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Jan

7

All Mountain Skis

Without question the most versatile skis on the market.

Without question the most versatile skis on the market, our All Mountain category features mid-fat skis with waist widths that typically range from 90 millimeters to just over 100 millimeters. Why do these skis matter? If the conditions are right, they’re just skinny enough to make carved turns on groomed packed snow fun for the entire day, but they’re still chubby enough to float skiers in all but the biggest inbounds powder days, too. Look here if you only plan to buy one pair of skis and not build out an entire quiver. All Mountain skis excel at 50 percent on-trail and 50 percent off-trail skiing. 

 

1) Rossignol Black Ops 98  Dimensions: redacted | MSRP: $800

Here’s a conundrum. We know that skis featuring materials like flax, basalt, Koroyd, and graphene often ski more playfully due to the weight savings, but traditional layups made from vertically laminated wood cores sandwiched by metal also rip. That’s more evidence that weight savings isn’t everything. Case in point: Rossi’s Black Ops 98 which last year was only available to shop employees. Fittingly with a ski labeled “Black Ops,” much of the specs have been redacted. But we do know it’s made of wood and metal. We also know it outperformed every ski in our All Mountain test at Steamboat. It’s hardy, but playful, the edgehold is bomber, and it sure didn’t ski heavy. It also defines the category seeing as it’s equally suited to hard groomed snow and anything we could find off-trail, too. “It’s versatile because it’s simple,” said a tester. “The mass and the power of the ski are confidence-inspiring, but it’s no beast. The turn shape and flex pattern are open to many skiing styles.” Swami Gripe: The graphics aren’t for everybody. Swami Like: “Best graphics I’ve ever seen,” said a tester that works in a shop.

 

2) Völkl M5 Mantra | Dimensions: 134/96/117 | MSRP: $825

Last year the M5 won this category for its versatility. This year, the M5 remains the most versatile ski in the test. It carves as well as most of the frontside skis we tested, but at 96mm underfoot it’s plenty floaty for most off-trail skiing. At Steamboat, it was the ideal ski for the terrain and the conditions. But if you like to carve as much as you like to slash it can work on many hills. The performance comes from the construction, which Völkl calls Titanal Frame. Here a sheet of titanium alloy is CNC machined so that the metal resides over the perimeters of the ski in the forebody and behind the bindings. When balanced with just enough rocker and a sidecut that—at 21.2 meters in the 184—isn’t too tight, you get a ski that transitions from groomers to chalky steeps to moderate powder days with little effort. “Does exactly what you want when you want,” said a tester. Swami Gripe: You remember it’s lightweight when you hit glazed bumps. Swami Like: The turn radius isn’t set in stone, the M5 arcs short-swing turns too.  

 

3) Dynastar Menace 98 | Dimensions: 132/98/120 | MSRP: $600

Here’s what’s listed under “Technologies” for the Menace in the catalogue: “wood,” “titanal,” “full sidewalls.” Blessed be the French. Right now the trend of building simple wood core and metal skis is limited to sister companies Rossignol and Dynastar, and stalwarts like Stöckli and Kästle, but we hope to see it continue. The Menace offers a predictable flex; it’s as stable as a race ski, but energized and easy to turn at the same time. And oh yeah, it’s $250 cheaper than most All Mountain skis. The price and performance serve as testament that you don’t need expensive exotic materials to compete. It doesn’t hurt that the wood and metal Menace is fully powered up when you drive it hard, and easy skiing and forgiving when you back off. “I love this ski,” said a tester. “It’s playful but damp, quick but able to rip GS turns, too.” Swami Gripe: It can feel a little sleepy until you bring it up to speed. Swami Like: “I hated the graphic and almost tried to make it ski poorly, but I just couldn’t,” said a tester. “It was the best ski in the test for me.”

