2021 All-Mountain East Skis

2021 All-Mountain East Skis

The “East” modifier is meant to imply that this narrower collection (85mm-94mm) of All-Mountain skis is a match for skiers who go on groomed trails most of the time but want the freedom to foray into the untamed backside of the mountain when conditions merit.  The cream of this crop have settled on a waist width between 88mm and 94mm underfoot, creating a very versatile profile that qualifies for the “All-Mountain” moniker.  Some brands differentiate their “88” from their “98” (All-Mountain West) model by making the former in a less burly construction that will slip into a slightly lower price point.  They make excellent “re-entry” skis for consumers who have been out of the ski market for several years.

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Bear in mind that only a decade ago a ski 90mm underfoot, such as the Salomon Pocket Rocket, was presumed to be a pure powder ski.  This collection has no such pretensions in a market inundated by an avalanche of skis over 2cm wider – and therefore inherently that much more buoyant – at the waist. But if a 88mm board could float just fine in boot-top powder in 2003 it can manage the feat in 2020, and the best of today’s crowded field don’t care what the snow condition is.


Digging deeper into this genre’s make-up, it’s divided along behavioral lines into two bundles: the friendly, easy-going rides versus the high-performance, Type-A personalities.  The former are accessible to almost any skill level and as such are great transition skis for those caught in intermediate limbo. At this width they are easy to balance on yet retain most of the properties of Technical skis so they still cut a precise arc when so instructed.  The latter, high-energy bunch either require elite skills or are best appreciated by those who know how to occasionally achieve a high edge angle and/or drive a directional ski over 40mph.  

The 2021 All-Mountain East Field


The All-Mountain East family is a polyglot lot that can be divided into two camps: wide carvers that sit atop a family of Frontside models and narrow off-piste models, which have come to dominate the genre. Every sort of snow connection imaginable is on display, from fully cambered to double rockered.  Despite the wide range of design diversity, all AME models purport to solve the same problem: creating an all-terrain tool that is equally happy off piste or on.

Think of the AME field as the Compromise Category, not quite as precise as Frontside skis on hard snow nor as surfy as Big Mountain models in powder, but built to perform ably in either circumstance. None of the diverse 2021 field (29 unisex models examined by our test panel) strikes the perfect, 50/50 balance between hard and soft snow performance as each retains a slight bias depending on the traits of the larger family of models to which it belongs.

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Because off-trail baselines earn higher marks forgiveness than for steering accuracy, the AME genre is lopsided in favor of Finesse skis. Of the six new models debuting this season, five are Finesse skis and the sixth, Liberty’s evolv 90, was a Finesse ski last season before Liberty gave it an additional rib that tipped it into the Power roster.

The largest contributors to the already bloated ranks of the All-Mountain East category were Rossignol and Atomic.  Rossi’s new Experience series – a brand mainstay seemingly since forever – is headlined by the EXP 86 Ti and EXP 86 Basalt.  The new Experience models are meant to provide an “all-resort” experience that’s a better fit with today’s mountain visitor. Atomic’s Maverick 88 Ti and 86 C comprise the bottom half of its new Maverick series of all-mountain models. While the Maverick 88 Ti’s Power scores were decidedly higher than the 86 C’s (as one would expect), the latter will retail for decidedly less, making it one of the year’s outstanding values.

The other newbies were Kästle’s FX86 Ti, a traditional glass and Titanal laminate with a lighter weight poplar/Paulownia core, and the aforementioned Liberty evolv 90, freshly re-minted as a Power ski by dint of a new 3-strut version of its Vertical Metal Technology. Of the top 13 models in the genre in total score, only two – the Maverick 88 Ti and evolv 90 – are new this season.

Any skier beyond entry-level ability should consider adopting an AME model as his or her one-ski quiver. There are a great many forgiving models in this field, ideal for masking the technical foibles of weekend warriors.  There are also a slew of powerhouses that should appeal to advanced and expert skiers with a full skill set. No matter where you fall along the Power/Finesse divide, you’ll find your match in a category with more flavors than Baskin Robbins. 

