If you're searching for that elusive one-ski quiver, this is the category to find it. The definition of “all-mountain” varies by manufacturer and retailer, but generally includes skis from 85mm to 105mm underfoot that can both carve on hardpack and provide float in fresh snow. In general, those who ski primarily on the East Coast should look in the 85mm to 90mm range, and those who ski out West will want a waist width from 90mm to 105mm. It’s a crowded all-mountain field, but below we’ve picked the best models for the 2017-2018 season. For more information on choosing the right ski, see our comparison table and buying advice below the picks. 

1. Nordica Enforcer 93 ($650)

Nordica Enforcer 93 skis 2017-2018Type: All-mountain
Ability level: Intermediate to expert
Dimensions: 126-93-114mm
Other widths: 100, 110mm
What we like: Versatility defined.
What we don’t: A little narrow for big powder days.

With the Enforcer 93, Nordica has put together a definitive all-mountain design. Coming on the heels of the successful 100-millimeter-wide version, the slimmer 93 is a standout in terms of frontside performance while retaining plenty of flotation and quickness to get off trail. This is an all-mountain ski that loves turns: the unique hammerhead tip is a great initiator, and a medium flex with two layers of metal means the Enforcer is fun but can really rail through corners. Importantly, the ski is equally friendly at sane speeds and a great choice for everyone from progressing intermediates to experts.

Stable and confidence inspiring, the Enforcer 93 feels comfortable in just about all conditions except big powder days out West. This versatile coast-to-coast appeal sets it apart as our favorite all-mountain ski for the 2017-2018 season. For those that are lucky enough to have consistently deep snow, Nordica also offers an Enforcer 100 and all-new Enforcer 110.
See the Nordica Enforcer 93  See the Women's Nordica Santa Ana 93


2. Rossignol Experience 88 HD ($700)

Rossignol Experience 88 HD skisType: All-mountain front
Ability level: Intermediate to expert
Dimensions: 135-88-124mm
Other widths: 80, 84, 100mm
What we like: Great performance on hardpack.
What we don’t: Less comfortable off the groomers.

The Experience 88 has been a longtime favorite for its solid groomer performance, and Rossi made a few tweaks last year to give it an even more eager feel. The HD model features a Carbon Alloy Matrix, which brings a light and snappy personality to an already great carving ski. Combined with Rossignol’s Air Tip Technology that reduces weight at the tips, turn initiation is very easy and it has excellent edge-to-edge quickness. The price is steep at $700, but we think the Experience 88 packs enough tech to justify the investment.

The 88-millimeter waist and lack of metal in the ski’s construction means the Experience isn’t as versatile in soft snow as the Enforcer above, nor is it as appealing for powerful skiers. But it holds its own on hardpack and through crud, making it a fantastic all-mountain front option for places like the East Coast (or a groomer ski just about anywhere). If you prefer a more planted, wider design, the Experience HD also is available in a 100-millimeter width.
See the Rossignol Experience 88 HD  See the Women's Rossignol Temptation 88 HD


3. Line Sick Day 88 ($400)

Line Sick Day 88 skis 2018Type: All-mountain
Ability level: Intermediate to advanced
Dimensions: 127-88-113mm
Other widths: 94, 104, 114mm
What we like: Great value for a fun ski.
What we don’t: Not built for hard chargers.

It’s not groundbreaking news that quality all-mountain skis are expensive, but there still are good values to be had. Case in point is Line’s new Sick Day 88, which is literally hundreds of dollars cheaper than the options above. The entire Sick Day line-up has been updated for 2017-2018, but the all-mountain-friendly 88 is what caught our eye. Despite the on-piste focused dimensions, this is a solid all-round option with a lot of tip rocker and enough flex to be playful just about anywhere on the hill.

What are you giving up with the Sick Day 88 at its budget-friendly price? The ski isn’t built for getting too far on an edge and won’t be as comfortable on hard, unforgiving snow. But its soft snow sensibilities, lightweight feel, and focus on fun puts it high up on our list. The $400 price is the cherry on top.
See the Line Sick Day 88


4. Salomon QST 99 ($600)

Salomon QST 99 skis 2017-2018Type: All-mountain back
Ability level: Intermediate to advanced
Dimensions: 138-99-120mm
Other widths: 85, 92, 106, 118mm
What we like: Light and playful in soft snow.
What we don’t: A step down in groomer performance from the top two skis.

