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blizzard black pearl 88 - skiing
Photo credit: Berne Broudy

The Best All-Mountain Skis of 2021

We found the best all-mountain skis of 2021 for every style and budget. Get ready to shred.

Having the right ski can make your day on the mountain. But not every all-mountain ski is created equal. So we hit the slopes and put the best to the test.

From Vermont to Colorado, we shredded to find the perfect skis, whether you’re frontside-focused and dabble in the trees, a diehard tree skier who loves a lap in the park, or a park rat who likes to jib and butter down the front side.

You’ll find many new-for-2021 skis here as well as a couple that are tried and true but still unique enough to warrant a place on this list. So sit back and start dreaming of carving powdery turns on a new pair of skis.

The Best All-Mountain Skis of 2021

Best Overall: Nordica Enforcer 100

nordica enforcer 100

The Nordica Enforcer ($750) is one popular ski. You’ll see it lining ski racks from the Appalachians to the Rockies and beyond, and for good reason — it’s a ripping-good all-mountain design. And while the Enforcer has been around for several years, Nordica refreshed the design for 2021 with a 100mm waist. The result is a wonderfully versatile ski for a wide range of skiers.

We tested the new Enforcer in the winter of 2020 and believe it will be a great fit as an everyday driver for a large swath of skiers.

After a day of testing at Winter Park, I found it stable at speed, but quick edge to edge. It’s playful enough to spin flat on groomers without catching edges.

Lay it over, and this ski carves like a little rocket. It’s also coming out in a 94mm waist this year for those who ride harder snow.

  • Length: 165cm, 172cm, 179cm, 186cm, 191cm
  • Dimensions: [179cm] 132.5 / 100 / 120mm
  • Turn radius: [180cm] 17.3m
  • Profile: Rocker-camber-rocker
  • Construction: Carbon chassis and True Tip
  • Core: Wood, carbon fiber, and metal
  • MSRP: $750

Pros:

  • Extremely versatile ski that manages everything from soft powder to packed groomers.

Cons:

  • Best for experts, not forgiving for beginners.

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Best Women’s: Blizzard Black Pearl 88

blizzard black pearl 88

This all-mountain daily driver made for women will power down groomers, dance through the woods, and shine just as brightly anywhere in between. The Black Pearl ($650), which comes in both 88mm and 97mm waist widths, has been the top-selling ski of any kind in the U.S. for years, and it’s worth the hype. In fact, even men looking for fun, easy-skiing, all-mountain sticks should consider it too.

The rockered tip and tail helped me navigate both refrozen crud and sugary powder without getting bogged down or thrown off my line. Camber underfoot made this ski quick and responsive edge to edge, which kept me in control and able to navigate around obstacles. And as a New England tree skier, I loved the short turn radius. The skis were effortlessly nimble as I skirted down the mountain, even in variable early-season conditions.

The 2020-2021 Black Pearl uses a new core that’s stiffer, more stable, and lighter than past versions — and it’s easier to ski. It’s made from a Jenga of beech and poplar blocks glued together instead of a single solid piece of wood. This construction allowed Blizzard to better control the ski’s characteristics.

For the Black Pearl, Blizzard specced more beech underfoot for stiffness and strength, and more poplar in the tip and tail to help the ski initiate and exit turns more easily. Carbon and Titanal laminates made it stable at high speeds and gave it superb edge hold on snow that was actually ice, all without killing its playful spirit. It’s not a ski that you have to drive hard to enjoy. But if you enjoy driving a ski hard, you’ll feel it underneath you, energetic and responsive.

The sidecut and rocker profile are different for every length of Black Pearl, to make all sizes of the ski feel equally awesome. Thanks to the rocker-camber-rocker profile, the tip and tail release easily, so the ski is easy to maneuver. Rocker adds float, and camber gives it grip. Blizzard marked this ski for a forward mounting position, which is what most women prefer to make turn initiation and release intuitive.

When you’re skiing all day, conditions vary as temperatures rise and fall, and the powder gets skied off and cut up. But Blizzard designed these skis to remove conditions from the equation, so the Black Pearl performs predictably regardless of the snow. It was a smooth and balanced ski that gave me confidence and control.

