All mountain skis are perhaps the fastest growing area in ski hardware, with all the big brands and plenty of smaller ones leaping like lithe young salmon onto the bandwagon. And it's not an unreasonable desire to have a ski that can take you all over the mountain, from piste to park and into the backcountry, after all the whole mountain is there to be enjoyed.
Not all skis in this category are created equal though and there are a dizzying array of strengths and weaknesses to pick through to find your perfect mountain weapon. Some skis might favour piste, while others will have a penchant for powder at the expense of out and out carving performance, so as always, the first step to finding your 'quiver of one' is to nail down exactly what type of terrain you mostly prefer to ride. The next step in your search is to honestly assess your ability level and try to match that up with a ski, bearing in mind that if you're looking to improve then the ski should have the characteristics to help take you to the next level.
In a sense there is no 'typical' all mountain ski but it's safe to say that for most things, including ski length, waist width and turn radius, an all mountain ski will sit between a piste and freeride ski.
So, a good all mountain ski will have your type of riding and ability level at the fore of it’s capabilities but that may not suit the next guy in the lift line. Which is why we’ve ridden and rated over 100 pairs to help you whittle down your choices and find your next all mountain slayer.
Elan Ripstick 96 | £490 (M) WINNER
BEST FOR The all-mountain rider in search of ski heaven
The Ripstick 96 is a simple wood core freeride orientated all mountain ski with the addition of full length carbon tubes that strengthen them without adding weight. This produces a lively, responsive ski that is ridiculously fun and confidence-boosting to ride. These skis forgive the odd mistake but when good technique is applied they reward you with countless moments of joy. And this is why the Ripstick 96 was universally adored by every one of our ski test team.
The 96mm width under foot and dreamlike flex pops out of deep snow with no effort at all, and on groomed slopes they make turns a pleasure. Nippy, nimble and light – they slice through even the hardest packed piste conditions. A true all-mountain ski.
Verdict: After an all-mountain ski? The Ripstick 96 should be top of your list, so it tops ours.
Line Chronic | £425 (M)
BEST FOR Freestyle skiers who don’t want to stick to the park
Line’s Chronics have proved like Marmite - our testers ended up either loving or hating these skis. New for this year they promise a flex pattern that provides a softer tip and tail. One tester said: “This might win my award for most fun ski of the year. It’s the kind of ski that immediately feels a part of you, inspires confidence and just wants to take you on a trip.” Another was less effusive: “This is a typical Line ski, trying to do it all at once and not really succeeding.
The centre mount position makes the turn happen fast, but then there’s not much going on. Nice in the soft stuff and the tip handles variables well, but it does not like speed and flaps on the hard stuff.” A suck-it-and-see model, your love of which will depend on your skiing style.
Verdict: The Chronic split our camp, but is a strong park ski that can handle most terrain.
Atomic Vantage 90 Ti | £660 (M) HIGHLY COMMENDED
BEST FOR Progressive intermediates in search of a great price
The Vantage range isn’t new, but the 90 Ti is a new model for the 2018-19 winter season and joins a dignified pack of all-mountain tools that always impress the team here at Snow. Atomic have really hit the ski pole on the helmet with the 90Ti.
It gets high scores across the board and feels immediately at home on every inch of the mountain. Stable, smooth and powerful are just some of the platitudes our testers used when reviewing them on and off piste.
On groomed slopes they feel smooth, off-piste they easily power through and in powder they produce that freeride feel we crave for, making them one a seriously versatile ski.
Verdict: Great value for strong intermediate skiers who want a versatile tool.
Head Total Joy | £595 (W)
BEST FOR Skiers who like light skis and lively, short turns
If ever there was a ski not to be judged by its cover it’s the Head Total Joy. With its white/pale blue graphics, the Total Joy gives the impression of being a bit, well, delicate really. But within seconds it had proved us wrong. Punch and pizzazz were there from the off and we ended up having a total blast. With its 13.6m turning radius, the Total Joy is a real lively lass who likes nothing better than smashing out super quick short turns on piste or in the bumps. Agile and responsive, the edge-to-edge performance of the Total Joy is right up there with the best in test but if you do decide to put in some longer turns, it has the control to stick with you and carve right through the arc.
Verdict: Versatile, all-mountain women’s ski that gives you a lot of fun for your buck.
