Can't stop thinking about which boards you'll take into the white room? Neither can we. To find the best powder skis, we evaluated 60+ models and tested the 8 best in over 100 hours of intensely joyful work. Our expert testers cycled through each pair of boards to find the top floaters, heroes of the slarve, and which models still have an edge to get you back to the lift. The terrain varied considerably, and so did the snow. The contenders were shot through mega-steep chutes as well as thick, pillowy glades. The result is a world-class review of the best mountain-slayers available, whether you are seeking overall powder prowess, a pair of dreamy floaters, or simply the biggest steal of a deal.
The Best Powder Skis for Men of 2018
To provide the best beta for your powder hunting habits, we cleared out old models and bought a few new ones to test out as soon as the snow starts flying. All the skis reviewed here are carrying through the winter of '18/'19 and only the Atomic Backland Bent Chetler and Black Crows Corvus have major updates. While we haven't tested the new versions yet, we detail the changes in their individual reviews. Some of the other skis have updated graphics but are otherwise unchanged. No matter how minor the update, we make sure to let you know all about it.
Best Overall and Best Value Powder Ski
Back by popular demand, the Moment Wildcat is the people's champ. 2016 brought the revival of this beloved shape, and fat-board fans rejoiced. Whether or not you knew the original, it's worth knowing now that the Wildcat got better. Still sporting the classic dimensions of 141/116/131, the Wildcat has been upgraded with carbon fiber stringers and a UHMW sidewall with semi-cap construction. The result is an ultra-burly, lightweight, and stunty powder ski that was reviewed as "destroying everything in its path". These planks can float with the best of 'em but were also the go-to setup regardless of snow types. The relatively moderate waist width coupled with a camber-friendly Mustache Rocker gives it phenomenal edge hold while also remaining playful and surfy. It's also got one of the lowest price tags in the review. Lucky you.
Blending floaty, freeride surfability with an aggressive top-end stability, there isn't much that the Wildcat can't do. Our reviewers agreed that this ski performed well across the board, though it preferred to be driven through deep snow and high-angle terrain. This is a hard-charging, in-your-face powder weapon that never hesitates to send. User be warned: the Wildcat is radder than you. If you're looking for excellent powder skiing but want to shed some ounces for all-day backcountry missions, look no further than the Moment Wildcat Tour, the lightweight touring version of the favorite ski. This ski received minor updates to the semi-cap design for 2018, as well as a new top sheet. Click into the review for more details.
Read review: Moment Wildcat
Top Pick for First Tracks Powder
When it came to dedicated float ability, there was an unmistakable and unapologetic victor. The Line Pescado performed like no other powder ski in this lineup, delivering a decadent bounce out of deep particle and smearing turns like an absolute pro. One tester dubbed it the "Hokkaido Dream Machine" due to its whimsical buoyancy in hero snow. With a sidecut of 158/125/147, the Pescado boasts an outrageously large shovel and swallowtail construction that conjures a likeness to old-school Hawaiian surfboards.
Apparently, these elements of design work much the same way in blower—which is the preferred habitat of the Pescado. Being one of the lightest offerings in the lineup, these boards are exceptionally nimble and track best atop soft snow. Head-to-head comparisons proved to our testers that the Pescado surfs and slashes like no other when the conditions are right, winning it the Top Pick for First Tracks. While there are no updates for the 2018 season, it appears as though Line will be releasing a revamped Pescado in 2019 with different graphics but the same exotic design.
Read review: Line Pescado
Top Pick for Freeride Powder
Atomic Backland Bent Chetler
Designed by backcountry-freeride Guru, Chris Benchetler, the Atomic Backland Bent Chetler has made a name for itself as a jibby, spine-slurping powerhouse. It has been one of the winningest powder specific skis for the past seven years, and for good reason. New for 2017 is the Atomic's innovative HRZN Tech construction that fuses lateral ABS sidewalls in tip and tail with a horizontal rocker that increases floatable surface area and makes for effortless shmears. With an updated poplar woodcore and carbon backbone for reinforcement, the Bent Chetler is playful and remains stable in chop. This ski begs to be buttered, ollied, nollied, and spun.
