2010-2020: The Best Skis of the Decade

As this decade comes to a close, it is time to reflect on the game-changing skis that were introduced in the past 10 years. We say “introduced” because we want to recognize the skis that were all new and not carried over from the previous decade.

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Blizzard Bonafide and Black Pearl

Let's launch right from the start with the Blizzard Bonafide and Black Pearl, two skis that very well defined the past decade. When Arne Backstrom came up with Flipcore on the way back from a surfing trip, everything changed for Blizzard. At the time Blizzard had just been purchased by the Tecnica Group, which was looking for a ski to market with Tecnica boots and a factory to produce Nordica skis. It took a chance with a (very intelligent) athlete’s construction design, and the rest is history.

The Bonafide immediately catapulted itself to the top spot as the reference ski in the 98-100 category and stayed there for pretty much the whole decade, with only minor evolutionary changes along the way. The Black Pearl defied the status quo in marketing with its purple bull and accessible performance. It basically bitch-slapped the industry to command her place as the queen of women’s skis and became the best-selling ski (not just women’s ski) for years. This is why we also billed it as one of The Most Pioneering Women's Skis of All Time.

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Head iRally and Super Joy

The Head Supershapes date back to the previous decade with the iSpeed, iMagnum, and iTitan, but none had a cult following like the iRally, which was introduced mid-decade. It was the 76mm iRally that made the biggest splash and showed the skiing world what the Supershapes were all about. The iRally bridged the gap between the narrower iMagnum and wider iTitan, bringing the Supershapes into the mainstream.

Graphene was the super power marketed as being even stronger than Vibranium itself when it was introduced in the uber-lightweight Head Super Joy. While Graphene was the material used to promote the Super Joy, it was the actual on-snow performance that separated the ski from other offerings. The Joy collection was one of the very few women’s lines that was not derived from a men's or unisex counterpart but instead was designed from the ground up specifically for women. The Super Joy was the carving ski that women who didn’t think they wanted a carving ski went out and bought.

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Nordica Enforcer and Santa Ana

The Nordica Enforcer (100) and its sister the Santa Ana (100) did their damnedest to wrestle the title of "skis that all others are judged against” from their in-house cousins, the Bonafide and Black Pearl. For years Nordica tried to retire the original-generation Enforcer and Nemesis -- but they just wouldn't die, retailers just kept ordering them. Nordica removed them from the line for a season, allowing this new brother-sister combo to rise to the top. Their shape and playfulness (along with the “Back in Black” Enforcer Proto) brought well-deserved attention to the collection when it was relaunched. For more than one season Nordica sold out of the Enforcers early in the buying cycle and redefined “early release” when the following season’s offering was on the racks as early as February. While the Santa Ana didn’t experience the sales success of the Enforcer, better women skiers flocked to it -- and for good reason, because it ripped.

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Rossignol Soul 7

Whether you liked the Soul 7 or not, it's hard to argue with its influence during the past decade. It was the powder ski that opened up the mountain to thousands of weekend warriors who had only dreamed of skiing the deep stuff like their ski movie heroes. With its simple yellow and black graphics, the Soul 7 was billed as a one-ski quiver, and intermediate skiers and up took the bait, hook line and sinker. The Soul 7 was indeed a turning point in the resurrection of the Rossignol brand.

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Stöckli Laser AX

Few might recall that the Stöckli Laser AX actually started as the Laser AR. The Laser AR was a great ski but really had no momentum at all. In 2015, Stöckli changed the name from AR to AX and changed the graphics from black and red to black and yellow, and sales took off -- the only color Stöckli saw was green. The Laser AX has been a darling of not only our test team but also our readership. It is one of the most searched, researched, and discussed skis on the site, and this consumer following can be traced to the ski's versatility. Intermediate skiers with a solid skill set can get on the Laser and it will not overwhelm them; as they progress, the ski will meld with them and the performance will be there as they improve. Yet it is also up to the task of being a top-level ski for experts, just as the comma in its price tag suggests.

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Renoun Z-90

Yes, you heard it here when we launched in 2015, we were one of the first to shout from the rooftops that the Renoun Z-90 was one of the Skis of the Decade. Was it lightning in a bottle? Sheer beginner's luck? Or was it the the fortitude and gumption of a millennial college dropout? I think it was a combination of all the above. From the first turn we made on the Renoun Z-90, we knew that young Cyrus Schenk had something special in his HDT-infused wide carver. Renoun’s two-time ISPO Gold-winning Hyper Damping Technology (now known as VibeStop) is indeed the real thing and can be felt on snow because the Z-90 is quiet and supple on the most inconsistent snow. Where the Z-90 also shines is in the wide-body charger shape, a design that was unique in the 90mm segment.


Honorable Mention

Other notable considerations include some skis that continued from the previous decade:

Blizzard Brahma
Blizzard's skinnier Bonafide was the Brahma. Where most 88mm skis at the time were wide narrow skis, Blizzard bucked the trend and made a narrow wide ski. Versatility is the cream that rose to the top.

