2023 Men’s All-Mountain East Skis

2023 Men’s All-Mountain East Skis

The “East” modifier is meant to imply that this narrower collection of All-Mountain skis (85mm-94mm underfoot) is a match for skiers who go on groomed trails most of the time but want the freedom to foray into the untamed backside of the mountain when conditions merit.  The cream of this crop have settled on a waist width between 88mm and 94mm underfoot, creating a very versatile profile that qualifies for the “All-Mountain” moniker.  Some brands differentiate their “88” from their “98” (All-Mountain West) model by making the former in a less burly construction that will slip into a slightly lower price point.  They make excellent “re-entry” skis for consumers who have been out of the ski market for several years.

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Bear in mind that only a decade ago a ski 90mm underfoot, such as the Salomon Pocket Rocket, was presumed to be a pure powder ski.  This collection has no such pretensions in a market inundated by an avalanche of skis over 2cm wider – and therefore inherently that much more buoyant – at the waist. But if an 88mm board could float just fine in boot-top powder in 2003 it can manage the feat in 2023, and the best of today’s crowded field don’t care what the snow condition is.

Digging deeper into this genre’s make-up, it’s divided along behavioral lines into two bundles: the friendly, easy-going rides versus the high-performance, Type-A personalities.  The former are accessible to almost any skill level and as such are great transition skis for those caught in intermediate limbo. At this width they are easy to balance on yet retain most of the properties of Technical skis so they still cut a precise arc when so instructed.  The latter, high-energy bunch either require elite skills or are best appreciated by those who know how to occasionally achieve a high edge angle and/or drive a directional ski over 40mph.

The 2023 Men’s All-Mountain East Field


The All-Mountain East family is a polyglot lot that can be divided into two camps: wide carvers that sit atop a family of Frontside models and narrow off-piste models, which have come to dominate the genre. Every sort of snow connection imaginable is on display, from fully cambered to double rockered.  Despite the wide range of design diversity, all AME models purport to solve the same problem: creating an all-terrain tool that is equally happy off piste or on.

Think of the AME field as the Compromise Category, not quite as precise as Frontside skis on hard snow nor as surfy as Big Mountain models in powder, but built to perform ably in either circumstance. None of the diverse 2023 field (24 unisex models examined by our test panel) strikes the perfect, 50/50 balance between hard and soft snow performance as each retains a slight bias, depending on the traits of the larger family of models to which it belongs.

Because off-trail baselines earn higher marks for forgiveness than for steering accuracy, the AME genre is lopsided in favor of Finesse skis. Of the seven new models debuting this season, six are Finesse skis and the seventh, the revamped Völkl Kendo 88, owns the second-highest Finesse score in addition to being the top-ranked Power ski in the genre.  

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Any skier beyond entry-level ability should consider adopting an AME model as his or her one-ski quiver. There are a great many forgiving models in this field, ideal for masking the technical foibles of weekend warriors.  There are also a slew of powerhouses that should appeal to advanced and expert skiers with a full skill set. No matter where you fall along the Power/Finesse divide, you’ll find your match in a category with more flavors than Baskin Robbins.

Befitting the Age of Incrementalism (see my Revelation on the subject here), three out of our top four Finesse models this year and our top two Power skis are updates to existing models. Some of the modifications were mild: Blizzard just shaved down the Brahma 88 core profile a tad to make it a bit softer and more playful feeling, and Head poured a coat of urethane over its Kore collection, which made the already excellent Kore 93 even smoother.

Making more substantial upgrades were Völkl’s top-rated Kendo 88, which added Tailored Titanal Frame and Tailored Carbon Tips to its litany of technical touches; Salomon’s QST 92, a price-point ski with a new core construction that elevates nearly to the top of the Finesse rankings; and K2’s revised Mindbender 89 Ti, with a new shape to the Titanal Y-Beam that provides substantially more support than the 2022 version. 

The two brands who made the most extensive line changes for the 22/23 season are Rossignol and Fischer.  Both the Rossi Sender 94 Ti and the Fischer Ranger 90 are the narrowest members of brand new, off-piste model families.  Both likewise occupy a lower rung on the price hierarchy than their bigger brothers, and concomitantly target a skier transitioning to expert ability.   

