Swami Says: It's a balance of powder floatation and hard-snow guts that you seeketh.
Line Prophet 90
With a wood-grain top sheet printed with landscape art reminiscent of Chinese scrolls, the Prophet 90 may just be the nicest- looking ski on the market. It's also one of the most versatile: The 90mm waist is slender enough to snake through the bumps and squirrel through the trees, but there's enough girth for big resort storms, too. Swami Gripe: The twin-tip robs a little power from the end of the turn. Swami Like: The price, and the fact that the Prophet's wood core delivers a damp and silky ride even at full speed on hardpack. Like Swami, the Prophet carves a real turn. Dimensions: 125-90-113; $549; lineskis.com
Elan 888 ALU
Spend a little bit more time ripping groomers than hunting for powder scraps? The 888 ALU has the sidecut and vertical sidewalls you need to arc big cruiser turns all day long. But because it's fat enough, and unencumbered by complicated binding systems (which really weigh all-mountain skis down), you can run them in back bowls and tight chutes, too. Just don't try to force them into short turns—they like speed. Swami Gripe: Tough to mix up the turn shape—they lock into medium arcs. ·Swami Like: A natural (round) flex pattern means you don't have to learn how to turn 'em. They feel intuitive. Dimensions: 128-88-108; $750; elanskis.com
♀ Salomon Lady
A rare all-mountain women's ski that isn't just a frontside carver with pink graphics, the Lady actually handles a variety of pistes (whatever those are). A full wood core offers a damp and shock- absorbing ride on groomers, and thanks to a small amount of tip rocker (it only runs 21 centimeters down the shovel) you can pivot the ski effortlessly in bumps and junk snow, float through powder, and arc turns on corduroy with hardly a whiff of tip pressure. The takeaway: You won't find yourself wishing you were on a different pair of skis—unless you decide to spend the afternoon in a race course or skiing waist-deep cement. (Didn't think so.) Swami Gripe: It's pink and has little cherub graphics. Swami Like: Little pink cherubs. Oh, Swami is so conflicted. Dimensions: 128-86-114; $810; Salomonsports.com
From the Early Winter 2009 issue