The best big-mountain skis 2023


Everywhere. All the time. Everyday. That’s how often you think about skiing. Maneuvering through the mountains is your purest joy. Unencumbered flight. You enjoy roaming off-piste but can’t let go of the G-forces you feel when you really lay one over. You don’t care if it snows; you just need the lifts to take you up higher. Where your intuition drives the ski. You wander and your skis provide the common denominator. They are your favorite multi-tool, with an edge sharp enough to cut. Streamline the quiver. Lighten the load. Think less, ski more.

J skis The Escalator

best big-mountain skis

Jason Levinthal has been making J skis for the past decade, all in the name of downhill fun. The Friend, for instance, is a hard-charging powder plank while The Allplay is a park rat’s dream— and those are just two of the award-winning skis in the J lineup. The all-new The Escalator, however, is built to be easy to maneuver and lightweight on the uphill while staying true to Levinthal’s signature quality on the way down. The Escalator features a full aspen core with a maple mounting block and carbon fiber stringers that keep weight down while maintaining the pop and energy that J is renowned for. It has less early rise than J’s wider skis but boasts a thick shovel to ensure flotation. The J skis designers also opted for a more aggressive sidecut, so you can really feel the Gs when carving, but are still able to schmear turns when you want to scrub speed. Just ask Dadali who now reaches for The Escalator more than any other ski when riding in Utah’s Little Cottonwood Canyon. “The reliability of this ski, the nimbleness, the energy—that’s where this Escalator just blew me away,” Dadali said. “It’s exactly the way that I want to ride around the mountain, and I’ve been craving a ski like this for a long time.”


Atomic Bent 100

best big-mountain skis

If you know Chris Benchetler, you know he has one of the most unique perspectives on and off the mountain, and that creatively warped vision translates to Atomic’s line of Bent skis. The Bent 100 comes in as the third-widest sibling and arguably the most versatile thanks to its mid-fat waist, twin-tip design and directional shape. A reliable tool in just about any setting from the terrain park to the top of big backcountry lines, the Bent 100’s HRZN Tech in the tip and tail offers 10-percent more surface area for premium flotation and a more relaxed feel to pop, pivot and play all over the mountain. “Slash and slarve it everywhere!” exclaims FREESKIER’s Gunter Jones. “This thing handles bumps better than Motley Crüe in the 80s, such a smooth ride.”

Icelantic Nomad 105

best big-mountain skis

The purpose of this particular ski from Icelantic is right in the name. Made to move all over the mountain, the Nomad 105 is the brand’s top-selling freeride tool for good reason. A 105-mm waist width is just enough to provide a floaty platform but it also won’t get in the way if all you’re harvesting is wind-blown buff. Rocker in the tip and tail give the Nomad its renowned playful, slarvey characteristics while camber underfoot allows this ski to hold an edge with the best of them. Featuring a new Hybrid Flight core, the Nomad 105 is lighter and poppier than ever before, without sacrificing any of its big-mountain capabilities. “Very fun cutting turns through hardpack and on steep, fresh snow,” says Dan Grund.

Fischer Ranger 102

best big-mountain skis

While the Ranger name is not new to the Fischer brand, the entire 2023 lineup has been completely re-imagined. Utilizing its robust team of athletes, designers, shop owners and die-hard weekend warriors, Fischer’s new Ranger series is “crafted to ski more,” and the new Ranger 102 aims to get you out there and keep you out there, no matter the conditions. The go-to plank for athletes like Kyle Smaine, Martin Lentz and Lynsey Dyer, the Ranger 102 is just as capable on hike-to lines in the Jackson Hole backcountry as it is romping inbounds at Stowe. At 102-mm underfoot and sporting a speedy DNA, the ski will accompany you everywhere. “This thing does it all,” exclaims Matt Berkowitz. “Grips and rips on groomers, easy turn initiation, super versatile, wide enough to float in pow and the teal topsheet is dope.”

Black Crows Atris

Since Black Crows first released the Atris in 2014, it’s been a go-to for big-mountain skiers all over the world and it’s still one of the best big-mountain skis available. Now in its third iteration and sporting an updated topsheet, the Atris soars into the 2022-23 season with admittedly subtle yet significant design tweaks that make this plank a touch more versatile and approachable for whoever decides to take it out for a rip. A 105-mm waist combined with progressive tip rocker offers a wide enough platform to float on top while classic camber underfoot and a slightly straighter sidecut provides the right amount of grip and stability in variable conditions. “Everyday ski is absolutely right,” says Adrian Bouthot. “Perfect for blasting pow bumps, ripping groomers and sending cliffs.” 

