Whether you enjoy nothing more than carving perfectly groomed motorway cruisers in between slopeside coffee (or Vin Chaud), charging hard on double black diamonds, or bumping through mountainous mogul fields, the common denominator is the sticks under your feet. Not all piste skis are created equal but they all have a common denominator and that is being staunchly set on taking you down the mountain in between the markers.
Even within this well-defined category there are hundreds of different ski models available across scores of brands which makes the task of choosing your downhill slaying weapon somewhat baffling and potentially even a little overwhelming.
Before you begin the task of choosing though it’s wise to whittle down the options using some basic criteria:
Piste skis should come up to between chin and eye level. Your skill level will also affect the length to an extent, with shorter skis usually being easier to handle than their longer counterparts. Also consider that if you're particularly heavy or light for your height you should go up or down a few centimetres in ski length to compensate.
A piste ski will usually have a shorter sidecut radius than an all mountain or freeride ski, as you look down the length of the ski there will be a pronounced curve between the nose and tail. This makes for quick turns and easy turn initiation, but the resulting narrow waist won't provide much float in powder. The length of the sidecut radius will influence how the ski feels from edge to edge so think about whether you like long carving GS style turns or quick, flicking turns.
If you lay a ski down on the floor or a table and look at it side on, you'll notice that the base rises and falls along its length. Imagine a banana balanced on its side. If the ends of the banana are touching the surface it can be said to have a traditional or positive camber profile, if the middle is touching it has a rocker, or banana, profile.
As a rule of thumb if you want a piste orientated ski look for one with a positive camber profile for maximum contact and therefore control along the length of the ski.
Congratulations, you’ve nailed your criteria and you’re halfway to choosing your next ski, but to make the next step a little easier our team of testers have ridden and rated all the new skis from the top brands in the world to bring you our selection of the very best available to buy this season.
Atomic Redster S9 | £725
BEST FOR: Expert skiers and instructors who favour on-piste performance skiing
The Redster S9 from Atomic is an off-the-shelf shop ski that feels like a world cup race machine with a much lower price tag.
They are highly stable, snappy - everything slalom skis should be, but they have a heavy kick in the tail making them a handful in shorter turns, especially on steeper terrain.
Their pedigree oozes Hirscher and Shiffrin’s personality, although channelling that is always going to be a challenge. But when those rare moments happen and you get a glimpse of what it might be like to perform at that level, the Redster’s become your friend.
They work surprisingly well at slow speeds too, in those ‘ski instructor’ style turns that don’t need to be 100% super-charged. So whilst they don’t let you down when the effort is more relaxed, they do demand a strong standard of technical ability to perform at the required level. Like a horse that can smell a novice rider and reject their clumsy attempts to control it, the Redster’s will spit you out of every turn if you don’t show respect.
For expert skiers who like to rip turns on hardpack and feel the bite, response and rebound through every turn, they are a dream.
“Lady in red, is skiing with me, turn to turn.” Pros should pick these for supreme response.
Salomon S/Max W Blast | £750
BEST FOR: Advanced-expert skiers who like to race and rip
If you’ve found yourself in any way disappointed by the slightly ‘soft’ performance of Salomon’s women’s piste skis in recent years then look lively because the S/Max W Blast is about to stir things up!
Designed to deliver uncompromising performance on the piste, the S/Max W Blast is a real resort ripper. With minimal tip rocker, race camber, full sidewall construction and Salomon’s Edge Amplifier, the S/Max W Blast is packed full of performance-related tech to enhance precision and power around the mountain.
The S/Max W Blast knows how to get into a turn and to hold it there, offering reassuring and real energy throughout. The Double Titanal Laminate provides stability when travelling at high speeds and with zero underfoot chatter, you can really rely on the S/Max W Blast and relax into the ride.
With its 17m turning radius, the S/Max W Blast wants to carve yet is still versatile enough to respond in steeper, icier sections when shorter, fast feet-style turns may be required.
At £750 including bindings, the S/Max W Blast may be eye-wateringly expensive, but it really is a bloody good ski. It excels on fast red/black runs where you can open up and let it rip.
Predictable, easy to control and super grippy, ideal for hard-charging skiers.
Volkl Flair 76 Elite | £425
BEST FOR: Anyone looking for fun on the piste
The Volkl Flair 76 Elite may be positioned as a recreational-to-intermediate ski, but we think it punches way above its weight when it comes to performance on piste and all-round fun.
There’s no carbon or metal in the Flair 76 Elite meaning it’s less stiff and aggressive than many expert skis. As a lighter ski with a dual wood core profile, the Flair 76 Elite may go straight into the ‘intermediate’ category when it comes to the business of ski categorisation but when it actually comes to smashing down groomers, it’s capable of seriously high-end fun!
Playful and responsive, the Flair 76 Elite was easy to throw into the turn and as long as you stay at the front of your boots and drive it through the full arc then you’ll be in for a solid and super enjoyable ride.
