Best Skis for East Coast Skiing: Our Picks for Performance on Ice and Hardpack
Killington, Stowe, Mad River Glen, Smugglers Notch, Sugarloaf. These are some classic East Coast ski areas with tons of history and character. The only issue is, skiing out East can present some unique challenges.
Skiers on the East Coast are familiar with the challenges of skiing on hard-packed snow and ice. To tackle these conditions, having the right skis is a gamechanger. Choosing the best skis for East Coast skiing can make the difference between an enjoyable day on the slopes and a frustrating one.
Understanding East Coast Skiing Conditions
East Coast skiing can be challenging due to its icy and unpredictable conditions. Skiers must be prepared for a variety of conditions requiring the ability to really carve, including hard-packed snow, ice, and occasional powder.
Unlike the Rockies, where you probably will get a few powder days and a bunch of different conditions over the course of a week, in the East you can count on more of your days being hard packed snow, groomers, and occasional ice. This means you want to probably keep the powder skis in the closet, and go for something that is more of an all-mountain ski or a pure carving ski.
One of the biggest challenges of skiing on the East Coast is dealing with an often-icy surface. East Coast snow tends to have more water volume than the fluffy stuff out West, meaning it can become quite hard and even icy as the temperature goes up and down. Skiers need to be comfortable skiing on hard-packed snow and ice, which can be slippery and unforgiving. It’s important to have skis that can handle these conditions, with sharp edges and a stiff flex that can grip the ice.
In addition to the snow conditions, skiers should be aware of the terrain. Many East Coast ski resorts have steep and narrow trails, with tight turns and challenging moguls. Tree skiing – or at least skiing in close proximity to trees – is the norm in many places.
Finally, weather in the East can be generally colder than the Rockies…. although the Rockies will have some brutally cold days too. The typical low in Stowe for February, for example, is 4 degrees. Compare that with 13 degrees for Aspen, Co. You are just going to have more nights when the snow can freeze, and more cold ski days. Factor that in to what you should wear skiing when packing your weekend bag.
What Eastern Conditions Mean for Your Skis
When it comes to skiing in Maine, Vermont, New York, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, or New Hampshire, the conditions can be quite different from skiing out West. The snow is usually icier, harder, and more compact, which means that skiers need a different type of ski to handle the conditions.
One of the most important things to consider when choosing skis for the East Coast is edge grip. Skiers need skis that can hold an edge on the hard-packed snow. Look for skis with a narrower waist and a stiffer flex, which will provide better edge hold. The waist (the part of the ski directly under your foot) should probably be less than 95mm, so that ski tips can have an effective flare out.
Carving ability is also essential for skiing on the East Coast. Skiers need skis that can make quick, sharp turns on the hard-packed snow. Look for skis with a shorter turn radius, which will make it easier to carve turns. Note that a shorter turn radius doesn’t always mean shorter skis – often, longer skis give you better edge power.
Strong edges for ice
Another important factor to consider is the strength of the edges. The East Coast is known for its icy conditions, so skiers need skis with strong edges that can grip the ice. Look for skis with a metal edge, which will provide better grip on the ice. You will want to keep your skis tuned as well – as the edges should be sharp and pronounced.
Less focus on powder snow
Unlike skiing out West, where powder snow is abundant, skiing on the East Coast is less focused on powder snow. Skiers need skis that can handle the hard-packed snow and icy conditions that are common on the East Coast. You may get some powder days, but whereas you might have a pair of powder skis out West, you usually don’t need them in the Northeast.
Top Skis for East Coast Skiing
Rossignol Experience 80/88 Ti
The Rossignol Experience 88 Ti is a great all-mountain ski for intermediate to advanced skiers. With a waist width of 80 to 88mm, it can handle both groomed runs and light powder. It has a full wood core and a layer of metal for stability and power. The ski’s rocker in the tip and tail help with turn initiation and exit.
When I skied on the Experience 88s, I really liked the turning radius. I felt confident in my ability to make tight, intricate moves and not have any of my turns not catch.
- Versatile for all-mountain skiing
- Good stability and power
- Good turning radius
- Not ideal for deep powder
- Can be too stiff for some skiers
K2 Mindbender 90Ti
The K2 Mindbender 90Ti is a versatile ski that can handle a variety of conditions. The ski’s Titanal Y-Beam construction provides stability and power. It has a waist width of 90mm, making it suitable for both groomed runs and light powder. The ski’s rocker in the tip and tail helps with turn initiation and exit.
