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Jan

7

Women’s All Mountain powder

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

 

1. Blizzard Sheeva 10 | Dimensions: 131.5/102/121.5 | MSRP: $780

Blizzard has a reputation for building stout skis. In the new Sheeva 10, the brand bolsters that stoutness with surfiness. The design features just enough rocker for most powder days, with carbon fiber in the tip and tail to add float and tapered metal underfoot to provide extra guts for powerful edging when you need it. Early in the construction process, Blizzard also flips the materials in the mold so they cure in a natural rockered shape. On snow, the resulting ski is easy to swing around and has a lightweight and forgiving feel while still offering top-notch stability without chatter. “They feel perfectly balanced and so trusting deep in the turn,” said a tester. Swami Gripe: More of a distinction than a critique, but by design the Sheeva is a bit loose for carving turns between storms. Swami Like: “They breezed through wonky snow without feeling tanklike,” said a tester. Look to the Sheeva 10 if you want versatile inbounds powder boards that allow you to slash or arc your turns. 

 

2. Rossignol Rallybird Ti | Dimensions: 137/102/127 | MSRP: $900

The top new ski in the Women’s All Mountain Powder test, words like “easy,” (five references) and “effortless,” (the other two women testers) dominated the cards. But in a sign of where ski design is going, the rave reviews about the Rallybird Ti’s playfulness were balanced with descriptors like damp, stable, and “latently powerful.” Latent power is perhaps the most telling: Our lightest weight and slowest skiers could handle this new Rossi just fine, but our strongest and fastest skiers loved it too. “The flex feels totally natural,” said a tester. “You can tap into the performance when you feel like it, but it’s easy to shut the ski down too.” That natural feeling is two parts art—it takes craftsmanship and institutional knowledge to balance the rocker, camber, taper and sidecut of a ski with the correct flex—and one part science—a cutting edge viscous material laid in vertically powers up the ski and helps deliver that sneaky power and energy return. On the hill in soft snow, the Rallybird was nearly as loose and as fun as the Sheeva 10, but far more capable on hardpack. Swami Gripe: Our smallest tester found the 171 was a bit much. As with all of the skis on these pages, remember that length and flex are tied together. Sometimes you downsize. Sometimes you upsize. Swami Like: “For a ski that contours the snow surfaces like this [that’s the vertical viscous stuff] it’s incredibly easy to smear or load up and pop from turn to turn.”

 

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

Elan consistently kills it with our women testers because women aren’t afraid to award a fun ski for being—fun. (Ahh, the constraints of machismo.) Our testers praised the Ripstick 102 W’s effortless turning with verbiage from surfing and waterskiing. That’s because the outside edges of the Ripsticks feature more rocker than the inner edges, making it nearly impossible (we tried) to catch an outside edge even if you’re skiing sloppy in heavy snow. But just because this Elan is loose when you want it to be, doesn’t mean you can’t power it up. New this year, the inner edges are reinforced with deftly cut sheets of carbon fiber to amplify both the edge hold and the edge penetration. With a skilled pilot able to run a smooth ski, the Ripstick can hold on exceedingly hard early morning snow. Our testers loved it for tree skiing and scrap hunting on the edges of trails after the new snow had been cut up. Swami Gripe: Although our testers universally loved the 102 in soft snow and firm, some would like a bit more pop for both. Swami Like: “These skis are so automatic that you stop thinking about technique and you start thinking about your line,” said a tester.

 

4. Stöckli Nela 96 | Dimensions: 134/96/121 | MSRP: $1,049

It’s the skinniest ski in the All Mountain Powder category, so check the width before you buy the Nela 96 for that dream snowcat adventure. But despite its floatation challenges, it was one of our women test team’s top picks. Why? It flat-out rips when you’re going flat-out, but like many of the skis on these pages, lightweight and mellow skiers can handle it just fine too. Stöckli calls this SOFTFLEX, but don’t mistake that for noodle flex—SOFTFLEX means they got the sweet spot right. “The balanced flex is deep and favors today’s upright stance,” said a tester. “If you’re cruising it favors big turns, but if you’re getting after it you can arc out short swings too.” Even though the Nela is made of wood and metal—smartly placed titanium alloy backs up the core—at 1,600 grams in a 164, it’s not heavy, but it skis with the stability of far burlier fare. Swami Gripe: It’s not wide enough for bottomless conditions, but for women that weigh under 130 pounds, it’s more than buoyant enough for most inbounds powder days. Swami Like: “It was my favorite ski of the day,” said a tester, “but to me it’s a fat All Mountain ski.” 