As we’ve mentioned every year since its introduction, the Völkl Kendo 88 deserves special mention for re-setting the performance bar for its generation. Every technology has a width, baseline and flex that optimize its benefits; Völkl’s innovative Titanal Frame and 3D Sidecut found their sweet spot in the Kendo 88. This category is all about handling mixed conditions. While one could argue that any of our top Power Picks might be its match in this regard, none of the other contenders can claim to be its better.

If you’re one of the many lapsed skiers who are returning to the sport after a long lay-off, the All-Mountain East genre is probably the best place to shop for a ski that embodies the best of current technology without feeling weird or unnatural to an Old School skier returning to the skiing fold.

Power Picks: High-Geared & Gifted

The better your ability, the more you’ll appreciate one of our Power Picks.  Not that one has to be a flawless technical skier, but there’s not much point in saddling up a Power ski unless one has the talents to extract its best behaviors.  If honest self-appraisal suggests that you might be more into recreation than perfection, you’ll find a better match among the plentiful supply of Finesse winners.

But if you have the talent, boy, are you in for a treat. Our Power Picks are crazy versatile, up for any turn shape at any velocity from puttering to pedal-to-the-metal. Best of all, they’re ready for any snow condition from knee-deep to boilerplate. They turn the entire mountain into an all-you-can-eat buffet. Bon appétit.

Völkl Kendo 88

As predicted in this space last year, Völkl has applied the same two transformative technologies to the 2023 Kendo 88 that it had debuted in the M6 Mantra a season ago.  Bear in mind that the 2022 Kendo 88 was already the highest rated Power ski in the ski world’s most competitive genre, yet the 2023 version raised the bar still higher for both its Power and, most notably, Finesse scores.

How do these lofty numbers translate to the ski experience? Here’s how veteran ski tester and renowned boot expert Jim Schaffner summed up his experience on the new Kendo 88:  “This ski has an amazing range of performance. Today the snow was a combination of old, compacted snow, new wind-blown snow, and solid ice where the fresh snow was blown off. The Kendo did it all with ease. Very good grip on the hard stuff, with a silky feel on the duff.”

Read the full review here


Blizzard Brahma 88

The Brahma 88 has been a mainstay of Blizzard’s freeride Flipcore collection since its lauded launch many moons ago. It has retained its relevance over time with a series of subtle refinements, without ever straying from its roots. It many ways, it is a perfectly balanced ski, built on the time-tested foundation of wood, metal and carbon. Part of its enduring popularity is that it will dance to whatever tune you want to play. It doesn’t impose its personality on the pilot, but the other way around: whatever one wishes comes true.

The 2023 Brahma hews to this tradition, with yet another slight modification: the core has been given a bit of a trim, so the ski is easier to load.  One consequence of this relatively minor tweak is that when choosing between two sizes, it’s possible to go for the stability of a longer length without the bigger ski feeling harder to bend.

Read the full review here

Kästle MX88

 The Kästle MX88 has been around long enough – over a decade – to be secure in its own identity.  It does not lack for self-confidence. When confronted with a surface that would cause most double-rockered baselines to quake, the nearly fully cambered MX88 yawns.  You can almost hear it say, “That all ya got?”

The MX88 never wavers because it has the bravado that comes from knowing it’s ready down to the last detail.  Its constituent elements check all the boxes of elite design: an all-wood, poplar and beech core encased in a glass and Titanal sandwich, with a dash of extra damping.  In Kästle’s case, it’s hard to miss the bonus shock-absorbing element, as its signature Hollowtech tip, now in its third iteration, can be ID’d from 100 meters.

There are some skis in the AME genre that do all they can to keep the tip off the snow; the MX88 is obsessed with the opposite concern, how to maintain contact over a rumpled surface that defies it.

Read the full review here

Fischer RC One 86 GT

 The Fischer RC One 86 GT is to all intents and purposes a hard-snow carving specialist with a waist just plump enough to put it in the company of a bunch of all-terrain generalists. In an effort to blend in, the RC One 86 GT has a tiny splay of tip rocker, and a tail rocker so tiny it should be called a rockette.

This masquerade lasts only as long as it takes to get the ski on the snow, where there’s no disguising its tip-to-tail connection.  A 175cm seems like plenty of ski even at the upper reaches of the recreational speed range, which its ultra-supportive edge invites one to inhabit.  You can set it to reel off medium-radius turns with the unalterable precision of a metronome. “Solid and rhythmic,” enthused Jan’s Jack Walzer after taking the RC One 86 GT for a spin.


