Blasting down snowy slopes is best when equipped with skis to match your style. To find them, we evaluated 50+ models before testing the best 10 all-mountain skis for three months. Although our testing grounds in Tahoe were snow-starved compared to last season, our testers were able to put this big line up of exceptional skis through the wringer. Seeking the holy grail of all-mountain planks, we skied fresh pow, perfect corduroy, and challenging crud to push these skis to the limit on and off-piste. Through extensive skiing, we discovered which model charges the hardest, carves the gnarliest, and floats the pow the best. We also took them through the moguls and into the park to check their agility and playfulness. Compiling experience and expertise, we carved out the unique details to each model to guide you to the right skis for your downhill style.
The Best All-Mountain Skis for Men of 2018
This winter brought our Men's All-Mountain Ski testers every condition imaginable. While most locals in the Sierra would consider this a "lean" year, our crew was able to put all 10 skis through powder, crud, groomers, bumps, jumps, ice, etc. By expanding our number of skis tested and our range of tester abilities, we were able to come up with what we think is our best All-Mountain selections yet. The Black Crows Daemon was an easy pick for our Editors Choice Award. The Blizzard Rustler 10 was another new crowd favorite, and picked up our Best Buy award because of its performance and relatively low cost. Don't worry, two of our Top Picks, the Nordica Enforcer 93 and the Volkl Mantra still made the short list.
Best Overall Men's All-Mountain Ski
Black Crows Daemon
Plain and simple, the Black Crows Daemon is a remarkable all-mountain ski. It can rail turns, both short and long radius. It is stiff and powerful, but still forgiving. It has enough float to have you grinning ear to ear on any pow day, and will pop off your favorite rock with spunk and then provide a super soft landing. Its rockered profile helps it in quite a few categories but doesn't hold it back.
Even though some of our testers felt the Daemon could use a bit more pop, this is our Editors' Choice and Best Overall All-Mountain ski for a reason…scratch that, for so many reasons it is hard to list them all. And the best part? Almost any level skier can harness this ski's performance! The Daemon doesn't care who the skier is, what the snow conditions are like, or what terrain you are taking it in to; it will shred no matter what.
Read review: Black Crows Daemon
Best Bang for the Buck
Blizzard Rustler 10
The Blizzard Rustler 10 is the best bang for your buck this season when it comes to Men's All-Mountain skis. It was an incredibly close second to the Daemon and might have even outperformed it ever so slightly in the Powder testing category. This ski has a slight soft-snow biased, but that should not dissuade you from buying this ski no matter where you live. The Rustler is effortless in the powder, but still snappy and responsive on the hard pack. They are super playful and even won that category!
This ski suffers a bit of tip chatter when the conditions begin to firm up but still performed at a high level when our testers pushed them through the crud. The Rustler really is a do-it-all ski that will have most skiers feeling like heroes, especially in soft snow.
Read review: Blizzard Rustler 10
Top Pick for Best Hard Charger
The Mantra is back with no significant changes and remains the flagship all-mountain model for Volkl. For the verdict, just ask any skier who hopped on these sticks during testing — it's the bomb. It's stable at high speeds and handles turns with ease. The wide width holds an edge well even when challenged in steep, firm snow. The fully rockered profile made it very playful in soft snow and agile in technical terrain.
While we had some intermediate skiers try the Mantra, we feel like this is an expert's ski. If you are on these skis and get lazy or take a turn off, the Mantras will pin you in the backseat, and you'll have to fight to regain control. It has no speed limit, likes big turns, and performs best when driven hard. The Mantra slipped a few spots this year in our overall ranking but remains one of our favorite skis. Rumor has it that next years model is going through a complete redesign, so get yourself a pair before they disappear.
