The All-Mountain West category, while not as densely populated as the broader All-Mountain East genre, is commercially at least as important. No other category exerts as strong an influence on a brand’s image, in part because the best skiers on a given (most likely western U.S.) mountain most likely ride an AMW model as their daily driver. Its importance to all ski brands is underscored by the number of new and significantly improved models introduced this season: of the 19 models we examined, 8 are new, or 42% of the field. That’s a lot of fresh faces for a year during which product development was difficult at best.
Two of this season’s debutantes ended on top of our rankings, with Völkl’s M6 Mantra assuming the throne as best Power model, and Head’s Kore 99 earning best-in-show for Finesse properties. Both are utterly amazing in completely different ways. Kästle launched two new AMW missiles, the FX96 Ti and the surprising ZX100, bringing its model total in the genre to three. Note that the unchanged MX98 remains one of the top AMW models.
Atomic is also introducing two new AMW models to go alongside a returning staple. The new Maverick 100 Ti and Maverick 95 Ti aim at the same all-terrain target, and both exhibit laudable Finesse traits, but the 100 Ti’s superior flotation in soft snow and better grip on hard snow gives it the edge in our team’s estimation.
Liberty modified its evolv 100 by adding a third alu strut to its Vertical Metal Technology core, in the process transforming it from a mellow Finesse model to a fall-line charging Power ski, a clear demonstration of VMT’s efficacy.
One new model that would have earned recognition for its Finesse virtues, only we didn’t tally enough ballots to rank it, is Salomon’s totally overhauled QST 98. While the QST 99 it replaces was a fine all-mountain ski, the arrival of the Stance 96 last season rendered it redundant. The new QST 98 widens the behavioral gulf between the two Salomon AMW entrants with an amply rockered baseline that delivers a bit of drift with every arc.
All unisex All-Mountain West models, whether new or returning, biased towards Power or Finesse properties, lightweight or burly, strive to serve two masters by providing enough surface area to facilitate off-piste skiing while retaining basic carving skills for when the off-trail is off-limits. AMW Finesse models focus on making off-road terrain easier to tame for less aggressive skiers, while Recommended Power skis come alive at higher revs. Once infused with speed, the top Power skis don’t so much float over choppy terrain as demolish it.