The Most Recommended Types of SkisPublished on 07/30/2023 · 14 min readExplore top recommended skis for your skiing style and terrain preferences: all-mountain, powder, carving, and freestyle options explained!
Photo by Bear Fotos
If you’ve spent much time looking around for a new pair of skis lately, it’s hard not to notice that there are hundreds of options out there. It can get overwhelming quickly and seem like a huge task to narrow it down to the perfect pair. Luckily, not all skis are equal! There are several different categories or “types” of skis out there that are all designed for specific types of skiing, from deep powder to icy groomers and everything in between. Figuring out what type of ski will be the best for you is the first step in narrowing your options down significantly.
I have been an avid skier since I was four years old, and I’ve worked in the ski industry for the last seven-ish years. At this point, I have tested a lot of skis, researched a lot of skis, and stayed on top of all the new trends and technology in the ski world. Working as a Curated Expert, I often get skiers coming to chat with me about disliking their current skis, only to find out they are skiing on a ski that is completely different from the type of skiing they are doing.
Skiing on the wrong type of ski for your skiing style can make skiing feel frustrating and tiring, and it’s also a totally avoidable problem! In this guide, I will break down the different types of top recommended skis, explain what each of them is, what type of skier they are good for, and list some of the top recommended skis in that category. This will help you to take that first step in your journey to finding the perfect ski! Let’s jump in!
All-mountain skis are the most versatile type of ski. As the name suggests, they are specifically meant to handle a wide variety of terrain or snow you might find on the mountain. They can float and manage well in some powder, but they are also excellent at carving up the hardpack. All mountain skis typically have a waist width of around 88-105 mm. Though any all-mountain ski is meant to handle both off-piste and on-piste, the wider the all-mountain ski, the better it handles in powder. For a more in-depth look at all-mountain skis, check out this article.
- Skiers who ski both on and off-piste in all types of snow conditions and terrain
- Skiers who want to get into powder skiing but are still newer to the sport and want an approachable option to start tackling off-piste terrain
Top Recommended All Mountain Skis
The Nordica Enforcer 100 is a beloved and popular all-mountain option due to its versatility and stability. This ski combines a full wood core with two sheets of metal, which gives experienced skiers excellent power and response. It also has early-rise tips and tails for better flotation in powder and ease of turning. The metal layers make this ski a bit stiffer and heavier than other all-mountain skis, which is great for stability and experienced skiers but can make it hard to maneuver for newer skiers or lightweight skiers. (If that’s you, check out the Enforcer 88 or 94, which will be a bit more maneuverable).
The Black Pearl 97 from Blizzard has been one of the top-selling women’s skis for the last few years, and for good reason. The Black Pearl is agile and easy to control in a variety of snow conditions and terrain. It features a lightweight wood core infused with carbon, which gives it a nice balance of lightness, strength, and dampness. It is wide enough to handle deeper snow yet nimble for carving up groomed runs.
3. Head Kore 93
The Head Kore 93 is a lightweight and responsive option for skiers who like to do a bit of everything on the mountain. It uses Graphene, Koroyd, and Carbon sandwich cap construction, which provides an impressive strength-to-weight ratio. Its wider waist width allows for good float in soft snow, while the Karuba wood core offers quick response when carving. The Kore is light enough to float and feel maneuverable but still burly enough to bust through any type of variable snow. If you’re primarily skiing in icy areas at high speeds, it will feel a bit chattery, but if you ski anywhere else, it’s a super well-rounded option.
The multi-layer wood core and carbon flipcore DRT technology make the Rustler 9 a great all-around performer. It’s very responsive in different styles of snow conditions and feels a bit more playful in turns than a lot of other all-mountain skis. The Rustler 9 has less material in the tip and tail to reduce swing weight, allowing for easy turn initiation and the ability to make short, snappy turns.
Powder skis are meant for skiing primarily off-piste and in new snow. They are wider than all mountain skis to float better over powder and usually have a more rockered tip and tail than all mountain skis, which also helps them to stay on top of the fresh stuff. The waist width of powder skis can range from 105 mm to 120 mm. Their wider width and rockered tip and tail make it harder to engage an edge on a powder ski while carving on hardpack or groomers, but they make for an awesome ride on new snow. Looking for more info on how to choose the right powder ski? Click here.
