The first blizzards of 2014 are dumping snow across the country — a skier’s dream. But to take full advantage of the powder, it might be time to trade in those five-year-old skis. A new pair is more than just a new piece of expensive gear: it’s an investment in winter stoke. It doesn’t matter if you’re a stone cold powder hound or a retired gate-crashing racer, we’ve got five pairs of skis to cover your needs this season.
Best Powder Ski: When it comes to deep snow, ditch the skinny boards. Today’s powder skis are often as wide as conventional water skis, and for good reason: with 114mm of width underfoot, the Blizzard Gunsmokes turn powder skiing into big mountain surfing. You’ll never have to worry about the dreaded head-over-heels wipeout, because the Gunsmokes stay firmly on top of even the lightest blower powder with ease. They accomplish this with their tip rocker, an early rise that goes against traditional camber and ensures your day will be spent chasing face shots and not digging for a lost ski in twenty inches of snow. Meanwhile, a bamboo core means minimal weight, so the next time you decide to boot pack past the lifts you won’t feel like you ran a marathon.
Best All-Mountain Free Ski: If your perfect ski day starts with some early morning corduroy ripping, takes a detour into the half pipe for some serious air and then finishes with a bombing of your hidden powder stash, the all new Q-105 from Salomon is your weapon of choice. Salomon pushed their previous freeski line to near perfection with the Q series. Wide edges and strategically placed rubber pulse pads increase stability and minimize chatter and shock in any conditions, at any speed; the hybrid design (camber underfoot and rockered tips and tails) means you’ve got a significant “carve zone” for charging groomed snow without sacrificing performance in deeper snow or in the park; finally, a full wood core and honeycombed ABS tip maintain the lightweight performance that the Salomon name is synonymous with. All-mountain, indeed.
Black Diamond Carbon Megawatt
Best Backcountry Ski: For the crowd who laughs at lift lines and adheres to the “earn your turns” mantra, the redesigned Carbon Megawatt is the ultimate touring ski for searching out deep snow out of bounds. This is definitely not your everyday resort ski. Weighing in 2.5 pounds lighter than its predecessor thanks to advanced carbon fiber–paulownia wood cores, the Megawatt is made for faster, higher climbing. The powder-specific design excels on especially steep slopes and in over-the-head powder. It’s no slouch on groomed snow, either — camber underfoot allows you to lay an edge when you need to — but this skis begs to be taken above the treeline in search of the gnarliest lines you can find. Buyer beware: side effects of the Carbon Megawatt include powder addiction, permanent goggle tan and an abnormal social life.
Best Park Ski: Your fat powder skis can land the big jumps fine, but when it comes to the finer points of jibbing rails and sticking that double flatspin in the pipe, a true park ski is the only way to go. Icelantic’s new Nollie Flex-Core gives the ‘13-’14 Da’Nollie the perfect balance of strength and flexibility to take the abuse of repeated laps through the park. Traditional camber throughout the ski creates better balance when you’re nose-pressing down a triple-kink hand rail but also gives a little extra pop when you’re taking off from a big table-top. Blessedly, the soft flex is forgiving enough that you won’t have to call it day after a few wrecks perfecting that off-axis 720.
Rossignol Pursuit HP Titanium TPX
Best Groomed-Snow Ski: If you want to rip groomed snow faster than anyone on the mountain you don’t need to be Bode Miller — you just need a pair of these Rossignol Pursuit skis. Titanal laminate runs the length of the ski, cutting down on vibration and making this the perfect weapon for laying aggressive turns on everything from freshly groomed Utah snow to the treacherous blue ice on the downhill course at Lake Placid; an aggressive side cut and new Diamond Tip allow for smooth turn initiation so you can push that much harder. Integrated Axial bindings make this the perfect package to get on the snow.