Carving pristine corduroy on a a crisp, sunny morning is undeniably one of the great joys of skiing, even if you prefer the deep stuff. A good piste ski can make those turns so much more enjoyable, luckily there are very few bad skis out there, especially in the advanced and expert categories.
Piste skis on test
We base our piste ski reviews on that magical mix of things that makes skis sing. How easy or difficult are they to steer at slower speeds? How stable they are at high speeds? Are they playful? Do they feel light and fun to turn, or heavy and cumbersome? To test edge hold we seek out slopes with exposed icy patches as well as those well-groomed gems, this allows us to put each and every piste ski through it's paces on both long and short turns.
The best piste skis this season
We tested over 100 pairs of skis this season, with the pick of the bunch represented in the list below. Every one of these skis has earned its place in the list after being thoroughly put through its paces by our team of ski racers, ski instructors and junior freeride world tour competitors. You can trust that, when our guys say a ski is the business, it won't disappoint.
Atomic Cloud 12 | £550 (bindings incl.)
BEST FOR Ripping up the pistes in style.
Atomic’s new Cloud 12 ski is not far short of a full-on race model – they don’t look like race skis, the smooth black top sheet, smart as it is, looks deceptively like it’s made for style over substance, but it’s not the case, these skis are the real deal.
Like other skis in the cloud range they have a narrow waist (70mm in the Cloud 12s case) and a slightly oversized tip and tail, creating good stability throughout the turns and excellent nice edge hold.
They never want to stop – we find they always want more and we become more and more confident on them due to their alertness and response in the turn. On the downside, if you push them really hard on icy surfaces they struggle a little with edge hold as they are softer in the tip than a race ski and this is where you notice the difference. They also become less stable at higher speeds, so whilst they do perform to a really high level, racers still might find them slightly underpowered – on the upside of that, they are fun to ride.
They also have a looker of a top sheet, almost leather like, with diamonds studded into it. Perhaps a little blingy, but you’d certainly look sleek and classy on the mountain – both on the slopes and when you stick them in the rack at the mountain restaurant.
VERDICT - 9/10
Good value for money, great fun, would suit an advanced to expert female skier who wants performance but likes to enjoy the ride too.
Black Crows Arto | £630
BEST FOR The hardcore freeride skier who has solid piste performance and wants to maintain his integrity in the lift line with all his fellow Black Crows skiers on a piste day.
How do you make giant slalom (GS) skis with a 24m radius so easy to ride? Well, Black Crows have come up with the answer and they’re called the ARTO.
Black Crows are known for producing wide, twin tipped skis for all types of terrain, but much to our surprise, they have now produced GS skis that don’t just look out of this world, but also turn like a dream.
The slick looking shape isn’t what you’d expect from traditional race skis - no red and white lines or graphics that define most thoroughbred World Cup machines. They simply look like Black Crows skis, just a lot thinner.
This in itself can be intimidating - we are familiar with the Black Crows pedigree that oozes quality and style, but once you snap your boots into the bindings and start to slide, this nervousness quickly dispels.
Surprisingly the ARTO also performs well in variable snow conditions. They seem to cruise around and over bumps, lumps and moguls - incredibly light, easy to turn and so sweet throughout the whole arc, regardless of the snow conditions you might encounter.
VERDICT - 9/10
Black Crows have proved they really know how to make skis of all types and the proof is in the ARTO - great fun for advanced to expert skiers, with a unique look that steps outside of the conventional model of a GS race ski and almost creates a unique category – the ARTO, and we bow to it.
Fischer RC4 The Curv Ti | £530 (bindings incl.)
BEST FOR Zippy turns for skiers who would like to race, but don’t.
If you haven’t been keeping up with the Alpine Ski World Cup races recently (shame on you) then you might not have heard of Dave ‘The Rocket’ Ryding – a true British ski star who has slalomed his way to the illustrious position of 8th in world, ‘not bad for a Brit’, as most surprised Austrians might mutter.
The point being that Dave has been riding (ha ha get it?) Fischer Skis during his rapid climb to glory and despite the fact that his success isn’t down to the brand of ski alone, we’re sure that they have helped make that split second difference that counts in top end slalom racing.
The RC4 The Curve Ti, are basically slalom skis for wannabe Dave’s who reckon they’re up for emulating their hero on the slopes, but don’t want to be made to look silly with a full-on race ski that will spit them out of the turn in the first few seconds.
Saying that, they are not to be taken lightly – the powerful feel through both short and long radius carve turns on perfectly manicured pistes provides about as much fun as you can have on snow that doesn’t bury your skis. Some would argue even more so, probably Dave to start with.
Choose different lengths for your turn radius preference – shorter skis, shorter turns and longer skis, longer turns. We find the longer lengths a bit of a handful when attempting what might be considered a pure slalom turn, but they make up for it when opening up the throttle to carve longer arcs at higher speeds – stable, solid and a grip that would slice through the very hardest snow with ease – well, probably for Dave anyway.
