2021 Men’s All-Mountain West Skis

2021 Men’s All-Mountain West Skis

If there is a single, do-it-all ski – particularly for western, big-mountain skiing – it no doubt lives in this category and probably has a waist width of 98 or 100mm.  The reason is simple: up to this girth (95mm-100mm), these relatively wide skis don’t feel fat underfoot, so they ride the groom like a Frontside ski yet provide as much flotation in powder as possible without the width being a negative when the powder is gone.  Manufacturers recognize the importance of this genre and therefore give it their very best effort, creating a rich array of options for the high performance skier.  It’s remarkable that one category can contain so many different sensations and almost every ski is really, really good.   Pay attention to this category, Dear Reader, for if you don’t already own an All-Mountain West ski, you will.

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A mere 15 years ago we would have choked on these words, as skis 100mm underfoot then were niche models positioned as ideal for Alaskan heli-guides. The evolution that has taken place in the interim was triggered by the arrival of the Völkl Mantra in 2006, at first in the slightly more svelte waist width of 94mm. As with most Völkls made for men, then as now, there was no skimping on the quality of the construction: the Mantra was a rich, powerful ski right out of the chute. It performed like a soft GS race ski, but in a width that tracked through powder like the blitzkrieg, taking no prisoners. It quickly found a following due to Völkl’s already swollen ranks of faithful adherents, attracting the attention of every other major brand. (Nothing engenders a wave of imitators quite like creating a new niche with a high price tag.)

Driving the success of this genre is the eternal hope that part of the do-it-all equation will be a generous dose of fresh, deep powder. If you eliminate powder, and its evil twin, crud, from the mix of conditions in which you’ll use the ski, there’s no compelling reason to increase the ski’s flotation. But unless you live at the base of the ski resort, you can’t be sure what you’ll encounter on a big mountain; if a pocket of powder suddenly becomes available, wouldn’t you rather be on a ski that will embrace the situation? This is the mentality that has persuaded an increasingly large percentage of the market to gravitate to this genre.

Most, if not all, print-published ski tests would include under the All-Mountain West heading skis up to 110mm underfoot. Their inclusion is, in part, driven by the manufacturers, who want to increase the number of star products in this critical genre. But we believe bundling models on either side of the 100mm divide ignores a vital distinguishing trait: narrower skis put less strain on the skier in every condition but powder/crud. Sure, young bucks who log countless miles on western slopes use 108’s (and wider) as their everyday ski, God bless them. But we feel that the skis between 101 and 113mm underfoot should be treated as Big Mountain models that transparently sacrifice certain hard snow behaviors to achieve greater flotation – and presumed ease – in unbroken snow.

Within any genre there are skis that are curl-in-your-lap pussycats – our Finesse Favorites – and skis that are relentless fall-line predators, which we collect into our Power Favorites. The key virtue of the former is they improve ease and terrain access for less aggressive, lighter weight or lower skill skiers. The archetypical trait of the Power posse is they are utterly unflappable no matter where you go or how fast you go once you get there.

There isn’t a line of copy in any ski supplier’s brochure that would suggest their All-Mountain West ski possesses a single limitation, but this untempered enthusiasm conveniently overlooks a critical factor, namely the prospective skier’s skill level.

To be brief, anyone who would not classify himself or herself as advanced is looking behind the wrong door. To be less brief, if you don’t regularly tip the ski to a high edge angle, if you don’t ski with your feet extended away from your body, if you don’t have separation between the central angle of your upper body and the median that runs from your hips to your feet, if you don’t ski comfortably at speed, then you should look for a Frontside ski that will help you develop these skills.

The problem is that if a lower-skill skier acquires a model with a 100mm waist too early in his/her development, forward progress will freeze, slow down or even regress as the wider ski proves too cumbersome to tilt. The skier will probably feel better in powder and crud, but that’s about the extent of the benefits.

The 2021 Men’s All-Mountain West Field


All the unisex All-Mountain West models, whether new or returning, biased towards Power or Finesse properties, lightweight or burly, strive to serve two masters by providing enough surface area to facilitate off-piste skiing while retaining basic carving skills for when the off-trail is off-limits. AMW Finesse models focus on making off-road terrain easier to tame for less aggressive skiers, while Recommended Power skis come alive at higher revs. Once infused with speed, the top Power skis don’t so much float over choppy terrain as demolish it.

