Best All-Mountain Skis 2013-2014

Best All-Mountain Skis 2013-2014


All-Mountain Skis with +100mm Waist

If you are going to look anywhere for the mythical “quiver of one” ski, this is the category in which you’ll likely find it. Fifteen years ago, skis with a waist larger than 85mm were considered strictly for powder and probably got mocked in the lift line as “water skis.” The ever-burgeoning girth of powder-specific skis—along with better construction and shape technology—have pushed wider and wider skis into the All-Mountain category. These 2013-2014 skis have enough surface area to enjoy anything from a random stash to a full-on powder day, while still retaining performance characteristics to be able to carve turns on hard pack between storms.
 
 

Atomic Ritual ($699)Atomic Ritual Skis 2014
Atomic athlete Todd Ligare just returned from a summer mission to find powder in Chile’s southern hemisphere winter. “I used the Ritual almost the entire time I was there,” he says. “It’s the most well-rounded ski in my quiver. The moderately wide waist and tiny bit of tip and tail rocker let it plane easily, and it just cruises through variable chop. It rails on hardpack like a champ and is pretty much perfect all the time until the powder gets über deep.”

The 2014 Atomic Ritual utilizes a longer turn radius in the tip and a shorter one in the tail, resulting in a ski that will turn on a dime in tight trees, but still hold a long, fast arc in open bowls. The tails are also surprisingly flick-able and playful when you want to ditch speed or make a quick direction change. Atomic defines their “All Mountain Rocker” in the Ritual as having 20 and 15 percent rocker in the tip and tail, respectively, and 65 percent camber underfoot. It’s an excellent ratio to make a ski that is playful from turn to turn, holds a strong edge in firm snow and still floats well in the fresh. Where the Ritual really shines is in the choppy chunder you find the day after the storm. Atomic added a layer of metal laminate to the wood core for stability and a smooth, damp ride, but they do it by milling a unique wavy “backbone” into the top of the core for the metal to lay in, which keeps overall weight low. This is a high-performance ski with enough muscle to satisfy someone like Ligare, but is also user-friendly enough to be a favorite for those of us who are mere mortals on the mountain.
Dimensions: 137.5-103-123.5mm (182)
Sizes: 174, 182, 190cm
What we like: A surfy feel and the ability to make even mediocre conditions much more fun.
What we don’t: The tails could be a bit more skin clip friendly for those who like to dip into the back/sidecountry and earn their turns.
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4FRNT Devastator ($527)4FRNT Devastator Skis 2014
The 2014 4FRNT Devastator is a fully-rockered, all-mountain ski that still carves really well in hard snow. An all-new offering from 4FRNT, it uses an innovative shape theory—developed by team athlete Eric Hjorleifson—which matches rocker and turn radius. This keeps the Devastator’s edges on the snow when arcing a turn, while full-rocker lets you surf and slarve to your heart’s content, which is ideal for a more modern style of skier.
Dimensions: 136-108-131mm (184)
Sizes: 174, 184, 194cm
What we like: Full rocker for soft snow performance and playfulness. 
What we don’t: The 194cm length seems a bit long, but caters well to bigger guys.
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Black Diamond Zealot ($561)Black Diamond Zealot Skis 2014
This is a wildly different ski than the Zealot that was around in 2007, which had a stigma of being planky and lifeless. The current version has been around since 2011, but remains a modern classic. The 192cm version is an absolute big mountain machine that wants to go fast, turn big, and take air, which makes it a favorite for BD athletes that ski on the Freeride World Tour. The 182cm is a much tamer beast that even intermediate skiers can love, yet still will hold an edge and bust through crud as fast as you want to go. The camber, wood core, two-layer metal laminate, and ABS sidewall construction lend a classic, damp feel, and a very slight amount of tip and tail rocker let the Zealot turn fast in tight spots.
Dimensions: 135-110-123mm (182)
Sizes: 182, 192cm
What we like: Ultra-damp charging through variable snow. 
What we don’t: The 182cm works even for large skiers (6-ish feet tall, 200-ish pounds), but the 192cm is a beast of a step up. A 187cm size would be optimal.
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Blizzard Cochise ($599)Blizzard Cochise Skis 2014
Recognizing the importance of rocker in modern ski design, Blizzard developed a construction process technology, “Flipcore,” they claim allows their rockered skis to flex and behave more naturally than traditionally constructed skis. Regardless of whether or not this is true, the 2014 Blizzard Cochise is one solid option in the all-mountain game. A girthy waist and flat underfoot camber give it plenty of float in powder, while “Flipcore” tip and tail rocker profiling let it still retaining rock solid edge hold on firm snow. Aside from graphics, this ski is unchanged from last year and has become renowned for being a solid performer in all snow conditions.
Dimensions: 135-108-123mm
Sizes: 170, 177, 185, 193cm
What we like: Great size range and sustainable bamboo wood core
What we don’t: Just a touch on the heavy side if you want to make this a sidecountry touring rig.
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Rossignol Soul 7 ($700)Rossignol Soul 7 Skis 2014
Revamping their wildly popular 7 Series of powder and all mountain skis this year, Rossignol made a very visible construction change with their all-new “Air Tip” honeycombed material in the tips and tails of their skis. The Rossignol Soul 7 is the flagship all-mountain offering and, as you would expect, does pretty much everything very well. At 106mm underfoot, the only thing that is missing is a claimed 20 percent of overall weight saved in the new tip and tail insert, which makes the Soul 7 even more maneuverable and backcountry tour-able than its predecessors. It also got a redesigned rocker profile to decrease dreaded “tip flap” while charging crud and to improve overall performance in all conditions.  
Dimensions: 136-106-126mm
Sizes: 164, 172, 180, 188cm
What we like: Low swing weight for touring and making jump turns in steep chutes.
What we don’t: Graphics are clean, but lack imagination.
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Salomon Rocker2 108 (from $495)

