Ski test review of 2023 - 2024 All Mountain Skis using Carv to determine which are best on the piste
Best All Mountain Skis 2023-2024 under 100mm reviewMost people when considering an All Mountain Ski would still rate how well they perform on the piste. And in this test I used the Carv system to benchmark the skis against the score I achieved with a pure piste ski, Salomon S/RACE GS 10
First and foremost the majority of my skiing is focused towards ski touring and freeride; hence I'm normally skiing on something at least 105mm underfoot and fully understand the limitations they offer when skiing on piste and using a touring boot as opposed to alpine/downhill ones.
Back at the end of last season, we were given the opportunity to test the Carv system, and while Elaine, who skied with it at the end of the season on slushy pistes but reviewed it here, I only used it once, on an old pair of White Doctor FT8's.
Because I don't cruise the pistes all day I would not class myself as an advanced carving skier, in fact, my Carv IQ score from last season was just 125, a Carv Cadet!
So fast-forward to this season and I finally invested in some real piste skis, a scaled-down race ski, Salomon's S/RACE GS 10 and I gave those a few outings before I took them out with Carv, where I increased my score to an IQ:142 which promoted me above a Carv Connoisseur to a Mountain Master, which has a much better ring to it :)
Two weeks before the SIGB ski test in La Clusaz we were not too sure if we'd be doing any testing as there was no snow below 1,800m and the altitude at the test base camp was 1,290m.
And then the snow arrived, so with a week to go we were not too sure as to what category of ski to test, and then the day before we left we received an email saying that most of the off-piste was well tracked out and to be careful and respect the skis on the test, so I conceived the plan of testing the piste performance of a range of All Mountain skis using Carv against the benchmark of my Salomon's S/RACE's.
Trying to explain the above to the manufacturer representatives you could see their eyes glazing over, all but Tord from Volkl, but he has worked with Carv, and at least he thought it was a sound idea!
The game plan was to ski one run top to bottom, 1,000m descent but stopping at more or less the same place, eight or so times. This would enable Carv to give a score for each segment skied and some would be better than others, but the goal was to see how close I could get to my initial benchmark Carv IQ:score and after a few runs we'd know where the best segments were.
You can see these scores in all the info-graphics alongside the best score and image of the ski.
First out of the starting block was Blackcrow's Mirus Cor at 178 and 87 wide and a very good-looking ski.
And straight away it put a smile on my face, though the first segment of the descent was not the best to ski and will always have a low score.
Every time I stopped so Carv would update me via my earbuds with that segment's score, so I was well-pleased to hear 140, only two points adrift of my benchmark, and I have to say I was none too surprised.
At this point, I should add that I was not testing the All Mountain versatility of the ski in terms of off-piste, crud, moguls and such like, but purely concentrating on the piste performance, which is where I believe the main focus of an All Mountain Ski attributes often are, as if you want true off-piste performance then really that falls within the Freeride category and skis 100m or more underfoot.
For sure skiing moguls, all these skis will work, but nowadays most skiers tend to shy away from them, only skiing them when they've ended up in a mogul field usually not out of choice!
If there had been good off-piste fresh to be had then obviously I would have skied a couple of segments, but, alas, it was chopped-up crud. But, then, I probably would not be testing All Mountain but Freeride skis.
The next ski was the Atomic Redster Q 9.8 at 181 and 84 wide
After the first couple of runs, I said to Ken, who was also testing, that these were not as enjoyable as the Black Crows, and then a couple of runs later I had a dream segment where I was cranking from side to side, almost akin to a good skier you see on a carving video and not something in my repertoire :)
As I stopped so I heard in my ears the score, which then resulted in me uttering an expletive and fist-pumping the air.
I had just beaten my benchmark score, and I knew it was not a software glitch / false reading as it felt way above normal.
And you can see in the image below, compared to the Black Crows' how the edging and rotary scores (where I felt good) were better, though not too sure what was happening with balance and pressure?
Next in line was the Elan Wingman 86 Cti FusionX 178 and 86 wide
Even though this was only our third run it was around 11:45 and noticeably busier, and the piste was no longer groomed to perfection, so it was a lot harder to get anywhere near the scores of the previous two runs, only registering a top IQ score of 136, and you can see the other score were well off the previous two runs as well.
And so it was a similar story for the Nordica Steadfast at 174 and 85 wide and Head Supershape e-titan 84.
Again, it quickly became apparent the frailties in testing skis, especially on the piste. It's all very well testing freeride backcountry skis if the off-piste is good, even then a couple of degrees changes in temperature can make a substantial difference to the snowpack, with the powder just becoming a little heavier.
And as you can see the figures reflected this degradation in the condition of the piste.
And then the Head Supershape e-titan 84.