Transitioning from the all-mountain skis above to one that loves some powder, the Salomon QST 99 is a mid-width freeride ski built for good times. In creating the QST line, Salomon focused on keeping weight down while retaining solid all-around performance. To acheive this, they combined a wood core, edge-to-edge Titanal insert, and a laminate of carbon and flax to make a ski that is playful but buttoned down in steep and technical sections. If your resort days are all about secret stashes and free refills, the QST 99 is worth a serious look.

As is common when you trade stiffness for more front-end flex, the QST 99 isn’t as stable at speed on hardpack. As a result, the Salomon is an all-mountain option in places that see a lot of powder but less versatile than the Enforcer above for aggressive pilots. Those that experience even more of the fluffy stuff throughout the season should look to the 106mm and 118mm versions of the QST.
See the Salomon QST 99  See the Women's Salomon QST Lumen 99


5. Volkl Kendo ($649)

Volkl Kendo skis 2018Type: All-mountain
Ability level: Intermediate to advanced
Dimensions: 127-90-110mm
Other widths: None
What we like: One of the most versatile designs on the market.
What we don’t: It’s not a playful ski.

For skiers that mostly stick to the frontside on the resort but want the ability to hit the back bowls and get off-piste on occasion, the Volkl Kendo is a nice choice. At 90 millimeters underfoot, it’s a highly versatile ski that is narrow and stiff enough to carve well and take on groomed runs at a variety of speeds, but wide enough to not be out of sorts after a good storm. With enough metal in the construction to put the power down, the men’s Kendo and women’s Kenja trade the playfulness you get with the QST above for rock-solid stability.

Past versions of the Kendo have been criticized for being too unforgiving for intermediate riders, but Volkl loosened things up a bit last year, took the waist out another millimeter, and added some rocker in the tail for better float. The end result is a true all-rounder that’s fantastic for hardpack and light powder days.
See the Volkl Kendo  See the Women's Volkl Kenja


6. Head Kore 93 ($650)

Head Core 93 skis 2018Type: All-mountain
Ability level: Intermediate to expert
Dimensions: 133-93-115mm
Other width: 105, 117mm
What we like: Light but very capable.
What we don’t: Not as strong on hardpack as the Enforcer.

Head’s Monster 88 helped put the brand back on the all-mountain map, but their Kore 93 should ensure it stays. We love what they’re done with this all-new model: the ski is supremely lightweight but strong enough for crossover frontside and backcountry use. There’s stiffness and stability aplenty for experts without the typical heft and unforgiving feel you sometimes get with a ski like the Kendo above. And at a 93 millimeters underfoot and with a generously wide shovel, the Kore hits a pretty ideal all-mountain shape.

The Kore 93 will inevitably be compared to the Enforcer 93 above, which is a match in terms of width and price. Where the Kore excels is its lighter weight that makes bootpacks or side country explorations that much easier. Both skis are willing to turn and their stiff constructions are accomplished on firm snow. The Enforcer still wins out for hard chargers and those who really get on an edge, but the Kore 93 undoubtedly is a winner.
See the Head Kore 93


7. Blizzard Brahma 88 ($650)

Blizzard Brahma 88 skis 2017-2018Type: All-mountain front
Ability level: Intermediate to advanced
Dimensions: 127-88-111mm
Other widths: None
What we like: A top option for resort skiers.
What we don’t: Narrow for deep snow and the sidecountry.

Blizzard has made a few tweaks to its popular Brahma this year, a ski that’s been a mainstay on our list thanks to great frontside performance in almost all snow conditions. The most noticeable changes are a new shovel design and shorter turn radius—from 19 to 17 meters—which translate to a greater willingness to turn. Blizzard’s impressive FlipCore technology remains, which allows their rockered shape to flex and behave more naturally than traditionally constructed skis.

With a relatively modest 88-millimeter waist and light camber underfoot, the Brahma isn’t as versatile as the Enforcer above. But the FlipCore tip and tail rocker profiling retain rock solid edge hold on firm snow, and as long as you don’t get too crazy in the powder, the Brahma is a classic all-mountain choice. Blizzard has expanded the line for 2017-2018 to include the Brahma CA, which replaces the two layers of metal of the standard Brahma with a carbon compound for a lighter, flexier feel.
See the Blizzard Brahma 88  See the Women's Blizzard Black Pearl 88


8. K2 Pinnacle 95 ($700)

K2 Pinnacle 95 skis 2018Type: All-mountain
Ability level: Intermediate to advanced
Dimensions: 132-95-115mm
Other widths: 85, 88, 105, 118mm
What we like: Great feel and ideal all-mountain width.
What we don’t: Not for the hard charger.

