2021 Women’s All-Mountain West Recommended Skis
In yet another example of our cutting-edge journalism, permit us to point out that men and women are different. The pertinent manifestation of this principle is that the same width ski that makes an ideal men’s all-terrain tool is a tad too wide to be an everyday ride for all but the most talented lasses. Put more succinctly, if you don’t instinctively ride an elevated edge angle, a ski from the All-Mountain West genre should be a second, soft-snow pair of skis.
The primary reason for taking this precaution is that a wider ski takes more effort to roll up on edge. A lower skill skier is more likely to just push it around, all fun and games in soft snow but a bit like an unguided missile when the snow firms up. Lower skill skiers tend to regard our Power Picks as lacking in forgiving traits, while the experts who log many miles a season don’t detect any unfriendly attitudes no matter where or how they ski them.
So what woman does belong on an All-Mountain West model? As long as it’s a second ski reserved for soft snow conditions, there’s really no upper or lower suitability threshold for any of our favorites. And yes, it can be an everyday ski for a strong, athletic woman and probably is serving that function for those lucky enough to ski over 50 days a year. They do make it look effortless, but it’s worth noting these are ladies who drop their hips within inches of the snow as a matter of course.
The 2021 Women’s All-Mountain West Field
While Women’s All-Mountain West models will never be as popular as their thinner sisters in the All-Mountain East category, they still turn over at roughly the same pace because every Women’s All-Mountain West ski has a sister in the AME ranks to whom its fate is inextricably linked. This means that just about every WAMW model that didn’t change last year was either upgraded or replaced outright this season.
Newcomers to the WAMW genre this year are Dynastar’s M-Pro 99 W, Rossi’s Black Ops Blazer and Stöckli’s Nela 96. Headlining the pack of those receiving a significant upgrade are Blizzard’s Black Pearl 97 and Nordica’s Santa Ana 98. Models that were new just last year which return technically intact include Head’s Kore 99 W, K2’s Mindbender 98Ti Alliance, Kästle’s FX96 W and Salomon’s QST Lumen 99.
Realskiers’ 20/21 Women’s Ski Test: The A-Team Steps Up
My ski season ended on March 13, and with it any hope of business as usual. When the hammer fell, my scheduled women’s test session was still two weeks from launching. How could I credibly report on the current crop of women’s skis – including some important new models – without any data to support my assessments?
I turned to the one cadre of skiers who had already skied this year’s top models: the women who serve as test pilots for the major brands’ product development teams. Every one of our 20/21 women’s ski reviews is authored by a veteran evaluator, some with over 20 years experience. Naturally, their reviews reflect their personal experiences and are therefore biased in favor of the brand and model under review. Whatever the shortcomings of an explicitly prejudiced point of view are more than compensated for by personal insights into the process of creating these models.
To learn about the women who penned these reports, please visit our Women’s Test Roster.
Blizzard Black Pearl 97
Tester: Brenna Kelleher
Whether you are new to off-piste terrain or a high-level ripper, the Black Pearl 97 does not disappoint. Test day began with ideal conditions: six inches of fresh snow on high-speed groomers. The next few runs I explored a bit more, finding crud-covered bumps and lots of chopped-up powder and again they performed brilliantly. The new TrueBlend woodcore offers the perfect combo of the right weight and performance. The Pearl 97 made it easy, yet felt like it had power and quickness underfoot as well. It performed from bell to bell as conditions changed throughout the day.
I would recommend the Black Pearl 97 to any intermediate/advanced skier looking to explore more terrain off the groomers. The ski performs at a low edge angle for intermediate skiers looking to explore new terrain, while more advanced skiers can ramp up the edge angle to execute precise carves in whatever terrain is in play. The new Pearl 97 is made with a slightly modified sidecut and baseline in every size, so each length is a perfect match for its pilot. Blizzard added a 177cm to the line up which is a welcome addition for stronger and/or more skilled women.
If you’re looking to purchase a great all-round, off-piste, bell-to-bell ski, be sure to put the Black Pearl 97 on your list. You can’t go wrong adding it to your quiver.
Dynastar M-Pro 99 W
Tester: Megan Dingman
The Dynastar M-Pro 99 W is one of those skis I’m stoked to have in my quiver. Deceivingly light, Dynastar’s new hybrid core construction creates a platform that feels incredibly smooth and intuitive, is playful yet responsive, and allows you to produce incredible rebound and energy. Needless to say, it charges. It’s this rare combination that makes this ski a perfect daily driver, and hands-down my go-to ski for all types of conditions and terrain. Whether ripping groomers or skiing tight trees this ski fully gassed, quick edge-to-edge, and very predictable. I felt extremely confident when laying the ski over and getting my hip on the ground, plowing through chunder fields, or skiing light powder. The 20m radius hooks up easily and allows you to create the turn you want. Not to mention the sleek graphic: the M-Pro 99 W catches one’s eye. Pair it with Look’s new gold Pivot 15 and you have yourself a head turner. Overall, this ski delivers a smooth, easy, powerful ride that I would highly recommend to anyone who is looking to buy a new ski that looks as good as it rides.
Read the full review here
K2 Mindbender 98Ti Alliance
Tester: McKenna Peterson
The first time I skied on what is now the Mindbender 98Ti Alliance was during our second round of testing at Crystal Mountain, Washington. It had snowed a bit up high but had rained down low on the mountain so conditions were variable. I’m a big mountain skier and have always preferred fatter skis for float and stability at speed, but there was something about this 98mm underfoot ski that made my jaw drop. Up high, the 98Ti floated through the powder, perfectly balanced between riding on top and diving too deep. The ski carved through the nasty re-frozen wet snow of the lower mountain as if it were butter. The ski was both confident and playful. We had a winner.
So much so that the engineers ended up adapting the new Torsion Control Design as finalized for the 98Ti for the entire men’s and women’s Mindbender collection. Torsion Control Design allows the ski to be stable and confident throughout the turn while also giving the option to release on a dime and playfully maneuver. This quality makes the 98Ti my ‘go to’ resort ski for any and all conditions. Fun fact: this ski graces the cover of the 2019 December issue of SKI magazine and the photo was taken after an unusual 40” dump at Sun Valley. Yeah, she’s skinny but she rips in the powder.
Read the full review here
Rossignol Blackops W Blazer
Tester: Jill Beers
The Blackops Blazer is one the most fun and dependable skis I’ve skied. This ski can handle any terrain and conditions I’m thrown while ripping around my home resort of Alta, Utah. From railing turns on hard-packed corduroy during chilly early mornings, to cutting through the afternoon crud post-pow day, this ski proves to be an extremely stable yet playful option. The 98mm waist makes it my ideal one-quiver ski for West coast shredding, but I was equally impressed with how it handled when I took it to the East coast for a week. This Blazer has come a long way from when I was able to help out during early testing a few years back and has since become the perfect ski for all the lady shredders that want an all-mountain charger to take them from bell to bell.
Read the full review here