Read review: Volkl Mantra
Top Pick for Best On-Piste Carver
Nordica Enforcer 93
The Nordica Enforcer 93 wasn't the only model to earn high marks in the carving testing category, but it was one of the best performers; it hung in there with very stiff competition and blew away others designed for on-piste superiority. The early rise tip and tail make it super easy to initiate turns and release out of them. The titanium extends over the edges of a wood core, which creates the power, consistent flex, and rebound our testers found while riding them. Despite all that, it is still fairly forgiving, and even an intermediate skier would be able to harness its power.
It fell behind compared to the others in our review when Mother Nature delivered the goods, and we attribute that lack of float to the relatively narrow waist. BUT, do you prefer on-piste and tend to run into firmer conditions? This may be the all-mountain choice for you, especially if you like to roll skis over on their edges and pull some Gs while arcing beautiful turns.
Read review: Nordica Enforcer 93
Analysis and Test Results
The one-ski quiver may seem like a lofty ideal, but the top rated products in our review are capable of handling a wide variety of conditions and stand out as a solid performer all around. If you sum up all of our evaluation criteria, you can get an idea of which are the most versatile. This represents the most important characteristic of a true all-mountain ski. The single product quiver may be a bit of a cliche, but we think it is apt. There are options out there that are capable of being used in all conditions, performing well no matter what kind of snow or terrain you find yourself in.
Ultimately, some of the models in our test fell into sub-genres that are less versatile and have leanings towards specific terrain or conditions. There are several that are stiffer, quick edge-to-edge, carving powerhouses, like the Nordica Enforcer 93. Then there was the surfy soft-snow specialist, the Rossignol Soul 7 HD. The models that we feel are the most versatile for a broad range of terrain and conditions are consequently our two highest scorers: the Black Crows Daemon and Blizzard Rustler 10.
We rated each product on its stability at speed, performance in powder snow and crud, its playfulness, and even its bumps performance. Instead of rudimentary kick-the-tires sort of tests (i.e., hand flexing and fondling), we tested these models throughout a variable snow season by putting in as many days as possible on each pair by as many different people as we could gather.
If you're looking to build a one ski quiver, chances are that value is an important factor in deciding on your next pair of boards. To help visualize how each ski stacks up to the competition specifically in terms of value, we created the table below. Hover over each dot to see which ski it represents, with blue dots indicating award winners. The deeper into the lower right quadrant a ski lands, the better overall value we believe it represents.
Stability at Speed
A ski's stability is particularly important at speed. Stability refers to the ability to stay on the ground, not chatter too much in a turn, and remain in the control of the skier in charge. We assess stability by testing in steep terrain where edge hold is critical, by going fast where a product is challenged to hold an edge and not chatter, and by testing on firm and icy snow where vibration can sometimes shake the person enough to limit their confidence.
Stability is related to the flexibility and its rocker/camber profile. Stiffness invariably affects performance characteristics. Stiffness is referred to torsionally and throughout the length, particularly in the tip and tail. Stiff models take more energy to flex and drive, but the result is better edge hold and stability at speed. Stiff models like the Volkl Mantra and the Black Crows Daemon handle speed and firm snow with ease and can punch through variable conditions. Softer models like the Rossignol Soul 7 HD and the Icelantic Pioneer 96 chatter more at speed and struggle to hold an edge on hard packed snow. They prefer to dance through harsh, bumpy snow than plow through it. Some of the chatter does come from the rocker, but the soft flex doesn't help them when things get firm and steep.
Soft flexing models like the Rossignol Soul 7 HD one of our lowest scorers for this metric, are playful and easy to use but are nothing short of spooky at speed, especially on firm snow. Stable models like the Volkl Mantra and Black Crows Daemon, which takes the highest stability score, can hold an edge at high speeds and feel damp, suppressing vibration on firm and icy slopes.
Weight can also be a factor in stability. Weight is primarily determined by the materials used and the dimensions. Heavy models like to stay on the ground and can be more stable at speed. Lightweight versions tend to be easier to use and more maneuverable. However, high weight doesn't mean stiffer, and lightweight ones aren't always soft. Our testers that enjoy being light on their feet and playing with the terrain tended to prefer lightweight models. Friends that push their gear hard and shred aggressively, plowing through bumps and going fast, liked heavier, stiff models.
