Who: Women wanting a hard-charging, yet playful, daily driver in soft snow.
What: Freeriding generalists. Surf, skim, plow? Yup.
Where: Full-size mountains, blowing through pow, bumps, and crud.
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.
Strength where you need it, lightness where you don’t. The 90 Eight W wins the category with its 3D Ridge technology, which concentrates core materials in the center and underfoot, and tapers off at the edges for maneuverability. Volkl also added 3D Glass this year—which wraps lightweight fiberglass over the sidewall for better bite. (Like Volkl needs more of that.) Testers loved its versatility and stuck-to-the-snow feel, remarking that it’s both sprightly and strong. “Rewards technique, but doesn’t punish errors,” Barnes said. More info on the Völkl 90 Eight W here.
Strengths: Stability at Speed, Hard-Snow Integrity. Average Score: 4.15
Dimensions: 133-98-116, Radius: 15.9m (163), Lengths: 156, 163, 170
New this season, the Trace 98 soared nearly to the top of the category. It’s both light and powerful, a stellar blend of pop and smoothness with groomer-grip that surprised some testers who were expecting Armada’s softer, jibbier skis of the past. Built with a lightweight wood core—heavier hardwoods underfoot—carbon-fiber reinforcements, a stabilizing 3-D topsheet, and flat tips, it carves on groomed, plows through crud, and floats in pow. It has no speed limit. “Armada is killing it!” Brent said. “Looking for pep? This girl’s got it.” More info on the Armada Trace 98 here.
Strengths: Playfulness, Balance of Skills. Average Score: 4.12
D: 127-98-119, R: 17m (164), Lengths: 156, 164, 172
This ski replaces the popular Samba, its name now capitalizing on the popularity of the Black Pearl 88 (see All-Mountain Narrow). Blizzard continues to tinker with the design under its new women-to-women initiative, an impressive investment in making women’s gear stronger and lighter. The Pearl gets a carbon frame integrated into the flipcore—which takes advantage of the wood’s natural bend—and multi-directional glass and more carbon in the wood core. It rips everywhere, in every condition—and for lesser experts, it’ll hold your hand and coax you anywhere you want to go. “All the performance of the Samba, but way friendlier,” Gibbons said. More info on the Blizzard Black Pearl 98 here.
Strengths: Quickness/Maneuverability, Stability at Speed. Average Score: 4.06
D: 135-98-119, R: 15m (166), Lengths: 152, 159, 166, 173
It’s no surprise that testers felt the 95 C was easy and fun: All carbon, no metal makes for an energetic and playful ride. (The narrower, knifier 90 CTi has a Titanal “backbone.”) Also no surprise were its medal-winning scores: Every ski Atomic entered in the test earned one. Ever on the quest for lightness and power, Atomic’s secret here is Carbon Tank Mesh, a layer of material that adds torsional stiffness without weight, and Firewall, extra-thick sidewalls that dampen vibration and add grip. The 95 is on the nimble side of the spectrum, and its huge sweet spot will suit a variety of skill levels. “Charge or chill, you’ll cherish your turns on this ski,” Barnes said. More info on the Atomic Vantage 95 C here.
Strengths: Forgiveness, Overall Impression. Average Score: 4.05
D: 131-95-117, R: 15.8m (162), Lengths: 154, 162, 170
Head introduced Graphene—a futuristic, transparent, carbon-based laminate (one atom thick!) that’s 200 times stronger than the strongest steel—with its Joy line years ago, and the stuff has proved so amazing the brand finally integrated it into the men’s line last year. The Great Joy is so bomber you can stomp on the gas even in set-up crud and hardly even notice what’s under your feet. It’s flexible underfoot and grippier at the tip and tail, giving it a reassuring heft of a much heavier ski. One-ski-quiver ski, to be sure. “It read my mind. Powerful yet nimble,” Humes said. “My favorite ski of the day.” More info on the Head Great Joy here.
Strengths: Flotation, Crud. Average Score: 3.86
D: 141-98-124, R: 14.3m (168), Lengths: 153, 158, 163, 168, 173
We love Nordica for adding metal—two sheets, thank you very much—to this year’s Santa Ana 100. The women’s version of the unequivocal king ski, the Enforcer, the Santa Ana is now every bit of the crud-busting powerhouse. It somehow manages to be both damp and stable and quick and poppy. Testers did ding it for having a tight tune, which hooked up in the soft spring Utah snow, accounting for it being ranked the lowest among winners in Forgiveness. (Chill: It’ll be more relaxed with the factory tune.) “Agile and quick in the crud, solid on edge,” said Brent. More info on the Nordica Santa Ana 100 here.
