Updated on October 12, 2020

There are so many downhill ski options out there, how do you decide which skis to invest in? Ultimately, the best skis for you will be the ones that are designed for the type of skiing that you enjoy, and they’ll fit you perfectly. Do you like to ski the trees? How about groomed trails? Are you looking to advance to skiing those powder-filled back bowls? What about moguls? Additionally, where you like to ski – New England, Washington State, Colorado, or Quebec, Canada – will help determine the types of skis that will be best for you. Skiing in the Northeast requires heavier skis that can handle more ice while the Colorado Rockies are known for powder, so you’ll want a lighter, wider ski. There are lots of factors to take into consideration when choosing skis, but there are some basic criteria that distinguish the truly best downhill skis from the good ones. We’ve put together this guide to help you find your perfect pair of downhill skis this season. Check it out and see you out there!

For more of our top ski gear recommendations, check out the Best Downhill Ski Boots.

 

Quick Answer - The Best Downhill Skis

  1. Nordica Enforcer 100
  2. Volkl M5 Mantra
  3. Salomon QST Lux 92
  4. Liberty Helix 98
  5. Coalition Snow SOS
  6. Dynastar Legend W 96
  7. Faction Prodigy 2.0 X
  8. Rossignol Black Ops 98
  9. DPS Skis Wailer F112
  10. Blizzard Black Pearl 88

 

Comparison Table - Best Downhill Skis

PictureNameGenderSki CamberSki TerrainWeight (Pair)PriceRating
Nordica Enforcer 100Men’sStandard AlpineGroomed & Powder9 lbs. 5.6 oz.$$$4.85
Volkl M5 MantraVolkl M5 MantraMen’sTip and Tail RockerGroomed & PowderMin: 170 CM (4 lbs., 5.9 oz.); Max: 191 CM (4 lbs., 13.2 oz.)$$$4.8
Salomon QST Lux 92Salomon QST Lux 92Women’sTip and Tail RockerGroomed & Powder153 CM (8 lbs., 12.8 oz.); 161 CM (9 lbs., 8 oz.)$$4.8
Liberty Helix 98Liberty Helix 98Men’sTip and Tail RockerGroomed & PowderN/A4.75$$
Coalition Snow SOSCoalition Snow SOSWomen’sTip and Tail RockerGroomed & Powder8 lbs., 13 oz.$$$4.75
Dynastar Legend W 96Dynastar Legend W 96Women’sTip and Tail RockerGroomed & Powder58 CM (6 lbs., 6.2 oz.); 165 CM (6 lbs., 13.3 oz.)$$$4.6
Faction Prodigy 2.0 XFaction Prodigy 2.0 XWomen’sTip and Tail RockerGroomed & Powder7 lbs., 4.5 oz.$$$4.75
Rossignol Black Ops 98Rossignol Black Ops 98Men’sTip and Tail RockerGroomed & Powder8 lbs., 13.1 oz.$$$$4.5
DPS Skis Wailer F112DPS Skis Wailer F112Men’sTip and Tail RockerPowderN/A$$$$4.8
Blizzard Black Pearl 88Blizzard Black Pearl 88Women’sTip RockerGroomed and Powder6 lbs., 9.6 oz.$$$4.85
PictureNameGenderSki CamberSki TerrainWeight (Pair)PriceRating
Want to learn more about a technical term? Check out our Features Explained section below.

Need buying advice? Take a look at these Things to Consider.

Reviews - The Best Downhill Skis

Nordica Enforcer 100

Specs
  • Gender: Men’s
  • Ski Terrain: Groomed & Powder
  • Ski Camber: Standard Alpine
  • Sidecut Radius: 193 CM (20.5 meters)
  • Waist Width: 100 millimeters
  • Core Material: Wood/Metal
  • Weight (Pair): 9 lbs. 5.6 oz.
Features
  • Two Sheets Of Metal In The Core Of The Ski Dampen Vibrations And Improve Stability
  • Known For A Smooth, Powerful Ride
  • Designed To Perform In All Types Of Terrain That You’ll Find At The Ski Resort

BEST FOR: STABLE PERFORMANCE 

The Nordica Enforcer 100 downhill skis have consistently been one of the best all-mountain skis on the market for the past five years. These skis are known for their versatility; you’ll equally enjoy them on groomers, in the trees, and with fresh powder on the trails. The core of the ski is solid wood flanked by two sheets of metal, which lends stability to the ski so that you can feel confident shredding in variable or choppy snow conditions. The metal sheets in the core of the ski also add to response time; they respond quickly and accurately to the movement of your feet and through any kind of turn. Finally, the eye-catching blue and red design on the top of the ski is sure to make you feel like a champion out on the ski hill.