As we’ve mentioned every year since its introduction, the Völkl Kendo 88 deserves special mention for re-setting the performance bar for its generation. Every technology has a width, baseline and flex that optimize its benefits; Völkl’s innovative Titanal Frame and 3D Sidecut found their sweet spot in the Kendo 88. This category is all about handling mixed conditions. While one could argue that any of our top four Power Picks might be its match in this regard, none can claim to be its better.

If you’re one of the many lapsed skiers who are returning to the sport after a long lay-off, the All-Mountain East genre is probably the best place to shop for a ski that embodies the best of current technology without feeling weird or unnatural to an Old School skier returning to the skiing fold.

Power Picks: High-Geared & Gifted

The better your ability, the more you’ll appreciate one of our Power Picks. Not that one has to be a flawless technical skier, but there’s not much point in saddling up a Power ski unless one has the talents to extract its best behaviors. If honest self-appraisal suggests that you might be more into recreation than perfection, you’ll find a better match among the plentiful supply of Finesse winners.

But if you have the talent, boy, are you in for a treat. Our Power Picks are crazy versatile, up for any turn shape at any velocity from puttering to pedal-to-the-metal. Best of all, they’re ready for any snow condition from knee-deep to boilerplate. They turn the entire mountain into an all-you-can-eat buffet. Bon appétit.

Völkl Kendo 88



In last year’s review of the Kendo 88 we predicted that it would be Ski of the Year and indeed it was, both for Realskiers and many other pundits. The quality that continues to distinguish the Kendo 88 from a very strong field is that it seems able to raise its game in every circumstance. No matter how or where the skilled pilot asks it to stretch its performance limits – go faster, react quicker, ride quieter, dice up bumps or cruise groomage – the Kendo 88 handles it all in stride.

The single most important quality an all-mountain ski can possess is total indifference to terrain selection. On this score, the Kendo 88 has no peer. It transitions from wind-affected crud to crisp corduroy as if those two conditions were the same. On hard snow, it’s so quick to the edge the skier can’t even tell it’s rockered and it’s so stable in crud you can relax, drop the reins and let the boys run.

The Kendo 88 uses a “3D Radius Sidecut” with a long radius forebody, a tight shape in the midsection and longest radius in the rear. This allows it to behave like a GS cruiser at relatively low edge angles and morph in a moment to a snappy SL when its tilted and pressured. An energetic turn finish isn’t unique to the Kendo 88, but it’s nonetheless a relatively rare commodity in today’s market.

Read the full review here


Blizzard Brahma 88



Realskiers doesn’t dole out a “Most Improved” award, but if we did, the Blizzard Brahma 88 would win it running away. The previous Brahma 88 was already a brilliant ski, so the jump in status isn’t due to drubbing a foil but in moving the definition of perfection forward.

The old Brahma 88 already used a poplar/beech core and two sheets of Titanal, so it wasn’t the Power side of the Power/Finesse divide that needed shoring up. Two performance points in particular required attention: a flex pattern that allowed for easier turn entry/exit and optimizing flex, shape and baseline by size.

The reason flex is primordial is because if a ski can be made easier to bend without losing its grip on hard snow, the pilot can use less of his/her precious energy reserve getting from turn to turn. But historically softer skis haven’t been able to withstand the vibrations induced by traveling fast over hard snow, handling as well as a Yugo with bald tires.

So it’s a joy to discover an all-terrain ski with the strength and stability of an Old School GS race ski that can be reined in to less than 40mph and still move edge to edge with the ease of a figure skater. Like a gifted drummer, it can keep the beat no matter what tune you ask it to play.

Read the full review here

Nordica Enforcer 94



The Enforcer 94 gets a new number to underscore that it’s an entirely new ski, and not just an exercise in relabeling. Whenever a brand invests in new molds it represents an opportunity to re-examine every detail. For the Enforcer 94, this meant creating five new sizes, each with a unique baseline and sidecut. Adjusting the rocker/camber intersections for every length results in a ski that feels fully cambered, its abrupt but brief rocker zones solid and unflappable, both literally and figuratively speaking.

I’m not sure if the Enforcer 94 can actually confer expert status on anyone who steps into a pair, but it sure won’t hold anyone back. It’s a nearly perfect ski in that a lateral drift or trench-cutting carve is immediately accessible at all times. Every movement feels intuitive, unforced and integrated with the flow of the mountain.

