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Jan

7

Women’s All Mountain Powder

Skis that typically feature waist widths between 100 millimeters and 110 millimeters underfoot.

 

1) Nordica Santa Ana 110 | Dimensions: 139/110/128 | MSRP: $900

The Santa Ana features many of the same construction techniques as the unisex Enforcer 104, but because it’s six millimeters fatter and sports more rocker in the tip and tail, the 110 is ideal for big storms, untracked powder, and that dream snowcat skiing trip. Let’s be clear: a 110-millimeter wide (underfoot) ski designed for women is very much a pure powder tool. Few women would need a bigger ski to float even in the deepest of snow. But the Santa Ana is not just a perfect-day ski either. You can ski it inbounds in between storms as long as there’s soft snow around. Weight savings are key to making skis with this much girth enjoyable, so a featherweight carbon chassis is embedded in an already lightweight balsa wood core to give it a “velvety ride,” according to one woman tester. Smearability—the ability to butter turns instead of carving all the time—comes courtesy of the high rise rocker in the tip and tail. Swami Gripe: Save it for days with six inches of fresh or more. Swami Like:  “Off-trail it’s surprisingly maneuverable for a ski of its size,” said a tester. 

 

2) Rossignol Soul 7 HD W | Dimensions: 136/104/126 | MSRP: $850

Take the Soul 7s out on a storm day or in pursuit of old pow in the trees … they excel at both. They also carve better than most people think. To add beef to its edge grip, Rossignol replaced heavier metals with a techy sounding carbon matrix sheet to reinforce the wood core. The sheet gobbles up chatter for a damper ride than the original Souls. Anyone from an intermediate to an expert can handle it. One woman tester said that the Soul 7 smoothes out turbulence like a 777, but has the agility of a fighter jet. Ample “Freeride” rocker in the tip and tail adds liftoff over billowy pillows while leaving stragglers choking on your rooster tail. Even with the 106-millimeter underfoot width, our testers’ feedback would have you think they were riding much narrower skis. “Zippy, playful, easy to maneuver through bumps and tight spaces, smeary, and surfy” was one such comment.  Swami Gripe: The HD skis are for sure more powerful, but they might not be quite as fun. Swami Like: Experts appreciate the fun ride qualities when the Soul 7s are brought up to speed. 

 

3) Elan Ripstick 102 W | Dimensions: 143/102/120 | MSRP: $800

Skis over 102 millimeters underfoot can get heavy real quick if they’re built like traditional skis with a full wood core and two sheets of metal. Elan doesn’t build its All Mountain skis traditionally. Here, the full-length wood core is milled out in the shovel and the wood is replaced with “Vapor Tip Inserts” that cut down on overall weight, but more importantly, swing weight. Instead of metal reinforcement, pencil-width carbon fiber tubes liven up the power zone. Incredibly, a 170 centimeter length only weighs 1,730 grams—backcountry light in our opinion. But this Elan doesn’t ski like a flyweight. “The edge control and straight-line stability is impressive for a ski that’s this easy to handle,” said a tester. If you read the other Elan reviews on these pages you also know about Amphibio, the Slovenian brand’s unique take on rocker that puts more of it on the outside edges to create a loose feel, and less of it on the inside edges for extra edging power. Swami Gripe: At high speeds you need to keep them on edge. Swami Like: “Playful and spunky, but easy to control,” said a tester.

 

4) Blizzard Sheeva 10 | Dimensions: 133/102/122.5 | MSRP: $720

The Sheeva 10 is the cousin to the Rustler 10, but the dimensions, rocker profile, materials, and flex pattern are all designed for and by women to produce a women’s specific ride quality. The Sheevas are fun and playful skis that surf powder while still offering the powerful and stable characteristics that skiers turn to Blizzard for. “Lively pull across the hill and an energized pop to the turn when you feel like carving,” said a tester. “But it floats and smears too.” Credit for that duality rests with what Blizzard calls Dynamic Release Technology (forgive them, they’re Austrians) which is jargon for a shaped titanium alloy sheet that tapers as it extends toward the tip and tail. The effect is that the shovel and tail can twist subtly, easing transitions and letting the skier butter their way out of trouble. Swami Gripe: They don’t rocket you from turn to turn on groomers. Swami Like: “Hot damn! Joyful and playful off-trail in soft snow, but back on-trail you can carve aggressively. There’s so much accessible energy that it made me feel like me at my best.”

 

5) Head Kore 99 W | Dimensions: 131/97/118 | MSRP: $800

“Stable,” “damp,” and “unwaveringly strong,” were a few of the ways our testers described the Kore 99 W. That’s remarkable for a ski that features no metal in it except the edges and weighs less than 1,800 grams. That level of performance from a lightweight ski rests with the materials Head spec’d to build it. Instead of heavy metal, here there’s Koroyd, a honeycomb polymer inlaid into the core of the ski to eat chatter and save still more weight. Instead of just relying on heavy fiberglass to back the core, Head lightened the load of the ski by incorporating Graphene, the lightest and strongest material yet discovered. On the hill that all translates to an unflinchingly confident ride our testers described repeatedly in their test cards. Swami Gripe: Look to the 99 W if you describe yourself as more of a cruisier than a dynamo. It can feel a little sleepy in short-swing turns. Swami Like: “It loves medium to large turns, but it will make any turn shape at any speed,” said a tester. “And there’s a ton of stability at high speeds.” 