Salomon Rocker2 108 Skis
As its name suggests, this ski has a good deal of rocker, or what some refer to as “reverse camber,” with 40cm of flat underfoot to allow for edging on hardpack. Returned from last season with a new graphic, the Salomon Rocker2 108 represents a great option for someone with a modern style of skiing: centered over the feet and pivoting at will. If you have a heavy race background, you may find overpowering this ski too easy in firm conditions, but its really meant to shine when conditions are the softest. From untracked powder to packed powder groomers, this ski is a riot of fun. It does relatively well in variable snow, but skiers in deep snow regions (Pacific Northwest, Sierras and British Columbia) will be best served with the Rocker2 108 in their quiver. 
Dimensions: 132-108-125mm (182)
Sizes: 166, 174, 182, 190cm
What we like: A more modern near-center stance allows you to ski a longer length.
What we don’t: Going fast in sketchy conditions they get squirrely. 
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All-Mountain Skis with -100m Waist

A sub-100mm waist is by no means saying you don’t like skiing in fresh snow, but maybe you frequent tight places where agility is paramount, like Mad River Glen in Vermont. Or perhaps “all-mountain” for you puts an emphasis on being able to scream down groomers and make any shape of turn at speed. Nearly every ski below features rocker or an “early rise” tip in its geometry, which makes a big difference when you do venture into fresh or variable (especially grabby, wind-affected) snow off the trail. 

 

Black Diamond Verdict ($524)Black Diamond Verdict Skis 2014
Last year’s version of the Verdict was thoroughly mediocre. It should not be confused with this year’s version—despite having the same name and color ID—which is an amazing all-mountain ski. The 2014 Black Diamond Verdict borrows a surfy pintail shape from its wider big brother, the AMPerage, but adds two layers of metal laminate where the AMPerage has none. What you’re left with is a ski that is incredibly playful at any speed and acts like a race-bred GS carver when you want to really let gravity do its thing on a groomer. This author skied it last spring at Alta and a speed that was enough to scare himself and was laying all his weight (200lbs) and height (6ft) into a Super G style turn and could not get the tails to wash out in the 180cm length. 

