The Best All Mountain Skis
All mountain skis are designed to be the most versatile type of ski. This is the style you buy if you only want to own one pair of skis instead of an entire quiver. The perfect all mountain pair will handle a range of terrain and a variety of speeds, so you can carve turns on fresh groomers, make first tracks on a fluffy powder day, and plow through chopped up, refrozen snow (a.k.a. crud). You can take an all mountain model anywhere at a resort, both on piste and off piste. All mountain skis will perform better in powder than your standard frontside ski but not as well as a dedicated powder ski. However since an all mountain ski is a jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none type of equipment, there are limitations to how well they perform in different conditions.
Volkl’s new M5 Mantra (marking the 5th iteration of the ground-breaking ski, which has continually ushered in another new era of All Mountain performance with less effort) won the All Mountain Category. Period. The majority of our testers wanted to ski the rest of the day on it, or the week, or the season, dropping over the ridge to Alta on the test models with a wave and a nod, and a quick, “Yeah, I’m good.” This is the new benchmark for high-performance multi-condition skis.
Best for Responsiveness
Elan Ripstick 96 Black EditionAll Mountain Skis, Men's All Mountain Skis, Ski & Snow & Skis
Last year we said, “The Elan Ripstick 96 is the purest, most accurate carving ski in the All Mountain Category of the Gear Institute Ski Test.” That was before Elan added a lighter, increasingly stable carbon construction (i.e., the “Black Edition”) to Amphibio Technology (a specific left and right ski with camber for hold on the inside of each tip, and rocker on the outside for ease of initiation), which makes it amazingly easy to carve medium to short-radius turns that it’s practically automatic. Along with a “Tubelite Woodcore” inserted into the wood to provide power and an even flex, the Black Edition 96 offers effortless carve and superior grip.
Head’s Kore 99 delivers strong, stable, confidence-building All Mountain performance, particularly if you ski primarily off-piste. The added waist width of the 99-millimeter design (Head had us test the 93-millimeter waist width in this category last season) provided the extra bit of light powder/crud/mixed condition performance testers asked for, and it showed in the positive results. This is a very damp ski that can feel sluggish on the hardpack, but it absolutely rules – and rips – on every other kind of condition where we tested it.
Best for Resort Float
Fischer Ranger 98 TiAll Mountain Skis, Men's All Mountain Skis, Ski & Snow & Skis
Fischer’s Ranger 98 Ti has the amazing ability to give you the confidence you get ripping groomers, even when you’re off-piste. This ski is super maneuverable, incredibly responsive, and lots of fun to ski, especially when you’re poking around in the bumps and trees. It’s not as confident on the groomed, and the lighter weight freaked a few testers out when they were mach-ing on hard snow back to the lift. Overall, the ease with which this ski performs should garner a serious look.
A true all-mountain ski that straddles the line between performance and playfulness, the Dynastar Legend W96 adapts well to terrain and snow variations, found on big mountains including bumps, tight trees, and variable snow conditions. “This is a do-all ski for chutes, trees, mild pow, and frontside groomers,” says one tester. The 96-mm-waisted ski received its highest tester scores for Stability and Float, “This ski lacks the complete smoothness that the old Legends had,” says one tester. “It can chatter on edge at speed.”
Best at Carving and Pivoting
Atomic Vantage 97 CWAll Mountain Skis, Ski & Snow, Skis & Women's All Mountain Skis
The carbon-reinforced Atomic Vantage 97 C W is a light and maneuverable ski that can both pivot and carve, favoring short to medium radius turns. Testers appreciated its smooth turn transition and agility in bumps or on hardpack. The lightweight Prolite construction favors moderately aggressive all mountain skiers, according to testers, who also noted that the light tip can feel too light at speed in long turns, where the edge grip diminished. Though light and maneuverable, the ski lacks pep and liveliness, which it trades for smoothness and ease of short turns or pivoting around tight spots or bumps.
The Blizzard Sheeva 9 is a sturdy, predictable 92-mm-waisted ski ideal for all-mountain skiers who want more carve and less float. Testers applauded the Sheeva 9’s blend of skills, including excelling at quick turns, soft bumps, and trees. “It’s got a big sweet spot and feels easy to stay centered on,” says one tester. Receiving its highest marks for Stability and Carving, the Sheeva 9 received its lowest scores for Responsiveness, Float, and Versatility. Testers felt that the 92 mm waist was narrower than other skis in the category, thus lowering versatility off-piste and in snow or cut-up conditions. “This ski is on the narrow side for a freeride ski,” says one tester. “It’s more an all-mountain frontside ski.”