This shot of Austria’s Anna Fenninger captures feminine perfection on skis.
Call it gratuitous, but we’ll use any excuse to showcase talent like Anna’s.
This week’s pensée isn’t about the four brightest, most talented and photogenic stars in ski racing’s recent history – Anna, Lindsey, Michaela and Tina – although we admit to a bottomless appreciation for their skills.
Nor is this a follow-up to our encyclopedic encapsulation of the women’s alpine equipment market, The Wacky World of Women’s Equipment.
Instead, we culled through the 134 made-for-women models we reviewed this season to identify thos++e skis most deserving of the sobriquet, “best one-ski quiver” for the all-mountain skier. Consider it a collection of billets doux to our favorite womens’ skis of 2016.
We didn’t decide in advance to only select models from the All-Mountain East category, but when we factored in all the elements that define the ideal all-terrain women’s ski, every contestant that rose to the top was from this genre.
Our listing is alphabetical, but it might as well be random. All these skis are great. They just come in different flavors, which we try to capture here.
Blizzard Black Pearlreview
Little wonder the Black Pearl is the top-selling women’s model among specialty shops: it blends on-piste precision with a sidecut and baseline made for off-trail adventures. In our test, it matched the Head Total Joy for its ability to start each turn on a carving edge – just what the doctor ordered on firm groomage – and came within a hair of the Völkl Kenja’s score for Finesse/Power balance, a key metric for versatility.
The Pearl pulls off this improbable feat because Blizzard’s Flip Core construction creates a rockered ski that doesn’t behave like a rockered ski. The Pearl bloodlines include off-trail powerhouses like the Bonafide and Cochise, but without their metal laminates the Pearl becomes tractable enough for an intermediate.
Head Total Joyreview
Tradition and innovation intertwine in the Total Joy, which marries Head’s singular affection for deep sidecuts with a superlight construction made possible by materials that didn’t exist a decade ago. The Total Joy is the lightest ski in its genre because in lieu of slabs of wood and metal, it deploys carbon, Koroyd and Graphene™. Graphene is made from a web of carbon atoms that’s 350 times stronger than steel yet weighs – well, whatever an atom weighs.
When this featherweight construction is applied to a continuous, deep-dish sidecut (13.6m @ 163cm), the result is an ethereal carving implement that grips like a much heftier ski. Of our four femme favorites, the Total Joy has the best on-trail traits, but it still has the stuffing to take its talents off-road.
The flagship of K2’s rejuvenated Luv series, the OoolaLuv 85Ti is a much lighter and peppier model than Luvs of yore. K2 milled slivers of wood from the core everywhere but underfoot and liberally substituted bamboo and Paulownia for aspen. A Titanal laminate lends the torsional rigidity needed to bite into ice and knock crud out of its pilot’s path.
No other brand puts more emphasis on off-trail skiing than K2, and this propensity to head off-piste is built into the OoolaLuv’s DNA. It has plenty of shape of slicing continuous carves into groomed runs, but it would be a shame to shackle the OoolaLuv to manicured slopes. To take full advantage of this ski’s talents, it should be driven where sno-cats never roam.
Völkl has every right to be dismayed by alphabetical listings; why is it fair for the first to be last? Our panel’s conclusions were clear: the Kenja is the best all-around ski for the skilled skier, with scores that killed it in every test criterion. On-piste, off-trail, in the trees – the Kenja does not care where you’re headed, it’s ready. As we wrote in this year’s review, “If there’s a condition the Kenja can’t master, it probably doesn’t involve snow.”
Völkl devotees should note that the 2016 Kenja is a fresh spin on an old theme: take a uncompromising wood and Titanium construction but tweak the sidecut and re-bend the baseline so there’s some camber between a rockered tip and tail. The new Kenja is much more amenable to off-piste pursuits, with a bit more float and a lot more snap. Now that it’s mastered off-trail conditions, the Kenja is the complete ski, in total control of every situation. Skiers with little less power or proficiency who also looking for an all-terrain tool should consider the delightful Yumi.
Of course there are many other fine women’s skis, but the members of this elite quartet possess the multiple personalities needed to tackle all types of terrain on the big mountain menu.