 
Despite this jaw-dropping ability, the fun in the Verdict is in the tail that lets you flick it loose in any situation with a quickness that makes you think it might be connected directly to your mind. All of a sudden bumps and burms on the side of the trail become hits to playfully pop off and it’s an incredible sensation to be charging and throw the ski sideways into an endless, controlled skid over nearly any kind of terrain. Full rocker in the tip and tail lend well to its surfy nature and, combined with an ample tip width, allow for solid performance in patches of untouched powder. Through firmer, chopped up snow, the Verdicts race construction with metal laminate keep it quiet like a Cadillac over a bumpy dirt road. It skis well in shorter lengths, but don’t be afraid to go to a longer size if you want better performance in deeper snow.
Dimensions: 133-100-119mm (188)
Sizes: 164, 172, 180, 188cm
What we like: Jedi-like control while slashing and slarving around.
What we don’t: While having handy notches for skin attachment in the tail, it’s a bit on the heavy side for touring.
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 Armada ARVti ($625)Armada ARVti Skis 2014
Armada launched a decade ago with just the AR5 and ARV models, the latter of which being their powder/big-mountain ski. Times have pushed the ARV’s 99mm girth into the all-mountain category of skis and Armada is paying homage to the ARV with a complete shape redesign and two layers of metal laminate to keep things damp when you’re bombing around the mountain. Armada also gave the ARVti some tip rocker to ease turn initiation and increase fresh snow enjoyment. This is a solid player coast-to-coast for any conditions you come across on the mountain.
Dimensions: 135-99-125mm (188)
Sizes: 168, 178, 188cm
What we like: Comp Series Base material is fast on low-angle terrain.
What we don’t: On the heavy side of things, which is totally fine for resort days.
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K2 Annex 98 ($699)K2 Annex 98 Skis 2014
A modern take on a more traditional all-mountain ski, the K2 Annex 98 has a relatively flat tail that strong skiers who like to power all the way through at turn will appreciate. A slight kick in the tail, however, allows the skier release from a turn at will and is a nice addition for getting into tight chutes. The Annex has 30 percent rise in the tip to help it move through powder and crud, and its features K2’s innovative (and ridiculously easy to use) integrated skin attachment system for K2 Z-Clip skins (K2’s pre-cut and cut-to-fit skins sold separately).
Dimensions: 131-98-119mm 
Sizes: 170, 177, 184, 191cm
What we like: Metal laminate smoothes out bumps at speed. 
What we don’t: Traditional tail can become tedious in heavy snow at the end of a long day.
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Kastle FX 94 ($863)Kastle FX 94 Skis 2014
No rocker is a rarity, even in the sub-100mm waist category these days. The 2014 FX Kastle 94 does have a very slight early rise tip for catch-free turn initiation, but otherwise traditionalists will be in love with this powerhouse that was developed with renowned ski mountaineer and big mountain skier Chris Davenport. All Kastle skis feature a unique hollow construction tip to reduce swingweight and chatter through variable snow. Classic metal laminate construction will smooth out the bumps going Mach-looney on a groomer or through cut up powder. The FX 94 also is deft at navigating any mogul fields you come across. 
Dimensions: 128-94-117mm
Sizes: 166, 176, 186cm
What we like: No nonsense construction.
What we don’t: Holy price tag, Batman!
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Line Sick Day 95 ($599)Line Sick Day 95 Skis 2014
Featuring a directional flex pattern, the Line Sick Day 95 flexes softer in the tip than it does in the tail. The purpose is for easy turn initiation through the tip at slow speeds and solid hold in turns through the tail at higher speeds. Line also employs a unique tip/tail thinning technology to reduce overall ski weight, swingweight, and tip bounce through crud. There’s just enough camber underfoot in the Sick Day 95 for solid edging and liveliness between turns; and, of course, there’s proper rocker in the 130mm tip for when you find your secret stash in the trees.
Dimensions: 130-95-115mm
Sizes: 172, 179, 186cm
What we like: Might be the best ski name ever. 
What we don’t: Base graphics might have been done by a kindergartner.
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Salomon Q-98 ($499)Salomon Q-98 Skis 2014
Salomon’s new Q series is geared towards skiers looking for off-piste or side/backcountry performance. The wide tip on the Q-98 has a slight amount of rocker and a special honeycomb insert that keeps it above the snow while making it easy to throw from turn to turn. The ample sidecut and flat tail let you really lay into long turns while skiing at speed and the Salomon Q-98 is surprisingly adept at navigating moguled terrain. A flat tail on the Q-98 will appeal to skiers who like to lock into a turn, although it’s still easy to flick them sideways when you need to.
Dimensions: 137-98-123mm (188)
Sizes: 156, 164, 172, 180, 188cm
What we like: Solid range of sizes with options for smaller skiers or women; great value at $499.
What we don’t: Groomer performance is solid, but a bit uninspired.
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Women’s All-Mountain Skis

It used to be for women’s skis that companies would simply water down the men’s version of ski, to make it lighter and flex softer, and slap a new graphic on it. These days most are putting just as much R&D into their women’s line as they do their men’s. Women’s ski construction factors in different, smaller body geometries and slightly different skiing styles. Make no mistake though, any woman who is a strong skier can easily jump on lots of different men’s models and be perfectly happy with performance. Skis across the board are getting lighter with more user-friendly geometry, and that benefits everyone.
 
 

Rossignol Savory 7 ($699)Rossignol Savory 7 Skis 2014
The Savory 7 is Rossignol’s women’s-specific take on the Soul 7 from their new 7 Series. The graphics, which are quite nice on this ski, are designed to specifically highlight Rossi’s new “AirTip” technology, which is a special honeycomb insert in the tips and tails that serve to reduce weight, ease maneuverability, dampen tip chatter and gain floatability in soft snow. In hand, you can actually see daylight shining through and you also notice how the metal edges stop a good ways from the tip, which serves to keep overall weight down. 