I was hoping to get more shots using the GoPro 360 but when trying to concentrate on carving, having an unbalanced pole due to the stick attached to it is a massive hindrance.
Finally I opted for an all out piste ski, Rossignol Hero Elite LT TI.
A more or less a direct comparison to my race-inspired Salomon's S/RACE GS 10 to see what scores I could get. But I ended up with more sliding it seemed than carving and decided to call it a day based on those scores!
Day 2 first lifts & Salomon Stance at 177 and 84 wide.
We'd made a big effort to get to the test centre early to ensure some good runs before the corduroy was skied out. The only stumbling block to our carefully crafted plan was the flat light at the top of the mountain with a dollop of cloud frustratingly blocking out the sun.
When you're dealing with such small percentage gains or losses, flat light can have a big impact. That said the Stance felt good underfoot and while I was holding back a little, the scores were still decent given the conditions, with one segment producing 138 which was very respectable, and an overall edging score of 80 second best in the test!
And I put the low rotary score down to not going for it so much in the flat light.
Sun for the second run of the day, Dynastar M-Cross 176 and 88.
But the sun, for whatever reason, failed to shine on the Dynastar and overall was quite disappointing given that the light was so much better and the piste was in good condition with still not too many people about.
That said the rotary score was the highest out of all the skis that I tested and Carv defines that as your rotary skills for all types of a turn.
Parallel Skis - How well do you rotate your skis together, keeping them parallel throughout the turn?
Turn Shape - Can you form symmetrical S-shaped turns across the slope?
Third run of the day and out with the Volkl Kendo 177 and 88 wide.
We were joined by Tord from Volkl so I was prepared for an increase in pace and intensity, which fortunately didn't happen. In fact nigh on the reverse with Tord commenting that we don't hang around, though I think he actually didn't finish his sentence and should have added "for a couple of old farts" :)
The piste again was getting skied out but the Volkl's kept an edge well and while not hitting 140s an IQ Score of 137 was quite respectful, with other runs in the 130s.
And now for the anomoly Blizzard Rustler 9 180 and 96 wide.
At the ski test, as you can see, the Blizzard Rustler 9 is classed as an All Mountain ski. However on the Blizzard website, it's classed as a Freeride. "The narrowest of the Rustler series, the Rustler 9 is a Freeride ski that doesn’t require a big powder day to do its job...The smooth rocker-camber-rocker profile makes it responsive and stable, yet super playful in softer snow and on any type of terrain."
When I took it out of the rack I could sense this was going to be an interesting ski, and playful is definitely an adjective I would use to describe it!
While not achieving the best scores, for a ski 96 wide it was certainly adept at handling the piste, and bearing in mind this was the fourth run of the day and the piste was bare of corduroy, it performed very well. With 96mm underfoot you know it can handle fresh snow.
And with an IQ Score of 136 it was up there with the more dedicated All Mountain piste-orientated skis.
A good ski indeed!
Again the last two skis tested were skied on ever worsening pistes.
So it's really not at all fair to attempt to compare these skis with those skied on the first two or three rounds.
They were two very different skis, the Scott Pure Free 177, 90 wide and the Fischer RC One GT 173 at 82 wide.
The Fischer was obviously the better ski at edging but again could not match the grip that the other skis encountered on a perfectly-groomed piste.
In testing these All Mountain Skis, the obvious winner was the Atomic Redster Q 9.8 and, interestingly enough, it was the most expensive, more than the Black Crows Mirus Cor (€870), tipping the monetary scales at over a €1,000.
But is it a case of you getting what you pay for?
One thing I can categorically state is that it was the only ski where I really felt that I was toppling from turn to turn; as Carv defines, Topple to turn: Allowing gravity to help you to 'topple' early into the next turn. Toppling is an efficient movement that will give you effortless early edge engagement. The key is to trust that as you fall into the new turn, your skis will catch and you'll regain your balance.
Since I've returned to Serre Chevalier I've been back up the mountain with my Salomon's S/RACE GS 10 consistently getting scores in the low 140's topping out at 143 but still not in touch with the 146 achieved by the Atomic Redster and, again, no where near the Topple effect of it either :(
Other skis worth mentioning in dispatches, are the Black Crow's Mirus Cor, Salomon Stance and, of course, the Blizzard Rustler 9.
As a postscript I have a massive quiver of skis in our garage, the widest at 114, K2 Coomback (which still gets the award for the most beautiful ski), a couple of Scott's touring 105's as well as a couple of Black Crows Atris 108's; and the list goes on with other sub 100 touring skis.
But if you told me I could only have one ski, it would probably be the Scott Sleight 93, which is ironic because I hardly ever ski it as other skis are better suited to the conditions and discipline on the day. But I'm going to have to get out there with them again and ski using Carv to see what score I can achieve!