2024 Women’s All-Mountain East Skis

2024 Women’s All-Mountain East Recommended Skis

For the advanced woman, the All-Mountain East category is most likely the best place for her to hunt for her one-ski quiver.  In our view, the 88mm-93mm waisted ski possesses the optimal surface area and shape to deliver adequate flotation in broken snow without creating a ski so wide that tipping it on hard snow potentially puts the knee joint at risk. The more petite the person, the more this prescription pertains.

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When we factor in the terrain versatility the archetypical All-Mountain East provides, we’re led to the conclusion that for many female skiers, East or West, these skis bring the best bundle of behaviors to the all-terrain party.  Many American women must agree, for they made Blizzard’s Black Pearl 88 the best-selling model four straight years. The Pearl’s success no doubt inspired the competition to up its game, resulting in a market over-stuffed with options.

The Women’s All-Mountain East genre is a crossroads category, where the DNA of skinny Frontside models mingles with that of the skinniest members of an off-trail tribe. For a category that professes to present “50/50” models that are equally at home on piste or off, the WAME is almost entirely comprised of skis descended from a fatter archetype.

Because the Women’s All-Mountain East category is so popular, brands want to load it up with as many models as they can. There are often two or three tiers of the retail price spectrum represented, so women have more value-priced options.

In the final analysis, it’s the adaptability to a broad palette of conditions that makes the All-Mountain East genre the home of do-it-all ski for women. Thanks to their shape and fairly svelte mid-section, they move edge to edge almost as swiftly as a Frontside model, and they’re plenty nimble enough to snake through bumps or slip through trees.  Of course, they can’t float in freshies the same way a fatter ski can, but how many runs do you get in uncut snow, even on snow days?  They have as much flotation for the average woman as a 98mm-waisted ski has for a man, which is sufficient in all but the most luscious, bottomless conditions. 

The 2024 Women’s All-Mountain East Field

It was a relatively modest year for model turnover, with only one entrant with an all-new construction, Dynastar’s E-Cross 88, and four that are part of a rejuvenated model family, to wit: Head’s Total Joy, Salomon’s Stance W 88 and W 94, and K2’s Mindbender 90C W.   Women gravitate to the All-Mountain East genre because it promises a measure of proficiency off-trail without giving up the security of carving on groomers. But groomed slopes aren’t really what they’re made for. Among the newbies, only the Total Joy headlines a groomed-snow collection, and a big part of its re-design was a change in sidecut and turn radius to make it more open-minded about turn shape and less obsessed with carving.

 If you’d like to be introduced to the ladies who contributed to these reviews, please visit our Women’s Test Roster.

Blizzard Black Pearl 88

Blizzard already had the best-selling ski in the U.S., men’s or women’s, when it made two changes to the Black Pearl 88 that made the best even better.  The first major sweetener was TrueBlend, a meticulously arranged parquet of lightweight poplar and denser beech that is adapted for every length, and coordinated with modifications to the baseline and sidecut. The goal of TrueBlend is a perfectly balanced flex that feels smooth yet energetic.

The second major booster was a women’s-specific Titanal plate underfoot that spreads its calming effect over nearly the full length of the ski. “Every length is calibrated to create an optimal, round flex that travels well in all conditions,” notes Blizzard tester Cara Williams.  “The latest Pearls are actually slightly heavier (+150g) than the previous model,” she notes, “but I discovered after only 3 or 4 high-speed turns, that once you click in, the function and performance outweigh the literal weight of a ski – it’s more important to be the right weight than light weight.”

Read the full review here

Head Kore 91 W

The Head Kore 91 W is either the best women’s ski for off-trail skiing, or the best off-trail ski for women, take your pick.  Don’t detect a difference?  Neither do we. The properties that make the Kore 91 W a great women’s ski and those that make it ideally suited for off-piste conditions are the same.

No matter which side of this equation you’re on, the Kore 91 W got a shot in the arm two years ago when Head incorporated several new elements into the Kore design. First, it redecorated the interior, tearing out artificial Koroyd honeycomb and replacing it with its blended Karuba/poplar wood core.  The switch to all-wood makes a difference in the feedback the skier receives from the snow, so the ski feels supportive but not fussy about how it’s handled.

Whether you’re taking your first strides into the sidecountry – or perhaps the backcountry? – or you earned your off-trail stripes long ago, the Kore 91 W is a gas to have along for the ride. You’ll be amazed by the amount of energy you can save by skiing the right ski off-trail. The Kore 91 W reigns supreme in this department. For its many energy-saving attributes, we award the Kore 91 W a Silver Skier Selection.

