New skis can turn a ho-hum season into magic. Storm days become powder days and hardpack evolves into an opportunity to link tight turns on your carvers. While it’s difficult to make rhyme or reason of all the new skis, we’ve done the heavy lifting by testing the season’s most attractive candidates and whittling the list down to the best skis of 2023.
Our group of six testers offers a combined ski history of more than 100 years of high-level race and big-mountain experience. Each ski was put through its paces for a minimum of 25 days on snow in a wide variety of conditions. We whittled more than 20 contenders down to the following dozen. When you’re shopping, keep in mind your day-to-day reality—chest-deep pow, fast groomers, crunchy crud—and remember, skis with more rocker (rise in the tip and tail) can generally be skied slightly shorter than those with a flat profile/base.
The following skis will perform for anyone, but for those struggling to make the transition from intermediate to hard-charging expert, these are game-changers. Here’s our recommendation for gearing up for the spring ski season.
1. Fischer Ranger 102
Two traits expert skiers seek are stability at speed and playfulness. The Ranger has an abundance of both, with the added benefit of a wide tip that cruises through crud and powder. Testers repeatedly used the words “agile, stable, and easy to steer,” when describing the Ranger. A wood core combined with ABS sidewalls in a classic sandwich construction makes for balanced flex and perfect rebound. Inside is a shaped 0.5-mm titanium inlay that shadows the geometry of the ski and provides flex that boosts stability, energy transfer, and control regardless of the length of ski or ability of the rider. Plus, there’s a nice environmental story with recycled material in the edges and bases, vegetable-based oils, and other environmentally friendly content.
- Sizes (cm): 169, 176, 183, 190
- Sidecut (mm): 128-103-138 (183)
- Radius (m): 19 (183)
- Weight (g): 2050 (183)
2. DPS Pagoda 117 Lotus
Consider the Pagoda 117 the best off-road vehicle for storm days. If you’re headed to Japan, Alaska, or anywhere else you may need a snorkel to handle deep powder, the Pagoda 117 is an essential ski companion. Its big (140 cm) rockered tip plows through chop and soars over powder. This isn’t a beginner ski; it’s crafted for the expert skier who wants the perfect balance of energetic turning and confidence-inspiring dampness—with no compromise on stability at speed. The ski, with its full aspen core and algae-based sidewalls, is lighter than the original Pagoda (which we also love). We mounted the Marker Duke PT 12 to feed our backcountry adrenaline habit. Of all the DPS skis, this one is downhill performance-oriented layup.
- Sizes (cm): 171, 178, 185, 191
- Sidecut (mm): 140/117/127 (185)
- Radius (m): 21 (185)
- Weight (g): 1920 (185)
3. Volkl Kendo 88
These carvers remind us of when we were charging out of the starting gates in FIS races. The Kendo 88 is an all-mountain “trencher,” meaning it’s designed for tightly carved turns when getting up on the edge is part of the thrill. “This ski provides superior edge hold and drool-worthy GS turns on-and off-piste,” says one tester. While it encourages a sporty, intuitive style on groomed slopes, testers also found it highly maneuverable on choppier terrain. Thanks to a shorter center radius, less force is required to carve. The tailored titanal frame gives the ski excellent stiffness without compromising agility, energy transfer, and dynamic response needed for easy steering and instant power. In a word, the Kendo 88 equals fun.
We also highly recommend the Volkl Blaze 106 to complete your two-ski quiver. Its 146-106-128 3D-radius sidecut and new suspension tip—a rubbery material on the tip and tail that acts like a bumper in windblown conditions and ups the float factor—make it a favorite for big mountain crushers. Its light weight (1828 g at 186) also makes it great for touring when paired with a Duke PT or Kingpin. It’s forgiving enough for a broad range of abilities. More powerful skiers will get the most out of it, but intermediates won’t be overpowered.
- Sizes (cm): 163, 170, 177, 184
- Sidecut (mm): 129-88-113
- Radius (m): 17 (184)
- Weight (g): 1898 (177)
4. Atomic Bent 100
If you’re planning on skiing everything on a single pair, the Bent 100 is for you. Our testers skied in France, Canada, the U.S., and Japan on these, reporting they held their own on everything from early season Val d’Isére hardpack to Hokkaido powder. Mammoth Mountain-based ski legend Chis Bentchetler designed the original Bent 14 years ago. His collaboration with the Grateful Dead graphics resulted in an award-winning film, Fire on the Mountain. This twin-tip has incredible balance and versatility, thanks to a poplar wood core and Atomic’s Duracap construction. A perfect dollop of camber and rocker make them snappy without diminishing edge grip. Pro Tip: Bring along your Bent 100s when trees are on the menu.
- Sizes (cm): 164, 172, 180, 188
- Sidecut (mm): 129.5-100-120 (180)
- Radius (m): 19.5 (180)
- Weight (g): 1700 (180)
5. Nordica Unleashed 98
Our test crew adored Nordica’s new Unleashed 98 for windblown days, crushing the backside on Mt. Bachelor, and ripping down chutes at Mammoth Mountain. The carbon reinforced wood core and a lightweight layer of metal delivers a ski that’s light, floats in off-piste pow, but has plenty of edge hold for fast groomers. Reduced plastic on the tip dampens vibration and reduces swing weight, making the ski easy to turn when you’re snaking through trees. Traditional camber underfoot provides plenty of pop for moguls and crud. Thanks to a steeper shovel for easy tip initiation and soft snow deflection, plus a turned up tail for swiveling and riding switch, the Unleashed 98 loves slashing pow and ripping bumps.
