The “East” modifier is meant to imply that this narrower collection (85mm-94mm) of All-Mountain skis 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 of 88mm or 90mm underfoot, creating a very versatile profile that qualifies for the “All-Mountain” moniker. Some brands differentiate their “88” from its “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.

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 a 88mm board could float just fine in boot-top powder in 2003 it can manage the feat in 2015, 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 2018 All-Mountain East Field

The All-Mountain East genre is a crossroads category where the narrower versions of off-trail baselines (e.g., Nordica Enforcer 93, Blizzard Brahma, Kore 93, Pinnacle 88) mingle with the widest members of carving clans (Kästle MX89, Völkl RTM 86 UVO, Salomon XDR 88 Ti). No other category offers such a diverse range of sensations.

Yet no matter how they interact with the snow surface, they all ostensibly aim at the same target: a skier who is capable of skiing whatever is available, it’s just that what’s available rarely includes deep snow. All the skis we tested in this abundant genre (28 models) were capable carvers and all were, to one degree or another, made to perform as well off-trail as on.

If there were a median skill level best suited for the AME field, it would be advanced, skiers who are great on the groom but falter elsewhere. A few models are conceived for those buying their first pair of skis, but most are targeted at skiers with a solid skill set.

If you haven’t bought a new pair of skis in over a decade, this is where you’ll find the best examples of current technology that won’t feel odd or unfamiliar. As noted in last year’s prelude to the AME genre, all these models tend to be easy to balance on, and our Recommended Finesse models don’t care either where or how well you ski.