Read the full review here

Volkl Kenja 88

The Kenja is the grand dame of the women’s market, and over the years she’s had more facelifts than Joan Rivers to keep her current. But none of her previous makeovers were quite as extensive – or as successful – at reinvigorating the old gal with the energy of youth as the current Kenja 88. In a word, wow.

The application of Titanal Frame technology is the game changer.  By breaking the top sheet of Titanal into 3 pieces, the metal is distributed where it can do the most good, and the fiberglass beneath it can breathe.  The engagement of the glass layer during the turn is what creates the rebound energy that differentiates this Kenja from all who came before.

But the Kenja 88 didn’t bring just one gift to this party; its sidecut has been modified into a triple-radius affair – Völkl calls it 3D Radius Sidecut – that mimics a geometry more commonly found in Technical skis. If you lay it over until the center radius is engaged, you’ll get a tidy short turn, but ride it close to the fall line and the long-radius tip and tail sections take control over trajectory. An extra patch of shock-damping carbon in the shovel helps reduce shimmy in sketchy snow.

Read the full review here

Nordica Santa Ana 93

Three years ago, Nordica’s 5-model Santa Ana collection was finally unified under a single design concept, Terrain Specific Metal, that closes the gap between the top edge and a single, sculpted, Titanal topsheet as the waist width shrinks. On theSanta Ana 93, TSM moves the metal fairly close to the edge, to improve edging power on the groomed conditions it’s fated to experience.

“Being light and fairly flexible makes them fun all around,” notes Stacy Kellner from Squaw Valley Ski School, who felt the Santa Ana 93 handled better on-trail. “They’re a bit beefier ski that carves great and is easy to get on edge.  Groomers were lots of fun,” she notes.  Becca Pierce from Bobo’s encountered the Santa Ana 93 on a spring day when the snow evolved into porridge off-trail.  “A great ski for these sloppy, slushy, sticky conditions,” she says, evidence that it’s meant for more than mere groomers.  Jolee from Footloose agrees with Becca, citing the Santa Ana 93 as “Great for a one-ski quiver. It can charge on hard pack and off-piste. Doesn’t have a speed limit,” she adds admiringly.

Read the full review here


Head Kore 85 W

Head has so much confidence in the all-terrain capabilities of its off-trail Kore design that three years ago it discontinued its Monster series and chucked its classic, wood-and-Titanal construction, to make room for the Kore 87 in its collection.  Two years ago, the entire Kore family, including the re-christened Kore 85 W, was redesigned in several subtle ways to raise the performance bar even higher.

From a global performance perspective, Head understands that not all Kores will be treated equally.  The Kore 85 W, as the narrowest of the clan, is expected to spend a good deal of its life on groomed snow, so it’s stiffened up accordingly. Like all the Kores, the 85 W switched out the synthetic Koroyd in its innards for more Karuba and poplar laminates, improving overall feedback from the snow.

The Kore 85 W is nonetheless an off-trail ski by dint of its baseline and sidecut, so it has a special fondness for powder. A new (as of two seasons ago) Kore feature that makes it even more effortless to ski in deep snow is a chamfered top edge that lets the ski slice sideways with almost no resistance. Since all powder skiing entails some foot-swiveling, this seemingly minor change has a major impact.

Read the full review here


Head Total Joy

No one can accuse the Head Total Joy of being a copycat model. Fifteen years ago, it debuted as the centerpiece of new series of women’s skis built from scratch, without reference to any unisex model.  It was also the first time Head industrialized Graphene in a ski, a bold experiment that has paid off in spades.  At this stage of the Total Joy’s evolution, Head engineers have figured out how to optimize this unique material, blending it with classic features like an all wood (Karuba-Ash) core, fiberglass and carbon laminates. It’s a heady blend: the wood gives it great snow feel, fiberglass gives it liveliness and snap, the carbon and Graphene keep the weight in check and its piezo-electric EMC damping system maintains snow contact with the same security as much stouter models.

All these goodies were baked into the Total Joy before the latest alterations were added for the 2023/24 season. The most obvious change from the Total Joys of yore is a new tip shape that shaves away 6mm, trimming the forebody and diminishing its propensity for digging in hard at the top of a turn. The Total Joy remains the most carve-centric model in the All-Mountain East pantheon, but the narrower profile will improve its handling in off-trail conditions. Its slimmer silhouette opens up its sidecut radius, which in turn expands its receptivity to variable terrain and improves handling in deep snow.

Also new across the Joy collection for 23/24 is a softer-flexing mid-section that evenly distributes pressure along the full length of the ski.  This adaptation alone is worth the price of admission if you’re an AARP member who prizes energy conservation. While the change in forebody geometry has a profound effect on performance, the most significant change in the 2023 Joy series is in the plate that connects it to its integrated Tyrolia binding.

