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 2022 field (28 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 forgiveness than for steering accuracy, the AME genre is lopsided in favor of Finesse skis. Of the six new models debuting this season, five are Finesse skis and the sixth, Liberty’s evolv 90, was a Finesse ski last season before Liberty gave it an additional rib that tipped it into the Power roster.
The largest contributors to the already bloated ranks of the All-Mountain East category were Rossignol and Atomic. Rossi’s new Experience series – a brand mainstay seemingly since forever – is headlined by the EXP 86 Ti and EXP 86 Basalt. The new Experience models are meant to provide an “all-resort” experience that’s a better fit with today’s mountain visitor. Atomic’s Maverick 88 Ti and 86 C comprise the bottom half of its new Maverick series of all-mountain models. While the Maverick 88 Ti’s Power scores were decidedly higher than the 86 C’s (as one would expect), the latter will retail for decidedly less, making it one of the year’s outstanding values.
The other newbies were Kästle’s FX86 Ti, a traditional glass and Titanal laminate with a lighter weight poplar/Paulownia core, and the aforementioned Liberty evolv 90, freshly re-minted as a Power ski by dint of a new 3-strut version of its Vertical Metal Technology. Of the top 13 models in the genre in total score, only two – the Maverick 88 Ti and evolv 90 – are new this season.
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.
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 four Power Picks might be its match in this regard, none 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.