Photos by Mitch Warnick
How We Tested
Once upon a week in March, we took over the front row in Loveland Ski Area’s parking lot and hosted our first-ever ski test. The goal? Rip hot laps on as many 2022-23 skis as we could—while stopping for a few glam shots, of course—and compile our impressions into a thick blog post to share with the skier-verse.
Like we do in conversations on the phone and in our shop, we hope to frame the information in the most useful form for regular people shopping for skis. We’re not going to tell you what to buy or what stuff got the best ratings down to the decimal point. Rather, we aim to draw your attention to the gear we’re extra interested in, why we like it, and what types of skiers it’s best for.
Our product notes and overviews also draw from our staffers’ experience with various gear items over the course of the whole season, not just our ski test. That’s especially true of the categories beyond skis.
Testers: Powder7 employees of mixed abilities and ski styles
Primary test location: Loveland Ski Area
Conditions: Ranged from spring (sunny, upper 30s) to storm skiing on a powder day.
The “all-mountain” skis category can feel like the Wild West. Too many choices, all with similar marketing claims (“these skis do everything!”). And what’s an “all-mountain ski” anyway?
Here’s how we see it. We generally categorize “all-mountain skis” as models between around 88mm underfoot and 102mm. Some skis on the fringes of that range could fall into a different category depending on how they ski.
Every all-mountain ski falls somewhere on the spectrum between accessible and demanding. Some are more playful or forgiving or aggressive or directional. And so on. We’ve distilled our testing down to a sampler of top-notch models. If you need help figuring out what you need, give us a call or shoot us an email!
Overview: Back in 2021, the QST 98 introduced the new, playful build that identifies the Salomon QST line these days. For 2022-23, its sister, the Lumen, gets those same updates (and a fresh minty topsheet). Many skis in the all-mountain category incorporate metal for stability on firm snow, but not the QST. This gives it a softer and more playful flex, while the double sidewalls and carbon/flax maintain impressive stability that easily handles all the conditions all-mountain skiing throws at you. One of the most poppy and energetic skis we tested, we found the QST 98 and the Lumen crush all-mountain terrain with far too many style points.
Tester Notes: Energetic // Damp and supportive // Solid edge hold and stability on piste despite deep rocker
Quotable: “Deep rocker lines make this ski very maneuverable with still plenty of edge purchase to lay into them. Fun on groomers, bumps, trees….pretty much all over the place. Honestly, not much I didn’t like.” —Ryan
Overview: Formerly known as the Escaper/Stargazer, the Sender 94 Ti and Rallybird 92 fit right in the middle of Rossignol’s freeride rebrand for 2022-23. Rossignol calls the Senders their “directional freeride” skis, with a flatter tail to increase edge hold in firmer snow conditions. Combined with construction that provides killer suspension, this ski is remarkably smooth in variable snow conditions. A nimble waist width ensures you can navigate tight trees and bumps without blinking an eye.
Tester Notes: Very damp and stable in various snow conditions // Quick and smooth edge-to-edge transitions // Appealing to skiers at different skill levels
Quotable: “From sending groomers to big lines they’ll hold you like a warm hug from a sweater fresh out of the dryer.” —Mikey
Overview: Line took their futuristic metal design, as seen in the Blade, and adapted it to a lineup of all-mountain and freeride skis: Blade Optic. By fusing “gas pedal metal” with a playful shape, taper, and deep rocker lines, Line aimed to introduce a ski uniquely suited for both playful skiing and hard charging. The 96 is the most all-mountain-oriented ski in the lineup.
Tester Notes: Soft, playful tips and tails but solid underfoot // Lots of energy // Nimble // Highly versatile // Accessible // Speed limit at high speeds on firm snow
Quotable: “I like everything about this ski. When conditions softened up, it shined! Crushed bumps with ease, carved hard, cranked turns, and felt great in the air. It was capable wherever I took it and felt like the most versatile ski I’ve been on in a long time.” —Andrew
Overview: It can’t be a ski buyer’s guide without the Enforcer, can it? The 94mm-waisted version of Nordica’s flagship series packs power and stability while retaining enough versatility to be a legit all-mountain option. Two sheets of metal and a directional shape put the Enforcer 94 on the more demanding side of the spectrum.
Tester Notes: Stiff and stable // Intuitive and nimble if you drive them // Energetic // Hefty // Punishing if you don’t drive them
Quotable: “Ladies and gentlemen, this ski rips. This ski crushes through everything in its path. It’s demanding, but not overly so for a ski with two sheets of metal. It strikes a wonderful balance of nimbleness and aggressiveness.” —Chase
Overview: Don’t let the women’s specific designation deter you — this ski rips. Salomon uses two sheets of metal for stability and power, but the Poplar/Karuba core adds a unique snap and pop that distinguishes the Stance from other similar women’s all-mountain options. The directional shape, heavier weight, and straighter sidecut all lend themselves to long arcing turns that speedsters will love.
Tester Notes: Quick // Poppy and energetic // Ultra-stable and locked in // Not easy to release in tight places
Quotable: “It’s loaded with tons of great energy that pops you in and out of turns, but maintains awesome edge hold on firm snow. Zero speed limit. Makes me feel like Lindsey Vonn.” —Alex
Overview: When Blizzard released the Rustler and Sheeva, the skis made waves. Why? They provided a unique (at the time) blend of playfulness and stability. Since, they’ve become benchmarks. They’re both playful and strong, intuitive and capable. That’s why folks across the ability spectrum tend to enjoy them. The “10” version of each ski measures 102mm underfoot. Wider and narrower models, the 9 and 11, are also available.