If our top three models for 20/21 sound familiar, it’s because all are fresh takes on established stars in this important genre. Interestingly, the Blizzard Bonafide 97, Nordica Enforcer 100 and Kästle MX98 are the only AMW models to upgrade their flagship models, and all did so by making their image-making model easier to ski. If there’s an overarching theme to the category this year, it’s that the highest Finesse scores went to the most powerful skis.

The three largest and most lauded French brands all launched new all-mountain collections this year to instant critical acclaim. The Salomon Stance 96, Dynastar M-Pro 99 and Rossignol BlackOps HolyShred all earned Recommended medallions for essentially the same reason as our other top picks: they’re making strong, stable skis that are also easy to guide, making elite skiing more accessible for more skiers.

Power Picks: All-Condition Chargers

Not all the best skiers on big mountains use All-Mountain West skis as their everyday ski, but the ones that do are probably on one of our Power Picks. It’s not that less skilled skiers can’t handle them if sized appropriately, but these skis aren’t meant to mosey down the mountain. They’re built to batter down the stiffest crud, an approach that only works if the throttle is open. If you’re an expert skier and you haven’t tried one of these models yet, don’t let another season go by without doing so. To paraphrase the late, great Warren Miller, if you don’t do it this year, you’ll be another year older when you do.

To inject a personal note into the proceedings, I adhere to my own advice, choosing an All-Mountain West Power ski as my daily driver. If you’re a western skier who logs more than 30 days a season and charges the fall line, you probably already have one of these models. If you don’t, get one.

Blizzard Bonafide 97

Like all brands, Blizzard is under pressure to periodically renew every corner of its collection. The trick the brand has had to pull off several times is refreshing its successful designs without fundamentally changing them. To alter the Bonafide’s feel without sacrificing its identity is an intricate challenge that Blizzard attacked from the inside out.

A great all-terrain ski begins with a well-balanced flex, which begins with the core. To obtain just the right pressure distribution, thin bands of dense beech are inlaid among poplar laminates, a design Blizzard calls TrueBlend. Each TrueBlend core is optimized not just by model, but by size, as well. In essence, the Bonafide 97 isn’t one new model, but six.

Once Blizzard committed to the TrueBlend core, it reassessed all of its properties, including baseline (the length and severity of the tip and tail rockers) and sidecut. The cumulative effect is that the new Bonafide rolls to the edge compliantly, ready to grip according to the pilot’s dictates of edge angle and pressure.

One of the complaints leveled against earlier editions of the Bonafide was that it favored expert skiers. While that’s still true of the longest length, the charge won’t hold water against the shorter sizes. The Bonafide 97 still favors experts, but only because any great ski is always best appreciated by those with the skills to extract its elite performance.

Read the full review here


Nordica Enforcer 100


For 20/21, Nordica has applied the lessons learned in making the latest iterations of Enforcers to the first-born of the family. The alterations include a construction change and the ability to adjust the contact points (where the rocker and camber zones meet) for each size. Core profile and sidecut are also tweaked with each length, so the new Enforcer 100 calibrates performance by size.

The biggest change in on-snow comportment between the ancestral Enforcer and the newbie is in the forgiveness and ease of use departments. Not that the old boy has been gutted – far from it. But the new kid seems to transition to its camber zone more smoothly and while it’s still lively off the edge, it’s easier to decamber in its longer lengths. It’s unusually easy to feather the edge or switch from carving to drifting to match the terrain.

The acid test for an all-terrain ski with aspirations of greatness is a powder-covered mogul field that was untouched… two hours ago. The Enforcer 100 looks at this dumpster-fire of a ski run with the preternatural calm of the Buddha. It’s not worried if you’re not. Don’t be afraid to floor it, for the 2021 Enforcer 100 still has the wood-and-metal guts of a GS race ski. Intimidation is not in its vocabulary. This is why you get an all-terrain ski in the first place.

Read the full review here

Kästle MX98



The 20/21 Kästle collection is a particularly important one in the brand’s history, as it’s the first under new ownership that moved production to its own Czech factory.  Whenever a venerable brand changes where its skis are made, there’s always a risk that quality will go down, which for a high-end line like Kästle could deal a fatal blow to its reputation. 

Kästle adherents everywhere can now exhale.  If the new MX98 is any indication, Kästle’s new facility can produce a ski every bit as good as any Kästle that’s preceded it, which is saying a lot. The last time Kästle made an MX98 it was the burliest All-Mountain West ski extant.  Its beech and silver fir core was bracketed by two .5mm Titanal layers; all that torsional rigidity made the ski feel wider than its measurements.  If the skier didn’t commit to the turn, the ski would sense weakness and assume control. If you weren’t a strong, technical skier, you were more prisoner than pilot.  