- Sizes (cm): 168, 174, 180, 186
- Sidecut (mm): 134-98-123 (186)
- Radius (m): 18.8 (186)
- Weight (g): 2040 (186)
6. 4FRNT MSP 107
We first saw 4FRNT skis on the feet of expert big mountain skiers in the freeride Mecca of La Grave, France. They’re a sure sign of a ski connoisseur. The boutique brand based in Burlington, VT, makes “small batch” skis, with the Hoji being perhaps the best known. We were lucky enough to score great all-mountain testing conditions for the award-winning MSP 107s. Soft corduroy, steep and deep powder, and crusty old snow through tight trees brought testers to the conclusionthis is the new standard for all-mountain cruisers. It handles crud and powder but also lets you quickly get forward pressure for carving. The ski has a wood core laminate with titanal for stiffness, resulting in a smooth flex throughout the entire length. It’s the perfect ski for dropping couloirs and riding fast down the steeps. Testers loved it for its flowy arcs and stability at speed. The 107 mm waist and generous tip lets you float over chopped-up bumps, but a deep sidecut and the energetic nature of the ski makes it the ideal playmate when the entire mountain’s your playground.
- Sizes (cm): 175, 181, 187
- Sidecut (mm): 138-107-128
- Radius (m): 20 m
- Weight (g): 2050 (181)
7. 4FRNT Hoji
The iconic Hoji, designed by pro-skier Eric Hjorleifson, is a hard-charging ski built for both putting down a line on the steepest terrain and backcountry missions when versatility is essential. The ski features 4FRNT’s multi-radius rocker profile for an exquisite balance of powder performance and firm snow versatility. The multi-radius rocker means there are actually three rocker profiles—with a flat radius underfoot, and with different profiles under the tip and tail, providing effective edge control and better powder performance. The ski has an aspen/maple core that testers liked for pivoting, power—and speed. Simply put, this ski is for going fast.
- Sizes (cm): 177, 184, 191
- Sidecut (mm): 128-112-120
- Radius (m): 30
- Weight (g): 1990 (184)
8. Line Blade Optic 114
What sets the Line Blade Optic apart from the rest of the pack is the brand’s Gas Pedal Metal Overdrive technology (independent pieces on tip and tail for power and energy transfer) paired with a refined rocker, attuned tapering, and functional waist that lets you rail on the hardpack. In soft snow, skiing is nearly effortless. “You can butter everything if you want to,” says one tester who dubs this “the best single ski quiver for the Italian Alps.” If you’re looking to kick your season into freeride overdrive, the Blade Optic is an optimal choice. We couldn’t find a speed limit on these skis. They kill it on the soft stuff and are incredibly playful in the chop. The ski boasts five different turn radiuses into the sidecut—which translates to a ski that makes more turn shapes than most skiers even knew existed.
- Sizes (cm): 178, 186, 192
- Sidecut (mm): 139-114-132
- Radius (m): 24
- Weight (g): 2170 (186)
9. Blizzard Bonafide 97
While we love powder, real-life experience indicates that most people ski 80 percent on groomers. The Bonafide has plenty of oomph for soft snow and tight trees, but its real strength is long, fast turns on hardpack. We skied it on New England hardpack (read: ice), Oregon cement, and the glaciers of Val Thorens, France, and were impressed with its versatility. At 97 mm underfoot (136 in the tip, 118 in the tail, and a turning radius of 17 m), this ski is the king of turn initiation, whether on crud, soft stuff, or even ice. The ski’s wood “TrueBlend” wood core technology takes milled wood that maps the density to fit the shape of the camber, so you have the right flex exactly where you need it. The tip and tail are soft (for nimble, explosive turns), while denser wood underfoot lets you lay the skis on edge when you’re ripping down double black diamonds. Because this ski doesn’t have a lot of rocker, go long if you’re between lengths.
- Sizes (cm): 165, 171, 177, 183, 189
- Sidecut (mm): 136.5-97-118.5 (177)
- Radius (m): 17 (177)
- Weight (g): 2220 (183)
10. Dynastar M-Free 108
French brand Dynastar has a reputation for both quality and performance. “It’s fairly stiff, but the hybrid core technology (a blend of poplar wood and Polyurethane) gives the ski just the right balance of rigidity and responsiveness,” says one tester. This ski “has plenty of pep,” adds another. The sidewall construction and full-length vertical edges from tip to tail help maximize grip, precision, balance, and power. Park riders also give the M-Free high marks. The high and long rise tip and tail rocker encourage maneuverability both on the ground and in the air.
- Sizes (cm): 172, 182, 192
- Sidecut (mm): 138-198-128
- Radius (m): 18 (182)
- Weight (g): 2400 (182)
11. Rossignol Sender TI 106 Plus Open
When you’re mashing the throttle on bumps and splitting your time between groomers and off-piste, the Sender IT is a top pick. “The skis have a really nice flex and can take hard turns at speed,” says one tester who appreciated this ski when going for broke in steep crud and powder. The “Plus” in the name is reference to the added layer of titanal reinforcement underfoot with a carbon alloy matrix and a slight increase in the ski’s stiffness (compared to the rest of the Sender range), since the 106 was designed to be an extra stable and hard-charging option for Rossi’s athletes. Despite its width, here’s a ski we trust in big, deep moguls. The “Open” in the name refers to the ski being completely unmounted without a binding plate. All in all, we loved this ski from Monarch Pass to Bogus Basin and everything in between.
- Sizes (cm): 180, 187, 194
- Sidecut (mm): 137-104-127 (180)
- Radius (m): 18
- Weight (g): 2200 (180)