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Jan

7

All Mountain Powder

Powder skis typically feature waist widths between 100 millimeters and 110 millimeters underfoot.

All Mountain Powder skis typically feature waist widths between 100 millimeters and 110 millimeters underfoot. That amount of plump allows a ski to float in the type of real-world conditions we find at ski resorts, where new snow falls on top of a solid base. Yes, brands sell fatter skis, but those behemoths are better off in the bottomless backcountry snow you find on heli-ski and snowcat trips. Inbounds, All Mountain Powder skis are just as fun, and you can carve elongated turns on firmer snow 30 percent of the time too. 

 

1) Nordica Enforcer 104 Free Dimensions: 134/104/124 | MSRP: $850

Technically, the brand new Enforcer 104 Free is only four millimeters wider than Nordica’s much loved Enforcer 100—a negligible difference on paper and often on snow. But there’s way more to the new Enforcer 104 than the width. Typically with skis of this class, the buyer is forced to choose between burly planks that excel on firm snow or slashy models that excel off-trail in powder. In terms of skiing styles, versatility is hard to come by. But that’s not the case with this Enforcer. To give the 104 a lighter and looser feel, Nordica added wood to the tip and tail. That wood (balsa) displaces the heavier ABS plastic Nordica traditionally employed to damp vibration. On snow, the skis are more nimble entering and exiting turns than any Enforcer to date. The reduced swingweight made it markedly easier to pivot. Still, the heart of the 104 is Nordica: hardwood sandwiched by two sheets of metal. Swami Gripe: We have no complaints. Swami Like: In tight trees or chopped up mank, the ski is easy to smear. “This ski rips everything,” said a tester. “I’d ski it almost every day in Utah, Tahoe, or Colorado.” 

 

 

2) Salomon QST 106 | Dimensions: 137/106/123 | MSRP: $900

Nordica won the category by taking a burly line of skis and making it more playful. Salomon earned runner-up status by taking a playful ski and making it subtly more powerful. Salomon had the bigger challenge. The previous deft QST 106 was much loved by resort powder skiers who hunt for old snow in hard-to-reach places. They relished the 106’s effortless turn initiation in all snow conditions and the atypical Salomon feel that’s both silky and damp. In the quest for more power and stability, other brands have deadened such playful skis by adding too much material. Not so with the QST. Infusions of carbon, flax, and basalt (it acts like vibration-eating metal sans the weight penalty), plus a unique application of cork in the tips, amped the straightline stability without sacrificing that playfulness. If you’re more of a slasher than a charger, but still want the ability to charge on demand, then look here first. Swami Gripe: We’d be OK with a bit more beef. Swami Like: Even our biggest and fastest off-trail tester was impressed: “Great feel in the powder,” he said. “It’s pivoty and floaty, but now it’s stout enough to stand on when you’re really hauling.” 

 

3) Blizzard Rustler 10 | Dimensions: 133.5/104/125.5 | MSRP: $840

The staple of Blizzard’s freeride focused Rustler line, the Rustler 10 sports more rocker and a looser, more playful feel than the brand’s all mountain-minded Cochise or Bonafide. That benefits a slashing skiing style, where you’re more likely to smear powder turns than drive the tails through the end of the turn. That playfulness is augmented by a unique design that pulls material (metal) from the perimeter of the ski in the forebody and tail, for that buttery sensation, while still offering ample power. They’re Blizzards after all: designed for experts that push their skis. “They’re light, quick, and surfy,” said a tester, “but there’s a deceiving amount of power here, too.” Swami Gripe: If you find yourself skiing groomers all day you might be wishing for more tail contact. Ample rocker here. Swami Like: One of the most fun All Mountain Powder skis on the market. It’s nearly as versatile as the Enforcer 104. “This is truly a do-everything ski. It has the floatation and nimble agility for slashing turns on a powder day, but because it’s a Blizzard it charges on hard snow too.” 

