Best All-Mountain Skis for Intermediate Skiers
Navigating the vast world of all-mountain skis can be a daunting task, especially for intermediate skiers who are looking to advance their skills on all kinds of terrain. You want to be able to ski groomers, fast runs, moguls, powder, and maybe even some easy parks.
Selecting the perfect pair of all-mountain skis can allow you to hit all of that terrain. Going with an intermediate ski instead of an entry-level ski will allow for better control, stability, and confidence. This article aims to guide those skiers in finding the best all-mountain skis specifically tailored for their skill level.
All-mountain skis are designed to perform well on various types of slopes, from groomers to tree runs. Intermediate skiers require skis that strike a balance between providing stability at speed and enabling easy maneuverability and some level of forgiveness. While they are not powder skis, they should allow you to hold your own in some soft snow. The right pair of all-mountain skis should help you level up your skills with ease and adaptability across different terrains.
In the following list, I’m going to lay out the 6 best all-mountain skis for intermediate skiers, taking into account crucial factors such as dimensions, construction, and rocker type. Any ski on this list is one that I would have no issues using myself in the Mountain West, and I think you will be happy with them too.
Best All-Mountain Skis for Intermediate Skiers
Best all-around All-Mountain Intermediate Ski: Nordica Enforcer
Best all-mountain ski for larger-framed skiers: Blizzard Bonafide
Best all-mountain ski for powder days: Elan Ripstick
Best all-mountain ski for occasional park or free ski action: Salomon QST or Rossignol Blackops
Best ski for people who mainly carve: Volkl Mantra
Blizzard Bonafide 97
My favorite ski. Blizzard Bonafide 97 is a top choice when it comes to providing a stable and responsive experience on all-mountain terrains. These skis are designed to perform well in a variety of snow conditions, thanks to their innovative TrueBlend Woodcore and Carbon Flipcore technologies.
I might be biased, because I’m a pretty big guy as far as skiers go at a touch over 200 pounds. These skis are great for people who need a big, tough ski that can perform really well. For smaller, lightweight skiers, the Volkl might be a better fit.
- TrueBlend Woodcore and Carbon Flipcore for stability and responsiveness
- Versatile in various snow conditions
- Blend of power and playfulness
- Strong ski for larger skiers
- Can be challenging for less experienced skiers
- Slightly heavier compared to other all-mountain skis
- Suited more for long carving than tight turns
Salomon QST is known for its exceptional versatility and lightweight yet sturdy construction. These skis provide a smooth and stable ride in various conditions. The all-terrain rocker profile ensures great maneuverability and a playful feel for intermediate skiers.
The QST was borne out of the Salomon free skiing designs, so it tends to have its roots in a bit of a lighter and more airborne ski. Don’t worry, though, Salomon modified it to be sure the QST can perform well on the mountain, at resorts, and on groomers.
- Lightweight and maneuverable
- Versatile for different snow conditions
- All-terrain rocker profile for easy turning
- Some skiers might prefer a stiffer ski for aggressive skiing or strong, hard turns
- Can lack edge grip on hard-packed snow
Elan Ripstick stands out for its innovative design and technologies. These skis provide an enjoyable ride with their Amphibio profile, which enhances edge grip and control. Intermediate skiers can confidently tackle the slopes, knowing that the Ripstick provides a forgiving flex and excellent grip.
One thing I noticed about the Ripstick is that it feels like a powder-first ski. So if your idea of an all-mountain ski is that you don’t forfeit much of the powder performance, this is the one for you. If powder is more of an occasional thing and you need to carve, I’d consider the Bonafide.
- Amphibio profile for improved edge grip
- Forgiving flex for intermediate skiers
- Versatile performance in various terrain
- Best on our list for deep powder
- Slightly heavier than some competitors
- Might lack torsional rigidity in high-speed turns; excels more in powder
Nordica Enforcer is a popular choice among intermediate skiers for its balance of power and playfulness. The skis offer stability and versatility, allowing skiers to progress their skills in various conditions. With a versatile rocker-camber-rocker profile, the Enforcer ensures a smooth ride.
