I’m of two minds when it comes to the “best of” business. I realize that many consumers appreciate this shortcut to any further research, take the gold medal as Gospel and act on it. From the designer’s perspective, even though I might make dozens of prototypes, I would still only manufacture one model. From where the ski review purveyor sits, for any given set of criteria, it stands to reason that the ski with highest aggregate score would be the best.

The other side of the coin is that there is no best ski, nor can there be. Within the key All-Mountain categories where most consumers correctly shop, the diversity of on-snow behaviors is astounding. It’s impossible for all these skis to register identically with all the skier types who might consider them. Since there is no one definition of “best,” it’s not possible to identify a single “best” ski for all skiers.

Before delving into the details, allow me to unearth a point that might be lost in the weeds: the definitions of “better” or “best” have nothing to do with product quality.  No ski anointed as “best” is likely to live a longer or better life than the ski that placed second, or twenty-second, for that matter.

What makes a ski distinctive can only be partially revealed by data. Each ski possesses a bundle of behaviors, some of which are easier to describe than they are to quantify. You could make a case that the best ski is the one with the largest bundle, but that ignores the nuances of feel that tilt a ski’s predilections in one (desirable) direction or the other.

Getting to the point, this year I’m awarding “best in category” status to three skis where there is usually one.  My rationale is simple: there are too many flavors, too many behavioral sub-sets to consider to say a single ski is emblematic of what a given genre has to offer. If I had the know-how, I’d put the top trio on a carousel, giving each equal time at the summit.

Non-FIS Race

Ludicrous. That’s what I think of ranking race skis. They’re all wonderful, and share the most essential traits. Ski makers stake company pride, personal reputation and national honor on this category, so it demands their best efforts.  To get into this club, you’ve got to have the goods.

They do not disappoint. We could have picked any triad and defended their selection. The three on our podium were chosen as embodiments of what the Non-FIS Race genre does best: rip trenches at high revs.

Head Worldcup Rebels e-Speed Pro

This was the only newcomer to the category that I had the chance to escort down Mammoth Mountain before the pandemic shuttered the known ski universe.  It was sheer bliss. I opened the throttle to “Decimate,” and laid waste to the land.

Völkl Racetiger SL

 

No race ski has a bigger performance envelope than the Völkl Racetiger SL.  Slalom skis have the edge in this department, as they make long turns better than a GS can make short ones. The Racetiger SL is a recreational dream ski.

Read the full review here.

Atomic Redster G9

If you think you’re fast, meet your match. The Redster G9 may have a speed limit, but you’re unlikely to find it. These aren’t training wheels; if you can’t lay it over at 50 mph, you brought the wrong partner to the dance. If you can, oh boy.

Read the full review here

Technical

Technical skis comprise the remnants of the Carving ski craze that still flourishes in Europe as surely as it is kaput in this country. Their deep-dish sidecuts are meant to lay down dual-track rails, forever side-by-side and connected tip to tail.

K2 Disruption MTi

K2 isn’t known for its hard-snow skis, but that may change with the arrival of the Disruption series. No doubt the Frontside Disruptions (82Ti & 78Ti) will outsell the narrower MTi, but the MTi is the family’s prodigy. Silky, buttery edge.

Read the full review here.

Head Supershape e-Speed

Head has never lost interest in the Carving movement, and the Supershape e-Speed is its highest expression. The new damping system makes what was already the benchmark in dual-track carving the Technical genre’s G.O.A.T.

Read the full review here.

Stöckli Laser SX

They don’t make skis like this anymore, if they ever did. The Laser SX has the power of Stalin and yet feels as light in the loafers as Liberace. That’s because when you load it up, it does the rest, firing you across the fall line as if from a crossbow.

Frontside

The Frontside category reaches down to the first price point, but our focus is on the top of the product pyramid, populated by the upper crust of carving society. Meant for hard snow, their bliss is burying an edge in corduroy.

Kästle MX83

There was a tremor in the force when Kastle moved to a new factory. Yoda can relax. The new output is exquisite, making the new MX83 worthy of the legendary name that adorns it. It’s a pure carver with an open mind about turn shape.

Read the full review here.

Head Supershape e-Rally

No brand carries the torch for carving with the fervor of the converted more than Head. The new e-Rally shows that persistence pays off. If you want the most predictable dual-track carver in captivity, it’s the e-Rally. Total tranquility.

Read the full review here.

Völkl Deacon 84

The Deacon 84 puts to shame the popular RTM 84 it replaced last year, virtually doubling its performance envelope. The skier can summon any turn shape he craves with just the twitch of the edge. A carver on caffeine, it pops off the edge. 

Read the full review here.

