2021 Men’s Big Mountain Skis

2021 Men’s Big Mountain Skis


It wouldn’t be unfair to lump all skis over 100mm at the waist into a giant bucket labeled, “Powder,” and leave it at that. Obviously, the fatter the ski the better the flotation, so pick a ski based on how high you want to ride on new snow and you’re good to go. We decided to divide the powder pie in two because there are big behavioral differences between the Big Mountain bundle of skis (101mm-113mm) and the cluster over 120mm. 

The very fact that most manufacturers make (at least) one model in each genre verifies that there are reasons to make two distinct models to serve the Big Mountain and Powder categories. The best of the Big Mountain brotherhood are everyday skis for strong riders on – you guessed it – big mountains.  But there are also easy riders in the Big Mountain corral; skis that will help the less talented whip their powder skills into shape.

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The split personality of the Big Mountain genre is a result of the evolution of the fat ski phenomenon as a whole.  Twenty years ago, when the concept of powder skis was still in its infancy, fat boys were conceived as learning aids for the uninitiated. Experts initially avoided the budding category as if they were badges of ineptitude – until they tried them.   When Shane McConkey straight-lined a legendary couloir on a pair of 90mm Volant Chubbs, the collective attitude of the elite was tweaked.  Suddenly a new mini-market emerged for high-octane athletes seeking first descents on previously unskiable pitches.  Movies from Matchstick Productions and Teton Gravity Research showcased a new frontier in adrenaline sports, and the race was on to see who could make the best tool for these new school, big mountain athletes.

Flashing forward to today, both communities – those who want to maintain their speed in new snow and those who want to maintain their dignity – are being over-served by a brilliant buffet of options.  Whether you tear into powder or tiptoe in, the right Big Mountain ski will make slicing knee-deep fresh snow nearly effortless.

People in the market for a powder ski tend to think bigger is better, that if a little flotation is good, massive flotation is better.  It’s true that there’s no substitute for surface area, but flotation isn’t the only quality required for off-trail conditions.  Some aptitude for moving quickly edge to edge is useful in moguls, which inevitably develop where sno-cats fear to tread. Edging accuracy comes in handy on steep traverses, and short-radius turns are de rigeur in pucker-tight couloirs.  Point being, the slightly narrower chassis of a Big Mountain ski is probably a better powder ski for most skiers than the super-wide models that qualify for the Powder club by being next to useless anywhere else.

Every Big Mountain ski pries the tip and tail off the snow to some degree because there’s no better way to motor through crud – powder’s wicked stepbrother – than with a tip that won’t catch and a tail that won’t hang up. Some Big Mountain models are cambered underfoot, some aren’t. The biggest behavioral chasm in the category is the separation of models that can be trusted to hold just a ribbon of edge on hard snow and those who do their best work in the worst conditions, drifting over rubble like it was made from ice cream.

There are two major provisos that need to be shouted from the rooftops: one, acquiring an everyday ski that is too wide poses an increased risk of joint fatigue and even injury to the skier, even if he or she never falls; and two, skiers charging full speed on skis with huge girth but little effective contact area and perhaps no capacity for clean edging pose a danger not just to themselves, but every other person in their flight path.

Please pay attention, because this is why our test criteria are more important today than ever.  Heavily rockered skis in the Big Mountain waist width zone of 101mm to 113mm can easily inspire the illusion that their owner suddenly has skills. After all, he can now kill it in the freshies, charging like an off-the-rails locomotive.  When he rolls his act out on the groomers, still hauling, still squatting over the middle of his skis, his ultra-rockered tips and tails wildly slapping the snow, his ability to change trajectory and avoid the downhill skier is perilously close to nil.

This is perhaps the most important slope safety issue of our time. Please, people, restrict your use of Big Mountain skis to the off-trail terrain for which they were designed.

