The best downhill skis for you to master this winter sport

Marcelle Huels
  Nov 27, 2022 1:23 AM

It can be overwhelming to sort through the countless high-quality models that are available on the market with the arrival of each new season. We have chosen the finest downhill skis to help you narrow down your options.

Keep on reading to check out the five best downhill skis along with our buying guide and FAQs.
 

Our Top Picks 

1. Fischer Ranger 102 Skis - $799.99

For experts, the Fischer Ranger 102 is a ton of fun. However, Fischer made it very clear that its newly developed ski was created for everyone. That marks a slight change from the previous model, which was hot pink and was an incredible ski, but not particularly approachable for the average skier.

The Ranger 102 (with considerably more subdued colors) is a ton of fun but also simple to ski for 2022–2023. The ski found its sweet spot and ripped laps from Crested Butte to Copper Mountain. It generally is a lot of fun, carves decently, and has a small amount of pop.

If there's a drawback to this ski, it's that you can't really carve hard on it or go swiftly from edge to edge. Fischer toned down the erratic camber of the prior model here. This is most likely advantageous for intermediate skiers.

And this ski should help you get over the pucker issue if you're still hesitant in the steps. The Ranger 102 for 2022–2023 is a great ski for anyone looking for something that is incredibly entertaining and looks to improve their abilities.

2. Volkl M6 Mantra - $712.00 - $749.99

The M6 offers a magnetic and self-assured ride to the skier through a variety of terrain and snow conditions, scoring highly across all testing criteria. No matter how hazy the forecast and the snow conditions are, we advise sticking to your "Mantra." With three of Volkl's Tailored Technologies at your disposal, you'll be equipped to handle any challenges the mountain may present.

The M6 Mantra in this variant features Volkl's 3D Radius Sidecut technology. With three distinct turn radii built into the side of the ski, the M6 can provide a variety of turn results based on skier input. Getting used to this new technology indeed took some time. 

However, we discovered that the technology was particularly useful when transferring to a different run with heavier traffic or leaving a mogul field and returning to the groomer. 

The M6 Mantra falls on the damper end of the skiing spectrum. But when the result is the better stability and mobility that this ski provides through icy groomers, afternoon chop and slop, and deep pow days, we can't complain.

3. Solomon QST -  $750

The QST 106 is a ton of fun to ski. With its capacity to ski hard-packed groomers as well as or better than much narrower skis, it appears to bend reality. Laying the QST 106 over will result in strong carves and a lot of rebounds, even on reasonably hard snow.

Put it in more constrictive terrain with soft snow, then let go of the beast! In moguls, trees, and buffed steep terrain, the QST 106 excels. Some of the roughest circumstances we skied this season were no match for its ability to slice across the hard powder.

The QST 106's only flaw is ice, which, given its large waist, it manages to avoid. If we anticipated riding only groomers or more east coast or midwestern terrain, we would probably look elsewhere.

4. Nordica Enforcer 94  - $749.00 - $749.99

Our go-to carving ski is the Nordica Enforcer 94, which also performs admirably across the board in our array of all-mountain skis. Our preferred combination of edge grip, rebound, and overall precision while carving at faster speeds is provided by the Enforcer 94's Carbon Chassis and TWO Sheets of Metal.

With a 17.1-meter turn radius that can be used for both short SL and lengthy GS turns, we found it to be simple to use. The Enforcer offers tremendous mobility across the mountain in all snow conditions, making it perfect for carving on groomers.

The Carbon Chassis and True Tip technology from Nordica were modified for the 2021–2022 model. The Enforcer 94 has a little wider 94-millimeter waist and marginally improved off-piste performance compared to its predecessor's 93-millimeter width underfoot. 

Despite these upgrades, this ski can be difficult to control in dense or deep powder. A wider ski may be more suitable for skiers who spend a lot of time in deeper, softer snow. However, the Enforcer 94 is the only option for the more skilled skier who wants to tip and rip across the majority of snow conditions.

