Here are the best skies for freestyle or downhill skiing.
Black Diamond Zealot
The award-winning Black Diamond Zealot is the bad boy of the mountain and as its name suggests, it is perfect for the enthusiastic, aggressive skier. Not for the meek, the Zealot careens around GS curves floating on high strength laminates backed by the power of a CNC-machined solid wood core. Black Diamond built the Zealot with 3D dampening technology for great performance in high-impact conditions. Heavier ends give the rider better control on the powder while the sleek design means pure speed on the hard pack. If you’re tough and it shows on the slopes, the Zealot is your match. Just be sure to hold on tight!
Adrenaline junkies say the Zealot is a dream come true: wide enough for powder but fast enough to hit the big jumps. They love the CNC-machined design for precision power when popping the pipes or skimming the cliffs. The Zealot’s stiff sticks give the advanced and expert skier more control for mind-boggling stunts in the piste or pow. Even groomer cruisers will enjoy the Zealot – though it’s much more fun rocking the mountain at high speed. Add these features to slick styling and you’ve got the perfect skis for mountain outlaws, cowboys and speed freaks alike.
For those looking to find a good middle ground between the stability of big mountain skis and the durability of park skis, the Armada ARV Alpine Skis offer a good compromise that combines the best of both worlds. The ARV’s design has infused additional strength into its wood laminate core and Sintered base to ensure stability at all speeds. The full twintip tail will ensure the right response when you lose a step in the backcountry. Stiffer design elements make those touchy rocks in the backcountry less of a concern than previous models while the solid flex will bring your acceleration back up in no time.
For most terrains the Armada ARV is well suited, providing a light and responsive design. Skiers over 200lb have praised the ARV for its ability to float in powder of any freshness and depth, while transitioning seamlessly into alternate conditions on a second’s notice. Compared to similar models from other companies, the ARV has a softer flex and hold better on hardpack, but has a slightly slower response for edge only turns. With the lightweight design, a lightweight binding is best – something such as Solomon. Ski lengths include: 165cm, 175cm, and 185cm.
Lib Tech NAS
Carve the mountaintops and slice through hard snow with these twin tips from Lib Technologies. The Lib Technologies NAS, which stands for Narrow Ass Snowboards, offers perfect performance for high speed turns and aerobatic jumps with stability normally reserved for wider models. Magne-Traction edges make sharp turns a breeze while a dual-layer STP outer shell keeps you floating over powder and plowing through crud. Playfully bounce through moguls with the sturdy alpine core; learn to master turns and become a derring-do on the slopes with the ski that makes skiing fun again.
Users say the Lib Tech NAS handles like a snowboard – but with a refined action. They love riding them down groomers and in open bowls. These are the skis for the adrenaline junkie! Featured bomber sidewalls and a sintered base let advanced riders stay on-edge through howling turns while the lightweight-yet-durable construction puts air beneath your skis when daring big jumps. Beginners love the stability while advanced and expert skiers say the NAS makes the slopes scintillating again – it’s one of the best all-around skis! Whether you’re a beginner learning the ropes, an expert dare devil or anything in between, you can’t go wrong with the Lib Technologies NAS. The Lib Tech NAS comes in sizes 156, 168, 176 and 183.
The K2 Seth Alpine Ski is built for big mountain and park skiing and is best known as the signature ski of choice for professional skier Seth Morrison. The ski is designed with a mini-rocker design that makes the 98 mm wide ski rise above soft snow, perfect for landing on powder. The twin tip design combined with 50 foot Lincoln Loops and a progressive sidecut make the K2 Seth ideal for the most demanding of big mountain downhills, hard pack, fresh powder, and sharp turns – all handled with care and precision.
The K2 Seth is a popular choice for those looking to find a consistent, well built freestyle ski. While it has been known to get a little jittery on higher speed terrain, its stiff design keeps it steady, removing much of the negative effect that would result. The progressive sidecut is a popular feature, allowing easy turning in multiple different radii, while allowing easy skids because of the narrowed tail. The K2 Seth is not only effective on powder, but on crud, hard pack, or just ice. Expert bindings with a wide break are not only recommended, but nearly required for this kind of performance. The K2 Seth is available in three lengths: 169cm, 179 cm, and 189 cm.
Head Jon Olsson
Head’s Jon Olsson line can be summed up in one word: spectacular. The slick, aero-dynamic design glides like a dream. If you’re looking to pull some of the smoothest tricks possible, look no further than the Head Jon Olsson. Not only does the Jon Olsson line offer superb maneuverability and awesome control, but these skis are as stylish as they are versatile. The Jon Olsson line offers clean take-offs, calm flights and solid landings which are sure to impress even the most fickle of free stylists out there. Jon Olsson’s are the strongest, lightest and most agile skis ever made.
Professional skiers agree that the Head Jon Olsson offers great stability, incredibly light-weight and extraordinary handling. Top skiers swear by the ski noting that, in a fun park setting, they offer excellent, sophisticated skiing techniques at superfast speeds. The stylish designs often leave the competition watching in awe as you trick out on some of the best terrain. Head Jon Olsson users can’t wait to give praise to the fact that you can use them anywhere, saying, “Spins or airs are magic in the park, and they’re not too shabby in the back country either.”
