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Today’s skis are wonderfully engineered products that can cater to specific ski terrain (powder, packed and groomed snow, all-mountain exploration, and big mountain snow surfing, just for starters) and ski types (backcountry, resort, side-country, racing, and freestyle). Some are curvy, while others are tailored to tackle the hardest of hard pack or the tightest mogul runs on the planet.
When considering the ideal ski, start with where you typically ski. Those fortunate enough to primarily ski in the west or in the Alps or Japan should look for skis that can handle loose snow and powder as well as groomed runs, while East Coasters want something that can bite into hardpack and the ice for which New England is famous. From there, think about how you like to ski. Backcountry and side-country skiers will want skis that a far cry different from powder hounds, park rat freeskiers, and those who just like to burn laps, laying down the edges and carving wide turns. Need some help finding the right skis for yourself? Take a look at our picks for the best skis to buy today so you can hit the slopes in style.
Best Overall: Wagner Custom
The ski-making industry typically looks at the variables of the sport — ski terrain, typical ski conditions, typical skiers — and then model their products along those lines. Wagner flips the script. Rather than working off defined molds, this custom shop utilized their proprietary Skier DNA to help identify the best ski to fit your skiing style. You answer questions via an online form about where you ski most often, how you like to ski, and which skis you like. Then they follow up to get additional insight. As you discuss your ideal ski, they tap into an extensive ski database, which has all the measurements of all major ski brands from the past decade-plus, to help them narrow your options.
You enjoyed the 2015 Volkl Matra but want more pop? Done. This is followed up with an overview on what they think would be the perfect ski for you. Greenlight it, and they build them from scratch in their Telluride, CO, factory. No molds. Instead, they use the trimmings from the initial cut as the framing for the rest of the ski. Upgrade to Kevlar for endurance if you wish, or just follow the sage guidance of Wagner’s team. Then the fun part starts: designing your top and bottom sheets. But if you feel overwhelmed by options, they also have a handful of stock designs, including some truly beautiful wood grains. Then arrange for the bindings to be shipped and mounted, and you’ve got a pair of skis that no one — and we mean no one — has, one suitable for you.
Best Value: Atomic Vantage X 80 CTI + FT 12 GW
This one-ski quiver performs admirably on both the piste and side-country thanks to a super-flexible, lightweight all-mountain system. It catches an edge on icy conditions, with an 80-mm waist to keep a grip on tight turns on hardpack, with a cap sidewall under the binding from the base to the top sheet and Power Woodcore (made of poplar and ash) that’s stiff for riding while on-piste without sacrificing any dampening. That shock absorption is further reinforced with a full layer of titanium, which also delivers stronger running stability and high torsional flex. The Carbon Tank Mesh — a layer of rigid mesh inside the core of the ski — adds stiffness while dropping weight, making it easy to shoulder and lug up to a hike-in summit like the peak at the Aspen Highlands.
Made with intermediates/advanced skiers in mind, it’s a ski that will encourage you to learn more, and adapt as you up your skill level. An all-mountain 90 percent rocker adds a bit of pop, but this isn’t the ski that’s ideal for big jumps or laps in the terrain park.
Best for Freeskiing: Volkl Kendo
If a roller coaster was transformed into a ski, it’d be the Volkl Kendo. Marketed as a freeride ski for intermediate and advanced skiers, the tip and tail rocker paired with camber under foot delivers some serious pop when you want it, making it easy to effectively hop on each turn, or turn a roller into a small riser, with a 90mm waist that’s floaty enough to handle deep powder without sacrificing turn and control on hardpack.
The multi-layer wood core — a mix of beech and poplar — makes the Kendo durable but not overly stiff, with a full titanal layer that adds dampening and flex and full sidewalls that help with power transition and confident edging. Twin tip configuration makes it at home in the park as well, while a moderate tapering at the tips that adds control for both resort and off-piste exploration.
Best for Big Mountain Skining: DPS Dreamworks Powderworks Lotus
When DPS entered the scene in 2005 they changed the way the industry built skis by introducing the first prepreg carbon fiber sandwich ski, transferred the term “rocker” from surfing to skiing, and introduced their Spoon technology, which makes their skis some of the best for big-mountain, deep-powder skiing. The Dreamworks Powderworks Lutus is a limited-press take on their popular Alchemist Lotus, the first rocker ski ever constructed with sidecuts, which really amps control.
The big 138 mm waist lets the ski float in deepest of deep, with optimal control on turns. Built on a solid Aspen core with multiple layers of carbon fiber, it weighs less than most competitors, with a feel that’s both stiff and flexible enough to carve through crud and really respond at high speeds. This isn’t your ski for bluebird days on groomers, but it’ll easily match your largest backcountry and side-country ambitions.