Legendary ski brand K2 is not as prominent as it once was this category, but we love the Pinnacle 95. Now in its third year, the Pinnacle aims to achieve that elusive “quiver of one” distinction—a ski that’s equally adept at hardpack and powder. And the Pinnacle has all the right bones: a 95mm width combined with an early rise tip and tail rocker for a playful feeling off trail, and a traditional camber for good edge control for spending the occasional day on the groomers. The addition of a little more metal for this year gives the Pinnacle 95 a noticeable increase in on-piste performance.

Despite their efforts, this K2 still is best for those that love soft snow. The lively feel doesn’t make it ideal for hard charging groomer days, but it’s undoubtedly fun to steer into the untracked sidecountry. We think the ski has big upside for freeriders and those that like to hit jumps, and we fully expect the Pinnacle 95 will continue to be a top all-mountain and off-piste choice.
See the K2 Pinnacle 95  See the Women's K2 FulLUVit 95


9. Armada Invictus 99 Ti ($700)

Armada Invictus 99 Ti 2017-2018Type: All-mountain
Ability level: Advanced to expert
Dimensions: 134-99-124mm
Other widths: 89, 108mm
What we like: Strong and fast.
What we don’t: Not the best ski for short, tight turns.

With two layers of metal, carbon fiber and Kevlar stringers, and a medium-wide turn radius, the Armada Invictus is built for speed and straight lining runs. These skis are super stable and plenty stiff for the expert rider, and at 99mm at the waist (there’s also a 108mm version) they’re very capable all-mountain skis in most conditions. To reduce chatter when running at full tilt, Armada combines the stiff construction with traditional camber underfoot and a modest tip rocker.

Where the Invictus falls a little short is in the trees or over bumps where a faster turning machine is a better match. More, intermediates who like to take it easy will be best served by looking elsewhere, including the less intense K2 Pinnacle 95 above. But aggressive all-mountain riders that will value the wide platform should give the Invictus 99 Ti serious consideration.
See the Armada Invictus 99 Ti  See the Women's Armada Victa 97 Ti


10. Nordica Navigator 85 ($500)

Nordica Navigator 85 skis 2017-2018Type: All-mountain front
Ability level: Intermediate to advanced
Dimensions: 124-85-109mm
Other widths: 80, 90mm
What we like: Fantastic performance for the price.
What we don’t: A little lacking at the top-end.

Nordica has continued to revamp its lineup with the new Navigator line replacing the NRGY. This frontside-focused all-mountain ski takes an interesting hodgepodge of design elements—including the general profile of the old NRGY and the Enforcer’s tip shape—and the end result is a surprisingly polished ski. It’s forgiving enough for intermediates but not out of sorts once you get up to speed. And at $500, Navigator is one of the best values on the all-mountain market.

In saving $100 or more compared with most of the skis above, there are a couple compromises with the Navigator 85. For one, top-end performance falls a little short compared with the Enforcer or Kendo, so expert-level skiers probably will want to look elsewhere. And the 85-millimeter width just isn’t enough for deep snow. But with plenty of performance for the majority of skiers and in most resort conditions, the Navigator has earned a spot on our list.
See the Nordica Navigator 85  See the Women's Nordica Astral 84


11. Fischer Pro Mtn 95 Ti ($750)

Fischer Pro MT 95 Ti 2018Type: All-mountain
Ability level: Advanced to expert
Dimensions: 137-95-122mm
Other widths: 80, 86mm
What we like: Stiff and strong yet light.
What we don’t: Too much ski for most intermediates.

The Pro Mountain 95 is Fischer’s premium all-mountain weapon and one of the more serious skis to make our list. With a full-length Titanal metal layer, it’s stiff for strong skiers, but Fischer included carbon in the tip and tail to keep weight in check. In fact, they claim the Pro Mountain Ti is the lightest ski in its category. This makes it a very intriguing option for hard chargers who really like to fly.

East coast or Midwest rippers will be happy to know that 86mm and 80mm versions of the Pro Mtn Ti are available, and we’d put those models right up there as strong competition to the Rossignol Experience 88 HD above. A rocker tip and tail round out a nice design that, while on the pricey side, is a great match for aggressive skiers looking to trim some weight off their downhill sticks.
See the Fischer Pro Mtn 95 Ti


12. Rossignol Soul 7 HD ($750)

Rossignol Soul 7 HD skis 2018Type: All-mountain back
Ability level: Intermediate to advanced
Dimensions: 136-106-126mm
Other widths: None
What we like: One of our favorite wide all-mountain ski gets better.
What we don’t: Too wide and soft for those that stay on-piste.