Tester Notes: Well-balanced // Stable at speed // Forgiving // Loose enough in the tips and tails to be fun
Quotable: “If you like trees, bumps, groomers, riding switch, jumping, and landing—so everything—this ski is for you.” —Chris M
Overview: The all-mountain collection from Stockli remains a steady hand in the ever-changing world of ski shaping and construction. As some skis succumb to hot trends, the Stormriders stay classic. Not to say they haven’t changed over time in good ways. Over the years they’ve become lighter, more rockered, and a little easier to ski. But, compared to some of the skis on this list, they are directional, stiff, and hold an edge alongside the best carvers.
Tester Notes: Good engagement on piste // Low swing weight // Surprisingly easy to release from a turn
Quotable: “Ideal ski for anyone looking for an extremely smooth, damp, and stable ride, but also wants a quick and nimble ski.” —Jonathan
Overview: Borrowing shape and construction ideas from different Nordica skis, the Unleashed collection offers freeride skiers a playful ski without sacrificing performance on other parts of the mountain. Nordica takes their terrain-specific metal, originally introduced in the Santa Ana skis, to the Unleashed. Specifically, the 98 slots into the mix as a playful yet stable daily driver.
Tester Notes: Playfulness // Stability // Responsiveness
Quotable: “It feels very quick and slashy, while still feeling surprisingly stable. Very energetic carver with great edge hold. If you love a Nordica 104 Free but find it a bit lacking in playfulness and energy, the Unleashed is perfect.” —Jonathan
Overview: Compared to previous versions, the 2022-23 Mindbender 99Ti has a looser tail, to be easier to release in tight terrain and provide an overall more playful feel. With extra metal added at the tip and tail contact points where the ski meets the snow, the Mindbender still locks into groomers and firm snow and feels planted. When soft snow does come around? Deep tip rocker and a light swing weight float you to the top of the snow.
Tester Notes: Energetic // Good edge hold // Fun in bumps
Quotable: “Bump skiing on these was a blast. Though there was a lot of tip, it allowed me to really drive forward in a line. Short tails allow for easy pivoting in and out of trenches.” —Mikey
Big-Mountain and Freeride
Magazines, shops, gear review sites, meme accounts—they throw all sorts of names at this category. We think of Big-Mountain/Freeride skis as the mid-fat options between about 102mm underfoot and 112mm. Some of them ski like wider all-mountain skis, slightly more dialed for soft snow, while others act like powder skis with more versatility.
Whether you’re looking for a second ski to go with a narrower daily driver or you want to fully ride the wide-ski bandwagon, multiple skis in this category could be your new best friend.
Overview: Perhaps the most hyped ski for 2023, the Atomic Bent 110 offers Bent Chetler 120 fans something a little more versatile. The narrower waist is quicker to respond in less-than-ideal (or, “everyday”) snow, but still provides plenty of platform big-mountain conditions. Our testers particularly loved how playful the new Bent 110 feels when you get loose.
Tester Notes: Great in the air and fun to pop off of hits // Go anywhere, do anything ski // Light and quick on your feet
Quotable: “Beautiful topsheets, perfect flex pattern for big-mountain skiing, stable at speed and on landings, and so light in the air. There isn’t a single thing I disliked about these skis. I actually felt like the master of my own destiny and these made me a better skier. Well done Atomic and Chris Benchetler.” —Chris M
Overview: The QST 106 remains a go-to recommendation for skiers everywhere looking for a wider ski that can still do it all. Every time it updates, the QST 106 only gets better. This year, Salomon dials up the playful factor with a deeper rocker profile and more taper. Double sidewall technology levels up the suspension for variable conditions when the snow is a bit skied out. But Salomon knows you’re hunting for powder stashes, and the QST 106 floats and drifts through soft snow and tight terrain accordingly.
Tester Notes: Versatile // Energetic and poppy, but still very damp // Drive-able // Exceptionally well-balanced ski
Quotable: “Felt good at everything. Bumps were fluid and fun. Groomers were surprisingly fun! Held solid on edge. I didn’t like when my DINs were set to 4 and I popped out mid-ride (user error!), but the ski is versatile and I think anyone can dig it.” —Andrew
Overview: Fischer overhauled their freeride and all-mountain skis this year into one singular line. The Ranger 108 is the second widest of the bunch and replaces the notoriously charge-y Ranger 107 Ti as their resident big-mountain ski. The Ranger 108 dials things back with a much more playful, drifty, and slash-y alternative that feels much less demanding. While it may not charge like the 107 Ti, a small sheet of metal underfoot and stiffer tail gives you support to stomp big landings and hold an edge well.
Tester Notes: Playfully directional // Supportive tail, but softer and easy to slash tips // Tips don’t track as well when skiing fast off piste
Quotable: “This has honestly been one of my favorite 100+mm skis to carve. Could really make for a sweet one-ski quiver in Colorado. Wide enough for when the snow is good, but still plenty fun on days when it’s not.” — Jonathan
Overview: After the success of the regular Enforcer series, Nordica tweaked the rocker profile and moved the mount point closer to center to build a more “free”ride oriented model. Keeping the same powerful, double titanal construction, we got a chop-slashing, bump-bashing, and powder-surfing ski. On the heavier and stiffer side of things, the Enforcer 104 Free wants to be driven, but it’s forgiving enough to inspire confidence in big-mountain terrain.