Resorts are well-maintained playgrounds. Groomed terrain accounts for a good amount of beginner and intermediate trails at most resorts. For the expert, groomed slopes are opportunities to open it up, make big turns, and push your limits in a more controlled environment. Race models eat up well-manicured pistes but are a challenge when things get more variable. All-mountain versions that have a more traditional design, like camber underfoot and a slightly narrower waist, are usually preferred for carving and on-piste performance.
The Nordica Enforcer 93, Black Crows Daemon and Volkl Mantra were the highest scorers in the carving category. In a low-tide snow year, we REALLY tested this skis carving ability on-piste.
Traditional, modern all-mountain models have a certain amount of camber under the foot. This arching shape when it rests flat on the snow gives it pop/energy, and when compressed helps create the shape of the turn. Rockered designs pull the contact points further toward the center. This shortens the effective edge length. Less edge contact with the snow can make for quicker and easier turn initiation. With a more turned-up tip, it is is more likely to float in soft snow without adding width underfoot. Many models feature any combination of camber underfoot, early-rise tips (rocker tip), or rockered tails.
The Nordica Enforcer, one of our top scorers for carving, has a rockered tip for easy turn initiation, a bit of tail rocker that allows you to release out for your turns easily, and camber underfoot, which results in lots of pop and energy. Conversely, the Volkl Mantra and Black Crow Daemon both have a fully rockered design that looks like a smooth, gradual bend from tip to tail. Though convention suggests that a fully rockered model would not carve well, this was not the case as both rockered skis carve excellent turns.
Rocker technology is found in all of the models reviewed here, even if ever so slightly in the DPS Foundation Cassiar 95. Rocker profiles are becoming somewhat ubiquitous in all-mountain designs and are enabling skiers to use longer models and help wider versions perform better on firm snow and groomed terrain. Overall, we believe that designs that feature some amount of rocker are more versatile for most people. Skeptics are critical of this rocker shortening the effective edge and resent that newer designs are skiing short. Rockered tips don't make contact with the snow unless you are railing turns, and they can appear to be and feel a bit floppy when carving.
For this metric, we scored each model based on its edge-to-edge quickness, carving ability, and edge hold. The three products that stand out most for carving performance are the Nordica Enforcer 93, Volkl Mantra, and Black Crows Daemon. There was a tie for first place overall, but if we had to choose one, it would probably be the Mantras.
Once you wander off the groomed trails, any condition possible can be thrown your way. This past season, we encountered a generous amount of powder (thank you Ullr), but also: wind-buff, bumps, corn snow, breakable crust, boilerplate, and everything in between. The variability is immense, and we're asking a lot for a ski to shine in pristine to tough conditions. Because of this, we decided to rate each competitor on its performance in different snow conditions. And we begin this by evaluating everyone's favorite: powder.
We rated this based on the ability to float through powder and stay on top when the snow gets deep. We looked for a surfy and floaty feeling rather than ones that feel like tanks. Almost every model is fun in perfect powder because perfect powder is fun and easy to ski! There were, however, some notable differences in the performance in the soft stuff.
Most of the models in this review are a bit on the narrow side when imaging a powder ski, ranging from 85mm-100 mm underfoot. In general, wider waists perform better in softer snow and struggle on-piste and firm conditions. But, more modern designs are changing that paradigm. We have found that in some instances, wider models like the Rossignol Soul 7 HD (106 mm) are just as good on piste as some of their more narrow waisted counterparts like the DPS Foundation Cassiar 95 (95 mm).
With the ubiquity of rockered profiles, there are lots of people who are getting on wider versions for everyday use. Many all-mountain models now feature some amount of rocker in them. Rocker designs make for quicker and easier turn initiation, even on wide models, and help to keep the tip up and out of softer, deeper, and more variable snow conditions.