Yes, 106 millimeters is quite wide for the all-mountain category, but Rossignol’s 7 series has garnered so much praise in the past few years that it’s nearing legendary status. The Soul 7 is the flagship all-mountain offering and, as you would expect, does pretty much everything well. It’s light and fun tackling an open bowl, but can button down for hitting technical and steep terrain at speed. For 2017-2018, Rossignol has improved the ski’s frontside performance with a redesigned Air Tip that is stiffer and not as prone to chatter.

The Soul 7 HD is a better on-piste ski than in years past, but it’s still happiest in soft snow. The ski is smooth and easy to navigate in powder, but will wander and resist getting too far on an edge or digging into ice. This is an easy compromise for those that live in powder country, however, where the Soul 7 is an all-mountain dream.
See the Rossignol Soul 7 HD  See the Women's Rossignol Soul 7 HD


13. Atomic Vantage X 80 CTI ($800)

Atomic Vantage X 80 CTI skis 2018Type: All-mountain front
Ability level: Intermediate to expert
Dimensions: 125-80-110mm
Other widths: 75, 83mm
What we like: Fantastic frontside performance.
What we don’t: Limited versatility.

Many of the skis on this list try to toe the line between on and off trail use, but the Atomic Vantage X 80 is a decidedly frontside beast. Right off the bat, it’s important to note the seemingly high $800 price actually is a decent good deal: the X 80 comes with the highly regarded Warden MNC 13-DIN bindings. These bindings retail for $260 and are a great match for the rock solid feel of the Vantage.

The clear downside is that the Vantage X 80 has been tuned to rail hardpack almost exclusively. The ski is nearly faultless at speed, turns smoothly, and is easy to trust on the edge. Venture off trail, however, and it can’t hide its 80-millimeter width (although it will dance in the trees if the snow isn’t too deep). If you’re willing to compromise in versatility and just love a powerful ski, we recommend checking out the Vantage X 80.
See the Atomic Vantage X 80 CTI


14. Line Sir Francis Bacon 104 ($700)

Line Sir Francis Bacon 104 skis 2018Type: All-mountain back
Ability level: Intermediate to advanced
Dimensions: 135-104-131mm
Other widths: None
What we like: Mixes park and all-mountain characteristics.
What we don’t: Soft and not as fun on hard snow.

Seattle-based Line Skis is known for its playful builds and artwork that draw inspiration from freestyle and park designs. Their Sir Francis Bacon takes this play-anywhere feeling to the all-mountain back category with a 104-millimeter width, lots of tip and tail rocker, and a lightweight feel. For hitting jumps and exploring the outer edges of the resort, it’s about as fun as it gets.

The surfy personality of the Sir Francis Bacon lends itself to people who don’t take themselves too seriously on the hill. If you want to blast a groomer, the ski will fall short with a ponderous and somewhat imprecise response. But while the Sir Francis isn’t built for wide and fast GS turns on hardpack, and the wide dimensions limits its appeal in areas that don’t get a lot of snow, it’s a great match for the backside of the resort and sidecountry.
See the Line Sir Francis Bacon 104


15. Dynastar Legend X 96 ($700)

Dynastar Legend X 96 skis 2018Type: All-mountain
Ability level: Intermediate to advanced
Dimensions: 132-96-112mm
Other widths: 84, 88, 106mm
What we like: Quick turning and lightweight.
What we don’t: Too expensive.

Dynastar shakes up their all-mountain line-up for 2017-2018 with the new Legend X 96. While not an exact replacement to the outgoing Cham 2.0, the Legend X effectively replaces it as a lightweight ski that mixes all-mountain and backcountry characteristics. What stands out is the ski’s willingness to turn quickly—it excels in the trees with quick responses and a feathery but impressively stable personality. And the Legend X’s 96-millimeter width and wide shovel are comfortable tackling both corduroy and powder.

The Legend X lands near the bottom of our list mostly because it doesn’t live up to its steep price. Skis in the $700 range typically are more powerful and tuned to expert riders, but the Dynastar is best for advancing intermediates. If you want snappy turning from a frontside ski, you can get something like the Nordica Navigator 90 and save $100 (and the 85-millimeter width Navigator saves you another $100). But the Legend X 96 is wider and a little more versatile than those skis, and it’s still a good choice for backcountry riders that want to throw on a pair of lightweight touring bindings.
See the Dynastar Legend X 96


16. Kastle FX95 HP ($1,199)

Kastle FX95 HP skis 2017-2018Type: All-mountain
Ability level: Expert
Dimensions: 126-95-115mm
Other width: 85mm
What we like: Pro-level performance on and off piste.
What we don’t: Only pros can afford it.

With big time power, performance-oriented skiers love the Kastle FX95 HP, which was developed by renowned ski mountaineer 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, and a wonderful ash and silver fir core makes the FX95 a flickable off-piste joy.

