2022 Women’s All-Mountain West Skis

2022 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.

Read More

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 2022 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 almost every Women’s All-Mountain West ski has a sister in the AME ranks to whom its fate is inextricably linked. Many of the Women’s All-Mountain West models are clones of a unisex ski with which they move in lockstep.

In what may have been cases of pandemic budget restraint, a couple of new unisex models weren’t accompanied by a women’s version, at least not yet. Salomon’s new QST 98 (that didn’t make our Recommended cut) is unisex only, so the QST Lumen 99 of 20/21 stays in the current line. The same situation prevails at Kästle, where the FX96 W returns intact.

New to the WAMW sorority are Head’s Kore 97 W and the Völkl Secret 96, both fraternal twins of the Kore 99 and Mantra M6, respectively. While we’re not rating any of our women’s models this year, it bears mention that our top-rated unisex Power ski in this genre is Völkl’s M6 Mantra and the best-in-show Finesse model is the Kore 99. Both brands modify their smaller sizes for lighter skiers as a matter of course, making further “womanization” moot, so it stands to reason their women’s models should shine in this high-performance category.

Blizzard Black Pearl 97 

The Black Pearl 97 borrows its sidecut and baseline from the unisex Bonafide 97, and purloins its Woman Specific Design (W.S.D.) from the Black Pearl 88. Last season both of its parents upgraded to the TrueBlend core, that perfectly matches flex to shape and size, so naturally the Black Pearl 97 followed suit.

Included in the W.S.D. package of enhancements is a Titanal mounting plate, that improves, well, everything about the Pearl 97. It’s grip on hardpack far exceeds expectations, and it makes mincemeat out of choppy crud. Its women-specific TrueBlend core finds the right balance between relatively light weight for maneuverability but enough substance to subdue a tracked-up fall-line.

Read the full review here

Dynastar M-Pro 99 W

The M-Pro line that Dynastar introduced last year is hierarchical, with the M-Pro 99 and 99 W sitting on top of a 3-model range. This means the M-Pro 99 W isn’t just the widest ski in the range, it’s the also the best. Women who’ve attained advanced ability should probably on the M-Pro 99 W even if they’re likely to spend half their time on groomed terrain.

I make this suggestion despite the fact that the M-Pro 99 W’s baseline and build are clearly intended for off-piste terrain. It’s topsheet of Titanal peters out about half way up the forebody so the front of the ski stays loose and free to conform to uneven conditions. It’s the Ti in the mid-section and tail that calm the M-Pro 99 W down on groomers, earning the admiration of Lara Hughes Allen, who filed this dispatch: “I really liked this ski. I don’t usually ski anything much over 90 underfoot, but I was really impressed with this ski on groomers and off piste. I skied it on a day where we had gotten about a foot of new snow over crud/ice and it had a lot of float through the soft snow, but also charged through the crud. Surprisingly grippy on the groomers as well.” Meghan Ochs agreed that it “performs well in all categories despite the rockered tip.”

Read the full review here


K2 Mindbender 98Ti Alliance

Last season, K2 athlete McKenna Peterson shared this glimpse behind the ski development curtain at K2:

The creation of the Mindbender line was an opportunity for K2 to completely revamp its women’s freeride skis. We started with a conference call between K2 engineers, product managers, K2’s female athletes and K2’s women’s test team. We each stated what our ‘ideal’ line of skis would look like and the engineers started innovating. Throughout that winter, the women’s test team completed 5 tests at different ski resorts, in varying conditions. Some models, like the 88Ti, skied really well right out of the gate and we only tested those prototype variations at two of the tests. Other models were tested over and over again until the ski was perfect.

Before we test a specific category, we list 4 or 5 traits that the ski is supposed to embody. For each test we will have 4 or 5 different iterations of one ski. The process is blind; all the skis have the same top sheet, and the testers do not speak about the skis until we are finished with the test. We ski the same run on all five iterations, making the same variety of turn shapes and speeds, and compare the iterations to one another. During our debrief session at the end of the day we compare the results of the testers.

Read the full review here

Rossignol Blackops W Blazer 

The best All-Mountain West skis have the capacity to grip hard snow and pounce off the soft stuff, all on the same run. The Rossignol Blackops W Blazer gets its gripping power from a Titanal beam underfoot, which helps the entire ski stay in contact with a firm surface. The poppy spring off the bottom of a powder turn comes from a high camber line and reactive Diago fibers that run in a crosshatch pattern from tip to tail.

Making powder skiing easier by deploying a high, spring-loaded arch underfoot has been a Rossignol trademark since it introduced the first 7 series. Fans of the insanely successful Soul 7 will rediscover in the Blackops W Blazer the same load-and-release effortlessness that makes deep powder skiing feel as natural as walking.

The Blackops Blazer’s energetic rebound is all the more notable because most of today’s all-terrain skis don’t have a particularly lively turn finish. It’s such an important – and underappreciated – trait that Rossi has wisely given it a marketing name to call attention to it, Pop Factor. The main reason the Blackops W Blazer is able to porpoise rhythmically up and down through powder is that its Pop Factor is high. It’s a sensation few other AMW models can deliver as well.

