2022 Women’s Big Mountain Skis

2022 Women’s Big Mountain Skis


There’s only one good reason for a woman to own a Big Mountain ski, and that’s flotation. It takes at least 8 inches of uncut snow to float someone on a ski, which should give you some idea how often you might need one yourself. Point being, a women’s Big Mountain model will be perforce a second pair of skis for a person of at least advanced skills, which shrinks the range of potential buyers. Since they’re unlikely to get a lot of use, they’ll stay in a skier’s locker for over a decade, further shrinking the turnover rate.

Since demand is small, the ski supplier has little incentive to present more than one option in the genre, and less incentive still to make it a unique, feminized construction. Moving the center mark, or providing multiple indicated options, is about the extent of the gender-driven modifications in the Big Mountain category.

Because all Women’s Big Mountain models are a riff on a Big Mountain ski meant for larger humans of at least advanced ability to rip around on, they don’t work so well as a set of training wheels for those uninitiated in the mysteries of skiing powder and its evil twin, a tattered, former powder field. If you’re being thrown in the deep end of the pool by a well-meaning friend/guide, get the shortest size offered, avoid models with metal in their make-up and be prepared for the occasional face-plant.

The 2022 Women’s Big Mountain Field

During a worldwide pandemic that upset everyone’s R&D schedule to one degree or another, the relative insignificance of the Women’s Big Mountain genre left it on the sidelines as more essential needs were addressed. The only new model to debut in 2022 is the Kore 103 W from Head, which is essentially the new unisex Kore 105 with a shifted size run and mounting point indicator. Due to the limited demand for the genre in general, this mimicry of a men’s model is the rule rather than the exception.

To learn about the women who penned these reports, please visit our Women’s Test Roster.

Rossignol Blackops Rallybird Ti



It wasn’t so very long ago that the Rossignol Soul 7 HD W all but owned this category. All performance aspects considered, the Blackops Rallybird Ti that succeeded it in the line last year is a very different ski, and a better one.

Rossi packed a lot of technology into the Blackops Rallybird Ti, which is the main reason it holds so well on hardpack, a condition it wasn’t really made for. The biggest differences between the two generations of Rossi’s are in baseline and construction, with the Rallybird Ti possessing a more continuous snow connection and a damper ride able to suck up the vibrations that come with higher speeds.

The Rallybird 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. It’s as ready to drift as it is to carve, an indispensable trait in an all-terrain ski. “I can drive the skis where I want, charge through the turn or slide. The ski is not pushed around by bumps and crud and it’s playful,” notes Freeride World Tour athlete and Rossi tester Juliette Willimann.

Read the full review here

Völkl Secret 102



The Völkl Secret 102 does not condescend. If you want to tear through crud as if it were rice paper, this is your ride. The Secret 102 has all the goodies: Titanal Frame coupled with 3D Radius Sidecut creates a ride that secretes power. Listen to the testimony of former US speed-event racer Edie Thys Morgan, a lady who has spent a lot of her skiing life in the upper end of the speedometer.

“The Secret102 may look like a fatty—and it’s definitely got the girth to plow through the powder of your dreams and its skied-out aftermath—but it’s no one trick pony. The ski gets happier as you dial up the intensity, which is also to say, it performs best when you’re the boss.

Read the full review here

Santa Ana 104 Free


The first edition of the Santa Ana 110 swapped the Enforcer 110’s poplar/beech core for balsa, but otherwise faithfully replicated its unisex structure, including two full sheets of .4mm Titanal. That’s a lot of ski, too much for most women hoping to make powder skiing easier, not more demanding. Last season, Nordica found the solution, Terrain Specific Metal: the wider the ski, the more metal is cut out of is mid-section. The widest models, the Santa Ana 110 Free and 104 Free, went from charging like barges to pivoting like catamarans.

Taking some of the Titanal out of the Santa Ana 110 Free certainly helped its maneuverability, but it’s still favors the expert who knows how to get after it. For a slightly less aggro personality who doesn’t want to run as hot through a crud field, the Santa Ana 104 Free may be a better choice.

With its slightly lower price and thinner waistline, the Santa Ana 104 Free may seem like a step down from its big sister, but if anything, she may be a better match for most women, a classic case of less-is-more. All powder skiing entails some foot steering, which is lots easier when there’s less mass to toss around. With a sidecut and baseline optimized for off-piste conditions, the Santa Ana 104 Free feels plenty floaty, and its metal laminates, albeit trimmed, have plenty of grip for stability on traverses and run-outs.

Read the full review here

Fischer Ranger 102 FR WS



Fischer doesn’t differentiate its Ranger series of off-trail skis according to gender, but according to attitude. Those Rangers with Ti in their name and Titanal laminates in their guts are all business, while the FR fold are all fun and games. No feature says, “let’s party!” as loud as twintip construction, and no other Big Mountain ski comes dressed to rock the joint like the shocking pink Ranger 102 FR WS.

Whether one prefers the more accurate carving of the Ranger Ti models or the looser steering of the FR camp isn’t about ability as much as it is flavor. There’s more than one way to attack a crud field, and the extra smear of the Ranger 102 FR just adds to the fun. It also makes for a more forgiving ride for those still getting the hang of skiing chopped-up snow. Note the depth of the size run: the woman who’s ready to wrangle a 191cm across the fall line certainly isn’t playing the same game as a relative neophyte timidly swiveling a 156cm.