Although it's not as light as the Salomon QST 118, the Bent Chetler feels nimble and floaty in a variety of snow conditions. Trippy graphics and a long-standing reputation caught the attention of our testers who validated that the Chetler lives up to its name. Our review team was impressed by this ski's ability to stunt around the mountain—whether it was deep, narrow, bombed-out or upside-down. For its rambunctiously playful float, we award the Atomic Bent Chetler the Top Pick for Freeride Powder.
Read review: Atomic Backland Bent Chetler
Analysis and Test Results
A powder ski review necessitates deep snow--of which we had plenty. But in classic Tahoe fashion, this season also brought baking sun, heavy relief rainfall, and hurricane-force winds. It goes without saying that we experienced every snow imaginable during the review process. Tests were performed amidst stellar freeskiing days as well as working day-to-day on the most substantial ski team program in North America. We lent them out to friends, colleagues, and athletes of all configurations to harvest the deepest possible pool of shred data. They were put to work, day-in, and day-out. They were fired off The Palisades, threaded through steep-and-deep trees, and some of them even made an appearance on the bulletproof World Cup training venue. All-in-all, these boards are intended to cruise over deep snow and not hold edge on a watered racing surface. But in the spirit of all-mountain savagery, we were exhaustive in our testing.
To many die-hards, light-particle powder skiing is the single greatest feeling on earth. Weekend warriors and van-dwelling dirtbags alike are always chasing that elusive euphoria of dropping into the white room. That said, 'powder' snow takes on many forms, can be found on nearly any type of terrain, and can require a specialized style of skiing if your gear isn't cut out for the crud. Ideally, a well-rounded powder ski isn't a one-trick-pony. We believe that you need to be able to trust your powder tools to also get you around the mountain. Because even when the conditions are less-than-legendary, fresh snow is always fun. If you disagree, we kindly ask you to rearrange your priorities.
For this review, we set out to assess these skis from the canon of all-mountain powder performance. This means that we took into consideration how well the boards perform on crusty, tracked-out, and firm snow surfaces as well—conditions that you'll likely encounter on your way to or from your favorite stash. Don't get us wrong; floatation was our primary consideration as this is a bonafide powder ski review. Though with modern advancements in ski technology, there is no reason that a fatty becomes a fish out of water when it comes to all-mountain shred-ability.
In designing this review, we identified six metrics that we felt were essential to the overall performance of a powder ski. We settled on stability at speed, carving, crud-busting performance, float, playfulness, and versatility as our evaluation criteria. In the onset, we thoroughly examined each pair to determine physical specs like weight, the durability of construction, and relative stiffness. Though, as they say, the proof was in the pudding. The bulk of our testing was performed on-snow as we ran each contender through a gauntlet of metric-specific performance objectives like straight lining The Slot and coming to a complete stop in peppered avalanche debris. While certain skis fared better in certain categories, the cumulative, weighted scores were used in determining the overall rating of each model.
Putting together a new ski setup can be an expensive endeavor. If you're looking to maximize the value of your next powder ski purchase, look no further.
When we're out on the mountain, all we care about is performance, but when it comes to recommending the best skis for our friends, we also consider your budget. In this review, it's easy to get the best of both worlds. The Moment Wildcat is our favorite powder ski and is one of the least expensive in the review. The Wildcat makes our job easy.
Float is without-a-doubt the most important metric in this review—which is why we weighted it the most heavily. If nothing else, a powder ski is bred to perform as an unrelenting, snow-slashing floatation device. It is the tool you rely upon when the snow is deep, and the stoke is high.
Fatter-than-average dimensions give the skis in this category an inherent ability to glide atop snow with ease. But a powder ski must also execute turns when in the fluff. Thankfully, modern ski technology has given us the ability to float and turn in soft snow without burning out our legs.