Volkl M5 Mantra

Specs
  • Gender: Men’s
  • Ski Terrain: Groomed & Powder
  • Ski Camber: Tip and Tail Rocker
  • Sidecut Radius: 170 CM (17.9 meters); 177 CM (19.8 meters); 184 CM (21.2 meters); 191 CM (23.3 meters)
  • Waist Width: 96 millimeters
  • Core Material: Wood/Metal
  • Weight (Pair): Min: 170 CM (4 lbs., 5.9 oz.); Max: 191 CM (4 lbs., 13.2 oz.)
Features
  • Tip And Tail Rocker Shape Of The Ski Bends Upwards At The Ends For Better Float In Powder
  • Bases Designed To Be More Absorbent So It’s Easier To Apply Wax
  • These Skis Are Stable And Strong, Even On Icy Conditions
Volkl M5 Mantra

BEST FOR: HARD-PACKED SNOW CONDITIONS

The most standout feature of these skis is their lightweight construction in relation to their power and stability. At just over four pounds for the pair of skis (without bindings), these are some of the lightest all-mountain skis on the market. You won’t get tired lugging around a heavy pair of skis all day, you’ll only get tired from enjoying your turns on the mountain. The ski features a traditional camber shape underfoot (the ski bends upwards under the boot), allowing for stable, clean turns through hard-packed snow conditions and groomed trails. If you spend most of your ski season at East Coast resorts where you can often run into icy trails, then these skis would be the perfect pair to handle that type of skiing while also allowing you to enjoy those rare, perfect powder days.

Salomon QST Lux 92

Specs
  • Gender: Women’s
  • Ski Terrain: Groomed & Powder
  • Ski Camber: Tip and Tail Rocker
  • Sidecut Radius: 153 CM (15 meters); 161 CM (16 meters)
  • Waist Width: 92 millimeters
  • Core Material: Wood
  • Weight (Pair): 153 CM (8 lbs., 12.8 oz.); 161 CM (9 lbs., 8 oz.)
Features
  • Cork Integrated Into The Tips Of The Skis To Reduce Weight And Increase Ability To Dampen Vibrations While In Motion
  • Designed To Easily Turn Through Terrain That Requires Short, Fast Turns
  • Basalt Wood In The Core Also Lends Itself To Reducing Vibrations And Increasing Stability In The Ski
Salomon QST Lux 92

BEST FOR: SKIING MOGULS

The Salomon QST Lux 92 downhill skis are made for handling those tight turns in the moguls and trees with ease. Salomon redesigned these skis for the 2019-2020 season to improve the ease of rolling from edge-to-edge in a turn, particularly for tighter, shorter turns. Short turns are often the result of uneven or variable terrain, so the basalt wood core and the added cork in the tips of the skis will help to balance and dampen vibrations that result from cruising over those uneven trails. Finally, the edges of the skis are also designed for superior grip on the snow and smooth ski-to-snow contact, which will allow for maximum control over the ski during your turns.

Liberty Helix 98

Specs
  • Gender: Men’s
  • Ski Terrain: Groomed & Powder
  • Ski Camber: Tip and Tail Rocker
  • Sidecut Radius: 19.5 meters
  • Waist Width: 98 millimeters
  • Core Material: Bamboo & Poplar wood
  • Weight (Pair): N/A
Features
  • Bamboo And Poplar Core Of The Skis Creates Torsional Rigidity, Which Allows For Quick, Easy Turning
  • Protectors On The Tip And Tail Of The Ski Provides Added Durability
  • Known For Having A Smooth, Stable Ride
Liberty Helix 98

BEST FOR: EXPLORING THE MOUNTAIN

The Liberty Helix 98 downhill skis are another fan favorite all-mountain men’s ski. The bamboo and poplar wood core makes them playful, providing that signature pop through each turn, without sacrificing stability. These skis will perform equally well on groomed terrain, in the trees, on mogul runs, and in light powder, so you’ll be able to explore the whole mountain. The skis are sure to progress with you as your skills progress and you get more comfortable on all different types of terrain on the mountain. Finally, the protectors on the tips and tails of the skis make it so these skis will last season after season without the normal wear and tear and damage that you’ll often get after a season spent on the mountain.