You will see lots of Enforcers on the mountain. The tried-and-true design is one that skiers have grown to love. As an intermediate, I don’t think you will have to worry about ever outgrowing these skis. They can do it all, and are particularly great when bombing down long, hard-packed runs.
- Stable performance
- Versatile rocker-camber-rocker profile
- Suitable for various snow conditions
- Tried-and-true reputation
- Might be demanding for less experienced skiers
- Some skiers find it less playful compared to competitors
Rossignol Blackops are versatile skis designed for intermediate skiers, offering a balanced blend of stability, agility, and power transmission. The skis have an all-terrain profile, which helps them adapt to various conditions and surfaces with ease.
The design of the Blackops makes them the best option if you think that you might spend a little time in the terrain park. They are not terrain park skis, but could be a good all-mountain choice if your path tends to put you in the park setting on occasion.
- All-terrain profile for adaptability
- Balanced blend of stability and maneuverability
- Suitable for various skill levels
- Competent in a terrain park (but not park skis)
- Heavier compared to some other models
- Can be less responsive when carving
Volkl Mantra is famous for its unwavering performance, power, and stability on the slopes. These all-mountain skis are versatile, offering intermediate skiers a reliable and enjoyable skiing experience. The Titanal frame and carbon tips make these skis sturdy without sacrificing playfulness.
The 96 mm underfoot width is on the wide side, but the ski’s design helps give it great carving ability. Many experienced skiers will find that this ski is what they graduate to after becoming proficient on a more beginner-style ski. For those who mainly ski on the hardpack snow out East, Volkl makes a Deacon model with a narrower waist that is one of our best skis for skiing on the East Coast.
- Stable and powerful performance
- Titanal frame and carbon tips for durability
- Versatile in various snow conditions
- Good carving ski
- Some skiers may prefer a narrower underfoot width
- Can be challenging for less experienced skiers
Understanding All-Mountain Skis
All-mountain skis are versatile and designed to perform well in various snow conditions and terrain. These skis are perfect for intermediate skiers who want to explore different aspects of the mountain without switching gear.
The primary features setting all-mountain skis apart from other types are their width, sidecut, and rocker-camber profile, a combination which creates maximum versatility.
Width affects the skis’ float in powder and stability on hard-packed snow, so a balance is necessary. Most all-mountain skis have a waist width between 80-110 mm, catering to a wide range of conditions.
The sidecut, or the skis’ curvature from tip to tail, impacts turning ability. An all-mountain ski sidecut tends to be moderate, allowing the skier to make controlled turns across various terrain. This balance in sidecut enables intermediate skiers to progress comfortably and confidently on the mountain.
Rocker-camber profiles of all-mountain skis also provide versatility, just as it does with a snowboard. A traditional cambered ski offers excellent edge control, while a rockered ski improves floatation in powder and turn initiation. All-mountain skis often have a hybrid profile with camber underfoot and rocker in the tip and tail, striking a balance between performance and maneuverability.
A few key factors to consider when choosing all-mountain skis for intermediate skiers include:
- Length: Ski length should be based on your height, weight, and skill level. Generally, intermediate skiers should choose a ski length that measures between their chin and the top of their head. You have more control, but less speed, with shorter skis. If you have gotten to the point of having high control on your skis, then consider going with longer skis.
- Flex: Skis with a medium flex provide a balance of responsiveness and forgiveness, allowing intermediate skiers to refine their techniques without struggling with overly stiff skis.
- Turn radius: A moderate turn radius enables smoother and more controlled turns, ideal for intermediate skiers as they navigate mixed terrain. An all-mountain ski needs to be as good on a tight mogul as it is on a nice, fast groomer.
By understanding the characteristics of all-mountain skis, intermediate skiers can make informed choices and enjoy a versatile and adaptable skiing experience on various snow conditions and terrains.
