There are tons of options out there when it comes to skis — too many, we’d argue. This makes it exceptionally hard to pick as each brand has its distinct advantages and disadvantages, and all of them think they’re doing it the right way.
We wanted to help you decide what your next ski will be, so we spent quite a bit of time looking at options from a host of manufacturers, both well known and new to the scene. In this initial early-season list, we’ve focused on our top picks — the ones we’re most confident you’ll like. Now all you’ll need is your goggles and helmet, and you’ll be ready to hit the slopes.
Best beginner skis
Instead of confusing you with a bunch of options, we’ve settled on a single ski that we think is the perfect option for both male and female skiers. The is an excellent deal because you’ll get both the ski and Rossignol’s Xpress bindings in the package for less than you’d pay for some skis alone. It’s smooth turn initiation and narrow profile helps you learn the basics quickly, while just the right amount of stiffness keeps these skis relatively stable at speed — enough that you’ll likely get a few seasons out of these before growing out of them.
The Experience 74’s mixed rocker and camber design play a part in this. The slight rocker of the tip (what Rossignol calls Air Tip) gives the skis a playful feel — yet won’t chatter at speed and make turning easy. The camber underneath the bindings will provide you with just enough edge to start working on those carved turns, essential for progression within the sport.
Best intermediate skis
If we had to pick one of the best intermediate skis on the market for men right now, it would likely be the While it’s going to put a dent in your pocket, these are skis you’ll likely be riding on for much of the next decade, as they are good enough to take you to the double blacks and beyond. We appreciate the camber underfoot and the slight rocker at the tip and tail, a marked departure from the fully-rockered fourth generation of this particular ski. Combined with a moderate flex, these skis really can take on just about anything you might decide to throw at them.
The M5 Mantra is a wider ski, which will make it better than many in soft powder. But testers and owners say the ski works in just about any snow condition, and stability at higher rates of speed in variable conditions is a standout feature. It’s close between this one and our next recommendation — but if you frequently ski in powder, the M5 Mantra is the better choice.
If you’re an East Coast skier, chances are your powder days are few and far between. In this case, we recommend a narrower ski. The is one of the best options here. You’ll get the same stability as the Volkl Mantras, however with better carving capabilities. This comes from the thinner width and notably more cambered profile than some of the other skis we’ve recommended. But, boy, does this thing love to turn.
Its superior turning capabilities are due to its construction: A unique hammerhead tip makes turn initiation easy and a double layer of metal on the edges combined with a medium flex gives you the stability you want when you start to carve. We think this ski is great for just about any intermediate skier, and outside of some expert runs in powder, advanced skiers will appreciate what the Enforcer 93 brings to the table.
If you’re looking for a ski much like the Nordica Enforcer 93s above, then is probably where you want to look. For the 2019-20 season, Salomon improved the shape of these skis to allow for easier turn initiation and better roll when going edge to edge (some of which has to do with its width). While it will struggle in powder for being so narrow, we’ve heard from owners that this ski shines in spring crud, and the QST Lux is quick, snappy, playful and responsive underfoot.
Stability at high speeds also makes this ski a good choice for intermediate and even some advanced skiers, and even under the most variable conditions, the QST Lux’s design allows it to minimize and absorb vibration, making it a smooth and comfortable ride. If you see yourself riding in powder more often, it may be worth it to consider wider models of the QST Lux, which are available.
Best advanced/expert skis
Ladies looking to leave it all on the hill would be well-served by considering skis. This particular ski (which is also available in too, by the way) ticks all the boxes for a ski for expert lady skiers. At 98 millimeters across, this is a pretty wide ski. However, we’ll safely assume most skiers at this level are looking for more challenging terrain, and likely are skiing powder much more often than hardpack.
You’ll get the best performance out of this ski in the soft stuff, but testers and owners say the capabilities of the Mindbender in variable conditions cannot be understated. The ski also is on the stiffer side, which you’ll appreciate through outstanding stability at high speed — one of the best in its size class. While some of our other skis are OK for intermediate skiers, the Mindbender line is not. Wait a couple of seasons for this one, and pick from the earlier options in our list.
Longtime skiers may be asking, “who the hell is Black Crows?” We don’t blame you — in a matter of only a few seasons, this French brand has gone from a nobody to top-tier player here in the U.S. Its is our top choice for those looking for a playful twin-tip ski. Using a reverse camber profile, the ski is extraordinarily versatile — and we wouldn’t be shocked to see these in the park as well as backcountry powder more often.
The skis design does have its drawbacks: it doesn’t get on its edge well, even if turn initiation is super easy. At speed, it might take a bit of getting used to (and we wouldn’t recommend bombing the hill as you will notice a degree of instability due the tips not making firm contact with the snow). We do think this ski is perfect for those advanced and expert skiers looking to freestyle over traditional downhill skiing, however. You won’t be disappointed.
How to choose the right ski
Choosing the right ski depends a lot on what you plan to do. So what things should you look for?
What type of conditions you’ll find yourself in most often should play a significant role in what size ski you choose. As a general rule, East Coast skiers and those who plan to ski groomed trails should choose a ski under 90mm in width, with novice skiers staying under 80mm. This will allow for quicker edge-to-edge turns and a better feeling of control.
More experienced skiers and those who might find themselves in powder from time to time will find a 90-100mm wide ski better suited to them. While these skis will take a little more to get on edge, they’ll perform much better in soft snow than the slimmer skis above. A large number of skis are available in this range, so you’ll have plenty of choices.
Finally, if you plan to ski out west a lot, you’re going to find yourself in deep powder more often than not. In this case, we recommend skis of a width of 100mm or wider. Just keep in mind that you might want to bring along an extra pair of skis if you’re not skiing during the snowstorm but rather after it. In those final runs on the most traveled trails, you might find the thinner ski easier to control.
Camber or Rocker?
Unlike snowboards, most skiers will prefer a cambered profile versus a rockered one. While rockered skis will be more playful, they’re harder to control. The only place where we’d see this being useful is in the park or freestyle. If in doubt, select a cambered ski.
Many skis have a combination cambered/rockered profile, typically rockered in the tips (and especially the front). Rocker there is helpful as it will give a ski more float, but camber elsewhere will provide the edge control that carvers crave.