The Best Men's Carving Skis

Men’s Carving Skis 2018-19

Gear Institute’s ski test is held annually at Snowbird, Utah, in conjunction with Mountain Magazine and Outside Magazine. The 2018 test was held in February, with more than 20 testers, several of who work in the snowsports industry as ski instructors, ski patrollers, professional athletes, and magazine editors, as well as one former member of the U.S. Ski Team. Other testers included former NCAA Division I ski racers, some hard-charging beer league skiers from the East Coast, as well as local rippers from Alta and Snowbird, and also from Jackson Hole, Vail, Taos, and Santa Fe, New Mexico. Initial product testing was also conducted in January 2018 at Copper Mountain, Colorado, during the SnowSports Industries America trade show.

Snowbird offers the kind of world-class terrain, including everything from expertly groomed hardpack to tight trees, windswept bowls, big bumps, steep chutes, endless cornices and all-around mixed conditions that allow us to test skis in almost every imaginable condition. With many top name ski manufacturers—such as Armada, Atomic, Dynastar, Rossignol, Salomon—having their headquarters in Utah (including several, such as Blizzard, with satellite offices in the Beehive State), we can also easily coordinate with the brands to ensure that we test products in exactly the kinds of conditions in which they were designed to excel. We don’t test Powder skis on hardpack, and we don’t test Frontside skis when the Wasatch is experiencing one of its legendary storms. Each day of our test we check the weather conditions, and test the right skis for those conditions accordingly.

We do test skis head-to-head, one after the other, rating them on the same criteria that we feel is most relevant to each specific category, with an emphasis on top of the line products for advanced to expert skiers who know how they want a ski to perform. The five major Classifications we focused on while testing each ski in the Carving Category were the Overall Classification, which measured how well the ski performed in almost exclusively hardpack on-piste conditions, but also including Responsiveness, Stability, Edge-hold, Carving Pleasure and Turn Shape Variability.

Below is a summary of the overall results of our test, including which ski scored the Best in Class, and how each ski scored in each specific test classification.

Review Year
Best in Class
Overall Rating
Price
Name Overall Rating Ratings The Good The Bad Price
Blizzard Firebird WRC
95
Best in Class
2018
Overall 10
Responsiveness 9
Stability 9
Edge-Hold 9
Carving Pleasure 10
Turn Shape 8

Most versatile ski among the powerful carvers

Powerful yet surprisingly forgiving

Confidence inspiring

This ski defines the category

Very fun, ripping ski

Rewards experts more

Loses a little performance at shorter turns

Precise skiers only

Not for intermediates

MSRP
$1,320.00
BEST DEAL
Rossignol Hero Elite Plus
92
Overall 9
Responsiveness 10
Stability 8
Edge-Hold 8
Carving Pleasure 9
Turn Shape 8

Easy to turn

Very playful for a carver

Fast and agile

Smooth edge to edge

Versatile

Some skiers might find it a little too damp

Bigger skiers overpowered it

Harder chargers should pick the longer length

MSRP
$1,100.00
BEST DEAL
Volkl RTM 84
91
Overall 8
Responsiveness 8
Stability 9
Edge-Hold 9
Carving Pleasure 9
Turn Shape 8

Great control and feel

Rock solid on edge

Perfect carving ski

Well balanced

Endless grip

Less lively than damp

Could be a little more responsive

Might be too stiff for some carvers

Needs to be in a turn

MSRP
$1,125.00
BEST DEAL
Blizzard Quattro RX
90
Overall 8
Responsiveness 8
Stability 9
Edge-Hold 9
Carving Pleasure 9
Turn Shape 7

Very stable

Smooth

Great Edge-Hold

Damp

Rock GS Turns

Not lively

On-piste only

Better at mid to long radius turns

Pricey

MSRP
$1,320.00
BEST DEAL
Atomic X9 Redster
89
Overall 8
Responsiveness 7
Stability 9
Edge-Hold 9
Carving Pleasure 9
Turn Shape 7

Amazing edge-hold

No speed limit

So much fun to carve

Rewards experts

Super stable

Not forgiving

Prefers to go fast—really fast!

