The 8 Best Skis

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The Rundown

Best Overall: Nordica Enforcer Free 104 at Amazon "They perform on hardpack just as well as in deep snow."

Best Value: Dynastar Menace 98 at Amazon "Performs in the backcountry just as much as on the resort."

Best All-Mountain Ski: Salomon QST 99 at Amazon "The QST 99 from Salomon can handle pretty much any condition."

Best Custom: Wagner Skis at Wagner "Each ski is specifically designed for how and where you most often ski."

Best for Deep Snow: K2 Pon2oon at Freeze "The skis can float and fly in the deepest of pow."

Best for Freeskiing: Volkl M5 Mantra at Amazon "The first ski that could master all conditions, from powder to hardpack to ice."

Best for Hardpack: Atomic Redster X9 WB at Atomic "A perfect fusion of a slalom- and giant slalom-specific ski."

Best for Touring: Dynafit DNA at Backcountry "Packs in a lot of features while weighing only 700 grams."

Best Overall: Nordica Enforcer Free 104

With a waist that measures at 104 mm, the Enforcer Free 104's underfoot is a bit wider than most all-mountain skis, but with a high rise rocker at the tip and tail partnered with a bit of camber, they perform on hardpack (compressed snow) just as well as in deep snow — with solid edging and a playful ride in powder. The balsa wood core pairs with two sheets of metal as well as a carbon chassis for confident turning, dampening, and durability. Nordica designed this ski for progression, whether you’re ripping groomers, dropping into a bowl, or playing in the park, though the Enforcer Free might a little intense for beginners. On the flip side, if you’re yearning for a bit more width, Nordica also makes the Enforcer Free in 110 and 115 mm versions. The 104 comes in heights that range from 165 to 191 cm, which boasts a slightly wider side cut. The turn radius varies from 16.5 to 19.5 meters. This ski can also handle chest-deep powder as well as groomers, hardpack, and in icy conditions.

Best Value: Dynastar Menace 98

Offering an even balance between agility, lightness, and power, the Menace from Dynastar blows through powder and performs in the backcountry just as much as on the resort. Its machined wood core boasts a variety of thicknesses, partnered with stacks of fiberglass layers of varying lengths to deliver unparalleled flex and a high energy absorption without sucking away speed. For most skiers, the 98-mm waist hits the sweet spot between control on hardpack and plenty of float and buttery turning in deeper snow — control that easily translates to spring slush. A now-traditional rocker/camber/rocker profile provides a bit of pop for the parks or when you want to spring-launch every turn. But for serious park chargers who want a true twin-tip, which allows skiers to take off and land backward, the skis' lengths vary from 169 to 187 cms, with a turning radius that ranges from 20 to 25 meters. Dynastar also offers the Menace in a low-priced kid’s version, in addition to ones with narrower waists — 80 and 90 mm — if you need more turning control.

Best All-Mountain Ski: Salomon QST 99

Built to take full advantage of an aggressive fall line, the QST 99 from Salomon can handle pretty much any condition, from laps in the back bowl to tearing across groomers. Made with advanced skiers in mind, it boasts a 20 percent rocker profile on the tip and 15 percent on the back — optimal for resort and off-piste skiing, but they may prove to be a bit unforgiving in the parks or on the pipe. Traditional camber in the profile delivers the much-desired pop. Its 99-mm waist is perfect for floating in powder and providing control on the corduroy and in icy conditions, with "sandwich" sidewalls for edge control without sacrificing stability or precision. The cork base is three times more absorbent than typical materials, so it dampens smoothly. That also partners with a lightweight poplar wood core, along with carbon, basalt, and a titanium insert that runs underfoot and throughout the ski to maximize power transfer and hard edging. Lengths range from 167 to 188 cm, with an average 19-meter turn radius, and the QST also comes in additional waist sizes, ranging from 85 to 118 mm.

Best Custom: Wagner Skis

Wagner Skis

Courtesy of Wagner SKis

Pete Wagner, founder and owner of the eponymous ski company, produces custom-made skis for his customers. Rather than working off stock profiles, each ski is specifically designed for how and where you most often ski to improve performance. You'll work with Pete and his team to come up with the ski's design and features, from the tip, tail, and waist measurements to the desired percentage of rockers and camber underfoot. He also asks which skis you’ve used before, as well as what you liked and didn't like about them. Then, he takes that information as a reference point to create the perfect ski, with help from his robust database with measurements of factory-made skis. Once you’ve dialed the ski architecture, you can add additional features like carbon fiber or durable Kevlar (heat-resistant fiber) and hone in on the optimal layers of wood and fiberglass to get the ideal pop and flex. Then, once the skis are set, the real fun begins: designing the top sheet and under-ski graphics. But if you hit a creative roadblock, Pete offers a host of stock designs, including gorgeous wood grain patterns. Then, the company hand-crafts the skis at their headquarters in Telluride, Colo. The result is an unique, custom-made ski that performs best for you.

