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The best powder skis of 2022
Big mountains and steep lines require a ski that will plane effortlessly over bottomless snow and provide a stable ride through the runout. Some of these more freeride-focused powder planks are skis you see in the movies; ones that pros bring on multi-week film shoots in British Columbia, Alaska, and beyond. Other more freestyle skis are pillow poppers, made for switch landings and photo-worthy pow slashes. The widest, most playful skis in the Buyer’s Guide, these skis are fine-tuned for floating and surfing through the deep end. When snow is stacking up, these near-symmetric, fully-rockered skis should be your first choice from the quiver.
Rossignol BlackOps Sender Squad
When Rossignol decided to replace the ever-popular 7 Series, it knew it would be a long process experimenting with different shapes, compositions and materials. Driven primarily by athletes asking for a powerful, wide and Freeride World Tour-style ski, the brand plowed through prototypes, refining a formula that would work for its top skiers around the globe… Read the full review in our Deep Dive into the BlackOps Sender Squad.
Blizzard Rustler 11
The Rustler 11 is a rare breed of freeride ski that can rip serious lines but is accessible to the vast majority of skiers. The core layup is, quite honestly, a feat of engineering. It combines five types of woods (ISO, beech, balsa, poplar and paulownia) with a milled strip of Titanal laid edge-to-edge across the waist, and includes more carbon and fiberglass layups than Jeff Bezos’ super-yacht. But all of this tech doesn’t add up to the burliest ski possible; instead, it’s one capable of handling a myriad of conditions without being too demanding or smacking you down. The floaty shape is bolstered by tapered tips and tails for easy surfing, but the stout mid-body and solid camber will rail turns in chalk and on groomers. Rip it top-to-bottom all day and you’ll still have gas in the tank for one last tram lap.
Black Crows Anima
The Anima has always been a charger. It is Mark Abma’s deep day tool of choice, after all. But this year, Black Crows decided to make it more agile. Shortening the sidecut to 19 meters in every size, you are now free to move about the cabin—making quicker turns when the terrain gets hairy. The result is a burly and poppy powder tool that won’t lock you into Super G turns. Our testers found the new turn radius snappy and playful, while the combination of the weight and smooth flex pattern powered through chop and crud. Of course, when you’re ready to really open it up, so is the Anima. It’s powered by a ton of fiberglass and Kevlar stringers to keep things stable when you’re ripping face out on the apron.
Nordica Enforcer 110 Free
This is the year of the playful powerhouse charger—and they just keep getting better. Nordica’s Enforcer 110 Free has one of the most rewarding shapes we’ve tested, year-after-year. The minimal taper pulls you into a turn better than just about any ski of this width and the stout-yet-round flex pattern paired with early rise in the tip and tail make this ski the stuff of freeride dreams. ABS plastic in the tip helps plow through chopped up snow like a monster truck and the stable, extended wood core with carbon layup and two layers of Titanal can take supersonic speeds. And yet, all our testers could talk about was how fun it was once they got it up to speed. It’s not a ski that loves short turns at low speeds, but if you’re down to kick it, the Enforcer 110 Free will kick right back.
Icelantic Nomad 115
What never fails to surprise us about Icelantic’s Nomad series is how every ski in the collection excels on-edge, even this one, the widest in the collection. Clocking in at a girthy 115-mm underfoot, the Nomad 115 is an ideal West Coast daily driver. Poplar and paulownia laid up with unilateral and tri-axial fiberglass yields a plush ride and the 150-mm shovel will float to the top on Japow’s deepest days. But its twinned-up shape hints at its freestyle soul. Want to launch 540s off Alta’s Punk Rock or down Mammoth’s Huevos Grandes and stick a smooth landing? The Nomad 115 could be your tool for the job. Our testers found this ski at home popping side hits and carving wide open bowls, too. There’s not much it can’t handle.
