The Best Skis
Our expert ski testers have a long history of critically evaluating skis. One of Gear Institute’s founders came from a ski industry background, and he has brought his knowledge base and skills on the slope to testing and reviewing gear. We have divided our ski reviews into four categories: carving skis, frontside skis, all mountain skis, and powder skis. Each of these categories is defined by the conditions where those skis excel, and that is determined primarily by the waist width—the width of the ski where the binding is mounted, a.k.a. underfoot. Additionally, each of these four categories is further divided into men’s and women’s categories. Scroll through the skis we tested below and scroll to the bottom of the page if you’re not sure what ski is best for you. We provide a description of each type to help you find the best ski for the kind of skiing you do.
When more than 35 percent of your test team says a ski is their “Favorite,” and the rest rate it “Excellent,” it’s pretty clear you’ve found a pair of boards that truly stand apart. Which is exactly what happened with Kastle’s FX95 HP, which pulled away from the rest of the class. The secret is in matching Kastle’s typically bomber full woodcore sandwich sidewall construction and two layers of Titanal with “Dual Rise” rocker in the tail and the tip. Suddenly, a ski with already impressive edge hold and stability is able to also offer ease of initiation both on-piste and off. Make no mistake, this is an experts-only ski, that needs to be moving at a decent clip for all its features to click. It also doesn’t do short turns as well as the Volkl 90Eight, and a couple testers would have preferred a touch more sidecut. Still, we rarely have this many testers agree on which boards they think earn the Best in Class.
Best Ski for Technical Carvers
Blizzard BonafideAll Mountain Skis, Men's All Mountain Skis, Ski & Snow & Skis
Blizzard did some interesting tweaks to its well-regarded Bonafide in the offseason, most notably widening the tip and tail to improve its carving ability with a deeper sidecut. The result is an All Mountain ski that still blows through the crud but also holds an even better edge on the hardpack. This is not a ski that likes to go slow or has much pop, but it offers thrilling all-terrain performance with unshakeable hold and very smooth ski-to-snow contact underfoot.
When one of your hardest grading – and grumpiest – testers says, “Anyone who tries this ski will find a way to own it,” you know you’re looking at a potential Best in Class. With “Excellent,” to Favorite,” rankings on the majority of test cards, and only two testers ranking it a mere “Good,” (“Awful” is our lowest, and least marked overall ranking), you become very curious to see how the numbers add up. Spoiler alert: They’re right at the top. This ski soars with its ability to handle all Frontside terrain, all speeds, and a variety of abilities with a clean, exciting sense of response. It is more damp than lively, and needs to be on edge, in a carve (preferably medium radius) to perform at its best. But unlike most of the other skis in the Frontside Category, it doesn’t just reward a hard or lighter touch. In this case, the ski does both, giving standup style foot turners quick edge-to-edge capabilities, and deep angulating carvers the kind of race style arc they love the most. How’s the Experience 88 HD? Really sweet!
Atomic hit it out of the park with the Vantage 90 CTI, a ski that combines power, finesse, and lots of fun and excitement with a lightweight feel. It does prefer to be on edge all the time, and offers a little less float than some of the other skis in this class, but so what. The Vantage 90 owns lift-serve conditions and could easily be your go-to ski for all but the deepest days on the hill.
Blizzard’s new Rustler 10 pretty much dominated the Powder Category of our ski test, earning “Favorite” picks from more than 80 percent of the testers who skied it. “Playful yet stable;” “Strong yet nimble;” and “One of the best skis of all time,” were just a few of the superlatives heaped onto the test cards in praise of this big mountain machine, which tore through every condition we threw at it. Mixing a lightweight woodcore of paulownia, balsa, poplar and beech with Blizzard’s new D.R.T. (Dynamic Release Technology) carbon Flipcore, this ski felt more lively and maneuverable than most Blizzards, a brand we consistently praise for its power and dampness. That doesn’t mean the ski lost any stability – not by a long shot! What it did was add the ability to feel more versatile in all conditions, from the powder to the hardpack. Bottom line: This is a powder ski that could easily be your all-season ride if you want.
Atomic’s Backland FR 109 is damp and accurate enough for skiing big days in-bounds, with a lightweight feel for anyone who wants to put some tech bindings on it as a backcountry specific turn-earning machine. The ski has great Float, thanks to significant rocker, is maneuverable off-piste, and has a confident, damp feel underfoot. There are more energetic skis in the Powder Category, especially if you want a big ski that will offer more edge hold and Stability if you decide to ski the Backland from the lifts. The ski did not stand out in any one of our specific test classifications – good or bad. All of our testers did comment on how fun it is to ski, providing a consistently playful, reliable turn shape.