Elan Delight Prime | £400 (W) BEST WOMEN'S BUDGET
BEST FOR Intermediates looking for an accessible ski from the get-go
The Delight Prime is an impressively lightweight female ski. It’s - dare we say it - a ‘delight’ to ski, and its feathery properties are the key to this. Fun and easy to turn, the Delight Prime is equal parts playful and responsive. It automatically gives you ‘fast feet’, allowing you to put in quick turns in steep sections and providing an effortless ride all over the mountain. Elan’s SlimShape technology, the early rise rocker, Light Shift design, wood core and PST construction combine to give the Delight Prime a forgiving and versatile feel on piste. And at £400 with bindings, it also offers exceptional value for money.
Verdict: The Delight Prime does a boss job around the resort but comes unstuck in powder.
Blizzard Sheeva 9 | £440 (W) BEST WOMEN'S
BEST FOR Those looking for a versatile and practical quiver-of-one
At 92mm underfoot, the Sheeva 9 may be the narrowest offering within Blizzard’s hugely popular Sheeva ladies series but it’s certainly no lightweight when it comes to on-mountain performance. While its older and fatter sisters - the Sheeva 10 and 11 – most definitely belong in the freeride category, the Sheeva 9 is a more subtle, practical and versatile beast that’s capable of doing the business in a wider variety of mountain terrain. Beautifully balanced thanks to its stiff Titanal metal plate and lightweight wood core, we found the Sheeva 9 to be a super-stable yet perky and playful mountain partner that was easy to ski from the get-go, as happy on short piste turns as it is on those heaven-sent powder days.
Verdict: A seriously fun all-mountain ski for occasional freeride forays, and at a decent price.
Rossignol Experience 84 Ai | £545 (M)
BEST FOR Confidence building on and off the groomers
We’ve always liked the Experience range here at Snow, so when Rossignol announced some big changes to the design structure for 2018-19 we waited with anticipation to get our feet strapped in to them. They are targeted at the intermediate/advanced skier who mainly skis the controlled part of the mountain, but wants versatility for deeper stuff. Rossignol have elevated the ride to a different level. They feel easy to turn, with a solid edge grip. They build confidence and feel comfortable and relaxed to ride, but do offer a little less stability at high speeds.
Verdict: A definite improvement on what was already a great ski and good value for money, too.
Dynastar Legend X80 | £399 (M) BEST MEN'S BUDGET
BEST FOR Progressing your skiing all over the mountain
Dynastar have made some cracking skis over the years and the Legend X80 is no exception to the rule. First impressions are of a well-built, high-quality tool for the accomplished skier, but the price tag might make you do a double take. At only £399 with bindings they represent fantastic value but still deliver quality on the snow. Dynastar’s Legend X80 punches well above its weight for what you would usually expect from ‘middle of the road’ skis. On the snow they feel light, fun, poppy and dynamic in challenging terrain while still being solid and stable through high speed turns. We had so much fun on the reliable Legend X80 that we kept going back for more.
Verdict: Overall a cracking all-mountain ski at a superbly affordable price point.
Majesty Adventure | £439 (M)
BEST FOR Aspiring freeriders who spend time in deep powder
The Adventure is designed for all-mountain use and certainly comes across as a ski that can handle pretty much everything. On groomed slopes they feel zippy and responsive, carving sweetly in smooth arcs through longer turns and snapping quickly from edge to edge in shorter radius turns. They are generally fun to ride everywhere, but favour softer snow conditions. On piste they can become a little flappy at higher speeds - hit an icy patch and they can lose their edge, dropping confidence levels quickly. They love soft, slushy moguls though, sucking up each bump like a vacuum under your feet. In softer snow they are super forgiving and feel alive.
Verdict: A highly versatile plank for all mountain cruisers with a leaning towards off-piste.
Dynastar Legend W84 | £510 (W)
BEST FOR Performance and predictability around resort
The Legend W84 is positioned at the heart of Dynastar’s all-mountain pack and is likely to appeal to intermediate to advanced skiers who spend the majority of their time on piste but aren’t afraid to nip off to the side if there’s something fun and fresh to be found. From immaculate groomers to fresh powder, from sun affected off-piste to chopped up bumps, we found the Legend W84 to be a more than capable player, if not a particularly exciting one. The overwhelming feeling was one of a comfortable ride - exactly what you want from an all-mountain ski. Consistent and reliable, the Legend W84 responded well across the board.
Verdict: For £510 with bindings you get a really solid ski that will have you progressing fast.