The 10 Best Powder Skis

Published on 12/28/2023 · 18 min readSki Expert Luke Hinz wants to help you be ready for those deep snow days this winter! Check out his list of the top 10 Expert recommended powder skis.
Luke H., Ski Expert
By Ski Expert Luke H.

Photo by mRGB

Whether you are a grizzled veteran of the slopes who regularly logs one hundred days per year at the resort or a burgeoning beginner getting their first taste of what it's like to stick two pieces of wood to your feet and slide down a mountain, there is one thing that every type of skier can say they covet more than anything: powder, powder, and more powder. There is nothing quite like the experience of carving your signature down a field of pristine, untouched powder.

It wasn’t that long ago that powder was actually viewed as a hindrance to skiers. Deep snow was not ideal for the long, skinny skis that were utilized for decades. But luckily for us, we are living in the powder renaissance. Somewhere along the way, someone deduced that a bigger, fatter ski would perform better on days with higher amounts of snowfall; from that day on, the powder ski was born.

Compared to other types of skis, such as carving skis or big mountain skis, powder skis are wide in order to ensure a greater surface area and, thus, maximum floatation in deep snow. They are also more playful in order to compensate for the soft, velvety touch of newly fallen snow. This is a general comparison chart of powder versus regular skis:

Powder SkisRegular Skis
Wider – more surface area means more floatNarrower – more versatile
More Tip Rocker – greater floatationLess Tip Rocker – edge control
More Tail Rocker – maneuverability off pisteLess Tail Rocker – powerful carves
Lighter – better floatationHeavier – less chatter

Below, we compile a list of our most recommended powder skis so that you don’t have to do all the heavy thinking. But first, what differentiates a powder ski from other skis? Let’s dive in:

What Makes a Great Powder Ski?

Photo by foodstck

So what makes a ski more suited to powder than, say, to all-mountain? The main factors include the width of a ski, the construction, and the rocker in the profile—all of which we breakdown below:

Width

Skis have gotten incredibly wide over the last two decades. Long gone are the days of the 210cm-length straight skis. Instead, skis have gotten both shorter and wider.

These days, most powder-dedicated skis have wide waists, with a waist width of anywhere from 105–125 millimeters (mm) underfoot. Those are some big skis! As you will see in this list, we tend to recommend skis that have dimensions within 110–120mm, which we have deemed the sweet spot for a dedicated pow ski.

Anything narrower starts to slip into the all-mountain category. As a result, the ski starts to sink below the snow surface, making it much harder to maneuver. Anything wider is reserved for some fantasy land where it dumps two feet of snow every day for days on end. If you happen to know where such a place is, please feel free to share it with the class.

As with most concepts in skiing, something that is effective on one part of the mountain is not so great for another. Wide skis tend to perform poorly on groomed runs and on-piste. They are not nearly as quick edge-to-edge, tend to be heavier, are harder to maneuver in tight spots, and have decreased torsional stiffness. But for a powder day, there is no doubt that wide skis reign supreme.

Construction

In this day of swiftly evolving technology, ski manufacturers are introducing all-new manner of materials into the construction of skis. Skis are built with mainly these components: wood composites, full wood cores, metal, fiberglass, and carbon fiber.

Manufacturers include varying ratios of these materials within the design to create different types of skis: the lightweight but ultra-stiff ski, the playful ski, or the heavy, burly ski that can blast through any type of snow condition. But because powder is, for the most part, much softer than groomed runs or ice, it usually reacts best to a softer, less stiff ski—so many powder skis shun metal (but not all!). In general, a heavier ski will sink into the power and be harder to turn, so many brands aim to produce a lighter, friendlier powder ski out of lightweight materials.

Rocker

Rocker profile is in reference to the general profile of a ski, and it requires a bit of exposition.

First, there are three main profiles for a ski:

  • Camber
  • Rocker
  • Camber/Rocker (which is a mix of both)

If you look at a normal narrow ski from the side view, camber is the slight arc that exists in the ski—starting from the tip, the profile of the ski slightly rises until it peaks directly below where the boot would be, then descends again to the tail. A great way to see camber visually is to hold a pair of skis with their bases together—the skis naturally bow away from each other in the middle.