Black Diamond Impulse 112
The set is lining up and it’s a perfect left. Grab your boards. Built with a silky smooth rocker profile, Black Diamond’s all-new Impulse 112 is an all-around pow-surfing machine with a knack for the backcountry. Our testers called this the most fun ski BD has ever built. With a beefy construction (that includes a notch for tail clips) Black Diamond seems to be riffing on its ski mountaineering roots but certainly moving in a freeride direction. The Impulse 112 carries a little more weight than the carbon backcountry missiles that preceded it, but that’s because it was made to surf and trawl the deeps. However, this ski is just as at home at the resort, where its powerful construction can mow down chop and push through heavier spring snow. If you want to emulate the style of pro rider Parkin Costain, take the Impulse 112 as deep as you’d like.
Fischer Ranger 115 FR
An Austrian-designed powder ski is a beautiful thing in the hands of a capable driver. If laying powerful arcs down the steep and deep is more appealing than landing switch into five feet of snow, the Ranger 115 FR should approach the top of your list. Built on a powerful beech and poplar platform, Fischer’s flagship pow ski will give back as much energy as you can put into it. Our testers were thrilled by how well the Ranger 115 FR carved through the deep stuff. Yet, once the snow got more tracked out, its Carbon Nose was able to smooth out the troughs and blast through and fly over the crud. Austrian tech with a decidedly freestyle shape—a dream combination for freeriders everywhere.
Salomon QST Blank
The QST 118 was one of those by-athletes-for-athletes skis that, while an excellent shape, was more ski than most of us really needed. This season, Salomon decided to completely update the widest ski in its QST collection and make something the rest of the world could fall in love with, too. Enter the QST Blank, shaped by members of the Blank Collective. The narrowed waist and seriously shortened sidecut made for a ski that was equally adept at chewing up tracked snow, floating on the fresh and carving a wicked turn for a 112 underfoot. We were impressed with how Salomon was able to push so much of what we loved from the QST 106 into the Blank while keeping the perfect backend from its wider, pow-focused predecessor.
4FRNT has experienced great success over the years with Eric Hjorleifson’s namesake ski, the Hoji. As one of its best-selling tools, the Hoji has racked up awards in addition to sales. So if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it, right? Wrong—4FRNT has updated the Hoji for the 21-22 season to make it more stable on-piste while maintaining its powder-focused prowess… Read the full review in our Deep Dive into the Hoji.
We won’t bury the lede—this ski is so freakin’ stable for its backcountry-friendly weight. With a round but very strong flex pattern, we felt we could ski the InThayne much faster in chopped up snow than similarly light pow skis. This should come as no surprise to anyone who’s seen Thayne Rich ride and, although we don’t ski quite as well as he does, the stiff flex was indeed an asset for supporting big landings. Those looking to blow through piles of days-old pow may want something with a bit more weight but, if quickness, maneuverability and a balanced, freestyle-shape with a knack for skiing wicked fast are the most important things for you in a resort pow ski, the InThayne should be at the top of your list.
J skis The Friend
Jason Levinthal has a gift for making skis that can handle super burly terrain while still feeling both easy and fun to ski. The Friend is no exception and, for another year in a row, it’s one of the best pow skis we’ve tested. Shockingly nimble for its massive size (and weight), we couldn’t believe it was 117 mm underfoot. Levinthal insisted that we lay it all the way over and trust it and, man, was he right. This thing feels like it has the edge hold of a 100 mm all-mountain ski that still performs when the powder is chopped up or skied out, but in the deep it’s a quick, surfy shortboard. If we had to take a mystery trip in March to the Western US, we’d take this ski for its sheer versatility. Turn and burn, baby.
Elan Ripstick 116
While the Ripstick 116 is the widest in the collection, it’s one of the most adaptable: Despite its girthy waist, it doesn’t lose sight of those in-between moments heading back to the chair after a rip-roarin’ lap through waist-deep snow. The low weight and slick carbon layup make it insanely versatile, and it can carve up groomers like a much narrower ski. That said, this is a powder tool, and once you get it into the sweet stuff it becomes a whole ‘nother animal. The Carbon Line Technology delivers amazing pop from turn-to-turn and at the lip of natural features. No wonder it’s Josh Bibby’s go-to ski, the freestyle legend is known for building skis with smooth flexes and massive float-ability, and the Ripstick 116 fits the bill perfectly.