Armada Stranger

Armada’s goal with the Stranger is simple: to ensure you’re never a stranger to the mountain, no matter what the conditions are that day. When Dan Grund got on it, all he had to say was, “this is the closest you’ll get to snowboarding in a ski.” At 100 mm underfoot, this plank isn’t made for the deepest days and biggest sends; it’s engineered to make even the most average days feel like an absolute blast, which is why we consider it one of the best big-mountain skis available this season. This ski is literally all about fun. A poplar-ash wood core keeps things light and lively for popping off of side hits, a wide, edgeless tip makes for silky smooth butter maneuvers and a rockered springboard tail just begs to be wheelied. For those who have a hankering for butters and jibs, the Stranger will enable you to get intimate with every crevice of the mountain.

Faction Mana 2

Like Johnny Cash, Faction is keen on walking the line and when it comes to its brand-new Mana series. That line is nearly indistinguishable between all-mountain and backcountry. The sleekest in the lineup, the Mana 2—one of the best big-mountain skis available this season—quickly became a tester favorite due in large part to its incredible stability compared to its featherweight feel. Featuring a lightweight poplar core construction reinforced in key areas, including a carbon-rubber stomp pad underfoot, the Mana 2 is just begging to pop, float, slash and smear with unwavering confidence. Did we mention its pristine carving capabilities? At 102-mm underfoot, there’s no style of snow the Mana 2 can’t finesse its way through. “One of the smoothest operators on the hill,” says Leslie Resnick. “Playful, nimble perfection!”

Line Blade Optic 104

best big-mountain skis

Line’s new metal laminate freeride ski, the Blade Optic 104—one of the best big-mountain skis available this season—mixes the freestyle nature of the brand with fall line shredding ability, and the result is an everyday ski for the modern freerider. When you think Line Skis, you may naturally conjure up images of jibby twin tips and Traveling Circus video clips, but Line has always made stout and playful all-mountain skis. “The line between freestyle and freeride is becoming increasingly blurry and we feel that this has not been adequately addressed yet,” says Peter Brigham, Line Skis’ mastermind engineer. “The collection was born out of conversations with athletes [like Jake Hopfinger] who were looking for the hard-charging ability of a metal ski and the forgiveness of a twin tip.” Taking cues from both the Line Vision, a rockered freestyler, and the Line Blade, a groomer-oriented arc’er, the Blade Optic is constructed with an aspen wood core, just enough of a twin tip for switch landings, and a unique metal laminate construction— “Gas Pedal Metal Overdrive.” The intricate metal build consists of a layer of Titanal that runs longitudinally but tapers near the tip and tail, increasing power and stability when you’re blasting through the runout; but it also utilizes feathered metal cutouts underfoot, a cue taken from the Blade, that increases the ski’s grip on-edge. 


Völkl Revolt 104

Unchanged for 2023, aside from a new topsheet graphic, the Revolt 104—one of the best big-mountain skis available this season—lands on the pages of our Buyer’s Guide once again for its many freeride-centric capabilities. Touting all of the best elements of its bigger sibling, the Revolt 121, the 104’s waist width makes it more accessible to the masses and more appropriate for variable days. From arcing turns on frozen groomers, to jibbing through the bumps and trees, and even finding a new layer of fresh, the Revolt 104 consistently shines. Kaz Sosnowski will go as far as to say that it’s “the perfect middle ground for a go-anywhere ski. Arcs, jibs, and just all around rips.” For those skiers looking for a do-it-all-no-matter-the-day kind of ski, the Revolt 104 will make all of your frontside and backside jibbing dreams come true. 

Head Kore 105

Lightweight yet stout for resort skiing—a marketing phrase often used but rarely accomplished as well as on the Head Kore 105. This model hasn’t changed substantially for 2023, aside from a more durable top sheet, and that’s okay since its position as a playful yet powerful freeride ski is unique from this race-inspired brand. The construction blends a wood core with two layers of carbon and graphene in the tip and tail, resulting in a ski that surprised many of our testers in Jackson; for such a light ski it held up to the testing grounds’ variable terrain with flying colors, especially compared to many of the heavier skis featured in this category.  For Head, it was the brand’s first time working with carbon and graphene in a wider ski. Often times, lighter skis, especially those with carbon, can be pingy—bouncing around whenever the terrain and snow isn’t smooth. However, the Kore 105’s sandwich build and its engineers’ years of producing World Cup-level skis eliminates the worry.