DPS Wailer 112/112RP
The banana yellow powder ski was the one that all others were compared against. The Wailer 112 made DPS a (ski-) household name.

Head Monster 88
The reincarnated Monster 88 was better than most of the skiers who owned it. I heard more than one whisper, "You make me want to be a better skier."

K2 SuperCharger
This is the first hard snow ski that really went head to head with Head and the other Euro brands.

Kästle MX Series
The MX series made even the most frugal skiers reach deep into their wallets. The MX88 was the face of the MX collection and another ski that we billed as a Ski of the Decade.

Moment Bibby/Wildcat
A late addition brought to my attention by some readers that did change my mind. If the boys in Reno want to get us a pair to spend some time on, I would be willing to add them to our test fleet.

Völkl Mantra/Aura
These skis defined a generation. They were the King and Queen, Mother and Father, Adam and Eve of an entire generation of skis, and no “Best of” list is complete without them.

Völkl Kenja
Women flocked to the Kenja, which was the Princess to the Aura, a powerful women's ski for the masses.

I am sure many of these skis might be up for debate, especially because brand loyalties can sway one's views. But as Dave Petersen's creative image shows up top: change my mind.
About author
Philpug
I started skiing in the mid-70s in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania; from then on, I found myself entrenched in the industry. I have worked in various ski shops from suburban to ski town to resort, giving me a well-rounded perspective on what skiers want from their gear. That experience was parlayed into my time as a Gear Review Editor and also consulting with manufacturers as a product tester. Along with being a Masterfit-trained bootfitter I am a fully certified self proclaimed Gear Guru. Not only do I keep up with the cutting edge of ski gear technology, but I am an avid gear collector and have an extensive array of bindings as well as many vintage skis.

Replies

Where's the Billy Goats? :huh: Bunch maggots gonna want that up there..
 
Loved the Bonafides and the Enforcers. Both those skis really made those brands in the last decade..put them back on the ski map IMHO.
 
Mostly agree, but the MX? Only honorable mention?
 
Very respectable list, (but like BBQ, religion and politics a slightly controversial)......Appreciate the assessments, but particularly like the inclusion and the thoughts about the women's skis, clearly a critical part of the ski business. Same applies to the assessment and inclusion of the Soul 7 as a ski that intermediates bought. How many times do critics overlook the segment that actually represents a majority of the skiers?

Props on the Kastle MX88....that ski along with the MX83 brought Kastle back from obscurity.

Can't wait to read comments from some of the regular "heavy weights" and insiders .....
 
Here in Idaho I still see a lot of Soul 7's. 4 years ago every time I was in a lift line someone had them.
 
@Philpug I saw the link to skis of the previous decade, 2000's.........has one been written about skis in the 1990's??? Lots of ski innovation occurred during the decade. Realize that its probably more work and time that its worth, but would be interested hear what the thoughts are.
 
@Philpug I saw the link to skis of the previous decade, 2000's.........has one been written about skis in the 1990's??? Lots of ski innovation occurred during the decade. Realize that its probably more work and time that its worth, but would be interested hear what the thoughts are.
The 90's was interesting, there were so many designs that were thrown against the wall and rushed to market that really we want to forget. LOL.
 
The 90's was interesting, there were so many designs that were thrown against the wall and rushed to market that really we want to forget. LOL.

Right now it seems like there are so many great skis it's more of a challenge to pick just one, or 10. I wonder what we'll think about this era in 20 years.

3D scanning and printing has the potential to do incredible things to skis and boots in the not too distant future.
 
Right now it seems like there are so many great skis it's more of a challenge to pick just one, or 10. I wonder what we'll think about this era in 20 years.

3D scanning and printing has the potential to do incredible things to skis and boots in the not too distant future.
I will disagree with you on the latter. 3d printing will never be the end all in boot design, maybe prototyping but not much past that. It cannot measure soft tissue, ankle mobility, foot flexibility, dorsal range.
 
The 90's was interesting, there were so many designs that were thrown against the wall and rushed to market that really we want to forget. LOL.

I agree.

I think in the 2000's we got to experience the fruit of all that experimentation. That's where I felt the bad designs got left behind and the good stuff rose to the top. Out of all the decades I've skied, I thought that period was where I got on skis that were dramatically better. Everything up to then was incremental improvements.
 
I am going to lobby for the PM Gear Lhasa Pow. Without going into a whole discussion of the brand, if you were the recipient of a good pair of Lhasa's, it was almost the perfect "do it all" ski. One piece of evidence to support that is to look at the Buy and Sell sections of the TGR forum. Any pair of Lhasas that are up for sale are quickly snapped up, years later.

 
I wholly agree with the with the assessment of the Enforcer100 since getting a pair the first year they came out. I think you stopped short in also not including the entire Enforcer line with the 93's,104's and 110's equally outstanding skis. I have owned everyone and now have the new 94's I have yet to ski but am expecting to live up to the Enforcer reputation.
 

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