For at least 10 years, the overall price of skis has stagnated while the price of outerwear and apparel—jackets, gloves, and the like—have gone up. There are murmurs that the price of skis, regardless of target audience, will soon start to climb noticeably higher, and consequently, the way we calculate our Value Ski scores will likely need to be tweaked next season. Until then, check out these exceptionally priced skis that went toe-to-toe with their more expensive counterparts at SKI Test in Taos Ski Valley, N.M.
How we calculate: To find a ski’s Value Score, we take the ski’s average test score, multiply it by 1,000, and divide this number by the MSRP (system skis had the price of their bindings subtracted to make things even). We didn’t set a firm price limit this year as the equation demands a low price in order to be competitive, but we did include the ski’s actual test score to allow you to choose what’s most important: a great deal, best-in-class performance, or a mix of both.
Looking for Men’s Value Skis? Find them here.
2021’s Best Value: Head Absolute Joy
This piste-oriented women’s ski wowed our female testers on the groomers. Despite a lightweight construction of graphene and a composite wood core, the Absolute Joy has a knack for carving and holding steady at speed. Testers loved this skis’ quick turn initiation and release thanks to its lighter weight and Allride Rocker. An approachable carving ski for intermediates.
Head Absolute Joy Details
- Value Score: 7.40/10
- Test Score: 4.07/5
- Dimensions: 131-79-109
- Lengths (cm): 143, 148, 153, 158, 163, 168
- MSRP: $750 with binding
Nordica Astral 78 CA
Featuring a lighter construction than Nordica’s top-performing Santa Anas, the Astral 78 CA is more forgiving and accessible for ladies learning to tip their skis on edge and explore off-trail. A full wood core paired with a lightweight matrix of metal make this ski a smooth ride at moderate speeds, though testers caution it definitely has a speed limit.
- Value Score: 7.33/10
- Test Score: 3.66/5
- Dimensions: 115-78-100
- Lengths (cm): 144, 151, 158, 165
- MSRP: $600 with binding
Rossignol Black Ops Dreamer
She may be small, but she’s scrappy. While our expert female testers couldn’t push the Dreamer to perform at high speeds, they acknowledged it would make a great introductory ski for teens and petite ladies alike. Designed to introduce young women to all-mountain skiing, the ski’s maneuverability won tester praise, who recommend it to skiers looking to master moguls and short turns.
- Value Score: 7.06/10
- Test Score: 2.82/5
- Dimensions: 118-90-108
- Lengths (cm): 130, 140, 150, 160
- MSRP: $500 with binding
Armada Victa 93
Because the Victa 93 doesn’t boast the rigid layer of Titanal that her Victa TI sisters do, she’s even more playful and forgiving (not to mention, cheaper). Thanks to a carbon-Kevlar strut that reinforces a poplar core, the Victa 93 still holds her own at speed, and testers felt it would make a great all-mountain ski for intermediate to advanced ladies.
- Value Score: 6.35/10
- Test Score: 3.82/5
- Dimensions: 131-93-108
- Lengths (cm): 151, 159, 167
- MSRP: $600
Line Pandora 94
Though the Pandora 94 serves up a more directional shape than we’re used to seeing from Line, this ski still stays true to Line’s M.O. of smearing rather than carving turns. Line’s Carbon Magic Finger technology gives this ski enough backbone to tackle hard snow while a light aspen core makes it user-friendly and quick from turn to turn. A great playmate for intermediate ladies and above.
- Value Score: 5.82/10
- Test Score: 3.79/5
- Dimensions: 131-94-117
- Lengths (cm): 151, 158, 165, 172
- MSRP: $650
K2 Mindbender 90C Alliance
Ladies who gravitate towards even-keeled skis will enjoy the predictable performance of the women’s-specific Mindbender 90C. Testers agreed this mid-bodied Mindbender—featuring K2’s Spectral braid technology and an aspen veneer core—offers a steady ride that’s just what intermediate skiers need to advance to the next level. Bremner: “A great ski to take your skills up a notch without any arguments or drama.”
- Value Score: 5.65
- Test Score: 3.67/5
- Dimensions: 127-90-113
- Lengths (cm): 149, 156, 163, 170
- MSRP: $650
Best Value Skis of 2020
Money can’t buy happiness, but it can buy skis. That doesn’t mean you should run up your credit card to buy a new pair of planks. Instead, we added skis under $675 MSRP into our annual SKI Test to see just how good they are compared to the more expensive models found in the 2020 Gear Guide. We classify these as Value Skis, and—spoiler alert—there are some jaw-droppingly great skis at or below this price point.
To create the Value Score, we take the ski’s overall test score, multiply it by 1,000, and divide it by the ski’s MSRP. This means that the lower the price, the better the ski will do, unless a) It’s a truly terrible ski, or b) It’s astoundingly great, albeit slightly more expensive. There are no category prerequisites, and these skis run the gamut from frontside to all-mountain wide. Make sure you know what category suits you before putting a pair in your shopping cart.
BEST IN TEST: K2 Mindbender Alliance 90C
There are two kinds of Mindbenders: those designed to rip at speed, and those designed to playfully maneuver the frontside. This is the latter. The new 90c Alliance features K2’s carbon spectral braid combined with an aspen veneer core, making for a light, forgiving ski with enough backbone to navigate resorts confidently, especially in mixed snow and in moguls.