Coalition Snow SOS

Specs
  • Gender: Women’s
  • Ski Terrain: Groomed & Powder
  • Ski Camber: Tip and Tail Rocker
  • Sidecut Radius: 173 CM (25 meters); 180 CM (26 meters)
  • Waist Width: 173 CM (105 millimeters); 180 CM (109 millimeters)
  • Core Material: Wood
  • Weight (Pair): 8 lbs., 13 oz.
Features
  • Full Birch Wood Core Provides Stability And Absorbs Vibrations From Variable Snow Conditions
  • Longer Length Of The Ski Balances The Rockered Design, Perfect For Powder And Variable Snow And Terrain
  • Woman-Owned And Operated Company
Coalition Snow SOS

BEST FOR: POWDER SKIING FOR WOMEN

Though these aren’t the widest powder skis on the market, the Coalition Snow SOS downhill skis are wide enough to handle fresh, deep powder as well as stable enough to shred down the groomed trails. The birch wood core absorbs vibrations from uneven terrain and snow conditions, and provides stability so that you can equally enjoy the groomed trails as well as the powder-filled back bowls and tighter tree runs. These are the ultimate one-ski quiver; they are truly skis that you can take all over the mountain. Finally, Coalition Snow is woman-owned and operated, so they really understand ski design for women who like to explore.

Dynastar Legend W 96

Specs
  • Gender: Women’s
  • Ski Terrain: Groomed & Powder
  • Ski Camber: Tip and Tail Rocker
  • Sidecut Radius: 158 CM (11 meters); 165 CM (13 meters)
  • Waist Width: 96 millimeters
  • Core Material: Wood
  • Weight (Pair): 58 CM (6 lbs., 6.2 oz.); 165 CM (6 lbs., 13.3 oz.)
Features
  • Paulownia Wood Core Reduces Weight On The Skis
  • Skis Perform Well Both On The Resort And In The Backcountry
  • Tip And Tail Rocker Allows For Float In Fresh Powder
Dynastar Legend W 96

BEST FOR: TAKING IT TO THE NEXT LEVEL

If you’ve got aspirations to take your skiing into the backcountry either this season or in the future, then these Dynastar Legend W 96 downhill skis might just be the right ones for you. A lightweight wood core reduces the weight of the skis so that you’re not dragging around heavy skis all day at the resort or on your back in the backcountry. The rockered design in the tip and tail of the ski (the tips and tails bed upwards towards the sky) provides extra float in powder conditions so that you’re not sinking into the snow. These agile skis will, however, also perform well on groomed trails as they are designed with the freerider (or one that likes all types of terrain and conditions) in mind.

Faction Prodigy 2.0 X

Specs
  • Gender: Women’s
  • Ski Terrain: Groomed & Powder
  • Ski Camber: Tip and Tail Rocker
  • Sidecut Radius: 159 CM (12 meters); 165 CM (14 meters); 171 CM (16 meters)
  • Waist Width: 98 millimeters
  • Core Material: Poplar Wood
  • Weight (Pair): 7 lbs., 4.5 oz.
Features
  • These Skis Come With A Two-Year Manufacturers Warranty, Extending The Life Of The Ski
  • Shape Of The Ski Is Designed To Help You Quickly Change Directions And Adjust For Terrain Park Features
  • Poplar Wood Core Provides A Perfect Balance Of Weight Savings And Stability
Faction Prodigy 2.0 X

BEST FOR: TESTING THE TERRAIN PARK

If you’re intrigued by those X Games skiers that ride on the rails and the jumps, then maybe testing out the terrain park would be a fun goal for this season. If so, these are the skis for you. The poplar wood core is soft enough to play around on the features in the park, but they’re also stiff enough to hold turns on groomed trails and more variable terrain. Extra thick 2.5 millimeter edges provide extra durability, and if you combine that with the two-year manufacturer’s warranty, these skis provide truly unmatched value. Finally, the energetic hot pink, orange, and white design on the top of the skis looks awesome and will inspire you to go for it!

