It can be daunting to walk into a ski shop these days. Weary of anyone who says “dude” and “bro” multiple times in the same sentence, we understand your apprehension. Ski technology has been changing rapidly over the last few years, as well. If it’s been awhile since you have purchased new sticks, don’t be surprised if the inventory of today’s shops are a bit different than your current skis. The good news is that there is a lot of quality equipment available. The key is deciding what type of skier you want to be most of the time. Or, if you fear commitment, buy three different pairs so you’ll be covered no matter the conditions. Below you’ll find some of our favorites.

Frontside Carvers

If you wake up and look out the window of your mountainside cabin, see 12 inches of fresh powder and feel a little disappointed, there might be something wrong with you. We understand, though, you prefer your mountains like your women – fast and well-groomed.

Rossignol Classic 80Ti – If you want to find a great ski, ask your local ski shop employee what he skis. We did, and one of the 3 pairs he is rocking this year are the Rossi 80Tis. Our guy is a powder-hound, but when it hasn’t snowed for 5 days, he slaps these on because, “They just rip.” Also earned Outside Magazines Gear of the Year honors last year. Can’t miss ride. (124/80/112)

Volkl TigerShark 11 Foot Power Switch – Certainly one of the most dynamic pieces of technology out this year, Volkl’s “Power Switch” feature will cause skiers to debate, valuable versus gimmicky? Basically, Volkl is giving you 2 skis in 1 with a “switch” (more of a knob really) on the tail of the ski that allows it owner to control the stiffness of the ski. Stiff in the morning, softer after a 2 beer lunch. Flexing one in the ski shop, there is a material difference between modes. (121/75/104)

Big Mountain

Powder. Steep. Deep. All day. Forget groomers, and often trail markers, you are looking for pillow-ey stashes and face shots. The gear below will allow you to handle the steepest, deepest, dumps.

Armada JJ – “JJ” stands JP Auclair and Julien Regnie, the revolutionary skier combo that created this big mountain monster. The most interesting ski shape out there, from tip to tail the ski starts thin, widens, thins underfoot, widens again and then thins to the tail. This “elf shoe” design allows the JJs to “float like a yacht in deep snow, and carve like a three-fin in the lift line.” The ski also features dual-rocker (tips and tail) as well as a scratch resistant top sheet to protect the graphics. (126/136/115/133/121)

K2 SideStash – It is almost an insult to categorize this ski in “Big Mountain.” The SideStash features a rockered tip to keep you floating (it’s science), but differs from other powder-devouring skis by keeping the tail traditionally flat. Speaking with a shop owner that helped K2 create this line of ski, I was embarrassed he was so giddy about the design. Well balanced, light and strong, no surprise the SideStash is Outside’s Gear of Year 2010. (139/108/127)

All Mountain

Your skills are valuable and you are generous guy, so you like to spread the wealth across the mountain. Over 50% of skiers who purchased new skis last year, in fact, put themselves in the “all mountain” category. Fat enough for pow, shapely enough when you need to carve..sounds like our ex-girlfriends.

Volkl AC-50 – Almost cliché to list this ski here, due to the accolades it has already racked up, but quality can’t be denied. Reviewers continue to be surprised by the ski’s liveliness, despite it’s width. We caution, the ski is stiff, so best suited for better skiers and those with a weight behind them. These sticks really will allow you to power through crud, pop in the powder and carve the groomers. Nimble. (128/85/112)

K2 Apache Xplorer – One of the easiest, can’t miss skis in the bunch. Reviewers gush over the ski’s versatility. Slightly softer than the Volkls listed above, the Xplorers are a ski for everyone. The sign of a great all mountain ski is its ability to transfer effortlessly between conditions and the Xplorer delivers. A great design keeps the turning radius at 17 meters, wonderful for a mid-fat ski. (128/84/112)

Park

Still pretending you’re 17? Awesome! Hit that kicker and ride the rails with peace of mind knowing your company has a great health plan. 

Line Afterbang – Our buddy that delayed college to continue kicking it in the ski shop used praise the increasing popularity of you jibbers. Parks were great for business. Scraped, cracked, busted skis kept coming through his door. Afterbang from Line intends to change that. Built specifically to be durable to park riding, this stick is radically different from its peers. In fact, the construction is much more similar to a skateboard than today’s traditional skis. No core, sidewalls or topsheet…welcome to the future. (115/88/115)

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