The older version of this ski was associated with being a difficult ride for non-experts, but the new design is more approachable and can be enjoyed even when you’re not muscling it around. Of course, price is the biggest barrier to entry here, and the improvements from other models on this list are incremental at best. But for those who truly get the most out of their skis, the FX95 HP is worth the extra dough.
See the Kastle FX95 HP


17. Rossignol Smash 7 ($400)

Rossignol Smash 7 skis 2017-2018Type: All-mountain
Ability level: Beginner to intermediate
Dimensions: 119-92-109mm
Other widths: None
What we like: Soft set up is great for beginners.
What we don’t: Could outgrow its abilities quickly.

Even the most forgiving skis above are a bit of a stretch for a true beginner, which is where the Rossignol Smash 7 comes in. The Smash sits at the bottom of the revered “7” line from Rossignol, and has the cheapest price ($400 including 11-DIN bindings), softest feel, and narrowest width. But the ski still has the series’ signature Powder Turn Rocker, which mixes easy turning rocker at the tip and tail with enough camber underfoot to practice turning on hardpack. And at 92 millimeters wide, it’s one of the most off-trail-oriented beginner skis on the market.

In truth, we’re not completely sold on the tweener nature of the Smash 7. It’s forgiving enough, but the ski is overmatched at any decent speed on a groomer, which means a fast learner may outgrow it. On the other hand, its off-piste abilities are great for those that plan to head to the soft stuff right off the bat (but that’s not all that common). The Smash 7 certainly isn’t for everyone, but its approachable price and unique wide width earn it a spot on our list.
See the Rossignol Smash 7  See the Women's Rossignol Sassy 7


All-Mountain Ski Comparison Table

Ski Price Category Ability Level Dimensions Radius
Nordica Enforcer 93 $650 All-mountain Intermediate to expert 126-93-114mm 16.5m
Rossignol Experience 88 HD $700 All-mountain front Intermediate to expert 135-88-124mm 17m
Line Sick Day 88 $400 All-mountain Intermediate to advanced 127-88-111mm 17.4m
Salomon QST 99 $600 All-mountain back Intermediate to advanced 138-99-120mm 19.4m
Volkl Kendo 90 $649 All-mountain Intermediate to advanced 127-90-110mm 20.8m
Head Kore 93 $650 All-mountain Intermediate to expert 133-93-115 16.4m
Blizzard Brahma $650 All-mountain front Intermediate to advanced 125-88-110mm 19m
K2 Pinnacle 95 $700 All-mountain Intermediate to advanced 132-95-115mm 17m
Armada Invictus 99 Ti $700 All-mountain Advanced to expert 134-99-124mm 21.5m
Nordica Navigator 85 $500 All-mountain front Intermediate to advanced 124-85-109mm 16.5m
Fischer Pro Mtn 95 Ti $750 All-mountain Advanced to expert 137-95-122mm 18m
Rossignol Soul 7 HD $750 All-mountain back Intermediate to advanced 136-106-126mm 17m
Atomic Vantage X 80 CTI $800 All-mountain front Intermediate to expert 125-80-110mm 15.2m
Line Sir Francis Bacon 104 $700 All-mountain back Intermediate to advanced 135-104-131mm 17.5m
Dynastar Legend X 96 $700 All mountain Intermediate to advanced 132-96-112mm 17m
Kastle FX95 HP $1,199 All-mountain Expert 126-95-115mm 20m
Rossignol Smash 7 $400 All-mountain Beginner to intermediate 119-92-109mm 23m

All-Mountain Ski Buying Advice

What Is an All-Mountain Ski?

By definition, an all-mountain ski should be adept at just about anything you’ll encounter during a day on the slopes (the commonly used term is “quiver of one”). This isn’t a hard-and-fast category and keeps getting wider, but generally encompasses skis from 85mm to 105mm underfoot that are best for the front side of the mountain and skiing in bounds (at least most of the time). At the narrow end are focused on-trail groomer skis and at the wide end are skis that can handle back bowls and powder just fine.

It’s equally important to understand the limitations of this ski type. All-mountain skis are not ideal for deep powder or the backcountry (for alpine touring options, see our article on the Best Backcountry Skis). In addition, they're often heavy for uphill travel, although this is changing as materials continue to improve. What they do offer is that all-in-one functionality: for anything from crusty hardpark to bluebird soft snow days, there’s an all-mountain ski for that. Logically, it’s not as simple as just choosing any old all-mountain ski and calling it good. The decision should involve local snow conditions, skiing style, and ability level. We cover these important considerations below.