Camber is what gives a ski incredible edge hold on groomed runs and ice and is what helps the ski turn. As the skier puts weight on the ski, the middle part of the ski bends, allowing the entire edge to make contact with the snow and helping the ski to naturally carve. Camber is a key component of race skis and carving skis, but as it turns out, it isn’t necessarily the best option for a powder ski due to the limits it places on maneuverability.

This is why you will see a lot of powder skis designed with rocker—otherwise known as reverse camber. And rocker is just that: the reverse of camber. On a ski with full rocker, the tip and tail are raised, and the profile slopes down to the middle of the ski. Essentially, the ski looks like a banana.

This shape allows the tip and tail of the ski to easily plane over snow, resulting in the best ride on a deep-powder day.

As with the width of a ski, there are drawbacks to having a rockered ski as well. Rockered skis are relatively ineffective on groomed runs and ice. The profile allows very minimal edge contact with the snow, so the ski can end up performing very unstable and skittish. A rockered ski can pivot very easily, but it cannot make precise turns like a cambered ski.

These days, many brands are electing to include a rocker/camber mix in their skis. This consists of regular camber in the middle of the ski in combination with tip rocker and tail rocker.

The camber keeps the ski edgy and stable on hardpack, but the rocker helps it float in soft snow and makes it easier to turn in trees and tight spots. Brands have different rocker-to-camber profiles based on what they want to achieve with the ski, so it's best to inquire about the dimensions of the ski beforehand.

That’s a lot of technical information, and if your eyes are now fully glazed over, I understand. Waist width and rocker are the last things us skiers are thinking about as the storm is rolling in. So now it’s time to break down the skis that best utilize all these concepts in order to make our list of the best powder skis.

Top 10 Powder Skis

1. Atomic Bent Chetler 120

The Bent Chetler is the brainchild of, you guessed it, Chris Benchetler, the iconic pro skier and longtime Atomic athlete. Atomic began producing the Bent Chetler in 2008, and since then, it has become a revered deep-powder weapon.

The ski harbors many of the same qualities as its founder—precision, poppiness, playfulness, and endless energy. The most noticeable factor regarding the new Bent Chetler is the weight; the original iteration weighed in at a whopping 2500 grams per ski, making it one of the heaviest skis on the market. But Atomic’s recent redesign—pairing a Karuba wood core reinforced with carbon stringers—produced a ski that weighs an eye-popping 1850 grams, which is absurdly light for such a big ski. That lightness is what gives the ski its playful and fun nature.

And while Atomic's Bent Chetler can manage on groomed runs and hardpack, it is most at home on deep-powder days—slashing between trees, airing off hits, or stomping down pillow lines. And with a weight to rival most touring skis, the Atomic Bent Chetler can also serve double time as a 50/50 resort/backcountry setup. The Bent Chetler 120 offers versatility for ultra-deep days.

2. K2 Mindbender 116C Alliance W

The Mindbender series from K2 has been making waves ever since it was introduced a few years ago. Their Alliance skis are aimed at female skiers who want an uncompromising, high-performing choice for their quiver. The Mindbender 116C is the widest ski in the lineup and has proven to be the ultimate Goldilocks powder ski.

The “C” in the name refers to carbon, which factors heavily into the construction of the Mindbender. K2 started with an Aspen veneer wood core, then combined it with their patented Carbon Spectral Braid, which allows for the precise application of torsional stiffness across the length of the ski.

Ultimately, the Mindbender seems to defy physics—it is a powder ski that is both playful and lightweight in deep snow but still stable and confident on ice and groomers. For female skiers who want a phenomenal tool for deep powder days that doesn’t sacrifice performance on trails and hardpack, the Mindbender is your quiver-killer of choice. And for the gentleman, look for the K2 Mindbender 116C.

3. Blizzard Rustler 11

The Rustler line was introduced in 2018 and was met with a lot of scrutiny as it replaced the ever-popular Blizzard Gunsmoke and Peacemaker. Could the new lineup live up to the effortless float and smooth carving ability offered by those past skis? Fortunately, Blizzard devotees had little to fear, and the newest rendition of the Rustler only improves on an incredibly powerful and versatile powder ski.

Blizzard's Rustler incorporates their patented Flipcore technology into the ski for energy and playfulness while also doing something unique—they combine titanal metal with the core. Now, we know what you’re thinking: "Just before this, you said that most powder skis shun metal!" And they still do, but Blizzard found a way to use metal to create a hard-charging ski that is still soft enough for powder.