We were careful to rate this metric, as floatation has a multitude of performance cues. To assess, we rated each ski on its ability to plane and glide on top of deep snow. Not only that, but we also paid attention to how quickly each ski would rebound if pushed below the surface. We took note of how easily the ski could maneuver in powder as well as how well it could hover without having to adjust our riding stance. We had a preference for surfy, playful boards to the stiff and boaty variety. Powder skiing is undeniably fun, but there were some nuanced differences in performance that are worth recognizing.
Most of the contenders had waist widths in excess of 115 mm. Fatness aside, there are other design considerations when it comes to finding the perfect float. Rockered profiles and dramatic shovel shapes give the added benefit of keeping your tips tracking on top of the deep stuff so you won't submarine and lose momentum. Furthermore, lightweight construction and mixed core materials have improved the swing weight of these portly boards, allowing them to be turned and slashed with great swiftness.
By no surprise and much to our delight, all of the skis we reviewed performed well in powder. There was, however, one standout model that had a knack for surfing the deep stuff: the Line Pescado. This ski is designed with key attributes aimed at enhancing floatiness and providing tremendous maneuverability in deep snow. The Pescado, drawing inspiration from old-school surfboards, delivered exceptional buoyancy reminiscent of actually floating in water. Though the Spur also had tremendous amounts of float, it couldn't maneuver quite as quickly as the Pescado could. The lightweight Solomon QST 118 was playful and responsive in soft snow, but lacked the guts to stay afloat in heavier powder or on high-angle lines. As expected, the Moment Wildcat was also a top-performer in this category, alongside the Elan Ripstick.
Stability at Speed
A ski's stability is often defined by its ability to remain firmly planted on the snow surface without chattering or tossing about in variable snow. This criterion becomes an even greater consideration when driving the ski at speed. Reactive forces from snow to ski are amplified at greater velocity, which depending on your setup, can become treacherous when you point 'em straight down the fall line. A ski that is stable at speed provides the skier with a steady and secure platform with which to rip turns, send chutes, and bisect mogul-dotted bowls with ease.
We assessed stability by finding steep, multi-surfaced pitches on which to let the skis reach full speed. After letting the ponies run, the tester would make full turns across the fall-line at varying radii—paying close attention to the smoothness and reliability of ski-to-snow contact. Additionally, we tested this metric by executing high-speed hockey stops in steep terrain because going fast tends to get hairy when you can't shut it down in time. In short, stability was measured by the skis overall steadiness and the skier's confidence to complete these maneuvers without losing control.
Powder-specific skis aren't exactly known for their stability on firm snow. But they should be able to provide a damp and comfortable ride on variable snow. Pow skis are made soft and wide for a reason, which can sometimes have an adverse effect on how well they handle high-speed runouts. Furthermore, heavily-rockered skis are notorious for slapping around on anything but fresh snow. While stiffer skis are considered to have greater stability at speed, this can compromise floatation and rebound ability—especially when driven by lighter, more intermediate skiers. And a rockered flex pattern allows to the ski to track over terrain fluctuations but can be a bit squirrelly on firm surfaces.
Striking the perfect balance between stiffness/dampness and rocker/camber—both directly related to stability—can be exceedingly difficult. It is perhaps no surprise that we had the most significant degree of variance amongst ratings in this metric. Softer skis like the Solomon QST 118 tended to get bossed around when ridden at speed. They prefer to bounce in and out of low-angle bumps rather than crushing through steep, tracked-out snow. Stiffer, heavier skis like the Volkl Confession and Black Crows Corvus had seemingly no speed limit and ate up vibrations with ease. The Corvus and Blizzard Spur sped away with the highest scores in this category, taking home a near perfect 9 out of 10.
Stiff skis aren't always heavy, though weight can give you some extra oomph when hitting the gas. Because of these tradeoffs, stability can fluctuate depending on how you intend to use the ski. Testers that enjoy playful, energetic, easy-driving skis had a preference for the lighter and more flexible options. Those who prefer aggressive turn shapes and big lines felt more comfortable on beefier boards like the Corvus or Confession.