Elan M 888
When Elan developed their M888 ALU Alpine Ski, they added an additional level of construction that included an aluminum top and two separate layers of titanium. This all mountain ski is designed to provide power, in the same way Elan crafts skis in its racing division, through the dual layers of titanium. The extra torsional rigidity provided allows for optimum responsiveness between edges. The M888, with its mid-fat 88mm waist and 129mm shovel is built to float on fresh powder while tearing down the mountain.
The Elan M 888 skis deliver exactly what they promise and in some cases, a little bit more. On fresh powder they float with ease, and carve onto the groomed quite well for all-mountain skis. The flexibility and softness of the skis allows for exceptional control, regardless of the depth of the powder. Taking on nearly any depth or style of powder and terrain, M 888 skis are as much as any skier should need for the best and worst of powder conditions. Available lengths for the M888 include: 159cm, 168cm, 177cm, and 186cm.
Dynastar Legend Pro Rider
The Dynastar Legend Pro Rider is a high performance, professional caliber ski designed for the perfect downhill conditions. Specifically designed by Dynastar to handle Mach 50 straightlines, big mountain powder turns, and aggressive inbounds riding, the Pro Rider is built with a mixed wood/titanium laminate core. It features full length side walls as well as a wide 97mm waist that works well for steep open slopes. The rigidity of the model provides more responsive control in bad conditions as well. At slightly less than 5lb, the skis are lightweight enough for more distinctive control while not taking away from the downhill achievements.
The Dynastar Legend Pro Rider provides a mix of lengths and styles that matches all heights and weights of skiers, allowing the same dynamic performance that the Dynastar line provides everyone. Skiers are impressed with the Pro Rider’s ability to float through all powder conditions and tear through crud without any problems. The skis perform better than expected in most cases for turning, especially in light of the size and weight of the skis. However, they are not built for hard pack and should not be expected to perform as well in such conditions. The Pro Rider comes in one of three lengths: 176cm, 186cm, and 194cm.
Atomic Sugar Daddy
The Atomic Sugar Daddy Alpine Ski is designed for all mountain terrain and to provide you with the response and speed desired in any situation. Crafted with a Densolite core, the Sugar Daddy is lighter than traditional wood cored skis. Combine that with a 28 meter turn radius and Beta 4 construction and the Sugar Daddy provides a ski capable of high speeds without the twitching and shaking of some other models. That fiberglass profile and Beta 4 technology ensure that the vibration remains dampened while energy from the skier goes directly to the outside edges.
The Atomic Sugar Daddy has been praised in many circles because of its versatility in almost any conditions. While it performs best in powder, it handles almost equally as well in wind-blown conditions, in crud or on hard packed snow. Compared to similar skis, it outperforms many at being able to perform well in varied conditions. Because it is a shorter ski than most touring and all terrain models on the market, many owners recommend the purchase of large bindings to keep the skis floating over the terrain you may encounter. There is room for improvement in respect to performance on packed ice and snow. The Sugar Daddy comes in five lengths: 153, 163, 173, 183 and 193 cm.
Atomic Smoke TI
The Atomic Smoke series is comprised of two skis, the base Atomic Smoke and the Atomic Smoke Ti (pictured). The Ti means that titanium is used in the construction of the skis. The base Smoke is constructed from a step down sidewall cap fibre while the Ti model is constructed from a step down sidewall wood core with 2 layers of titanium for reinforcement. Both have an adaptive camber and available in the same sizes: 150, 157, 164, 171 and 178. The Smoke can accept the following bindings: XTO 10 R and XTL 9. The Smoke Ti can also accept the XTO 10 R as well as the XTO 12 Sport. There is a lighttrak plate on the Smoke while the Smoke Ti has a Protrak plate.
Ski magazines have given these skis great marks. The Smoke Ti has consistenly been ranked as well or better than much higher priced skis and has won several best value awards. Our reviewers say these skis perform great on both groomers and off-piste. One reviewer had them in very icy east coast conditions and said they held an edge with no problem.
- Atomic Smoke Specs
Length (cm) 150 157 164 171 178
Tip Width (mm) 117 119 121 123 125.5
Waist Width (mm) 77 77 77 77 77
Tail Width (mm) 101 103 105 107 109.5
Radius (m) 13.5 14 14.5 15 15.5
The Atomic Pimp Alpine Skis are designed for all-mountain, freeride, and powder use, providing a wide ski that is perfect for backcountry and fresh powder. The skis are built 99mm in width and feature a wood and kinetic core, making it perfect to slide through fresh powder and crud alike. Twin tips on both the front and the back make the Atomic Pimp a good choice for those who are not pleased with the performance of the Sugar Daddy in similar conditions. The slanted sidewalls cut out much of the swing weight and a 30 meter turn radius is perfect for high speed turns.
The Atomic Pimp skis are well received as they provide a steady, consistent performance in powder on any mountain. Most riders will cite the speed at which they perform, allowing them to not only move faster down the mountain, but to gain better control because of the lighter swing weight and softer flex of the skis. The soft flex makes turning much easier and winding down before hitting the lift an easy process. The longer skis will require a more aggressive approach on the slopes and large bindings, such as the Rossy 120 are a good match for the width of the Atomic Pimps. Ski lengths available include: 174cm, 183cm, and 192cm.