5. Blizzard Rustler 10 - $750

Because of its ability to handle snow, the Blizzard Rustler 10 is our favorite all-mountain ski. The Rustler 10 provided our testers with a great combination of float, mobility, and general fun when skiing the deep stuff, with a definite preference for softer snow. Wherever your powder stockpile may be, adaptable performance is promoted by the distinct rocker/camber profile and broader 102-millimeter waist width.

The 2022 Rustler 10, which builds on the success of its predecessors, keeps the comfortable floaty ride while promoting faster speeds and arcing spins through your favorite powder lines. The ski did experience considerable vibration, especially when contacting the hardpack, according to our testers. However, because of the significant camber underfoot, this ski is robust enough to get through the odd wind-whipped surface and assist you in getting the best pow on the other side.

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Types of downhill skis

These are a few types of snowboards you should know:

1. All-mountain skis

Best for groomed terrain, including moguls of all degrees, or a combination of groomed and powder. All-mountain skis, also known as carving skis, are appropriate for skiers of all ages and skill levels. The term "front-side skis" usually refers to skis with thin waists up to 85mm, which are primarily designed for groomed conditions. 

The greatest all-mountain skis for groomed and powder terrain range from 85mm to 95mm. Deep sidecuts and rockered tips are common features on all-mountain skis, which make them easier to turn. High-end models may meet the performance requirements of skiers in the expert class, and they maintain an advantage on groomed slopes and hard snow.

The Nordica Enforcer, Volkl, Blizzard Rusler, and Fischer Ranger belong to this category. 

2. All-mountain wide skis

Best for powder and groomed runs. Everything is no match for these skis. These skis, which are also referred to as mid-fats or fats, typically feature wide waists of 90mm to 109mm, which improve flotation in soft snow without significantly reducing maneuverability on groomed slopes. They give stability in crusty, erratic snow and effectively cut through wet snow.

3. Powder skis

Best for backcountry, snow, and sporadic groomed runs. These skis perform well in deep powder snow, as their name suggests. To give float and a surflike, lively feel, powder skis commonly have waist widths of 109mm and higher for men's skis and 100mm and higher for women's skis. 

These skis are also referred to as super-fats. To further increase float, improve maneuverability, and prevent edges from catching, many boats have fully rockered profiles or rockered tips and tails. They aren't designed for precise turns on groomed lines, so keep that in mind, but they're the greatest option for a special day when the powder is deep.

4. Backcountry skis

Best for powdery, groomed runs, and untracked wilderness terrain. Backcountry skis allow you access to a mountain's untamed, unexplored regions. You can ski uphill to access new, untracked snow with the aid of climbing skins, then take them off to enjoy the descent. The obligation to develop the climbing and avalanche awareness skills required to protect your safety comes along with this independence.

In general, backcountry skis are lighter than alpine skis, which helps climb. They have waists that range in size from 80 to 120 millimeters: When skiing firm snow, narrower waists make turning easier; broader waists perform better in powder. Depending on the type of bindings you attach to your backcountry skis, you can use them for either telemarking or alpine touring.

Buying Guide

Here are a few things to keep in mind before purchasing downhill skis:

1. Waist Width

Downhill skis usually have a waist width of 75 to 105 millimeters. Wider widths are preferable for floating on powdery, soft snow, whereas narrower skis are typically better for carving on hard surfaces. There are numerous waist widths available for many ski models. For example, the Nordica Enforcer comes in 88mm, 94mm, and 100mm widths. Or the Fischer Ranger 102 is 116mm, 108mm, 96mm, and 90mm wide. 

2. Ski Length

Ski length is a crucial factor, and the majority of the models on our list come in a variety of lengths. In the past, a skier's appropriate ski length was determined by their height. The procedure is somewhat trickier in 2022.

There are other factors to take into account when determining the ideal ski length, yet skier height still plays a significant role. Shorter skis are simpler to control, making them a suitable option for novices.

Due to their larger surface area and increased stability at high speeds, longer skis float better in powder. A ski's flex and power transfer may be influenced by the weight of the skier. You can use this sizing chart as a useful tool to help you think about all the important elements.

The Nordica Enforcer and Volkl are the longest downhill skis in this list as they come in 191cm in length.

3. Stiffness and Flex

Ski stiffness is an element that significantly lowers overall performance. On the other end of the range, soft skis are more fun and easy to control, making them ideal for beginning to intermediate skiers.