The Rossignol Soul 7 HD and Blizzard Rustler 10 most clearly among the competition showed a preference for soft snow. With wide waists, big shovels, and lots of rocker, they were the gems of this review in powder conditions. Once again, the Daemon impressed in this category and earned a fantastic 9 out of 10 for fun and float in the fluffy. Other top scorers include the Dynastar Legend x 96 and the DPS Foundation Cassiar 95.
Outside of the manicured pistes, there is just too much fun terrain to explore for an all-mountain model to fall apart off the groomed trails. Variable snow is a challenge. Even though crud is not a desirable condition to ski, we all encounter it, and having the right tool to get you through it is key. Our crud/chop/poor snow metric helps to highlight well-rounded models that can hold their own anywhere on the hill.
We rated crud performance based on a model's ability to dance through chopped up powder and plow through variable conditions. Think refrozen choppy snow, breakable crusts, heavy slush, and any other unpleasant type of snow. We asked ourselves, do these skis like to hook up or can they still turn smoothly in harsh conditions? Can they plow through crusts or do they dive?
Stiff models like the Volkl Mantra punch through crud well. This model earned our highest score in this category. Conversely, softer models like the Icelantic Pioneer 96 and Line Sick Day 94 tend to get bounced around in uneven snow and make you more likely to resort to survival skiing techniques instead of riding confidently over the chop. Rocker tips and wider waist widths providing a lot of surface area, like the design of the Daemon, help keep you floating on top of the muck. Designs with less rocker, like the Cassiar 95, liked tackling steeper pitches with firm snow and ice, but don't glide over uneven crud quite as well and sometimes hook up.
Playful models are easy to use, responsive, adapt well to changing terrain, and are fun! Lots of pop, a little loose, and quick to turn make the most playful planks a go-to choice for the "all-mountain terrain park." Gullies, little airs, and bouncing through bumps are the playgrounds for those who are light on their feet and creative with their terrain choices.
The Blizzard Rustler 10 was the most playful ski we tested. Our testers loved its surfy feel. It surely encouraged keeping eyes peeled for potential launch points when heading downhill.
On the opposite end of the spectrum is the DPS Foundation Cassiar 95. Although they have pop - thanks to the camber underfoot - and are lightweight, they lack the softness needed for landing and have no surfyness to them, which leads to a stiff, all business-like feeling.
Bump Skiing Performance
When commuting around the mountain to find the best snow, it is inevitable you'll find skied up snow that is set up into the sometimes seemingly endless mogul fields. These aren't the fun zipper lines that have some rhythm to them; they're more erratic in shape and spacing. Take your time and think quickly and they can be navigated. There are some sacrifices to be made for a contender to handle the bumps well. They are a bit softer to shape themselves to the terrain with plenty of pop to bounce quickly. They are also shorter so that they are more nimble. Pairs with consistent flex and that are quick underfoot handle this terrain best.
While none of the products in this test are designed specifically with moguls in mind, the two that handled the bumps the best were our top two scoring skis overall; the Black Crows Daemon and Blizzard Rustler 10 The worst player here is the Line Sick Day 94. Unforgiving and hooky, we felt worked after a lap through the bumps on them. Find something less prone to holding you hostage in the turn if you seek out bump lines.
Who We Are
This review utilized a collaborative testing format. We sought out expert opinion from three primary testers who were tasked with trying out these six pairs day-in and day-out, and comparing each of them in as many different conditions as a drought year would allow. Our testers come from different backgrounds, have unique styles, and differ in their taste. Other friends and colleagues provided input for each test model to temper the strong opinions of our lead testers.
Our Buying Advice article highlights construction, design features, and considerations for purchasing the right model for your needs. If you're new to this sport, or need to update your current knowledge base and are looking for some advice about what to watch out for, then check out this article.