Rossignol Black Ops 98

Specs
  • Gender: Men’s
  • Ski Terrain: Groomed & Powder
  • Ski Camber: Tip and Tail Rocker
  • Sidecut Radius: 172 CM (17 meters); 182 CM (19 meters)
  • Waist Width: 98 millimeters
  • Core Material: Wood
  • Weight (Pair): 8 lbs., 13.1 oz.
Features
  • Developed By Professional Athletes For Superior All-Mountain Performance
  • Core Is Made Of A Balanced Combination Of Wood, Fiberglass, And Metal For Reduced Weight And Better Stability
  • Tips And Tails Are Rounded For Better Release Of Your Turns In All Snow Conditions
Rossignol Black Ops 98

BEST FOR: ATHLETE-INSPIRED PERFORMANCE

Designed by athletes for those who want superior performance on all types of terrain, the Rossignol Black Ops 98 downhill skis are definite favorites in the all-mountain ski category. The unique round shape of the tips and tails allows you to release your turns faster, increasing your agility in all types of snow conditions and types of terrain. Though that unique shape comes with a certain playful personality, these skis don’t sacrifice stability and power with a core made from wood, fiberglass, and metal, and optimized edge grip along the length of the skis. If you’re excited to enjoy all types of terrain this season – including the terrain park and jumping off of other natural features throughout the resort, then these skis just might be the ones for you.

DPS Skis Wailer F112

Specs
  • Gender: Men’s
  • Ski Terrain: Powder
  • Ski Camber: Tip and Tail Rocker
  • Sidecut Radius: 15 meters
  • Waist Width: 112 millimeters
  • Core Material: Bamboo and Poplar Wood
  • Weight (Pair): N/A
Features
  • Bases Of The Skis Designed To Be Ultra Durable And Fast
  • Top Of The Ski Features Ultra Durable Design And Material For Years Of Value And Durability
  • Skis Are Designed To Float In Deep Powder
DPS Skis Wailer F112

BEST FOR: POWDER SKIING FOR MEN

The DPS Skis Wailer F112 downhill skis were born for deep powder days. With 112 millimeters of width under your boots, you’re sure to float on top of the snow and the playful rockered designed of the tip and tail of the ski will add to that surfy feel as you cruise through deep, untouched snow. Though the price of these skis certainly makes them an investment, they come with built-in value in terms of durability. The bases are designed with special technology to be highly durable and resistant to scratches and scrapes. The top sheet design on the top of the ski is also built with superior materials to ward off those errant scratches when you’re carrying your skis around or transporting them to and from the mountain. As one of the best powder skis on the market, this pair is one that you’ll have for years to come.

Blizzard Black Pearl 88

Specs
  • Gender: Women’s
  • Ski Terrain: Groomed and Powder
  • Ski Camber: Tip Rocker
  • Sidecut Radius: 152 CM (12 meters); 159 CM (13 meters); 166 CM (14 meters); 173 CM (15.5 meters)
  • Waist Width: 88 millimeters
  • Core Material: Carbon Flipcore W.S.D.
  • Weight (Pair): 6 lbs., 9.6 oz.
Features
  • Carbon Core Is Designed Specially For Women To Reduce Weight Without Sacrificing Performance
  • Built For Speed With Superior Stability On Groomed Terrain
  • Tip Of The Ski Bends Upwards For Float In Powder Conditions
Blizzard Black Pearl 88

BEST FOR: CARVING THE GROOMED TRAILS

A longtime favorite of professional ski instructors, the Blizzard Black Pearl 88 is the ultimate resort ski for those that enjoy skiing fast. Blizzard designed these skis specifically for women, beginning in the core of the ski with a material that is stable and strong but lightweight to avoid unnecessary fatigue. The ski is also torsionally rigid, allowing for increased stability in carved turns and on groomed terrain at high speeds. Though the smaller waist width gives away that these skis are truly designed for in-bounds, groomed trail resort skiing, they also perform well in powder conditions with the rockered tip (upwards bend in the tip of the ski) for increased float in deeper snow.

 

 

THINGS TO CONSIDER WHEN BUYING DOWNHILL SKIS

COST

Downhill skis are an investment. Though there is certainly a range of prices on the market for downhill skis, skis will likely be one of the most expensive pieces of gear in your winter gear closet. While price does not always equate to performance, more expensive skis tend to include more cutting edge technology, which will help you enjoy the sport for years to come.