 

     

4) Fischer Ranger 107 TI | Dimensions: 139/107/131 | MSRP: $750

We’ve been longtime fans of the Ranger line. The brand’s Carbon Nose—to cut swingweight— skis are easy to sluff turn and they track predictably. The weight savings also made them a pleasure to shoulder for a hike. But we always wanted more stability. And that’s what Fischer delivered in the updated 107 TI. They did that by adding metal and a little bit of weight. The Ranger 107 is still a fun and surfy ski, but now you can charge on it without that flighty feel you get from skis that are too lightweight. “I just ripped untracked powder in the trees and then arced some big turns on hard snow at full speed,” said a tester, “and the 107 excelled at both. It’s one of the most versatile skis in the category for sure. You could ski it in between storms, too.” Swami Gripe: Our ultra heavyweights thought it was a touch soft. Swami Like: “Fischer is back,” said a tester who had the Ranger as his top pick. “The blend of power, dampness, floatation, and playfulness is world-class.”   

 

5) Elan Black Edition Ripstick 106 | Dimensions: 140/106/122 | MSRP: $1,050

This is a stacked category. As evidence, the Ripstck 106 Black Edition. It was perhaps the easiest ski to ski among the All Mountain Powder skis. The sweet spot is impossible to miss. And it’s also incredibly forgiving thanks to Elan’s Amphibio rocker design that puts more rocker on the outside edges for a surfier feel. The Riptsick is also full of life and skis more dynamically and energized the harder you push it. Credit for that goes to the extra carbon in the Black Edition. “They’re nimble and silky smooth at slow speeds,” said a tester, “but on smooth groomed snow or packed pow you can charge.” Another tester said “you don’t have to think about what the skis are doing, they’re like a natural extension of your body.” At 1,830 grams for the pair, they’re also quite lightweight, but of all the lightweight skis they seem to hug and contour the terrain better than the rest. Swami Gripe: Avoid rocks. Dent an inside edge and you won’t be able to swap skis because of the asymmetrical design. Swami Like: We’d run these as backcountry powder skis, too.  

 

 

6) Völkl Mantra 102 | Dimensions: 140/102/123 | MSRP: $825

A marvel of a ski, the brand new Mantra 102 has a frame of titanium alloy just beneath the top sheet, adding edging power where you need it most, while carbon tips reduce the overall weight. That layup translates to a ski that hooks up and holds on when you’re tipping it over on hardpack at any speed, but is also loose, surfy, and playful when you head off-trail in search of soft snow. “Amazing grip on icy morning groomers, but you can butter them into and out of turns all day long too,” said one tester (who’s also a former Olympian). Because it carves so well but can handle a powder day, look here if you ski out West and like arcing turns on groomers, but don’t want a second pair of skis for those storm days. Swami Gripe: Völkl’s titanal frame design depends on a fair bit of resin to pull off. As a result, the 102 has a glassy feel. Some people like that crisp sensation; others do not. Swami Like: The turn shape is both variable and natural on-trail or off.   

 

7) Rossignol Soul 7 HD | Dimensions: 136/106/126 | MSRP: $850

Just because all the skis we featured in this category are top performers doesn’t mean they’re created equal. Some favor stability (Stöckli and Head), and others favor playfulness—none more so than the Soul 7, a ski that we once dubbed the best tree skiing tool of all time. We stand by that claim. This deeply rockered and tapered ski revolutionized powder skiing by focusing on making the best days of the year even better. In boot-top snow or deeper it feels like you’re surfing more than carving. “The Soul 7 would probably still be a podium contender in the category if not for excellence fatigue on the part of testers,” said our test director. “If we judged on pure fun factor it could win every time.” Don’t pigeonhole it as just an expert slasher’s ski though. Pretty much any level of skier can handle it. And because Rossi beefed it up a few years back (the HD part) it’s far more damp, stable, and edgeable than the original. Swami Gripe: They should make a pro-model with titanium alloy in it. Swami Like: We’ve never met anyone who had buyer’s remorse about the Soul 7.   