When you're getting tubbed in the deep stuff on an inbounds day, you're bound to run into some rough conditions. Off-piste skiing necessitates the tools and techniques to blast through choppy snow without getting mangled. Specific to this grouping, a powder ski's ability to manage variable snow is arguably more important than its ability to carve. Thus, we've rated this metric twice as heavily as the carving category. Trust us on that one.
We rated crud-skiing performance based on each models dampness, plowing ability, resistance to 'grabbing' or 'hooking', and ability to link turns in variable snow. We pushed the contenders through all kinds of beastly conditions: manky bumps, twice-baked potatoes, and re-frozen, bombed-out traverses come to mind. Such conditions are obviously not the goal on a powder day, but this metric was intended to discern which skis could handle chop with grit.
By nature, powder skis are better suited to glide over chunky snow when compared to other skis. Fatter shapes and rockered construction permit a skier to cruise over variable snow without much kickback or physical consequence. The caveat being that lighter, flexier powder boards tend to get bossed around when not in a deep float. Stiffer models like the Black Crows Corvus and Blizzard Spur were more assertive when it came to breaking through crust and crud at high speeds. Softer, more playful models like the Salomon QST 118 could bounce in and out of cushy contours but wouldn't handle icy crud or high-angle chop with confidence. Progressively-flexed models like the Elan Ripstick 116 have enough rocker to pop over crud, but not enough backbone to drive through it. The Volkl Confession was the highest scorer in this metric, but the Blizzard Spur and Black Crows Corvus also earned some high marks for their crud-busting prowess.
A ski that is playful often feels energetic, easier to engage, and overall more responsive to the drivers' commands. 'Fun' is, of course, a subjective qualifier, just as playfulness is in the eye of the shredder. Thus the precedent for a playful, fun ski evolves with speed, terrain, and skier type. So to provide the most baseline review of this metric, we aimed to be objective in our assessment of playfulness.
To do so, we monitored the performance and liveliness of each ski in a variety of snow conditions through all types of mountainous playgrounds. We buttered our turns, aired off of obstacles, spun off of spines, and hit ridge transfers. There were ollies and nollies; tail taps and backies. In a general sense, we rated playfulness by the skis responsive energy, agility, and pop.
There were two standout models when it came to playfulness in the powder category: the Atomic Backland Bent Chetler and the Moment Wildcat both received nearly perfect scores. The Chetler has softer-flexing tails that include horizontal rocker. These attributes allowed us to wash out turns with ease and were forgiving when the terrain got tight. Softer models could snap all kinds of fun turn shapes but tended to get a little jumpy at higher speeds. On the other hand, the Wildcat had a bit more beef to back up those big drops and high-speed jibs.
Also worth mentioning are the Solomon QST 118, which were light and agile underfoot but had a more directional focus than the Moment Wildcat. Stiff boards, while able to take a beating, weren't as lively as the others. The bigger, heavier guns prefer to stay on the ground and only come alive on fast, high-angle terrain.
You wouldn't expect to find 'carving' in the lexicon of a powderhound. Terms like slarving, slashing, and shmearing seem more fitting in their turn-shape vocabulary. Nevertheless, the ability to link arcs is an important consideration when judging a ski's overall performance—no matter which niche they cater to. Given the average waist width in this lineup, the contenders obviously aren't going to roll over as quickly as a dedicated carver would. However, our testers were pleasantly surprised by their ability to set an edge and bring it across the fall-line.
Nowadays, powder boards are a blend of rockered and cambered construction which typically have a shorter effective edge. Put simply, the effective edge is the length of the ski that makes contact with snow when you stand on it. With even a moderate amount of camber underfoot, shaped powder skis can arc nice turns on firm snow when adequate boot pressure is applied—even for intermediate skiers. Rockered tips (AKA early rise) bring the contact point closer to boot center and allow for quicker, easier turn initiations. Because of this, long powder skis have a shorter-than-expected turn radius while still providing better float and stability in chop when compared to a fully cambered ski. In addition to aiding float, rockered tips and tails help the skier execute varying turn shapes by offering different contact points when skied in powder. So in essence, the effective edge of a rockered ski changes depending on the conditions.
