From the world’s earliest ski craftsman to conventional pioneers, we spotlight the best ski brands leading the pack.
Skiing is unapologetically addictive. Nothing compares to floating through deep snow on a powder day, skimming across a crisply groomed nordic track, or summiting a peak in the wilderness. Each pair of sticks is strategically designed to serve winter athletes in their goals.
But today’s volume of brands can be overwhelming to navigate, even for experienced carvers. Learning the origins of a ski brand, its mission, and a snapshot of its prime products can help jumpstart the process of choosing the best ski.
Here we highlight the best ski brands, including the industry’s longest-standing pioneers, those bringing women into the sport through solid designs, and newer-age innovators. This list isn’t comprehensive of every team to create an awesome ski, But it represents a wide breadth of brands that have made huge waves and remained relevant across the alpine, backcountry, and cross-country ski categories.
To learn more about our favorite tried-and-true skis and how to pick a pair for your winter goals, check out our guides: All-Mountain Skis of 2021, Backcountry Skis of 2021, and Cross-Country Skis and How to Choose Them.
The 10 Best Ski Brands of 2021
Trusted by snow athletes around the globe, Nordica was launched by brothers Adriano and Oddone Vaccari as a footwear and boot manufacturer in Montebelluna, Italy, more than 70 years ago. Experienced hide traders, the duo specialized in cross-country and alpine ski boots as well as climbing footwear.
Over the decades, Nordica gear has supported the world’s best athletes from Zeno Colò to Felix Neureuther on podiums at the Olympics and World Cup. Since 2002, the company has been umbrellaed in the Tecnica Group, the owner of Blizzard, and delivers a tidy collection of popular, well-constructed skis at a great price.
At print, there are six models for men and seven for women categorized by all-mountain, resort, race, and freeski. The Enforcer tops our all-mountain ski list for being a versatile everyday driver that supports a variety of skier needs. It’s stable, carves hard, feels speedy edge to edge, yet it’s playful and doesn’t easily catch.
After World War II, carpenter Toni Arnsteiner began crafting skis in an Austrian workshop that still creates Blizzard skis. In 2006, the brand was acquired by Tecnica Group, and that same factory now delivers close to 900 skis every 24 hours.
Since 1947, these Austrian-made skis have been global leaders in all-mountain and backcountry ski design and are among our favorite for both categories. The Black Pearl 88 for ladies has topped sales in the U.S. for years and for good reason. The tip and tail are rockered, yet the camber underfoot enables quick responsiveness.
A short turn radius makes the ski feel nimble, and the stiffer core provides excellent control. For human travel, the Zero G delivers a sensitive, energetic experience with the right balance of flex and torsional rigidity whether we’re uphilling, skinning, or ski mountaineering.
Have you heard of Powder Magic? In 1988, Atomic engineer Rupert Huber created that Atomic powder ski — the world’s first — inspired by the design of snowboards. Alois Rohrmoser started the company close to 7 decades ago, which was acquired by Amer Sports in 1994.
Today, the Austrian brand maintains a huge seat at the table developing quality technical skis for experienced athletes who want to race, charge on-piste, or pursue backcountry adventures.
In our on-snow testing, the brand really capped off its freeride line with the Bent Chetler 100, one of our favorite all-mountain designs. Created by legendary athlete Chris Benchetler, the ski feels fun from the park to groomers and tree runs.
Well over a century old, Rossignol is one of the most storied, trusted brands in the sport. Carpenter Abel Rossignol created his first namesake pair in the French Alps. And in 1960, the Allais design helped earn gold at the Winter Olympics.
These days, the brand delivers a huge range of designs, including all-mountain, big-mountain, freeride, cross-country, backcountry, and entry-level resort skis. Still pushing innovation, the long-time bestselling 7 Series collection featured a honeycomb ski tip design that reduced ski weight by 15%. It has since been discontinued (to the disappointment of many).
The team set their eyes on instead creating a beefier freeride collection, which recently debuted. The lineup includes the Sender Ti — a legitimately aggressive ski we applaud — and a more well-rounded Holyshred, which topped our list as one of our favorite skis in 2021. The model is made for versatile conditions while using certified sustainable and recycled materials.
In Begunje, Slovenia, you can stroll through the world’s first-ever ski producer museum for Elan, which has designed skis for more than 75 years. The brand is best recognized in North America by the mohawk of ski icon and ambassador Glen Plake.
At the company’s beginnings, it created tools the Slovenians wore to battle the Nazis, which later helped athlete Ingmar Stenmark reign in the 1986 World Cup. Stenmark now holds a record 86 wins on Elan skis.
