Two Planks Are Better Than One
The 7 Best Skis of Winter 2018
Last Updated December 2017: We’ve added our picks for this season’s best skis, but you can still find last year’s best on page 2.
If skiing is an addiction, then buying skis is the indulgence that feeds it. A decent pair of skis can last years if maintained and cared for, but it can be hard to resist the allure of the new: new shapes, materials and graphics. The truth is, no ski does everything perfectly. An all-mountain ski does everything well, but only a dedicated powder ski will keep you floating in three feet of fresh snow, and only a true carving ski will keep you locked into a 55 mph turn on bulletproof hardpack.
The do-it-all ski doesn’t exist, the proverbial “quiver killer” if you will, and so the addiction is forever fueled. Whether you’re in search of a ski fit for a weekend warrior, or just something special to round out your ski locker, look no further.
How to Pick the Right Ski
A good ski can help you get more out of the sport, but only if you get one that’s suited to the type of skiing you do and the type of skier you are. A shorter ski will be easier to turn, but less stable; a longer ski will be more stable at high speeds but will be harder to control for less experienced skiers. Narrower skis will also be easier to turn and are typically built for resort skiing and groomed trails. Wide skis provide float in deeper snow but the larger surface area of their bases can make them harder to put on edge. A solid all-mountain ski typically has a waist width in the 90-100 millimeter range but can also be narrower, or wider. If you have any doubts about what size is right for you, pay a visit to your local ski shop and talk to the staff there, or demo a few different pairs to see what feels most comfortable.
Elan Ripstick 106
Best All-Mountain: All-mountain skis are designed to cover a lot of ground, and too often it’s the case that a would-be amazing ski is a jack of all trades but a master of none. That’s not the case with Elan’s latest freeride ski. The Ripstick truly is a go-anywhere ski that handles groomers, powder and even melt-freeze chunder effortlessly. The skis are constructed with a complex core called TubeLite, which is made from wood that’s been hollowed out and fitted with carbon stringers, making for a lightweight ski that still has a decent amount of torsional rigidity to it. Another innovative feature is Elan’s Amphibio profile, which features a cambered inside edge and rockered outside edge along the length of the ski’s tip. It’s designed to create better grip and stability through turns. It does mean that there are left and right-foot specific skis, and it does sound like a gimmick, but it does work and solidifies the Ripstick’s place as one of the best do-everything skis of the year.
Length: 167, 174, 181, 188cm
Sidecut: 140-106-122mm (181 length)
Turn Radius: 18m (181 length)
Weight: 7lb 9oz (174 length)
Kästle FX 85 HP
Best On Piste: When it comes to skiing frontside groomers, two of the most important factors to consider are stability and control. The thinnest member of Kästle’s all-mountain FX line does both incredibly well. The FX 85 comes in two variations that are differentiated only by the presence of two sheets of metal Titanal in the ski’s semi-cap sandwich construction. Those looking for a more stable, faster and more energetic ride should opt for the metal (this is what “HP,” which stands for “high performance,” refers to). Even with the extra weight and rigidity, the skis aren’t overly aggressive and can hold their own in bumps and off-trail too. Upgrade to the wider FX 95 HP if you spend less time on the groomers.
Length: 157, 165, 173, 181cm
Turn Radius: 17m (173 length)
Weight: 8lb (173 length)
Sego Big Horn 96
Best All-Mountain Twin: Sego Ski Co. is based in the skiing mecca that is the Tetons, Wyoming’s craggy, snow-laden summits, so it’s no surprise that it was able to produce a wildly playful ski that charges all over the mountain. Like many lively all-mountain twins, the Big Horn gets much of its spring from a lightweight poplar wood core. Sego also builds the ski with a symmetrical “mustache” rocker profile that provides early rise to both the tip and the tail. The ski isn’t totally symmetrical though, thanks to a directional sidecut that provides quick transitions in and out of turns.
Length: 176, 181, 187cm
Turn Radius: 19m (176 length)
Weight: 7lb 11.5oz (181 length)
Line Sick Day 114
Best All-Mountain Powder: A good powder ski has much more to it than just a wide waist, and that’s certainly the case with the Sick Day 114. Line has continued to tweak this ski over the years, and the latest iteration hits the Goldilocks Zone of lightweight and stability. The Sick Day’s aspen core is cut with Line’s Magic Finger carbon filaments, which run the entire length of the ski to stiffen the construction without adding much extra weight. Despite its hefty waist, the Sick Day is a deft turner, in part due to a tapered tip and tail that are part of the ski’s five-point profile.
Length: 180, 190cm
Turn Radius: 23.9m
Weight: 9lbs 5.4oz
Faction CT 1.0
Best for the Terrain Park: Anything Candide Thovex puts his name on is guaranteed to be a success, but had he not given Faction’s signature ski collection his stamp of approval the CT would still be a great ski. It’s constructed with a light and responsive poplar and beech core that’s reinforced with carbon underfoot and extra-thick steel edges. Both features help the CT put up with the tough life of a park ski, which includes lots of time on metal rails and high impact landings. This ski is also completely symmetrical and will ski backwards as well as it skis forwards. If you need any more convincing, just look to the long list of awards this ski keeps winning year after year.
Length: 164, 170, 176, 182cm
Turn Radius: 17m
Weight: 8lb 8.9oz (176 length)
Dynafit Beast 108
Best for Backcountry Touring: Choosing a backcountry touring ski is a conundrum — the choice produces that internal conflict between going light for an easier uphill walk and keeping things big for a fun ride down untracked slopes. The Beast is a compromise. The ski weighs just 1,750 grams at 181 centimeters in length and still comes with a 108 millimeter waist. It’s probably not big enough for seriously deep snow, but has plenty of width to provide lots of float without having to walk to the start of a line on two pontoons. Dynafit built the Beast with a sidewall construction, an ash and poplar core and a superlight carbon core in the tip that keeps the ski’s swing weight down and also reduces vibration.
Length: 173, 181, 188, 194cm
Sidecut: 135-107-125mm (181 length)
Turn Radius: 22m (181 length)
Weight: 7lb 11oz (181 length)
Rossignol Black Ops
Best Backcountry Freeride: Ever since Rossignol made its colorful-tip comeback a few years ago resort ski racks have been rife with easy-to-spot planks. But in its transition to frontside takeover, the French company left a vacancy in its backcountry line that was once occupied by the freeride-oriented Scratch and Sickle skis. That gap is now filled, with a ski that Rossi has been developing under the radar with backcountry pros Parker White and Chris Logan. The Black Ops is built to float in deep snow and fly over pillows and cliffs in a construction that’s equally burly and playful.