1. Rossignol Sender Ti | Dimensions: 138/106/128 | MSRP: $900
For generations consumers have been taught to believe that expert skis are for experts only. Rossignol’s new Sender Ti proves that’s no longer true. It’s 106 millimeters underfoot—wide enough to handle deep snow days—and thanks to a wood core backed with two sheets of titanium alloy, it has the power, dampening, and stability you’d expect from a western-mountain ski. At the same time, the Sender Ti offers a lightweight feel, easy turning, and a lively ride. The ski’s most notable new tech is the unique stringers in its wood core, crafted from plastics and a rubbery viscoelastic, that allow the ski to bend and rebound while tracking the snow surface and boosting stability and hold. The mix of materials makes for a smooth, chatter-free ride and adds a bit of the pop you’d find on a ski with still more metal in it. Another key performance element is the ski’s flex, which designers finely tuned in each length—not so stiff that it requires lots of muscling, but far from noodle soft. Swami Gripe: No complaints. Rossignol just reinvented its brand. Swami Like: “No matter how fast or slow you’re moving, you stop thinking about the ski and focus on your line,” said one tester. We call that accessible power, the ability of a ski to perform for hard-charging experts and those aspiring to ski that way. You can butter it around or hammer.
2. Dynastar M-Free 108 | Dimensions: 138/108/128 | MSRP: $800
Dynastar, which has forever crafted burly—if somewhat dead—off-trail skis, has completely reimagined itself. The brand designed its new M-Line to deliver the perfect mix of agility, power, and a lightweight feel. Its powder-loving M-Free 108 skips the metal sheets most companies employ to quiet chatter and add stability in favor of a new, unique core: poplar wood sandwiched between polyurethane foam, which shaves weight and adds dampness. That construction, paired with ample width and rocker, made the 108 easily our top pick for pure powder joy. It’s surfy and loose, but also stable. Any experienced skier can pilot it. “They nailed the progressive flex,” said a tester who patrols at snow-blessed Alta. “It does exactly what you want it to off-trail.” Look to the M-Free 108 if you’re in the market for a resort powder ski with a fluid feel, but still want to carve it up a bit on nice groomers. Swami Gripe: Some heavyweights might want more beef. Swami Like: Dynastar makes a pro version with metal for that crowd.
3. Nordica Enforcer 104 Free | Dimensions: 135/104/124 | MSRP: $950
Last year the innovative Enforcer 104 Free was our Best in Test winner, this year it came within a few points of a repeat. “This ski set the benchmark for modern ski design,” said a tester. Again, this is a story about balanced flex—anyone can find the sweet spot—and deceiving top-end power. Those two pairings alone, when matched with a light balsa wood core sandwiched by sheets of chatter dampening titanium alloy, deliver a predictable and easy ride at slow speeds and total confidence at top speeds. It looks like a freeride ski and it is, but you can carve groomer turns on it too when you aren’t sluffing turns off-trail. Ample rocker makes it floaty enough for anything but hip deep snow. Swami Gripe: Our test cards are short on critiques, but one guy that skis too far forward thought the tip deflected. Swami Like: “Perfect blend of turn shape variability, high-speed stability, and float,” said a tester who wasn’t a fan of earlier Enforcers that he thought only came to life at highway speeds. “This is still the best Nordica ever.”
4. Fischer Ranger 102 FR | Dimensions: 136/102/126 | MSRP: $799
Do not discount this ski because Fischer isn’t a huge brand in the U.S. The Ranger 102 rivals the Enforcer 104 Free and the Sender Ti for do-it-all versatility and high-end ripping. Like those top performing skis, the 102 FR sports a deep, balanced flex that accommodates a wide range of skiers. But just because it can ski easy doesn’t mean it can’t ski hard. It’s as stout as the Katana and the Stormrider on these pages when you push it. There’s no one feature in the Ranger that delivers such a diversity of performance, but if you assume that widths, and shaping elements like rocker, taper, and shovel weight have all largely been figured out lately, then the story becomes about balance or feel. “It’s effortless to find the sweet spot on this free ride focused Ranger,” said a tester. “You can carve it up, but the ample taper and rocker let it float and drift off-trail in soft snow.” Swami Gripe: A few of our testers criticised the lack of pop and life at slow speeds. It does want to get driven more than the Enforcer or the Sender. Swami Like: “Anybody that wants to elevate their game on-trail or off will love this ski,” said a tester who, full disclosure, raced World Cup on Fischer downhill skis back in the day.
5. Völkl Katana 108 | Dimensions: 146/108/129 | MSRP: $950
The original Katana was born of the Big Mountain competition circuit where athletes cut super-G turns on big open faces between airs and needed a strong tail to push off to stay forward. The new Katana—brought back this year—captures the essence of that cult-adored feel, but in a modern construction that strips extraneous weight and pumps up the fun factor so you can slash and slarve in jumbled terrain. “Super floaty in the pockets of deeper snow we found,” said a tester. “And there’s not too much sidecut so the ski tracks better off-trail.” Built with Völkl’s Titanal Frame method that weights the perimeter of the ski with more metal to boost edging, it’s also light enough to pivot turn at will. Swami Gripe: That construction delivers a glassy feel some testers found disconcerting. Swami Like: If you like to finish your turns with gusto, the Katana has you covered. “There’s confident energy in these tails,” said a tester.