This personality profile didn’t change with the advent of the MX99 two seasons ago. A top layer of carbon and a new generation of Hollowtech, Kästle’s signature, shock-dampening shovel design, muffled a bit more vibration, but the ski’s non-negotiable approach to turn shape – the fewer the better – limited its potential owners to those experts willing to submit to its terms.

Read the full review here

Völkl M5 Mantra



Back in the day, liveliness was a common trait among performance skis. With the advent of shaped skis, advanced technique involved maintaining snow contact through the end of the arc. Popping off the snow became a faux pas, rockered tips reared their ugly heads and camber lines flattened out like deflated tires.

By freeing up the fiberglass in its belly to compress, Völkl’s M5 Mantra creates the energy to recoil off the edge and fire the skier through the turn transition. It’s expert skiing as it used to be, before it became popular to make off-trail skis that were built more for skidding than carving.

The M5 Mantra is the antidote to the smeary ski. It’s not a ski for floating over fluffy drifts of powder. Instead, it dives into pow and blows it up from the bottom, using the energy out of the turn to bring the ski up to the surface like a dolphin. No other ski in the genre is as firmly committed to carving through thick and thin as the M5.

For the skier with established carving skills looking for a ski unintimidated by rough-and-tumble terrain, the revitalized M5 Mantra is your kind of board. The M5 was focused from its conception to serve the needs and meet the expectations of experts, which is why it doesn’t smear as readily as the rest of the AMW contingent.

Read the full review here

Salomon Stance 96



There are two opposing archetypes for a wide, all-terrain ski: light and smeary or beefy and more connected. Salomon had the surfy side covered with the OST 99; its new Stance 96 is meant to wrestle with wood-and-metal powerhouses like the Blizzard Bonafide and Nordica Enforcer 100.

Salomon wasn’t going to win this battle with a cap construction, so the Stance 96 uses square sidewalls. To match up with metal you have to use Titanal, so the Stances are equipped with “Twin Frame” Ti laminates. You can’t get a wood core feel without a wood core, so all the unisex Stance models have an all-poplar center.

All that said, the Stance 96 doesn’t strictly imitate the benchmark skis that it presumes to supersede. Its rockered tip works better when buffering blows against loose snow; it feels a little loose on groomers and consequently a bit late into the top of the turn. But when it’s fully laid over it grips confidently regardless of the snow surface.

The Stance 96 handles speed well, which is a good thing, as it likes to hew closely to the fall line. Its long turn shape is the product of an narrow tail that helps keep the skier oriented downhill. A rectangular cutout in the Titanal topsheet pares off a few ounces so the Stance 96 feels more agile than its girth measures.

Read the full review here

Dynastar M-Pro 99



The new M-Pro series is the first new freeride series from Dynastar that isn’t a spinoff of the Cham models it rolled out nearly a decade ago. Eventually the Cham name was dropped in favor of Legend, but aside from a damping system in the forebody, the essentials of the design remained the same.

The M-Pro series bids au revoir to all that. The M-Pro 99 is tapered and rockered at both ends, but neither the baseline nor sidecut is copied from the Cham/Legend playbook. Titanal has been re-introduced, although not in full sheets. Instead, the Rocket Frame insert is concentrated in the tail and underfoot, with a thin sliver extending towards the tip. The net effect is a forebody that is ready to give in any direction married to a tail that is built to hold its course.

Dynastar knows that skiers don’t buy a 99mm-waisted ski to cruise groomers; they get one in hopes of never seeing a groomer again. The M-Pro 99’s shallow sidecut and square tail design signal a directional ski that will plane evenly through tracked-up pow. One way to think of the M-Pro 99 is as Powder ski shrunk to everyday dimensions, with a more supportive tail that will make a crisper arc on hardpack. As long as the snow has a bit of give to it, M-Pro 99 handles easily and responsively.

Read the full review here

Rossignol Blackops HolyShred


For two years, Rossignol treated its Black Ops models as if they were part of a clandestine operation known only to insiders. The problem with marketing a secret ski collection is you can be too successful at keeping it quiet. After serving as second fiddles behind the legendary 7 series, Black Ops models have now been thrust into the spotlight as their replacements.

The Holy Shred brings two distinctive elements to the party that its 7 Series predecessor, the Sky 7, lacked: Titanal in its lay-up and a full-on twin-tip baseline. Almost every ski in the All-Mountain West genre has tail rocker, but no other major brand produces an unabashed, directional twintip intended for all-mountain skiing. The addition of Titanal gives the Holy Shred the stability on edge that most Pipe & Park twintips lack.