The 2021 Men’s Big Mountain Field

Every model earning a Recommended medallion in the Big Mountain category has a sibling in either the All-Mountain West or Powder genres (or both), so it’s a good bet that any new Big Mountain ski will be a member of a two- to six-model family.  It’s important to note that models that share a family association may not always share the same construction. Out of five fresh faces in 20/21, two are unique spins within an all-new line-up, Blizzard’s Cochise 106 and Rossignol’s Blackops Sender Ti.

Among the new arrivals, Dynastar’s twin-tipped M-Free 108 earned the highest accolades, its loose baseline smearing imperturbably in pow yet gripping with sufficient tenacity on groomers to please Power skiers. Brother brand Rossignol’s Sender Ti is cut from completely different cloth from its square tail to its gently rockered tip.  It uses a plethora of damping devices to keep it plastered to the snow, be it hard or soft.

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Salomon already had a brilliant lightweight entry in the Big Mountain field, so it went the other direction with its new Stance series. The Stance 102 headlines a 3-model collection that all use the same wood and metal make-up with better stability at speed when conditions are glassy. When it comes to stability at speed, no one can touch the Cochise 106; as is the case with luxury sedans, just because it’s easy to handle doesn’t mean it wants to take it easy.

K2 rounds out the two-year transformation of its entire Alpine collection with the launch of a 3-model twin-tipped clan, of which the Reckoner 102 is the skinniest.  If you love the sensation of surfing soft snow, this omnidirectional craft will float your boat.

Last season’s sudden conclusion clipped off a critical chunk of our usual data collection, and what season we had before that didn’t favor skis made for soft snow. Among the casualties of these twin calamities was the opportunity to put three new models of interest through their paces: Dynastar’s M-Pro 105, Liberty’s evolv 110 and Völkl’s Katana 108. From what we know of these designs, we expect each in its own way to be stellar.

 If you’re currently flailing in new snow, you’re on the wrong gear. Powder is the one condition in which the choice of ski can actually improve your skiing experience, without actually requiring you to improve your skiing, if you catch my drift.  A properly sized and selected Big Mountain model will make you a better powder skier a lot faster than a great Technical ski will turn you into a proficient carver.

Power Picks: Killing It

The defining difference between our Power Picks and Finesse Favorites can be summed up succinctly:  how fast are you willing to go before you steer out of the fall line?  If you tend to ride the brakes and the gas at the same time, you’ve overshot your category: you should be searching among the Finesse models. 

But if you love to let it rip, sending up geysers that almost engulf you as you go headlong downhill, this is your dating pool.  Chances are, every one of these skis is better than you are, which is a good thing when you’re pushing the edge of the envelope. If your skills are commensurate with our Power Picks, you’ll have a partner for powder days that won’t ever let you down.

Völkl Mantra 102

 You can feel the power percolating under the hood of the Mantra 102 before you have it out of first gear. Even though it’s “only” 102mm underfoot, it feels more substantial. At slow speeds, its triple-radius sidecut (long-short-long) encourages the Mantra 102 to stay close to the fall line so it can pick up enough inertia to show its other moves.

Once you’ve shown it you care by injecting speed into its veins, the Mantra 102 becomes more compliant. Even though it’s double rockered, its Titanal Frame design, which puts more mass around the tip and tail, keeps nearly the full length of the ski engaged. While not exactly nimble – its lowest score is for short turns – it doesn’t have to be, for whatever lies in its path better get out of its way or face extinction.

This “Mantra über alles” attitude is unusual in a Big Mountain genre where Finesse skis are in the majority. The Mantra 102 has as much interest in floating over new snow as a bathysphere, and would rather pummel a patch of soft snow than caress it.

If you’d had difficulty finding a Big Mountain ski that’s able to support your mass and your mojo, your search has ended. I’m sure that someone whose nickname is Bruiser will use the Mantra 102 as his everyday ski, but its glory is a wide-open crud field where it can cut loose like an extra-large GS race ski with anger issues.