VERDICT - 8/10
Solid performance on-piste skis for advanced and expert riders who like nothing more than zooming around the slopes and making turn shapes of all types, then hanging them up outside the bar, just in time for Ski Sunday and, yes you guessed it, Dave.
Dynastar Intense 12 | £510 (bindings incl.)
BEST FOR Expert skier staying on-piste, who likes aggressive performance.
Dynastar has a long-standing heritage of producing high quality skis for both the piste and powder with some absolute classics in their historic line up – think, Course and Cham. So anything that comes through has a lot to live up to. The Intense was launched during the 16-17 season and has been kept in the Dynastar collection for 17-18, for good reason.
Exciting and thrilling are the two words that immediately come to mind with the Intense 12. Easy to turn, they’re a joy to play on whether you’re performing short or long radius turns on groomers. The edge hold is strong and solid, gripping into hardpack snow like an ice axe on a frozen waterfall. They love higher speeds too, there just doesn’t feel like there are any limits to these skis.
They’re the kind of ski that nurtures confidence, yes they are aimed at expert women skiers, but if you’re the kind of rider that wants to improve the technical side of your skiing on piste and you’re starting to get into carving, then they will look after you on that journey.
VERDICT - 9/10
Don’t judge a book by its cover – yes the topsheet is fine but didn’t inspire us much, but that doesn’t matter, it’s what’s inside that counts and they hold all their intensity within.
The Intense 12 is in the higher side of the price range but you get a lot of ski for the money.
Nordica Dobermann Spitfire RB | £720 (bindings incl.)
BEST FOR Front-side flyers in touch with their inner ski racer.
Sometimes the clue to something’s character is right there in the name and Nordica’s Dobermann Spitfire piste skis are spot on in that respect.
Power, check. Tech, check. Grace, check. Bite, check. Growl, check. Machine guns…. of course not, they’re skis not fighter planes, but Nordica has thought of most other things.
The six-strong range, in which the RB EVO sits in the upper half, utilises a lot of the build and technology that the Italian company developed for the World Cup circuit and their pedigree on piste can be clearly felt.
These are not skis to sit back and enjoy the ride on, they’re designed to be skied hard and fast, with confidence and skill.
Stability is superb and grip in both longs and shorts is ferocious; with five available lengths for the RB EVO from 156-180cm you can tailor your preferred turn radius, from a whippy 13.5m up to a still very workable 17m.
That World Cup build includes a full poplar-beech wood core, with two sheets of titanal metal over the edges, plus Carbon Race Bridge technology in the tip and tail – improving torsional stiffness, stability, power transmission and edge grip.
VERDICT - 9/10
The RB EVOs are a black and lime streak of super-charged fun, which will lay trenches in hard pack, chunk through crud and chopped-up snow on piste and, despite their stiffness, are still solid in moguls. Just keep them in the kennels when the soft and deep stuff is falling.
Rossignol HERO All Turn Elite | £495
BEST FOR Ski Instructors who need one ski all day.
The Rossignol HERO All Turn Elite has a lot to live up to with a name like that. All Turn. Elite. HERO. So what is this ski good for? Well, they are in fact good for all turns! Well, all turns on-piste that is - but it’s not called ‘The HERO All Turn Elite On-Piste Only’, but they may have well have called them that.
At first glance, at least alongside the other HERO Skis, the All Turn Elite (HATE) looks a bit cheap. If Rossignol had spent another few quid on the same top sheet as the race skis, they would stand out and look a Million Bucks, but instead they look more like a Million Lira.
We like to question skis that claim to be dual side cut, or all turn, as we have never quite worked them out – do they really work? Well, the HATE thankfully does. In short turns they are extremely quick edge to edge with the initiation into the turn spot on, grabbing the skis bang on the sweetspot without kicking you out. They release with ease and put you right back on the front of the ski, just at the right moment.
Being an ‘All Turn’ ski, we took them out of their comfort zone too – moguls to ridges, off the side of the piste, into short turns to longs and back to shorts, slow fast and “ski instructor” turns. The HATE slows down with so much ease and then opens up again into longer turns with the slightest of change without the aggressiveness of a slalom ski at speed, nor the longer sidecut challenge of a GS ski. They give you confidence to stand on the outside ski and let it do its thing. This is also down to the 74mm waist that allows you to stand on a ski with this sidecut (14m) and not get thrown out at speed, but it's not too wide to stop them from having outstanding edge hold.
VERDICT - 9/10
HATE these skis we do not, we just wish they looked a bit classier, because they really deserve it. Overall, a super playful ski with outstanding edge hold, even at higher speeds.
Head Epic Joy | £545 (bindings incl.)
BEST FOR Expert skiers looking for an epic ski to advance their technique on piste.
Tag skis with the label ‘Epic’ and ‘Joy’ and you have some serious expectations to live up to. The new addition to Head’s Joy range for 2018 keeps the high-end tech materials like Graphene in the picture to produce an expert women’s model designed for piste performance. But are they joyful and epic?