  • Length: 147cm, 153cm, 159cm, 165cm, 171cm, 177cm
  • Dimensions: [165cm] 128 / 88 / 110mm
  • Turn radius: [165cm] 14m
  • Profile: Rocker-camber-rocker
  • Construction: Sandwich
  • Core: TrueBlend beech and poplar wood core with Carbon Flipcore technology
  • MSRP: $650

Pros:

  • Easy to ski but charges when pushed
  • The topsheet isn’t too girly

Cons:

  • Blizzard would do male skiers a service by making this ski unisex

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Best Budget: Atomic Bent Chetler 100

atomic bent chetler 100

The missing link in Atomic’s freeride/freestyle line, the Bent Chetler 100 ($600) ramps down the waist width of the beloved and powder day-focused Bent Chetler 120. The result: a one-ski quiver that’s as fun in the park as playing in soft snow in the woods. The ski is soft enough you can butter, but it can still handle a big jump or a big line.

The easy-riding, partial twin-tip Atomic Bent Chetler 100 is built on a stable, shock-absorbing poplar core paired with a durable topsheet. Atomic uses ABS sidewall material and construction, blending it with a horizontal rocker that gives tip and tail 10% more surface area for float. While it’s a soft ski and most playful in powder, the ABS tip and tail enhance the ski’s ability to deflect snow and ice chunks while also giving it top-notch tracking in chopped up snow and keeping it from getting squirrely on high-speed runouts.

Designed by ski legend Chris Benchetler, the ski’s Dura Cap Sidewall was key to transmitting power from my legs into the edges when I needed grip in hard snow or wanted to carve aggressively. I skied the 100 in hero snow, but it made most soft snow days feel like hero snow, even when the snowpack had its share of variability.

The soft-flexing ski isn’t weak. The tips and shovels are soft, but the rest of the ski is predictable and solid. It skis short due to the exaggerated tip rocker, so if you’re looking for a ski to make you hoot and holler in the moguls, look no further. This ski likes to have a slashing, smearing good time, and if you’re on it, it’s gonna bring you along for the ride.

If you want to slice up the front side with perfectly executed GS turns, pick a different ski. But if you want to bop between the park, piste, and trees and you ski where there’s consistent snowfall, this is one of the most fun skis you can own.

  • Length: 164cm, 172cm, 180cm, 188cm
  • Dimensions: [180cm] 129.5 / 100 / 120mm
  • Turn radius: [180cm] 19.5m
  • Profile: Rocker-camber-rocker
  • Construction: Classic sandwich
  • Core: Light Woodcore
  • MSRP: $600

Pros:

  • Light and playful
  • No space-age materials required

Cons:

  • Best for soft snow

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Best of the Rest

Salomon Stance 88 Women’s

salomon stance 88 women’s

If your main priority is crushing groomers with high-speed GS turns, this is your ski. It’s fast edge to edge, it loves to carve, it has great grip, and it’s delightfully stable at top speed. But it’s also a ski that’s approachable and fun whether you’re driving it as hard as you can or just cruising.

The Stance 88 ($600) uses a caruba-poplar core, which is slightly softer and more forgiving than the pure poplar core in the comparable men’s Stance skis. It has a race-inspired sidecut that, paired with two layers of Titanal in Salomon’s metal Twinframe laminate, made me feel like a World Cup racer and gave this ski aggressively predictable edge grip on and off piste — even when I was laying out my turns.

As a woman who often skis men’s skis because I like high performance, I was impressed. On fresh corduroy at maximum speed, and on chopped up and scraped off groomers, the Stance 88 didn’t chatter or skitter in the turns, and it had exceptional stability.

The Stance 88 has recessed tip and tail windows to show off Salomon’s C/FX carbon/flax weave with basalt that keeps the ski from chattering on chunder by absorbing vibration. It gave the ski a different feel than a pure carbon tip, a little damper with a little less feedback to the skier. Salomon doubled the carbon content in this season’s Stance, so it was aggressive and hard-charging, but it didn’t have to be skied that way. It was just as fun when I wanted to cruise and enjoy the fresh air and mountain vistas.