Read the full review here

Blizzard Cochise 106



The 20/21 Cochise represents a return to its traditional values by cutting back on some of its beefier elements without scrimping on the 2 ½ layers of Titanal that give the Cochise its indomitable determination to teach crud a lesson it won’t soon forget. The new Cochise whittles away at the tip and waist width and plumps up the tail, reducing the sidecut radius by 3m in a 185cm. While this encourages the rejuvenated Cochise to finish its big, banked turns, quick, little arcs are still not part of its repertoire.

To get the 20/21 Cochise to feel more like the original, Blizzard tinkered with several possible core changes. Bear in mind this re-design comes after several years of Rustlers, Blizzard’s softer, gentler Big Mountain collection that uses Paulownia, balsa and ISO-core alongside the poplar and beech laminates that have been used in the Cochise’s clan forever. Blizzard attempted to modify its new TrueBlend core for the Cochise, but its added width meant more mass, inhibiting the maneuverability the R&D team was trying augment. So the 2021 Cochise core added Paulownia to its matrix, lightening the load and improving its responsiveness.

The cumulative changes to the Cochise 106 contribute to a general improvement to its on-trail comportment so it’s truly an all-terrain ski, as it was conceived to be. Even though it has changed, it hasn’t contorted into something its not: it’s still the same Power ski it always was.

Read the full review here

Rossignol Blackops Sender Ti

The previous occupant of this slot in Rossignol’s lineup, the Soul 7, might well have been the biggest seller in the short history of the Big Mountain genre. A mostly glass ski that was light, springy and sinfully simple to ski in the soft conditions it was meant for, the Soul 7 HD left behind big tracks to fill.

The new Blackops Sender Ti could probably follow a Soul 7 track as they share a similar sidecut, but in almost every other respect the two skis are decidedly different.

The biggest differences between the two Rossis are in baseline and construction, with the Sender Ti favoring more continuous snow connection and a damper ride able to suck up the vibrations that come with higher speeds. The Sender Ti doesn’t just toss Titanal at the problem; it adds supplementary damping systems on both the horizontal and vertical planes. An elastomer layer Rossi calls Damp Tech smoothes out the ride in the forebody while twin ABS struts running the length of the ski resist every effort to knock it off line. A weave of carbon alloy incases its poplar core, just for good measure.

Brilliantly balanced between Power and Finesse behaviors, the Blackops Sender Ti belongs in the first rank of Big Mountain skis. While it shares few of its forebear’s behavioral traits, the Soul 7 and the Sender Ti do have one thing in common: they both may wear the mantle of Ski of the Year.

Read the full review here

Head Kore 105

 Head is the only ski maker with a license to use Graphene, carbon in a one-atom thick matrix, which allows its engineers to stiffen or soften flex with minimal affect on mass. To maintain this weight advantage, the heaviest component in the core is a slice of poplar next to the sidewall; the rest of it is a synthetic honeycomb called Koroyd and a quotient of Karuba, an ultralight wood commonly found in Alpine Touring skis. The Kore 105 gets its power and energy from the carbon, fiberglass and Graphene that are laminated around this exotic core.

This recitation of low-mass components makes it sound as though the Kore’s only selling feature is its lightweight chassis. There’s no question that the Kore design is laser-focused on keeping the ski light, but if that were its only accomplishment it wouldn’t be such a big deal. What makes the Kore construction remarkable is that it’s light but never wimpy. Once you ski it for a few runs you forget about the lightweight and just ski as you would normally, only with less labor and fatigue.

“The dampest lightweight ski ever, awesome energy and snow feel. Works all day inbounds or backcountry,” raved Lucas from Footloose. “[My] favorite ski in the test.” One of The Sport Loft cohort captured its multiple personalities: “Soft for the soft snow, stiff and stable for the hard snow. For the weight, the best ski for the money, period.”

Read the full review here

Ranger 107 Ti



In 19/20 Fischer re-designed the flagship of it Ranger Ti series, returning to a lay-up with twin Titanal laminates for stability and liberal use of carbon to make it responsive. Carbon inlays in the tip and tail help make the extremities thin and light, so the Ranger107 Ti is easier to foot steer when necessary. “It’s user-friendly but still can be skied aggressively,” notes one admiring tester. “You can take your foot off the gas and it’s still responsive.”