Tester Notes: Good at everything // Stable through tough snow // Doesn’t have as much energy as more playful skis
Quotable: “Stable on groomers and quick turns in the bumps, super easy to carve on or float through pow, so it felt pretty versatile. No chatter whatsoever.” — Sara
Overview: Another favorite among staff, the Volkl Revolt 104 adds freestyle flair to the big-mountain category. It takes inspiration from the narrower, park-oriented Revolts with a softer flex and freestyle-happy profile. A wider platform equips you well for deeper snow and tackling steep lines. The combination gives you a solid freestyle-oriented big mountain machine, perfect for folks finding anything and everything to jump off of.
Tester Notes: Surprisingly stable at high speeds // Feels light in the air // Not a top pick for groomer ripping
Quotable: “This ski is very playful and strong in deep snow. Felt great in the air and I loved the softer, flexible flex pattern. Perfect ski for all non-groomed terrain.” —Chris M
Overview: After rave reviews on the Saba Pro 117 and Nia Pro back in 2021, Icelantic released a narrower Saba with the Saba Pro 107. Quicker to roll over on edge and pivot in tight terrain, the Saba Pro 107 is versatile for all kinds of conditions. With a fully rockered profile, the Saba pivots and slashes with the best. Ideal for folks looking for a highly playful option with a stiffer construction to tackle challenging conditions.
Tester Notes: Unique feel // Super pivoty and nimble // Strong for being so smeary
Quotable: “These. Skis. Are. So. Fun. I felt like I could do anything on them. They made all the normal skiing even better.” —Chase
Overview: Line took their futuristic metal design, as seen in the Blade, and adapted it to a lineup of all-mountain and freeride skis: Blade Optic. By fusing “gas pedal metal” with a playful shape, taper, and deep rocker lines, Line aimed to introduce a ski uniquely suited for both playful skiing and hard charging.
Tester Notes: Smeary and slashy in soft snow // Planted and stable
Quotable: “Slashing through fresh snow was a blast on the Blade Optic 104. I was also able to charge on it while still feeling in control.” —Ben G
Overview: We were the first Black Crows dealer in North America, so we’ll always have a soft spot for the Atris, a ski that’s long been a staff favorite here. For 2022-2023, Black Crows updates the ski with a slightly narrower waist width (105mm vs 108mm), a marginally softer flex, and tweaked contact points. The goal: Make it more versatile as a wide all-mountain ski. Note: the Atris and Atris Birdie share the same construction.
Tester Notes: Playful // More drivable than the last version // Highly versatile
Quotable: “I loved how it skied, smooth and reliable on groomers, and it didn’t slow down at all in pow. It rocketed off jumps.” —Sara
Welcome to the least ambiguous (and most exciting) category on the market! Powder skis measure around 110mm and wider. By-and-large, they’re tuned for the freshest and deepest days of the year, although some narrower models also hold up as big-mountain/freeride skis.
We’re still thanking Ullr for delivering a deep day for our ski test.
Overview: A time-tested favorite at the shop, the Bent Chetler 120 is a no-brainer for a playful powder stick. So many Powder7 staffers have a Bent Chetler in their quiver, with just how good it performs in powder and after the powder goes away. Remarkably quick on your feet for the size, the Bent Chetler intuitively navigates tight terrain and turns the mountain into a playground.
Tester Notes: Playful and easy to get sideways // Surprisingly versatile beyond powder days // Light enough for touring and easy swing weight
Quotable: “Outstanding ski for days when it’s at all soft, light, nimble, but with plenty of suspension for speed and firmer surfaces. Hard to beat in this category.” — Justin
Overview: The widest in the Faction Prodigy family, the 4 hits 116mm underfoot and serves as a great all-around, powder focused ski that is happy to tackle steep lines and big landings. The Prodigy’s are known for their playful and slashy shape, and the Prodigy 4 is no different. Easy to get sideways and quick to respond, the Prodigy 4 skis like something much more narrow.
Tester Notes: Poppy and surfy // Light swing weight, heavier real weight for moving through choppy snow // Less edge hold on firm snow
Quotable: “Very fun pow ski! Great combination of slashy/surfy and stable. Finds a really nice balance for playful skiers that like to ski fast.” — Jonathan
Overview: One of the flagship models from DPS, the Pagoda 112 RP blends a stiffer construction with a mega playful shape. Deep rocker lines in the tip and tail plus plenty of taper provide an incredibly responsive and intuitive ride that loves to play in powder, but transitions seamlessly to the rest of the mountain from steep bumps to open bowls. The layered (Pagoda) carbon construction serves as more playful and energetic alternative to metal, providing that supreme DPS dampness we love so, so very much.
Tester Notes: Quick // Intuitive // Floaty // “Fancy Rossignol Soul 7”
Quotable: “So intuitive! Felt like a part of my legs. Doesn’t feel nearly as wide as it is; you could easily ski it in many different conditions. At the same time, floats and turns in deep snow like a dream.” —Alex
Overview: Another shop favorite found in staffers’ closets (we like wide skis, what can we say?!), the Revolt 121 combines big mountain versatility and stability with a huge powder plank. Where lots of powder skis go light for floatation and easy swing weights, the Revolt is one of the heaviest on this list. The Revolt prepares you well to charge through chop and crud at high speeds
Tester Notes: Very stable for a big ski // Versatile // A lot of ski to maneuver through steep big bumps
Quotable: “This can blow through chopped up powder at reckless speed. It can turn on a dime, but needs a bit of room. Super versatile for a big boat of a powder ski. I wouldn’t hesitate to grab the Revolt 121 on any day where it’s even a little soft.” — Justin
Overview: Rounding out the QST line with the widest model, the Blank replaced the old QST 118 with new freeride flavor and greater versatility across the entire mountain. It’s nimble and holds edges on firm snow well enough to be a daily driver in the West, with plenty of floatation to make the most out of the deep days when you do get them.