If you’re looking for a really good everyday resort ski and have no desire to pop off the side into the off piste then the Volkl Flair 76 Elite is an ideal choice. Obviously super high-end aggressive skiers will be looking for more of a race oriented ski but for the majority of skiers looking to cruise blue and reds and push their level onto black runs, the Flair 76 Elite will facilitate and flatter.
Easy to ski, great value and able to hold an edge - this is a confidence-boosting ski.
Wedze Boost 900 | £260
BEST FOR: Good skiers who want a decent piste ski they can own for a low cost
Decathlon bring sports equipment direct to the consumer through a number of brands they manufacture themselves and for skis, that means Wedze. It also means costs are lower than traditional brands, whilst a good level of quality is maintained.
The Boost 900 is their top of the range on-piste offering and is aimed at advanced and expert skiers who like to carve on well-groomed slopes. They certainly seem to do what they say on the tin.
First impressions at slower speeds are good. They turn with ease and have a nice, natural progression through the turn, neither holding back and understeering nor over turning too easily. This balance makes them a joy to ski in slower to medium paced GS style turns on groomed snow, especially if it’s slightly softer. On harder packed surfaces, the edge grip is good, although lacks a full bite compared to higher end skis that are more race orientated.
In shorter radius turns, they are lively and snappy with an enthusiastic rebound that feels fun and playful, without being overly demanding.
Cranking them up to higher speeds, they handle things pretty well, but do lack a little stability when things become turbo charged. But then again, they aren’t a race ski, so we can’t expect them to act like one.
A great budget choice for advanced skiers who like to carve on well-groomed pistes.
Elan Speed Magic | £530
BEST FOR: Girls who really like to rip on the piste
If you’ve been looking for a ski that allows you to push your limits and delivers when you really commit, then the Elan Speed Magic is for you.
Dynamic and punchy, the precision and agility really shows the Speed Magic’s racing heritage. With a radius of 10.5-14m depending on which length you go for, the Speed Magic definitely sits towards the slalom end of the racing spectrum and short to medium turns are where it really excels.
At just 68mm underfoot the Speed Magic certainly loves to find an edge and goes into the turn with confidence and ease. Longer carved turns require more precision from the pilot as the Speed Magic is so keen to turn, but rising to that challenge is simultaneously fun and progressive.
The Arrow Technology of the shaped carbon plates and titanium structural layers work together in the tip of the ski to give super-easy turn initiation and the power and energy transferred up to the tip goes straight onto a solid edge that feels like it will hold through anything. Combined with the Early Rise Rocker of the tip and tail, it all works to increase the smoothness of the ride and delivers a really well balanced feel.
Performance also comes from the Power Shift, a free flex plate-in-plate design that dampens vibrations within the Speed Magic beautifully, reducing chatter particularly on hard-pack snow.
At 68mm underfoot, it’s certainly more of a challenge off-piste but it will work for expert skiers who embrace the experience of earning their turns. On the piste the Speed Magic is a great option for the improving advanced skier as the responsiveness will tell you immediately when you are getting it right.
Dynamic, punchy, precise and agile - the Elan Speed Magic is an excellent choice.
K2 Charger M3 12 TCX | £535
BEST FOR: Intermediate to advanced resort skiers, who value fun over hardcore performance
The Charger from K2 could be viewed as sitting at the bottom of its family; the more modestly priced, generically aimed piste ski to its more specialised and expensive siblings, the Speed Charger, Super Charger and Turbo Charger. But we still expect it to charge!
Having said that, the word that all our testers put forward was ‘fun.’ Plain and simple, and arguably what K2 do best. The Charger is flexible, light, poppy and forgiving. It wants you to ski well, and it wants to help you into long carving turns and bounce you in and out of short turns.
With all this in mind it is surprisingly stable at high speeds, and it is only when pushed hard on steep slopes that it begins to chatter. So for a ski in this category and at this price point, yes it can charge!
After a versatile piste ski at a great price that offers a big dose of fun? Look no further.
Volkl Deacon 74 | £800
BEST FOR: For the dedicated piste skier who needs little versatility
The Deacon 74 from Bavarian brand Volkl, are an out-and-out piste destroyer aimed at hard charging expert skiers who like to spend their days flying down the corduroy.
They’re also eye-wateringly expensive, which makes the cheap attempt at retro looking graphics – a flash of a pink accent fore and aft – more or less unforgivable. There is a black version available, but frankly you’ll be hoping your money was spent on what’s beneath the surface. And in that you won’t be disappointed.
‘Exceptional on-piste skis with fierce grip’ said one of our testers. But what really stands out is that the Deacon 74 wants to go fast, and they need to be driven hard. They are entirely capable in short quick turns – although a little effort is required – but they clearly prefer to lay into long, fast carving turns and then snap you out of them at the finish.
Easily one of the best on-piste skis of this year, worth it if you love the groomed stuff.