favorite uphill ripper on downhill grades”), shred steeps in-bounds, trees, groomers, powder, crud… it can handle anything. With a waist width ranging from 106 to 109, depending on length, the Beast 108 can be relied upon for both powder days and bulletproof scenarios. Its rocker-flat-rocker profile gives it playfulness and maneuverability without loss of stability, and a dense ash wood paired with springy, mid-weight poplar further aids the strength-to-weight ratio. Click here for a closer look.


6. Prior Husume

Named after a popular couloir in the Whistler, BC backcountry, the Husume can be leaned on as a mid-fat ski that can handle in-and-out-of-bounds objectives. A flat tail, camber underfoot, stiff maple wood core, quadraxial woven fiberglass and two carbon stringers help this ski excel on edge and in bulletproof, variable conditions. Gradual nose rocker allows it to dance swiftly across the entire mountain, pivoting and maneuvering its way through the lines of your dreams. One tester praised its easy ski-ability, noting, “Really fun in the crud and very easy to move around… I found that it goes edge-to-edge quite a bit faster than other skis in the category.” Click here for a closer look.


7. 4FRNT COL

Positioned in the middle of the new three-ski Uptrack Series, the Col is meant to crush a wide variety of conditions, from hardpack to powder and everything in between. A combination of tip and tail rocker with camber underfoot makes it nimble in the trees and deeper snow, while also stable enough to handle chop suey and bulletproof conditions. To further enhance the hardpack experience, 4FRNT added neoprene synthetic rubber into the tips to dampen the ski and prevent chatter. One tester confirmed, “it handled everything I came across. It floats well above pow, navigates the chunky stuff like a true Captain and is fun to goof around with on side hits and bumps. No flop at all, which I love on variable days.” Click here for a closer look.


8. Sego Cleaver 102

Slice, chop and destroy the mountain like a butcher with the Cleaver 102, a ski that produced a whole lot of comments like this at the Ski Test: “Handled bumps, steeps and a little bit of deep like a boss. Carves super hard on the hardpack, too.” This ski is relatively narrow with Sego’s Directional Moustache Rocker (early rise tip, camber underfoot and a flat tail) allowing it to rip the hardpack with its eyes closed, yet it’s categorized as a big-mountain ripper and our testers found out why on Snowbird’s most extreme terrain. A Titanal-reinforced poplar wood core makes for a lightweight, ultra-damp and strong construction, allowing you to lay the hammer down no matter the conditions. Click here for a closer look.


9. Liberty Origin 106

You’ll be aptly liberated with a pair of Liberty Origin 106’s under your feet. This ski earned praise for its playfulness, pop and float— making it ideal for the shredder who loves to jump off of damn near everything in sight. Testers summed up this playfulness with descriptors like “snappy,” “high- energy” and “floaty.” Camber underfoot and rockered tips and tails lend to this performance. And like every ski Liberty makes, this one contains a bamboo core that offers a pleasurable blend of stability and liveliness. That bamboo is complemented by poplar to make it a bit more forgiving, and the use of 10-mm carbon stringers cuts down on overall weight while providing a bit of torsional strength. Click here for a closer look.


10. K2 Pinnacle 105

The K2 Pinnacle 105 boasts unwavering versatility and stability — it’ll hold up well through unexpected twists and turns and also provide reliability for everyday cruising. Its construction employs stable fir wood on the outside of the ski and an aerospace-grade composite in the middle to keep the swing weight light. A sheet of metal runs along the perimeter of the core, bolstering strength without adding weight down the gut. To top it off, rockered tips, camber underfoot and a practical width profile allow for slay-age all day, ‘err day. “Skis the chunder, moguls, groomers and anything in between like an absolute master,” confirmed one enthused tester. Click here for a closer look.


11. Kästle BMX 105

Those looking for speed and stability will unquestionably love Kästle’s BMX 105. Testers compared it to a race-inspired freeride ski, attributing its prowess primarily to low camber underfoot and a combination of stiff fir and beech wood in the core. “Loves to charge,” said one tester. “Brought back memories of the race days.” Another said, “Plows crud like a champion.” Tip rocker helps boost the BMX 105’s maneuverability and prowess in soft snow, making it ideal for crushing all conditions. And, the tips are thinned-out, thanks to Kästle’s “Hollowtech,” which cuts down on overall weight and improves dampening. All of this results in a smooth, dependable and enjoyable ride no matter how fast you can possibly let ‘em run. Click here for a closer look.