 

SKI LENGTH & SIZING

The general rule of thumb is that the ideal ski length falls somewhere between your chin and your nose when the skis are standing on end. When you’re in the shop sizing your skis, place the skis upright in front of you with the tips facing skyward. The tips should touch you somewhere between your chin and the top of your head. Anything below your chin or above your head is way out of your size range.

Other factors to consider when sizing your skis include skier weight, skiing style, experience, and terrain preferences. Generally, the more experienced the skier, the longer the skis should be. 

Shorter skis are a bit easier to control and are therefore better for less experienced skiers. Also, if you have a slighter build, a shorter ski will be easier for you to turn, while folks with larger builds might want a longer ski to help balance gravitational forces. 

In regards to skiing style, if you enjoy making quick turns, go for shorter skis. Speed and longer turns are best done on longer skis. 

Finally, terrain preference can determine ski length. If you enjoy exploring the trees and your favorite resort has narrow trails, you might want to opt for shorter skis. Longer skis will be better for open slopes and ungroomed terrain. Check out REI’s Expert Advice column on choosing the right ski for more information about fit.

 

SKI DIMENSIONS

Ski dimensions are typically determined by terrain preference. Powder and ungroomed terrain typically call for wider skis because they provide better flotation in deeper snow. If you prefer groomed trails, go for skinnier skis that will be better at carving and handling hard-pack snow.

 

TYPE OF TERRAIN

It’s important to understand the type of terrain that you enjoy skiing. Beginners typically start on groomed trails and progress towards ungroomed and variable terrain like trees and moguls. Some experts, however, enjoy carving down steep groomers at high speed. Your ski choice can enhance your experience on the terrain that you most enjoy and terrain, in turn, can determine the factors that you look for in a ski design. 

Two of these factors are camber and rocker. Camber and rocker refer to the bend in the ski. If you set the ski down on a hard, flat surface and look at it from the side, you’ll notice that some parts of the ski rest on the ground while others float in the air. 

Camber is a traditional ski design: there are two points of contact at the front and back of the ski with an upward bow in the middle like a rainbow. Camber is best for groomed terrain. 

Rocker is where the midsection of the ski rests entirely on the ground while both the tip and tail bend upwards. Rockered skis are best for deep powder and ungroomed terrain. For more information about buying skis and fitting them, check out evo’s downhill ski buyer’s guide.

 

BINDINGS

Bindings are the piece of hardware that secures your feet to your skis. Bindings are most often purchased separately from your skis. There are a lot of bindings on the market, and like skis, it’s best to choose bindings that fit your size, terrain preference, and skiing experience.

 

 

FEATURES EXPLAINED

ALL-MOUNTAIN SKIS

This is the most preferred category of ski type or design. You get the most bang for your buck with all-mountain skis because the design is optimized for resort skiing both on groomed runs as well as some powder. They are generally suited for all ages and experience levels.

 

WAIST

This term refers to the measurement of the width of the ski under the boot. A narrow waist is typically better for groomed runs and tighter turns, while a wider waist has more surface area, meaning it’s optimized for powder and ungroomed terrain.

 

TIP

The tip of the ski is located in front of your toes and refers to the top part of the ski. A wider tip is better for floating on top of softer snow. 

 

TAIL

The tail of the ski is located behind the heel. The back end of the tail is the part that helps to sustain turns, particularly while carving (when the ski is sliding on its edges). 

 

SIDECUT RADIUS

This term refers to the arc made by the shape of the ski if you’re looking straight down on to it from above. If you could complete the arc by drawing a giant circle and then measure the distance from the middle of the circle back to the ski, that is the measurement that is referred to as the sidecut radius. 

This measurement is typically expressed in meters; the higher the number (or the longer the radius), the better the ski is at making wider, longer turns. The lower the number (or the shorter the radius), the better the ski is at making shorter, tighter turns.

 

CORE MATERIAL

Skis are pressed with layers of different materials. Woods and metals typically combine to give the ski its body. A ski with metal in its core will generally be stiffer, which usually means that it’s better for more advanced skiers, while a ski with bamboo core construction will generally be lighter and more flexible (i.e., better for less experienced or less aggressive skiers). 

READ MORE

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