The ‘All-mountain’ problem

The term ‘all-mountain’ is problematic. Firstly: what does it mean exactly? Secondly: does the versatility of skis called ‘all-mountain’ outweigh the trade-offs? 

What does ‘all-mountain’ mean?

Intuitively, I would say ‘all-mountain’ means ‘all over the mountain’. Meaning: frontside (groomed, hardpacked snow), but also non-groomed snow, including deeper fresh snow with rocks underneath, in between the trees, just off the sides of marked runs, etc. 

However, if you read the Stöckli Montero series described as ‘all-mountain’ (by the manufacturer), for example (other brands do this too), I think they actually mean ‘all conditions’, but definitely on marked runs or groomers. I don’t know anyone who would take a Stöckli Montero AR (the widest in the range) for some big mountain skiing in the back bowl. In other words: the meaning of the term ‘all-mountain’ is as much dependent on context as it is on the versatility these types of skis are supposed to offer.

And then there are wide, rockered powder skis that we in Europe would call ‘freeride’ without a doubt, but that in North America are called (and used as) ‘all-mountain’. So there’s a cultural component too, very much alluding to the versatility again, but in a world where even groomers are softer (and ‘bigger is better’ of course).


Versatility versus trade-offs

Finding a ski that excels in the widest range of conditions and use cases – a true can-do-everything-well ski – seems like a unicorn-type thing. Although the knock-down argument ‘a good skier can ski anything on anything’ may be true, I do believe that even those extremely good skiers would prefer different skis for 40 cm of fresh powder in an open bowl than for a rock-hard, superbly groomed steep run like Tofana Schuss in Cortina… 

That said, there are skis that can work very well in a very wide range of conditions. If out of practical or financial reasons (or if you simply don’t care as much about the performance of a ski) you only want one ski that can get you down the mountain with a smile whatever the conditions or – within reason – whatever the terrain, some skis fit the bill. 

The Nordica Enforcer 88, 2024 Salomon Stance 90, Black Crows Serpo, Fischer Ranger 96, for some people the Völkl M6 Mantra, K2 Mindbender 99 TI – these are just a few examples. I am sure other people will name other skis that would fit the bill for them. Just keep in mind: most likely they have a different frame of reference for conditions encountered or what ‘edge grip’ or ‘edge-to-edge quickness’ is.

In almost every case, there will be trade-offs. Maybe even more trade-offs than versatility. Just think about which trade-offs you feel comfortable accepting. And if you accept those, then by all means, go all-mountain.

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