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Gear Guide 2018: Women’s All Mountain Narrow Skis

Skis are getting narrower across the board. This category, however, was ahead of the game. They’re wide enough to play around in the soft stuff but still let you arc whenever you feel the need for speed.

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Who: East Coast gals who can bend a ski and hop through trees.

What: Medium-waisted rides for harder-snow conditions in all terrain.

Where: Hardpack and variable snow from Stowe to Alta

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.

Blizzard Black Pearl 88 (BEST IN CATEGORY)

None

This has been Blizzard’s No. 1 selling ski—across both men’s and women’s lines—for years, and for good reason. And Blizzard made it even better this year, integrating a carbon frame into the layup and a wood core with multi-directional fiberglass, reinforced with more carbon, to make it stronger and lighter. Also, a wider shovel (read: deeper sidecut) improves snow-contact. Indeed, not a single tester had anything but gushing praise, and it had top scores in all but two criteria. There is nothing this ski can’t do. It’s strong yet forgiving, stable yet playful, carvy yet floaty. “Best ski of the category, hands down,” said Knight. “Could do whatever I wanted.” More info on the Blizzard Black Pearl 88 here.

Strengths: Stability at Speed, Quickness/Maneuverability. Average Score: 4.53

$720 Flat

Dimensions: 126-88-110; Radius: 14 m (166); Lengths: 152, 159, 166, 173

Stockli Stormrider Motion

None

Stockli has a bit of a reputation for being snobby about any speed slower than mach-schnell and making any turn shorter than a downhill course would require. Which is why testers clamored in praise that the Stormrider Motion is finally a women’s ski that does it all. They loved its powerful, turn-on-rails feel, yet it has a liveliness about it that makes it accessible to mere mortals. Its wood core layup with metal laminates gives it integrity and calm power, and vertical sidewalls give it grip a bulldog would envy. It’s versatile—effervescent even—in bumps, trees, and soft snow too, making it a great one-ski quiver for ripping women in the East. “A wide GS ski without the ego,” Gibbons said. More info on the Stockli Stormrider Motion here.

Strengths: Crud, Hard-Snow Integrity. Average Score: 4.10

$999 Flat

D: 128-85-110, R: 15.2 m (167), Lengths: 159, 167, 175

Head Wild Joy

None

Truth be told we snickered about the name (it reminded us of Head’s unfortunate Wild Thang era). But once we set her on edge, the snickering stopped. The 90 mm–waisted ski is new in the successful Joy line this year—Head put the 110-mm Big Joy out to pasture in favor of a new more versatile offering—and testers found it to be light, strong, and stable, especially adept at plowing through the chunder. Its wood core is strengthened with Graphene-infused laminates, making it grippy and strong without adding weight. “Lit up in the thick crud and slayed all the mank like a…wild thing,” Bremner said. More info on the Head Wild Joy here.

Strengths: Crud, Stability at Speed. Average Score: 4.02

$750 Flat

D: 139-90-119, R: 14.4 m (168), Lengths: 153, 158, 163, 168, 173

Völkl Kenja

None

Purrrrrr. That’s the sound of full sheets of Titanal—the sound of damp power. The Kenja, a perennial winner, was redesigned a couple years back to be a little wider and “friendlier,” but still this ski bares plenty of fang (read: one of the least forgiving of the bunch). Smooth and strong, the Kenja balks at nothing, and truly comes alive when ridden hard. It knifes on hardpack for sure, but it also has the girth—and tip and tail rocker—to chomp, chop and inhale pow, too. “Constant contact with the snow—love it,” Kennen said. More info on the Völkl Kenja here.

Strengths: Stability at Speed, Hard-Snow Integrity. Average Score: 3.97

$775 Flat

D: 127-90-110, R: 16.8 m (163), Lengths: 149, 156, 163, 170

Nordica Santa Ana 93

None

The Santa Ana 93 probably made the groomer drivers curse us all night—it ripped six-inch trenches all over their perfect putting greens. Refined, beautiful, and sophisticated, the 93 is a purebred designed to perform everywhere except deep powder. Two sheets of metal and a lightweight balsa core update this year’s model—and testers felt the new muscle. It’s not quick and slalomy; it’s more damp and steady. It’s too powerful to be playful, but experts will appreciate its stuck-to-the-snow tenacity. “This is the chameleon of the group,” Gleason said. More info on the Nordica Santa Ana 93 here.