Read the full review here

Head Kore 97 W

Head’s Kore series provides a perfect example of why a great off-trail ski and an ideal women’s ski share the same design criteria. For 21/22, the changes made to the unisex Kore collection were ipso facto applied to its women’s iterations. The same alterations that make the new Kore 99 a better all-terrain ski also make the Kore 97 W a better women’s ski.

The most visible change is to the topsheet, which is now smoothly beveled so the ski slips sideways virtually without resistance, a big help when the snow is deep. Inside, the Kore’s core was modified by eliminating Koroyd honeycomb and replacing it with more of its Karuba-poplar wood core. This delivers a subtle change in snow feel and feedback that makes the ride feel smoother and more predictable. The only thing the skier notices about the lightweight design is that it takes less effort to steer; there’s no sense of it being skittish or easily knocked off course just because it’s light.

One of the many advantages of having Graphene in one’s design quiver, is this one-atom thick matrix of carbon can be moved around the ski platform to facilitate one behavior or another. In the case of the Kore 97 W, Graphene is integrated into the tip and tail, lowering swingweight, which is always helpful when snow is deep and the tendency to swivel is all but automatic.

Read the full review here

Völkl Secret 96

Völkl takes product development very, very seriously, testing nearly 1,000 different skis a year, in every length it will manufacture. It uses a team of both in-house product designers and a dozen or so “externals” – top instructors and racers – to evaluate every design aspect. Their task is made trickier in that key design elements like Tailored Titanal Frame, 3D Sidecut, Tailored Carbon Tips and the Secret 96’s double-rockered baseline, all need to blend together for the magic to happen.

I mention this because the new Secret 96 is essentially the same ski as the M6 Mantra, which sounds like a short-cut way to gin up a women’s ski. Far from it. One of the essential design goals of both new skis was to precisely tailor all aspects for all sizes, a process particularly beneficial for the largest and smallest sizes. Every decision was challenged in service to the main goals: more liveliness when pressured; accessible, tighter turn shapes; and smoother behavior in the turn transition, the “drift-to-carve” moment. The intent was to open up both the M6 Mantra the Secret 96 to more skiers, especially in the shorter lengths, i.e., those made for women.

Read the full review here

Nordica Santa Ana 98

It’s not entirely coincidental that the Santa Ana 98 debuted last season along with Terrain Specific Metal, Nordica’s way of doling out just the right amount of metal for each of its five Santa Ana models. The Santa Ana 98 was needed because its predecessor, the Santa Ana 100, used wall-to-wall, end-to-end sheets of Titanal, so they skied like supercharged rockets. Skiers who just wanted a ski to make powder easier were over-served.

So, unlike its sister Santa Anas, the 98 was born on a Ti diet, but just because the Santa Ana 98 doesn’t ski like an Enforcer 100, don’t think for a second that it’s been gutted. Within the Santa Ana clan, the 98 falls on the side of the threesome that are intended to live at least part of their lives on hard snow. It wasn’t created to ski powder at the expense of competence when carving up groomers; it’s meant to live comfortably on the border of both worlds.

Every ski in this genre alleges that it’s like the mythical Super Mom who can manage the boardroom, the boudoir and the household books while learning Mandarin. They can do it all and never break a sweat. But Women’s All-Mountain West skis almost never live right on the 50/50, hard snow/soft snow border.

Read the full review here

Kästle FX96 W

This year, Kästle completely redesigned its off-trail FX series, returning to a metal laminate construction. Kästle’s FX96 Women, however, wasn’t part of this transformation, returning to the line where it first debuted in the 2019/20 season.

The cornerstone of the FX96 W design is a poplar and beech wood core inside a fiberglass torsion box that is itself encased in a laminate, with poplar and Paulownia bookending the central core. The torsion box rides higher than the outer sections, creating a 3D top surface, which is the first weight-saver. Second is the concentration of hard woods in the center, so lighter woods can be used in the remaining 2/3 of the core. Third is using a thicker core profile in the central torsion box, which gives it more power without adding more materials.

The proof of the FX96 W’s terrain proclivities is found in its double-rockered baseline. Its shallow camber pocket transitions to a long, gradual front rocker – Kästle refers to it as Progressive Rise – that starts 310cm from the tip. The tail rocker picks up and a similarly slight slope 150cm from the tail. This creates a relatively short contact length that works in concert with its slalomesque sidecut (14m @ 164cm) to create a fat ski that skis skinny.

Read the full review here

Salomon QST Lumen 99 


Since the QST series was launched by Salomon many moons ago, its male and female iterations have been indistinguishable beneath their decorated top-sheets. Not so this season, where the unisex QST 99 was singled out for transformation, while the QST Lumen 99 was unchanged except for a purely cosmetic makeover.

The two generations could not be more different. The new QST 98 tilts its terrain interests decidedly in the off-trail direction. Its well rockered extremities seem as nervous as a 13-year old on a first date, unless there’s some snow under them to calm them down.

The unadulterated QST Lumen 99, in contrast, is a true all-terrain ski. It isn’t fazed by hardpack, where its relatively shallow sidecut likes to stay close to the fall line. It exceeds expectations in moguls, where its shock-sucking Cork Damplifier helps maintain snow contact. Properly sized, it will wriggle through trees more readily than its metal-clad competition in this category.

Read the full review here