Reviewing the Best Skis for the 2023 Season
This review was conducted by reviewer Bob S. at the WWSRA Demo Days, Mammoth, CA February 8-9, 2022
This review is coming from a skier in his mid 70’s who skis all day, does not take a lunch break, and likes to ski powder, off piste, steep slopes and moguls, and skiing top to the bottom of a mountain without stopping, but who does not like icy slopes. Stability and control are more important to me than speed and I like to alternate hard turns with cruising both between runs, and during long runs.
Every ski I demoed was spectacularly better than the best skis from 10-15 years ago. And Mammoth is to be congratulated for grooming that allowed for extraordinary coverage of the slopes even though they did not have freshies for almost 6 weeks. I was not able to rate the powder and soft crud capabilities of the skis although I did ski almost all of them off of the corn snow windpack double black diamond run (Dropout) off the top of the mountain, and ran all of them over icy patches off piste, both smooth and bumpy, to test their edges and chatter over those surfaces.
By a narrow margin, DYNASTAR MPro90 was my favorite. It felt very stable at slow and fast speeds, was easy to turn, had excellent edge control and had the least chatter when going over hard off piste snow. I don’t ski moguls fast and this ski allowed me to be comfortable making it through a mogul field with good control. Despite the stability the ski is playful and has good spring off of turns.
LINE Blade Optic, like several in this category, is marketed as a freeride ski but was stable, easy to turn at slow and fast speeds, edged well and had low chatter but a little more than the MPro90. Should be fun in terrain parks.
ELAN Ripstick is another freeride ski that has all mountain chops. Probably was the most playful of the non-carvers and turns easily at all speeds
KASTLE FX96 Ti, ROSSIGNOL Black Ops Sender, K2 Reconer, and NORDICA Enforcer were also excellent all mountain skis with little to distinguish between them, which is a good thing.
Although all of the following skis had better edge control and ease of turning, while having at least as much stability as my 2011 BLIZZARD Bonafides, they were not as easy to initiate turns, and had more chatter, than the previously reviewed skis. They are all very good but just not as good for the way I ski then the others:
I wish there was fresh powder and soft crud to ski and I had the time to ski other brands and sizes of more all mountain skis. I do not have a quiver and instead want to take a single pair of skis to the mountain and accept that in many conditions they will not be the best skis, but ones I can control and enjoy in any condition.
But if I wanted to have a second ski it would be a CARVER so if the conditions warrant, I would be able to turn more easily on groomers and on ice and extreme hardpack than on the ALL MOUNTAIN skis. My preference is for a “Dad ski,” a ski that is responsive at the slower speeds of skiing with children, and also when doing a relaxing run with buddies of various ski abilities.
My favorite which has excellent edging and intuitive turn initiation and execution, is the HEAD V-Shape. The advantage of this ski is that ability to carve at lower speeds. Like all carvers it has significant chatter on icy off piste, but less than the stiffer skis do.
The most fun carvers at higher speeds are the ROSSIGNAL Hero Elite Plus Ti, BLIZZZARD Thunderbird R15WB and HEAD E-rally. They all had excellent edging and when pushed held their edges and made crisp, beautiful turns without skidding. But at slower speeds they lacked stability and so would not make it as “Dad skis.”
I hope these reviews help you choose the ski that is right for your style.
The following review is by Al L., an athletic old fart who loves to go fast and doesn’t care for shorter skis. He did club racing 25 years ago and is still a wannabe racer at heart. 5’ 9”, 185, tree trunk thighs. Current quiver is too many big mountain blasters, but no true Carvers. Looking primarily at Carvers especially since it hasn’t snowed here in over 6 weeks. Mammoth grooming team has done a phenomenal job at keeping the snow in great high speed carving shape!
Head e-Rally 177, 132-78-114, 15m radius; very turny, carves good at higher speeds but still a bit underwhelming to me, would have preferred a 181-183 length if avail. Black and red graphics, nice!
Dynastar M Pro 90, 186, 121-90-111, light weight but still very stable and smooth, great edge to edge quickness, good carving at speed. Could see this as a west coast all-rounder.
Dynastar 4×4 Speed, 185, 130-82-110. Awesome carving ski! Handled some windpack/softer snow great, closest I came to today to the Rossi Hero Plus in 181 which Rossi quit making. (The Hero Plus was my favorite Carver last year).
Stockli Stormrider 88, nice gs cruiser, likes you putting some energy into it. Stiff, good all rounder for a larger or stronger skier.
Stockli Montero 178, 16.5m radius, 112-80-123. Good slalom turner, high energy. Not so sure for an all day ski, quite stiff. Would be fun to try in some gates.
Volkl Mantra M6 186 , pretty good damping, very light ut still solid, good choice for west coast all mountain, something missing though.
Volkl Deacon 176, 124-76-104, 17.6m radius. too short for my taste, a bit too turney, hooky for me. Hoping to try in 181, was really hoping to love these.
Dynastar 4×4 185. 2nd try to confirm earlier, yep…I want a pair!!!
Nordica Enforcer 94; 186, 18.2, great fast cruising ski on the groomers, didn’t like slower turns much. Would be a great one-ski quiver for West.
Atomic Maverick 88Ti, 184, similar to the Nordicas but a tad stiffer and less damped, still fun at speed!
Volkl Deacon 76 in 181, 124-76-104, R18.7. Wow, just as awesome as the Dynastar 4x4s, 181 was a whole different beast, way better than the 176 for me. railed the carving and handled some of the softer puffs on cornice quite well! I’d be happy with this or the 4×4 as my Groomer Carver ski! Would work as an East coast frontsider as well.
Volkl Kendo 88 in 184, 129-88-113; another great ski for an all round Westcoast ski, just a bit chattery at high speed, handled the soft bumps and slick spots on cornice well, more fun on the steeps.
K2 Mindbender 88, 185. Rips at speed, another high speed gs cruiser, was at home on the hard pack, handled ice well.
Line 104 in 185, not a carver but lots of fun in the softer wind blown today, most playful ski so far.
Rossignol Sender Ti 104, 185, 132-104-123; Freaking Awesome ski, as fun as the Line 104, but much more stable at speed, solid and fun wherever I went, this could be my next big ski!
Icelantic Nomad 105 in 181, 140-105-130. Fun schmeering? type ski, not a carver but fun on everything else, even handled icy bumps pretty well! Helped to stay centered as their Rep recommended. Would have liked to try it in 186, maybe next time!
In summary, my favorite Carvers were the Dynastar 4×4 speed 185 and the Volkl Deacon 76 in 181. I’ll most likely go with the least expensive of those two for my highly needed groomer/carver pair.
Once my Rossignol 195 Super 7’s are retired, I’ll be replacing them with those Rossignol Sender Ti 104’s.