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Our crew of industry experts has tested over 70 of the best all-mountain skis across the last decade and recently purchased 9 of the best options available for the 2021-2022 ski season for head-to-head on-the-snow comparison. Whether you're going to be ripping groomers, blasting through chop, or floating through powder, we'll help you find the best skis for the conditions and your skiing ability. Our hard-charging testers spend hundreds of hours on the mountain to identify which ski carves the best, which cuts through the chop, and which will keep you afloat through the white room. No matter your preference, take a look through our picks and select your optimal “quiver of one.”
Editor's Note: We updated this review for Men’s All-Mountain Skis on February 23, 2022, with additional information on our in-depth testing process and a section that highlights products we would recommend to a friend (that includes you!)
Sidecut: 135-96-119 mm Available Lengths: 163, 170, 177, 184, 191 cm Length We Tested: 177 cm
REASONS TO BUY
Stable at all speeds
Magnetic ride quality
REASONS TO AVOID
3D radius sidecut takes getting used to
The Volkl M6 Mantra has truly earned our approval as the best all-mountain ski, keeping the Mantra series atop the podium once again. With high scores across all testing metrics, the M6 transmits a magnetic and confidence-inspiring ride to the skier through all types of terrain and snow conditions. Whether the forecast is unclear and snow conditions uncertain, staying true to your “Mantra” is what we recommend. With three of Volkl’s Tailored Technologies underfoot, be prepared to tackle anything the mountain throws your way.
This year Volkl introduces their 3D Radius Sidecut technology to the M6 Mantra. Boasting three different turn radii within the side of the ski, the M6 can achieve a different turn outcome depending on skier input. This new technology admittedly took some getting used to. However, we found the tech especially helpful when merging onto a new run with more traffic or exiting a mogul field back onto the groomer. The M6 Mantra is on the damp side of the spectrum for skis. But we can’t complain when the overall result is the superior combination of stability and maneuverability that this ski offers through icy groomers, afternoon chop and slop, and deep pow days.
Sidecut: 127-96-117 mm Available Lengths: 163, 171, 179, 187 cm Length We Tested: 179 cm
REASONS TO BUY
REASONS TO AVOID
Vibrates at higher speeds
With respectable scores across the board, the Faction Dictator 2.0 earns recognition for its solid all-around performance and excellent value. The Dictator 2.0 is one of the more accessible in our lineup. Touted by Faction as "easy to turn in all conditions,” our testers liked the Dictator 2.0's reliable qualities. The overall ride quality pleasantly surprised our testers in powder and soft snow, even considering its relatively narrower waist. It encouraged us to explore new paths and get airborne. Priced to sell, we think the Dictator 2.0 is a value-filled steal.
While the Dictator 2.0 excels in soft snow conditions because of its soft flex, it conversely struggled through chop and crud. Our testers had difficulty staying on track and keeping control of the ski. However, the Dictator 2.0 is versatile enough to handle most snow conditions and is a blast to cruise around the mountain through bumps, jumps, and soft powder stashes.
Sidecut: 127-94-115.5 mm Available Lengths: 165, 172, 179, 186, 191 cm Length We Tested: 179 cm
REASONS TO BUY
REASONS TO AVOID
Poor floatation in deeper snow
The Nordica Enforcer 94 is our favorite ski for carving and ranks well overall in our all-mountain lineup. The Enforcer 94’s Carbon Chassis and TWO Sheets of metal combine to create our favorite blend of edge grip, rebound, and overall precision while carving at higher speeds. Coming in at a versatile turn radius of 17.1 meters, we found it intuitive in shorter SL and longer GS turns. While the Enforcer is ideal for carving on the groomers, it also provides excellent versatility across the mountain in all snow conditions.
The adjustments made for the 2021-2022 model include Nordica’s Carbon Chassis and True Tip technologies. Along with a slightly wider 94-millimeter waist width, the Enforcer 94 gains slightly better off-piste performance than its predecessor's 93-millimeter width underfoot. Despite these improvements, this ski can be challenging to pilot through heavy or deep powder. Skiers spending lots of time in softer or deeper snow may be better suited for a ski that's a little wider. But for the more experienced skier looking to tip and rip across most snow conditions, look no further than the Enforcer 94.