Ski Waist Width Explained

The width of the very middle of the ski is the key measurement in choosing a proper all-mountain setup. You’ll see the waist width measured in millimeters, also referred to by the term “underfoot.” Skis nowadays are trending toward ever-wider waist widths for improved stability and control in soft snow. If you line up a current all-mountain ski with one from 10 years ago, the change in waist width is dramatic. Here is where things stand for 2017-2018, and for more information on this topic, see our full article on choosing the right ski waist width

80mm to 90mm: Groomer Skis
As folks on the East Coast are aware, powder days can be few and far between. And when a snowstorm blows through overnight, it’s best to lay first tracks as those couple of inches probably won’t make it to lunchtime. If you’re from an area like this or stick primarily to groomed runs, a ski in the 80mm to 90mm waist width range will be an ideal pairing. In other words, don’t be seduced by a wide powder ski, no matter how amazing it looks. The Rossignol Experience 88 HD is a very popular groomer ski and our second overall all-mountain pick for 2017-2018. 

All-mountain skis (86mm)
A groomer-friendly ski with an 86mm waist

90mm to 100mm: All-Rounders
An all-around ski can handle anything from early season groomer days to occasional off-track powder runs. As a result of the universal appeal, this is the core of the all-mountain category. Ideal waist widths vary from about 90 to 100mm and a more universal profile is preferred (light tip/tail rocker to limit tail flap). If you had to pick one ski for the entire season’s worth of conditions, this would be it. Our top pick, the Nordica Enforcer 93, sits squarely within this range. 

100mm+: Powder Sleds
Places like Colorado and Utah are blessed with frequent dumps of glorious powder. The dry and light stuff that falls in these Western States have made them a skier’s paradise. So what’s the best all-mountain ski for these conditions? To start, it’s best to acknowledge that a one-ski quiver is insufficient for backcountry powder hounds—those folks will be best served with a dedicated powder ski (or multiple skis) that can stay afloat in the deep stuff. But should you stick to lift assisted skiing and don’t get too lost in the trees, a ski with a width of 100-110mm should be just right. A nice powder ski that still hits the all-mountain category is the Rossignol Soul 7 HD

In sum, moving to a wider ski increases flotation in powder. With a wider base along with rocker technology (covered below), the greater surface area means you can ski more easily and aggressively. But it’s not all good news with fat skis. Wider skis generally make wider turns, and the benefits are mostly appreciated by those that ski off trail or live in powder-rich areas. We’ve seen too many skiers suffering on hardpack with skis that are too wide and cumbersome. So don’t get caught up in the wider is always better mantra—make sure you’ll be able to appreciate the benefits that wider skis provide.

All-Mountain Front vs. All-Mountain Back

The all-mountain category tries valiantly to cover a very wide range of skiing styles and terrain, but, as we cover in the waist width section above, there are significant differences between models. As such, we’ve found it helpful to refer to the skis with an on-piste focus as “all-mountain front” and off-trail-oriented as “all-mountain back.” Skis that perform reasonably well on both groomed runs and powder are categorized simply as "all-mountain."

In short, an all-mountain front ski is best for tackling groomed runs. It has a narrower width, semi-stiff to stiff construction, and ski profile (covered below) that's tuned for stability and good edge hold on hardpack. Some of our favorite all-mountain front skis are the Rossignol Experience 88 HD and Blizzard Brahma. All-mountain back skis on the other hand are wider, softer, and built to float in deep snow. These are just shy of a powder ski, (but are more planted if you have to ski on-piste) with examples including the Rossignol Soul 7 HD at 106mm in width. They aren’t as fun for carving and can be less stable at speed, but they remain a suitable option for skiers that spend about 50 percent or more of their time off trail. The rest of the pack balances traits from both categories, with enough stability for moving fast and a medium width (often between 90mm and 100mm) for soft snow use.

All-mountain skis (hiking)
Those that explore the outer reaches of the resort may want to consider an all-mountain back ski

Ski Profile

The profile of a ski can be broken into three main categories: camber, rocker, and mixed rocker/camber. There are others, including skis with a flat bottom shape, but the three listed below are the most popular—and for good reason. Each has their own strengths and weaknesses for skier and snow type.

Camber is the traditional groomer ski design. The profile has a half moon-like shape that peaks right underneath your boot and contacts the ground towards the tip and tail of the ski. While skiing, your weight presses the ski into the snow, and when you lift coming out of the turn, you get a satisfying pop that propels you into the next turn. The design has been popular for many years because it provides even contact with the snow and superior edge control when carving down a groomed slope.

