To test women's all-mountain ski models, we have tested new skis back to bike while compiling data and observations from five testing season. Unlike other reviews that note performance after only a couple of runs within the same snow conditions, this review examined products in a variety of terrain and conditions, with a variety of skiers, over the course of multiple months to bring you the best possible review.
We worked in a collaborative format, assembling a team of advanced and expert ladies, many of whom work on skis, to take the competitors through the wringer. We evaluated these test models over multiple seasons at Mammoth Mountain and Kirkwood in California and headed up for a side trip to Big White Resort in Canada. Our lady testers spanned a spectrum of experience, from hard-charging patrollers to detail-oriented instructors, to devoted recreational ski bums. Learn more about these women here.
Product Selection and Preparation
We began by researching the market, noting what respected manufacturers offer in the all-mountain category (without excluding new but honorable independent companies), what products are best sellers, and what products had specs that seemed to indicate versatile performance. We selected products that were innovative, ones we hoped would perform well, and were backed by a trusted manufacturer pedigree.
For our women's all-mountain review we partnered with Kittredge Sports in Mammoth Lakes, California. Kittredge mounted all of our binding for us, detuned each contender right out of the wrapper with an identical race tune, and gave each pair a tune throughout the winter to make sure they all stayed in excellent shape as we continued to use them over and over.
We mounted each with the same binding, the Marker Griffon demo binding, which allowed us to adjust them enough for an entire team to test each model. This binding sits close to the surface, allowing for a good feel while being burly enough to allow hard carving. Having the same bindings allowed us to objectively evaluate performance without factoring in a difference in the bindings.
Note that we purchased all of these models. Just like in every OutdoorGearLab review, we purchased the equipment we reviewed here on the retail market, and the reviewers did not receive any gifts, payments, or freebies from manufacturers. This sets us apart from other comparative reviews. While there is an abundance of private, one-off, reviews on the internet from users that have purchased their own, we know of no other comparative, comprehensive category review where the reviewer purchased all of the contenders. Most similar reviews are produced by magazines and blogs that are reviewing advertisers' products. We take the integrity of this review very seriously and have done our best to conduct it in a fair, unbiased manner.
We started by weighing each of these models on our own scale to provide you with an accurate weight spec. Then we skied — a lot.
Even with the dry California winter, we had in '14/'15 the ladies of our team tallied a combined 300 days on our test models that year and about 100 days combined in '15/'16, with the five additions to the review. We got lucky in '16/'17 with mega-dumps, so we could try them out in deep and variable conditions. Again in '17/'18, we had some excellent early season storms and a decent base on which to feel things out. Once again, for '18/'19, we lucked out with a big five feet at Thanksgiving that gave us a ton of variable snow to ski in order to produce the review for the Christmas buying season. We went out in all conditions, from icy hard-packed snow and death cookies to slushy spring conditions, from perfect morning groomers to late afternoon bumps, as well as two-foot powder days — both light champagne and Sierra Cement.
We tried each model in every situation we could, railing the tightest, fastest turns and intentionally seeking bad conditions to see how they would handle. We had ski-a-thon days where we tried different models back-to-back, switching after a few runs for side-by-side comparison within the exact same conditions. We also lent our test pairs to other ladies (and some men!) with varying skills and abilities and got as much feedback as possible on score sheets. We took into account all of these opinions as we compiled the final scores.
Ultimately, this review is a matter of opinion, but we have collected and compiled many educated opinions to present our observations in a clear and direct manner, in the hopes that our research will help you find the product best-suited to you.