It’s hard to pigeonhole the Enforcer 94 as a specialist at any one thing, for it has the chameleonesque ability to be whatever its pilot wants it to be. The key to its mutability is how mindlessly simple it is to transition from a crisp edge to a friction-free drift. This facility is what makes the Enforcer 94 to masterful in any terrain, from brittle hardpack to fluffy powder and every crud-junk-chowder consistency in between. It’s the epitome of an all-terrain tool.

Read the full review here

Nordica Enforcer 88



When Nordica introduced the original Enforcer five years ago, it already had a 100mm-underfoot model in its line, the NRGy100, and the more acutely rockered Enforcer could have been misconstrued as redundant. Yet the Enforcer immediately earned a name for itself as a new breed of all-terrain ski that disguised a fully cambered baseline – and all the power it entails – between rockered extremities. As the Enforcer family grew, first wider, then skinnier, the arrival of an Enforcer 88 became inevitable.

Now that the long and winding road between the first Enforcer and the last has reached its destination, one can only wonder, what took them so long? This ski is a marvel, stable enough to navigate scoured wind crust yet ready to pounce turn to turn on hardpack with barely a transition between the two contrary conditions. Its score for short-radius turns is off the charts, yet it can lay into a big-bellied arc as comfortably as a cat curling up on a sofa.

True to its bloodlines, the Enforcer 88 sports a tip and tail that go looking for trouble off-trail just so they can demonstrate how well they can handle it. The tip is rockered sharply enough to go over a stump and the rounded tail won’t get up hung up in oddball bumps. But the real magic lies in the middle, where the Enforcer 88’s long camber pocket percolates with understated power. If you set off a rhythm of staccato edge sets you’ll find out what I mean as it ping-ping-pings from turn to turn.

Read the full review here

Kästle MX88



The return of the MX88 to the Kästle line is a significant re-launch, as it’s not only a revered model with more than 10 years of history, it’s also one of the first skis made by Kästle for Kästle in over two decades. To finally get to the point, the resuscitated MX88 is a gem, perhaps the smoothest, most unperturbed ride in a genre overstocked with stellar skis.

The changes to the new MX88 are similar to the tweaks applied to the Blizzard Brahma 88 and Nordica Enforcer 94 in that the particulars sound inconsequential, yet the total effect is stunning. Using poplar in the core in lieu of silver fir makes the MX88 considerably lighter than the MX89, so the new model feels more nimble. The forebody now has a hint of early rise but it doesn’t compromise snow contact because the new Hollowtech 3.0 tip design muffles shock before it can knock the edge off line.

All these embellishments make the MX88 easier to bow and more subtle in its transition from edge to edge. The new MX88 takes less effort to guide without surrendering an ounce of its power quotient, so it’s more amenable to the movements of the less skilled skier. While it’s not necessary to ski the MX88 with the speedometer pegged, it would be a shame not to let it run.

Read the full review here

Liberty V92



2018 was a breakout year for Liberty, a small brand that had previously carved out a niche as a bamboo-and-carbon specialist with a knack for making lightweight wide-bodies. Then they figured out how to industrialize the integration of an aluminum strut into their wheelhouse construction, trimmed down their usual silhouette to something more svelte and boom, Liberty elevated to a whole new level of performance.

The second generation of Liberty’s Vertical Metal Technology (VMT) came to market last year. Version 2.0 added an additional strut to the original dual vertical laminates, a modification that added a higher level of connection that paid off when skied aggressively.

That said, the V92 doesn’t require high speeds or steeply angled edges to feel utterly in control. Every sinew of the ski seems dedicated to maintaining snow contact. If the modestly rockered tip deflects upward for a microsecond, the struts manage the moment so the edge underfoot is never perturbed. Like all the V-Series from Liberty, the V92 requires zero adaptation on the part of the pilot. Just ski from a centered stance with whatever means of angulation floats your boat. The V92 will hold an edge no matter how you stand on it. It’s an ideal match for someone who hasn’t bought a new ski in ages, wants the benefits of new technology but doesn’t want to re-learn the sport.

