The 8 Best All-Mountain Skis to Buy in 2018

Hit the slopes this winter with the right equipment

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To the uninitiated, calling a ski “all-mountain” may strike you as a bit obvious. Aren’t all skis designed for the mountain? Rather than interpreting that term literally, think of the skis that fall into this category as those that can handle all the conditions that you typically find on most mountains. The key here is versatility. All-mountain skis can handle pretty much everything—hard pack and groomed slopes, crud, powder, and ice—and typically makes for the ideal, one-size-fits-all solution for skiers who don’t need a quiver of skis like those made specifically for powder skiing, freeriding and park skiing, or the backcountry.

The width of the waist (which falls at the center of the ski) remains one of the key distinguishing factors in all-mountain skis. Typically, the narrower the waist, the easier it is to find your edge and get grip on hard pack. Wider waists, meanwhile, offer more surface area under foot and thus float better in loose powder. The waist—along with the ski length—also determines the ski’s turn radius. Go narrow and short, and you’ll be able to turn faster, which is ideal if you love dropping into glades or pride yourself on fast turns. Bigger, wider skis, on the other hand, encourage wide-arching turns on groomers and help you lay waste to fields of untracked powder.

The ski profile also should be factored into your consideration. While full rocker profiles typically appear in powder-specific skis (think skis shaped almost like a C-curve laying on its side), most all-mountain skis come with a tip-to-tail rocker profile that adds a bit of rise at the front and back of the ski, which makes it easy to handle variable terrain and also lets the skis float better than straighter skis in loose snow.

Camber—an upward bend at the center of the ski—allows for a more playful, bouncy feel that helps butter turns and delivers a bit of pop with each turn or transition. This feature also helps you find your edge faster when carving on firm snow, so if you go with a wider ski, be sure the silhouette boasts a bit of camber. Beyond that, we suggest hitting a mountain and demo’ing several to find the optimal ski for you—all the ones on this list are tops, but the one that speaks to you personally may require a bit of careful slopeside discovery, which—candidly—is part of the fun.

Our Top Picks

01 of 08

Best Overall: Volkl Mantra M5

Volkl Mantra M5

Amazon

When Volkl first introduced the Mantra about years ago, it quickly developed a loyal following among hard-charging skiers who want to dominate the entire mountain, regardless of conditions. This year, the venerable German ski brand challenged the common logic of “if ain’t broke” by re-imagining the Mantra—ironically, looking back at some of the original designs for inspiration. Rather than an aggressive full camber profile, the new M5 boasts a fully rocker silhouette, with a bit of camber underfoot and a slightly narrow 96-mm waist (down from 100 mm). As with previous models, the skis can handle all conditions, from powder to ice to hard-pack groomers. The narrower waist lets skiers find their edges fast, but doesn’t sacrifice too much float in loose snow, while the camber lets you lean hard into the turns on firm snow.

But the biggest innovation in the M5 lies in its composition of metal layers. Dubbed “Titanal Frame,” the metal sections follow the ski shape in the tip and tail, with an added carbon inlay in the tip, making the ski lighter than previous versions, but with the same dampening you’d find in skis made with a full sheet of metal.

02 of 08

Best Buy: HEAD Kore 93

This all-mountain ski targets advanced and experienced skiers who are comfortable throughout the mountain and are just starting to flirt with the tempting world of freeskiing. Think of it as your gateway drug to the side country—and its relatively lightweight also lets you flirt with touring without fully committing to backcountry-specific skis. A tail-to-tip rocker adds playfulness, but its 93-mm waist lets you find the edge almost instinctively, with split sidewalls that grip the hard pack like Velcro, proffering a turn radius that ranges from 13 to 17.6 meters, depending on the length of ski (which ranges from 153 to 189 cms).

But perhaps its most promising feature lies in what they call “graphene” technology, a Nobel prize-winning material that’s the strongest, lightest, and thinnest known to man, lighter than wood and metal, yet harder than diamond or steel. Below the top sheet hides a complex network of layers—glass fiber fleece, titanal, wood, a dampening layer, and reinforced fiberglass—that makes the ski as responsive as a sports car carving through hairpin turns. Those who only charge on big-powder days may yearn for a bit more width underfoot, but for versatility, the Kore 93 is tops.

HEAD skis typically come with proprietary bindings and pairing the Kore 93 with their AAAdrenalin 13 AT bindings afford performance-driven downhill control along with an ergonomic walking mechanism to help explore beyond the marked runs.

03 of 08

Best for Front-Side Carving: Rossignol Experience 88 Ti

2019 Rossignol Experience 88 Ti Skis

Amazon

With a waist that measures 88 mm, the Experience 88 Ti is one of the narrowest skis in this round-up, making it ideal for those who love to find their edge on groomed runs and blast through crud. But, thanks to a freeride-inspired all-terrain rocker, the ski also performs admirably in powder. The skis boast a progressive sidecut, which allows it to edge easily while still adding a touch of playfulness to drift, smear, and carve through loose snow. The LCT HD core—a blend of carbon and basalt—lets the ski transition smoothly across variable terrain, with an even balance of power, stability, drive, and dampness, the latter bolstered by the titanal construction.