Assessing Your Skiing Level
When determining the best all-mountain skis for intermediate skiers, it is essential to first assess your skiing level. This assessment will help you find the right ski equipment tailored to your skillset. There are several factors to consider when evaluating your skiing ability.
Years of skiing experience: The number of years you have been skiing can usually give an indication of your skiing proficiency. Generally, an individual with more experience will have a higher level of skill.
Frequency of skiing: The number of days spent on the slopes each season can also be a useful gauge for skiing ability. More frequent skiing often translates into improved performance on the mountain.
Terrain familiarity: Skiers who have explored a variety of slopes, from groomed runs to ungroomed trails, will typically have a better understanding of the different types of terrain and enjoy the versatility of all-mountain skis.
Ski control: Assess your ability to make turns at varying speeds and maintain control in different snow conditions, such as powder, ice, or slush. Better control often signifies a more advanced skiing level.
Parallel technique: Skiers with the ability to keep their skis parallel throughout turns demonstrate an intermediate or higher level of ability. Take note of how frequently you rely on snowplow or stem turns.
To determine your skiing level with confidence, consider discussing your abilities with a ski instructor or experienced skiing friend. They can help provide additional insight and feedback on your skills. Just remember that skiing should be fun and everyone experiences progress at their own pace.
Choosing the Right Ski Size
When selecting all-mountain skis for intermediate skiers, it’s essential to choose the right size, as this greatly affects performance and comfort. There are several factors to consider while determining the perfect ski size, such as the skier’s height, weight, skiing ability, and personal preference.
Height: Generally, the ski length should reach from the ground up to somewhere between the skier’s nose and the top of their head. Taller skiers usually require longer skis, while shorter skiers benefit from shorter ones. If skiers fall between two sizes, they should opt for the shorter ski if they are light or less aggressive or the longer ski if they’re heavier or more aggressive.
Weight: Skiers with higher body weight require stiffer skis and may benefit from going up a ski size. If two skiers are the same height but have different body weights, the heavier skier should choose a longer ski length for added stability and support.
Skiing ability: Intermediate skiers should focus on finding a ski size that provides a balance between stability and maneuverability. Generally, less confident skiers may prefer a shorter ski, making it easier to navigate down the slopes. More advanced skiers can opt for a slightly longer ski, providing better speed and stability.
Personal preference: Ultimately, the most important factor in choosing the perfect ski size is comfort and personal preference. Test different ski lengths and see which one feels the most comfortable and suited to your skiing style. If you cannot test them, consult a professional or online guide for more tailored advice.
Remember, finding the right ski size is crucial for both performance and safety on the mountain. Take the time to consider these factors before making a decision.
When we took a look at the best skis out there, we mainly were looking for a few specific criteria. These are the things important to us when skiing on best big mountains out West, which translates well to skiing in the Midwest and East too.
Performance in Various Conditions: All-mountain skis should provide good stability and grip on both groomed and ungroomed terrain, including hardpack, powder, and crud. This versatility is crucial for intermediate skiers looking to explore different parts of the mountain.
Turn Initiation and Maneuverability: Intermediate skiers may still be developing their carving technique, so skis that are easy to initiate turns and maneuver are crucial. A good all-mountain ski should have a predictable and smooth turn initiation while being responsive enough to make quick, agile turns when needed.
Edge Grip and Carving: All-mountain skis that excel in providing solid edge grip can boost the confidence of an intermediate skier. A ski with strong edge grip will hold steady on icy and hardpack conditions, which can be common on all-mountain terrain. Additionally, a ski that can smoothly carve clean turns is essential for those looking to improve their skills.
Forgiveness and Flex: Intermediate skiers are likely to make mistakes as they progress, so it’s important to find skis with a forgiving nature and appropriate flex. A ski that is too stiff may be challenging to control and could lead to fatigue or injury, while a ski that is too soft may not provide the needed support for carving and stability.
To evaluate these criteria, one might want to weigh different factors like ski construction, shape, and sidecut radius. The combination of these features will ultimately determine how well a pair of skis performs in various conditions, making it crucial to review these aspects before making a final decision.