Read the full review here

Liberty evolv 90

 Little Liberty out of Avon, Colorado distinguished itself from scores of other small-batch brands when it made two momentous decisions a few years ago, one commercial, one technical.  On the brand-building front, it opted to establish a viable network of specialty shops, despite all the hassle and expense compared to selling direct to the consumer. On the technical, ski-building side of the business, it created a new design that used vertical aluminum struts, in lieu of horizontal sheets of Titanal, to dampen vibration and maintain snow connection.

Vertical Metal Technology was first applied in a dual-strut format to a 3-model V Series for the 18/19 season. For a brand that had built a following for its lightweight, bamboo and carbon cores in fat, freeride dimensions, the slender V skis with their hard-snow, fall-line orientation were a considerable departure.

Read the full review here

Stöckli Stormrider 88

 Back in the early 2000’s, when I was ski testing for SKI magazine, it seemed to me that every Stöckli I essayed cut a beeline for the base lodge, like a high-strung Super G that wanted to win every run. To this day, most Stöcklis still have a higher speed ceiling than normal, but they no longer all ski the same. Even within the Stormrider family, where all models are meant to mind their manners in problematic off-trail conditions, their personality differences are as sharply defined as their commonalities.  In other words, the Stormrider 95 and Stormrider 88 don’t ski like twins with different waistlines; each is its own animal, despite all their shared DNA.

In a head-to-head comparison with the Stormrider 95, the Stormrider 88 comes off as the lesser ski, literally, in trait after trait.  In a drift, it has less surface area, so it can be tripped up by slop piles the 95 planes over.  On a high edge, it has less torsional rigidity (due to its proportionately narrower Ti laminates), so it’s missing a smidgeon of grip on hard snow. When fully loaded and laid over – a position many Stöcklis call home – it’s not quite as energetic off the edge. The SR 95 even feels a tad quicker in short, sharply edged arcs, where you’d think the SR 88 would prevail. And the SR 95 seems as easy to steer from a centered stance as it does when the pilot is loading the tip, a position the SR 88 seems to prefer.

Read the full review here

Nordica Enforcer 88

 The Nordica Enforcer 88 belongs on any list of the Ultimate 88’s.  It looks like a shrunken Enforcer 100, but the truth is closer to the other way around: the current Enforcer 100 is based on the Energy 2 Ti construction of the Enforcer 88.  Neither characterization is entirely accurate, as Nordica knew when it created the 88 that it would spend more of its life on groomers, so it tailored the Enforcer 88’s design accordingly. One could make a strong case that, when all factors, such as a skier’s skill, sex, preferred terrain and turn shape are considered, the Enforcer 88 is probably the most versatile Enforcer of them all.

For anyone who loves a short-radius carve or whose heart beats a little faster at the prospect of moguls, tight trees or the two in tandem, there’s no question the 88 is the pick of the Enforcer litter.

Read the full review here

Finesse Favorites: The Friendly Fraternity

Our Finesse Favorites are dedicated to making life easier for their owners. They don’t require a high edge angle to be responsive and flex under relatively light pressure. Unlike most of the Power Picks, they don’t need to run at high rpm’s to elicit their best behavior. Most of our Finesse Favorites are built with an off-trail bias, with double rockered baselines and tapered tips, which facilitate the development of off-piste technique. The umbrella trait of all our Recommended choices is forgiveness, providing off-trail access without penalty.

Head Kore 93

Head ran its entire Kore collection through the re-design wringer only last season, so it was a bit of a surprise when only a year later all the Kores were given another collection-wide enhancement, in the form of a urethane topsheet.  Chosen primarily for its protective qualities, the urethane layer also added a noticeable dose of smoothness to what was already a fabulous ski.

A close examination of the cumulative scores for the 2023 Kore 93 compared to its immediate predecessor’s strongly suggests that the addition of a tip-to-tail shock silencer improved every trait we track.  In light of the evidence, we’re anointing the 2023 Kore series as “new,” even though everything else about the 2022 and 2023 versions is identical.