The 90mm underfoot waist still makes it a relatively thin ski, but one that can perform relatively well on some soft snow too.
- Versatile for a variety of conditions
- Can be serviceable in deeper snow – probably the best on this list
- Turning radius might not be as tight as some others
Salomon Stance 80
The Salomon Stance 80 is a great ski for intermediate skiers who want to improve their carving skills. It has a waist width of 80mm, making it ideal for groomed runs. The ski’s full wood core and carbon reinforcement provide stability and power. The ski’s rocker in the tip and tail helps with turn initiation and exit.
The 80mm underfoot is quite skinny, giving this ski a great flare on the tips. That means that you can really dig in those edges and have some agile, tight turns, even on ice.
- Ideal for groomed runs and carving
- Nice, short turning radius
- Not suitable for powder or off-piste skiing
- Some skiers will find the waist too skinny
I started seeing Volkl Deacons more and more on the chairlifts a few years ago, and The Volkl Deacon is a great ski for skiers who want to carve on hardpack but are not looking to drop 4-figures on their skis. It has a waist width of 72 to 76mm depending on the model year, making it ideal for groomed runs. The ski’s full wood core and Titanal reinforcement provide stability and power. The ski’s rocker in the tip and tail helps with turn initiation and exit.
- Good carver with tight turning radius
- Low, affordable price point
- A bit cheaper on construction materials, but many won’t notice the difference
The Rossignol Forza is a great ski for intermediate skiers who want to improve their all-mountain skills. The Forza has typical a waist width of 84mm, but you can find models with a waist all the way down to 75mm which gives the ski a pretty extreme shape. If you are going to need the ski for occasional soft snow, go with the 80. If your priority is carving on ice, give the 75 a try.
The ski’s full wood core and fiberglass reinforcement provide stability and power. The ski’s rocker in the tip and tail helps with turn initiation and exit.
This is a higher-end ski. If you are an intermediate or above who wants to invest in good performance, I think this is the best option.
- Versatile for all-mountain skiing
- Nice, 13-meter turn radius
- Innovative tip with a longer sidecut; overall, a higher-end ski
- A bit compromised in powder
- More expensive
Where to Ski in the East
So now you know what skis you want to use out East… the next question is, where to ski?
The East Coast is home to some of the best skiing in the country, with a variety of resorts offering everything from gentle beginner slopes to challenging expert terrain. Here are a few of the top ski areas in the East:
Stowe is one of the most popular ski resorts on the East Coast, known for its challenging terrain and stunning views of Mount Mansfield. The resort boasts 116 trails spread across two mountains, with something for every level of skier. Stowe also offers a variety of on-mountain dining options and après-ski activities.
Killington is one of the largest ski resorts in the East, with 155 trails and 22 lifts spread across six peaks. The resort is known for its long ski season and extensive snowmaking capabilities, making it a great choice for early and late season skiing. Killington also offers a variety of off-mountain activities, including shopping, dining, and nightlife.
Smugglers Notch is a family-friendly ski resort located in northern Vermont, and is probably best family ski area in Vermont. The resort boasts 78 trails spread across three mountains, with a variety of terrain for skiers of all levels. Smugglers Notch also offers a variety of non-skiing activities, including a water park, ice skating, and snowshoeing.
Sugarloaf is one of the largest ski resorts in Maine, with 162 trails and 13 lifts spread across two mountains. The resort is known for its challenging terrain and long ski season, with skiing typically available from November through May. Sugarloaf also offers a variety of off-mountain activities, including shopping, dining, and nightlife.
Choosing the right ski for East Coast skiing depends on various factors, including the skier’s skill level, skiing style, and the type of terrain they plan to ski. It is important to consider the ski’s width, length, and stiffness to ensure optimal performance in icy and hard-packed conditions.
My advice is to forget about powder skis, and go with an all-mountain ski that is built more for carving, with a narrower ski waist of 90mm or less. I would not be afraid to go all the way down into the 70s, but just know that you will then have some trouble if you get a powdery, soft snow day.
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.