Tester Notes: Very fun and playful // Able to easily carve // Has no flaws in soft snow
Quotable: “Felt planted and stable, yet at the same time easy to whip around when needed. Best 112mm ski I’ve skied on firm snow for sure.” —Chase
Overview: This has been a staple in Armada’s lineup for a while and remains a top-pick powder ski for us. The lighter construction works double time—allowing for easier uphill travel as a killer backcountry pow or hybrid ski, and a very light swing weight when navigating bumps and trees inbounds. At just 1600 grams, this ski easily hits the lightest of our top picks.
Tester Notes: Easy handling // Nimble // Floaty and surfy // Shape and weight give a bit of a speed limit
Quotable: “Easy to turn and gets on top of the snow easily. Pivots and slashes like you’d expect Armada skis to do. Chunky and chopped-up powder definitely pushes it around, but for the weight, this ski gets it done.” —Alex
Overview: When our athlete Owen Leeper switched his ski sponsor to Meier this past winter, the deal came with his very own pro model. The name was obvious. We’re stoked to be one of the few retailers to carry The Leeper, a powder-hunting fat ski versatile enough for many days on western mountains.
Tester Notes: Stable // Planted // Surfy
Quotable: “It’s clearly an @o_leeps ski. Similarly to the Icelantic Nomad 115, Owen’s previous go-to, The Leeper likes to make big, long turns and stomp airs.” —Matt
Despite our explicit giddiness over wide skis, we do understand that countless skiers don’t need them. Rather, they just want a solid ski for cruising around the mountain on their favorite trails and doing some exploring. That, or they’re devout skiers looking for a narrower, carvier option for the dry spells.
Sound like you? Here’s your shopping list.
Overview: The Stormrider 88 continuously holds serve as a top pick among our staff. With a more traditional, directional shape, the SR 88 lends itself to longer arcing turns and solid edge grip on even the sketchiest icy mornings. Stockli’s premium construction dampens the conditions for a very smooth ride. For lady rippers, the Stockli Nela 88 features a slightly thinner and lighter core, but skis with the same suspension and smoothness as the SR 88.
Tester Notes: Smooth and very planted // Nice energy transferring from edge to edge // More demanding in tight terrain
Quotable: “Like any Stockli ski, these are Ferraris on the hardpack. Carves really well, and feels perfectly balanced for a Colorado groomer.” —Chase
Overview: Charging onto the scene back in 2021, the Armada Declivity and Reliance veered away from the smeary freestyle feel that Armada is known for. Offered in waist widths ranging from 82mm all the way through 108mm, the Declivity serves up directional freeride style in a package that’s still uniquely Armada. A playful pop makes this a blast to take off of side hits and explore around.
Tester Notes: Drivable // Stable // Directional shape with tails you can release when needed
Quotable: “Super fun! Not the lightest ski in this category but that helps me feel like I can drive it. Not the loosest tails but still handled bumps really well. Beefy put playful. Armada making carving and all-mountain skis = fun!” —Andrew
Overview: The narrowest member of the new Bent family, the Bent 90 offers folks who mostly hang out on the frontside a playful option that can provide the edge hold you need to bite into firm snow. A light woodcore and softer flex gives this model a more freestyle flair than other frontside skis in this category. The directional shape and slightly flatter tail than you’d expect increase edge hold and help you carve alongside the rest of them.
Tester Notes: Light and nimble underfoot // Solid on edge // Poppy and playful
Quotable: “About as much fun as you can have on a 90mm-ish ski. Super playful and accessible at any speed, but still carves anything besides sidewalk pavement.” —Justin
Overview: Volkl is known for their stout constructions, and the frontside oriented Kendo and Kenja are no different. But over time, Volkl has fine-tuned and tweaked the construction to be slightly more accessible. Don’t worry—the Kendo is still a stiff demanding ski that will support aggressive skiing at high speeds in firm snow. Compared to some other models, like the MX88 or Supershape, the 3D Radius sidecut allows you to play with your turn shapes and won’t punish you for missing a beat.
Tester Notes: Stable and smooth // More playful and nimble than you’d expect // Doesn’t require technical precision
Quotable: “Great, energetic ski that is happy taking a variety of turns. Easy to roll over on edge. Stiff tips and tails make this a great all mountain ski for firm snow and high speeds. ” —Alex
Overview: Kastle tweaked the MX88 back for the 2021 season, adding early rise rocker in the tip and expanding the carbon HollowTech tip shape. Those upgrades don’t detract from the high performance nature of the MX line, but allow for more seamless transitions and easier turn initiation. The tail remains flat and the traditional camber underfoot delivers maximum power and stability.
Tester Notes: Extremely stable // Fast // Likes to be driven // Challenging to maneuver at slower speeds
Quotable: “Rocks short turns with tons of energy, but also is a missile when making longer turns. For strong skiers who like speed, stability, precision, the MX 88 is hard to beat. Classic Kastle dampness.” —Justin
Overview: We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again…the Blizzard Black Pearl 88 is a best-selling women’s ski for a reason. The TruBlend construction balances a light swing weight with solid stability in varying snow conditions. Confidence-inspiring and easy to progress with, the Black Pearl is enjoyed by ladies across skill levels.
