All in One: Top 10 All-Mountain Skis 2014
There is virtue in versatility. For skiing, it’s called the quiver of one, a single, all-mountain ski that adapts to the mountain’s constantly changing terrain, snow conditions, skier traffic and weather. Many manufacturers today are designing a large portion of their line this way—good, if not great, at doing a lot of things. A quality all-mountain ski should be able to float in new snow and bounce through deep powder like a giddy bumblebee. But it also needs to cut a turn, hold an edge and inspire confidence on groomers, through crud and hardpack after the snow has stopped falling.
The majority of all-mountain skis have a few similar characteristics. They have relatively wide shoveled tips that don’t dive in powder; instead, they plane and float more easily through soft snow, breakable crust and variable snow conditions. These tips can also set the effective running edge of the ski closer to its center. This allows for easier turn initiation and the ability to pivot or smear a turn. Traditional camber is effectively shortened, but it still provides the ski significant edge hold on hard snow.
Many ski tails are also slightly upturned to mirror their tips, sometimes called twin tips, and allow the ski to release out of the turn more easily, for a user-friendly ski with a surfier feel, which is ideal for negotiating tight trees and steeps, and for quickly dumping speed.
Most of these skis are geared for the vicissitudes of Western ski areas, well beyond the Mississippi. These areas see more regular snowfall that creates myriad conditions—deep snow, sunny groomers, refrozen boilerplate and more—that are best met with all-terrain capability and, when possible, wide-open speed. Still, you’ll be wishing you had a pair next time you’re under the wrath of a big nor’easter this winter.
Rossignol Soul 7
The light swing weight of the honeycomb tip and tail make this forgiving ski a breeze to ride. Built to make the best of any conditions, the new Soul 7 can float with the best, bust through crud, and enjoy carving trenches in spring corn snow. 136/106/126
Wagner Custom Model
Wagner Custom Skis don't have models, per se; their skis are catered to you. Using their skier DNA program will help you get the optimal ski for your specific wants and needs. This custom model has an all-Aspen core with titanal structural layers for a stable ride, strong edge hold, and spry feel on your feet. Slightly rockered tip and tail add to its all-conditions versatility, while the extraordinarily durable bases make sure they last for a long time to come. 143/108/126
From $1,750 (this one is $1,995); wagnerskis.com
Dynastar Cham 107
Stout nose, progressive sidecut and a narrowing pintail afford the Dynastar 107 a lot of all-mountain versatility. The design allows the skier to enter and finish the turn with optimum ease, whether it’s bottomless pow, steep chutes or icy hardpack. 136/107/122
The Austrian-made Scout is an ideal ski for those who like charging around the resort, but don’t mind shouldering their skis to reach the higher hanging fruit. Stripped of some metal, the Scout remains a spry all-mountain gun that enjoys backcountry as much as riding chairs. 134/108/122
Karuba wood core shaves weight and price without compromising performance or credibility. The torsional rigidity is bolstered with titanal stringers for enhanced energy transfer and high responsiveness. 130.5/100/122.5
K2 Annex 108
The overhauled Annex is a playful all-arounder that prefers softer snow. The progressive rocker and revamped shape make it a blast to slash turns in tight trees and on steeps, while still maintaining stability and control at higher speeds. 139/108/127
Line Sick Day 110
For this super playful ski, Line uses its famed “capwall” construction, which allows for a materially tapered tip and tail (capped) to shave ounces for better swing weight, while the sidewall underfoot give the Sick Day 110 that smooth, stable confidence at speeds, on hardpack and in the steeps. 142/110/125
RAMP Sports Groundhog
Made in Park City, Utah, RAMP’s Groundhog features a handsome sidewall construction, with a bamboo core and a sheet of Kevlar for dampening. Its proprietary Razor™ edge sidecut maintains supreme hold on hard conditions. At 100mm underfoot, the Groundhog shines on harder snow surfaces, while the progressive rockered tip helps keep it afloat on deeper days. 131/100/119
$950 (*$619 if bought direct from RAMP’s site); rampsports.com
Black Diamond Zealot
Black Diamond’s revamped Zealot is torsionally stiff, with titanal laminates for extra dampness at high speeds. The traditional camber underfoot and low-profile, early rise tip and tail work in concert to float in soft snow, but allow the skier to turn on a dime, dump speed or get on edge instantly over the course of a single run. 135/110/123
G3 ZenOxide C3 105
The ZenOxide is constructed with 100 percent stitched carbon laminates than cover a paulownia wood core for a super responsive, ultra-light ski that will handle the rigors of inbounds charging, but will excel on big backcountry missions, too. 131/105/123