Read the full review here

Fischer RC One 86 GT



The new RC One 82 GT doesn’t get quite as large a dose of Titanal as its running mate, the All-Mountain East RC One 86 GT, but it’s hardly a delicate flower. A Titanal sheath rolls over the top of its Air Carbon Ti core, and another TI laminate gives it race-caliber grip underfoot. In the shovel and tail, the Ti is replaced with Bafatex®, Fischer’s own shock-absorbing synthetic. The RC One 82 GT uses the same triple-radius (short-long-short) as The Curv, so the softer zones on the ski curl more easily while the middle delivers unshakeable support.

Given its origins and substantial construction, you’d expect the RC One 82 GT to be “a blast at speed as much as mellow cruising,” as Ward Pyles of Peter Glenn discovered. “Super quick edge to edge,” he adds. “Fast, quick, rips everything,” concurs a Jan’s tester, whose boss, Jack Walzer managed to be even more succinct. Walzer’s one-word review: “Money.”


Read the full review here

Finesse Favorites: The Friendly Fraternity

Our Finesse Favorites are dedicated to making life easier for their owners. They don’t require a high edge angle to be responsive and flex under relatively light pressure. Unlike most of the Power Picks, they don’t need to run at high rpm’s to elicit their best behavior. Most of our Finesse Favorites are built with an off-trail bias, with double rockered baselines and tapered tips, which facilitate the development of off-piste technique. The umbrella trait of all our Recommended choices is forgiveness, providing off-trail access without penalty.

Salomon Stance 90



If you digest all the brochure copy expended on All-Mountain East models, you’ll find somewhere in every model description that it’s a “50/50” model, meaning it’s equally suited to skiing on-trail or off. What this seemingly innocuous shorthand term for a versatile ski masks is that no ski can ever truly be half-and-half, for every model is part of a design family that ‘s inherently biased to one side of the mountain or the other.

This prelude explains why Salomon felt compelled to create a second off-trail line, named Stance, when they already had a successful freeride series in the QST’s. The latter are unmistakably meant for the off-piste, while the Stance 90 tilts the 50/50 equation in favor of Frontside features, beginning with two sheets of Titanal and a shallower sidecut with a more slender silhouette that’s quicker edge to edge. Its square tail in particular is appreciably narrower than the norm in the AME genre, which keeps its orientation down the fall line. The impression of quickness off the edge is enhanced by its lightweight design that in fact weighs less than the QST 92 and far less than Salomon’s Frontside flagship, the S/Force Bold. Its lightweight structure certainly contributed to our testers giving it higher aggregate scores for Finesse properties versus Power attributes, the only one of our top eight Recommended models to do so.

Read the full review here

Salomon QST 92



Let the record show that no ski made as giant a leap forward in 2020 as the Salomon QST 92. In its two earlier incarnations it barely met our Recommended minimum standards, barely hanging on the tail end of the Finesse ski standings. Now it resides near the top of our Finesse rankings, and the result is no fluke. The current QST has more of everything you want – edging power on trail, a better shape for off-trail, a more solid platform – and less of what you don’t want: tip chatter, indifferent grip, overall looseness. Salomon pulled off this coup by reconfiguring how it used its primary components, flax, basalt and, of course, carbon. The basalt and carbon are woven together in an end-to-end matrix, while the flax gets its own mat directly underfoot. An all-poplar core is reinforced by a patch of Titanal in the mid-section and finished with new cork inserts in the tip and tail.

The cork by itself is a major contributor to the QST 92’s calmness, as it’s reputed to be 16 times more shock absorbing than the Koroyd honeycomb it replaces. What’s truly amazing is that the 2020, more torsionally rigid QST 92 comes in over 200g lighter than the 2019 version. Its strength to weight ratio has to be among the leaders, not in the AME genre, but across all categories.

Read the full review here

Head Kore 93



Two years ago we anointed the Head Kore 93 as our All-Mountain East Ski of the Year, a title it richly deserved. In the Era of Lighter is Better, almost all mainstream brands have sought a variety of ways to strip away any excess fat in their designs. When Head acquired a license to use Graphene in sporting equipment, the Austrian brand possessed a material advantage in the race to make the lightest ski that didn’t suck.