Big mountains are your home. You watch them keenly as snow levels rise. Waiting to strike is part of the game. But so is charging the resort. Pillaging your favorite stashes, dropping hidden cliffs and slashing chalky lines come naturally. You crave the thrill, the speed. The glory of a big line and the hype from your friends. You envision the stomp before it happens. Full-throttle, no regrets. You are the renaissance skier. The one who does it all. The one who craves one more before après, just because the lift is still spinning. Equally insatiable.

Faction Dancer 3

Faction’s new Dancer replaces the once-reigning Dictator—a charging ski that had a cult-like following among Freeskiing World Tour athletes, patrollers and big-mountain shredders. What skiers loved about the ousted series, however, they’ll also love about the new one. Dancer is a flat-tail freeride ski aptly named for its versatility—excelling at carving, then quickly dumping speed with a slash while negotiating a tight section mid-slope, and it’s one of the best big-mountain skis available this season. Many FREESKIER testers noted the ski felt similar to the recently re-designed Dictator, with particular emphasis on versatility from its elliptical sidecut: shorter radius in the tip and tail for quick, nimble handling and a longer radius underfoot for those long, swooping arcs. Testers also celebrated its powerful chassis, achieved from two razor-thin layers of metal. It’s a ski that inspires confidence in aspiring skiers and expert skiers alike. Just ask Faction athlete Elisabeth Gerritzen: “The Dancer is my ski of choice when riding technical terrain and variable snow conditions,” says the 2021 Freeride World Tour Champion. “It’s a stiff yet fun, very predictable ski. Its character enables me to feel extra confident when I’m skiing faster than I reasonably should.”


4FRNT Devastator

If Freeskier testers, a notably discerning bunch, describe a ski as “my favorite for five years running” and “the mountain is yours for the taking,” you can bet it’s pretty good. That’s precisely the case for the 4FRNT Devastator, one of the best big-mountain skis, which strikes a fine balance between eagerly playful and all business. Run it back a few years and the original Devastator ski was aimed at taking the brand’s freestyle background to the whole mountain. Airs, butters, tricks, all outside the park. Two years ago, after receiving feedback that the ski struggled in hardpack, 4FRNT went back to the drawing board. The Burlington-based brand updated the ski to feature a new multi-radius rocker design, increasing the effective edge to feel more like a cambered ski, while increasing the tip and tail height to create a surfy feel in freshies. But, with so many loyal fans, the brand knew that it couldn’t lose sight of the Devastator’s hard-charging capabilities while trying to increase its precision and control.


Fischer Ranger 108

best big-mountain skis

Fischer is on a mission to remove the complexities from your life… well, at least when it comes to selecting which skis to ride on a given day. The new Fischer Ranger 108 answers the call—no need to reach for powder planks or your frontside faves based on the conditions, just grab the Ranger 108 and get out there, no matter the snow quality. In recent years, the Ranger line was split—the FR skis were playful, twin tip boards while the Ti skis were more directional, on-piste flat tail carvers for the ex-racer type. Fischer athletes were craving a ski that combined characteristics of both and the new Ranger 108 quenches that thirst like a gulp of ice cold water. Ultimately, the new Ranger 108 has all the hard-charging characteristics you need to hold an edge in hardpack conditions but the ski really shines making big-mountain powder turns and busting through cut up snow, a homage to Fischer’s design home in Austria.


Salomon QST 106

best big-mountain skis

Generation three of Salomon’s QST 106 may be its charmed third life, a ski that’s more versatile than ever—thanks to a few small tweaks to its shape—without drastically changing the identity of this widely popular model. To achieve this, Salomon tuned the flex of the ski, which contributed to an improved feel at the end of the turn, while also slightly adjusting the rocker. These updates bring some added pizzazz to the ski, as does the brand’s use of thicker sidewalls underfoot, providing the stability and confidence the ski had in prior versions while upgrading its freeride prowess. Throughout our Ski Test in Jackson Hole, everyone who skied the new QST 106 had reviews that echoed the new design. Testers loved its smooth and precise turns—short or long—and how it could also jam down the fall-line with more bite than before. Featuring refreshed topsheets and bold bases, the redesign of the ever-popular QST 106 runs from inside to out, making it one of the best big-mountain skis available this season. From what we can tell, this ski is more freeride-oriented than ever before.