 
Don’t be afraid to go for a longer size in the Rossignol Savory 7. The lengthy, tapered tip has a good amount of rocker making the effective edge of the ski shorter underfoot. This makes them ski much shorter than they are when you are on firm snow or a groomer. The tail is also rockered, but the rise is much shallower and prevents a wheelie sensation if you get in the backseat a bit. Overall, the Savory’s shape is really playful. If flicking the tail sideways and skidding is not in your bag of tricks, it quickly will be once you get on this ski.
Dimensions: 136-106-126mm 
Sizes: 162, 170, 178cm
What we like: So much fun and so easy to ski that it kinda feels like cheating. 
What we don’t: Its light weight might not agree with heavier, powerful skiers.
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Armada TSTw ($519)Armada TSTw Skis 2014
With the most dramatic rocker in this list, and a tapered tip that comes to 130mm at its widest point, the TSTw is made for seeking out soft snow. The rocker is only prominent in the tip; however, as the tail of the TSTw has only a slight rise and there is enough camber underfoot to allow this ski to carve really well on groomers. This is a great option for someone who is relatively new to skiing off the groomers and would make an excellent powder ski for a lighter weight skier.
Dimensions: 117-130-100-121mm (165mm)
Sizes: 156, 165, 174cm
What we like: Asymmetrical native-print bear graphic is awesome.
What we don’t: The dramatic rocker in the tip will chatter noticeably in firmer, bumpy snow.
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Line Soulmate 90 ($549) Line Soulmate 90 Skis 2014
Returning from last season with an updated graphic, the Soulmate 90 retains its solid resort skiing abilities. A narrower offering than some here, the Line Soulmate 90 has the camber underfoot to really make it carve well on groomed runs. Forgiving at any speed, it seems to be able to make any size turn in any kind of snow condition with ease. An early rise tip will keep things on top if there’s some fresh snow to be had, but the Soulmate 90 really does best in everyday conditions.
Dimensions: 125-90-113mm
Sizes: 151, 158, 165cm
What we like: Excellent ski for East Coast all-mountain exploring.
What we don’t: Taller skiers would appreciate a slightly longer length option.
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Nordica Wildfire ($599)Nordica Wildfire Skis 2014
Another of the wider offerings in the all-mountain arena, the all-new Nordica Wildfire is great go-to for skiers who frequent areas out West, especially if heavier snow conditions are a possibility. With slight tip and tail rocker and ample dimensions, the Wildfire is able to pivot around really nicely in deeper powder or cut-up crud. The full wood core makes this a stable machine, and it features PU stringers down its length to keep overall weight down. The camber underfoot is ever important for firmer snow and makes the Wildfire nimble from edge to edge.
Dimensions: 135-105-123mm (169)
Sizes: 161, 169, 177, 185cm
What we like: Offered in larger sizes.
What we don’t: Not super skin-friendly if you plan on touring with it.
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Salomon Q-103 Stella ($599)Salomon Q-103 Stella Skis 2014
The widest women’s offering in the new Quest line of skis from Salomon, the Stella is best described as “an excellent all-conditions performer.” It has a full rocker tip, camber underfoot and a flat tail. The Stella will hold a really solid edge when charging the fall line and likes to make bigger GS-style turns on groomers. In icier conditions it inspires confidence and has just enough playfulness for when the terrain gets tight. The new tapered tip uses a honeycomb material to reduce weight, improve maneuverability and dampen tip vibration.
Dimensions: 130-103-122mm (172)
Sizes: 158, 165, 172, 179cm
What we like: Race bases glide really well in flat sections.
What we don’t: Could be a touch more stable through crud.
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Volkl Kenja ($649)Volkl Kenja Skis 2014
With what’s now considered a narrower waist, the Volkl Kenja will serve a skier best who likes to ski everything inside the ropes at the resort. With a full wood core, partial metal laminate and a flat tail, the Kenja is a real-deal ski that requires a good bit of attention when making quick turns across the fall line. More advanced skiers will be rewarded, however, with performance all over the mountain as fast as they want to go. The Kenja does utilize a rockered tip to enhance overall usability and keep the ski on top in deeper conditions.
Dimensions: 127-87-106mm
Sizes: 149, 156, 163, 170cm
What we like: Confidence inspiring and powerful turns.
What we don’t: Ski can be a bit much to handle for anyone less than an advanced-intermediate.
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