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Jan

7

Women’s All Mountain

The most versatile skis on the market, our All Mountain category features mid-fat skis with waist widths that range from 90 millimeters to just over 100 millimeters.

 

 

1. Rossignol Blazer | Dimensions: 131/98/121 | MSRP: $800

“I love this ski,” raved a woman tester. “It goes mach speed if you want it to, and plows through all sorts of off-trail snow, but you can back off and slarve them around too. There’s latent power under the hood.” That pretty much sums up all the test card feedback on the new Blazer, part of Rossignol’s expanded Blackops line. The category name sounds intimidating, but the accessible power that the skis deliver is anything but. An expert can charge on them and then ease off the throttle. A progressing intermediate can push the ski harder as they improve their form and strength. Credit for that feel resides in part with the materials in the ski, including vertical viscous inserts that act like metal without the weight. But materials are only as good as the overall design—and Rossignol dominated our Steamboat tests because they got the feel right in every ski. Meaning they’re easy to butter at slow speeds, but they don’t come with a speed limit. The turn shape just feels natural. Swami Gripe: Our women’s test director had no complaints. Swami Like: A huge range of skiers will love this Best in Test award winning ski. It’s madly versatile. 

 

2. Elan Ripstick 94 W | Dimensions: 136/94/110 | MSRP: $750

In many ways, the new Ripstick 94 W is like all Ripsticks, crazy forgiving and easy to initiate turns, but deceivingly damp, stable, and edgeable. The backstory for that unique Elan feel is worth noting. Isolated from the ski production powerhouse nations of Austria, Germany, and France, Elan developed its own tech—all of which is on display in the Rip 94 W. We’ll spare the jargon, but the mix of asymmetrical rocker (more on the outside edges) and pencil width carbon fiber tubes in the core that act like metal without the weight and also add life to the ski, deliver an effortless ride quality when you’re just chilling out. Not that you can’t drop the hammer. We’d go so far as to say that Elan was first to hone in on the value of accessible power, which is the going theme in ski construction these days. Our eight women All Mountain testers universally praised the 94’s ability to feather and charge. Swami Gripe: There were few complaints on the cards, but two testers wanted even more smear-turn looseness. Swami Like: “They feel solid. They ski simply (no overthinking). And they let you ski everything on the hill. It’s a women’s ski, but it isn’t condescending in the least.”

 

3. Stöckli Nela 88 | Dimensions: 127-88-113 | MSRP: $999

A well-crafted ski makes you comfortable at speeds that normally scare you. Engineered with Stöckli’s World Cup racing legacy in plain view, the Nela features vertical sidewall and wood core sandwich construction that delivers top-notch edge penetration and stability at all speeds. But like most high-end brands, Stöckli has found a balanced flex that lets lightweight slashers have as much fun as well-muscled technical skiers. We found that the Nela stands out more for its on-piste arcing abilities than its chops in off-trail crud. But for places like the East Coast or Colorado’s Front Range that see a lot of hardpack, it’s plenty fat for a daily driver. Slight tail rocker adds some speed scrubbing forgiveness. Finesse skiers will benefit from the super light balsa core, thin glass laminate, and light but rugged top-shelf edge material. (Stöckli shaves weight where the edges attach to the core.) Swami Gripe: At 88 millimeters underfoot, they’re more of an East Coast or Summit County, Colorado, All Mountain ski. They’re a bit narrow for anything over boot deep snow. Swami Like: “They’re easy to smear, but smearing these would be a sin!” said a tester. “They carve beautifully.” 