Important Ski Features for Intermediate Skiers
Intermediate skiers have progressed past the beginner stage and are looking for skis that provide a balanced mix of performance and forgiveness. When selecting all-mountain skis, there are key features to consider in order to enhance the skiing experience and promote skill development.
Width: One of the main factors to consider is the ski’s width underfoot. Skis with a width of 80-100mm underfoot are ideal for intermediate skiers, as they offer a balance of stability and quick edge-to-edge transitions on various terrain. Skiers who spend more time on groomed runs should lean towards the narrower end of this range, while those venturing into mixed conditions may prefer a slightly wider ski. You will see most skis that are made for all-mountain intermediates coming-in around 84-97mm underfoot.
Rocker Profile: The rocker profile, or the curvature of the ski, affects how it initiates turns and handles different snow conditions. A ski with tip rocker and camber underfoot provides both smooth turn initiation and edge grip, making it a good choice for intermediates. A full rocker ski is not recommended, as it may feel too loose and be difficult to control at this skill level.
Flex: Intermediate skiers should look for a ski with a medium flex. A softer flex can be more forgiving and easier to turn, but may lack responsiveness at higher speeds. Conversely, a stiffer flex offers precision and power but may be more challenging to control for skiers still developing their technique.
Construction: The type of materials and construction of the ski can also impact performance. A ski with a wood core and sandwich construction generally offers a well-rounded balance of responsiveness, stability, and durability. Intermediate skiers should avoid overly light or heavily dampened skis, as these may reduce ski-to-snow communication and hinder skill progression.
When selecting the best all-mountain ski for an intermediate skier, these features should be taken into consideration. Prioritizing a balance between performance and forgiveness will enable continued growth and enjoyment on the slopes.
Why Choose All-Mountain Skis
All-mountain skis are designed to handle a wide variety of terrain and snow conditions, making them a popular choice for intermediate skiers. These versatile skis offer several benefits over more specialized options such as powder skis, race-oriented skis, and freestyle or park skis.
Versatility is the main advantage of all-mountain skis. They can tackle groomed runs, moguls, and even some off-piste terrain with ease, providing a one-ski-quiver for most skiers. This is in contrast to powder skis, which excel in deep snow but can be challenging to control on hard-packed snow or groomed terrain.
Stability and control are key features of all-mountain skis, making them suitable for intermediate skiers who are looking to progress and improve their skills. Race-oriented skis require advanced skills to maneuver effectively, while all-mountain skis are more forgiving and easier to handle.
Durability is another advantage of all-mountain skis. They are built to withstand varied terrain, unlike park skis, which are tailored for tricks and can get damaged more easily on rough snow. This increased durability means all-mountain skis are a wise investment, as they can handle normal wear and tear for a longer period.
In summary, all-mountain skis provide intermediate skiers with the benefits of versatility, stability, control, and durability. These factors make them an ideal choice for most skiers who want to explore different terrains and improve their skills. By choosing all-mountain skis, intermediate skiers can confidently progress and enjoy their time on the mountain.
Maintaining Your Skis
Proper ski maintenance is essential for intermediate skiers to get the most out of their all-mountain skis. It helps improve performance on the slopes and increases the longevity of the skis. The following paragraphs detail some steps to maintain all-mountain skis effectively.
Before storing the skis for an extended period, it’s crucial to clean and dry them thoroughly. Use a soft cloth to remove any dirt, grime, and excess water from the top sheets, edges, and bindings. This process reduces the likelihood of rust formation and prevents damage to the ski’s surface. This really goes for any of your ski clothing or gear – always clean and dry it before stuffing it into storage.
Regular tuning of the skis is another important aspect of ski maintenance. An intermediate skier should consider getting their skis tuned by a professional at least once a season. Tuning includes sharpening the edges, waxing the bases for better glide, and ensuring that the bindings are functioning correctly.