Camber used to dominate the all-mountain category, but now it’s become a bit of a rarity. So why has traditional camber fallen out of favor? In short, because the industry fell in love with the new kid on the block: rocker (and then mixed camber/rocker). But traditional camber remains a great choice for those that like to ski aggressively on groomed runs. Don’t buy the marketing hype that pure camber is dead.

Rocker, also known as reverse camber, is when the tips of the skis are raised on either end, creating a sort of banana shape to the ski profile. This design came about originally for its benefits in deep powder. And even just a few years ago, rocker was mostly resigned to powder skis, but the design has come on strong in all-mountain setups of late. Our take is that a full rocker setup, rising at both the tip and the tail, is still best for those that like to spend more of their time off-trail. The downside of a pure rocker ski is the flat surface underfoot has a tendency to be more skittish when carving on hardpack. Although it turns easily, it just doesn’t hold an edge like traditional camber. From this issue was born a third category: mixed rocker/camber.

Mixed Camber/Rocker
With both rocker and camber providing real world benefits enjoyed by skiers of just about any ability level, manufacturers have turned their attention recently to mixed camber. In theory, it should provide the best of both worlds: the edge control of a traditional camber ski and the crud busting and easy cruising in deep powder that you get with rocker. And reality isn’t that far off. There are variations in how manufacturers pull off this mix: some go with a tip-only rocker while others go for tip and tail (the latter is great for those that spend some time riding switch). If you’re a skier that tries to cover all of the mountain, a mixed camber/rocker setup is a great pairing.

For visual learners, snow sports retailer Evo has put together a helpful video explaining the various profile types.

Turn Radius (Side Cut Radius)

Side cut radius is a key measurement of the turn radius of your ski. A ski with a higher number makes wide sweeping turns, while a lower number means tighter turns. A tight turn radius is great for moguls or cutting in and out of trees, but trimming away materials also means it doesn’t float as well in the soft stuff. Below are general ski parameters:

  • Carving: Less than 16 meters
  • All-around: 16-20 meters
  • Sweeping turns in powder: 20+ meters

Keep in mind that a longer version of the same ski will increase the side cut radius, so if you’re weighing two ski lengths know that the shorter option will be more inclined to turn a little sharper (at the sacrifice of some top end speed and flotation). 

Powder turns
Side cut radius can be greater when skiing powder


The stiffness of a ski is one of its defining features and a clear differentiator between beginner and advanced-level models. A rigid design is stable at speed and has the highest performance potential, but a beginner or less confident pilot will lack control and may find it difficult to turn. On the flipside, getting a ski that is too soft can lower the ceiling of your top-end performance and leave an advanced (or advancing) skier wanting more.

A ski’s stiffness is the result of its material mix, and key indicators include how much metal (if any) the manufacturer is using. Commonly, a stiff ski will have 2-layers of Titanal (a strong alloy) that runs the full length and width of the ski. While it adds a little weight, the metal increases stability, and expert-level skis like the Fischer Pro Mtn Ti utilize this type of construction. On the other end of the spectrum is a softer ski like the K2 Pinnacle 95, which only has a metal laminate along the outer edges. The focus is less on speed and more on a playful nature, which makes it a better match off-piste and at milder speeds.

Women’s-Specific Skis

For many years, a women’s-specific ski essentially was the men’s version in a shorter length, softer flex, and different colorway. The technology is evolving, however, and a number of ski manufacturers now are taking into account more advanced design elements. For 2017-2018, many women’s-specific models have moved the recommended mounting points slightly forward (this better accommodates how an average woman balances on skis compared to an average man), along with a lighter overall weight. Softer flexes still are common, but many brands are now making skis to accommodate hard charging women. A great example is the updated Nordica Santa Ana 93, which now features two layers of metal for strong top-end performance.

Which ski type should you buy? Keep in mind that the primary version of a ski isn’t a “men’s” version but instead unisex in nature. When a women’s-specific version is available, we’ve included a link to that option as well. The choice comes down to personal preference, and most importantly, the quality and characteristics of each model. Some women use unisex skis, some favor women’s-specific models, and many serious skiers use a combination of the two. We recommend getting whichever ski fits and feels best. 

What’s with the Carbon Craze?

Almost without fail, brand new or updated skis are promoting their use of carbon fiber in the construction. The material is light and strong—two excellent characteristics for skis, which benefit from a lighter weight and stiffer construction. But carbon is best used as a secondary or complimentary material as it lacks the natural feel and durability of a wood core.