Here’s another twist to the Holy Shred story: it’s unusually high camber line gives it spring-loaded rebound that propels the skier off the bottom of bottomless snow. While its dual-shovel baseline suggests it might smear easier than mayonnaise, when in powder – its preferred terrain if you can find it – its 45-degree braid of synthetic fiber loads up as it finds the belly of the turn; as it recoils, the rising Holy Shred helps the skier unweight as he (or she) crosses the fall line, as Old School a move as camber itself.

Read the full review here

Fischer Ranger 99 Ti



Fischer has been tinkering with its off-trail Ranger collection over the span of several seasons, searching for the fine line between lightweight, with its attendant ease of operation, and elite carving capability that can handle the transition to hard snow. The Ranger 99 Ti tilts the scales in favor of stability, amping up the carving power by reverting to square, ABS sidewalls straddling a classic, wood-and-Titanal sandwich. A carbon inlay in the tip lowers swingweight and overall mass, which is substantial enough to keep it calm on corduroy, yet feels comparatively light when tearing through crud.

By tweaking everything – core, baseline, sidewalls – Fischer transformed this commercially important model from a lightweight who got beat up by mean conditions like hard snow or chunky crud into a lean machine that doesn’t take any crap from any kind of snow, no matter what the Eskimos call it.

Realskiers testers lauded the Ranger 99 Ti’s agility for a ski of its girth, calling it “nimble and quick to turn,” “light and playful,” and “best short turns of the big mountain, soft snow skis.” Its relatively zippy reflexes belie a sublime stability at speed that eluded the previous generation of Rangers but is inbred in the new 99 Ti. “It’s a solid edition to the Fischer family,” vows Jack Walzer of Jan’s, who has been an aficionado of Fischers for a generation.

Read the full review here

Finesse Favorites: All-Terrain Access for All

The main reason to acquire an All-Mountain West ski is to get the widest ski possible you can use as an everyday ride. The reason you want the widest ski is so you can take it into powder and what’s left of powder between storms.  To make that all-terrain access as effortless as possible, you want one of our Finesse Favorites.

The price of off-trail success can be some stability at high speed on hard snow, but this shouldn’t be a concern for advanced skiers who rarely reach the top of the end of the recreational speed range. When kept within their comfort zone – mid-radius turns at moderate speeds – our Finesse Favorites can motor through any terrain you care to traverse. For their ability to tame tough terrain with a tender touch, we award all our Finesse Favorites a Silver Skier Selection.

Head Kore 99 

 Most veteran testers who try the ultralight Head Kore 99 for the first time carry with them a hint of suspicion. You can tell in the hand that they’re lighter than the typical wood-and-metal make-up usually found at the top of this popular genre. Will a noticeably lighter ski like the Kore 99 measure up to the standard set by powerful skis like the Bonafide 97, MX98, M5 Mantra and Enforcer 100?

Because any competent tester will be focused on trying to find a flaw that derives from the Kore 99’s lightness, the first run on this ski feels experimental, sort of like a first dance with a new partner. Somewhere during the second run you realize it can do whatever you can do. You stop focusing on its differentness and gain a deeper appreciation of how well it mimics the performance envelope of this hotly competitive category’s perennial all-stars.

Not only do the Kore 99’s Power properties meet the highest standard for edge grip and stability at speed, its lower mass means it takes less effort to ski, forestalling fatigue and lengthening the ski day.

Unlike some of its burlier bros in the All-Mountain West genre, the Kore 99 feels quick to the edge and reactive off it. “It did not feel like a 99mm width,’ notes Bob’s Theron Lee. “It felt much narrower.”

Read the full review here

Liberty evolv100

 Before Liberty could make an all-mountain ski that could go head-to-head against the world’s best, it first had to learn to make a great Frontside ski. Like most small-batch brands, Liberty began by making the wider skis that the mainstream brands underserved. Their first imperative was to make a light and maneuverable off-trail ski, not an on-trail carver.

Two years ago that changed when Liberty mastered a means of inserting vertical aluminum struts into their customary carbon and bamboo structures. The test run for the new Vertical Metal Technology (VMT) was a 3-model series in waist widths of 76, 82 and 92mm. Most small brands attempts at carving skis border on the comically bad, but the V-Series skis were a stunning exception. They could deliver a punch on hard snow and come off the edge with authority.

