Best Powder Skis: Top Picks for Deep Snow
Getting your first pair of powder skis is a gamechanger.
For years, I had been skiing on my trusted all-mountain skis, which were great 80% of the time. But any time I was skiing on more than a couple inches of fresh snow, I always wanted to try some powder skis. Powder skis are specifically designed to handle deep snow and provide a smooth ride, allowing skiers to effortlessly float down the mountain.
Since my first foray in to the powder ski world, I have tested out numerous pairs of powder skis over the years and have developed a list of top picks, both on my skiing and also that of my circle of avid advanced skiers. From lightweight options for backcountry adventures to wider skis for maximum float in deep powder, there is probably a pair of powder skis out there for every type of skier. Whether you’re a beginner or an expert, investing in a quality pair of powder skis can take your skiing to the next level.
Understanding Powder Skis
Powder skis are designed to handle deep snow conditions. They are wider and longer than traditional skis, which allows them to float on top of the snow rather than sink in. This makes them ideal for skiing in deep powder, where traditional skis would struggle to stay afloat.
In particular, powder skis tend to be wider at the waist of the ski, the spot where your foot attaches to the binding. This extra width allows the skis to not sink in to the snow, searching for a solid base, but rather fly over the top of the snow.
Most avid skiers I know have 2-3 sets of skis at the ready: An all-mountain ski, a powder ski, and perhaps a race ski. I think the powder ski is something that anyone who skis more than 7-10 days a year should have in their ski closet.
Top Rated Powder Skis
Based on my own testing and input from my trusted network of advanced skiers, here are my top picks for the best powder skis on the market for 2024:
Armada ARV JJ Powder Skis
Waist Width: 116
Great for: Intermediates who want versatility
The Armada ARV Powder Skis are a great choice for intermediate to advanced skiers who want a versatile powder ski. These skis have a wide waist and rocker profile that make them great for deep snow, but they also have a camber underfoot that provides stability on hardpack. The ARV Powder Skis are also lightweight and easy to maneuver, making them a great option for backcountry skiing.
The “JJ” is a classic ski – it has been in the Armada lineup for a long time and they keep improving on the design. What I really like is the beveled base which makes the ski a little more forgiving if you are skiing in a mix of snow conditions, such as powder and harder chunks of snow.
- Reliable, trusted design
- Beveled base makes the ski more forgiving
- Shape might make the ski harder to carve on hardpack snow
Rossignol Blackops 7
Waist Width: 118
Great for: Experts who want a ski that will work at higher speeds
The Rossignol Blackops 7 is a powder ski that is designed for expert skiers. These skis have a wide waist and rocker profile that make them great for deep snow, but they also have a stiff flex that provides stability at high speeds. The Blackops 7 is also equipped with Rossignol’s Air Tip technology, which reduces swing weight and makes the skis easier to maneuver.
I like the Blackops for a variety of conditions, and I actually include it in a list of good all-mountain skis as well. On that note, you will want to be sure to get a model with a 118 waist or higher if you are buying for powder. Some Blackops models have much narrower waists, which are great for all-mountain but don’t make them a powder ski.
- Good stability at higher speeds
- Suited for advanced skiers
- Be sure to select the right model – some Blackops models are not powder-specific
Volkl Revolt 121 Skis
Waist Width: 121
Great for: People skiing deep powder. The widest ski I reviewed.
The Volkl Revolt 121 Skis are a great option for advanced to expert skiers who want a powder ski that can handle big mountain terrain. These skis have a wide waist and rocker profile that make them great for deep snow, but they also have a stiff flex that provides stability at high speeds. The Revolt 121 Skis are also equipped with Volkl’s Multi-Layer Woodcore technology, which provides a smooth and stable ride.
I loved skiing the Revolts. They are a fun ski that can rip all around the mountain. With the 121s, if I got more than about 2 inches of snow, I loved riding them. They really provide a great combination of float, turning, and speed. They will make you curse the groomers on those fresh snow mornings.
- Great all-around powder ski
- Lightweight feel
Blizzard Rustler 10
Waist Width: 102
Great for: Skiers who want an all-mountain ski that is good at powder; people who only want one pair of skis
Anyone who has read my other “best ski” articles knows that I’m a huge fan of the Blizzard brand right now. They are just making good skis for the money.
The Blizzard Rustler 10 is a powder ski that is designed for advanced to expert skiers. These skis have a wide waist and rocker profile that make them great for deep snow, but they also have a stiff flex that provides stability at high speeds. The Rustler 10 is also equipped with Blizzard’s Carbon Flipcore DRT technology, which provides a smooth and responsive ride.
Note that these are not typical powder skis. Rather, they are all-mountain skis with a wider-than-normal waist that allows you to be a bit more proficient on those powder days. I hesitated to add them to the list, but wanted to include a ski that was not a pure powder ski.
- Very versatile ski
- A confident carver ski for a wide-waist design
- Not a true powder ski; a compromise choice for people who only want one ski
Waist Width: 116
Great for: Advanced skiers who want a ski that excels on soft snow with confidence on hardpack
The K2 Mindbender is a high-performance powder ski that is designed for advanced skiers. These skis have a wide waist and a rocker-camber-rocker profile that provides excellent float in powder. They also have a durable construction that can withstand the rigors of skiing in the backcountry.
I found the Mindbender to be a great soft snow ski, and surprisingly good when getting on the hardpack. So often when you take a powder ski on harder snow, you really have to compensate, but with these skis the carving and turning was relatively strong…. and very good for a powder ski.