Andrew Pierce, Lead Test Editor
- Age: 28 HT: 6'1" WT: 185lbs
- Occupation: Professional Ski Patroller, Heavenly, CA.
Andrew is relatively new to the OutdoorGearLab family, but not new to being on skis. At the age of 15, he wandered from the plains of Kansas into the mountains of Colorado and was hooked. After college, Andrew moved to North Idaho to pursue his outdoor passions and found himself spending most of his winter volunteering with ski patrol at a small hill. After realizing people get PAID to do the same thing, his mind was made up, and he moved to South Lake Tahoe to become a professional patroller. Five seasons later, Andrew continues to work full time in the winter as a patroller for Heavenly Mountain Resort, and skis over 100 days a year between work, free days at the resorts, and in the backcountry. This is his passion and is found on the snow from October through July (as long as Mother Nature delivers the goods).
During the summer months, Andrew still seeks the snow but focuses on a slightly warmer, more melted version. He works for Shasta Mountain Guides on Mt. Shasta in Northern California guiding mountaineering clients up the 14,180 ft peak. He also works for Sierra Rescue (Rescue 3 International) teaching swift water rescue courses on the snowmelt-fed rivers in the Sierra front, and well as instructing wilderness based medical courses.
Gray Grandy, Collaborating Tester
- Age: 24 HT: 5'7" WT: 145 lbs.
- Occupation: Professional Ski Patroller, Kirkwood, CA.
Gray Grandy is a ripping skier in a small package. Don't be fooled by his stature, he can tame even the burliest of skis, and prefers a pair with some backbone (read metal) in them. His East Coast upbringing was excellent training for charging on-piste terrain, but he came into his own when he moved to the West Coast for college. He fell in love with the powder and stayed out west. His love for hands-on hard work, combined with his passion for shredding, led him into the professional patrolling career. We're still trying to forgive him for switching to Kirkwood.
Gray prefers hard-charging big mountain models which are reliable at speed and in variable conditions. Being a backcountry skier, however, it is important to him that what he uses are light and nimble enough that they are playful and can be used in a variety of conditions, yet uncompromising in other areas. Even though it took him "a day to figure them out," the Volkl Mantra was Gray's top choice.
Ryan McPartland, Collaborating Tester
- Age: 35 HT: 5'8'' WT: 185 lbs.
- Occupation: Professional Ski Patroller, Heavenly, CA.
Ryan's favorite model in this review was the Blizzard Rustler 10. His first day on them happened to be a two foot powder day (basically where the Rustlers shine the most), but he made sure to ride them through all sorts of conditions. After testing all nine other contenders, Ryan asked to keep the Rustlers for a couple of extra days for more "extensive testing." He is already looking forward to next year's Rustler 9!
For the all-mountain review, we sought out products that are wide enough to handle soft snow but have dimensions and design features that allow them to rip up the hard packed snow as well. That said, there may appear to be a slight west coast, big mountain bias to our selection; and this is accurate. We work and play at a few big west coast resorts. Some of our feelings about what may constitute a good all-mountain ski are a reflection of our terrain and snow type in the Sierra.
We generally have soft snow, receive generous amounts of it, and have lots of off-piste terrain to explore in-bounds. This season has been relatively dry and warm. Though we have had plenty of high-pressure systems, thanks to a little help from mother nature and a lot of eager testers we were able to find great testing conditions which reflect the different snow climates of the U.S. When testing all 10 contenders in every type of snow, it became clear that wider waisted models, formerly reserved only for deep snow, are becoming better performers on firm snow, which makes them more versatile.
We've all been there; looking for a new pair for the season, but unsure of where to start. We hope we've been able to help you decide which pair of planks to spend your dough on, with the award winners listed at the top of the review receiving specific awards for their performance. Rest assured that there is a pair out there for everyone and we've made it our mission to help you find them. If you're still on the hunt for the perfect pair, seek refuge in our buying advice.
— Andrew Pierce