 

8) Kästle FX 106 HP | Dimensions: 137/106/125 | MSRP: $1,099

If you’ve been put off by Kästles in the past because of their burly, pro-model, reputation, it’s time to give them another look. The Austrian company just launched a slew of new models that, because they incorporate a torsion box in the center of the core, shave weight, add pop, and widen the target audience. A torsion box is a sleeve of material as opposed to a sheet in a laminate. The technique is known to bring a crisp feel. “This is the easiest skiing Kästle I’ve ever skied,” said a tester who was bucked around by the brand in the past. “I wasn’t expecting this level of responsiveness.” But don’t mistake the new feel for flightiness: The new design still incorporates traditional vertically laminated hardwood near the edges for powerful carving. And the HP layup still features two sheets of metal. Swami Gripe: Our biggest testers found the new design was less stable at top speeds. Swami Like: Most of our smaller and mid-sized testers were won over by the skiability of the new FX 106. You don’t have to ski fast on it all the time.   

 

9) Stöckli Storm Rider 105 | Dimensions: 137/105/130 | MSRP: $1,199

The Storm Rider and Rossi’s Soul 7 are both kick-ass All Mountain Powder skis, but they live on opposite sides of the spectrum. Whereas the Soul 7 is made for pivoty surf turns, the Storm Rider is built for directional charging. It’s a style of skiing preferred by those with technical backgrounds that tend to ski through a ski from tip-to-tail and put some arcs in their arcs. “If there was such a thing as a race carver powder ski this would be it,” said a tester. “It absolutely smashes through harbor chop and cut up crud,” said another. But just because it’s burly when you want it to be, don’t stereotype the Storm Rider as an old school Big Mountain ski. You can ski them slow and slink them through tight terrain, too. They just respond better to skilled input. Swami Gripe: It didn’t earn high scores for a criteria we call “sluffability.” Swami Like: Our biggest tester just gushed over them: “You can rail turns on groomers, and do the same thing off-trail,” he said. “The harder you drive them the more dynamic they feel.” 

 

10) Head Kore 105 | Dimensions: 135/105/125 | MSRP: $875

If you like damp skis that soak up chatter, but don’t like heavy skis tugging at your knees on the chairlift, then the Kore 105 might be your ride. Head claims it’s the lightest resort powder ski of this width of all time (the 180 is 1,847 grams). It’s not, of course, the Elan on these pages is 17 grams lighter in a 181. But we will say it’s the most damp ski of this weight class that we’ve ever tried. It’s also effortless to ski thanks to a sweet spot that seems to extend the length of the ski, and a balanced flex that accommodates multiple stances from multiple skier types. Head was able to achieve those often contradictory properties (lightweight but damp) by foregoing sheets of metal in favor of Koroyd, a honeycomb polymer that they inlay into the core to stop vibration. The result is ideal for brainless cruising. Swami Gripe: Metal brings dampening, but also life to a ski by adding energetic rebound. The Kore (no metal) can feel a little too quiet. Swami Like: Of all the lightweight skis we’ve tested, the Kore is the least likely to get deflected.   

 

11) Dynastar Legend 106 | Dimensions: 139/106/123 | MSRP: $850

With the Legend line of skis, Dynastar was looking to blur the lines between “Freeride” (our All Mountain Powder category) and All Mountain skiing. Judging simply on the edging power of this 106 millimeter waisted ski, they did that. That edgehold, which is unlike anything on the market thanks to a unique design that allows material behind the sidewall to shear as the ski flexes, and in turn allows the edges to contour the terrain, is frankly otherworldly. That type of hold—it’s supple not rigid—boosts your confidence tremendously on ice at high speeds. In fresh powder on top of last night’s icy corduroy we’d grab the Legends every time. “There’s so much control in the belly of the turn that it makes you ski faster,” said a shop guy from back East. Swami Gripe: They like pivoting more than they like carving, which is weird for a ski with this much edgehold. There’s a learning curve here. It can be hard to find the sweet spot for an arced turn. Swami Like: It competes with some of the most playful and slashy skis in the test. 

 

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