The answer is an easy one. ‘Yes they are’ and in fact, Head should have just named them ‘Really Epic and Seriously Joyful’. Expectations would still be met and then some. If you’re into zipping around the piste and you’re technically proficient, enjoy speed and know how to get the most out of a ski then you’ve just found your epic joy.
They love absolutely everything you throw at them – rotational style short turns, high speed carving turns, these are reactive skis willing to push the limits. They can handle variable terrain well too, including moguls and that softer snow you might find at the side of the piste.
The Epic Joy’s are everything you wish for in piste skis. They're probably suited more towards the expert skier than anyone else, although someone starting to improve or perhaps entering an instructor program for the first time would handle them too.
VERDICT - 10/10
The classy looking and sleek topsheet rounds it off for us – if anything, it’s a little understated for these skis, we want it to tell everyone how epic and joyful the experience actually is. Congratulations to Head for making them, perhaps next time they will name their new skis ‘Xxxxing Awesome’ and we will even let them off if they perform like this.
Head Supershape Rally | £585 (bindings incl.)
BEST FOR A good skier with legs that want to ski all day, would also make a great ski instructor ski.
Head's super shape range aims to cover the entire on piste market and the Rally is certainly a model that can handle it all.
First impressions are good – they look the part, solid and clearly well-constructed. They are not particularly lightweight by any means but that is perfectly acceptable in this case, as that solid feel works well in enhancing performance where it’s needed – ripping it up on the piste.
The Supershape Rally is an apt name for these skis – if this was a car, then it would be fast and nimble, sliding around corners on rough tracks and loving every second of it. The rocketed tip allows you to enter any turn at any speed with incredible ease – gripping early in both long and short radius turns. The tips have a decent width that helps cut up the heavier snow and moguls, almost moving them out of the way with intent.
The 76mm waist produces a less aggressive feel at speed than you’d expect for a ski with a 13.6m radius – they perform more like slalom skis, they are solid and at no point lose their grip on hard packed snow.
What impressed us was the ability for the Rally to rev down at slower speeds and turn with ease, performing edge to edge in shorter radius turns that feel light and poppy.
VERDICT - 10/10
Head has produced truly great skis in the Supershape Rally. They’re quite outstanding and are fun, fun, fun all day long.
Rossignol Famous 10 | £595 (bindings incl.)
BEST FOR Expert skiers who want skis to carve on-piste with ease.
Rossignol is one of the world’s largest manufacturers of skis, they've produced some classic models through the years which define the market – the Famous 10 has a lot to live up to, and they certainly hold their own, especially if it’s hard and fast carving you’re into.
They make carving on groomed slopes, especially at higher speeds, easy - both in long radius turns and shorter radius turns at slower speeds. One area where they struggle is in the more rotational style turn, where you don’t necessarily want to put the skis on their edges. This makes them less suitable for developing skiers and less versatile across variable terrain like moguls.
Having said that, they excel in short radius carved turns, where they feel super responsive and playful. Getting them onto a solid edge is easy, with the slim waist and wider tip and tail letting you ride the turn out. When it comes to rotating the skis in the turn aggressive is the word to describe them, they just want to get onto an edge at every opportunity.
The new topsheet stands out from the crowd, with eye catching looks that are smart and edgy.
VERDICT - 8/10
Good value for money for skis that perform at this level, they fit well into the expert piste ski category. They can also handle more variable conditions, but you need to remain aggressive if you’re taking them away from the piste.
K2 iKonic 80Ti | £560 (bindings incl.)
BEST FOR Expert skiers looking for all-mountain perfection with a strong piste element.
The K2 iKonic 80Ti is one of those skis that doesn’t quite know where it sits on the rack – are they on-piste machines or all-mountain tools? In this case, it doesn’t really matter because they do the job in both counts with distinction.
With an 80mm waist they are limited if you’re looking to have a blast on a big powder day, but they handle themselves incredibly well on those occasions when an overnight twenty centimetres makes that glade in-between the pistes too tempting to ignore.
Where they really excel is pretty much everywhere else on the mountain – hard pack groomed slopes, moguls, chopped up crud, slushy snow – they just eat it all up and then ask for more, but unlike Oliver Twist, they absolutely love what’s put in front of them and certainly won’t get banished for wanting extra’s.
These are powerful skis so unless you’re right on your game and have the kind of technical skills to handle them, you just won’t get the most out of your day on the slopes. They don’t mind a lighter, skilful skier though – so a smaller guy should appreciate their responsiveness.
Because the edge hold is so good, the turns feel so smooth, the skis feel so solid, you start to relax a little bit – don’t! Turn up the volume, power up the aggression and blast your way all over the mountain, the K2 iKonic 80 Ti will love you all the more for it.
VERDICT - 9/10
Good value all-mountain skis with a serious bite.