Compared to the Ranger 108 Ti that preceded it, the Ranger 107 Ti has a slightly less shapely silhouette and a longer contact zone underfoot, giving it more directional stability and an overall calmer disposition in the sloppy seconds that prevail on so-called powder days. Its new sidecut favors the skier who can maintain momentum through a series of rhythmic, mid-radius turns that neither enter nor exit the turn too suddenly.

Fischer is going through something of a renaissance of late, reinvigorating its Alpine ski and boot collections in tune with the market demand for lightweight constructions that deliver high performance. The latest redesign of the Ranger flagship is emblematic of a new emphasis on product at Fischer and a harbinger of good things to come.

Read the full review here

Finesse Favorites:  Kicking Back

The original idea behind making a ski as fat as 110mm underfoot wasn’t to open previously unskiable terrain to world-class athletes, but to allow those without such skills to be able to navigate less forbidding pitches when the snow is knee deep.  

Our Finesse Favorites fulfill this mission by bringing a sense of playfulness to the business of floating and smearing through powder.  They prioritize ease over accuracy, allowing the less proficient powder skiers to more easily access this exciting terrain.  The ulterior motive behind manufacturing such models is, of course, to sell you a second pair of premium skis.  We warn you: once you go fat, you never go back.  Which means, once you ski the deep on one of these plump beauties, you’ll never again foray into the pow without fatties on your feet. 

Nordica Enforcer 104 Free  

Two years ago the Nordica Enforcer 110 earned the title of easiest Big Mountain ski; last year, the crown stayed in the Enforcer family but passed to a new epitome of ease, the Enforcer 104 Free, that continues to hold the throne in 20/21. (The “Free” denotes the slightly lighter wood core that’s been in the 110 since its introduction.) The Enforcer 104 Free leapfrogged to the front of our Finesse rankings by being even more maneuverable and responsive than the highly recommended ski that served as its role model.

Back-to-back runs on the 110 and 104 in 10 inches of partially tracked powder confirmed what one might suspect a priori – that the narrower ski was noticeably easier to steer no matter how you slice it. Whether pivoting your feet to make a short turn shorter or banking off a wind drift, the Enforcer 104 took less force to guide. To the obvious question – is a 104-waist width really necessary in a line that already has cornerstone models on its flanks in the original Enforcer 100 and the 110? – we have an equally obvious answer: oh, yes.

At the 104mm width, the girth of the ski is less of a liability and more of an asset as it takes less muscle power to maneuver. It still feels as stable as a mini-tanker – the overriding sensation is that your can’t be knocked off your feet no matter what you hit in the flat light that often prevails on powder days – yet it remains lively and responsive to pressure. It doesn’t just reward competence; it bestows grace.

Read the full review here

M-Free 108


This season Dynastar debuts the most significant changes to its core collection of Freeride skis since the Chamonix valley brand launched the first version of the Cham design in 2012. The new Freeride family has three branches: M-Pro, four flat-tailed all-terrain models; M-Tour, a 99mm backcountry board; and M-Free, a pair of twin-tips made to surf big lines on big mountains. The emerging stars of the 20/21 line are the M-Pro 99 and the subject of this review, the M-Free 108, which bedazzled the few lucky enough to essay it last winter.

No question that the M-Free 108 is built to butter around in deep powder. It uses a shallow sidecut to minimize sinkage, along with tapered tips and tails that shorten the platform underfoot. This makes it a brilliant drifter that can be swiveled in a phone booth (remember those?). Its hybrid core uses poplar down the center and a swath of PU on either side to dampen the ride without impinging its lively response to pressure.