Best for Deep Snow: K2 Pon2oon

K2 Pon2oon

 Courtesy of Freeze Pro Shop

The original Pon2oon was inspired by famous freeskier Shane McConkey, who introduced the idea of employing surfboard shapes into skis. This revolutionized big-mountain, deep-powder skiing, and the latest Pon2oon from K2 keeps with that tradition. The skis’ waists are massive, measuring in at 132 mm, along with a 157-mm tip and a 122-mm tail, which lets this ski float and fly in the deepest of pow. This control is further buoyed thanks to an aggressive, powder rocker profile that runs high and long at the tip and tail to maximize float. A light paulownia wood core keeps things flexible and also includes pieces of aspen and bamboo for added strength. K2’s patented Triaxial braiding process interlocks strands of fiberglass around the core for stiffness that’s still forgiving when you need it. Make no mistake: this ski is big, as the shortest runs at 159 cm. This delivers a long turn radius of up to 30 meters that only the most skilled can use to carve on groomed runs. But for flowing through feet of untracked loose powder, the Pon2oon still reigns supreme.

Best for Freeskiing: Volkl M5 Mantra

When the Mantra was first introduced, it was the first ski that could master all conditions, from powder to hardpack to ice. And since then, Volkl has only improved on the original. The latest iteration, the M5 Mantra, employs a new way of assembling the metal layers so that they follow the ski shape in the tip and tail, with an added layer of carbon at the tip to make the ski lighter than its predecessors. Still, the skis provide the same dampening properties of a full-metal sheet. That tech joins forces with a multi-layer wood core, a combo of durable and flexible beech and polar, with harder woods underfoot to help retain power. Even more, that edging control is further reinforced with full-length sidewalls that offer direct, confident power transmission with each turn. A 96-mm waist lets you carve with confidence on hardpack and ice without sacrificing on float, thanks to the 134-mm wide-tip and a rocker/camber/rocker profile. The M5 Mantra is easily one of the most versatile and playful skis available. It runs from 170 to 191 cm in length, with a turn radius that stretches from 17.9 to 23.3 meters.

Best for Hardpack: Atomic Redster X9 WB

Atomic Redster X9 WB

 Courtesy of Atomic

Almost every skier dreams of big-powder dumps, but when the weather doesn't cooperate and the mountains are covered in hardpack, ride on a pair of Redster X9WBs from Atomic. A perfect fusion of a slalom- and giant slalom-specific ski, its 75-mm waist and parabolic architecture lets you turn with confidence on the densest snow, with a 210.5-mm tip and a modest 104.5 tail. It doesn’t use any rocker tech and relies on 100 percent camber for all its pop and flex, which makes it easy to transition between turns. Atomic’s race-centric pedigree also plays out in the Redster, which utilizes a World Cup-inspired innovation (called “Servotec”) that makes the ski more agile in turns and stable on the straights. Titanium adds torsional stiffness and stability, and the full-length sidecut hits the sweet spot, enabling tight or wide turns with a narrow radius that ranges from 12.3 to 14.2 meters. It runs in lengths that vary from 152 to 176 cm.

Best for Touring: Dynafit DNA

Dynafit DNA

 Courtesy of BAck Country

Made by athletes for athletes, the DNA packs in a lot of features while weighing only 700 grams. It employs full impact-resistant ABS sidewalls, from the steel edge to the top coating, which lets you find your edge in an instant, powers direct binding-to-ski energy transfer, and endures the inevitable encounter with rocks and stones. But rather than using a full-sidewall construction, the DNA is cap-constructed, which means that the heavier materials associated with the latter approach aren’t needed, making it easier to turn. A 230 rocker at the tip and tail add some much-needed float, and the skis have a minimum turn radius of 18 meters and both 153- and 162-cm lengths, with a waist of 65 and 64 mm, respectively. A squared-off tip makes applying skins much less of a hassle, and it even comes with a ski bag.

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