12. Line Sick Day 104

Previously known as Line’s Sick Day 102, this FREESKIER-favorite hits shelves in ’17-18 with a beefier waist for easier transitions from the frontside to the back. “Caliente, en fuego! There is tons of energy packed into every turn you take. Very surfy and impressively light on your feet, yet freaking rip-able,” said one tester about the ski. “This thing can go into any snow condition at any speed… Super responsive, holds an edge very well,” said another. This medium-to-rigid-flex ski boasts a five-dimension radius—she’ll turn on a dime when called upon and hold steady at speed. An aspen core balances light weight with dampening and spring. It’s also softer in the tips for float and turn initiation and stiff in the tails for control at speed. Click here for a closer look.


13. Völkl 100Eight

“An absolute beauty through variable snow conditions and super stable carving at speed,” said one tester about the 100Eight, which garners its third straight Editors’ Pick. Another tester agreed, saying, “it carved masterfully like a butcher and ate up chalky pow in the trees like a champ.” New to the ski this season is 3D.Glass—multiple folded glass layers placed in the binding area, above and behind the sidewall, bringing about increased torsional rigidity and also greater rebound. Beyond that, a mix of ash and poplar wood in the core provides spring and dampness while keeping weight down. Carbon stringers up the torsional strength even further and full sidewalls yield optimal power transmission. Slight taper, full rocker and Völkl’s 3D.Ridge (a raised, central ridge) add nimbleness and play to your day. Click here for a closer look.


14. Prior The Patroller

The Patroller is a rocket ship meant for the most aggressive skiers out there—the ones who aren’t afraid to prepare their ships for ludicrous speed. It garnered a perfect 10 in the carving category thanks to a traditional camber profile and layers of Titanal and biaxial-woven carbon fiber that sandwiches its stiff, rigid maple wood core. Our testers were smitten with these skis’ need for speed. “Turn initiation is super easy, you can lay it over until your hip hits the ground. As much torque as you feel comfortable with, it’ll perform,” noted one, while another said, “Incredible stability, they promote extreme confidence. These skis can friggin’ crank one, bud!” Click here for a closer look.


15. Fischer Ranger 108 Ti

“Go, go Power Rangers,” should undoubtedly be this ski’s theme song because there’s no word that better describes it than powerful. A sturdy yet responsive beech-poplar wood core, sandwich sidewall construction, titanium inserts and carbon fiber in the tips work in beautiful harmony to provide incredible stability and edge hold. But the Ranger’s other attractive quality is its lightweight nature. While the aforementioned carbon sheds bulk, Fischer also mills the wood core in an offset pattern, for a weight reduction while maintaining its stiff flex pattern. “Power ski for power hour,” described one tester. “Straight line through crud, send a floaty air, land confidently and keep ripping.” Click here for a closer look.


16. Elan Ripstick 106

This slayer is designed with all- mountain, all-the-time shredding in mind. Emphasis on the shred. “The name of this ski is no joke,” said one tester. “One of the best mid-width carving skis I’ve been on. It has the perfect balance of a charger with a nice amount of play. Great for any conditions: groomers, crud and surfy pow.” Lending to that versatility is a cambered inside edge for stellar edge grip and a rockered outside edge for smeary good times and nimbleness. (This means you have a designated left and right ski.) The integration of two carbon tubes running the length of the ski translates to torsional strength and weight savings all at once. Furthermore, special composite inserts in the tip and tail cut down on vibration.Click here for a closer look.


17. Salomon QST 106

The middle child of the QST line comes back unchanged for 2017-18, and our testers were perfectly fine with that. Its full sandwich sidewall construction provides impeccable edge hold and Salomon’s use of a carbon fiber/flax layer and a Titanal insert underfoot make ‘em even more stiff and stable. “Everyone raves about the QST so they didn’t need to change anything about them,” commented one tester. “They’re super sturdy and hold an edge so well… landing with these things off cliffs is so smooth.” While stiff, the ski’s rockered, tapered tip and tail ensure optimal float in soft snow and incredible maneuverability. Koroyd inserts (lightweight copolymer tubes with shock-absorbing properties) are also implemented in the tip and tail to cut chatter on hardpack. Click here for a closer look.


18. Blizzard Cochise

“Bomber.” “Wild like a mustang in the chunder.” “Blasts like a missile.” “Stiff and sturdy in any type of snow.” “Incredible on edge.” You get the idea? The always-popular Cochise returns with some upgrades in the form of new molds and materials. Inside of the ski you’ll find poplar wood for a balance of weight and spring, along with beech wood for rockin’ torsional strength. Two layers of titanium, sandwich sidewall construction and a flat tail further up the rail-ability factor. A rocker- camber-rocker profile and carbon inserts in the tip and tail help to eliminate chatter and add playfulness to the mix. Blizzard completed its most extensive prototyping process to date to bring about this year’s line of skis… skis built specifically for you: the committed freeskier. Click here for a closer look.

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