All-Mountain East

The crossroads category, All-Mountain East skis are either descendants of thinner carvers or the progeny of fatter, off-trail parents. Either way, they’re meant to do as asked, regardless of terrain. This most diverse of genres is loaded with talent. If you don’t know what you want in a ski, the All-Mountain East category holds the answer.

Völkl Kendo 88

Together, Titanal Frame and 3D sidecut are a game changer. The Kendo name has been around as long as Chevy (it seems), but these two technologies changed a wallflower into a bombshell. Ask and ye shall receive, is the Kendo 88’s mantra.

Read the full review here.

Nordica Enforcer 94

The new Enforcer 94 is a mind reader. It knows what you want before you do. Actually, it can’t read your thoughts, but it can read every subtly in your movements and adjust on the fly.  Power and Finesse in perfect harmony.

Read the full review here.

Blizzard Brahma 88

A stalwart in this genre for nearly a decade, the Brahma 88 is getting younger with age. Like Benjamin Button, today’s Brahma has faster reflexes, settles into a rounder bow and comes across the fall line with more energy than it did in its namesake’s youth.

Read the full review here.

All-Mountain West

The ultimate utility tool for the western skier, the All-Mountain West genre is home to the widest skis that can serve as an everyday tool.  If powder is a real possibility in your life but groomed terrain is the norm, this is your sweet spot.

Blizzard Bonafide 97

The Bonafide has set the performance bar for the category since its arrival almost ten years ago. Its latest incarnation delivers the smoothest ride yet.  Each size has its own flex and baseline, so each length is tailored to the skier more precisely.

Read the full review here.

Nordica Enforcer 100

 

Nordica took a similar tack as Blizzard with its flagship Enforcer 100, re-calibrating each aspect of each size of the legendary model that launched the series. Because each size has its own recipe, a 172cm can be as easy to ski for an intermediate as a 186cm is for an expert.

Read the full review here.

Rossignol Blackops HolyShred

Rossi’s Blackops HolyShred marches to the beat of its own drum. Two features stand out from the crowd: it’s a true twin-tip, but instead of being made to smear, it has mad energy emitted by a springy, high camber line. Perfect for skiing pow like a porpoise.

Read the full review here.

Big Mountain

All Big Mountain skis simplify powder skiing, but they don’t all go about it the same way. Some tear into the fall line as if it owed them money, others gambol on the surface like otters. The genre serves both experts who need no help with skills development and intermediates who’ll take all the help they can get.

Dynastar M-Free 108

The whole idea behind fat skis, from the Atomic’s Powder Magic circa 1990 up to the present day, is to make life easier in deep snow. The M-Free 108 is simplicity itself to steer, for it puts up no resistance no matter how you maneuver it. Built for rippers, it’s an even better friend to the less skilled who need its forgiveness.

Read the full review here.

Nordica Enforcer 104 Free

The epitome of the perfect ski is one with vast power reserves that’s also gentle as a lamb. In a Big Mountain ski, this means it can plunder crud like it’s chiffon, then back off and slither through tight trees. The Enforcer 104 Free embodies this exquisite amalgam of Finesse and Power properties.

Read the full review here.

Salomon QST 106

It took Salomon awhile to sort out how to configure flax, carbon, basalt and a dash of Titanal into a freeskiing weapon, but it found the formula with the current QST 106. Torsionally stiff enough to ski hard snow all day, the QST 106 is pitch-perfect for powder.

Read the full review here.

Powder

All Powder skis are equally successful at being large. But they don’t all feel equally easy to negotiate in tight quarters, which is where powder sometimes lies. Skiing deep snow on a thin ski is anything but effortless. These provide the opposite experience.

Atomic Bent Chetler 120

The Bent Chetler 120’s tip and tail are rockered side-to-side as well as fore and aft, which turns out to be a brilliant idea. Despite its massive girth, the Bent Chetler 120 handles with the ease of a much narrower ski. Solid as Gibraltar, yet more maneuverable than most in this class of giants.

Read the full review here.

Head Kore 117

Graphene gives Head has an edge in the battle to make a ski that’s lightweight yet strong, as no other material comes close to its properties. The Kore 117 proves it, tearing through chunder as though it were Kleenex. Want your powder day to last all day? The Kore 117 is your ticket to ride ‘til sundown.

Read the full review here.

Blizzard Rustler 11

Unless you are very big, very strong and very good, you don’t want the same construction in your Powder ski as your daily driver. What you want instead is the Rustler 11, with the flotation of an aircraft carrier and the agility of a skiff. Less work equates to more energy to extend your ski day.

Read the full review here.

While I realize it is impolitic at best not to publish a parallel list of women’s skis, I fear I’ve already over-extended my Dear Readers’ willingness to consume ski blather. I beg my female followers to show the forbearance for which their gender is esteemed and wait, unrequited, until the next Revelation.