Read the full review here


Nordica Santa Ana 88

One of the reasons the Women’s All-Mountain East category is so popular is that it represents the first step away from prepared slopes, the featureless terrain to which the uninitiated are tethered. Perhaps it’s the peculiar nature of the frontier-America mentality, but in the U.S., where no one likes to be told what they can and cannot do, the off-piste represents freedom, escapism and breaking the bonds of convention and formality.

Sorry for the rhetorical flourishes, but for some reason Americans can’t wait to go off-trail, ready or not, so they might as well be ready. This is where the Nordica Santa Ana 88 can be of greatest service to humankind. While an expert can ski it and appreciate its merits, experts have a lot of other choices, while those who need the most help adapting to the strangeness of skiing off-trail do not.

Read the full review here


Salomon QST Lux 92

Like a fairy tale princess, the Salomon QST Lux 92 was born in humble circumstances, endured an awkward adolescence and gradually transformed into a raving beauty. You see, the first edition of the Lux 92 was clearly intended for intermediates, first-time buyers and bargain hunters, as it sold for $499 and didn’t share much of the high-tech construction of its wider siblings, the Lumen and Stella. The latest Lux 92 has top-of-the-line features, including a full-length allotment of C/FX, the carbon and flax amalgam that provides the principal structural support for all the QST’s.  Also onboard is a Titanal plate underfoot that improves stability throughout its mid-section.

The QST series is a unisex family, so the Lux 92 received the same bundle of upgrades as the “men’s” 2023 QST 92.  Part of the 2023 package is a segment of injected ABS underfoot that boosts edge pressure in this critical zone.  The combined effect of all these embellishments is an elevation in performance that makes the latest Lux 92 one of the top performers in the genre. It isn’t $499 anymore, but it’s still only $550 – one of the best deals in the sport – with a performance range that runs from the basement to the penthouse.

Read the full review here


Rossignol Experience 86 Basalt W

The Experience W 86 Basalt from Rossignol is part of a tiny minority of Women’s All-Mountain East models that headlines a mostly Frontside collection. Rossi has completely re-imagined its Experience series, long the mainstay of its core recreational models, to fit what it perceives as a new skier type, the “All-Resort” skier. Skiing is still 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 skier, she’s not going to go wandering out of bounds intentionally and whatever powder she essays will be on the side of the trail.  She’ll find something else to do when the weather is lousy, and she’s not going to push too hard on the performance envelope.

In commercial terms, the EXP W 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 “all-trail sidecut” will engage at the top of the turn and hold firm through the finish, encouraging skills development without insisting on it.

Read the full review here

K2 Mindbender 89Ti W

The first Mindbender Ti collection, introduced in the pre-pandemic 19/20 season, adopted the Titanal Y-Beam construction developed for the women’s Mindbender 88 Ti Alliance for the entire Mindbender Ti clan, men’s models included.  Last year’s re-design focused on re-shaping the Y-Beam from end to end, adding more metal just behind the forward contact point for more secure turn initiation, running edge-to-edge underfoot and substantially expanding the width of the Ti laminate at the end of the Y-Beam’s “handle,” so the edge won’t wash out under sustained pressure.

In the 2023 men’s (a.k.a. unisex) Mindbender 89Ti, our testers awarded the new model substantially higher scores than its predecessor, boosting it near the top of our Finesse ranks. As more data was collected this past winter, its boffo scores slipped in our standings towards the back of the pack. It’s not unreasonable to conclude that the woman’s model cloned from its bones would suffer the same fate if only more women testers were inclined to try it in the first place.

K2 claims that its changes to the Y-Beam configuration were intended to make the Mindbenders more accessible to lower skill skiers, but the more palpable effect is how the new Titanal Y-Beam appeals to the other end of the skills spectrum.

Read the full review here

Fischer Ranger 90

[Fischer’s Ranger women’s models are identical to their unisex counterparts.  It’s in this spirit that we reprise our unisex review of the Ranger 90, whose every word is as applicable to its “women’s” version.]

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.

The Ranger 90 encourages its navigator to assume a centered stance and take advantage of a double-rockered baseline that makes it easier to drift to an edge than ride a continuous rail. There are skiers who swoon over this facility at swiveling, but Realskiers’ scoring criteria puts more emphasis on carving accuracy in every phase of the turn, while the Ranger 90 concentrates its gripping power underfoot. If carving is more your thing, Fischer’s RC One 86 GT is one of the most powerful and accurate trench-diggers in the All-Mountain East genre. The Ranger 90 derives from the opposite side of the carve/drift schism.

Read the full review here