 

4. Dynastar M Pro 90 W | Dimensions: 120/90/110 | MSRP: $700

Outside of the brand’s carving skis, Dynastar hasn’t performed well in our tests for some time. That all changed with the new M skis which are some of the most versatile skis we’ve ever tested. And here we’re talking about versatile in a larger sense. We’ve been running skis that work well on groomed snow and soft snow off-trail for years now, but the new benchmark in versatility is a ski that lets you ski all that at any speed with as much power or finesse as you feel like delivering. That’s the new M Pro 90 W, which carves up a storm, but still smears and responds to input at any speed. Credit goes to the shape, and Dynastar’s new Hybrid core which pairs a wood laminate torsion box core with polyurethane perimeters—also some titanium alloy. The resulting feel is invitingly smooth. That PU on the edges eats up chatter. Swami Gripe: A few testers thought it got a touch squirrely at full throttle. Swami Like: “Dices and slices in tight trees and skis like a firecracker when you power it up on groomed snow,” said a tester. “Effortless to shut it down and scrub speed.” 

 

5. Salomon Stance 94 W | Dimensions: 124/94/106 | MSRP: $800

We were surprised that one of the burliest skis in the women’s All Mountain test had a Salomon logo on it. The brand is better known for playful off-trail skis. But with the new Stance, Salomon is making it clear that it too can build stout boards with no speed limits, deep edge penetration, and proggressive sidecuts that let you mix up the turn shape in carved turns. It’s a confidence inspiring ride backed by a full wood core construction sandwiched in two sheets of metal and bookended by vertical sidewalls. But for all that beef, the Stance isn’t a bear to ski. Bring them up to moderate speeds, and it’s tip and rip time. There’s no real speed limit if you want to push them either. Our testers favored them for groomed snow about 65 percent of the time. If you’re powder skiing with the Stance 94, they excel in new snow on top of a packed base. Swami Gripe: To really feel the turn shape you have to drive the ski. “At slower speeds it didn’t blow the buckles off my boots,” said a tester. Swami Like: There’s something to be said for a women’s ski that favors stability over playfulness. “Damp, damp, damp,” said a tester. “I could charge on these, but you can still rein them in.”

 

6. Blizzard Black Pearl 88 | Dimensions: 128/88/110 | MSRP: $780

Blizzard’s Black Pearl collection has delivered some of the top selling skis in the industry for a reason: They’re built for passionate women skiers that don’t want to sacrifice performance for “feminine” graphics. This year, the Black Pearl gets even more performance minded thanks to an entirely new core construction that turns each length of each model into essentially a custom ski. The flex is tailor-made to deliver that perfect blend of ease and power we’ve long craved. It’s best described as “feel.” When a ski flexes correctly it feels like an appendage of the body not a device that needs piloting. To deliver that feel, Blizzard weaves different densities of wood into the cores of each model and length. On the hill, our women testers found it was one of the most capable carvers in the category. Swami Gripe: It’s tough to smear an 88 millimeter ski. The Black Pearl 88 is an All Mountain ski—just not in Utah or Tahoe. Swami Like: “The flex is progressive,” said a tester. “The more you drive it the more it gives back. The most precise ski of the day.”

 

7. Scott Slight 93 W | Dimensions: 132/89/120 | MSRP: $800

Some skis shouldn’t be labeled too prescriptively. That’s the case with the new Slight 93 W. On the one hand it’s a whippy short turner on resort corduroy with a 12 to 14 meter turn radius and surprisingly stout edgehold. On the other hand, it’s plenty lightweight to mount with backcountry touring bindings for use on spring corn or chalky steeps in the alpine. A full length wood core and a progressive three dimensional sidecut lets you vary the turn shape further boosting versatility. As an inbounds ski, our lighter weight and more dynamic women testers loved cranking out fall line turns at Steamboat. “Holy, holy, this ski rips!,” said one such dynamo. “I skied it at the end of the day and it was like a little bundle of energy.” Swami Gripe: Our bigger and stronger women thought it got a bit nervous at top speeds. That’s the price of lightweight in what Scott markets as a crossover ski that makes shouldering your skis for a hike a breeze. Swami Like: Fall line skiing on and off-trail is getting to be a lost art form. The Slight 93 W might bring it back.