 

4) Stöckli Stormrider 95 | Dimensions: 131/95/123 | MSRP: $1,099 

Yes, it’s spendy, but with the Stormrider, you’re essentially getting the same quality build that World Cup athletes get. We also know from our shop testers that Stöckli skis come out of the wrapper ready to shred, which isn’t always the case. Don’t expect a lot of materials talk here either: These are wood and metal skis built with more institutional knowledge than exotic substance. As you might expect from a ski with this type of heritage, the Stormrider 95 was our highest scoring ski in terms of stability. “There is no speed limit,” said a tester. “It bashes through.” That’s even more startling since the company only brought a 175cm to the test. But the Stöckli earned its high marks because it isn’t a beast to handle off-trail. In fact, it’s easy flexing and tracks consistently on all snow surfaces. If you like to detonate mild harbor chop in bowls and sastrugi and sun cups up in the alpine, look here first. Swami Gripe: It’s not as floaty and surfy as most of the skis in this category. Swami Like: Even our biggest and fastest skier couldn’t outgun it.

 

5) Fischer Ranger 99 | Dimensions: 130/97/121 | MSRP: $699

Fischer markets the Ranger 99 as part of its “freeride” collection, which in this case means you could ski it inbounds and out. We thought about moving it to our Crossover category for that reason, but just because at 1,950 grams, it’s relatively lightweight, and the Carbon Nose cuts swingweight further, doesn’t mean the Rangers don’t rip inbounds. Tip them on edge and the 18-meter turn radius locks you into a precise turn on groomers. Take them off-trail, and that light and rockered feel makes for easy slash turns. Milled and shaped titanium in the layup—it’s a new treatment this year—boosts the stability and energy of this versatile ski. “Shit, another great ski,” said a tester. “Super buttery turn initiation on-trail or off, but unwavering edgehold and stability when you’re hauling. I was surprised how well a ski that carves as well as this one does handles off-trail, but it was nimble as hell.” Swami Gripe: The extra metal this year makes them a little sluggish at slower speeds. Swami Like: We’ll always trade that for higher performance at shredding speeds. 

 

6) Liberty Evolv100 | Dimensions: 139/100/122 | MSRP: $850

The first time we tried Liberty’s VMT technology in a frontside ski we pleaded with them to incorporate the design, which places metal vertically between laminates of bamboo, into their all mountain skis. Naturally, the quick to react U.S. company (they’re out of Colorado) did exactly that. It suddenly made the brand—which we’ve featured in the past for their powder skis—competitive. The new Evolv100 carves a clean turn on groomers. It’s also malleable off-trail. “Really fun to rip big turns on,” said an East Coaster race coach. “I wasn’t expecting a beefed up Liberty.” Another said: “Despite the power you can butter them around in the bumps and dump speed on steeper terrain.” Rossignol developed a similar method of placing material vertically recently and both brands deliver a similar feel. It’s as if the skis come more alive the deeper you flex them. Swami Gripe: The Evolv features Liberty’s hammer rocker which reaches 15 percent down from the tip. It produces a bit of tip flutter. Swami Like: “Great fore/aft balance,” said a tester. “You can pull a variety of turn shapes out of it.”     

 

7) Atomic Vantage 97 Ti | Dimensions: 131.5/97/120.5 | MSRP: $850

Atomic’s silky yet powerful Vantage 97 Ti is built with the Austrian brand’s new “Prolite” construction, which sheds serious grams. With the Vantage 97, instead of full sheets of metal to boost dampening, the Austrians produced a complex material weave complete with titanium alloy called Titanium Tank Mesh. Rebound and liveliness comes via an “energy backbone” that acts like a stringer, boosting energy return. On the hill, that translates to a ski that seeks out the fall line, whether you’re carving short-swing turns on corduroy or slinking through bumps. The light and lively feel adds to that quick, edge-to-edge response. “These skis just dive into fall line turns and love to be skied dynamically,” said a former Olympian. Our testers also praised the Vantage 97 Ti for its unwavering edgehold, which is pretty surprising for a ski with such a lightweight feel. Swami Gripe: At high speeds, lightweight skis like these can feel drifty at times. You need to actively edge the 97s to lock them in. Swami Like: “A ski this easy to ski shouldn’t have this much edgehold,” said a tester, “but the 97 does.” 