Strengths: Crud, Hard-Snow Integrity. Average Score: 3.94

$749 Flat

D: 123-93-112, R: 15.5 m (169), Lengths: 153, 161, 169, 177

K2 AlLUVit 88

None

The AlLUVit 88 is back for its second year unchanged. A similar core to the Konic series—lightweight wood, a strip of foam down the middle, metal laminates over the edges—makes this ski light and grippy, more directional in feel. That said, tapered tips and tails enable it to slash and play in pow, making it a stellar all-rounder. It’s fun, easy to lay over, and sensitive, allowing you to play with the snow underneath you rather than just plow right through it. “This ski makes anyone feel like a super hero,” Gleason said. More info on the K2 AlLUVit 88 here.

Strengths: Balance of Skills/Versatility, Overall Impression. Average Score: 3.89

$800 Flat

D: 128-88-110, R: 13.5 m (170), Lengths: 156, 163, 170

Atomic Vantage 90 CTi W

None

This ski makes you feel comfortable from the minute you skate into the lift line. With solid scores across the board, the Vantage grips the groomed like a carver but still has enough width for playing in bumps—and a bit of fluff too. Testers found it easy to lay over and execute crisp, clean arcs, with effortless transitions. It certainly has backbone (Titanium 2.0 to be precise), and some space-age stuff called Carbon Tank Mesh that adds stiffness without weight, but it’s never punishing or overpowering. “Poppy but dependable,” Kennen said. More info on the Atomic Vantage 90 CTi W here.

Strengths: Versatility, Quickness/Maneuverability. Average Score: 3.88

$725 Flat

D: 129-90-113, R: 14.9 m (161), Lengths: 153, 161, 169

Armada Victa 87 Ti

None

Armada was founded by athletes in 2002, with nonconformist designs and a super-core demographic, and became known for its park and big-mountain offerings. But as their original followers aged, a window opened for directional all-mountain skis for technical skiers. Enter the men’s Invictus (2016) and women’s Victa series (2017). With classic sandwich construction and dampening metal, the Victa 87 is a perfect balance between quick and nimble and rock-solid underfoot on edge. It’s zippy edge to edge, and not afraid to break the sound barrier. “Way fun,” Humes said. More info on the Armada Victa 87 Ti here.

Strengths: Quickness/Maneuverability, Playfulness. Average Score: 3.67

$700 Flat

D: 127-85-118, R: 16.5 m (163), Lengths: 155, 163, 171

Kästle FX 85 HP

None

The FX (Free Cross) means it’s part of Kästle’s all-mountain freeride line, designed with input by famed ski mountaineer Chris Davenport. The FX 85 HP is a burly, damp, hard-charger that rages down the fall line. This ski demands some hard work, but it rewards your effort with stable, stuck-to-the-snow GS turns. It’s dead last in Forgiveness, Playfulness, and Maneuverability, but for those who can bend it, holy %$#!# balls it rips. Built with a classic sandwich construction, two sheets of metal, and maybe a machine gun or two, it should probably be sold only to those who pass a background check. “Put your big girl pants on and this powerhouse will light up your skiing,” Barnes said. More info on the Kästle FX 85 HP here.

Strengths: Stability at Speed, Crud. Average Score: 3.60

$999 Flat

D: 119-85-108, R: 15 m (165), Lengths: 157, 165, 173, 181

Rossignol Temptation 88 HD

None

Rossi updates its women’s Temptation line with HD this year—a Carbon Alloy Matrix layer of carbon (for energy) and basalt (for dampness) fibers. The result is a ski that’s lighter, stronger, and crisper in feel to its popular predecessor. Testers noted it felt more like a carver than an all-mountain crusher; it loves to cleave up the groomed in any radius turns you feel like making. It’s capable everywhere except in crud, where its lighter weight just didn’t cut it. “It initiates the turn with ease,” Barnes said, “then blasts through the finish.” More info on the Rossignol Temptation 88 HD here.

Strengths: Playfulness, Hard-Snow Integrity. Average Score: 3.52

$750 Flat

D: 135-88-124, R: 15 m (170), Lengths: 156, 164, 172