Tester Notes: Light swing weight // Accessible // Responsive and intuitive
Quotable: “The Black Pearl 88 as really, really good at what it does. It rips groomers and smooth bumps with ease. There are few skis out there that let you focus on the skiing, rather than worrying about what your skis are doing. ” —Alex
Overview: The Head Kore series quite literally offers a ski for everyone. With options ranging in waist widths from 87-117mm, there’s a ski for every day and everywhere. Our consensus-favorites are still the 93 and 91 W. The narrow waist width pairs well with the stiff Graphene material, keeping the ride glued to the snow, even in frighteningly firm conditions. Plenty of tip rocker and rise allows you to float if a few inches comes around. The women’s and men’s share identical constructions.
Tester Notes: Best of the Kore collection // Light and super energetic // Stiff enough to ski fast
Quotable: “The flex, weight, and directional profile combine to make the Kore 93 an ultra-fun ski for frontside kicks, especially when the groomers soften up ever so slightly.” -Matt
Overview: At 90mm underfoot, the Captis fits solidly in the all-mountain and frontside categories. It’s quick and responsive to edge, making it a blast to carve and zipper bump lines. With an elongated effective edge for this year, the Captis feels more solid biting into firm snow and gives you greater edge hold in various snow conditions.
Tester Notes: Nice balance of directional carving and playfulness
Quotable: “Love the soft tips and longer contact points! Easy turns in moguls and steeper groomers, and it also holds an edge at high speeds. Also…nose butters. That’s all.” —Mikey
Yew! Groomer hot laps.
You may be an ex-racer or fancy yourself a beer-league hotshot. Or you love Nastar. Or maybe you just really like skiing fast on fresh corduroy. Or you take all your buddies’ lunch money in pick-up races. Regardless, recreational carving skis can be a gateway to a whole new side of sliding snow.
Overview: The Deacon 84 is consistently one of the more popular recreational carving skis out there, but if you’re looking for a step up, you can’t beat the Volkl Deacon 76 Masters. The Masters edition comes trim with the World Cup binding plate to provide extra rigidity, allowing you to lean extra hard into your carves. The 76 lends itself to longer GS style turns and high speeds, earning our favorite spot.
Tester Notes: Pop and rebound // Holds solid edge once tilted over // Easy to release tails when needed
Quotable: “Great groomer ripper that can charge or take easy cruiser turns.” —Mikey
Overview: The Elan Wingman is a go-to recommendation for folks looking for a solid carver that doesn’t break your legs. Elan uses their unique asymmetric design to provide easy turn linkage and initiation with solid edge hold. A construction loaded with the perfect amount of titanal and carbon makes for a smooth ride even cruising over icy patches.
Tester Notes: Not too much work // Stiff tail holds through carves // Easy turn initiation
Quotable: “What a fun ski! Easy to turn and make it move where you want. This ski makes me a better carver. Easy to turn and still very stable. I want this ski in my quiver!” — Andrew
Overview: The Brahma 82 carves alongside the best skinny skis, without requiring pedal-to-the-metal performance 24/7. Released as an addition to the original Brahma 88 in 2020, the 82 is quicker to roll over on edge and lock into the iciest icy morning snow conditions. The TrueBlend wood core construction balances burly stiffness that can handle any condition with style, without punishing you in bump lines or if your legs are just feeling a little lackluster towards the end of the day. Ideal for folks who enjoy carving hard and fast and want a little more versatility than traditional carving skis offer.
Tester Notes: Strong carver // Stiff and stable // Not as punishing as expected
Quotable: “Really good carver, doesn’t totally punish you if you get backseat. An easy choice for frontside ripping, especially for firm snow to icy conditions. This thing can carve on anything.” —Chase
Overview: The Head Supershape series has long been a mainstay in our shop fleet. Why? In the early or late season, our staffers love channeling their inner Mikaela Shiffrin, and the e-Titan is a vessel of choice. It’s the widest Supershape and features Head’s new-ish EMC tech, a super-nerd way of maximizing carving pleasure by optimizing the skis for smooth skiing and good vibrations.
Tester Notes: Insanely energetic // Accessible carver // Feels light and nimble for an aggressive ski
Quotable: “I was having so much fun that I almost bucked myself over the handlebars the first day I tested the e-Titan. Almost.” —Matt
Overview: Replacing the Laser AX is no easy task, but you can rest easy, friends. The Montero AX is most certainly still an AX through and through. Quick turning, ultra-responsive, and energetic, the Montero AX loves edging on morning corduroy and slicing through bumps. The Monteros indicate the more all-mountain nature of the AR and the AX compared to the Laser lineup, giving you a wider platform and flex pattern more versatile for conditions everywhere.
Tester Notes: Damp // Perfectly carved turns // Intuitive at all speeds
Quotable: “Skiing the AX is like driving an automatic transmission super car. No think. Just shred.” —Mason
It’s not quite as simple as touring skis vs. resort skis these days. This new season welcomes several new models that strike the balance between tourable weight and strong downhill performance. Tour on them. Ski the resort with them. Or, ideally, do both.
Overview: While the Enforcer series offers plenty to all kinds of skiers, a low weight for uphill travel was not traditionally one of those features. The Enforcer 104 Unlimited (and its 88 and 94 underfoot cousins) take the shape from the regular Enforcers, and pair them with a much lighter construction. Using carbon stringers instead of double titanal sheets, the ski shaves 600 grams off the original weight, putting it solidly in the lightweight freeride category. With some of the highest ratings across all skis during ski testing, we think the Enforcer 104 Unlimited holds its own as a stand alone model, not just the “lighter Enforcer 104 Free.”