Theron Lee, a longtime Dynastar fan, found the M-Free 108 to be “very damp and smooth but with great rebound. Easy to turn and stable at speed. Very playful yet has plenty of power. Skis kinda short.” Every behavior cited by Lee can be traced to the M-Free 108’s abbreviated but responsive center section buffered by twin-tipped extremities that are tapered and rockered out of the way.

Read the full review here

Nordica Enforcer 110 Free

The Enforcer 110 is so good at motoring through crud that it jumped to the top position among Big Mountain models in its debut season. Its reign would have certainly continued had Nordica not fashioned an Enforcer 104 last year, which usurped the throne so briefly held by the model from which it was cloned.


Just because the narrower and lighter Enforcer 104 Free feels more maneuverable than its stouter big bro doesn’t mean the Enforcer 110 Free suddenly morphed into a lugubrious tanker. It’s still remarkably agile for its girth and its camber pocket delivers a lively turn finish that makes it ski lighter than it actually weighs. “This is the most versatile wide profile ski I have ever used!” gushed Boot Doctor Bob Gleason.  “An uncanny blend of big ski float and directional fortitude, with a quickness and rebound that will have you tap dancing in the tight spots.”

Read the full review here

Salomon QST 106 

If Salomon’s brand identity over the past forty years could be summarized in a single word, it would be “innovation.” The driver behind its history of successful new product introductions is a corporate culture grounded in extensive Research and Development (R&D). Salomon’s Annecy Design Center continues to launch breakthrough products capable of disrupting a market, such as the Shift binding.

The same relentless devotion to R&D that made the Shift possible spurred Salomon to re-design the QST 106 two seasons in a row. The list of last year’s changes may sound like a handful of minor alterations, but together they turbo-boosted the QST 106’s 19/20 Power score and its 19/20 Finesse score shot even higher.

I confess I’ve been maintaining a soft-snow-days only liaison with a QST 106 since we first met, so my bias in its favor is engrained. I’m now seeing a 181cm 106, which strikes me as the perfect blend of flotation for soft snow and grip on hard snow. Instead of dreading the latter, I find the QST 106 to be so natural and imbued with fluid fortitude that I stop noticing its width and simply ski. Even as the rpm’s ascend it stays the course, laying down long turns as if to the manner born.

Because of its brilliant balance between Power and Finesse virtues, we again award the QST 106 a Silver Skier Selection.

Read the full review here

Salomon Stance 102

 The new Salomon Stance 102 is a Frontside ski in a fat suit. Were it not for its width, which by Realskiers’ rules lands it in the Big Mountain genre, and a dash of tip rocker, it would be a Frontside ski, and a strong one.

To understand a ski’s purpose, one needs to know what void it’s filling in its brand’s big picture, as well as where it fits in the category in which it’s competing. Perhaps the best way to define the role of the Stance 102 in Salomon’s 20/21 collection is identify what it is not, namely a QST.

The niche the Stance 102 aims to occupy is that of a wood (poplar) and metal (Titanal) laminate that’s just a bit less than the market leaders in the genre: a bit less heavy, a bit less torsionally rigid in the forebody and a bit less work to bow.

Mission accomplished. While the rockered tip isn’t over-eager to get into the next turn, it hooks up as early as any in this all-rockered-all-the-time genre. Because Salomon has tampered with its torsional stiffness, the Stance 102 doesn’t feel as wide as it measures, so it never feels ponderous. The Stance 102 feels quick off the edge in part because it doesn’t cling to a cross-hill arc, its tail’s unusually narrow width dictating a more direct route downhill.

Read the full review here

K2 Mindbender 108Ti

 Two visible features give the best of the Mindbenders, headlined by the 108 Ti, their signature look and associated behavior, Titanal Y-Beam and PowerWall. Ti Y-Beam is, as the name suggests, a slingshot-shaped yoke of Titanal that fortifies the tail and perimeter of the forebody. PowerWall elevates the midsection to amplify pressure over the camber pocket and direct more force to the edge. The tapered tip is allowed to distort as it shoulders its way ahead in tracked-up crud without affecting the tranquil ride behind it.