Fischer’s Pro Mtn Ti is a great example of the benefits of carbon fiber. With extensive use of the material in the tip and tail, swing weight is reduced but tip chatter is kept to a minimum thanks to the thin but rigid construction. Just don’t assume any application of carbon is automatically beneficial. Some manufacturers seem to throw it in for good measure, and limited use of carbon probably won’t make a lick of difference in either weight or performance.

Choosing the Right Ski Length

Picking skis used to a pretty simple process, and could be done simply by knowing your height (the center of the forehead was a common match for a ski). Those days are long gone, replaced by more of a scientific process. Now, ski manufacturers are basing their recommendations on height and weight. This allows you to maximize the ski’s potential with proper amounts of flex and power transfer. Other considerations are skiing style: shorter skis are easier to handle for beginners and turning faster, while longer skis float better and are more stable at high speed. In the end, the right skis might only come to your chin or they may reach the top of your head, so all length should do is give you a good ballpark. We’ve found the sizing chart on Evo to be helpful as baseline information.

Finding the Right Ski Boots and Bindings

Of utmost importance in choosing a ski setup is to realize how interconnected each piece is. Boot, binding, and skis need to be all working in concert to maximize the performance potential of your gear as well as to maximize your enjoyment. Skimping on one will impact the performance of everything else. As an example, if you have a stiff, performance-oriented boot, you’re going to waste its abilities with a slow and cumbersome entry-level ski and binding. Alternatively, if you have a beginner, flexible boot with an advanced ski and binding set, you won’t be able to transfer enough power to really carve your way down the slopes.

To help guarantee you end up with a proper match, our ski binding and downhill boot recommendations breakdown the categories in a similar fashion as all-mountain skis: tailoring picks to ski conditions and ability level. Should you have additional inquiries, feel free to fire away in the discussion section below.

Ordering Skis Online

It goes without saying that purchasing a pair of skis is a significant investment and one that requires a good deal of research. Ideally you’ll have a chance to get your hands on the skis before taking the plunge, but that isn’t a reality for everyone and ordering them online is a pretty seamless process these days. Most major retailers offer free and surprisingly fast shipping, which makes it a very attractive option.

Once you get your skis, you’ll need to get your bindings mounted. Just about any ski shop will do the work for you, with the average cost ranging from about $40 to $70. The only online retailer that we’re aware of that will do the work prior to shipping is Skis.com. For 2017-2018, they offer the service for $50, but you have to purchase the boots, bindings, and skis all at once so they can get everything properly fitted. Many of REI’s 145 stores have a ski shop and they offer a good discount on the mounting service. Prices vary by store, but we checked with the flagship in Seattle and the cost is $25 for an alpine mounting. The price goes go up to $50 if you didn’t purchase the skis from them. Evo and Backcountry offer mounting services at their stores, but that’s limited to Salt Lake City (Backcountry), and Seattle and Portland (Evo). 
Back to Our Top All-Mountain Ski Picks  Back to Our All-Mountain Ski Comparison Table

7 Great Skis for East Coast Hardpack

First and foremost, the East Coast has great skiing, from Stowe in Vermont, to Sugarloaf in Maine, all the way up to Tremblant in Quebec. But the reality is that the conditions vary considerably from places like...

Best Downhill Ski Boots of 2017-2018

No matter your ability level, a comfortable boot is an absolute necessity. Nothing ruins a good powder day faster than cold or painful feet, and ill-fitting boots also run the risk of not properly transferring energy...

Best Ski Bindings of 2017-2018

Bindings are often the last piece of ski gear you choose, but remain a very important one. As the connection between boot and ski, they play a fundamental role in power transfer...

On Location: Ski Portillo

It’s summer in Colorado, and we’re smack dab in the middle of a heat wave. The mountain bike trails are dry and cracking, and monsoonal rains provide only a short relief on most afternoons. For dedicated skiers like myself, there are...

Best Skis for Beginners of 2017-2018

Beginner skis offer great value and an easy platform for learning the basics of turning, balance, and control. In short, they make it easier to learn proper technique in less time...

Best Ski Jackets of 2017-2018

From cold to snow to wind to sweat, choosing a ski jacket is all about managing the conditions that you might encounter on the mountain. The right ski jacket for you depends on the specific kinds of skiing you enjoy most—skinning up a sunny ridgeline...

Best Ski Goggles of 2017-2018

No matter your experience level or budget, there is a great ski goggle waiting to be found. Interchangeable lenses dominate the high end of the market with systems that are getting quicker and easier by the year. In particular...

Best Ski Helmets of 2017-2018

No matter your ability level, picking up a helmet for skiing or snowboarding is a no-brainer. If you’ve been putting off replacing a helmet that’s years old or are new to the sport, recent advancements have made them lighter and even safer...