Tester Notes: Low swing weight // Secure on edge and very stable for weight // Easily pivots and slashes like regular Enforcer
Quotable: “This ski made me feel like a better skier, super easy to control without any effort. Stiff and smooth so no trouble on groomers or bumps and were super light in the pow.” —Sara
Overview: Not unlike the Enforcer Unlimiteds, the Hustle offers Rustler fans a lighter version of one of our favorite shredders. The Hustle (lovingly referred to as the “Hustler” among staff here), replaces the partial metal sheet in the Rustler with carbon stringers to shed some weight but maintain stability. At about 112mm underfoot, the Hustle 11 in particular is happy in deep snow. With a playful shape (without being truly twin-tipped like others on this list), the Hustle floats well and can navigate tight terrain easily. At the same time, you can tackle the fall line with speed with plenty of edge purchase.
Tester Notes: Light swing weight // Stable for the weight // Easy going if you want it to be
Quotable: “I had one of the best days of the season on the Hustle 11 and it’s inspired me to purchase a pair for the upcoming season. The ski can definitely handle my chargey style, even in chopped up snow. This ski is a soft snow monster!!” —Phil
Overview: When our staff got to get a sneak peak at the Dispatch, they quickly found out these are not entry-level touring skis. They are stiff, powerful, and designed for advanced and expert skiers looking for a light ride that can support aggressive skiing. The Dispatch 110 is the most versatile of the new series, with a mid-fat waist that floats well in deep snow, while still being quick enough to navigate narrow, crusty chutes. If lightweight skis never seem to give you enough stability, the Dispatch should be on your radar.
Tester Notes: Light on your feet and quick // Supportive // Smearable yet stout
Quotable: “A lightweight tour-able ski with metal! K2 says that not everyone will like the Dispatches, but if you do, you’ll love them. Can confirm.” —Matt
Overview: The Line Vision 108 may have very well pioneered this category. Hitting an impressive 1500 grams per ski, the Vision 108 offers backcountry skiers a mega playful option while being impressively damp and stable for the weight. A playful touring ski can be tough to find—most use a directional shape to maximize edge hold. The Vision balances play with a blend of ultra-light but strong materials to add stability without adding weight.
Tester Notes: Light and quick // Very playful // Felt damp and fairly stable for weight
Quotable: “Arguably the most playful touring ski on the market, and holds up surprisingly well inbounds for a playful non-chargey option.” —Jonathan
Overview: Mirroring the bigger brother, the ARV 116 JJ UL, the ARW 106 UL is an excellent alternative for someone who wants something a bit more versatile. Just as pivot-y, playful, and smooth riding as the mega-popular 116, but quicker and more stable on edge in firmer conditions. Like the Vision, the ARW maximizes fun and is ideal for folks looking for air time or making terrain a playground, as opposed to charging the fall line at max velocity.
Tester Notes: Easy to spin // Pivot-y // Super responsive // Tough to drive through chop
Quotable: “Awesome all-mountain freeride ski.” — Annabelle C
Overview: The Blaze came on the scene in 2021 as Volkl’s new resident lightweight freeride ski. Where we normally associate Volkl with constructions loaded with metal, the Blaze offers a stiff, light wood core with just titanal reinforcement underfoot. The result is an ultra-lively and snappy ride that navigates tight chutes and variable backcountry conditions just as well as it tackles groomers and choppy bumps in the resort.
Tester Notes: Quick and responsive // Really solid on edge // Surprisingly surfy
Quotable: “Really sweet touring ski for directional skiers that want something that is still quick, maneuverable, and fun.” —Jonathan
Overview: With the addition of the La Machine series of touring skis this year, the Faction Agents fall into more of a lightweight freeride category. Stiffer, more directional, and heavier than the La Machines (not by much, the 183cm weighs a pleasant 1750 grams), these skis are well-equipped to lock into firm steep lines and bash through some resort chop if needed.
Tester Notes: Solid edge hold in variable snow // Feels solid on landings // Versatile size and construction
Quotable: “The Agent works well both inbounds and out. It skis much heavier than it actually is and feels really solid carving on firm snow or pushing through wind buff.” —Alex
While 50/50, or hybrid, skis are still very much on-trend, many brands are building new skis that offer lighter weights to be friendlier on the uphill. With ski technology making leaps and bounds (check out the algal tech in the new DPS Pagoda Tours), these skis balance shocking weights with surprisingly smooth rides on the descents. It’s a good time to be a backcountry skier.
Overview: The Armada Tracer series pioneered the world of “lightweight freeride” that we see across brands today. Now, Armada turns the focus to making a true, touring-specific ski, rather than something that dabbles in both. The new Locator series is radically light—just 1450 grams per ski for the Locator 104. With adjusted shapes and construction to balance stability and that light weight, the Locator is equipped to support you on any ascent and descent you find yourself exploring.
Overview: Released alongside Elan athlete Glen Plake as his signature model, the Ripstick 104 Tour makes an impossibly light ski even lighter. The asymmetrical, left and right ski design is a natural solution to the variable conditions we find in the backcountry. Hit that couloir a little too early? The elongated effective edge on your inside edges helps grab the snow and smooth out your ride. At just around 1500 grams per ski, the up is just as much fun as the down.
Overview: Touring skis from DPS have notoriously been ultra-reliable on the up and the downhill. For this year, DPS decided to make them even better. They use new Third Rail Technology (a type of foam running down the center of the ski) and algae to help absorb vibrations and bind materials in the ski better. The result is DPS’ best-riding, and lightest, touring skis yet.
Overview: The La Machine entered the scene as a mega-fat, ultra-light, fully rockered touring ski to slash through deep backcountry powder. But not everyone wants to ski a 120+mm wide ski every day (though some here at the shop may disagree), so for 2023, Faction released a whole set of La Machines. The Mini clocks in at 99mm underfoot, making it an ideal size for shredding spring corn and slush. The full rocker shape ensures you can slash and pivot your way through the tightest lines.