Sidecut: 133-104-122.5 mm Available Lengths: 164, 172, 180, 188 cm Length We Tested: 180 cm
REASONS TO BUY
Stable at speed
Can arc or smear turns well
REASONS TO AVOID
Some vibration at speed
The Blizzard Rustler 10 is our favorite all-mountain ski for its powder prowess. With a clear preference for softer snow, the Rustler 10 gave our testers an impressive combination of float, maneuverability, and overall fun when skiing the deep stuff. The unique rocker/camber profile and wider 102-millimeter waist width promote versatile performance wherever your powder stash may be.
Building on the success of its predecessors, this year's Rustler 10 maintains the familiar floaty ride while encouraging higher speeds and arcing turns through your favorite powder lines. Our testers did note some vibration through the ski, especially when encountering the hardpack. However, due to the substantial camber underfoot, this ski is burly enough to make it through the occasional wind-scoured surface and help you score the pow goods on the other side.
Our lead testers are two industry professionals who come from different backgrounds, have unique ski styles, and differ in their tastes of what makes up the perfect ski. Bobby Garrett holds a PSIA Level 3 certification and has instructed at Bear Mountain and Mammoth Mountain in California and Perisher, Australia. Bobby is 5’ 11” (178 cm) tall, and weighs 190 lbs (85 kg.) Andrew Pierce is an avalanche forecaster and control specialist in Washington, and during the summer months works as a ski patroller and heli-ski guide in Chile. Andrew is 6’ 1” (185 cm) tall, and weighs 185 lbs (84 kg.)
To provide additional input, we sought out the expert opinions of a wide panel of experienced skiers. A group of 7 other friends and colleagues provided input for each test model to temper our lead testers’ (sometimes) strong opinions. This group of ski industry professionals reflected a variety of skier types and tested these skis on a wide variety of terrain and in every type of snow condition. Our extended test period of several months allows in-depth examination, lengthy conversation, and ultimately a well-rounded conclusion of each ski’s pros, cons, and specialties.
Our testing of all-mountain skis breaks down into five rating metrics:
Stability at Speed tests (20% weighting of total score)
Carving Ability tests (20% weighting)
Powder Performance tests (20% weighting)
Crud Performance tests (20%weighting)
Terrain Playfulness tests (20% weighting)
These skis undergo more than 50 individual tests to compare and assess their performance. We directly compare them using side-by-side testing to rank each pair of skis within each metric. The all-mountain skis included in this review represent some of the most popular options on the market, so a low score does not mean that a particular pair of skis isn’t worthy of your consideration. It simply means that they did not perform as well relative to the rest of the competition.
The most important aspect informing our expertise in ski testing is the total amount of time spent on snow – over the past decade, our expert panel has logged thousands of hours while testing more than 70 of the best all-mountain skis. We design our testing metrics to be both comprehensive and mutually exclusive to highlight the strengths and weaknesses of every ski. We also assign awards when a ski excels for a particular purpose. We put in the work of testing so that you can more easily pick out your next perfect pair of skis.
Analysis and Test Results
The perfect all-mountain ski may seem like a unicorn, especially when searching through the plethora of options out there. Before choosing a ski, we encourage you to first consider your own style preferences when it comes to things like waist width, sidecut, camber profile, and weight. The skis that score well across the board are the most versatile and represent the characteristics of a true all-mountain ski – these are the skis that can handle all-terrain and perform well no matter the snow type.
If you're looking to choose one ski to do it all, the chances are that value is an important factor in deciding on your next pair to purchase. Fortunately, the all-mountain category generally offers plenty of bang for your buck. The K2 Mindbender 90Ti offers good all-mountain performance at a lower-than-average price. Of course, for a relatively small price increase, you could buy the Volkl M6 Mantra, the most versatile ski we tested. But our pick for the best balance of value and performance is the Faction Dictator 2.0.
Stability at Speed
A ski's stability is particularly important at speed. A ski is stable when it stays on the ground, doesn't chatter too much through a turn, and always allows you to stay in control. We assess stability by testing in steep terrain where edge hold is critical, by going fast and challenging a ski to hold an edge, and by testing on firm and icy snow where vibration can sometimes shake your confidence.
A ski's stability is related to many factors, including its rocker/camber profile and its construction and stiffness. Stiffness is measured torsionally (think twist) and along the length of the ski, 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 Black Crows Justis handle speed and firm snow easily and punch through variable conditions. Models like the Volkl M6 Mantra and the Nordica Enforcer 94 offer some of the highest stability scores. These skis can hold an edge at high speeds while suppressing vibration on firm and icy slopes.