The Mindbender 108 Ti tries to win the war against crud by caressing it instead of crushing it. To execute a truly tight radius turn requires overruling its roughly 30m-sidecut radius and foot swiveling a flat ski, a move the Mindbender 108Ti has down pat.

It takes only one section of uncut powder to realize that this unsullied canvas is where the Mindbender 108Ti would prefer to display its artistry. Remarkably, its soft, rockered forebody allows the 108Ti to conform to gnarly bumps as if they were only a minor inconvenience. Because it isn’t torsionally rigid throughout, the Mindbender 108Ti doesn’t feel as wide as it measures. In soft snow it feels comfortable enough to be an everyday ski, but that’s asking a lot of a ski that likes powder as much as you do.

Read the full review here

K2 Reckoner 102

One of my favorite bump skis that wasn’t intended to be a bump ski was the K2 Shreditor 102 (circa 2105). Of course it couldn’t be as quick a real mogul ski edge to edge, so it did most of its navigation by slaving through the troughs and slinking around the lumpy bits. The new Reckoner 102 is in several respects the same ski, albeit embellished in ways its ancestor was not.

The similarities are hard to miss. The shape of the 184cm is identical save for a tip that’s 3mm wider on the Reckoner, giving it a marginally (.7m) snugger sidecut radius. Both Shreditor and Reckoner rely on K2’s patented Triaxial braid for its basic structure, but the latter reinforces it with lengthwise carbon stringers for added resilience and rebound. Both vintages use Aspen in the core, although the Shreditor complemented it with featherweight Paulownia while the Reckoner uses Aspen in concert with denser fir. Both have relatively low camber underfoot, use a reinforced sidewall for added resistance to ski-on-ski damage and both, of course, are twin-tips. Mercifully, the Reckoner 102, like the Shreditor before it, doesn’t need to be skied upside down and backwards to be enjoyed. If you like a ski that’s playful, poppy and super simple to drift, it can serve as an all-mountain ski for some who is aerially inclined. If you want to take your Pipe & Park skills to the sidecountry, the Reckoner 102 wants to come with you.

Read the full review here

Blizzard Rustler 10

 The Blizzard Rustler 10 wants you to look good, so it makes everything about off-trail skiing easier. There’s a long, central band of Titanal on the top to stabilize the ski underfoot while allowing the tip and tail to twist. The idea is to keep the tapered tip from getting involved with every obstruction it meets; instead of trying to hook up at the top of turn like a hard-snow-oriented ski is meant to do, it politely deflects all rough treatment by bending with the blow. The same basic idea at the tail keeps it from insisting on finishing every arc on a hairline trajectory, as if skiing were trying to emulate figure skating.

A more powerful skier who takes his hard-snow technique with him when he travels off-trail might prefer the more connected feel of the Blizzard Cochise 106. But for the majority of off-piste skiers, the Rustler 10 is a better fit. When the nearly expert skier really needs help, the Rustler is a godsend. Imagine being in flat light – a common condition when the goods are there to be gotten – and not being able to tell what your tips are going to encounter next. That’s where the Rustler 10’s innate surf-ability takes over, smearing over the unseen obstacles as if they weren’t there.

Read the full review here

Ranger 102 FR

 The Fischer Ranger 102 FR is an interesting amalgam of Old School principles and New School attitude. At heart it’s a traditional, wood-core, glass laminate construction with square, ABS sidewalls, but on closer examination the wood laminates in the core are carved into a Chinese puzzle of latticework developed for Fischer’s market-dominating cross-country skis. To keep the lightweight Air Tec Ti core from being bounced around by stiff mounds of set-up crud, a thin sheath of Titanal covers the core underfoot.

Keeping the metal component to a minimum allows the Ranger 102 FR’s glass structure the freedom to flex under mild pressure and immediately pop back into its cambered position. Put this action/reaction pulse into motion and you have the makings of a very fun powder run.

Read the full review here