Waxing the ski bases is necessary for optimal performance. Intermediate skiers are advised to wax their skis every 4-6 days of use. Different waxes are suited for varying snow conditions, and selecting the right wax adds to the skiing experience. Glide wax and grip wax are the two main types used in ski waxing:
- Glide wax is applied to both alpine and Nordic skis for enhanced glide on the snow. It is available in temperature-specific versions to adapt to various snow conditions.
- Grip wax is used exclusively for Nordic skis, specifically for the grippy section of the ski in the middle called the kick zone. It helps in maintaining traction during the skiing session.
Examining the ski bindings periodically is crucial, as they are responsible for keeping the boots securely attached to the skis. When caring for ski bindings, it is essential to check for any visible cracks, damage, or wear. Skiers should consult a professional if they notice any issues that may compromise their safety on the slopes.
Taking care of all-mountain skis involves cleaning and drying them, getting them tuned regularly, waxing the bases, and inspecting the bindings. Following these steps will help intermediate skiers enjoy a better skiing experience and prolong the life of their skis.
Investing in a pair of all-mountain skis is an excellent choice for intermediate skiers seeking versatile and reliable equipment. After discussing various factors and reviewing top contenders in the market, the following recommendations emerge:
- Stability and control: Look for skis that are designed with a solid balance between performance on groomed trails and adaptability to different snow conditions. Features like a balanced flex and progressive sidecut will enhance your skiing experience.
- Length and width: Choose a ski length that matches your height and skiing ability. A wider ski offers more flotation in the powdery snow, while a narrower one provides better edge grip and quicker turns on groomed trails.
- Profile: A combination of camber and rocker profiles s the best choice for intermediate all-mountain skiers. This blend allows for easy maneuverability, improved flotation, and enhanced edge grip.
- Core materials: Opt for a ski with a wood core, reinforced with carbon or metal laminates. This guarantees performance, responsiveness, and durability.
Frequently Asked Questions
What factors should I consider when choosing all-mountain skis as an intermediate skier?
When selecting all-mountain skis for intermediate skiers, consider factors like ski width, sidecut radius, and overall ski construction. Ski width is important for navigating various terrain, with a wider ski providing more flotation in softer snow. Sidecut radius determines turning capability, with a shorter radius allowing for quicker turns. In terms of construction, intermediate skiers should look for skis with a balance of flexibility and stability.
How do men’s and women’s intermediate all-mountain skis differ?
Both women and men can ski on unisex skis (which are marketed as mens skis). Men’s (unisex) and women’s all-mountain skis may differ in terms of weight, flex, and sidecut. Women’s skis tend to be lighter and softer in flex to accommodate for the general differences in body weight and muscle distribution. The sidecut dimensions may also be adjusted to better suit women’s body mechanics.
How can I save money on all-mountain skis?
We are all looking to save money on skiing. To save money on all-mountain skis, consider purchasing during end-of-season sales or seek out previous year’s models which often go on sale when new models are released. Additionally, consider buying used skis or demo skis that have been tested but remain in good condition. You may also want to rent skis until you find a pair that you absolutely love.
Are twin-tip skis recommended for intermediate all-mountain skiers?
Twin-tip skis can be a good choice for intermediate all-mountain skiers who enjoy skiing backward or performing tricks, as their symmetrical design facilitates these maneuvers. However, if the skier is primarily focused on downhill skiing and carving turns, traditional all-mountain skis may be more suitable. Most skiers do not need twin-tip skis.
Are all-mountain skis really good for all parts of the mountain?
While all-mountain skis are designed to perform well in a variety of conditions and terrains, they may not be the best choice for extreme terrain or specific skiing styles. Skiers spending the majority of their time on groomed slopes may benefit from dedicated carving skis, while those frequently skiing in deep powder may prefer wider powder skis. All-mountain skis are versatile, but some specialized skis may outperform them in specific situations.
Paul Miller is the Founder of Family Skier. He is an advanced skier and has extensive experience with family travel and ski schools. An accomplished skier, he has skied in 15 states and provinces and 6 countries. In addition to FamilySkier, his writing can be found on many ski-related websites, and as curriculum for many ski clubs in North America.