- Skiers who typically ski in areas with a lot of fresh snowfall
- Skiers who don’t spend much time on the groomers or on-trail at the resorts and primarily go off trail in search of fresh powder
Top Recommended Powder Skis
The older brother of the Rustler 9, the Rustler 11 Blizzard is a top choice for deep powder conditions, thanks to its wide underfoot and rocker-camber-rocker profile. This ski features the same multi-layer wood core as the Rustler 9, which keeps it playful in deep snow, and the wood core is sandwiched by Titanal, which allows for a responsive feel in softer snow and a stable ride when you're charging through mixed conditions.
2. Salomon QST Blank
Another playful option for powder hounds is Salomon's QST Blank. It’s the widest in the popular QST line with a waist width of 112, which helps it stay on top of the new stuff while still being able to turn quickly through tight areas such as trees. It features a poplar wood core and a carbon/flax blend for optimal power and stability while maintaining a lightweight feel. It also utilizes a generous tip and tail rocker for float and maneuverability.
The widest on this list, the Black Crows Nocta has a 122mm waist and full reverse camber design, which make it incredibly buoyant in even the deepest of powder. The paulownia and poplar wood core adds responsiveness and strength without excessive weight, so even though it is wide, it’s still lively enough to be maneuverable and easy to control through soft snow, trees, or any other type of fresh snow terrain you might find yourself in. The low weight also makes the Nocta a popular crossover resort and backcountry ski.
4. Nordica Santa Ana 110
The Santa Ana 110 from Nordica is designed to tackle deep snow with a blend of power and lightness. It combines a balsa wood core with carbon and two sheets of Titanal, making it strong and stable on variable snow yet playful and fun in soft snow. The Titanal gives this ski a stiffer feel, which, combined with the wider width, makes it a bit harder to control for lightweight skiers or beginner-intermediate skiers.
Carving skis are pretty much the opposite of powder skis. They are designed for skiers who don’t tend to wander off the trail at all and primarily stick to the groomers and hardpack conditions. They have a narrower waist width and less rockered tips and tails, which make it easy to initiate turns, hold an edge, and get a stable grip on firm snow. The narrower width and less rocker make them great for carving but not so great for staying on top of fresh snow. They are also typically heavier than powder skis or all mountain skis and are constructed with more metal in the ski itself.
The higher weight and metal make these skis feel stable on hardpack, ice, or at high speeds. The waist width of carving skis ranges anywhere from 70 mm on the low end up to 88 mm on the high end. For more about how to choose the right carving ski, check out this article.
- Skiers who ski exclusively on trail
- Newer skiers who are still working on getting their form and skills down
- Skiers who live in areas that get minimal snowfall and have a lot of icy days (such as the east coast or Midwest)
Top Recommended Carving Skis
The Blizzard Brahma 82 is a highly responsive and versatile carving ski, especially for east coast skiers who ski a good amount of ice and need the best edge grip they can get. Its narrower profile with a multi-layer wood core sandwiched between two sheets of metal offers great edge grip and reliable performance on groomed and hard-packed snow, while the slight tip and tail rocker help with turn initiation and release. The metal layers do make this ski a bit heavier and stiffer, so it’s better suited for more advanced to expert skiers rather than beginner to intermediate skiers.
The Stöckli Laser SC is a high-performance carving ski that offers precision and stability. It features a sandwich sidewall construction with a wood core and two sheets of Titanal, allowing for excellent energy transfer and edge grip on hard snow. This construction also makes the Laser SC exceptionally stable at high speeds on groomed runs, hardpack, or ice, and it’s powerful enough to bust through crud or slush with no problem.
With the Volkl Kendo’s 88 mm waist width, it toes the line between a carving ski and an all-mountain ski, making it a great option for skiers who primarily need high-performance while carving but also like to dip into the trees for a run or two once in a while. It combines a wood core with Titanal, making it strong, stable, and responsive. Its double-rocker shape aids in quick turn initiation and smooth ride in varying snow conditions.
