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Buyer's guide for all-mountain and freeride skis

All-mountain and freeride skis: allrounders and soft snow specialists

As the name suggests an all-mountain ski will be comfortable riding all terrain on the hill. From carving turns on corduroy to jumping off the side into soft snow, the shape and dimensions of these skis will allow you to ski everywhere comfortably. If it starts to snow, you’ll be looking for a pair of freeride skis. Thanks to their wider waist widths, longer lengths and rocker profiles these skis will perform brilliantly off-piste. When the mountains are covered in a fresh coat of snow a freeride ski is a must.

  1. All-mountain skis: freeskis for everything
    1. All-mountain shape: the shape of an all-mountain ski
    2. All-mountain profile: rocker and camber for all-terrain versatility
    3. All-mountain skis at Blue Tomato
  2. Freeride skis: the freedom to explore the mountain
    1. Freeride shape: wide waists, huge sidecuts and boatloads of float
    2. Freeride profiles: rocker for floatation
    3. Freeride skis at Blue Tomato

1. All-mountain skis: freeskis for everything

All-mountain skis are designed for versatility, to comfortably tackle any conditions you‘ll find when you’re out skiing. With an all-mountain ski you can be confident on- or off-piste. You can also do a couple of laps through the park as a lot of our freestyle skis are also very capable of skiing the whole mountain. If you want one ski which you can take everywhere, an all-mountain ski is what you’re looking for.

All-mountain skiing with Eric Pollard. Photo: Dan Brown
All-mountain skiing with Eric Pollard. Photo: Dan Brown

1.1 All-mountain shape: the shape choice for every kind of terrain

As they’re designed to ski everything comfortably, all-mountain skis can have a waist width of 80 mm to around 110 mm. An ideal version of this ski would both hold a good edge on icy pistes and still have the shape, profile and flex to work very well off-piste. However, there are still variations within the group, with some wider and some narrower shapes. The skis on the wider side of the spectrum are more suited to riding powder and the narrower skis will have increased hard snow performance. A wider ski will, however, lose a little quickness edge to edge so if you want the true all-mountain performance don’t go super wide.

Of our all-mountain skis here at Blue Tomato, they’re going to fall into the directional and directional twin categories. Bindings will generally be set back at least 2 cm from the centre on the directional twin and up to 6 cm back from centre on a directional ski. This setback ensures stability when riding faster on piste and also promotes floatation from the tips. If you’re not sure where to mount your skis, look for the manufacturers recommended line. This area is where the binding has been designed to be mounted and where all the geometry has been calculated from.

An all-mountain ski will usually have a turn radius of between 15 – 25 metres. A shorter turning radius will be a little more reactive and playful, whereas a longer turning radius will be better for a hard-charging, damper-feeling ski.

Overview:

  • Width: 80 mm – 110 mm
  • Directional or directional twin shape
  • Dynamic on piste
  • Capable in powder
  • Radius: 15 to 25 metres
  • Powerful turns and stability at high speeds

1.2 All-mountain profile: rocker and camber for all-terrain versatility

Within the category of all-mountain skis, because of the variety of different skis, you can find many different variations on camber profiles. However, most common are all-terrain rockers or nose rocker profiles.

An all-terrain rocker usually features camber underfoot with rocker in the tip and tail, great for a good balance between grip and floatation.

In directional skis you can also find nose rocker profiles which will only have rocker in the nose because these skis aren’t designed to be skied backwards.

Most of the skis which we sell as all-mountain feature these camber profiles, although they’re sometimes called by the manufacturers’ different things, such as AR Nose Rocker, CamRock or AMT Rocker from Armada, Nordica and Atomic respectively. The only profiles you should avoid are full camber and powder rocker designs. A full camber profile is generally used for piste or park specific skis which need very snappy response on hard snow and, therefore, don’t work brilliantly in mixed or soft snow. Powder rocker profiles feature exaggerated nose and/or tail rockers for floatation in softer snow, but with this profile you‘ll lose some of the reactivity and performance on piste as you lose effective edge. A heavier rocker will sometimes be used in conjuncture with a tapered tip to shorten the effective edge and move the contact points back.

Overview:

  • All-mountain rockers for all-mountain freestyle skis as they offer float, edge hold and stability
  • Nose rockers or all-mountain rocker profiles for directional skis
  • Balanced soft and hard snow performance
  • More powder performance = more rocker and/or taper 

1.3 All-mountain skis at Blue Tomato

Here’s a small selection of some of the best all-mountain skis we stock at Blue Tomato:

  • Line Sir Francis Bacon. The “Do everything, go everywhere” pro model from freeskiing legend Eric Pollard, who also painted the sick graphics. A medium flex profile and low subtle rocker combine for a supremely balanced ride, forwards or backwards.
  • Nordica Enforcer. A stiffer all-mountain ski, if you’re looking for a ski which powers through all terrain. This ski takes Nordica’s vaulted race heritage and widens it to charge through powder, crud and groomed snow.
  • Armada ARV 96. There has always been an all-mountain freestyle ski in the Armada line. The ARV 96 continues this tradition and performs all over the hill with a playful ride. The 96 mm waist is a versatile and fun platform for taking your tricks all around the mountain.
  • Black Crows Camox. Black Crows, based in Chamonix, need their skis to be able to handle everything from powder to spring slush. The double rockered Camox is the perfect example of this versatility from their impressive ski line.