- Great all-around ski in powder
- A very competent ski when not in powder, making it versatile
Waist Width: 112
Best for: Intermediate skiers looking for an all-purpose powder ski
The Salomon QST is a popular powder ski that offers excellent performance in deep snow. These skis have a wide waist and a rocker-camber-rocker profile that provides excellent float and stability in powder. They also have a durable construction that can withstand the rigors of skiing in the backcountry.
Like some of the other powder skis I like, the QSTs carve “well-enough” when on groomers, something that I always look for. The last thing I want is to go from powder to a groomer and suddenly regret using that particular ski. The QST can be an all-day ski on those days that start as powder.
- Does well on groomers
- Not so wide that you sacrifice control
- Spendy – hard to find discounted models
How I Evaluated the Powder Skis
You can probably sense from my commentary on each ski what i was looking for in a good powder ski.
The first thing, obviously, was performance on powder or soft snow. This generally correlates to having a wider ski waist, which is why I put so much emphasis on that measurement, but it is not as simple as saying wider is always better. It is really the ski width plus the design that determines who a ski does in deep or soft snow. I was especially looking for agility and sure-footedness in powder.
The second thing I was looking for was that the ski could be effective on groomers. It doesn’t have to be great on groomers, that is what an all-mountain ski is for. But even on the best powder days you are probably going to need to carve on some groomers, so you don’t want to make a major compromise on that.
After those factors, I look for a combination of other things: Weight, durability reputation, price, etc.
Obviously, it can be difficult to find the perfect day to test powder skis. You can’t really control when the powder happens. I was lucky enough to have a few of Lake Tahoe’s pow days to try a few of these models.
Powder Ski Buying Advice
As an experienced skier, I know that choosing the right powder ski can make or break your day on the mountain. Here are some key factors to consider when buying powder skis:
How is a Powder Ski Different?
Powder skis are designed for deep snow conditions, with a wider waist and longer length than traditional skis. This allows for better flotation and maneuverability in powder. Additionally, powder skis often have a rocker profile, which means the tip and tail are lifted off the ground, making them easier to turn.
When it comes to powder skis, longer is generally better. A longer ski will provide more flotation and stability in deep snow. However, it’s important to find a length that is appropriate for your height and skill level. As a general rule of thumb, your ski should come up to somewhere between your chin and the top of your head.
Powder skis are wider than traditional skis. This allows for better flotation in deep snow. The ends of the skis should offer some level of flair out from the waist, so you can carve a little if you need to. However, wider skis can be more difficult to maneuver on groomed runs, so it’s important to find a balance that works for you.
Ski Waist Width
Powder skis should have a waist width of at least 100mm, and in many cases they should be in the 110 to 120 range. The ski waist is defined as the skinniest part of the ski that is directly underfoot when you are skiing. Many believe that 115mm is the point where powder skis turn in to “extreme” powder skis. When you start to get to 120 and higher, those skis are really designed for serious pow such as heli-skiing.
The weight of your ski can have a big impact on your overall experience on the mountain. Lighter skis are easier to maneuver and require less effort to turn, but may not provide as much stability at high speeds. Heavier skis can provide more stability, but may require more effort to turn. I personally prefer lighter skis for my powder skis, because the whole point is to float on the snow. A lightweight powder ski will be around 2,000 grams, up to 2,500 or more for ones on the heavier side.
Material and Construction
The material and construction of your ski can also impact your experience on the mountain. Look for skis that are made with high-quality materials and solid construction. Carbon fiber and titanium are often used in high-end skis, or a combination of various woods, providing a lightweight and durable option.
What About the Ski Boot?
The ski boot that you use with your powder ski will also make an impact on how you can ski in soft snow. Because powder skis have more width, mass, and potentially weight, it can be nice to use a stiffer boot with them. This will allow you to have a better base of control and pivot point on the bulkier skies.
With that said, objective #1 is to have comfortable boots. It comes down to personal preference, but if you have a pair of stiffer ski boots on hand, this would be a good time to use them.
Tips for Skiing on Powder
If you are like me, you have done a few BIG face plants in powder. It just skis different than hard pack or groomed snow does. Expect to fall a few times. A few tips:
Have the right powder gear to ensure your safety. Here are some essential items you should have:
- Helmet: Wearing a helmet is crucial for protecting your head in case of an accident. This goes for all conditions — not just powder.
- Goggles: With all that snow flying around, having the right ski goggles is even more important. I like full facial-covering goggles.
- Leash: Consider using a ski leash in deep powder. If you do wipe out and lose a ski, it can be very difficult to figure out where the ski went under the snow. A leash will keep it near your body.
Skiing on powder requires different techniques than skiing on groomed runs. Here are some tips to keep in mind:
- Keep your balanced over the two skis: While groomer skiing often has you shifting from ski to ski, powder skiing calls for a more equal distribution of weight.
- Use a wider stance: A slightly wider stance will be more forgiving and give you more stability and control.
- Lean back slightly: While you want to keep your weight forward, leaning back slightly will help you maintain your balance and keep your skis from diving into the snow. It also allows you to more easily adjust if your skis “catch” some real deep stuff and inertia starts messing with you.
- Use your legs: Your legs will do most of the work when skiing on powder. Use them to absorb bumps and maintain your balance. Pivot at the hips.
- Take breaks. Skiing in powder takes more effort. A run that you normally can bomb down without powder might require 1-2 stops when skiing in deeper snow.
My advice: next time you are skiing and there is a powder day, go to a ski rental shop and rent a pair of powder skis. See if you like them. They take some getting used to, but within a few runs you won’t want to give them back.
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.