Elan Ripstick 106

Elan’s Ripstick has been a mainstay on the pages of our Buyer’s Guide since the brand’s inception of its unique Amphibio Profile plank. With a designated left and right ski, the Ripstick utilizes camber on the inside edge to promote grip, stability and precision, while rocker on the outside edge provides smooth transitions between turns. All-new to the Ripstick lineup this year is the inclusion of Carbon Line Technology to increase power throughout the turn. Whether you’re slicing across boilerplate groomers or dancing through thick powder fields, the Ripstick is going to make you feel like an absolute ripper. “The 106 is the most ideal for maximizing versatility,” says tester Andrew Plourde. “A predictable ski that’s super stable underfoot with easy turn initiation and great energy transfer coming out the turn.”

Kästle FX106 Ti

best big-mountain skis

An Austrian Army knife of sorts, Kästle designed the FX106 Ti to devour the steeps of your favorite ski area and it’s one of the best big-mountain skis available this season. Whether there’s good snow in that couloir or not, the multi-radius sidecut, triple-wood core and Titanal inlays, paired with a 106-mm waist, provide enough float for when you need it but don’t want to lose control in variable conditions. “These skis rip down the fall line!” exclaims Maine-based tester Adrian Bouthot. Utilizing the brand’s Hollowtech 3.0 Technology in the tip reduces the ski’s overall weight by removing unnecessary material while increasing the ski’s ability to absorb chatter at high speed. Built for charging big, steep and fast lines, the FX106 Ti’s most notable feature is its heavy-hitting, grip-it-and-rip-it style.

J skis The Hotshot

best big-mountain skis

As part of J Skis’ charging category, The Hotshot, one of the best big-mountain skis available this season, is made to charge the entire ski area with undeniable confidence. A maple wood core sandwiched by Titanal creates an incredibly durable and powerful ski that isn’t afraid to top out at mach speed. Full height sidewalls and thick edges add to the durability aspect, so you can thrash, slash, slide and tap wherever you damn well please on the mountain. A touch more approachable than its predecessor, The Metal, The Hotshot gives you that extra dose of confidence you need to send it fast and big. “Such a great blend of playfulness and yet it charges super hard,” says tester Sydney Ricketts. “Surfy when you want it to be, but you can also lay it on edge for Super G turns.” 

Völkl Blaze 106

Unchanged for 2023—other than the topsheet graphic—Völkl’s Blaze 106 continues to  resonate with our testers for its versatility in a multitude of conditions. It’s astonishingly lightweight, is designed with shock-absorbing suspension tips and has a rocker-camber-rocker profile underfoot meaning this ski is locked, loaded and ready to rip, no matter what the snow is looking like. “Fun in all conditions,” says Mike Filander. “Once you’re in the sweet spot of velocity, it’s an autobahn-styled weapon.” A 3D radius sidecut gives the Blaze 106 the ability to pivot on a dime just as smooth as it can lay out long, extended turns for some good, old-fashioned Bavarian fun. Full sidewalls and a Titanal binding platform send the durability rating of this German-made plank to the stratosphere, so you can thrash and bash uninhibited. 

Nordica Unleashed 108

best big-mountain skis

Nordica is ready to unleash the beast with its brand-new lineup for 2023. The granddaddy of the series, the Unleashed 108, one of the best big-mountain skis available this season, is made to let loose in the most precarious places on the mountain. Eager to bootpack up from the chair and hit that couly you’ve been staring up at for seasons? How about a quick dance through the trees and bumps? At 108 mm underfoot, this freeride plank is just wide enough to plunder every last pocket of fresh while the steep tip shovel provides easy turn initiation and consistent snow deflection and the twin tail makes for effortless schmearing and confident switch riding. Thanks to a carbon-reinforced wood core with the brand’s proprietary Terrain Specific Metal—a layer of Titanal in the core engineered for specific length/width combinations—there’s absolutely no speed limit on this ski. “Great edge control and excellent stability for a mid-waist all-mountain ski,” says Colorado-born John Weir. 

Dynastar M-Free 108

best big-mountain skis

At the end of the day, it’s the painter who is responsible for the work of art but it’s the paintbrush that enables the creativity. It’s the same for Dynastar’s wildly popular M-Free line, and specifically the M-Free 108, one of the best big-mountain skis. Technically unchanged for 2023, the only difference you’ll notice in this year’s iteration of the this ski is the topsheet; the black and the marble are reversed to give the people more of what they want—an eye-catching topsheet. A hybrid core of poplar wood for performance and polyurethane for weight savings creates a unique on-snow feel. It’s not often you find the perfect blend of stability and play but the M-Free 108 is as close as you’ll get. “This ski will take you anywhere you want and will give you the performance you’d expect from Dynastar,” says Derek Depiero. 

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