Will put intermediates in the backseat

Loses some points on turn shape variability

MSRP
$1,200.00
BEST DEAL
Fischer RC4 The Curv GT
88
Overall 8
Responsiveness 9
Stability 8
Edge-Hold 8
Carving Pleasure 8
Turn Shape 7

Short- to medium-radius turns

Big sweet spot

Responsive

Powerful

Precise carve

Long turns

Some testers felt the tail was too stiff

Did not own any single classification

Likes to stay in an arc

MSRP
$999.00
BEST DEAL
Kastle MX84
87
Overall 8
Responsiveness 7
Stability 8
Edge-Hold 7
Carving Pleasure 8
Turn Shape 9

Stable

Good turn shape variability

Solid edge-hold

Damp

All-mountain capability

Not as lively

Feels sluggish at slower speeds

Needs to be pushed to perform

Experts only

MSRP
$1,299.00
BEST DEAL
Nordica Dobermann Spitfire RB
87
Overall 8
Responsiveness 8
Stability 7
Edge-Hold 9
Carving Pleasure 8
Turn Shape 7

Unbelievably stable

Holds an edge at any speed

Great balance between energy and stability

Shuts hard snow chatter right up

Quickness of a slalom ski with GS grip

Experts only

Needs to be driven to perform

Sluggish at slower speeds

More damp than pop

MSRP
$1,249.00
BEST DEAL
N/A
Nordica GT Speedmachine 80 EVO
86
Overall 8
Responsiveness 8
Stability 8
Edge-Hold 7
Carving Pleasure 8
Turn Shape 7

Stable

Responsive

Fun to ski

Race ski performance without all the work

Exciting

On-piste only

Prefers medium-radius turns

Some testers felt they could overpower the tips

Needs to always be on edge

MSRP
$1,099.00
BEST DEAL
N/A
Elan Amphibio Black Edition
86
Overall 7
Responsiveness 8
Stability 7
Edge-Hold 8
Carving Pleasure 9
Turn Shape 7

Smooth turns

Easy Initiation

Friendly precision

Quick edge transitions

Damp feel

Not as lively

More finesse than hard charger

Better at mid-radius speeds and turns

Proficient, technical skiers will enjoy this more

MSRP
$1,400.00
BEST DEAL
Rossignol Hero Elite LT TI
85
Overall 8
Responsiveness 7
Stability 9
Edge-Hold 9
Carving Pleasure 8
Turn Shape 4

Powerful ski

Strong Edge-hold

Stability

Perfect medium radius turner

Easy to initiate

Less lively

On-piste only

Needs to be on edge

Not as great turn shape variability

MSRP
$1,100.00
BEST DEAL
Dynastar Speed Zone 12 Ti
84
Overall 8
Responsiveness 8
Stability 6
Edge-Hold 8
Carving Pleasure 8
Turn Shape 6

Quick turns

Easy to initiate

Rewards a light touch

Good edge-hold

Smooth feel

Doesn’t do long turns as well

Can be over-driven

Needs to be steered with both feet

Overpowered by some other skis in this category

MSRP
$1,000.00
BEST DEAL
Salomon S/Max Blast
84
Overall 6
Responsiveness 8
Stability 7
Edge-Hold 8
Carving Pleasure 9
Turn Shape 6

Lots of energy

Great pop for a carving ski

Very smooth feel

Easy to access power

Excellent slalom performance

More slalom than GS

Turn radius may be a bit too aggressive for some

Best performance is at medium speeds

Need to load the tip for top results

Which means you need to get out ahead of the turn

MSRP
$1,200.00
BEST DEAL
Blizzard Firebird WRC

The Blizzard Firebird WRC pretty much arced away with the Best in Class Award in the Carving Category. Half of our full team of testers rated it their “Favorite” carver, while the other half rated it as “Excellent.” Also, 60 percent of our test team could not find a single thing to write in the “Bad,” or “Dislike” column on their test cards. This ski rips with ease, precision, and a sense of excitement that could make you seriously consider heading for the groomers on a powder day.

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Elan Amphibio Black Edition

Elan’s Amphibio Black Edition brought a welcome level of finesse and calm confidence to a Carving Category filled with race-inspired skis. Utilizing Elan’s proprietary Amphibio technology—which includes an asymmetrical mix of rocker and camber in the shovel for ease of initiation and improved edge contact, as well as a specific left and right ski—the Black Edition has a silky smooth feel from turn to turn. It’s not the fastest ski in the class, and not the ski we would recommend for anyone who wants to race gates with their carvers. It is an excellent ski for primarily frontside, hardpack skiers looking for a luxury ride and constant control.