Skis that are reasonably soft and flexible may also be preferred by freestyle skiers who enjoy hitting boxes and rails. The tendency of soft skis to rattle and be squirrelly at high speeds is one of their drawbacks.

Skiers in the intermediate, advanced, and expert levels who enjoy speed and deep, cutting turns favor stiff skis. More stability provided by rigid structures is crucial for maintaining control when skiing quickly.

The drawback of stiff skis is that they demand strength and refined steering skills. Due to this, we do not advise beginners to use ultra-stiff skis.

The majority of all-mountain skis lie in the center of the soft-to-stiff continuum. Skis with a groomer-lean are often stiffer to support speed and stability better.

Flexibility may be increased on powder-leaning skis to increase play and surfability. Midrange flex is the way to go if you're searching for a true all-purpose ski.

4. Sidecut and Turn Radius

The contour of the curve on either side of a ski's length is referred to as the sidecut. All skis have an hourglass form to some extent, but steering, stability, and many other factors are greatly influenced by the radius of these curves.

Skis with a narrow turning radius are those that are broader at the tip and tail than at the waist. For rapid and nimble movements, a smaller turning radius is ideal.

A small turning radius is a useful characteristic that will help keep you in control when skiing between narrow trees or moguls. A short turning radius is defined as anything under 16 m.

On wide-open groomers, skis with a longer turning radius are typically chosen for quick riding and aggressive carving. Although a large turning radius makes quick changes in direction difficult, it is undoubtedly helpful when carving out lengthy, sweeping carves. A long turning radius is anything longer than 20 meters.

The turning radius of the majority of all-mountain skis is between 16 and 20 meters. While a ski's sidecut does play a role in defining its personality, it cannot fully describe how a ski will feel when in use. The profile and flex of a given ski, together with the shape of the sidecut, work together to define its specific capabilities.

All downhill skis in this list are around 18.2m to 19m turning radius. 

FAQs

1. Are downhill skis good for beginners?

Progress and comfort are your top concerns at the beginning. We advise you to pick a ski that is moderately flexible and narrow keeping these requirements in mind. Flexible skis are easier to control and won't challenge your authority.

Skis with a waist width between 70 and 95 mm will be simpler to switch from edge to edge. They often perform better on the groomers, where you'll probably spend most of your time learning to ski.

2. Can I use old boots and bindings with my new downhill skis?

Most likely, your existing boots and bindings will work with your new skis. Though there are rare exceptions, most skis will accommodate any type of binding. To get the most out of your new skis, it can be worth thinking about upgrading your old boots and bindings, depending on their quality.

3. Are downhill skis good for terrain parks?

The majority of all-mountain skis will function admirably in the terrain park. If you just ski in the park, we advise freestyle skis over all-mountain models.

All-mountain skis should work just well if, on the other hand, you like to explore the entire mountain with the odd trip to the park. For riding in parks, skis with above-average flex and pop are typically preferable to rigid, aggressive skis.

4. Which brand of downhill skis is the best?

The ideal downhill ski brand will depend on your skiing experience and the weather you typically encounter. However, the most well-known brands are Nordica, Volkl, Rossignol, K2, and Blizzard. Although there are many more, these five feature models that consistently rank among the best.

5. How long should my downhill skis be?

Your height, weight, and level of expertise should all be taken into consideration when choosing a downhill ski. Find a ski that, when stood on end on the floor, spans the space between your mouth and your forehead. Heavier skiers should use longer skis while beginners should start with shorter skis.

Final Thoughts

The best downhill skis are those that match your skiing preferences, ability level, and price range. We've included a lot of high-caliber choices on this list that cover a wide spectrum of design elements. The Volkl Mantra M6 is our pick for the top overall men's all-mountain ski.

There isn't much that compares to the sensation of fresh mountain air stinging your eyes as you descend a mountain. The greatest skis will let you complete more runs, feel less worn out, and concentrate on the excitement of challenging winter activity. You'll be ripping up the runs in no time if you look for a pair of skis that fit your size and skiing technique.

To find out more about other winter sports gears, use the links provided under each one.