Using carbon instead of metal at the tip and tail helped the ski release smoothly while enhancing its maneuverability regardless of speed. When I felt like getting my wiggle on, the ski was with me through as many playful, tight turns as I felt like making, and it carved through a bumpy tree run and left me smiling.

  • Length: 154cm, 161cm, 168cm, 174cm
  • Dimensions: [161cm] 120 / 88 / 102mm
  • Turn radius: [161cm] 17m
  • Profile: Rocker-camber-rocker
  • Construction: Sandwich
  • Core: Caruba, poplar
  • MSRP: $600

Pros:

  • Smooth, easy skiing

Cons:

  • We wish it came one size longer

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Blizzard Cochise 106

blizzard cochise 106

Blizzard redesigned one of its most acclaimed skis and made it more fun for more skiers, easier to operate, and more agile without compromising its all-mountain and big-mountain chops.

Made for aggressive skiers who hammer runs from bell to bell regardless of conditions, the Cochise 106 ($800) is an all-mountain charger. Former iterations were expert-only planks that needed max strength and concentration to drive them all day. This one is welcoming to intermediate skiers and above.

The redesigned Cochise has a freeride wood core plus two sheets of metal that helped it blast through chunder and grip on slopes, where in the past I might have thought I needed a narrower ski. Increased sidecut and a reduced rocker profile in the 2021 Cochise gave this ski a shorter turn radius, but that didn’t keep me from laying it out when I hit a groomer. Blizzard also made it slightly narrower than Cochise of the past.

Even when the snow is deep on the East Coast, there are always icy chunks hiding somewhere under the pow. These skis plowed through variable snow with a surfy feeling. They’re the perfect width to do it all. You can throttle them to your top speed, but you don’t have to run them all out all the time.

The 2020-2021 Cochise will appeal to more skiers because it’s easier to manage than previous iterations. Its rocker-camber-rocker profile reduced edge pressure at the tip and tail, so the ski was easier to enter and exit turns with better float. Blizzard’s Flipcore — which incorporates a unidirectional carbon frame layered into the ski’s poplar, beech, and paulownia core — saved weight without dumbing down performance.

The Cochise doesn’t use Blizzard’s new TrueBlend Flipcore. But it does have two layers of Titanal for tenacious edge grip. A rubber anti-shock layer prevented chatter. And the titanium binding reinforcement kept my bindings solid regardless of how aggro I got.

  • Length: 177cm, 185cm, 192cm
  • Dimensions: [185cm] 137.5 / 106 / 124.5mm
  • Turn radius: [185cm] 24m
  • Profile: Rocker-camber-rocker
  • Construction: Two layers of Titanal
  • Core: Carbon Flipcore
  • MSRP: $800

Pros:

  • Crud-busting
  • Best for strong, confident skiers

Cons:

  • Not suited to beginner/intermediate skiers

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Armada Declivity 82

armada declivity 82 

Made for firm conditions, frontside shreds, and East Coast hardpack, Armada’s Declivity 82 ($700) is a high-speed ripper with a progressive shape profile. As such, it proved versatile enough to be a one-ski quiver, particularly for skiers who spend their lift-serve days east of the Mississippi. It has the power and hold of a dedicated frontside ski, with the playfulness of an everyday ripper.

Armada uses a light caruba core in the Declivity to keep the weight down. The core is sandwiched between two sheets of metal that Armada carved into bands, which further reduce the ski’s weight. But it also made the skis more friendly to ski, with a playful personality that’s near impossible to achieve in a ski with this much metal. Armada removes strips of metal longitudinally in the front of the ski, a construction technique the brand calls “articulated Titanal banding.” Then, the brand fills those holes with an elastic compound.

