Who: Freeriders who sleep in when the snow's hard.
What: The unicorn of skis, wider sticks that handle all conditions with ease.
Where: Big terrain: Colorado, Utah, Tahoe, and beyond.
Looking for a breakdown on how each of these skis performed in various conditions? Look no further than this scoresheet for everything you want to know.
Is the original flavor still the best? Is the new superfat Pro version even better? Testers were glad they didn’t have to choose—and are sorry if you do. The 100, of course, is the Enforcer that launched it all—a skier’s ski that outstripped supply as its legend grew. Testers still marvel at the way it combines burly/carvy/edginess one minute with fat/floaty/freerideyness the next. Proof that expert skis don’t have to be exhausting. Larsen: “Still the benchmark. There’s no terrain or conditions it doesn’t like.” More info on the Nordica Enforcer 100 here.
Strengths: Stability at Speed, Crud Performance, Hard-Snow Integrity. Average Score: 4.48
Dimensions: 133-100-121, Radius: 18.5 m (185), Lengths: 169, 177, 185, 193
If K2 has hit some bare spots in recent years, skis like this will quickly regain the ski world’s trust and respect. The shockingly dynamic Pinnacle 105 easily wins the Most Improved award. K2 strengthened its Konic core (wood and metal over the edge; light stuff down the middle). It’s a still slashy, soft-snow player, just one with a lot more guts and energy. “Never tiring,” said Schiller. “You just keep looking for more to play on, and it just keeps rewarding you.” More info on the K2 Pinnacle 105 here.
Strengths: Flotation, Playfulness, Crud Performance. Average Score: 4.26
D: 137-105-121, R: 19 m (184), Lengths: 170, 177, 184, 191
The Bonafide has always been a tester favorite and a good ski to have on your side in a bar fight. The latest version remains a versatile all-mountain brawler, but testers said a lighter, slashier swing weight and quicker sidecut gives this year’s Bonafide a more cheerful demeanor. They still use words like “precise” and “strong,” and still say its “happiest on the feet of an expert.” But they liked its new quickness. Schiller: “Super nimble in trees. Quick yet stable on the groomed.” More info on the Blizzard Bonafide here.
Strengths: Hard-Snow Integrity, Crud Performance, Quickness/Maneuverability. Average Score: 4.14
D: 135-98-119, R: 18 m (180), Lengths: 166, 173, 180, 187
Testers liked the 88 CTi, but they loved its wider brother, the 100. Maybe the lightweight and easy-to-pivot design makes more sense at this powder-friendly waist width, where it promotes a less carvy, more creative style of skiing. The tapered, rather than full-sheet, metal lamination gives it integrity and durability, but its hallmarks are quickness and agility, and you don’t have to be a thighs-of-steel expert to handle it. “Fun and zippy,” said Casey. “High performance in a user-friendly package.” More info on the Atomic Vantage 100 CTi here.
Strengths: Quickness/Maneuverability, Playfulness, Versatility. Average Score: 4.11
R: 138-100-125, D: 18 m (180), Lengths: 172, 180, 188
Rossi has worked to add more hard-snow versatility to its skis over the years. Thank heavens it hasn’t messed with the Soul’s core business, which is making powder even more fun. For loose, slashy, powder-surfing kicks, no matter what your ability, there may still be no better ski. The Soul’s floaty, easy-pivoting combo of rocker, taper, and whippy swing-weight makes novices better and experts more creative in their choices of line. Rogan: “This ski has the twisty/turny/tight-spaces market covered. Fun!” More info on the Rossignol Soul 7 here.
Strengths: Flotation, Quickness/Maneuverability, Forgiveness. Average Score: 4.00
D: 136-106-126, R: 18 m (180), Lengths: 156, 164, 172, 180, 188
Head uses a couple of tricks to make the Kore 105 lighter and more supple than a ski this wide has any business being. The core is lightened by using a honeycomb of Koroyd composite surrounded by wood, and it’s reinforced with the amazing thin-yet-strong graphene laminate. Testers agreed, though, that it’s still a charger—surprisingly strong on edge and stable at speed for a ski so light. “Very balanced and versatile, with a smooth glide that belies its quickness,” said Gleason. More info on the Head Kore 105 here.
Strengths: Stability at Speed, Flotation, Crud Performance. Average Score: 3.94
D: 135-105-125, R: 17.8 m (180), Lengths: 171, 180, 189
It’s still more of a charger than a player, testers agreed, but even after a few years’ experience with the BMX series of freeride skis, they’re still surprised that a Kästle can be this quick and playful. Smooth, supple power is still its strong suit, and it’s still as much fun carving soft groomers at stupid speeds as it is surfing powder. Experts will get the most out of it, but mere mortals won’t be overmatched. “Very reactive for poppy turns on steeper crud,” said Gooding. More info on the Kästle BMX 105 HP here.
Strengths: Crud Performance, Stability at Speed, Hard-Snow Integrity. Average Score: 3.86
D: 134-105-123, R: 21 m (181), Lengths: 165, 173, 181, 189
Stöckli doesn’t try to reinvent the ski with new technologies every year, and the Stormriders don’t try to be loved by everyone. Intermediates should steer clear of it, testers said. But athletic experts who love to hammer will love the power, precision and high-speed calm of its wood-core, full-sidewall, metal-reinforced layup. In those moments when strength and responsiveness are needed, it’s always there. “An unapologetic charger for advanced skiers,” Larsen said. “Push it as hard as you like.” More info on the Stöckli Stormrider here.