Overview: For folks looking for a great all-around touring ski that prioritizes light weight, the Atomic Backland 100 is an easy choice. So many Powder7 customers mention how much they love this ski for its versatility and its strength-to-weight ratio. The Backlands run all the way down to ultra skinny ski-mo models, to the 117 for the best powder performance. The 100 takes inspiration from fast laps and steep climbs where efficiency is key, and blends it with a wider platform that performs anywhere you find yourself in the mountains.
Overview: Known as the skis that first skied off the Himalayan peak Lhotse by Hilaree Nelson and Jim Morrison, the Blizzard Zero G 95 is the gold standard in ski mountaineering. Legitimately ultra light at 1250 grams, you can tackle any uphill objective easily. Updates for 2023 improved the ski’s suspension, making the ride just a little smoother when railing through lines that are maybe a little firmer than you hoped.
Overview: The Black Crows Camox Freebird is a go-to recommendation for folks looking for a true, all-terrain touring ski with a twist. So many backcountry skis come equipped with a directional shape to provide better edge hold, but can lose some maneuverability. The Camox marries that playful shape to a sturdy construction reinforced with fiberglass and carbon. The new construction is even lighter than before—hitting just under 1500 grams per ski—making this an even better option for diving deeper into the mountains.
Overview: It’s no secret: People don’t get as excited about alpine bindings as they do about skis. So, we don’t blame you if you think the best binding is the one you already have mounted. That said, if you’re in the market for a new setup, you should spend a few minutes on Bindings 101 (you may be surprised to learn how different “binders” can be). And you should also check out the new Salomon Strive. Low profile, lots of elastic travel and adjustability, sleek look, neutral stance, simplicity—it packs a bunch of features you may not even know you love.
The hot take: The latest and greatest in regular ole alpine bindings
Overview: Ever since we started carrying ATK in 2020, we’ve been psyched on their binding collection. There are few bindings lighter than the ATK Freeraider (360 grams), and few (none?) that ski better in the weight class. With an approximate DIN up to 14, long gone are the worries of prereleases on light gear. The Freeraider also comes stock with the Freeride spacer, a “stomp pad” under your heel that provides more contact points between your boot and the binding. That equals greater responsiveness, power transfer, and stability. All things we like in our ski bindings.
The hot take: Bomber performance for the ultra light weight
Overview: Marker unveiled the Duke PT as their response to Salomon’s release of the industry-changing Shift binding. Together, the two bindings have defined the new hybrid category, also referred to as “freeride” or “50/50.” While they essentially do the same thing—provide resort-binding downhill performance and safety in a tech-friendly uphill-able package—they do it a bit differently.
The Duke PT weights in heavier than the Shift. What you get for the weight? The hardest charging skiers tend to prefer the Duke PT for its bomber construction. More unanimously than the Shift, the Duke PT packs full-scale downhill punch for aggressive freeride skiing in the backcountry or in-bounds.
The hot take: Could be the go-to for hard-charging expert skiers who need a hybrid binding
Overview: The Shift set a new standard in the ski industry, pioneering the “hybrid” category of bindings and forcing similar development in skis and boots. It remains the go-to for countless skiers who want to sample touring but only buy one setup. Same goes for plenty of skiers who want a legit 50/50 setup.
The hot take: As long as it’s properly set up, the Shift does what it says it will do for most skiers
Read our full Shift-Duke comparison here.
Overview: The brand new low volume boot from Salomon serves up a bunch of new design features that push it to the top of our pick list. A completely redesigned mold from the Salomon S/Max, the S/Pro Alpha features resigned buckles and their Custom Shell HD technology to give you a more anatomically comfortable fit out of the box and an easy customization process. A 98mm last gives even the narrowest feet a snug fit out of the box, creating a responsive connection between you and your sticks. If you’re blessed with problem feet, check out the EL version, which hosts additional bootfitter-friendly features.
The hot take: Highly customizable (especially EL version) // More anatomically comfortable fit out of the box compared to other low volume boots
Overview: One of the benefits of a hybrid style gear is the versatility. Ability to go up and downhill, all without second thought. In order to do that, the gear has to be good at both. The Tecnica Cochise has been around for years, but the most recent upgrades in 2022 transformed this boot into a real hybrid machine. The ample range of motion, a lighter weight than previous models, and easy transitions make this boot a winner for moving between the up and the down. Oh, the skiing? Yeah, it does that really, really well too.
The hot take: Variety of flex options for different skiers // Locking walk mode for stiffer spine during decent // Snug, but customizable shell
Overview: Released alongside a set of lightweight touring skis, the K2 Dispatch Pro serves as K2’s high performance touring boot, and it delivers. The BOA Tourfit Liner capitalizes on K2’s BOA specialty and provides additional performance with a snug liner that increases responsiveness. The Dispatch is all about being efficient enough to climb up big objectives, while also remaining sturdy enough to rip the down the way you want to. Weighing a feathery 1525 grams, you can fly up skin tracks or your dawn patrol morning lap unencumbered by weight or range of motion.
The hot take: Light but powerful // 60 degrees range of motion // Not quite in the hybrid category for downhill skiing, but more stable than lighter options
Overview: The Lofoten Gore-Tex Insulated Jacket is stacked with practical and functional details that perform inbounds and out-of-bounds equally. Body mapped, PrimaLoft insulation is strategically placed to maximize warmth and minimize bulk. The shell feels soft and easy to move in, rather than a stiff or bulky material you might find on other insulated ski jackets. Plus, look at all those well placed pockets!