 

5. Dynastar M-Pro 99 W | Dimensions: 127/99/117 | MSRP: $800

Another addition in Dynastar’s new M-Line, the Pro 99 W displaced a lot of skis to earn a top five here. This is a fun ski. A new hybrid core that sees a wooden torsion box bookended by polyurethane delivers a lively but damp ride similar to the Elan Ripstick. On the hill that means the ski contours the terrain maintaining steady edge grip, but also responds to skier input with some crisp pop from turn to turn. Our testers loved it in a half a foot of fresh snow on top of an edgeable base where you want to ski off that lower surface. A strategic placement of titanium alloy keeps them stable at speeds when the snow’s been packed. “They stick to the snow, but you don’t feel locked into each turn,” said a tester. “It’s easy to mix up the turn shape.” Swami Gripe: For pure powder skiing a few testers wanted more width. Swami Like: Out West, this is a one-ski quiver ski, comparable to a 105 millimeter waisted unsiex ski. It’s chubby enough to float most women skiers on most inbounds powder days, but it’s slender enough for carving without excess hip dropping. 

 

6. Völkl Blaze 106 W | Dimensions: 140/102/123 | MSRP: $875

The sleeper launch of the year, Völkl’s new Blaze line was built for crossover skiers looking for one ski for adventuring inbounds and out. We just weren’t quite prepared for how well this 1,569 gram (165 centimeter) ski would rip inbounds. “It’s super maneuverable, like you would expect from a ski light enough to tour in,” said a tester, “but you can leave trenches in corduroy too.” There’s a fine balance going on here. To make inbounds skiing fun, you need enough edge bite to hook up and hang on when the packed powder goes to hardpack. To make the backcountry fun you need a ski that will stay at the surface and won’t feel hooky in weird unconsolidated snow. The Blaze, with its progressive sidecut that adapts to both snow surfaces, is a shapeshifter. At Steamboat it transitioned from the trees to the machine groomed with the least amount of effort. Swami Gripe: The edge grip is stout, which can take some attention in a ski built for powder. Swami Like: Mounted with the new Duke PT crossover binding, the Blaze is more than a one ski quiver—it’s one of the most versatile skis ever produced. “It carves, it floats, it makes long turns and short swings,” said a tester. 

 

7. Head Kore 99 W | Dimensions: 131/97/118 | MSRP: $800

There are a lot of great skis in this category, and the Kore 99 W is one of them. It’s nearly as versatile as the Blaze, nearly as surfy as the Rallybird, and nearly as much fun in a carve as the Ripstick. Like the Elan, our testers praised it for “shut your brain off” skiing. Again, as ski design has grown more sophisticated, it’s tough to credit any one attribute for that versatility, but we can at least narrow it down to the silky ride quality that keeps the edges engaged and a deep and consistent flex that most skiers just sink right into. “Capable of all turn shapes and just inspires confidence at a range of speeds,” said a tester. Koroyd—that honeycomb polymer known for subduing chatter—is also at play here. Swami Gripe:  Depends on where you live, but it skews more to All Mountain than All Mountain Powder. It’s a fine daily driver out West though. Swami Like: “So intuitive in all sorts of terrain,” said a former instructor. “A lot of aspiring skiers will find the confidence to push themselves on the 99.”  