Read the full review here

Salomon QST Stella 106



QST is an abbreviation of Quest, Salomon’s umbrella label for off-piste gear, the first tip-off that the QST Stella 106 comes from a family of off-trail tools. While the Quest name and its various abbreviations have been part of the Salomon lexicon for over a decade, the skis that bear the QST mark have evolved considerably over that span.

The current Stella 106 uses a trifecta of technical fibers to get just the flex and torsional rigidity that works best in choppy terrain, which sounds like it’s trying to be as light as possible, but that’s not really Stella’s calling card. Her core is all poplar, not Paulownia, balsa or Karuba, and her secret sauce is a Titanal mounting plate that influences the ski’s entire mid-section. If you’re looking for a cross-over model you can put a Salomon Switch binding on and toddle off into the backcountry, there are lighter options available.

Read the full review here

Blizzard Sheeva 10



Buttery. That’s the best single word for the Sheeva 10 and her plumper big sister, the Sheeva 11 ($820, 140/112/130). Four varieties of lightweight wood and a smidgeon of milled foam are sandwiched between layers of glass embedded with carbon stringers. The major juju that gives the Sheeva 10 her spine, literally and figuratively, is a top plate of Titanal that’s tailored for each size. It’s either a skimpy version of a sidewall-to-sidewall sheet of Titanal or an enlarged mounting plate, take your pick; either way you look at it, it delivers just the right dose of stability without muffling the Sheeva 10’s playful disposition.

Unlike its burly cousin, the Blizzard Cochise 106, the Sheeva 10 doesn’t try to subdue whatever lies ahead, but instead caresses it into submission. The Titanal top sheet is tapered at both ends to allow the tip and tail to twist along the longitudinal axis, so they roll with the punches delivered by set-up snow. The center of the ski remains serene and supportive, imparting the confidence required to increase speed in iffy conditions.

Read the full review here

Head Kore 103 W



The sole new ski in the 2022 Women’s Big Mountain genre is Head’s Kore 103 W. Last season, Head pushed the Kore collection down to an 87 on the skinny side of the width spectrum; the only direction left in which to extend the Kore clan was to go fatter. Hence the Kore 103 W.

The last time Head ventured a women’s model in the Big Mountain category, it was the Joy collection’s first season. Critics raved about the 110mm Big Joy, but almost no one bought it. (Pity, as it was a great ski.) But that was before Kore arrived, setting a new standard for what a lightweight design can do.

The new Kore 103 W is part of the second wave of Kore development, which should be more attractive to women due to a softer, livelier flex and a beveled top edge that helps conserve energy by sliding sideways effortlessly. And of course, the Kore 103 W is insanely lightweight. The Kore 105 in size 184cm weighs in at a mere 1755g, so imagine how light a 163cm Kore 103 W must be.

Read the full review here

Völkl Blaze 106 W



Most Big Mountain models use a high-end construction, which is reflected in their retail pricing; the same could be said for most Völkl models, for the brand is known both for its high quality and the way its elite constructions attract a consumer crowd top-heavy with experts. The Blaze 106 W addresses both limitations, but the real reason it sold to the wall in its debut season is it fits the profile of a ski light enough for backcountry but stout enough to rock in-resort.

As last season unfolded, no one knew what resort skiing would look like except that it would be somehow rationed. Backcountry skiing, in comparison, seemed limitless, inspiring thousands of skiers who had thus far resisted its charms to take it up. The Blaze 106 W provided the perfect fit: price, performance and cross-over capability.

As for its performance attributes, listen to the testimony of Ingrid Backstrom, extraordinary athlete, film star and mom, describe her first experience with the Blaze 106 W. “On the icy groomers, I could hold an edge and go for bigger turns without chatter. Of course, they were Völkls so I expected them to perform well, but I was blown away by the playfulness in this softer ski. The Blaze 106 made fun skiing instantly accessible to me on the tricky snow after many months of not skiing.

Read the full review here

K2 Mindbender 106 C Alliance



The Mindbender 106C Alliance ties together several strands of K2’s DNA. One strand is K2’s pioneering history of women’s models; since K2 introduced its first women’s ski, I dare say they’ve marketed more women’s models than any other brand. Another spiral of its genetic make-up is K2’s early adoption of rocker, giving it a wealth of experience in mastering flotation and ease of operation in deep snow. The baseline of the Mindbender 106C uses a low, gradual rocker on both ends, so all that surface area can take care of job one.

The third embedded gene is K2’s integration of its Women’s Alliance test team in its product development, a process that has been going on for over twenty years. Kim Reichhelm has been a leader of K2’s Alliance since its inception, and continues to contribute every year. Last year she filed a review of the Mindbender 106C that provided peek behind the curtain at her role at K2:

“Testing powder skis is a real treat, but it’s also a real job. The K2 Alliance team of testers takes the same test run over and over again to find the skis that rise to the top consistently. The team varies significantly in our ski style, age, size and aggressiveness. The variety in our ski styles helps us find the best overall ski design for the customer. Our mission is to design skis that are high performance and complement our individual style, regardless of our stance and aggressiveness.

Read the full review here