 

8) Head Kore 99 | Dimensions: 134/99/120 | MSRP: $800

We believe that for every skier there’s a ski, and if you like to cruise more than you like to charge, the Kore 99 might be for you. “Kore” stands for Koroyd, that honeycomb polymer you typically see in ski tips and bike helmets. Here it’s incorporated into the heart of the ski to absorb chatter and smooth out the ride. Judging by our test cards it does that—possibly without equal. “This is the dampest and easiest skiing 99mm waisted ski I’ve ever tried,” said a tester. The edgehold is also unwavering, but you can break the ski out of a turn with nary a nudge. And it’s plenty floaty for at least 85 percent of ski days outside of Utah. We favored it on open slopes where you can allow the contouring effects of the 99 to fully engage the edges—it hugs the snow without bucking. Swami Gripe: The Kore 99 can feel a little sluggish when you’re pushing it into fall line turns in jumbled terrain. Swami Like: “This Head is so balanced that it’s impossible to miss the sweet spot,” said a tester. “That silky smooth ride makes you want to cruise.”   

 

9) Elan Black Edition Ripstick 96 | Dimensions: 134/96/113 | MSRP: $1,000

The Black Edition is the souped-up version of Elan’s do it all Ripstick 96. This model comes with more carbon in the layup, which adds zippy energy return when you want it. The harder you bend the ski into turns, the more the ski comes alive. Not that it’s hard to ski, though: Elan’s “Amphibio” profile adds rocker to the outside edges of the ski allowing it to transition effortlessly from turn to turn. Meanwhile the inside edges, which are less rockered, offer more effective contact, letting you power through. The results can feel like autopilot—albeit a dynamic autopilot. “Best on-trail performance in the category,” said a tester. Better still? You can jump on ’em for short-swings or let them run in big sweeping arcs. Swami Gripe: Like many modern lighter weight skis, it’s stable when the sidecut is engaged, but can get flighty when you run straight. Swami Like: It’s an everyday western tool that most of our testers would ski most of the time. “These skis live up to their name and rip,” said a tester. “But they’re effortless to shut down, too.” 

 

10) Kästle FX 96 HP | Dimensions: 133/96/119 | MSRP: $1,099

The model name sounds familiar, but the FX 96 HP is a new animal this year. It starts at the core of the ski, which incorporates both a traditional vertically laminated wood core-on the perimeters, and a new spin on a torsion box construction—fiberglass and carbon fiber forming a sleeve around vertically laminated wood—in the heart of the core. Torsion box construction was once revered for its crisp feel. Traditional vertical laminates are loved for their damp and solid ride properties. Not surprisingly, the hybrid FX 96 HP delivers both characteristics. On the test hill in Steamboat, the new 96 produced a more responsive and energized ride than Kästles have historically. “It’s a carving machine disguised as an all mountain ski,” said a tester. “So much quicker edge-to-edge than last year’s version.” Look here if you like bomber stability, but don’t want to trade liveliness for it. Swami Gripe: We found the new ski to be a bit more prone to deflection; the downside of a livelier ride. Swami Like: It’s unquestionably easier to ski. Meaning it will be loved by more than just pro athletes.   

 

11) Nordica Enforcer 100 | Dimensions: 133/100/121 | MSRP: $800

This is not a new ski, it’s been around for years now. But it’s a testament to just how predictable, stable, and balanced the Enforcer 100 is that it’s still earning an Editor’s Choice Award all this time later. Just don’t confuse it with the all new Enforcer 104. Both skis share the Enforcer feel—that blunt nose and rocker profile is unmistakable—but where the 104 is surfy and playful, the 100 is directional and bashing. That strength makes up for all sorts of pilot error and it lets the ski track exceedingly well—especially when you’re making super-G turns over small bumps in bowls. Two sheets of metal and ABS in the tips adds to the ultra-resilient ride quality. Oh, and we’ve found the Enforcer line to be quite durable. One of our testers has skied a set of the 100 prototypes for five seasons and although he’s not shy about stomping on rocks they’re still shredding with no major dents or cracks. Swami Gripe: Don’t look here if you’re looking for a lightweight and slashy ride. The Enforcer 100 must enforce. Swami Like: It smoothes out late afternoon harbor chop like no ski in the category. 

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