 

8. Kästle FX 96 W | Dimensions: 133/96/119 | MSRP: $849

In Europe, the FX 96 W is billed as a freeride ski, meaning it’s designed to be skied off-trail. That’s why Kästle lightened up their skis last year, building a bevy of models around a central torsion box in the core while at the same time pulling metal out of the skis. That move instantly changed performance. Where the older Kästles were stout and extra stable at speed, the new iterations are lighter and livelier and allow for more maneuverability with less effort. That quickness is the upside of a torsion box construction. “The 96 is super fun on soft snow groomers and it’s impressively agile when you’re smearing turns in trees,” said a tester. Swami Gripe: Some people love it, others do not, but the torsion box method (a laminate wood core wrapped in a sleeve of fiberglass, in this case sided by still more wood) can deliver a crisp and glassy feel on snow which can translate as chatter. Swami Like: Said a tester: “Comfortable and super fun on big mountain terrain. Confidence inspiring. They made me feel like a complete badass.”  

 

9. Völkl Blaze 94 W | Dimensions: 134/94/116 | MSRP: $650

Here’s another ski built to blur the lines between inbounds exploration and backcountry shredding. This one just happened to be designed with a lot of input from a former woman World Cupper. The takeaway? The Blaze 94 only weighs 1,546 grams in a 179 centimeter length, so you could shoulder it on a hike or tour all day. But the edgehold on hard snow was best in class. Völkl’s progressive 3D Sidecut further boosts the versatility of this inbound/crossover/backcountry appropriate ski. “It slashes through chunky snow, but it’s super carvable on groomers and remains playful at charging speeds,” said a tester. Swami Gripe: The edgehold is indeed stout, which is a good thing until you get lazy. You’ll wanna stay woke for the Blaze. Swami Like: Mount it with the new Marker Duke crossover binding that delivers race-worthy hard snow performance and ski touring, and you just built the most versatile one-ski quiver to date. 

 

10. Head Kore 93 W | Dimensions: 130/91/113 | MSRP: $750

The women’s All Mountain category is loaded with lightweight skis that can handle hard skiing on-trail and soft snow in hike-to terrain. But to give credit where it’s due, Head pretty much invented that subset when they launched the Kore line a few years ago. Here, that honeycomb polymer Koroyd (thus Kore) replaces heavy wood in sections of the wood core, shaving weight and adding the dampening of metal sheeting without the weight penalties. On the test hill in Steamboat, all that tech delivered a damp but lively ride with sneaky stability. “Perfect balance of a lightweight build with confidence inspiring stability and edgehold,” said a tester. Swami Gripe: They can feel a little sleepy if you’re looking for dynamic energy return. The Kore skis are about a silky ride. Swami Like: The Kore series is still the benchmark for lightweight performance. They’re feathery, but not squirrely. 

 

11. Nordica Santa Ana 98 | Dimensions: 132/98/120 | MSRP: $800

Ski testing is not a perfect science. It’s tough for testers to overcome preconceptions about brands and waist widths. That is almost certainly the case with the Santa Ana 98 results here. Our most seasoned testers and our women’s test director gave it their top scores and praised its effortless maneuverability, easy balanced flex, and bodacious float. But some of our new testers who were also new to Nordica (the brand has a reputation for building expert skis) assumed it skied as big as it looks and dinged this brand new ski. (It didn’t help Nordica that they only brought a 172—a lot of ski for some of the women on our crew.) Reading between the lines of the test cards, here’s our takeaway: If you want an intuitive ski that just rips with a minimal of muscling and doesn’t waver at speeds, the 98 is a great call. It was our women’s test director’s top ski for those reasons. Want still more ease of use? Size down a length. Swami Gripe: Might be too much for true intermediates. But see note about downsizing. Swami Like: “My ideal ski for this category,” said a 15-year ski tester. “It’s the perfect 50 percent on-trail and 50 percent off-trail ski, but I’d be happy carving turns on it all day too.”  

 

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