 

8. Nordica Santa Ana 104 FR | Dimensions: 134/104/123 | MSRP: $850

“This new 104 didn’t ask anything of me, it just methodically started arcing turns on every type of snow and terrain,” said one of our most seasoned ski testers. “They’re the smoothest flexing skis of the day and the snow contact was unwavering.” Built as a women’s specific version of the multiple award winning unisex Enforcer 104 Free, we weren’t surprised by that type of feedback from our top skiers. Nordica set the benchmark for accessible or latent power in ski design. Look here if you ski off-trail most of the time, but know how to carve a turn on groomers when the storms disappoint. “So many skiers will love this ski,” said our women’s test director who had no complaints on her card. “It makes every turn shape and the flex is open to all body types.” Swami Gripe: It’s not a complaint, but because flex is tied to length, you need to size accordingly. Our smaller testers struggled with the 172, which brought down the scores. Swami Like: If you’re looking for a ski to navigate soft snow in big country 70 percent of the time, the 104 is the best place to start.  

 

9. Atomic Backland 107 W | Dimensions: 136/107/123 | MSRP: $850

Atomic put the Backland 107 W into our All Mountain Powder test, but as the name implies, this is a true backcountry ski. It only weighs 1,470 grams and at 107 millimeters underfoot it’s the second fattest ski on these pages. The Powder Rocker tip is built to track true in pure blower conditions and crust layers. But the ski is stout enough for pro-level women skiers to rip big lines in the backcountry at speed. Not surprisingly, our testers loved it in the new snow at Steamboat, but found themselves wishing they could take it into the alpine or deep unconsolidated snow as opposed to groomers. Inbounds, though, it’s surprisingly nimble and sports a relatively short 17.5-meter turn radius in the 175—the only size that Atomic brought to the test. Swami Gripe: There’s no metal in this freeriding tool, and our testers missed it as this wide ski got bucked around a bit on resort hardpack. Swami Like: There’s still a place for specialty skis, and the Backland 107 W is an example of that. We’d ski it 90 percent of the time in big storm cycles, or on wild snow in the West. “It just planes over piles of old snow, and it pivots and smears at will,” said a tester. 

 

10. Black Crows Atris Birdie | Dimensions: 136/108/123 | MSRP: $840

It was entered in our All Mountain Powder category, but the Atris Birdie, like the Backland 107, is designed to ski pure powder conditions 90 percent of the time. There’s ample rocker and taper here to float you in deep snow and keep the ski steering properly in variable off-piste conditions where a wind skin can grab a wider tip and put a tighter radius ski into a turn before you want it to. Traditional camber underfoot gives the ski some pop in soft snow and allows for better edging—if not a full carve—on chalky alpine snow. Pro skier Michelle Parker’s ski of choice, the Atris Birdie excels at slashing and smearing turns when it’s brought up to speed. A wood core and a traditional layup make it stable at high speeds in backcountry snow. Swami Gripe: Most of our testers thought it fell short for resort carving, but it will hold a checked turn underfoot. “It doesn’t ‘stick’ a full carve on groomers,” said a tester, “but then it also smears better because of it.” Swami Like: It would be hard to imagine needing more width or rocker for even the biggest powder days of the year. Look here if you need a true powder specialty ski in your quiver.   

 

11. Fischer Ranger FR 102 | Dimensions: 136/102/126 | MSRP: $799

The difference between the unisex Ranger FR 102 and the women’s version? This one is pink. That’s it. Fischer is taking a position here and saying that women don’t need women’s specific skis. Some of our testers were on board with that and their comments echoed what the men had to say about the same ski in a different colorway: “My favorite Fischer ever,” said a longtime ski tester. “Super intuitive; nimble in short turns; stout edge grip; and loose in powder.” Other testers, though, coming off an entire run of women’s specific skis, found the FR 102 too much to handle. Our lightest tester and our strongest tester both complained that it took muscle to shut the ski down. So who should buy it? “It’s a go-to ski for hard-charging (and strong) western resort expert women,” said our women’s test director. “Keep it in wide-open terrain and you’ll ski at pro-level speeds.” Titanium sheeting and full sidewalls speak to that type of power. Swami Gripe: The 170 felt long to our testers. It’s a unisex ski, so to get the flex you want, consider sizing down. Swami Like: About half the women testers loved the pink topsheet, but all the guys did. Which is fine because it’s the same ski. As such, it was the most stable ski in the category. 

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