For the past 17 years, Elan has also prioritized women’s-specific ski development, which sets it apart in this sea of pioneers. It’s done this through the W Studio — including women in every stage of ski development from concept to shelf placement — and by hiring Melanja Korošec as the Global Product Director, as well as women at the factory.
A relative newcomer to the ring, DPS was founded by veteran ski engineer Peter Turner and ski designer Stephan Drake less than 2 decades ago. DPS has become synonymous with coveted, smooth-carving backcountry and powder ski designs — the ones that double as a centerpiece in your living room.
The top-shelf materials are carefully pieced together to achieve unique constructions across the lineup. And skiers pay for these well-crafted, refined pairs. One of our favorites, the Pagoda Tour RP, rings in at $1,299 — and is an absolute dream in blower powder. The ski is also predictable and sturdy when deep turns become variable and crusty.
The brand offers a pretreatment called the DPS Phantom 2.0, which bonds to the base of the ski and creates the glide of an always-fresh wax — you won’t need to use that hot iron on your skis. Among its innovations, the brand is also acknowledged for developing the first-ever rockered ski with a sidecut.
Dynafit’s first huge mark in the ski industry was when Franz Klammer won a 1973 downhill ski race wearing the brand’s boots — followed by an Olympic medal 3 years later. The brand continued to innovate lightweight, protective boots and bindings for ski touring and ski mountaineering.
In 2004, the brand debuted specialty skis for speedy big-mountain ascents, which supported the round-trip record of Benedikt Böhm and Basti Haag on 24,753-foot Mustagh Ata. With an identity steeped in ski mountaineering, the brand more recently pushed forward the strong, lightweight Carbonio Line for ski tourers.
One of our favorite skis is the Blacklight 80, a performance-oriented, weight-conscious ski built for speed demons and big-mileage, big-mountain ski tours. One way the brand achieved low grams in this design was with a special insert for a dedicated skin.
Black Crows is a modern manufacturer compared to the other leaders on our list. The freeride ski brand launched in the French Alps in 2006, led by professional freeskiers Camille Jaccoux and Bruno Compagnet. The duo aimed to create a big, balanced ski that was king in deep snow but was also studdy, capable of short turns, and easy to handle.
They succeeded with the second mold — the Corvus, which is fit to tackle Mont Blanc massif descents and remains one of the brand’s most popular, capable designs. Black Crows draws a hipster, millennial crowd through stylish aesthetic and event curation like the Chamonix Unlimited Festival, a 5-day event that pairs Black Crow ski testing alongside an electronic music festival. Lauded for novelty, Black Crows product availability can be limited in the United States.
Born in the heart of the Alps, Salomon dabbles in the whole spectrum of mountain sports, which only strengthens the brand’s snow sports identity. More than 70 years ago, metalworker François Salomon opened a workshop to produce saw blades but soon developed a machine that automated the production of steel edges for skis.
By 1972, Salomon became the foremost binding manufacturer in the world, followed by decades of success with boot creation. The brand launched its first ski, the S9000, in 1990, and it made an appearance at the Olympic Games 2 years later.
Today’s creations support alpine, race, uphilling, cross-country, and backcountry pursuits. One of our favorite all-mountain designs is the marquee Stance 88, built for women (the men’s version is the Stance 96).
We were impressed by this ski’s performance. It didn’t chatter at high speeds or on choppy laps and delivered exceptional stability. We loved the race-inspired sidecut, which provides a predictable, quick edge grip mid-turn.
After a century in the works, Völkl still produces some of the most durable, dependable skis tailored to experienced skiers, experts, and backcountry venturers. The Völkl family legacy began with Georg, a master cartwright for horse-drawn wagons. His son Franz carried on the craftsmanship, creating boats, sleds, and skis — which were first dubbed the Vöstras.
Decades later, the brand reached a fresh global spotlight with the launch of a funky zebra-patterned topsheet in 1967. Today, Völkl is the largest ski manufacturer in Germany and is well-recognized in the alpine ski race scene.
Given that well-rounded lineup, a few of our favorite silhouettes are in the all-mountain and backcountry realm. The Revolt 104 twin-tip boasts freestyle flex, and it’s a ton of fun from the park to powder laps and steep hikes to terrain all over the mountain. The Blaze 94 is equally playful and delivers in the backcountry but holds well on resort days, too.
Custom Ski Brands
While this list snapshots the world’s best-known ski companies, there are also boutique brands with handmade, personalized designs. A handful of standout teams creating customized skis include Wagner Custom Skis based in Telluride, Colorado; Romp Skis in Crested Butte, Colorado; Silo Skis in Richmond, Vermont; Denver, Colorado’s Meier Skis; and Parlor Skis in Boston, Massachusetts.
These companies each have a build-your-dream-ski process that ranges from selecting the shape and length to choosing the core materials and a one-of-a-kind topsheet.