Softer-flexing models like the Elan Ripstick 96 Black Edition chatter more at speed and struggle to hold an edge on hard-packed snow. They prefer to dance through harsh, bumpy snow rather than plow through it. Some of the chatter does come from the rocker, but the soft flex and lack of a metal laminate do not help them when things get firm and steep. The Rossignol Black Ops Sender Ti is one of our lowest scorers for this metric. It is playful and easy to use but is nothing short of spooky at high speed, especially on firm snow.
Weight often plays a significant role in the overall stability of a ski and is primarily the result of the materials used for construction and the ski's dimensions. Heavy models like to stay on the ground and can be more stable at speed. Lighter-weight skis, like the Faction Dictator 2.0, tend to be easier to use and more maneuverable but may also vibrate around more.
However, a heavier weight ski doesn't necessarily mean it is stiffer, and lightweight ones aren't always soft. Testers who enjoy being light on their feet and playing with the terrain tend to prefer lightweight models. Friends that push their gear hard and shred aggressively – plowing through bumps and going fast – seemed to like heavier, stiffer models.
Ski resorts are typically well-maintained playgrounds. Groomed terrain accounts for most 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. We scored each model based on its edge-to-edge quickness, carving ability, and edge hold for this metric. With plenty of groomers at our ski tips this season, we could lay each ski over on edge, and there were quite a few contenders for the best carving ski this year.
All-mountain skis with a more traditional design, like camber underfoot and a slightly narrower waist, are usually preferred for carving and on-piste performance. Stiffer, more powerful skis like the Nordica Enforcer 94 stand out as skis with designs that excel at carving on groomed snow. But slightly softer, more well-rounded skis like the Volkl M6 Mantra and the K2 Mindbender 90Ti handle a carve nearly as well, and they are much more versatile across the mountain.
The Nordica Enforcer 94, the top carver in the test, has a rockered tip for easy turn initiation, a tiny bit of tail rocker for easy turn release, and camber underfoot, which results in lots of pop and energy. This ability helped the Enforcer 94 earn recognition for its on-piste abilities.
Conversely, the Rossignol Black Ops Sender Ti has a more rocker-focused design that looks like a smooth, gradual bend from tip to tail. This design likely attributes to the Black Ops Sender Ti scoring the lowest in this category.
Rocker, Camber, or Both?
Many all-mountain skis have a certain amount of camber under the foot. This arching shape gives a ski its pop and energy when resting flat on the snow. When compressed, it helps create the arched shape of the turn.
Rockered designs are the opposite – they form a bowl shape when resting flat and pull the snow contact point toward the ski center. This design shortens the ski's effective edge length, and less edge contact with the snow can make for quicker and easier turn initiation. With a more turned-up tip, rockered skis are more likely to float in soft snow without adding width underfoot.
Many all-mountain models feature any combination of camber underfoot, early-rise tips (rocker tip), and/or rockered tails to appeal to a wider range of skiing styles and perform in various conditions.
A conversation that goes hand-in-hand with talking about carving ability is the discussion over ski geometry, specifically ski sidecut and the associated turn radius of a ski. All other things considered equal, a ski with a “deeper” sidecut – meaning a greater difference in widths between tip/tail and waist – is going to have a smaller turn radius and is going to be better at carving a tighter turn. Our carving champion, the Nordica Enforcer 94, has a turning radius of 17.1 meters, one of the shortest of this lot.
The entire lineup of all-mountain skis we tested has a “medium-length” turn radius, falling somewhere between 15-20 meters. What should come as no surprise is that a mid-length turn radius allows these skis to be more versatile regardless of terrain and use. Although sidecut and turn radius naturally affect a ski’s ability to cut a quick turn, these geometries change with ski length. We also know that weight, waist width, the shape of the ski, and especially the camber profile all factor into how easily a ski will engage or release from a turn.
Rocker technology has become commonplace within ski design, and most of the skis in this review have some type of rocker profile. Camber-purists are critical of this design because it shortens the effective edge of a ski. Rockered tips on skis like the Fischer Ranger 94 FR don't make contact with the snow unless you are railing turns, and even then, they can feel a bit floppy when carving. But also note that the turning radius of the Ranger 94 FR is on the shorter side of the skis we tested. So while rockered skis may not be the best option to carve on hardpack, they are often quick and easy to turn.