Skiing on the Declivity, the front of the ski can flex around features in the snow. The Titanal bands gave the ski the tenacious grip I expected from a ski with metal. But the elastic between the bands added a springy rebound, which was a surprise. The flexing tip made it intuitive to initiate turns. And my turns felt smooth through their whole curve, whether I was powering zipper lines down an open face, putting a hip to the snow on wide-open groomers, or playing in the trees.

Slight rocker-camber-rocker profile kept the tip from diving or getting hung up on chunder. The tail rocker is minimal but helped this ski release from turns, even tight ones, without washing out. Armada expects skiers to get rowdy on this ski. Both the base and oversized heat-treated edges are designed to resist impact damage.

  • Length: 166cm, 174cm, 182cm
  • Dimensions: [185cm] 137.5 / 106 / 124.5mm
  • Turn radius: [185cm] 24m
  • Profile: Rocker-camber-rocker
  • Construction: Dual layers of metal cut into bands and filled with an elastic compound
  • Core: Caruba
  • MSRP: $700

Pros:

  • Damage-resistant base
  • Excellent edge grip with a playful feel

Cons:

  • Three sizes only

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Volkl Revolt 104

volkl revolt 104

“Big fun” is how testers describe the sturdy, versatile Revolt 104 ($600), a twin-tip all-mountain plus park ski with a freestyle flex. The midsize Revolt slots into Volkl’s lineup to give advanced and expert skiers an all-mountain charger with park ski pop that’s just as fun mounted for lift-serve as it is mounted for hike-to terrain.

For skiers who search the mountain for boosts, booters, and any feature for air, the twin-tip Revolt is stable and sturdy stomping landings and skiing through any terrain to get to the goods. Inspired by Volkl’s Gotama, the 104 is a ski that can handle variable conditions, from powder lines to groomer carving to buttering in the slush or snowpark tricks.

Volkl says this surfy and irreverent full twin-tip ski is one part daily driver, two parts freeride charger. And the brand is spot on! It’s medium to softer flex paired with multi-layer wood core construction created a chameleon of a ski that didn’t get beaten up by chopped up powder even though it’s metal-free.

To give the ski its chops, Volkl specced softer aspen in the front and tail and maple hardwood underneath the binding for durability and grip. Then, it gave the ski a three-phase sidecut.

Its radius is long at the tip and tail for stability and a continuous and smooth feel entering and exiting turns. The middle has a short radius that let me wiggle down the slope keeping my turns tight and even.

The Revolt 104’s polyethylene base had excellent glide. And it’s also durable, which was key for kids of all ages who tested this ski both on the slopes and sliding rails, gapping jumps, and skiing switch.

  • Length: 172cm, 180cm, 188cm
  • Dimensions: [180cm] 132 / 104 / 122mm
  • Turn radius: [180cm] 20.2m
  • Profile: Rocker-camber-rocker
  • Construction: Twin-tip with 3D Radius sidecut
  • Core: Wood
  • MSRP: $600

Pros:

  • A fat, surfy park ski that’s fun all over the mountain
  • Extra durable base

Cons:

  • Best for soft snow

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Rossignol BLACKOPS Holyshred

rossignol black ops holyshred

Rossignol shook up its line this year, launching the BLACKOPS series to replace its previous “7” models. The lineup has a burly pinnacle ski for big-mountain riders called the Sender TI, which is legitimately awesome but really too aggressive for this list.

However, tucked into the lineup sits the glorious Holyshred ($700). Something of a Goldilocks design, it has tip and tail rocker and camber underfoot. It has a Titanal sheet under the feet as well, which, coupled with diagonal fiber stringers, gives the Holyshred great torsional rigidity.

A poplar wood core and vibration-dampening technology in the tips and tails make for a ripping ski that will slash, carve, and smear all over the mountain. And its 98mm waist width gives it a versatile stance for any snow condition.

Couple all that skiable goodness with FSC- and PEFC-certified wood and other recycled materials, and it’s a sustainable ride you can feel good about.

