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. 

Another reason the awarding of “Ski of the Year” laurels rubs me the wrong way is that Realskiers.com already sorts each genre by score; handing out another round of medals seems redundant at best. But if the will of the people is to winnow every field down to a single champion, I shall attempt to comply, within reason.  

Getting to the point, for the 2021/22 season, I’m again 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 allow a single ski to serve all masters. If I had the know-how, I’d put the top trio on a carousel, giving each equal time at the summit.

Longtime Dear Readers of these pages know that Realskiers.com divides the Alpine ski market into seven segments, but you’ll only find four represented here.  The three omissions are Non-FIS Race, Powder and Technical.  Their absence is largely due to a serious shortfall in the data department.  The only consolation I can offer is that all the models populating the absent genres tend to be superlative at their specialty.  There really are no second-best candidates to cut from the herd. 

Comparing this year’s selections to last year’s, the alert reader will note the presence of several returning icons. In fact, because of limited model turnover this season, last year’s selections could all be re-anointed and leave it at that, but I’ve introduced a fresh face here and there to add an element of intrigue. 

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. There is a growing presence in the Frontside genre of skis with off-trail baselines and compliant flexes, but these aren’t the best the category has to offer.  The elite of the Frontside genre would rather retire than smear a turn.

Blizzard Thunderbird R15 WB

For most of the past decade, Blizzard’s off-trail skis have helped set the standard for excellence, while its carving collection has languished in well-deserved obscurity. That era is over. The Thunderbird R15 WB (for Wide Body, as there’s a skinnier T-bird R15 residing in the Technical genre next door) is an amalgam of Blizzard’s best technologies. It’s an exhilarating mix of energy and solidity.

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 Supershape 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 is assured by Head’s fine-tuned piezos that shut down all negative vibrations as soon as they hit the frequency that disrupts edge grip.  The faster you go, the smoother they get.

Read the full review here.

Kästle MX83

There was a tremor in the force when Kästle moved to a new factory. Yoda can relax. The latest generation of its signature MX models are exquisite, making the most recent iteration of the legendary MX83 worthy of the name that adorns it.  What makes the MX83 special is its open mind about turn shape: it’s like riding a turn buffet.  It can mosey along if that’s all you can handle; but the reason you get a MX83 is because it’s just as smooth at rocket speed as it is when poking its way downhill.

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. While women’s models aren’t the subject of this awards ceremony, this is where 80% of the women who own only one pair of skis should shop.

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 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.

Völkl Mantra M6

Völkl keeps raising the ante in a genre it was largely responsible for creating. Its latest innovations, Tailored Titanal Frame and Tailored Carbon Tips, again raise the bar in a genre where every brand puts its best foot forward. The Mantra M6 brings a new measure of versatility to a genre that prizes this trait above all others.

Read the full review here.

Blizzard Bonafide 97

The Bonafide has set the performance bar for the All-Mountain West 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. There are thousands of Bonafide riders, and it’s hard to find one that doesn’t love them. 

Read the full review here.

Kästle MX98

Most skis in this genre are made to disconnect from at least part of every turn, all the better to smear when the snow is manky, but the Kästle MX98 is the head of a family of carving skis with full-camber baselines. It’s like a futuristic snowplow with an air suspension that allows it to skim, unruffled, over irregular terrain.  Part Hummer, part Ferrari, the Kästle MX98 is a Technical ski in a fat suit.

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.

Head Kore 111

All of Head’s boffo Kore series were refreshed this year, so in a sense all 2022 Kores are new, but the newest of the new is the Kore 111, and it’s a hero ski. If you stink at skiing powder or you have the medium mastered, it doesn’t matter: you’ll go gaga over the Kore 111. Most skis this wide are more stable than agile, but the Kore 111 feels like a skiff among tankers. Your feet will feel like they’re filled with helium. If we have a good snow year, you’ll want a pair of these.

Read the full review here.

Nordica Enforcer 110 Free

Nordica makes two exceptional Big Mountain models, the Enforcer 110 Free and the Enforcer 104 Free. Each has earned top honors in the Big Mountain genre in prior seasons, so they’re equally qualified to make the podium again. This year, we give the nod to the bigger brother because its superior surface area maximizes flotation, the raison d’etre for the entire genre. The sense of stability imparted by the Enforcer 110 Free builds confidence when visibility is compromised, which it often is on powder days.  The Enforcer 110 Free is such a strong ski it can roll through battered crud like it wasn’t there, yet if sized properly it’s easy to steer. 

Read the full review here.

Rossignol Sender Ti

The Sender Ti has some big shoes to fill, for the previous occupant of this slot in Rossi’s line was the sales-record setting Soul 7.  The Sender Ti has a similar shape, but that’s where the similarities end.  The Soul 7 was the epitome of a Finesse ski; the Sender Ti is Power personified.  More stable and responsive on hardpack than the norm in this genre, the Sender Ti could serve as an everyday ride for a strong skier.

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 universally esteemed and wait, unrequited, until a future Revelation.