K2 Mindbender Alliance 90C Value Score: 6.52
Learn more about the K2 Mindbender Alliance 90C
Ladies found the Yumi uncharacteristically playful, easy, and forgiving thanks to tip and tail rocker and a responsive multi-layer wood core, claiming it made turn initiation a piece of cake and even liked to smear in the bumps. Testers recommend the Yumi to those in search of a playful all-mountain ride.
Völkl Yumi Value Score: 6.25
Check out detailed scores for the Völkl Yumi
Blizzard Black Pearl 82
Like the wider Black Pearls, the Black Pearl 82 features Blizzard’s women’s-specific design with a forgiving tip, playful turn radius, and a smooth, stable flex pattern. The result is a versatile frontside ski that prefers groomed terrain but will also tackle bumps and crud when driven by a determined skier. The Black Pearl 82 also has a knack for damping chatter.
Blizzard Black Pearl 82 Value Score: 6.02
Read more about the Blizzard Black Pearl 82
Shop Talk 2020: Blizzard Black Pearl 82
Video not displaying correctly? Watch it here.
Armada Victa 93
An incredibly playful and forgiving ski thanks to a springy poplar wood core and slight tip rocker, the Victa 93 was designed to cruise the whole mountain. Made with lighter materials and no Titanal, the Victa 93 is likely to squirm at high speeds but is maneuverable and playful enough to give intermediates confidence to explore.
Armada Victa 93 Value Score: 5.89
See more scores for the Armada Victa 93
Check out more great women’s all-mountain skis
Nordica Astral 84
A close cousin of the all-mountain, fun-loving Santa Ana line but with Nordica’s Dobermann race heritage, the Astral 84 is designed to combine the best of both Nordica families: superior edge grip on groomers and hard snow, with a playful personality that also shines in variable snow and terrain.
Nordica Astral 84 Value Score: 5.50
Find more info about the Nordica Astral 84 here
Salomon QST Lux
The QST Lux 92 is oozing with new technologies: a wood core reinforced with Salomon’s Ti Power Platform, a tip-to-tail blend of carbon fiber and basalt, and Cork Damplifier technology in the tip and tail. This tech makes the ski a seriously damp, stable ride. Testers appreciated the versatile charger that can be trusted everywhere.
Salomon QST Lux Value Score: 5.44
See all of the Salomon QST Lux’s scores
The Best Women’s Value Skis of 2019
Every day at the annual SKI Test, testers have a debrief about their favorite skis of the day. There is usually consensus around the best, the worst, and the biggest surprises. This year, nearly every discussion heard the phrase “I can’t believe that was a value ski!” The scores reflected it: Most of the following skis would have been ranked in the 2019 Gear Guide, but luckily for skiers on a budget, these boards were in the Value category.
There are a few rules for this category: The MSRP must be at or below $660 (or $850 with a binding), and the ski has to perform on par with the rest of the models at the SKI Test. Any type of skis are welcome. To generate the value score, we take the ski’s test score, multiply it by 1,000, and divide that number by the retail price.
Nab these blue light specials before they’re gone.
Best in Test: Armada Victa 93
This ski made testers wonder why anyone would spend more. The metal-free Victa 93 is lively, forgiving and cheaper than its higher-end sisters, yet it was still knifey and powerful enough for our expert set. It’s grippy, stable, energetic, effervescent, and finishes a turn with strength and confidence. “So fun and poppy,” said Kimberly Beekman.
Value Score: 6.94.
See all the scores and specs of the Armada Victa 93 here.
Faction Prodigy 1.0x
A newcomer to our test this year, Faction’s new Prodigy 1.0x wowed testers with its versatility and playfulness. A soft tip absorbs bumps and chop, and yet it holds well on edge and never wavers when you really step on it. It’s both grippy on groomed and maneuverable in the soft stuff. “Super user-friendly,” said Stephanie Humes.
Value Score: 6.15.
Get more nitty-gritty with the Faction Prodigy 1.0x here.
Nordica Astral 84
Soft, easy to turn, nimble, and patient with those who haven’t mastered the carve, the Astral 84 incorporates Torsion Bridge technology, which is a light-weight Titanal grid that’s layered onto a balsa wood core. A winner on groomers. “Great for ladies looking to break through the terminal intermediate phase,” said Georgie Bremner.
Value Score: 6.07.
See the finer details of the Nordica Astral 84 here.
Dynastar Legend W84
The Legend W84’s five-point sidecut offers a big sweet spot and a more playful feel. Testers loved the way it could be both mellow and a hard-charger, noting it always puts you in the driver’s seat. It felt stable, smooth, and grippy on groomed without ever feeling locked-in. “A joy to ski,” said Marina Knight. “Refreshing and confidence inspiring.”
Value Score: 6.02.
Read more about the Dynastar Legend W84 here.
Blizzard Sheeva 9
Blizzard expanded its freeride Sheeva line this year to include this sexy little ripper. Built to be more playful in softer snow than the directional Black Pearl series, the Sheeva 9 possesses both strength and integrity, yet the ski is never demanding and remains versatile in every terrain. “You will feel like a hero on this ski,” said Humes.
Value Score: 6.02.
See all of the Blizzard Sheeva 9’s scores and specs here.
Salomon Aira 80 Ti
The Aira 80 Ti is more of an all-mountain ranger than a wasp-waisted carver. Its poplar wood core is über light, carbon fiber and flax layers provide torsional rigidity, and a metal power plate underfoot stabilizes. It had a unique feel that testers described as “buttery” with an easygoing nature. “I felt very relaxed on these skis,” said Tracy Gibbons.
Value Score: 5.82.
Read more: Top Men’s Value Skis of the Season