QST 92

The Salomon QST 92 has risen from humble origins to its new position among the elite of the genre. Originally conceived to meet a lower price point ($500) and therefore underserved in the technology department, Salomon has been steadily enhancing its construction to match the latest innovations already added to pricier models, like the flagship QST 106. This year, the QST 92 adopted two features introduced last season in the QST 98, Double Sidewalls and full-length C/FX, Salomon’s signature carbon/flax combo.

While the latest improvements no doubt contributed to the QST 92’s stellar performance, the bones they’re built on were pretty stout to begin with: an all-wood (poplar) core, full sidewalls (i.e., no cap), cork inserts to muffle shocks and a central Titanal plate that makes the entire ski feel more substantial. The 2023 QST 92 also mimics the slightly lower rocker profile launched last year in the QST Blank and 98, so it feels more connected on all snow surfaces.

Once you put it all in motion, you wouldn’t guess you’re piloting a price-point ski intended to retail at $675. The security on edge is fantastic on anything softer than boilerplate, it feels energetic crossing the fall line and it can switch between a carve and a drift on command. A lower-skill skier can’t find a more tolerant ski with such a high-performance ceiling. For a ski whose DNA is all about off-trail conditions, the QST 92 feels right at home on groomers. It feels light and quick off the edge in bumps and placid as a glacier in long, spooling GS turns.

Jim Schaffner is a strong skier whose race background is evident in his every arc. The QST 92 he essayed was a 176cm, which I feared might fold up like a soft taco, but Schaffner stepped off the QST 92 with the bemused smile of the positively impressed. “The QST92 was very nicely balanced. I was feeling comfortable at all speeds, all turn shapes, on all snow conditions. I found that I could apply pressure to anywhere along the edge and get the ski to turn well.”

Stance 90

If you digest all the brochure copy expended on All-Mountain East models, you’ll find somewhere in every model description that it’s a “50/50” model, meaning it’s equally suited to skiing on-trail or off. What this seemingly innocuous shorthand term for a versatile ski masks is that no ski can ever truly be half-and-half, for every model is part of a design family that’s inherently biased to one side of the mountain or the other.

This prelude explains why Salomon felt compelled to create a second off-trail line, named Stance, when they already had a successful freeride series in the QST’s. The latter are unmistakably meant for the off-piste, so the QST 92 has the shape and construction of the series’ flagship, the QST 106. This means, among other things, that the AME QST 92 strives to be wide beam-to-beam along its entire length and aside from a mounting plate it has no metal in it.

The Stance 90 tilts the 50/50 equation in favor of Frontside features, beginning with two sheets of Titanal and a shallower sidecut with a more slender silhouette (126/90/108) that’s quicker edge to edge. Its square tail in particular is appreciably narrower than the norm in the AME genre, which keeps its orientation down the fall line.

Because of its build, the Stance 90 is a better short-turn ski and more confidence-building hard snow ski than the QST 92 it shares the AME space with. It probably has a little higher speed limit, too, but it’s not quite the rock star on fast, icy conditions that our top Recommended models are. But the skier looking for that relatively rare All-Mountain East ski that’s based on an on-trail template, the Stance 90 is a solid contender for your affections.

Stance 84

The Stance 84’s most stunning achievement isn’t its top-of-the-podium finish among our Finesse Favorites, or even its elite, on-trail performance; the headline story about Salomon’s Stance 84 is its off-the-charts value. The Stance 84 is slotted to sell at $499; there’s a slew of models slated to retail at $699 or more that can’t hold a candle to it.

There’s always a reason why a modestly priced model punches above its weight. In the case of the Stance 84, it’s because Salomon trimmed its most expensive elements without eliminating them altogether. The Stance 84 retains a single topsheet of Titanal, with the distinctive Stance cut-out in its forebody filled with carbon instead of Salomon’s signature super-fiber, C/FX. It turns out to be more than enough to keep the Stance 84 calm on edge when it’s rocking the groomed terrain it prefers.

We weren’t able to test the Stance 84 in off-trail conditions, but there’s no reason to think it wouldn’t do well. As a practical matter, the typical Stance 84 customer doesn’t ski off trail unless he gets lost. He’s more likely to need help mastering the basics on-trail, where the Stance 84 proves to be that rarest of gems, a true bargain. Every brand will tell you that its $499 model skis amazingly well – for its price. The Stance 84 skis amazingly well, period.

Stance 96

One way to grok the role played by the Stance 96 in Salomon’s line is to look at its counterpart in Salomon’s QST collection, the QST 98. Earlier versions of this QST included on-trail features like super-wide tips and multiple doses of shock-dampening fibers, but the latest QST 98 has a clear bias for off-trail conditions. Salomon can afford to tilt the QST towards side-of-the-trail conditions because the Stance 96 is so rock-solid on groomers.

Vis-a-vis its competition from other brands, the Stance 96 takes dead aim at the wood-and-Titanal chargers from Blizzard, Nordica, Kastle and Stöckli. If you want to play with big boys, you have to use the same materials, so the Stance 96 sandwiches its poplar core with laminates of Titanal and carbon-flax fiber (CF/X), a double dose of dampeners that keep the Stance 96 planted on the planet. The only acknowledgement that it’s up for heading off trail is a rockered tip that feels a little lost when it hasn’t any loose snow under it to give it something to do.

All in, the Stance 96 possesses an almost perfectly balanced blend of Power and Finesse properties with a slight bias towards hard snow in a genre obsessed with the soft stuff. The Stance 96 may not reside at the top of the All-Mountain West pile, but at least it has membership in the exclusive club of outstanding all-terrain skis.

QST 106

Salomon’s QST 106 was already pegged as a star product when it was introduced in 2016/17, and Salomon has been enhancing the QST flagship on a regular basis ever since. The latest batch of improvements aim to boost power and grip while trimming a few grams off its total weight. First, the woven mat of carbon and flax (C/FX) that is the QST 106’s primary structural element now extends the entire length of the ski, for extra stability in heavy crud. To improve torsional rigidity and amplify force application, the 2023 QST 106 doubles up on its full-length sidewalls with extra strips of ABS underfoot. And the new version has a lower rocker profile, so it stays in better snow contact regardless of the conditions.

Two other innovations introduced during its previous make-over a couple of years ago contribute mightily to the QST 106’s remarkably quiet ride: Cork Damplifier at the tip and tail, and a Titanal binding platform underfoot. The cork elements are reputed to be 16 times more effective at sucking up shock than the Koroyd honeycomb they replaced, and the Ti plate’s influence definitely extends beyond its mid-ski boundaries. Together with C/FX and Double Sidewalls, they give the QST 106 the stability on edge of a Frontside ski in a ski made for everywhere that isn’t groomed.

One trait that has been preserved in the QST 106 over the years is that it maintains the right blend of stability and agility, so it doesn’t ski as wide as it measures. If a typical expert male were to ski a QST 106 in a 181cm while blindfolded (which I am not encouraging), after a run he probably wouldn’t guess he was on either a 106 or a 181, as it has the quicks of a narrower ski and the quiet ride of a longer one. It just doesn’t feel fat, even though its weight and width are roughly average for the genre. “It’s a 106 that skis like a wide 100,” as Jim Schaffner from Start Haus condensed its character. It’s the epitome of an all-terrain ski, in that its competence and comportment don’t change as it moves from corduroy to trackless snowfields and yes, even bumps. In Schaffner’s words, the QST 106 is “very well blended, a true all-mountain all-star!”