Strengths: Flotation, Crud. Average Score: 3.75
D: 131-100-119, R: 15.5m (169), Lengths: 153, 161, 169, 177
K2’s skis tend to feel like a party on your feet—so fun and easy, like having the liquid courage to backflip off the roof into the pool. The 95 is no exception. A huge sweet spot makes it super forgiving, tapered tips and tails give it the looseness to pivot in powder, and metal on the edges give it a respectable bite on hardpack. Higher experts looking to hammer might want a bit more backbone—testers noted they easily found its speed limit—but the 95 is one of the more accessible tools for those still building their mojo. “This girl loves to have fun!” Brent said. More info on the K2 Fulluvit 95 here.
Strengths: Flotation, Forgiveness. Average Score: 3.74
D: 132-95-115, R: 14m (170), Lengths: 156, 163, 170, 177
Yes, that is the correct price, and no, it doesn’t come with a binding. But sometimes you get what you pay for. Testers felt the FX was friendly-er than the other Kästles in the test—it’s built without the two sheets of metal—but it’s still a ground-hugging missile that takes a strong crusher to appreciate it. The FX 95 HP does have a my-way-or-the-highway mentality, and it seems to think short turns are for the weak and slow, but it cuts through set-up crud like butter and beats all the boys to the bottom. “Great ski for the technical skier,” said Gibbons. “Rewards precision.” More info on the Kästle FX 95 here.
Strengths: Crud, Stability at Speed. Average Score: 3.71
D: 129-95-115, R: 16m (165), Lengths: 157, 165, 173, 181, 189
The big tip eats crud for breakfast, letting testers mach through chundery trees. But a few noted that on hardpack, it could feel floppy, making it best for those who chase softer snow. Rebuilt with a new carbon-basalt fabric rein- forcing its lightweight paulownia wood core (hence the HD), the new Sky has more bite and power, but it’s still a comfortable ride. It does ski short, so buy long. Kennen: “Reliable, easy, and predictable.” More info on the Rossignol Sky 7 HD W here.
Strengths: Flotation, Forgiveness. Average Score: 3.53
D: 128-98-118, R: 16m (164), Lengths: 156, 164, 172, 180
Elan is famous—and sometimes infamous—for innovative R&D. (We tried—and failed—to get a peek into the mad-engineering room in the Slovenian factory.) The Ripstick 94—unchanged this season—has hollow carbon tubes that run through the core, stabilizing and simultaneously lightening it. It also has a rockered outside edge for looseness in soft snow and a cambered inside edge for bite on groomed. Testers all agreed it was a playful, fun ripper, capable all over the mountain. A few quibbled that the wide tip was hard to engage, but overall, it’s a Ripstick, indeed. “Zippy and lively, yet blasted through the crud no problem,” Gibbons said. More info on the Elan Ripstick 94 W here.
Strengths: Flotation, Crud. Average Score: 3.53
D: 135-95-110, R: 16.2m (170), Lengths: 156, 163, 170, 177
An energetic ski that feels stable in bigger turns and in all conditions, the Lumen 99 is lightweight and comfortable. The wood core is layered with CFX Superfiber, a weave of twitchy carbon and dampening flax, which is replaced in the tip with an airy honeycomb insert to reduce swing weight. Testers were equivocal about that tip, some noting it felt floppy and hard to engage. A metal plate under the binding gives it an extra boost of power and grip for groomers and crud, which prompted others to quibble that you need to be right on the center in order to ski it. A strong tail finishes the turn. “You can ski it all day and in any conditions,” Gibbons said. More info on the Salomon QST Lumen 99 here.
Strengths: Flotation, Forgiveness. Average Score: 3.43
D: 134-99-116 @ 167, R: 19m (at all lengths), Lengths: 159, 167, 174
The 98’s shape is progressive, with a curved top aimed for lightweight stability, yet it still values traditional edge grip—thanks to that proud Austrian heritage—over a loose, slarvy feel. To that end, it preferred quick carves on groomers over crud, where testers complained it made their thighs burn. It’s not an easy ride—last in Forgiveness—but experts will appreciate its stability. (Testers also complained that its name smacks of Euro dudes sitting around a table brainstorming what “feminine” means.) But in pow, it surfs just fine. It has a wood core with air channels milled out to save weight and sheets of vibration-calming metal. “Solid, predictable feel,” said Gibbons. More info on the Fischer My Ranger 98 here.
Strengths: Flotation, Quickness/Maneuverability. Average Score: 3.32
D: 130-96-120, R: 17m (172), Lengths: 156, 164, 172
The Pandora 95 was the testers’ favorite Line of the test (and the only one that medaled). Lighter testers liked it, heavier ones did not. All agreed it’s best suited for lesser experts. At slower speeds, it was easy and playful, and perfectly happy skidding and smearing turns. But get it up to speed, and it felt unstable, lacking tip and tail engagement. It balked in crud, too, lacking the persistence to plow through it. In short, a fun and relaxing ride for laidback skiers. “An easygoing weekend warrior special,” Brent said. More info on the Line Pandora 95 here.
Strengths: Playfulness, Forgiveness. Average Score: 3.30
D: 130-95-115, R: 14m (162), Lengths: 152, 162, 172