2. Freeride skis: the freedom to explore the mountain

In the last ten years there's been an explosion in ski design which has, in turn, revolutionized freeride skis, which are designed to be skied in soft snow. The long, wide and heavily rockered skis you see over the shoulder of a grizzled local or ski guide are amongst the shapes considered as freeride skis. At Blue Tomato we sell both directional and twin tipped freeride skis. Whichever way you like to ride powder snow, we have a freeride ski for it.

Ahmet Dadali freeriding in Charmonix, France
Blue Tomato teamrider Ahmet Dadali freeriding in Charmonix, France. Photo: Pally Learmond

2.1 Freeride shape: wide waists, huge sidecuts and boatloads of float

Freeride ski are, because of their purpose, wider than most. You can either go for the widest skis if you want maximum float or go for something a little narrower if you wanted added versatility. Freeride skis are designed for the days which we live for, when the resort is covered in deep light powder. However, they can ski on-piste as well, thanks to advances in ski design.
 
Freeride skis have a waist width of 100 mm +, often will have a degree of taper in the tip and tail and longer sidecut, which gives you a larger surface area for floating in powder. On a directional freeride ski the mounting position will be set back to sink the tail, on a powder twin tip the mounting position will be a little further forwards for skiing forwards and backwards. In the case of freeride skis manufacturers will often give two mounting positions: one recommended by the manufacturer and one team-recommended. The first recommendation will be set a little further backwards for pure powder riding and the second is preferred by the team riders for a more playful freestyle approach. This setup can be seen for example with the Line Mordecai, where the “recommended” mounting point is 60 mm back from centre for more powder-oriented performance whereas “Eric’s choice” is 20 mm back from centre for more of a freestyle feel.

With freeride skis you often find tapered tips and tails. These setups are becoming more common as it’s a perfect combination of shape and rocker and helps wider skis have grip and float. A tapered tip or tail brings the widest point towards the centre of the ski which provides a couple of functions. Firstly the taper shortens the sidecut which means that a wider ski is easier to turn on the piste as the taper is often matched with the rocker profile like in Armada’s EST tech. Due to less material a tapered tail is lighter too and has less resistance sinking into the snow. Therefore, it’ll sink easily and provide reliable tracking in the tip.

Overview:

  • Width: 100 mm and up
  • Large, tapered sidecut
  • Plenty of float in powder
  • Setback mounting position
  • Less dynamic on hard pistes due to their width

Loads of fun in the backcountry. Photo: Tomasz Rakoczy
Loads of fun in the backcountry. Photo: Tomasz Rakoczy

2.2 Freeride profiles: rocker for floatation

As with the advent of wider skis, rockers have also developed considerably in the last ten years. Freeride skis will always feature a degree of tip and sometimes tail rocker, as having all that width is pointless if your skis keep on diving into the powder. Rocker was originally developed in skis in order to stop tip dive and aid flotation. As the nose is lifted up you don’t need to lean back to keep your tips from sinking so you can keep a more aggressive, neutral stance. Plus the rocker profile will sink into the snow and, as a result, you’ll have more surface area.
 
Most freeride skis now feature a combination of rocker and camber, meaning grippy camber underfoot with rocker in the tips and/or tails. Rocker profiles usually match the width and shape of the skis to provide performance. Therefore, a wider ski will usually feature more rocker and more taper.

Directional powder skis will feature a heavier rocker in the tip as they’re designed to be ridden forwards, whereas a freeride twin tip will feature rocker in the in tip and tail for a more freestyle feel. More aggressive freeride skis may feature a stronger camber underfoot and less rocker in the tip for increased grip and stability in steeper terrain.

Overview:

  • Rockered tips: floatation in powder
  • Camber/rocker profile: floatation in tips, grip underfoot
  • More aggressive freeride: stronger camber, less rocker

2.3 Freeride skis at Blue Tomato

Here's a small selection of the best freeride skis we stock at Blue Tomato

  • Armada JJ 2.0. Being a brilliant powder ski pioneered by the great JP Auclair, the JJ 2.0 is a wide but still nimble twin tip which is at home among trees or on steep faces.
  • Atomic Backland Bent Chetler. As another backcountry freestyle legend the Bent Chetler features HRZN tech for a super surfy, fun pow ride. Every year Chris Bentchetler surpasses himself with crazy graphics.
  • Rossignol Soul 7 HD. With this ski Rossignol brought freeride to the masses. A slightly narrower directional freeride ski which is most at home in soft snow but is versatile enough to ski pistes and light enough to be used as a touring ski.
  • Line Mordecai. A ski from master ski shaper Eric Pollard, who has poured over ten years of ski design into the Mordecai. The result is a super balanced freestyle powder ski, which looks and skis beautifully in powder. 

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