Best for Resort-to-Powder Skiing: Rossignol Soul 7 HD
Marketed as a freeski, the Soul 7 HD has won accolades and loyalists since it was first introduced, and the latest model only excels Rossignol’s reputation for making some of the best one-quiver skis on the market. The all-new Air Tip 2.0 tech amplifies power, stability, and float, reducing the weight at the tip and tail to concentrate the mass underfoot for optimal control. The rocker/camber transition zone uses visco elastomer to increase comfort and stability, with a carbon alloy matrix that’s merged with basalt and linear glass stringers to provide balance from tip to tail and minimize chatter and vibration.
The 106 mm waist may feel a bit big for groomed runs, but the ski boasts a reliable 15-meter turn radius and holds its edge on hardpack, crud, and ice as easily as it floats under loose, deep snow. Height sizes range from 156 cm to 188. Those who love glade skiing or exploring the tight trees just off-piste may yearn for a bit more control, but expert skiers comfortable in the saddle can make the Soul 7 HD respond to every instinctive maneuver.
Best for Side-Country Access: Dynastar Legend X96
When resorts like Telluride and Jackson Hole started offering lift-service access to their expansive side country, the skiable acreage across the States multiplied exponentially. And if you’re comfortable in backcountry-like conditions, the Dynastar Legend X96 may be your perfect exploratory vehicle. The ski boasts a progressive rocker profile and a five-point sidecut to provide float and control, with titanal reinforcements to drive power through any snow conditions. Dynastar’s Powerdrive Free construction utilizes a combination of traditional wood and multi-layer visco/ABS in the sidewalls that makes the ride both smooth and playful, with a tip-and-tail rocker for added bounce.
The waist measures 96 mm, with 132 mm at the tip and 112 mm at the tail, so it’ll turn well on the groomers you have to cover to get to the good stuff; a 15-meter turn radius allows for easy carving across the slopes, but the ski really comes alive in the powder, with optimal speed control and the maneuverability you need when conditions can vary from pow fields to tight trees.
Best for Women: Elan Ripstick 94W
Rather than plaguing their women’s skis with painfully cutesy names, Elan cuts through the marketing clutter by taking what works well for men, and then modifying it to match a woman skier’s needs. Designed with freeskiers in mind, the Ripstick 94W is at home front side and back, in the steeps and chutes as well as the trees. A tubelite wood core sits at the center, with carbon rods along the edges paired with Vaper Tip inserts that makes the ski light without sacrificing power, cushioning, or stability.
SST sidewalls deliver energy transition in the turns. The Ripstick 94W’s profile taps into Elan’s Amphibio tech, which marries both rocker and camber profiles for assured edging and tempered forgiveness to smooth out transitions from crud to powder to hard pack. A 94mm waist is wide enough to float in the deep stuff but still narrow enough to let you execute precision turns.
Best for Powder: Nordica Enforcer 110
The Enforcer 110 caters to the softest, deepest snow you’ll be lucky enough to find. It uses a balsa wood core with carbon chassis and two sheets of metal to keep the weight slim and the playful response at a max. Vibrations disappear when transferring through unpredictable conditions, and a high-rise tip-and-tail rocker lets you blast through crud and find that coveted floatation over loose stuff. Geared to perform for expert-level skiers who love to go fast, it proffers wide sprayer turns, with a 110 mm waist and tip-and-tail dimensions that vary depending on the ski length you prefer, which range from 169 to 191cms.
If you’ve heard about the magical wonderland that is Hokkaido, Japan, in mid-February — the land of endless snowfall and unfettered lift access to some of the lightest, deepest snow on the planet — this is the ski you want. And naturally it’ll crush on all other mountains blissfully covered in deep snow.
Best for the Backcountry: Black Crows Camos Freebird
Born in the inspiring and unforgiving mountains of Chamonix, French-made Black Crow skis quickly became one of the industries top backcountry tools when they first dropped in 2006 — no surprise, given it was founded by pro freeskiers Camille Jaccoux and Bruno Compagnet. And the Camos Freebird model is one of their best. This modern mid-fat (97 mm at the waist) touring ski comes with a playful rocker profile and traditional camber under foot that lets you bounce like a rubber ball (if you want to), pivot-turn easily, and float through the loose, deep stuff life a life raft.
Medium flex from a combo of poplar and fiberglass materials helps when you’re skinning, and also lets the ski perform well on resort runs from mid-winter through the end of the spring touring season. The slightly raised tail adds softness at the end of each turn — and helps you pull skins on and off since it’s easy to stick the skis into the snow. That, and a bold, simple graphic, indicates that Black Crows know to focus on all the little details.
Our writers spent 50 hours researching the most popular skis on the market. Before making their final recommendations, they considered 10 different skis overall, screened options from 15 different brands and manufacturers and tested 8 of the skis themselves. All of this research adds up to recommendations you can trust.