The 6 Best All Mountain SkisPublished on 08/26/2023 · 10 min readExplore the top 6 all-mountain skis for versatile performance on various terrains. Find the perfect ski equipment for your next skiing adventure!
Photo by Nataliya Nazarova
For any skier with more than one season under their belt, an all-mountain ski is a necessity. They’re a must-have in any ski quiver, and also make a perfect one-quiver ski if you’re trying to keep things simple. All-mountain skis are capable of carving up groomers, riding over bumps, floating over new powder, and just about everything in between. But how do you know which all-mountain ski is the right option for your skillset and needs?
My name is Hunter, and this upcoming season will be my 25th skiing and my eighth working in the outdoor industry. Growing up in Utah, we were lucky to have an array of terrains and conditions (including snow) on the mountain. Having skied primarily in Utah, I've learned the importance of having the right gear to tackle whatever you might encounter. The all-mountain skis that I tend to use most often are all-mountain skis, because they’re the most versatile and make skiing all that much more fun. In this article, I’ll share everything I know about choosing an all-mountain ski, and list my top picks. Let’s get into it!
Key Features to Look For in All-Mountain Skis
All-mountain skis are designed to handle a wide range of snow conditions and terrain. Here are some of the main things to look for when you’re searching for your next pair of all-mountain skis.
- Width Underfoot: The underfoot width refers to the width of the ski at its narrowest point, which is directly under where your boots go. This width affects how the ski performs, and all-mountain skis are generally 82-105 mm underfoot. Narrower skis are quicker and easier to turn edge-to-edge (specifically on groomed runs), while wider skis are better for floating in powder and off-piste. Check out this graphic below to get a better sense of what width is best for your skiing style!
- Turn Radius: The turn radius is a measure of how tight or wide a ski naturally wants to turn based on its shape. A smaller turn radius (under 16 m) is better for skiers who like to make shorter, tighter turns, while a larger radius (20+ m) is for longer, arcing turns. Some skis are built to accommodate both short and long turns—so if you like a bit of variety, or aren’t sure of your preference—look for a ski with technology like Volkl’s 3D sidecut radius, which allows for long, short, and middle-of-the-road turns.
- Rocker/Camber/Rocker Profile: Rocker (also known as reverse camber) is the upward curve at the front and/or back of the ski, while camber is the slight upward curve in the middle of the ski when it lies flat. Most all-mountain skis have camber underfoot and rocker at the tip and tail. This design—referred to as a rocker/camber/rocker profile—offers balanced performance, as the camber provides grip and power on groomed runs, and the rocker ensures better turn initiation and float in powder.
- Materials and Construction: Skis are typically a mix of wood, metal, fiberglass, and sometimes carbon. But even if two skis are made of the same materials, their specific constructions could make their weight, durability, and performance characteristics very different. Skis with more metal are heavier, stiffer, and more stable for aggressive skiing, while full-wood skis are lighter and more playful, but generally not as stable for high-speed skiing. Pay attention to materials and constructions when choosing your ski to make sure it fits the type of skier you are and the terrain you generally like.
Now that we’ve gotten the basics out of the way, let’s check out some of the best all-mountain skis.
Top Recommended All-Mountain Skis
The Nordica Enforcer 94 for men and Santa Ana 93 for women are two of the most popular skis year-after-year for advanced to expert skiers looking for a stable all-mountain ride. Both have Nordica’s True Tip Technology, which makes the tip and tail lightweight and responsive. Both also have a dual wood core sandwiched between two sheets of metal, which gives a powerful and stable feel. Their middle-of-the-road 94 and 93 mm waists, respectively, provide a ton of versatility, as they’re narrow enough to carve up groomers or hardpack, but still wide enough to float in a bit of new snow off-piste.
The only difference between the men’s and women’s version, aside from the 1 mm width difference, is that the Santa Ana has a slightly softer flex, which makes it easier to control for lightweight skiers. Both the Enforcer and Santa Ana are meant to be skied hard by a skier who can charge down any kind of terrain. The stiffer flex and heavier weight, mostly due to the metal construction, make both skis hard to control and maneuver for beginner to intermediate skiers. If you like the sound of these skis, but want something narrower and slightly more groomer oriented, they both have narrower versions (the Enforcer 88 and Santa Ana 88). If you want something wider and more powder oriented, there’s wider versions (the Enforcer 100 and Santa Ana 98).
For all-mountain skiers who spend more time off-piste than on groomers, the Salomon QST 106/Stella 106 would be a great pick. Both are constructed with wood cores, a C/FX 3 carbon and flax weave running the length of the ski, and Koroyd tips, which adds some playfulness, making them light and responsive in soft snow conditions, yet fully capable of dampening vibrations and maintaining stability on icy or packed-down groomers. The lightweight construction and wider 106 mm waist allow both versions of this ski to really excel in new snow. The unisex QST 106 and the ladies’ QST Stella 106 are identical aside from their different graphics and available lengths (the Stella comes in some shorter options).