6. Stöckli Stormrider 105 | Dimensions: 137/105/130 | MSRP: $1,199
The price of this Swiss made ski doesn’t reflect the marketing, it reflects the materials. Stöckli builds durable skis with a lot of handwork, and specs only the finest bases, edges, and wood cores. Even the sidewall material is a step above, with the brand claiming their “polywalls” are 10 times as durable as the industry standard. Keep them off the rocks, and Stöcklis will run true years longer than meat of the market fare. “So smooth,” raved a tester, “this is what a quality ski feels like. Stable as you would ever want, but you can still sink into the belly of the turn without a ton of body english.” That accommodating flex is a result of Stöckli’s Size Optimized Construction, which means, proportionally, the flex profile of the 170 mirrors that of 188 so that every skier can arc the ski and get the same results. On the hill, the Stöckli contours the terrain without bucking and skis like a velvet hammer. Swami Gripe: Not a critique, but with a 20 meter turn radius, the 105 favors big turns, and the bashing power of the Stormrider—two sheets of metal—supports that. Swami Like: Said a tester: “Smoothest ski by far in the category. It’s like skiing with shock absorbers. Because of that, the edge grip is unmatched.”
7. Blizzard Cochise 106 | Dimensions: 137.5/106/124.5 | MSRP: $960
Blizzard updated the Cochise this year, but it still skis like a Cochise. Meaning it’s built for the best skiers on the mountain in full charge mode at all times. Ski it slowly without putting some Gs into the ski to bend it deeply and it’ll feel planklike. Ski it hard, and it comes alive. There’s full tip-to-tail power here, and class leading stability as well. But while it’s not as quick to play as the skis that beat it in our rankings, you can pivot, drift, and scrub. That’s especially true on steeper terrain where it’s easier to disengage the edges. At Steamboat, it was one of the most energized skis of the day. “You can load them up in a turn and then just ride the rebound through the transition,” said a tester. Swami Gripe: The stout flex feels a bit old-school these days. The sweet spot should be bigger. Swami Like: “You build energy that pays dividends the harder you push the Cochise,” said a tester.
8. Salomon QST 106 | Dimensions: 138/106/124 | MSRP: $900
Ski buying is about matching up a ski’s attributes to your skiing style. Here’s where the QST 106 fits in with the skis on these pages. If the Sender Ti is about an even match of playfulness and oomph, and the Cochise favors oomph, then the QST skews to the loose and playful end of the scale. It floats, smears, slashes, and drifts like a pure powder ski—while still delivering a lively pop out of turns. We loved it off-trail in tight trees and on powder-buried bumps where maneuverability matters more than stability. “It sluffs really well, even in mid-turn,” said a tester. “My most playful ski of the day.” As sprightly as it is, though, the QST isn’t particularly nervous. Salomon’s unique fibers that support the core eat up vibration exceedingly well. Swami Gripe: At top speeds, the QST deflects a bit, hampering edge contact. Swami Like: For a lot of skiers, that doesn’t matter at all. The tradeoff is more zip.
9. Elan Ripstick 106 | Dimensions: 143/106/120 | MSRP: $900
In the Ripstick, Elan has always produced some of the most surfable powder skis in our test. The brand’s asymmetrical footprint that puts more rocker on the outside edges delivers the loosest soft snow slashing we’ve ever experienced. It’s nearly impossible to hook an outside edge or even get a little hung up. Our old gripe with the lineup, especially the 106? The edgehold was good, but not great. That all changes with the addition of Carbon Line Technology into the 2021 ski. Here, strategically placed layers of carbon fiber reinforce the inner edges, boosting edge grip and edge penetration. On the hill, the 106 lets you crank out effortless, automatic turns without much in the way of piloting. That trait used to wain on hard early morning snow, but the new Rip 106 has more range. Swami Gripe: This Elan does everything that the top skis in the category does—until you hit warp drive when the speed limit does kick in. Swami Like: “Finesse skiers out exploring for soft snow will love this ski,” said a tester.
10. Black Crows Corvus 10.7 | Dimensions: 138/107/127 | MSRP: $870
Unlike any of the skis on these pages, the Corvus wasn’t really designed for resort skiing—unless said resort is buried in new snow and the place features a lot of wide-open alpine terrain. The Corvus was made for skiing fast off-trail or out-of-bounds in untracked snow. That’s true right down to the rocker profile, which is full reverse camber with only a slight flat spot underfoot. The tail rocker isn’t so pronounced, so you can stay forward when descending scary slopes at speed. It was a lot of ski for Steamboat, but even there you can get the progressive flex of the shovel bending into a turn with little effort. A big 21 meter turn radius is built to track better in big mountains and let you easily pivot that full rocker. Swami Gripe: It performs OK on groomed snow, but that’s not what it was built for. Swami Like: In pure powder conditions—storm cycles, cat- and heli-skiing, out the gate backcountry skiing—the Corvus thrives. “I’m not sure if it’s an All Mountain Powder ski, but it’s a killer powder ski,” said a tester.
11. Armada Declivity 102 Ti | Dimensions: 135/102/125 | MSRP: $875
It was one of the skinniest skis in the category, but this brand-new Armada stood out for all mountain charging. “The balance of rocker and taper attached to a rugged chassis capable of carving hard snow made this one of the most versatile skis of the day,” said a tester. “It drifts and smears off-trail, but you can hook up nice underfoot arcs on groomers too.” That was kind of the goal with Armada’s Declivity line, which puts some horsepower in the portfolio and opens the brand appeal to directional skiers—or at least freeskiers that appreciate directional skiing. Like the Enforcer 104 Free, Armada built lightweight elements into the ski, but didn’t let gram counting drive the day. A caruba wood core is backed by strategically placed titanium alloy. “This ski is nimble AF,” read a test card. “Super easy to lock into mid-range turns.” Swami Gripe: It was tough to bust the 102 out of those mid-range turns. Swami Like: Probably the best East Coast tree skiing tool in the test.