Reviews You Can Rely On

How We Tested All Mountain Skis

By Andrew Pierce ⋅ Review Editor
Sunday November 10, 2019
Some of our testers in the Men's All-Mountain Ski category for...
Some of our testers in the Men's All-Mountain Ski category for 2018-2019. What a serious bunch!
Photo: Scott Rokis

To test all-mountain alpine contenders, we compiled data and observations from every condition and terrain type imaginable. Unlike other reviews on the internet that note the performance of a model after only an afternoon of testing, this review examined each product over several weeks and months with numerous testers (and skier types), and even different hemispheres, to bring you the best possible review.

Product Selection and Preparation

We began by extensively researching the market, noting what respected manufacturers offer in the all-mountain category, what are best sellers and popular with users, and what products have specs that seem to indicate versatile performance. We selected products that we felt were innovative, would perform well, and were backed by a trusted manufacturer pedigree.

All of our selected test skis were mounted with the same binding, the Solomon Warden demo binding, which allowed for enough adjustment for an entire team with different boot sizes to test the models. This binding sits close to the surface of the ski to provide a good feel of the ski itself and is burly enough to allow us to ski hard, huck cliffs, and jump off things and not worry about breaking it. Having the same binding on each pair allowed us to evaluate each ski's performance without factoring in a difference in the bindings.

The lineup of new and updated skis for the Men's All-Mountain Ski...
The lineup of new and updated skis for the Men's All-Mountain Ski category in 2018-2019.
Photo: Scott Rokis

Note that we purchased all of these skis. Just like in every OutdoorGearLab review, we bought the products reviewed here on the retail market just like a customer, and the reviewers did not receive any gifts, payments, or freebies from manufacturers. This truly sets us apart from other comparative reviews. While there is an abundance of private reviews on the internet from users that have purchased their own pair, we know of no other comparative, comprehensive ski review in which the reviewer purchased all of the models that were tested. Most similar reviews are produced by magazines and blogs that are reviewing advertisers' products. We take the integrity of this review seriously and have done our best to conduct it in a fair and unbiased manner.

We performed our tests while working day-to-day on ski patrols and heli-ski operations where you can't always choose what kind of conditions you get to shred in. We also lent them to friends and colleagues of all sizes, abilities, and styles to gather as much input as possible on where each of these products shines, where others are better, and which handled all-conditions without compromise.

Playing around in Kirkwood's steep terrain.
Playing around in Kirkwood's steep terrain.
Photo: Scott Rokis

The Team

For the men's all-mountain review, we utilized a collaborative testing method. Our lead test editor worked closely with many other talented skiers to develop testing strategies, solicit feedback, and discuss the ins and outs of the models featured in our review. Our primary testers have a passion for skiing and work on skis. We also included several other skiers of varying abilities. Each of these skiers has differing backgrounds, unique styles, and strong opinions about what makes a good ski.

Adjusting the Solomon Wardens for the next tester.
Adjusting the Solomon Wardens for the next tester.
Photo: Scott Rokis

Testing Methods

We skied. A lot. We used these skis on a daily basis for work, for recreation on our days off, and during a few group testing weekends at Kirkwood Resort in Tahoe, California, Heavenly Mountain, California, and Portillo, Chile.

To temper the chief testers' strong opinions and provide more objectivity to our review, we loaned the test skis to colleagues and friends with different abilities and preferences. Testers were asked to share their height, weight, the time they spent on each pair, and the conditions they used them in. Then they were asked to assign a number rating for each scoring metric. They were also asked to give specific feedback after their time on the skis. Not all who provided feedback were expert skiers. We sought out input from intermediate and occasional skiers as well, because we think that their opinions matter just as much as an expert skier when reviewing true all-mountain skis. In some cases, less experience can translate to less bias and more honesty.

We tallied all of these ratings and averaged the scores from each tester to determine the overall rating of each ski.

During our testing period, a daily regimen of skiing and reflection provided for ample experience with each pair in a variety of conditions to objectively compare and contrast the models in our review. We believe that you cannot honestly evaluate a ski's capabilities and deficits with a few runs of experience. Full days and all conditions were the norm for our testing. This was a thorough process that yielded unique insight into these models.

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 most suited to you.