 

6) Völkl Secret 102 | Dimensions: 140/102/123 | MSRP: $850

It’s borderline imperceptible to the untrained eye, but Völkl’s new Secret line features a 3D radius sidecut. How’s that work? When you’re skiing more upright on steeper terrain or in powder you tend to rely more on the belly of the sidecut to eke out turns. So Völkl gave that zone a tighter radius cut. Contrariwise, when you’re laying a ski way over on a groomer or in a chalky bowl you want a longer turn radius for those big sweeping GS and super-G turns, so Völkl put a longer radius sidecut in the tip and tail. The design also works with the way that rocker engages more deeply the more you tip the ski on edge. The result, when paired with the company’s new lightweight but powerful construction, is extreme versatility. “The Secrets listen to you and follow your agenda,” said a tester. We also found that they offered a top-notch balance of floatation and precision handling. Swami Gripe: Because they’re lightweight, they don’t detonate crud like some skis. Swami Like: “You don’t have to waste any time figuring out how to ski them,” said a tester. “The balanced flex and familiar turn shapes feel like an extension of your skiing self.”  

 

7) Fischer My Ranger 102 FR | Dimensions:135/101/125 | MSRP: $700

To minimize weight in the My Ranger 102 FR, Fischer built the ski around its time-tested Air Tec TI wood core, which features channels of air between traditional vertically laminated wood. That starting point offers the predictability and quiet ride of wood minus some of the mass. But to be clear, this is no noodle of a lightweight ski. The “TI” in the name stands for titanium alloy, and in the 102, a full sheet of it gobbles up chatter. One of our testers who is also a pro instructor said, “This ski exudes confidence the more you put the hammer down.” A subtle twin-tip design adds a playful finish to the turn and makes slashing turns or dumping speed easier to pull off, and gentler for aspiring powder skiers. At 1,850 grams, it’s only 200 grams heavier than a dedicated touring ski of this girth. Swami Gripe: It wants to get up to speed before it turns. Swami Like: “It skis like a super-sized carver wrapped in a powder ski body,” said a tester.  

 

8) Salomon QST Stella | Dimensions: 136/106/122 | MSRP: $900

Skis that feature lightweight poplar cores backed with carbon fiber instead of metal tend to be skittish at high speeds. That’s not the case with the QST Stella. Salomon placed cork “damplifiers” in the tips of the QST line, a natural and renewable material they say is three times more vibration absorbent than Koroyd. The result is a silky smooth ride that eats up chatter. “Forgiving yet strong; hard-charging but supple,” said a tester. Look here if you like the damp ride qualities of ski with metal in it, but don’t want to get weighed down when you’re hiking for turns or even just letting the skis dangle on the chairlift. We know many a woman that has mounted the Stella 106s with touring bindings too. “They sluff easily in the backcountry, but you can rail big turns on them inbounds,” said a smaller tester that charges. Swami Gripe: We’d like a little more energy and rebound out of a 106. For as light as it is, it can feel a little too quiet at slower speeds. Swami Like: That silky and supple ride quality is confidence inspiring. 

 

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

Our women tested the same unisex Storm Rider 105 as the men did and found similar attributes: The 105 is the most stable ski in the test; it’s surprisingly nimble and supple for such a burly ski, and it can be tough to navigate through tight spaces at slower speeds. So who should buy it? It’s a true expert’s ski, but here we’re talking about experts with technical backgrounds that know how to bend a ski from tip-to-tail, loading it up with energy and then waiting for the pop in transitions. Oh, and it’s best if there aren’t any obstacles in front of you. This skis loves wide open terrain. It’s decidedly not a slasher’s ski of choice. “Super stable,” said a tester. “It holds a turn at high speeds on steep slopes and cruises over and through chopped-up snow.” Swami Gripe: It’s not a critique: The 105 is too powerful for skiers that pivot instead of carve. Swami Like: “Tenacious edge-hold, strong even flex with nice energy return, and crud busting power. Ex racers and skilled carvers that want a fat ski should look here.”

 

10) Kästle FX 96 W | Dimensions: 133/96/119 | MSRP: $850

It was the skinniest and shortest ski submitted to our All Mountain Powder test, and it clearly lacks the girth needed for big storm days, but if you’re looking for a ski that blurs the line between All Mountain and AMP the new FX 96 W might be worth a test drive. Beneath the hood, it’s pure Kästle, with metal and wood comprising much of the story. But as with the rest of the FX line, the new model is far more responsive and approachable. Not surprisingly, given that they brought a short length, our smaller women testers gave it the best reviews, praising its nimble feel off-trail and its stability back on. Credit for that goes to the Austrian company’s new construction method which blends a torsion box (a sleeve of fiber around the innermost part of the core) with a traditional laminate build (vertically laminated wood at the perimeter). Swami Gripe: This is a lightweight’s powder ski or an East Coast powder ski. It won’t float like a fatter ski. Swami Like: “Classic Kästle, goes fast and carves hard, but it’s also playful in the bumps,” said a tester.    

 

11) Armada Trace 108 | Dimensions: 133/108/125.5 | MSRP: $875

The lightest weight ski in the category, Armada’s Trace 108 is positioned as both a backcountry and resort powder ski. Unless you’re only looking for a pure powder ski for storm days, though, we’d suggest these get employed as your fat touring skis. There’s tons of rocker up front, and while Armada claims a 17-meter turn radius on the 164, the ski doesn’t make much of a carved turn on hardpack. It does however pop to the surface of new snow like nothing else in the test, and once it’s up there you can pivot them around at will. “It’s a forgiving powder ski with a soft flex that’s ideal for someone that needs extra floatation,” said a tester. To explain that comment more: If you’re new to powder skiing, then extra float makes the experience easier. The Trace doesn’t live in the powder so much as it lives on top of it. Swami Gripe: As you might expect from a specialty ski, it didn’t fare well in the “Hard Snow Pleasure” ranking. Swami Like: “Poppy, floaty, and full of energy off-trail,” said a tester. 

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