If you’re a newer skier who's still working on getting their form down and doesn’t expect to be speed racing down the runs, this one’s for you! The Salomon S/Max N°6 is a popular choice for carving skiers looking for a lightweight and agile ski. It features a wood core with a layer of carbon and a full sandwich sidewall for maximum edge grip on hardpack. Its Edge Amplifier Technology allows for efficient energy transfer, making turns feel effortless. For advanced to expert skiers, it will feel a bit wobbly when skiing fast on hardpack, but it’s a great intro carving option. And as a bonus, these skis are sold as a set with bindings!
Do none of these stand out? Read this article for even more carving ski recommendations!
Also known as park skis or twin tips, freestyle skis are made for park skiing. If you like hitting jumps, rails, and doing tricks, freestyle skis would be a great option for you. They are typically lighter and shorter than other types of skis, which makes them more maneuverable leading to better accuracy during takeoff, in the air, and on the landing. They also have curved tips at both the tip and the tail of the ski, which makes it easy to ski forward or backward. They typically range in width from 80 mm - 95 mm.
Some freestyle skiers prefer a narrower ski so they have less weight to work with while doing tricks, while other freestyle skiers prefer a wider ski so they have a larger area to land on. Wider freestyle skis are a bit more versatile since they can handle some off-piste skiing and park and on-piste skiing.
- Skiers who tend to hang out in the terrain park
- Skiers who want to get better at doing tricks in the terrain park or out of the terrain park
- Skiers who like a little bit of on-piste skiing, off-piste skiing, and hitting jumps
Top Recommended Freestyle Skis
One of the most popular freestyle skis, you’ll be sure to see this one if you tune in to watch any X-Games ski events. The Faction Prodigy 1.0 performs well both in the park and on natural terrain, primarily thanks to its poplar wood core, which provides a balance of strength and weight. It also has a twin-tip design that allows for easy switch skiing and landings. Check out the X-Games Knuckle Huck champion Alex Hall’s winning run on the Prodigy 1.0s below!
For skiers looking to dabble in freestyle skiing without spending a ton on skis, the Atomic Bent 85 is a great option. It has a wood and composite core to provide a balance of lightness and durability, while the twin-tip design makes it capable of both forward and backward skiing. It's a great choice for those looking to progress in the park, but the core materials make it a bit shaky if you plan to do a lot of carving outside the park.
3. Volkl Revolt 95
Another popular option among X-Games athletes, the Volkl Revolt 95 is a durable and versatile park ski. The core is made from a multi-layer wood, which makes it stable and maneuverable from takeoff to landing. The ski's tip and tail rocker and twin tip design allow for easy turns and maneuverability. No matter what kind of freestyle skiing you’re looking to do, from park jumps to urban rails and everything in between, the Revolt is a great option.
For the park skiers, the Armada ARW 96 is a women's specific ski that can handle any kind of snow or terrain conditions you might encounter both in and out of the park. It has a poplar-ash wood core which gives a good balance of flex and stability, while the wider waist width of 96 mm makes it suitable for park skiing, carving, and even some light powder.
How to Choose
As you can see, there are a ton of options when it comes to types of skis. If you’re still unsure what type might be the best option for you, here are some questions to help you narrow it down!
Where Do You Typically Ski Geographically?
Some areas, such as the east coast or the Midwest, tend to get a lot of ice, while others, such as Colorado or Montana, tend to have a good amount of powder days.
Where Do You Typically Ski on the Mountain?
Terrain park? Trees? Groomers? The answer to this question will be a huge driver in deciding which type of ski to go with.
What Are Your Goals for Skiing Over the Next Few Years?
Are you looking to get into off-piste skiing or hone your carving skills? Get a ski that is right for the direction you’re looking to go with your skiing.
What’s Your Skill Level?
If you’re a beginner skier, a powder ski will likely not be the best option for you, but an all-mountain ski or a carving ski would be a good fit as long as the specific ski you go with is more beginner friendly.
Finding the Best Type of Ski for You
If none of the ski types mentioned in this article sound like the right fit for you, reach out to me or another Curated Skiing Expert! I can help you narrow down which type and specific skis would best suit your exact situation. The right ski can make a huge difference in making the most out of your time on the hill. Happy skiing!