The reason the market hasn’t been awash in lightweight skis since the dawn of time is because mass is part of what makes a ski damp, or able to absorb vibration. Lighter weight formulae have been tried for decades, always with the lamentable downside that they couldn’t hold an edge any better than Florence Foster Jenkins could hold a note. Head spent several years working with Graphene before it applied the superlight material – carbon in a matrix one-atom thick – to its previously woeful collection of fat skis.

And lo and behold, it turned out that Head finally, as it trumpets in its slogan, got light right. Wisely, it didn’t try to make the lightest ski possible with its miracle matrix, or the Kore 93 wouldn’t stand up to the rigors of battering through set-up crud fields. But the Kore 93 is nonetheless noticeably lighter than 80% of its peers, which contributes to its elite Finesse score.

Read the full review here

Head V-Shape 10  



The obvious point about the V-Shape 10’s LYT Tech design is it’s much lighter than the norm among men’s Frontside models. But the big trick in LYT Tech’s bag is how it uses Graphene to change one of a ski’s most fundamental features, its core profile.

Through all the disruptive design changes that have roiled the ski world in the past 30 years – shaped skis, fat skis, rockered baselines – you could always count on a ski being thicker in the middle and thinner at the ends. But Graphene’s ability to affect stiffness without affecting mass allows Head to toy with flex distribution in unique ways. The V-Shape 10 is made thinner through the middle so it can be loaded with less exertion, a major differentiator between it and, say, a Supershape e-Titan.

The V-Shape 10 is a system ski, meaning it comes with its own binding, but there’s an optional component that isn’t included in the price but is certainly part of the package: Head’s LYT Tech boots, the Nexo series. While not strictly speaking an integrated system, Head’s ultralight boot/ski combo is the first of its kind. If you like the idea of a luxury carving kit that weighs no more than a whisper, consider going all-in and matching the V-Shape 10 with a Nexo Lyt boot.

Read the full review here

Liberty evolv90



What does it take for a small brand to stand out in market awash with small-batch producers? It certainly helps to have distinctive new technology that not only works as advertised but exceeds performance expectations.

By converting what are normally horizontal strips of Titanal into vertical alu struts, Liberty created a shock-damping system that constantly seeks snow contact while retaining the subtle snow feel that Ti tends to muffle. The result is remarkably consistent performance in all snow conditions. Given its wide range of application, it would be a shame to shackle the evolv90 to groomers. Not that it can’t handle corduroy; it’s nearly full cambered, with only a smidgeon of early rise in the tip, so connection on hardpack is a given.

But groomers are only one note in the melody the evolv90 has memorized. It’s specialty is having no specialty. Crud is a kick, pow is a blast (duh), it has energy off the edge on hard snow and maintains clean connection with anything soft.

Read the full review here

Head Kore 87



Head was selling freeride skis before it cooked up the Kore series, but I’ll bet you can’t name one of them as they barely sold a stick in the U.S. The 3-model launch of the Kore series changed all that overnight. The first vintage sold out immediately, so Head quadrupled production. And sold out again. Then along came the Kore 99 to fill the space between the wildly successful 93 and the series sweetspot, the 105, and it sold to the wall, too.

When you’re on a roll it’s hard to pass the dice, so this year Head pushed the boundary of its off-trail collection down to the Kore 87. Considering that initially the focal point of the Kore series was the 105, an 87 is a mighty skinny sibling. (BTW, this phenomenon, once a rarity, is now commonplace.)

But as the Kore concept has proven in its every iteration, when the name of the game is off-trail versatility, Kores come to play. The whole point of this genre is expanding the skier’s playing field, opening up access to the ungroomed mountain where its real magic lies. For off-piste playgrounds like moguls and trees, the Kore 87’s crazy-light construction and narrow silhouette allow it to slither through spaces where bigger boards flounder. Since the Kore 87 is in every way like its elder brothers save for its width, it retains their affinity for irregular terrain.

Read the full review here

Blizzard Rustler 9 



The fraternal relationship between Blizzard’s two All-Mountain East entries, the elder brother Brahma 88 and its upstart sibling, the Rustler 9, encapsulates the contrasting cast of characters that populate this crossroads category.  While both skis belong to off-trail families, their personalities couldn’t be

The fraternal relationship between Blizzard’s two All-Mountain East entries, the elder brother Brahma 88 and its upstart sibling, the Rustler 9, encapsulates the contrasting cast of characters that populate this crossroads category. While both skis belong to off-trail families, their personalities couldn’t be more different than, well, two brothers.

