Gear

Value Skis: Best Sticks For Your Buck

Use the money you save buying one of these high-performance, low-price skis to be a better, more generous friend. Next round’s on you. Maybe some wings, too?

The manufacturers hate this category. If they had their way, the SKI Magazine test would focus only on the flashy new stuff—top-of-the-line skis with the latest tech, which are also the highest-priced skis and the ones with the “longest margins” for their retail partners (the difference between what a retailer buys and sells it for). Skis for the Value category can be any shape or flavor—we test them blind against the high-priced models in the appropriate categories. The only rule is that they cost no more than $650 MSRP (or $800 if a binding is included). And remember, MSRP is a bit of a fiction: Except in resort shops and other high-rent locations, dealers sell skis for a “street price” that’s typically about $100 less than MSRP. The brands whine, sometimes yell, about how they can’t make a decent product at a Value-category price. But we insist, and testers keep finding fun, spirited skis they could easily spend all season on. Which makes the Value category one of our favorites.

Value Skis: Best Sticks For Your Buck

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Value Score: 6.06
Men’s Nordica Soul Rider 87 (Mixed Snow East)
Dimensions: 124-87-114; Test Score: 3.63
Tested head-to-head against the high-priced skis, the amazing new Soul Rider finished No. 3 in the Mixed East category. Never mind how it destroyed the Value category, where no other men’s ski came close. The 87 is a narrower version of last year’s winner, the original 100-mm Soul Rider. It’s an easygoing twin tip underpinned with the edgy guts you expect from Nordica, which crushed it at this year’s test. Testers said: “Quick and easy, with just the right heft.” $599

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Value Score: 5.46
Men’s Blizzard Quattro 8.0 Ca (Groomed Snow)

Dimension: 125-80-108; Test Score: 2.84
The Quattros headline Blizzard’s 2017 offering, but the new series of hard-snow carvers isn’t limited to experts-only models. Prices and target abilities range down to entry-level, with constructions adjusted to meet differing needs. If you love high-edge arcing at eye-watering speeds on groomer days, there’s plenty of performance packed into the midrange 8.0 Ca. If you’re just out to cruise, it’s fine with that too. Testers said: “Zippy and fun. Quick but not nervous.” $720 with binding

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Value Score: 5.31
Men’s Rossignol Experience 80 HD (Mixed Snow East)
Dimensions: 125-80-114; Test Score: 2.92
What most impressed testers about the 80 HD was its hard-snow game. Its classic Rossi feel, damp and supple and carefully balanced, suits it especially well for trenching on fresh corduroy—even the hard stuff back East. But it’s noticeably quicker than the wider Experience models, giving it a nimble exuberance for soft and broken snow too. Testers said: “Easy, fun, and playful, yet won’t be overpowered and outgrown quickly.”
$750 with binding

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Value Score: 4.78
Men’s Salomon QST 92 (Mixed Snow East)
Dimensions: 130-92-113; Test Score: 2.87
Testers agreed they wouldn’t put their heaviest, hardest-charging friends on the new QST 92, but they had plenty of fun riding it and respect for its combination of best-in-category flotation and the kind of quickness and agility often lacking in skis this wide. Light-touch experts will blaze through, and strong intermediates won’t be overmatched. Testers said: “Dependable on trail, lots of fun off. A good poke-around-in-the-woods ski.” $600

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Value Score: 4.72
Men’s Armada Invictus 95 (Mixed Snow West)

Dimensions: 132-94-122 (176 cm); Test Score: 2.83
Armada is known for freestyle innovations, new-school twin tips, and specialized powder surfers. The Invictus series proves it can master the fundamentals of all-mountain design as well. For straight-ahead directional ripping in soft snow and powder, the 95 is as balanced and competent as anything made by the old-guard brands. Only one ski beat its scores for quickness and playfulness. Testers said: “Quick, tight, and fun. A Flexible Flyer for big kids.” $600

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Value Score: 4.72
Men’s K2 Poacher (Mixed Snow West)

Dimensions: 124-96-118; Test Score: 2.83
The most youthful model in the category specializes in rule-breaking mischief. Heavier, stiffer constructions in the category hold up better for high-speed hammering, but the Poacher brings a more exuberant, creative approach to the game. Fearless freestylers will use it for urban jibbing and park tricks, but it’s a versatile, spirited soft-snow freerider, too. Testers said: “Playful, soft, noodly in a good way. Makes you feel like a kid.” $600

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Value Score: 7.22
Women’s Head Absolut Joy (Groomed Snow)
Dimensions: 129-79-109 (163 cm); Test Score: 3.25
Head expanded its use of graphene (an extra light/strong laminate) to the men’s skis this year. Women have been enjoying its benefits—lightweight skis that are never nervous or flighty—for years. The Absolut annihilates the Value-category competition with its combination of light, knifey groomed-snow carving performance and extra-low price. Testers said: “Quiet and damp, but still light and responsive. Pours itself down the hill like milk and honey.” $650 with binding

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Value Score: 6.58
Women’s Blizzard Quattro 8.0 Ca W (Groomed Snow)
Dimensions: 124-80-107; Test Score: 3.41
Blizzard packs all the high-speed performance you can handle into a more expensive, metal-reinforced version of this new model (see Quattro 8.0 Ti). But testers enjoyed the lightweight energy of the metal-free 8.0 Ca. It knows what to do when tipped and pressured by experts, but it cruises contentedly at moderate speeds too—and isn’t so damp and edgy it’s exhausting. Testers said: “Loads up nicely, with just enough full-camber snappiness.” $720 with binding

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Value Score: 5.31
Women’s Volkl Yumi (Groomed Snow)
Dimensions: 125-83-103; Test Score; 3.45
Völkl has built a reputation on performance rather than value. The Yumi offers both. Even against the full-price models in the Groomed Snow category, it put up the top score. (Testers actually preferred it to the new, higher-priced Völkl Flair.) The Yumi is an old tester favorite. It’s quick and forgiving but still knifes hardpack the way you expect a Völkl to. Testers said: “High-octane carver, but super friendly at low speeds.” $650