Strengths: Stability at Speed, Hard-Snow Integrity, Crud Performance. Average Score: 3.81
D: 131-95-120, R: 17.2 (175), Lengths: 157, 166, 175, 184
If you ever thought Armadas were too youthful for you, here’s your Armada. Like all the Invictuses, the 99 Ti has an exuberance and progressive style you expect from the athlete-centric brand. But with its metal reinforcement and carve-ready blend of flex and sidecut, it’ll do what a ski is supposed to do when you tip it on edge and pressure it. Carve or smear, it’s up for either. “Phenomenal mix of skills,” said Dyer. “Knifey on hard snow, loose enough to fun in pow.” More info on the Armada Invictus 99 Ti here.
Strengths: Playfulness, Quickness/Maneuverability, Versatility. Average Score: 3.77
D: 135-99-125, R: 21.5 m (187), Lengths: 171, 179, 187
Why offer two skis at virtually the same waist width? Because for all its popularity, the venerable Mantra is too much ski for many skiers. The 90Eight is a lighter, techier creation, and it performs with livelier feel that can be easier to get along with. With a little camber and a tighter sidecut (the Mantra is full-length rocker), it’s an eager carver with snappy rebound. Testers loved its energy. Dyer: “A great carver. Also super athletic in bumps and chowder.” More info on the Völkl 90Eight here.
Strengths: Quickness/Maneuverability, Playfulness, Hard-Snow Integrity. Average Score: 3.74
D: 133-98-116, R: 22.3 m (184), Lengths: 163, 170, 177, 184
Blizzard put its athletes to work on the Rustler design, but you don’t have to be as good as them to enjoy it. They created a loose light surfy yin to the carvy full-metal yang of the Bonafide/Cochise’s yang. Testers said the playful quality shines through, and welcomed it as a relief for tired post-lunch legs, thanks to its light layup (just a touch of metal). Others stressed that it’s still plenty of ski, ready to seek and destroy at high speeds. “It has strength underfoot, but ease in the extremities,” said Gleason. More info on the Blizzard Rustler 10 here.
Strengths: Playfulness, Quickness/Maneuverability, Versatility. Average Score: 3.65
D: 135-104-124, R: 19 m (188), Lengths: 164, 172, 180, 188
Like caffeine, carbon’s a good thing, but too much of it can cause jitters. To mellow things out, Salomon adds one of the most low-tech of fibers—flax—to its reinforcement weave. As a result, the QST zips along with a surprising dampness for a metal-free ski, so hard snow and high speeds don’t faze it. Light-touch rippers will welcome its quickness, but its easy-to-pivot shape and unmistakable lightness make it a good fit for slower speeds as well. Megroz: “Light and nimble. Likes to make poppy turns through bumps.” More info on the Salomon QST 99 here.
Strengths: Floatation, Quickness/Maneuverability, Versatility. Average Score: 3.49
D: 138-99-120, R: 19 m (181), Lengths: 167, 174, 181, 188
Like a lot of brands, Fischer offers two different flavors at this width. The Pro Mtn 95 is an edgy, flat-tailed charger that’ll dig trenches in soft corduroy. But testers preferred the looser performance of the Ranger 98. Its turned-up tail, tapered tip and generous rocker make it easier to pivot and skid, especially in soft snow. But metal reinforcement gives it reassuring heft and solidity underfoot. Playful, yes, but never wimpy. “A pleasure to rip crud on, but it’s fluent in groomed too,” said Casey. More info on the Fischer Ranger 98 Ti here.
Strengths: Floatation, Crud Performance, Stability at Speed. Average Score: 3.47
D: 132-98-122 , R: 18 m (180), Lengths: 172, 180, 188
Sometimes a ski has such a devoted following, a brand has to resist the urge to change it. Though it’s been tweaked down the years, the Mantra’s up-for-anything all-mountain midfat-charger spirit remains unchanged. Rippers buying their fifth or sixth pair this season can rest assured that it’s as Mantra as ever—strong, damp, supple, and not for sissies—just with a nice new paint job. Gooding: “That stiff tail is there to save you if you ever get back. Still such a great ski.” More info on the Völkl Mantra here.
Strengths: Hard-Snow Integrity, Stability at Speed, Crud Performance. Average Score: 3.44
D: 132-100-118, R: 25.4 m (184), Lengths: 170, 177, 184, 191
The innovators at Elan are always tinkering, and the Ripstick is packed with proprietary technologies. Full-length, pre-cambered carbon-fiber tubes buried in the core make the Ripsticks lighter and poppier. Camber on the working edge combined with rocker on the feathering edge enhances ease. And airy tip inserts reduce swing weight. But testers who liked it best just admired its overall quickness from edge to edge. “Light and fast and doesn’t require huge energy,” said Rogan. More info on the Elan Ripstick 96 here.
Strengths: Quickness/Maneuverability, Versatility, Playfulness. Average Score: 3.32
D: 134-96-113, R: 18 m (181), Lengths: 167, 174, 181, 188