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Rossignol Hero Elite Plus

Rossignol’s Hero Elite Plus utilizes 10 percent tip rocker in the design of the ski, and that resulted in a fine-tuned, deep arcing, forgiving ski that is a lot more fun to ski than some of the other models in this class. “Fun as hell,” “Really fun,” “Playful,” and “Fast and agile,” were just a few of the responses from testers who came off the hill grinning after putting this happy little ripper through its paces. While a couple folks on our team felt it might be a bit too damp, or prefer a slightly shorter radius than most of the race ready skis in this category, that could probably be easily cured by sizing up to the 181cm model (the 174 cm was the longest Hero we had at our test).

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Kastle MX84

The Kastle MX84 is a carving ski that has all-mountain capabilities. Built with the brand’s Hollowtech tip and traditional camber, it’s a GS-style ski that is easy to initiate with continuous sidecut that enhances how well the MX84 grabs—and keeps—hold of a medium-radius turn. Which is not to say the ski can’t also lock into short-swing turns with a precision, or better yet, start hauling down the fall-line with superior grip. The MX84 did earn some of the higher scores in the Carving category for its Turn Shape Variability, which increases its all-mountain capabilities. It is an experts-only ski that needs to be pushed to perform and can feel sluggish and bit planky at slower speeds.

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Atomic X9 Redster

Atomic’s Redster X9 is an awesome, ripping ski that offers excellent edge-hold and a very smooth carving feel no matter how hard the snow gets. Utilizing Atomic’s Servotec World Cup innovation—a pre-tensioned that provides equal parts agility edge-to-edge and stability at speed—the Redster offers a wonderful mix of hold and pop. It’s not built for going slow, or taking it easy, but neither are most of the other skis in this category.

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Men's Carving Skis Review Results

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In terms of Overall ratings, every ski in the Carving Category offered superior performance. The Volkl RTM 84 took top honors with an overall score of 91, earning nothing less than an 8 (out of a possible 10) in every classification, followed closely by the Blizzard Quattro RX with an overall score of 90, and the Kastle MX84 with a score of 87. The Rossignol Hero Elite LT Ti, which we ranked best for Stability, had the lowest Overall score—a very respectable 85—only because of need to make very fast, very precise big arcs (the LT does stand for “Long Turn”).

Responsiveness Overview

Fischer’s RC 4 The Curv GT earned top scores in the Responsiveness Classification, with a 9 (out of a possible 10) for its ability to quickly grab hold of an edge with a lively finess. The Dynastar Speed Zone Ti, Volkl RTM 84, Nordica GT Speedmachine 80, and Blizzard Quattro RX also scored high in this classification, all earning 8s.

Stability Overview

Rossignol’s Hero Elite LT Ti felt like the big gun in the Stability classification—despite the ski’s narrow profile—with a rock steady ability to feel calm and confident that fast and longer we made the ski arc. The Blizzard Quattro RX, Kastle MX84, Nordica GT Speedmachine 80, Volkl RTM 84 and Fischer RC4 Curv GT also scored well in this classification, earning scores of 9 or 8.

Edge-hold Overview

Edge-hold was high across the board in the Carving Category, with every single ski earning a 7 at the lowest, or 8s and 9s at the top. This is a hallmark of the category, with many of the skis exhibiting superior grip on groomed/hardpack conditions, with Rossignol’s Hero Elite LT Ti, Fischer’s RC4 The Curv GT, Nordica’s GT Speedmachine 80, and Dynastar’s Speed Zone Ti especially providing the kind of power and accuracy that would easily crossover to a slalom or GS course.

Carving Pleasure Overview

Ditto for the Carving Pleasure classification. While no ski earned a perfect 10 (out of a possible 10) for Carving Pleasure, every ski did earn an 8 or 9, as every model we test for carving provided excellent, continuous edging on hardpack conditions, with the Kastle MX84 and Volkl RTM 84 in particular also maintaining that performance off-piste.

Turn Shape Variability Overview

Turn Shape Variability was the classification in which we saw the most variation in scores, as skis like the Dynastar Speed Zone Ti got a 6 because of its preference for tight, short turns, while the Rossignol Hero Elite LT Ti scored a 4, because the ski is made specifically for arcing long and fast. Kastle’s MX84 and Volkl RTM 84 earned a 9 and an 8 respectively, with their wider waist widths transferring well from hardpack to cut-up snow off-piste, while every other ski we tested earned a respectable 7 (out of possible 10), for their overall ease of use.