The Rustler 9, is not interested in following its elder’s tracks. Its comparatively loose, tapered tip wants to party. The Titanal laminate just below its topskin restores order underfoot, but nothing can suppress its youthful exuberance.

Ski buyers always ask at some point in their give-and-take with the salesperson, “How is it in the bumps?” While the flip reply is always, “As good as you are,” in the case of the Rustler 9, the ski actually is well suited to today’s hacked-up mogul formations.

Put in Realskiers’ terms, the pliable Rustler 9 is a Finesse ski while the stouter Brahma 88 is a Power ski. The Brahma’s best scores are for performance criteria like carving accuracy and stability at speed; the Rustler 9’s marks reveal a model with a high aptitude for off-trail conditions with a peppy personality that’s easy to manage. It’s not that it’s bad at edging, it’s just doesn’t care for the regimented lifestyle of a carving ski. It prefers life off-trail where it has the freedom to add a bit of schmear to every turn.

more different than, well, two brothers.

The Brahma 88 is the Type A personality that exudes strength and resolve. For a ski with a double-rockered baseline, it handles like a technical ski that’s accurate in every phase of a turn. Its baby bro, the Rustler 9, is not interested in following its elder’s tracks. Its comparatively loose, tapered tip wants to party. The Titanal laminate just below its topskin restores order underfoot, but nothing can suppress its youthful exuberance.

Read the full review here

Völkl Blaze 94



Just because the archetype of the All-Mountain East ski is a model that’s equally adept in all conditions doesn’t mean that every AME ski fits this description. The new Völkl Blaze 94 is undeniably biased in favor of soft snow; the only question is whether said snow is in-resort or in the backcountry.

Every detail about the Blaze 94 reinforces its predisposition for off-trail pursuits. Its transparent topskin lets the world see where its predominantly wood core is bisected by a channel of foam, a weight savings best appreciated by those who intend to haul their skis uphill. The tapered tips, the rounded but still skin-friendly tails, the lightest-in-class weight and a rockered forebody that allows the skier to pivot into a short-radius turn with impunity all speak to an off-trail attitude.

The fact that every Völkl-recommended Marker binding happens to be of the backcountry persuasion is an indication as transparent as the Blaze 94’s cosmetics that Völkl envisions it in an off-the-beaten-path environment.

But of course that’s not where our test panel put it through its paces. Our troops treated it like an in-resort, everyday ski with an off-trail family tree, which describes most of the AME category’s membership. In this context, the Blaze 94 impressed with its facility at short turns, aided by a generous front rocker and a tight turning midsection. A Titanal mounting plate underfoot helps quiet the ride while the long-radius tail re-sets the course for the fall line.

Read the full review here

K2 Mindbender 90Ti



K2 completely changed every core model in its 19/20 line, without straying one centimeter from its core values. True, the Mindbenders are built differently than the Pinnacles of yesteryear, using all wood cores in their Ti incarnations (say ta-ta to Nano-tech), and more Titanal in the tail section to increase rear support compared to the passé Pinnacles.

Even though the Mindbender Ti series, of which the 90Ti is the narrowest, aims for a better class of skier (if you’ll pardon the expression), they’re not so stout they can’t be controlled by adventurous intermediates. The Mindbenders’ Ti Y-Beam construction puts Titanal over the edge in the forebody but moves it away from edge in the tail. This adjusts the skis’ torsional rigidity requirements to create more bite in the forebody and easier release of the tail, without affecting their even, balanced flex longitudinally.

Light and responsive to a gentle hand on the reins, the Mindbender 90Ti may at first blush feel a tad too loose in the tip to trust at warp speed, but it proves trustworthy if given a chance to run at high rpms. An elevated platform connected to the core by its robust sidewall gives the Mindbender 90 Ti turbo power when rolled on edge. “It turns the way you ask it to and holds with confidence on hardpack,” attests Ward Pyles from Peter Glenn.

Read the full review here