Get Ready For The Mountain With The Best Downhill Skis (2020 – 2021)

Buying new downhill skis is not easy simply because there are so many to choose from.  Between aesthetic design, length, quality of material and other factors, there is plenty to consider. 

Review the unique merits and drawbacks of several different types of downhill skis before making a decision and you will move forward in full confidence knowing the skis you select are truly worthy of your hard-earned money. 

Our team is here to help you select the perfect new downhill skis.  Read through this informative guide, take your time and you will find the perfect new skis that maximize your fun on the slopes. 

Let’s take a look at the best approach to choosing downhill skis and also shed light on specific skis that have emerged as the cream of the crop. 

How To Choose Downhill Skis

The downhill skis you select should be largely dependent on your unique skill level.  The skis a newbie uses will not be the same as the skis used by a veteran of the slopes. 

Beginner skis are carefully crafted to help newbie skiers change direction with ease and minimize risk.  Beginner skis have comparably soft flex that proves much more forgiving. 

Beginners should focus on skis with a narrow width along with a combined camber and rocker. 

The tail curve and rockered tip should be curved up off the powder, making the skis feel a bit shorter to permit easy turning.

Intermediate skiers should focus on skis with slightly more width along with a rockered tip/tail to assist when dipping into the powder.  Intermediate skis are a bit stiffer than beginner skis. 

More advanced skiers should consider carbon or Titanal skis that facilitate the absorption of vibrations to ensure a stable skiing experience even at high rates of speed. 

Longer skis with less flex make it that much easier to handle terrain of different varieties. 

As an example, skis that measure 60mm-99mm make it easier to switch from edge to edge while carving through the white stuff.  The faster you carve, the stiffer your skis should be. 

The most advanced downhill skiers will need comparably fat skis with a width of 100mm or more along with a rocker tip or even a full rocker.

atomic skis
credit: Atomic skis at REI

Flex

The softness or stiffness of your skis matters a great deal when you turn.  Soft skis have comparably more flex, meaning they are ideal for beginners who are likely to struggle with turns. 

Soft skis are also ideal for skiers who weigh less and need assistance maneuvering through turns. 

Alternatively, stiff skis have less flex and provide additional support while zooming down the slopes at a high rate of speed. 

However, stiff skis should only be used by those who have experience with diverse terrains.

Rocker Camber

Camber is a term that describes the arc or curve of the ski. 

If the ski is not weighted, both the tail and tip will contact the snow as there is an arch between the two points that makes it easy to hold an edge across the arc while turning. 

Rocker, sometimes referred to as reverse-camber, creates a banana-like shape.  The waist rests on the snow while the tail and tip curve upward, creating float that makes it easy to ski on powder. 

However, this variety of ski is not optimal for hard snow. 

Furthermore, some complain about this type of ski failing to turn smoothly as there is minimal contact with snow below.

atomic skis
credit: Atomic skis at REI

Sidecut

Sidecut is best described as the ski’s curve from tip to tail.  The purpose of this curve is to generate the ski’s turning radius and ultimately enhance the ski’s turning ability. 

Sidecut is represented by three unique dimensions.  The first number listed is the tip/shovel’s widest section.  The second number is the ski’s narrow portion. 

The final number is the tail’s widest part.  The greater the difference between the three numbers, the larger the sidecut depth and the shorter the radius is for turning. 

If there is only a small difference between the measurements, the skis will prove optimal for powder skiing.  In short, if you plan on carving tightly down the slopes, opt for a deep sidecut, typically around 16. 

If you prefer to make wide turns, you will need a shallow sidecut with a lengthy turning radius in excess of 22.

The happy medium is comparably versatile, allowing for easy turning at moderate rates of speed.

Aesthetic Design

The look of your skis is not that important yet it is certainly something to consider when shopping. 

If you like the way your skis look, you will be that much more inclined to hit the slopes and get the most out of the money you invest in skiing. 

Furthermore, if you decide to sell your skis to upgrade to a new pair down the line, it will be that much easier to get top dollar if they have a cool color scheme or design. 

The Best Downhill Skis For Beginners

1. Atomic Bent Chetler 120 Skis – Men’s – 2020/2021

The Atomic Bent Chetler 120s make downhill skiing fun. Built for pure powder, pure power and pure fun, the men’s Atomic Bent Chetler 120 skis help you ski like a legend and redefine what’s possible in big mountain terrain.

Atomic Bent Chetler 120 Skis

Featuring a waist width of 120 mm and a ski camber of rocker tip/tail, these skis consist of a light woodcore that makes the downhill skiing experience quite satisfying in all regards. 

The skis weigh 7 pounds and 7.9 ounces.  In fact, these skis are made of recycled materials so you can feel good about purchasing them in the context of environmental sustainability. 