Some alpine purists scoff at rockered skis becoming so pervasive. Skeptics will argue that less effective edge is a noticeable performance trade-off. When it comes to powder skis, this trade-off is negligible if not welcome to provide more excellent float in deep snow. And if you're using these skis to find the deep stuff, the firm snow you encounter likely comes in the form of crusty wind slabs and not tasty groomers.
Beyond powder skiing, we believe that rockered designs provide greater utility to all-mountain skiers by enabling them to use longer, more stable skis that are still maneuvered with ease on firm snow. You'd be hard-pressed to find a dedicated powder ski that doesn't have rocker. In fact, rocker is increasingly common in all-mountain skis as well. That said, many of the contenders from our test were still able to carve smoothly when taken out of deep snow. For this metric, we rated each model based on ease of turn initiation, exiting power of each turn, and confidence in edge hold. Our testers were asked to find a firm, consistent surface with a considerable pitch on which to make aggressive turn shapes. By carving rhythmically with consistent edge pressure, they were to complete turns at the smallest possible radius for the ski.
The two standout models for carving are the Volkl Confession and the Elan Ripstick 116. All of these choices have stout sidewall construction, considerable camber, and stiffer-than-usual tails for a powder ski—all characteristics more commonly found in a full-on frontside carver. Not surprisingly, each of these models come from brand families traditionally seen on World Cup podiums. With an appetite for speed, they are quick to initiate and accelerate through the finish of each turn with. Of our favorites in this category, the Volkl Confession takes the cake for carvy-ness. With titanal bands for torsional flex and a sidecut radius of more than 21 meters, the Confession handles aggressive edge pressure and top-end turn shapes with ease—winning it our highest score for carving - a 9 out of 10.
Powder skis are undoubtedly designed to fill a particular niche. But that doesn't necessarily mean we want to sacrifice performance when skiing anything but creamy hero snow.
You likely won't find a quiver-killer in this pow-ski lineup, but it's prudent to know how well each model operates across-the-board. We rated versatility by considering how confident we were to take each ski out on any given day. It was a relative measure of the skis ability to perform in all of the listed metrics, not simply powder.
It may not be surprising that our skinniest ski also received the highest score for versatility. The Atomic Bent Chetler and Moment Wildcat were well-rounded in all-mountain performance, while the Solomon QST 118 and Line Pescado had a noticeable preference for the soft stuff.
Who We Are
Our reviewing methods employed a collaborative testing model that relied on input from a variety of skiers. Our primary testers are professionals in the ski industry and depend on their equipment to perform reliably in all conditions. We asked these experts, along with their colleagues and friends, to put these powder boards to the test on a diverse collection of terrain and snow types. By utilizing testers of different size, gender, skier type, and geographical backgrounds, we aimed to grab a comprehensive data set that discluded any possible bias.
Rob Woodworth, Lead Test Editor
- Age: 27 HT: 6'2" WT: 200 lbs.
- Occupation: U12 Head Coach, Squaw Valley Ski Team
Rob is a lifelong adventurer and perennial student of the outdoors. He trains the winter months as an alpine ski racing coach at Squaw Valley and spends his shoulder season roaming the great American west in his super-groovy '83 Chevy camper van with a trail hound named Wrennie Mae. When not in his coaching boots, Rob can be found getting after the steep-and-deep of the Tahoe backcountry with said trail hound and ragged company.
Rob's favorite model in this review was the Moment Wildcat. He was delighted to find a fat ski that was both damp and stable at speed, eager to get on edge, and stiff enough to get driven hard without sacrificing any float. He liked the playful sidecut radius and rockered tail that allowed for beautiful washouts in the exit of each turn. While he usually opts for longer skis with metal backbones, he found the 184 cm Wildcat to be stable enough for a skier his size.
— Rob Woodworth