Lib Tech Yewps 118
If owning a pro-model ski gave you the abilities to shred like its shaper, there are few skis we’d grab off the racks faster than this collab with Lucas Wachs. The Bend-based phenom helped design the YEWPS 118 for freestyle sled trips and sending natural features around the resort. Lib Tech’s Magne-Traction, a serrated edge that, at first, feels like a gimmick, actually performs really well on firm terrain and helps this massive powder plank ski much narrower than it reads on paper. Surfy, poppy and stable are how we’d characterize this jibby ski. If you like to explode off cornices and butter around on the deepest days of the year, we think this ski is right up your alley. Lib Tech skis are shaped by surfers, and they know float like the back of their hands.
Dynastar M-Free 118
Michael Meyers, Freddy Kruger, the Dynastar M-Free 118. What do they have in common? They’re some of the all-time most entertaining slashers. This freestyle pow ski from Dynastar is one of the loosest boards we’ve ever surfed. If you’re all about catching a wave and slashing one face shot after the next, this is the ski for you. Wicked stable and boasting a round flex pattern, it feels superbly balanced in all kinds of snow and terrain. Landing switch in pow? Check. Snaking through the trees? Double check. The M-Free 118 is a forgiving powder board with plenty of pop to send into the depths to your heart’s content.
One of the (many) perks of a custom ski is that you can get out whatever you’re willing to put in. And while the ski we tested in Aspen wasn’t fully customized, we still got a taste of what Folsom is able to build at its shop in Denver. We hopped on the shallow-reverse camber profile, which, combined with the massive 120-mm waist, floated like a dream in the light, Rocky Mountain snow blanketing Ajax Mountain. The full rocker profile is not only loose and pivoty, but when we tipped it over, the edge engaged over the full length of the ski. The solid wood core and paired rocker and sidecut profile made this ski feel unbelievably versatile for a 120-mm board. If you trust it, the Rapture will perform anywhere you want to go.
Rossignol BlackOps Gamer
Parker White and Chris Logan’s brainchild went blessedly unchanged into 2022, and remains the smashiest bulldozer in the pen. With an incredibly damp, stable layup, this ski was made to destroy PNW “pow”—better known as cement—and chew up big terrain like a baseball player chomps on bubblegum. But it’s not some directional tank. The near-perfectly twinned tip and tails make riding and landing switch almost as easy as P-White and Chris make it look, and though they’re not exactly light in the air, they feel very balanced. The BlackOps Gamer is one of the heaviest skis we’ve ever tested, but the weight is expertly paired with its flex pattern to provide a confident, smooth ride, and those minimally tapered tips pull you smoothly into a turn like other, more carving-focused all-mountain skis. Go ahead, take it to the parking lot.
DPS Koala 118
If you’ve ever watched DPS athlete Dash Longe ski, or maybe we should just say fly, you’ll click with the shape of the Koala 118 immediately. Longe shaped the ski for the cliffs of Snowbird—his home hill—and the surrounding backcountry. This means it’s engineered for a ton of snow and it’s stiff enough to handle the massive landings that LCC is known for. The Koala 118 doesn’t share much in common with the ultralight DPS skis that you’re used to—it’s heavy, stiff and wants to charge like a bat out of hell. That said, it’s surfy too, and ready to slay copious amounts of Wasatch snow. If you’re not afraid of a pow ski with a little—or a lot—of backbone, this could be the ski for you.
Like your hippie friend at the Phish concert, the Outline brings with it a loose, creative flair—the only thing that doesn’t come standard is a bag of weed. The Outline is built like a wider Sir Francis Bacon with convex tips and tails, turning your downhill experience into wild surfy ride with a playful, noodley flex. Like the SFB, too, the Outline has a shorter radius for its size, encouraging snappy carves, both forward and switch. Simply put, this ski craves rollers, drops and smooth-as-butter style. Think of the mountain as your canvas, the Outline as your brush. One of the best things that Line has given us lately are skis that are fun to ski slowly in soft conditions. Savor each turn on this ski like you would the notes from Trey’s encore solo.