  • Length: 162cm, 172cm, 182cm, 192cm
  • Dimensions: [182cm] 131 / 98 / 121mm
  • Turn radius: [180cm] 17.3m
  • Profile: Rocker-camber-rocker
  • Construction: Wood core with Diago Fiber stringers, Damptech shovels, and Titanal beam
  • Core: Poplar
  • MSRP: $700

Pros:

  • This ski can handle the whole mountain but has a lot of camber and pop, which accentuate its playfulness

Cons:

  • A heavy dose of camber means this ski won’t rail as hard as some others on hardpacked snow or ice

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Black Crows Justis

black crows justis

The youthful French brand Black Crows replaced its popular all-mountain duo of the Daemon and Navis with the Justis for 2021 ($960). The new ski is a very directional all-mountain ski with somewhat progressive mounting points, which put the skier a little further forward on the planks compared with many all-mountain skis.

The Justis has two layers of Titanal to provide good rigidity. Picking up speed, you’ll notice this ski responds quickly to powerful input from the skier. But with a significant front rocker and early rise in the tail, this ski is still manageable in bumps and trees. Plus, the versatile 100mm waist allows it to float in powder, while the medium to long 20-21 meter turning radius gives you a nice platform for arcing large turns at speed.

With ride characteristics similar to the Nordica Enforcer, the Black Crows Justis is a solid choice for those looking for a strongly directional, versatile all-mountain ski that will stand out from the crowd.

  • Length: 171cm, 177cm, 183cm, 189cm
  • Dimensions: [183cm] 138 / 100 / 123mm
  • Turn radius: [180cm] 17.3m
  • Profile: Rocker-camber-rocker
  • Construction: Double H-shaped Titanal plates help rebound energy while keeping weight low
  • Core: Poplar
  • MSRP: $960

Pros:

  • Stable at speed
  • Stiff in the tails, and directionally oriented
  • Solid choice for skiers who like to go fast while still maintaining the ability to play in the bumps

Cons:

  • The very stiff tails may be too much for lighter or less experienced skiers
  • Expensive

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Elan Ripstick 96

elan ripstick 96

One of the more playful skis on this list, the Elan Ripstick 96 ($650) is nonetheless capable of hard-charging at speed. But where it really shines is in its quick, slashing, goofball nature with a heavy nod toward downhill performance.

That’s because the Ripstick 96 has a modestly shorter turning radius (15-19 m) than many all-mountain skis. It also a unique version of the common rocker-camber-rocker profile that dominates the category. Elan calls this “Amphibio.”

The Amphibio profile is quite unique. Unlike most skis, here you get a dedicated left and right ski. The skis have more tip rocker on the outside edge compared with the inside edge, giving you good holding power where you need it but forgiveness to avoid catching outside edges.

It also stands out for its slightly lighter weight than many all-mountain skis, tipping the scales at 1,650 g in the 180cm size. At that weight, you can slap on some touring bindings and have a genuinely versatile ski for everything from resort skiing to backcountry touring, all in one package. It won’t be the best at either option but will certainly do great anywhere you take it.

elan ripstick 96
Photo credit: Elan Skis

It’s also a solid ski for intermediate skiers, with a forgiving camber-rocker profile that will keep you upright more often than not even if you make some minor edge-control mistakes.

  • Length: 167cm, 174cm, 181cm, 188cm
  • Dimensions: [183cm] 138 / 100 / 123mm
  • Turn radius: [180cm] 17.3m
  • Profile: Rocker-camber-rocker
  • Construction: SST construction provides quick, nimble, direct power transmission and torsional rigidity
  • Core: Tubelite carbon fiber and wood
  • MSRP: $650

Pros:

  • On the lighter end of the all-mountain spectrum, the Elan Ripstick 96 is a ski that can go from the groomer to the skin track with the right bindings

Cons:

  • This is a lighter ski, so it’s no surprise that it doesn’t handle crud or variable snow nearly as well as heavier options on this list

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How to Buy Skis

Alex Quitiquit, senior hardgoods buyer at Backcountry.com, said, “The first thing a skier needs to do is determine what type of skiing you want to do with the skis you’re buying, which will help you wade through confusing attributes like rocker and turn radius, and find a pair to meet your needs.”