We are fortunate to have as a regular contributor to Realskiers test program, Jim McGee of Peter Glenn’s, who was so impressed with the 2022 iteration that he bought a pair.

Read the full review here

Nordica Enforcer 94

The essential skill of Alpine skiing is balance. So it stands to reason that the primordial virtue of any ski is likewise balance, both in its blend of personality traits and its ability to impart the sensation of balance to its pilot. I mention these maxims because if there’s a single trait that encapsulates the brilliance of the Nordica Enforcer 94, it’s balance.

The key to balance lies in the ski’s flex pattern, or how it distributes force when pressured.  Even though the Enforcer 94 sports a high front rocker, it’s mercifully short, returning to a camber pocket that’s the source of its power. When loaded, all the skier notices is the tranquility emanating from the mid-section; the disconnected tip and tail never call attention to themselves.

I’m not sure if the Enforcer 94 can actually confer expert status on anyone who steps into a pair, but it sure won’t hold anyone back.

Read the full review here

Salomon QST 92

 The Salomon QST 92 has risen from humble origins to its new position among the elite of the genre.  Originally conceived to meet a lower price point ($500) and therefore underserved in the technology department, Salomon has been steadily enhancing its construction to match the latest innovations already added to pricier models, like the flagship QST 106.  This year, the QST 92 adopted two features introduced last season in the QST 98, Double Sidewalls and full-length C/FX, Salomon’s signature carbon/flax combo.

While the latest improvements no doubt contributed to the QST 92’s stellar performance, the bones they’re built on were pretty stout to begin with: an all-wood (poplar) core, full sidewalls (i.e., no cap), cork inserts to muffle shocks and a central Titanal plate that makes the entire ski feel more substantial. The 2023 QST 92 also mimics the slightly lower rocker profile launched last year in the QST Blank and 98, so it feels more connected on all snow surfaces.

Read the full review here

K2 Mindbender 89 Ti

Of all the new 2023 skis that are upgrades to existing models, none took a greater leap up in all key averages – Total Score, Power and Finesse – than K2’s Mindbender 89Ti and 99Ti. In the case of the Mindbender 89Ti vis-à-vis the Mindbender 90Ti that it supplants, the new ski blows the doors off its forebear no matter how you slice it.  The retiring 90Ti languished near the bottom of our rankings last year; the new iteration ranks near the top, a strong indication that things have improved underfoot.

As indeed they have, for the Titanal Y-Beam that provides the backbone for the 89Ti’s design has been significantly reconfigured. The metal laminate is still shaped like a slingshot, but the yoke in the forebody has been beefed up and the tail section re-shaped to cover a lot more area.  The result is a serenity on edge that won’t shake loose under heavy pressure on hard snow.

Read the full review here

Rossignol Sender 94 Ti

Like most of the models that populate the All-Mountain East genre, the new Sender 94 Ti from Rossignol is a variation on a theme established either by a wider ski or a much wider ski.  Basically, AME models are predominantly shrunken Big Mountain models, so it shouldn’t surprise that that the Sender 94 Ti prefers its snow soft and wouldn’t mind if it were deep.  It’s geared to be accessible to the occasional skier who wants an all-terrain ski with a mellow temperament. “It’s an ideal weekend warrior ski,” notes Mt. Rose freestyle coach Alex O’Halloran, “not a full-charger’s ski.”

The Sender 94 Ti’s amply tapered and rockered tip is meant to buffer the blows of uneven crud fields, so it’s never going to find the top of a carved turn like a Technical ski.  But when it does hook up, somewhere around the logo on the forebody, the Sender 94 Ti is simplicity itself to steer.

Read the full review here

Fischer Ranger 90

Fischer has spent the last few seasons behind the R&D curtain re-imagining its entire Ranger collection of off-trail models.  The result is a family of hybrids that blend the two branches of the previous Ranger clan, the surfy FR series and the more connected Ti models.  All the new Rangers get a dose of .5mm-thick Titanal underfoot married to a fairly loose tip and tail.  As befits the family name, they all have a decidedly off-trail bias.

Fans of earlier Rangers will find the new series are more closely related behaviorally to the easy-to-smear FR models of yore than to the metal-laden Ti fraternity. The lighter weight (all poplar) core of the Ranger 90 suggests it might be a good option for living a double life as an in-resort/backcountry, all-purpose partner-in-climb.  Its Aeroshape exterior further enables foot steering by reducing resistance when rotating a flat ski.