Once you wander off the groomed trails, the mountain can throw any condition your way. We rate each competitor on its performance in different snow conditions and begin this process by evaluating everyone's favorite: powder. We scored this based on each ski's ability to float through powder and stay on top when the snow gets deep. We looked for a surfy and floaty feel. Almost every model is fun in perfect powder because the perfect powder is fun and easy to ski. There are, however, some notable differences across skis in terms of how they perform in the soft stuff.
Among the competitors, the Blizzard Rustler 10 shows the clearest preference for soft snow. The Rossignol Black Ops Sender Ti is close behind. They were the obvious favorites in powder conditions with wide waists, big shovels, and lots of rocker. The less obvious favorites were the Volkl M6 Mantra and the Elan Ripstick 96 Black Edition. Despite these models' narrower waists, they impressed us in this category and kept up with the very best to provide float and fun in the fluff.
Although it’s not everything, having a wider underfoot ski will probably make your powder day a little bit more fun. A wider tip with a bit of rocker helps get you up on top of the snow, but a wider waisted ski will keep you there simply because it has more surface area to work with. Not true powder skis by modern standards, all-mountain skis with waist widths larger than 100 mm – like the Rossignol Black Ops Sender Ti, Black Crows Justis, or fan-favorite Blizzard Rustler 10 – are going to be more playful and surfy in the light and fluffy than narrower models.
The Faction Dictator 2.0 and K2 Mindbender 90Ti are impressive in fresh snow, though both may struggle on truly bottomless days. These skis are a little too narrow or have a bit less rocker, and they just don’t float as well as others we tested. In general, wider waists perform better in softer snow and struggle on-piste and firm conditions. But modern designs are changing that paradigm. Rocker designs help to keep ski tips floating above softer, deeper, and more variable snow conditions.
Variable snow can be a challenge to ski. We all encounter it at some point in the season, and having the right tool to get you through it is key. Variable-condition chargers are often well-rounded models that will always hold their own on the hill – anywhere, at any time. We rate crud performance based on each model's ability to dance through chopped-up powder and plow through variable conditions: think conditions like refrozen choppy snow, breakable crusts, or heavy slush. Can a ski still turn smoothly in the harshest snow conditions, or do they hook an edge? Can they plow through crusts, or do they dive underneath? Does the chatter from frozen snow reverberate through the ski and rattle your brain?
Regardless of conditions, heavier and stiffer models like the Black Crows Justis punch through – it tracks well through variable snow and is damp enough to keep you comfortable and confident through your turn. Rocker tips and wider waist widths on skis like the Justis or Blizzard Rustler 10 provide a lot of surface area and help keep your right side up in conditions like breakable crusts and heavy slush.
Playful models are easy to use, responsive, adapt well to changing terrain and are just downright fun. Skis that are a little loose and quick-to-turn with lots of pop are a go-to choice for those who want to turn the entire mountain into a terrain park. Gullies, little airs, and bumps are playgrounds for those light on their feet and creative with their terrain choices.
The Nordica Enforcer 94 and Rossignol Black Ops Sender Ti are the most playful skis we tested. Even though they are very different skis, our testers loved their unique, overall feel across various terrain features. The Blizzard Rustler 10 impressed with its playful pop into airs and forgiving flex on the landing and proves its ability to be ridden switch confidently. While we don't expect any of these skis to perform like a designated park ski, we expect them to make the entire mountain feel like a natural terrain park.
When commuting around the mountain to find the best snow after a storm, you'll inevitably find runs chopped up into some sort of mogul field. These aren't the fun zipper lines with a bouncy rhythm; these moguls are more erratic in shape and spacing.
Skis that demonstrate a consistent flex, have plenty of energy to pop from turn to turn, and feel light and nimble underfoot handle this type of terrain the best. While none of the products in this test are designed specifically with moguls in mind, the Faction Dictator 2.0 handles the bumps best. The combination of tip rocker and slight tail rocker in this ski helps provide easier turn initiation and release.
We've all been there: we're looking for a new pair of skis for the season, but we don’t want to dump our life savings into several pairs of skis. 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. Rest assured that there is a magical single ski out there for everyone, and we've made it our mission to help you find them.
If you're still skiing in your warped and scratched...
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