There are many all-mountain skis, and they’re not all the same. If you want to ski groomers all day, you’ll want a different ski than the freeride-focused skier who only hits the hill when there are 2-12 inches of powder. Figure out where and when you’ll be skiing, then, said Quitiquit, you start checking the other ski characteristics boxes.

Ski Length

The right ski length depends on your height, weight, and ability. A 5’10″ 180-pound male should consider a length around 180 cm for a resort-focused freeride powder ski. If you’re a hard-charging expert, you may opt for a ski closer to 190cm.

If you’re a beginner/intermediate, you may opt for a ski in the 170cm range. For a newer skier, shorter skis are more fun and manageable because they’re more nimble and easier to turn.

black crows justis
Photo credit: Black Crows

Waist Width

An all-mountain carving ski for arcing groomer turns will have a waist between 80 and 90 mm. Skis with 90-105mm waist width will have good float in soft snow. They’re best for skiers who spend half their time on groomers and the other half off piste.

Choose a ski with a 105-120mm waist for powder. If your standard conditions are 6-12 inches of fresh pow, alpine fat skis will give you maximum float. And while they won’t be the most fun on groomers they’ll still carve.

Opt for a waist above 120, and you’re firmly into the big-mountain powder category for special days when you’ll be skiing 2 feet or more of fresh snow. “Over 120 waist is a dream-day quiver ski,” Quitiquit said. “Don’t expect to take it out all the time.”

Turn Radius

Then, it’s time to consider a ski’s other characteristics and how those match your preferences. A ski’s turn radius is based on the shape and length of the ski.

If you like to carve super-G turns, pick a turn radius over 20. If you like to make tight turns, look for a turn radius of 15 or below. A shorter turn radius will be easier to ski if you’re a beginner or intermediate.

Quitiquit says that the sweet spot is 17-19.

Rocker and Camber

These describe the profile of the ski when you’re looking at it from the side. A fully rockered ski will have a shape like a banana and a surfy feel on the snow. Add camber, which looks like a bow underfoot, and it gives the ski potential energy that you can engage when you pressure into a turn. A cambered ski will let you carve, and it will make quick turns.

Most all-mountain skis use a blend of rocker and camber so skiers can have the best of both worlds. Rocker and camber together make a ski easier to turn. A ski with rocker in the tip and tail won’t get hooked up in chunky snow or deep snow.

Many all-mountain skis have a rocker-camber-rocker profile, which makes them good carving and easy turning. Some also have a flat tail, which gives the ski a racier profile for carving longer and more powerful turns without washing out.

Materials

“Honing in on materials is the fun part of deciding which ski is your best ski,” Quitiquit said. Most all-mountain skis have a wood core, usually beech, poplar, or aspen. A fiberglass topsheet on top of the wood yields an approachable and softer-flexing ski.

Add metal to the construction, and the ski gains bite underfoot, which is key to carving in hardpacked and icy conditions. Metal also helps skiers blast through crud and smooths out the ride.

Carbon, whether it’s used as a sheet or in strips called “stringers,” is stiff and light. In some skis, it’s used as a lighter alternative to metal with a less aggressive feel.

Carbon doesn’t channel as much feedback from the slope to the skier as metal does. Stiff and light carbon gives a ski grip and saves you energy, but it can be more chattery than metal in hard snow.

Final Thoughts

Quitiquit said that a lot of skiers don’t worry about turn radius and rocker profile once they’ve settled on length and width. For a lot of skiers, how the ski looks trumps some of the finer points of how it skis because the body is adaptable, and you’ll find your rhythm once you’re on it.

While it’s important to understand what you’re getting, it’s also key to be stoked on your new skis. So pick the one you’ll be proud of. As a Jackson Hole-based ski buyer once told me, “When you look good, you ski good.”

And, don’t shy away from small brands, Quitiquit suggests. “It’s cool to support the little guy. Every brand is making great skis, and some of the independent brands not only have a cool and interesting look but construction that can compete with the biggest and best-known brands, which is why more and more people are buying them.”


Have a favorite all-mountain ski? Let us know in the comments, and we’ll check it out for future updates to this article.


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