The hot take: Warm without becoming a sauna as you work up a sweat // High quality construction
Overview: The North Face is synonymous with high level performance for any kind of activity or condition, so we’re psyched to be a TNF retailer for the 2023 season. With features that backcountry riders and The Summit Verbier Futurelight Jacket bridges the gap between backcountry and resort needs. A long cut style and roomy fit is comfortable for layering (and very stylish). Plenty of backpack-compatible pockets and ventilation allow for snack and gear storage. Not to mention, TNF’s Futurelight waterproof membrane is some of the best in the business now.
The hot take: Clean style with all the bells and whistles // High-performance Futurelight weather protection
Overview: Black Crows skis have style, we know that. So it’s only natural their wearables come out just as good looking. The kicker? It’s exceptional technical gear in its own right. The Freebird Xpore Jacket compliments their Freebird touring skis as a highly waterproof and breathable touring jacket. Xpore fabric is incredibly stretchy and easy to wear, and serves as a more sustainable waterproof membrane compared to others on the market.
The hot take: Comfy to wear // Freeride style in a touring package
Overview: A packable insulation layer? Say no more! The Himali Ascent Stretch Hoodie is loaded with PrimaLoft Gold insulation to keep you warm, but is light, packable, breathable and stretchy. Perfect layer for skiing, touring, or getting to and from. A classic option to pull from the closet throughout the winter months.
The hot take: Packable puffy // Wind and weather resistant
Overview: The classic bib vs pant debate. An argument at the shop that will never get old. The correct answer is: it depends on you. If you prefer the extra coverage, warmth and protection a bib provides, an easy choice is the Helly Hansen Legendary Insulated Bib. We love Helly Hansen and their durability and great weather protection from their high performance HellyTech Professional waterproof membrane. The Legendary Bibs also come insulated with PrimaLoft insulation, giving you greater warmth for spending the whole day on the hill.
The hot take: Warm // Great coverage // Classic style
Overview: Brand new for this season, the Patagonia Powder Town collection shows off clean lines and classic outerwear looks. Held to Patagonia’s H2NO waterproofing and breathability standard, you’ll never have to worry about what the weather is doing. We recommend the insulated version to ladies, only because us ladies tend to run a bit cooler (it’s just science).
The hot take: Highly functional and comfortable // Sustainably focused brand
Socks + Gloves
Overview: Socks are just socks, right? Doesn’t really matter which or what kind or anything like that, does it? Wrong. Some folks here at the shop ride and die by their favorite sock, and this is one of them. The Ortovox Freeride Long Socks give you slight compression and targeted cushion where you need it, which increases comfort across the board. The sock isn’t bulky though, so you can slide right into your performance-fitted ski boots without an issue.
Overview: Three-finger style gloves (sometimes lovingly referred to as “claws”) provide the best of both worlds—the warmth of a mitt, with better dexterity. The Hestra Vertical Cut CZone 3-Finger brings something a little extra to the table. Hestra uses shock absorbing foam padding on the backhand fingers to protect your mitts from crashes or bumping tree branches. The CZone waterproof membrane and G-Loft insulation cover the rest.
The hot take: Protective from weather and obstacles // Soft and supple leather
Overview: Backcountry skiing places a whole different set of demands on gloves than regular old resort skiing. The Ortovox Tour Glove checks the performance boxes—weather protection, breathability, flexibility, durability—while also adding some thoughtful details, like merino lining and extra thumb range of motion, make it tough to beat.
The hot take: Protective from weather and obstacles // Soft and supple leather
Overview: The Free Pro 2.0 is the lightest and most packable Pomoca skin we carry. I initially had reservations about it, wondering if it would prove grippy and durable enough for the demands of every day touring (Ie: I beat up on my gear). In short: It grips like you need it to, and although it is less durable than some beefier skins, it does hold up to the aforementioned demands. Pair that with the ease-of-use of Pomoca’s glue plus all the reasons you want lightweight/packable skins that glide well, and you see why the pink ones win. —Matt
The hot take: Easy to use // Efficient
Overview: A lot of folks at the shop rave about Pomoca skins (and for good reason), but I love an underdog. I’ve quickly become a Contour Convert and am completely obsessed. The glue sticks snugly to the skis while skinning, but stays very easy to pull off when you go to transition. I prefer to stay clicked into my bindings while transitioning, and these are by far the easiest skins to pull off while trying to balance on one ski. As for the actual skinning? I get pretty good glide on flats and stellar stickiness on steeps and icy snow. —Alex
The hot take: User friendly // Easily cleaned with Contour cleaning wipes
Overview: The Smith Vantage MIPS packs in sweet safety tech, ranging from MIPS to hybrid shell construction and Zonal Koroyd coverage. This helmet allows you to not have to worry about sending it. Add in comfort features like 21 adjustable vents over two zones, an adjustable 360 BOA fit system, and anti-microbial liners, and this helmet will keep you ripping from first chair to last lap. Plus, 2022-23 models feature some sweet new colors.
The hot take: MIPS protection // Excellent ventilation
Overview: A go-to for fit and protection at an excellent price point. This helmet features MIPS as a standard feature, in-mold multi shell construction, and optimized impact protection zones. Easy to fit with a washable liner, it’ll keep your kid warm, safe, and stylish (just look at those colorways!).
The hot take: MIPS protection // Cool designs your kids will be excited to wear
Overview: Classic style with some of the best colorways out there, very fit-friendly with great coverage — and with a smooth locking system to easily swap between the high-light and (bonus included) low light lenses. These goggles give you the right lens option for the whole season.
The hot take: Easy lens swapping // Good coverage for maximum weather protection