The only drawbacks to these skis are that the lack of metal paired with the low weight can make them chatter or feel shaky if you’re regularly cruising high-speed hardpack, and the wider waist means more effort is needed to get these skis to carve on edge. Other than that, they’re both super versatile for those at the intermediate to advanced level, who really like skiing deep powder, but also want to take groomer laps on days when there isn’t a ton of fresh snow.
The Blizzard's Brahma 88 (men’s) and Black Pearl 88 (women’s) are all-mountain machines, approachable for all skiers intermediate to expert. Both the men’s and women’s have sandwich compound sidewalls, which provide excellent edge hold on hardpack. They also have a TrueBlend Wood Core which ensures a smooth, consistent flex that isn’t too stiff for newer skiers, but isn’t too soft for more advanced skiers. Their reliable grip makes them a top option for skiers who regularly find themselves on ice or hardpack, but still like to ski some fresh stuff when it’s available. This versatility makes them ideal for both the east and west coast, for those who travel to resorts further from home.
While both models have the same materials and technology, the Black Pearl 88 is slightly softer to provide women skiers with a more maneuverable experience. The 88 mm waist really is perfect for doing a little bit of everything over the whole mountain, but if you’re an all-mountain skier who only goes off-trail every once in awhile, there’s also the Brahma 82 and Black Pearl 82, with a 82 mm waist that only increases their carve-ability (though you’ll get a bit less float in powder).
Head Kore 93
A unisex ski designed for intermediate to advanced skiers, the Head Kore 93 is a versatile one-quiver ski. The core is a combination of graphene, a super light and strong material, and karuba wood, which is responsive and also light. Head has recently started making this model with Topless Tech construction, which reduces weight by skipping the top sheet (don’t worry: they’re still durable enough to withstand the wear and tear of being skied regularly and tossed in the back of your car to and from the mountain!) The Kore 93 shines in various terrains, from icy slopes to fluffy powder, always offering agility and maneuverability. If you’re primarily looking to ski groomers rather than off-piste or if you ski in icier terrain more regularly, you may find these a bit wide, but if you’re skiing 50/50 on-and off-trail, these are perfect. Thanks to their low weight, they’re also a popular option among resort skiers to take up the chairlifts and use in the backcountry.
If you’re new to skiing, but don't want to miss out on any off-piste fun, this one’s for you. The Mindbender 85 for men and 85 Alliance for women offer a fantastic entry point into the world of all-mountain skiing. Both models have a lightweight Aspen Veneer core, which feels super responsive and easy-to-control for those still getting their form down. What makes the Mindbender unique is their larger width difference (45+ mm!) from the tip and tails to the waist: though all skis have a narrower waist with a wider tip and tail, this difference is usually 30 mm at most. This difference makes the middle narrow enough to carve easily on groomers, but keeps the tip and tail wide enough to easily float over powder, in a way other 85 mm waist skis can’t. It also allows for a steeper sidewall angle, which makes it easier to initiate turns and pop out of one into the next.
These skis are almost identical in construction, with the only difference being that the women’s version (the 85 Alliance) has a slightly lighter build compared to the men’s, allowing for easier control for smaller and lighter skiers. The only downfall of this ski is that the full wood construction makes it feel a bit shaky when carving at high speeds—so for expert-level skiers, it isn’t the best option. That being said, both the Mindbender 85 and Mindbender 85 Alliance are great intro all-mountain skis to get out of rentals or beginner-specific skis, and start testing your skills on off-piste terrain.
Stockli Stormrider 95
Last but not least, Stockli’s Stormrider 95 is a top-of-the-line all-mountain choice from a brand that really prioritizes using the best materials to make the best skis on the market. The Stormrider is made of a combination of light wood and two titanium layers: this makes for a dynamic, responsive, and powerful ride through powder, ice, crud, or any other variable conditions you may encounter. The topsheet has a liquid metal coating, which helps with efficient power transmission from your boots and bindings through your ski, and reduces vibrations for a smoother ride. While the titanium adds some stiffness and weight—which makes it harder to control for beginner and intermediate skiers—for advanced and expert skiers who want to charge hard and have a precise, stable ride, the Stormrider 95 is a perfect one-ski quiver option.
Can’t Decide on an All-Mountain Ski? Talk to an Expert
Navigating all of the all-mountain skis options can be an overwhelming task, but it doesn’t have to be if you have the right information and a general idea what you’re looking for! Knowing some of the differences between all-mountain skis and understanding your skill level, the terrain you like skiing, and the conditions you typically ski will give you a great starting point. If you’re still overwhelmed by the choices, or have specific questions you want to chat through, reach out to a Curated Ski Expert, and we’d be happy to walk you through finding your perfect all-mountain ski!