The All-Mountain East family is a polyglot lot that can be roughly divided into two camps: wide carvers and narrow off-piste models. 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 2020 field (29 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.
As befits a category of its commercial importance, the All-Mountain East genre saw more model turnover than the market as a whole. Elan and Fischer each introduced a new model family – Wingman for the former, RC One GT for the latter – headlined by an AME flagship, and the Nordica Enforcer 88, Elan Ripstick 88 and Fischer Ranger 92 Ti all represent the latest and narrowest incarnations of well-established series. Other new models of note include the K2 Mindbender 90 Ti, Kästle DX85, Liberty evolve 90 and the latest edition of Salomon’s QST 92, which made a quantum leap in quality.
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.
The new 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 has found its sweet spot in the Kendo 88. This category is all about handling mixed conditions. No other model we tested did it 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.