Counter flexing on the back end of the skis is also reduced considerably due to the ski’s overall architecture, making them precise and instinctive to manage. At 180cm tall, the ski’s turn radius comes in at 16 meters.

04 of 08

Best for Soft Snow: Blizzard Bonafide

Dubbed an “all-mountain freeride” ski, this is the ideal one-ski quiver if you hit the resort in search of deep powder with the understanding that you’ll likely also hit crud, groomers, ice, and hard pack in pursuit of those white room face shots. The all-mountain sidecut makes finding an edge surprisingly easy given its 98-mm waist, control that’s reinforced by an aggressive tip shape to better-initiate turns and flat tails to bolster stability and float. A rocker-camber-rocker profile keeps the skis playful, agile, and under control, able enough to carve on piste and float when in the deep.

Bi-directional carbon fiber has been folded into the tips and tails, reducing weight and vibration and delivering optimal pressure distribution, flotation, power, and stability.

Continue to 5 of 8 below.
05 of 08

Best for Women: Volkl Secret

This ski uses the same titanal frame construction in the award-winning Volkl M5 Mantra, which uses metal layers that mirror the ski shape partnered with a carbon inlay at the tip. But it comes with an overall narrower composition, making it the ideal all-mountain ski for women. Its 130-92-113-mm shape makes it easy to turn and control without worrying, delivering the optimal blend of float in powder and tenacious grip on hard pack. A multi-layer wood core keeps the skis damp and avoids chatter, even in crud or ice, with a P-Tex 2100 base that glides effortless and allows you generate power in your turns without feeling like you have to wrestle the skis under control.

Skeptics that question the relatively narrow 92-mm waist should also remember that women typically weigh less than their male counterparts, so you need less surface area to achieve the same degree of float. That narrower waist simply makes edging on the Secrets much easier, opening up the entire resort.

06 of 08

Best for Width: Nortica Enforcer 100

If you yearn for a smooth, stable ride across groomed runs and powder, the Enforcer 100 is your ski. At 100 mm, it’s the widest-waisted ski in this round-up, but traditional camber underfoot makes it easy to find your edges, and pairs a full wood core with two sheets of metal that dampens vibrations, and bolstering stability, response, and control. Thirty percent rocker at the tip and 20 percent on the back side also lets them glide effortlessly in the deep stuff, which is where that wide waist really shines, letting you float, smear, and butter through powder—either off-piste or when the snow gods have bestowed a two-foot dump.

Depending on the ski length, you also get slight variations in the tip width, which helps dial the ski to your ski style, with an overall radius that varies from 15.5 to 20.5 meters; heights range from 169 cms up to a relatively massive 193.

07 of 08

Best for Days-Long Comfort: Kastle LX 85

If you’re all about comfort and control, the Kastle LX 85 delivers both with seamless perfection. This light, easy-turning ski comes with a versatile 85-mm waist, making it easy to find your edge, with a classic sidewall construction for blissful carving all season long. But the Austrian-made ski company didn’t leave any of their hard-earned race-centric tech on the factory floor. The ski is composed of layers of fiberglass and titanal, anchored by a sliver fir and beach wood core, an approach that removes unnecessary layering in the front of the ski to make it 30 percent damper. This lets the ski feel more stable underfoot and provides more precise steering.

An early rise makes transitions between turns and carving through variable terrain damn near seamless, with a shovel and tail design that moves the contact point toward the center of the ski to deliver both forgiveness and playfulness that’s reinforced with a low camber, edging-friendly profile.

08 of 08

Best for Power: Dynastar Legend X88

Dynastar employs their new Powerdrive Free construction in the Legend X88, making it one of the easiest-to-maneuver skis on the market, by merging a traditional wood core with a multi-layer, five-point, full-vertical sidewall construction composed of visco, wood, and ABS to deliver optimal edge, precision, balance, and power. And though the waist comes in at a relatively narrow 88 mm, a tip-and-tail rocker layers in some welcome, playful maneuverability and float akin to a typical freeride ski.

Traditional camber helps with shock absorption and edge grip, with titanal laminates that add dampness, stability, and torsional rigidity. This all adds up to a stellar downhill performance, especially on packed snow, with max power transfer in each turn and precise control at every aspect of the descent.

Our Process

Our writers spent 20 hours researching the most popular all-mountain skis on the market. Before making their final recommendations, they considered 10 different skis overall, screened options from 15 different brands and manufacturers, read over 10 user reviews (both positive and negative), and tested 4 of the skis themselves. All of this research adds up to recommendations you can trust.