One thing immediately noticeable about the Raptor series is the limited amount of flex these boots allow—less than 5 degrees of forward motion. (The average for a high-performance overlap boot is around 10 degrees.) This minimal flex makes these boots uncomfortable to walk in, but provides unmatched energy transfer. Add in a rock-solid Double Power Booster Strap, and it’s as if these boots become an extension of your body rather than something you merely wear. Don’t expect these boots to fit out of the box, but after taking them to a professional boot fitter, you might never ski in anything else. Both the men’s and the women’s earned Best in Test accolades this year, and if you’re after true high-performance machines that can drive any ski on the market, these need to be on your list. [Raptor 140 RS: $800; 110 RS W: $700. head.com]
Read our Gear Guide 2018 Reviews of the Raptor 140 RS and the Raptor 110 RS W.
It’s time to recognize that three-piece, cabrio designs are simply the best option for the majority of people who need high-performing, high-volume ski boots. No brand is more on top of its game in this category than Dalbello, an Italian company that has mastered the combination of smooth flexes, high-performance materials, and comfortable liners. The Panterra series combines wide lasts with strong performance, especially the versatile Panterra 120. The AX models for women have a female-specific mold for the foot, plus a shorter cuff and rear spoiler to accommodate a variety of lower leg shapes and sizes. The Lupo AX is the queen of cabrio, providing strong frontside capabilities mixed with backcountry prowess, all wrapped up in an affordable package. [Panterra 120 ID: $750; Lupo AX 110 W: $650. dalbello.it]
Read our Gear Guide 2018 reviews of the Panterra 120 ID and the Lupo AX 110 W.
As the No. 1 selling ski in North America for a few seasons, the Black Pearl 88 is simply a great option that deserves to be at the top based on its renown performance. Carbon Flipcore tech shaves weight while providing torsional rigidity, plus a shorter turn radius paired with a forward-mounting placement creates a nimble ski that performs well in all conditions. “Consistently awesome.” [$720, blizzard-ski.com]
Dimensions: 126-88-110; Lengths: 152, 159, 166, 173; Radius: 14 (159).
Read our Gear Guide 2018 Review of the Black Pearl 88.
Thanks to honeycomb tips and a well-designed swing weight, these skis can charge all snow conditions when the pedal hits the metal. QST technology uses a combination of carbon and flax to make the ski powerful, lightweight, and damp, so it’s easy to feel like a superhero on these boards. “Seems to do everything well and is easy to manage.” [$850, salomon.com]
D: 136-106-124; L: 159, 167, 174; R: 20 (167).
Read our Gear Guide 2018 review of the Salomon QST Stella 106.
The Ripstick 96 uses an asymmetrical design, with full-length edge contact on the inside and tapered design on the outside edges. Add in pre-cambered carbon fiber tubes in the wood core to reduce swing weight, and these are easy-to-ski daily drivers. “Very forgiving for medium-paced skiers, but did not find a speed limit.” [$800, elanskis.com]
D: 135-96-110; L: 167, 174, 181, 188; R: 18 (181).
Read our Gear Guide 2018 review of the Elan Ripstick 96.
Thanks to a stiff-yet-lightweight hybrid balsa/flax core with Titanal reinforcement underfoot, well-placed rocker in the tip and tail, plus a solid sandwich construction with full-length sidewalls, the CT 3.0 can handle creamy pow, death cookies, and fresh corduroy with ease. “If you ski like Candide, these absolutely crush. If you don’t ski like him, they still absolutely crush.” [$800, factionskis.com]
D: 136-108-132; L: 162, 169, 176, 182, 186, 192, 204; R: 20 (182).
The i.Speed Pro claims to be the “Fastest Retail Ski on Earth,” thanks to the same built-in technologies you’ll see Olympians using in PyeongChang. Featuring KERS technology, a micro-chip that utilizes power throughout the arc of a turn, as well as super-stiff Graphene Worldcup Sandwich Cap construction, this ski is the real deal for anyone who likes to go fast on hard snow. [$1,025 flat; $1,400 with binding; dampner kit $175. head.com]
D: 119-68-99; L: 170, 175, 180, 185; R: 18 (180).