The metal spans the width of the ski underfoot but then tapers in the tip and tail, leaving the outer ends of the Rustler softer than the rest of the ski. Add to that some healthy tip and tail rocker, and the Rustler is simply designed for cruising in deep snow. The metal keeps it damp and stable on groomed runs and at high speeds as well.

Interestingly, the Rustler’s width at the waist fluctuates depending on the length of the ski. The 164cm version starts at 110mm and then expands all the way to the 192cm length with a floatacious 116mm underfoot—essentially customizing the ski to different skiers. The added metal does make the Rustler heavier than other powder options, but for the hard-charging skier who wants an ample ski for powder that doesn’t sacrifice edge hold and stability on groomers, the Rustler is a phenomenal all-mountain/powder ski. And the gents hardly get all the fun—Blizzard offers a similar ski for the ladies in the Sheeva 10.

4. Faction Mana 3X

The Mana series of skis from Faction seem to defy any standard label. Is the Mana a stiff and stable twin tip ski? Or is it a playful and light freeride ski? Yes…and no…and all of the above. But with a 112mm waist, we do know that the Mana 3X is, in fact, a very awesome powder ski.

Faction isn’t overly big on supposed game-changing tech; instead, they focus on building sustainably built, high quality, durable skis for all skier types, no matter what skill level you may be. That being said, make no mistake that the Mana 3X definitely tips more toward the upper intermediate-to-expert scale. Unlike Faction’s other skis, such as the Dancer or Prodigy, the Mana has very little camber underfoot, but rocker in the tip and tail. So despite being stiffer than the Prodigy, this gives the Mana a more surfy quality, and it's easy to push the tail of the ski from one side to the other. A carbon/rubber stomp pad directly underneath the binding stiffens the midsection considerably, as well making the ski more durable for the inevitable cliff drops and table-top landings in between storms.

But despite its freestyle design, the Mana 3X proves to be a much more approachable ski than it looks. Even with its wide waist, the Mana can still carve down groomed runs and get frisky in tight trees. The 3X is marketed as the Women’s version, but Faction has no structural difference between Men’s and Women’s, so the only real question left is, which graphics feed the fiber of your fabric?

5. Nordica Unleashed 114

While Nordica is best known for their wildly popular Enforcer line of skis, their newest line, the Unleashed, brings a much needed bit of playfulness, agility, and pop to their skis. In contrast to the Enforcer's two sheets of Titanal metal sandwiched over the wood core, the Unleashed goes for a bit more forgiving style, relying instead on one single sheet of Nordica’s Terrain Specific Metal, in which the amount of metal varies by the width of the ski. Basically, with the Unleashed line, the more narrow the ski, the more metal there is. And in turn, with wider skis such as this 114 behemoth, there is less metal. The Titanal runs like a spine down the backbone of the ski, giving it just enough stability and dampness to rail turns on hardpack, but still retain enough play for off-piste maneuverability and powder days.

Nordica finishes the Unleashed off by constructing it with a playful twin tip, meaning this ski is just as at home throwing Cork 7’s off a backcountry kicker as it is slashing and slarving through the deepest of powder days. The Unleashed finds the perfect balance between stability and playfulness that is all too rare in powder skis these days.

6. Armada ARW 116 VJJ

The VJJ, if you weren’t aware, is aimed at female freestyle skiers looking for a playful and undemanding powder ski that can slice through powder in all its forms. The VJJ is the exact opposite of the hard-charging, heavy, and stiff Nordica Santa above. Instead, Armada markets it as the ultimate lightweight and maneuverable powder ski for any type of terrain.

The VJJ utilizes a Karuba wood core only—no metal and no carbon present—and weighs in at a jaw-dropping 1550 grams per ski in the 165cm length. It also has an incredibly soft flex and a short turn radius, making it a great option for dropping pillows and slashing between trees.

Lastly, the ARW incorporates Armada’s patented Smear Tech, a 3D beveled base in the tip and tail that, you guessed it, lets the ski smear effortlessly through deep snow. The Armada ARW 116 is a great option for any skier looking for a light and forgiving option for epic powder days. The men’s ARV 116 JJ is a bit heavier and stiffer.