The horizontal rocker within the tip/tail along with the ABS sidewall construction make it that much easier to control your direction.

Pros:

  • Precise steering thanks to the full Dura Cap sidewalls that span the skis’ entire length
  • Strong grip on even the hardest snow surface
  • Poplar woodcore proves lightweight and strong
  • The lightweight carbon backbone insert spans the ski length to boost agility
  • You can take deep turns in confidence thanks to the 30/40/30 powder rocker

Cons:

  • Comparably expensive

Takeaways: These artfully designed downhill skis are sure to please even the most demanding of skiers.  Hit the slopes with these beauties and you will have few, if any complaints.

2. Volkl Kendo 88 Skis – Men’s – 2019/2020

If you are on the prowl for affordable downhill skis, look no further.  The Volkl Kendo 88s make it easy to transition from short to long turns at your preferred rate of speed. 

Volkl Kendo 88 Skis - Men's - 2019/202

This superior stability and smoothness is perfect for 50/50 frontside/backside.  Whether your preferred terrain that is powder or groomed, you will find these skis are nearly flawless. 

Built with a tip/tail rocker ski camber a flat tail type, a wood core and a waist width of 88 mm, these bad boys will have you carving through the white stuff quite crisply.

Making it easy to switch from short turns to long turns at any speed, the men’s Volkl Kendo 88 skis bring a new level of go-anywhere smoothness and stability for 50/50 frontside/backside skiers.

Pros:

  • Inlays have carbon tips
  • Multilayer wood core boosts control
  • Full sidewall construction
  • Metal sections within the Titanal frame follows the tip/tail shapes to bolster rigidity
  • Sidecut featuring 3D radius boosts versatility for enjoyable skiing on all different types of slopes

Cons:

  • Simple design isn’t exactly eye-catching

Takeaways: Though these skis are not the most visually striking, they function without flaw, giving you the confidence you need to take on steep slopes at high rates of speed. Buy the Volkl Kendo 88 Skis and you won’t be disappointed.

3. Salomon QST 106 Ski

These all-mountain skis are built with posterity in mind.  Invest in these beauties and you will have complete confidence in your ability to carve powder on a dime every single time you hit the slopes. 

Salomon QST 106 Ski

The Salomon QST 106 skis are mid fat proving quite capable of taking on all different types of mountains. 

Whether you plan on mastering particularly steep slopes, bunny trails or anything in between, these skis will make the experience all the more enjoyable.

Pros:

  • 106mm waist proves quite versatile
  • Capable of handling firm, crud and pow pack
  • Camber and rocker blend maintains an edge for optimal maneuvering
  • Enhanced stability at high rates of speed thanks to the medium length turn radius
  • Elite responsiveness
  • Tip comprised of cork minimizes chatter

Cons:

  • Plain green paint is borderline ugly
  • Fairly expensive

Takeaways: If your focus is on function over form, you will love these all-mountain skis.

4. Rossignol Experience 76 Ci Skis with Bindings – Men’s – 2020/2021

Ideal for experienced downhill skiers, the Rossignol Experience 76 Ci Skis are playful, responsive and fun.

Rossignol Experience 76 Ci Skis with Bindings

The Rossignol Experience 76 Ci skis blend a progressive design with race-inspired construction for easy turn initiation and confident on-piste stability.

They’re perfect for groomed ski terrain and come premounted with Look Xpress 11 GW B83 bindings.

Pros:

  • 80 mm waists and balanced rocker profile maintain easy turn initiation, while a race-inspired construction maintains confident stability
  • All-Terrain Rocker delivers hard-snow precision and soft-snow playfulness
  • LCT construction adapts Line Control Technology for a more forgiving feel and reduces counter-flexing for confident control
  • Air Tip VAS absorbs shocks to calm and stabilize skis
  • Progressive sidecuts create the perfect shape for a playful, fluid feel that drifts, smears and carves
  • Poplar wood cores balance weight, flex and stability for a versatile blend of power and playfulness

Cons:

  • Bindings look and feel a bit cheap

Takeaway: The Rossignol Experience 76 CI is a great option for the athletic beginner to solid intermediate skier looking to progress their skills. These skis are great all mountain skis that ride smooth and can handle anything thrown at them.

Conclusion

Take your time when shopping for downhill skis.  Consider the skis detailed above along with other options on the market and you will be able to make a decision in full confidence. 

When in doubt, err on the side of spending a little bit more for high-quality skis that maximize your enjoyment on the slopes and hold strong across posterity. 

You should be able to spend hours on the slopes, carving powder in full confidence knowing your skis will hold strong regardless of how extreme the conditions are. 

Perform your due diligence, check out at least half a dozen downhill ski options on the market, weigh the pros and cons of each and you will rest easy knowing you made an educated decision.

top image: REI

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