Read the full review here

Kästle FX86 Ti

 I ski the Kästle MX83 on a regular basis, so I can’t help judging the FX86 Ti by the standard set by its stablemate. It’s not a fair comparison, because the two skis are aiming at different targets.  They don’t ski much alike because they’re made to ski differently.  Let us count the ways.

Starting from the tips, the MX83’s full camber line is made to connect as early as possible, while the tapered and well-rockered (280mm) tip of the FX86 Ti is meant to do just the opposite. Moving to the middle of the ski, both models use a wood core and lots of Titanal in a combination Kästle calls Tri Ti, but the two constructions are subtly and importantly different.  The changes make the FX86 Ti’s edge more supple, matching the mood set by the ski’s relatively low camber.

Read the full review here

Head Kore 87

How can a ski as narrow-waisted as the Kore 87 come across as the most versatile ski in its wide-body family?  After all, the Kore collection is 100% an off-trail creation; its avatar should be the Kore 111, not this string bean.

The improbable polyvalence of the Kore 87 is partly explained by a sleight of hand Head pulled off in the make-up of the narrowest Kore models just last year. Taking advantage of Graphene’s ability to affect flex without a commensurate effect on mass, Head beefed up the Kore 87 to account for the certainty that it will spend much of its life on groomers. Its power quotient might have gone up another tick last year with the substitution of poplar and Karuba for Koroyd, which subtly enhanced its feedback on hard snow.

This year, Head coated all the Kores with a sheath of urethane, mostly to protect the top and sides from minor nicks and scratches, with the added benefit of further smoothing out the ride.

Read the full review here

Blizzard Rustler 9

 The fraternal relationship between Blizzard’s two All-Mountain East entries, the elder brother Brahma 88 and its upstart sibling, the Rustler 9, encapsulates the contrasting cast of characters that populate this crossroads category.  While both skis belong to off-trail families, their personalities couldn’t be more different than, well, two brothers.

The Brahma 88 is the Type A personality that exudes strength and resolve. For a ski with a double-rockered baseline, it handles like a technical ski that’s accurate in every phase of a turn. Its baby bro, the Rustler 9, is not interested in following its elder’s tracks. Its comparatively loose, tapered tip wants to party. The Titanal laminate just below its topskin restores order underfoot, but nothing can suppress its youthful exuberance.

Ski buyers always ask at some point in their give-and-take with the salesperson, “How is it in the bumps?” While the flip reply is always, “As good as you are,” in the case of the Rustler 9, the ski actually is well suited to today’s hacked-up mogul formations.

Read the full review here

Rossignol Experience 86 Basalt

The EXP 86 Basalt has been created to serve a new breed of in-bounds skier, which Rossi refers to as “All-Resort.”  Skiing is an important part of the overall resort experience, but it’s not the whole ball of wax for this resort visitor.  While this person is an avid participant, he’s not going to go wandering out of bounds and most of his powder runs will be on the side of the trail.  It’s probably safe to say he’s not going out in the worst conditions (by his definition), nor is he going to push very hard on the performance envelope.

In commercial terms, the EXP 86 Basalt is a “step-up” model, most likely a first-time purchase for a skier who has survived until now on rentals and second-hand fare. Its double-rockered baseline promotes a go-along-to-get-along attitude that encourages skills development without insisting on it.

Read the full review here

Atomic Maverick 86 C 

 Lest there be any confusion, the new Atomic Maverick 86 C didn’t crack our Recommended ranks because it’s a great ski. It earned our appreciation because it’s a remarkably good deal at its target retail of $499, a price plateau mostly populated by dreck.  Atomic has made a habit out of making a superior carbon ski with an 86mm footprint, going back to its first Vantage series. The Maverick 86 C continues in this grand tradition.

I learned more about the Maverick 86 C’s capabilities than I intended to when I stepped into a pair during a Peter Glenn demo event at Squaw Valley last March.  I was just in time to join a group taking an end-to-end mountain tour led by Jonny Moseley. Moseley and I were already well acquainted, going back to the days when I recruited him to ski for Head.  I wasn’t going to miss the chance to spend some time with Jonny, no matter what skis were on my feet.

Read the full review here