7. Salomon QST Blank

I like to think that the QST Blank received its name because it allows you to effortlessly make turns across a blank canvas of freshly fallen snow. But it turns out the name comes from the Blank Collective: an assortment of Salomon athletes who were fundamental in designing the all-new QST Blank for this season.

In order to make way for the Blank, Salomon discontinued the QST 118 and produced this ski instead—which they claim combines the best attributes of the 118 and the QST 106. It certainly hits the mark with a 112mm waist, but there’s much more to the ski than the waist. The Blank is built with a poplar wood core and Salomon’s C/FX fiber, which adds strength with minimal weight gain. Salomon finishes the ski with a titanal plate underfoot and cork damplifiers in the tip and tail that absorb vibrations and prevent chatter.

All this equals a ski that is very damp and stable in all snow conditions. Yet it also results in a heavier ski—the Blank weighs roughly 2250 grams per ski, which is definitely on the heavier side of skis in the 110-120mm spectrum. But for skiers who want a powder ski that can not only surf powder but blast through chop, crud, and variable snow, the Blank is a candidate to be your new best friend.

8. Line Pandora 110

The Pandora line of skis has been making headlines for a number of years for being a highly forgiving and playful option for lady skiers. And while the 84, 94, and 104 versions are aimed at all-mountain skiers, the 110 puts itself squarely in the crosshairs of women looking for a specific ski for deep pow days.

Line gets pretty creative with the construction of this ski, starting with the so-called “Partly Cloudy” core—a combination of paulownia and maple for the best strength-to-weight ratio. Then Line goes a step further with its THC Construction, which is an apt name for such a trippy blend of carbon, fiberglass, and Aramid, a material similar in texture and strength to Kevlar. Line claims that the three materials resonate at different frequencies and, when they are all resonating at once, they cancel each other out—essentially snuffing out any vibrations between them. To top all that off, the Pandora sports a multi-radius sidecut, so it can just as easily arc quick, tight turns with lots of pop as it can long, high-speed turns in powder.

Also, the graphics on the Pandora are second to none! THC construction, indeed! The Line Vision 118 fits the bill for male rippers but with not nearly as cool graphics.

9. Head Kore 117

If you’ve been paying attention, the Head Kore series almost always seems to make an appearance on these ‘Most Recommended’ lists. So now here we are again, singing the praises of this highly versatile line-up from Head.

The Kore 117 takes advantage of the same basic construction of the Kore skis but in an obese package. Head used graphene and carbon in place of metal to stiffen the ski, then combined it with a lightweight Karuba core. The resulting ski is incredibly lightweight for being marketed as a hard-charging resort ski. But it is also surprisingly stiff and well on par with heavier skis with metal in them.

Due to its powder focus, the Kore 117 does have deeper rocker lines than its narrower brethren. Otherwise, the Kore lives up admirably to its pedigree, meaning it can carve confidently on hard snow, but can still turn on a dime in deep snow. The Kore 117 would be a perfect option for skiers looking for a dedicated powder ski they could use both inbounds and out or for aggressive skiers who want a stiff, directional powder ski but without the weight of a metal ski.

10. Dynastar M-Free 108

According to my own rules, technically, the Dynastar M-Free 108 shouldn’t even be on this list—it's too narrow! But with a 108mm waist, not only was the M-Free tantalizingly close, it's simply too much fun.

The M-Free is as much a freeride ski as a dedicated powder ski. It has what Dynastar calls a hybrid core, a combination of poplar wood for energy and precision response and polyurethane to add dampness and stability at a lighter weight. Dynastar then adds a titanal metal plate under the binding and finishes with glass laminate. As a result, the M-Free 108 is hardly the lightest powder ski out there and actually weighs quite a bit more than some of the wider skis listed above. But it makes up for all that with its infectious playfulness and smeary, surfer character.

This ski can be driven hard when you want to, but it can also slash and dash, hitting every jump visible on the way down—and it’s not afraid to get sideways. Overall, the M-Free provides supreme suspension for a playful skier hoping to mix it up on deep days.

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As skiers, deep powder days are what we live for, and the skis listed above are the cream of the crop in terms of the ultimate tools to surf, slash, and carve up the soft stuff. The deepest of powder days can be a rare thing indeed, so make sure you’re armed with the right gear when the white stuff starts falling from the heavens. As always, I encourage you to reach out to me or any of my fellow Ski Experts here on Curated to help you find the right powder ski for you.

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