Last year, the original, dual-strut construction was applied to an All-Mountain West design, bringing Frontside-quality edge hold to a more floaty silhouette. The trait that distinguishes the evolv100’s personality from the rest of the AMW pack is directly attributable to Liberty’s VMT concept. The instant a shock tries to deflect the ski off course, the struts resist the deformation and stick the ski back on the snow before the pilot knows it ever left. Snow contact is maintained in all snow conditions but is especially notable in wind-affected crud, where many rockered forebodies flounder.

Read the full review here

Salomon QST 99



Two years ago, Salomon improved the hard snow performance of the QST99 by adding basalt to its foundational carbon/flax (C/FX) fibers. Last year, Salomon re-configured its primary elements, mixing the basalt and carbon parts and using the flax in its own layer under the binding zone. The net effect was to augment the sense of support, not just underfoot, where there’s also a slice of Titanal, but all along the baseline.

Two other changes to the ski design contributed mightily to the QST 99’s infusion of power and improved snow contact: 4mm’s of width was pared away from both the tip and tail, so the latest version doesn’t automatically try to steer out of the fall line, and the substitution of cork for Koroyd in the shovel. Salomon asserts that the “Cork Damplifier” is 16 times more proficient at absorbing shock and even lighter weight. With its new, trimmer silhouette, a 181cm QST 99 weighs 65g less this year compared to the 2018/19 version, while improving its Stability at Speed score from 7.80 to 8.43, the best score in the genre for a non-metal ski.

Read the full review here

Atomic Bent Chetler 100



The key to the Bent Chetler 100’s charms is it Horizon Tech tip and tail which are rockered on both axes. Its crowned extremities allow the littler Chetler to drift in any direction on a whim without losing control of trajectory. When in its element, it’s the epitome of ease, rolling over terrain like a spatula over icing.

The Bent Chetler 100 is all about freedom of expression rather than the tyranny of technical turns. Showing up early in the turn isn’t its shtick, but it has talents Technical skis never imagined, like throwing it in reverse off a precipice. It’s light, it’s easy to pivot and it’s wide enough to float in two feet of fresh. If you evaluate the Bent Chetler 100 for what it does rather than what it isn’t meant to do, it’s an all-star in a league of its own.

Although the Bent Chetler 100 is a directional ski, its unique design lends itself to omni-directional skiing. This pegs its probable skier profile as a young male with aerial antics on his bucket list. But it would be underselling the Bent Chetler 100 to lump it with Pipe & Park twin-tips. Its preference for soft snow is hardly a character flaw in an All-Mountain West model. Anyone looking for a great value in an all-terrain ski can’t do any better than a Bent Chetler 100.

Read the full review here

Dynastar Menace 98

With a name like Menace, this Dynastar sounds like a handful, but it actually takes instruction well. (As long as we’re not talking about hard snow carving, which lies outside its definition of “fun.”) It’s simplicity itself to pivot, which is essential if you’re going to ride it like a beast with two heads. Even if your intent is to always face downhill, this putty-knife smear-ability comes in handy in lumpy off-trail conditions where a narrower twin-tip won’t move sideways with equal facility.

And when the snow is light and fluffy and you can set your own line, the Menace 98 bounces off the base of a bottomless turn and uses that energy to surface and slash to the other side of the fall line. Whether you prefer your powder turns to be forward, backward or sideways, the Menace 98 is ready to accommodate.

Read the full review here

K2 Mindbender 99 Ti

 It’s hard to classify K2’s Mindbender 99 Ti as either a Finesse or a Power ski as it migrates freely across the border between these two behavioral territories. It Power properties derive from a yoke of Titanal that runs along the perimeter of the forebody, segues to an edge-to-edge binding platform and continues down the center of the tail. This design puts a premium on engaging the edge early and releasing it gently. Its double-rockered baseline uses only enough elevation at tip and tail to maintain flow in uneven terrain, so the skier feels end-to-end snow contact whether on groomers or off-trail.

While the Mindbender Ti models were introduced just last year, they are part of a K2 tradition that stretches back several product generations. If K2’s essence could be distilled to a single trait or two, it would be made of equal parts forgiveness and ease of use. The Mindbender 99 Ti doesn’t try to dictate turn shape nor does it require breakneck speed to get it to bend. It doesn’t have a terrain preference – it’s surprisingly snaky in the bumps – but its torsionally soft tail is more attuned to pushing against soft snow than biting into ice. As long as the surface has some give to it, the Mindbender 99 Ti is a competent carver and a confidence builder for someone still polishing their off-trail talents.

Read the full review here