The Best Skis for Beginners for 2021-2022

2021-2022, beginners, best, for, outdoor, skis, the - 21 minutes to read


Whether you’re a dabbler in the sport, carving snow for the first time, or sticking to green-level terrain, these are the best all-mountain skis for beginners.

For many, it’s not realistic to have a truck, van, convertible, SUV, and EV all parked in the driveway. The same goes for skis. When you’re choosing your first vehicle — or in this case, your primary driver at the ski resort — it’s good to think about where you’ll most use the rig the majority of the time.

Enter all-mountain skis. This broad category includes a variety of builds from nearly every brand in the ski industry, but each ski model has commonality. They all handle hardpack groomed runs on the frontside of the ski resort. Broadly, they can also manage fresh snowfall, which softens the slope and leads to snowpack variability. Some even perform well in powder, on moguls, or through the trees.

Beginner all-mountain skis carry entry-level price tags and are easier to control on the slopes, which helps new skiers hone their skills. Beginner skis often include a set of bindings.

Here, we’ve selected the best all-mountain skis for first-timers and new students looking to exit the rental pool. We also picked out great pairs for experienced skiers that want to stay in controlled and smooth terrain, as well as skis for goal-oriented newbies eager to advance to more vigorous lines around the mountain.

If you’re unsure where to start, check out the buyer’s guide and FAQ at the bottom of this article. Otherwise, scroll through to see all of our recommended buys or jump to the category you’re looking for:

The Best Skis for Beginners for 2021-2022

Best Overall: Elan Men’s Wingman 78 C & Women’s Wildcat 76

New and excelling skiers dialing in their turns can confidently click into the Elan Men’s Wingman 78 C or Women’s Wildcat 76 ($500). These all-mountain designs are solid for athletes in their learning curve. These skis are also a good fit for established skiers aiming for mellower and moderate terrain around the lift-served corduroy.

The skis feature the brand’s proprietary Amphibio technology in the profile, meaning the outermost edge of the ski is rockered upward and the interior edge is a traditional camber. The result is a clean, intuitive transition from edge to edge and turn to turn as well as a relaxed outermost edge. Be aware, this technology also means there’s a designated left and right ski.

Overall, these skis feel relatively light with moderate flex and stiffness. One key difference is the Wingman features a layer of weight-reducing carbon (hence the “C” in the name). One tradeoff: rippers who enjoy super-fast speeds may notice chatter in variable terrain.

Best for: Beginner to intermediate skiers exploring groomed slopes

Specs:

Profile: Camber underfoot, rocker in the tip and tail
Sidecut Radius: Short
Wildcat Width (mm): 127 tip, 76 waist, 104 tail
Wingman Width (mm): 125 tip, 78 waist, 104 tail
Bindings Included: ELK 9.0 GW (women’s), PS ELX 10.0 GW (men’s)
Lengths/Sizes (cm): 144, 150, 158, 166 (women’s Wildcat) & 160, 168, 176 (men’s Wingman)

Pros:

Forgiving for students while they establish skills
Great on-piste ski

Cons:

Not a premier choice for powder days
Narrower width can be a drawback for heavier or more experienced skiers

Check Men’s Price at evoCheck Women’s Price at REI

Best Runner-Up: Atomic Men’s Vantage 75 C & Women’s Vantage 75

From East Coast to West Coast groomers, this Atomic ski handles a bit of everything without snagging the slopes or whipping the skier. The Vantage 75 for lads and Vantage 75 C for ladies ($400) are good options for folks ready to transition from the rental shop to their first set of sticks.

The women’s Vantage 75 is built with an agile, dampening foam core and lateral reinforcement for enhanced edge grip. The men’s Vantage 75 C expands the construction with layers of rigid woven mesh and poplar wood for extra strength.

These skis are sturdy and deliver enough energy through a turn without overpowering the skier, thanks in part to the rockered tips, softness of the build, and narrow waist. They’re easy to control and among the lightest options of the Vantage lineup.

Best for: First-timers, beginners, and intermediate skiers skiing the frontside terrain

Specs:

Profile: Cambered ski with rockered tips and flat tails
Sidecut Radius: Short
Vantage 75 Width (mm): 112-115 tip, 75 waist, 97-100 tail
Vantage 75 C Width (mm): 113-118 tip, 75 waist, 98-103 tail
Bindings Included: M 10 GW
Lengths/Sizes (cm): 140, 147, 154, 161 (women’s Vantage 75) & 147, 154, 161, 169, 177 (men’s Vantage 75 C)

Pros:

Confidence-building ski
Effortless to control

Cons:

Topsheet delaminates faster than higher-end skis
Doesn’t handle high speeds well
Not a great choice for aggressive, big carves

Check Men’s Price at evoCheck Women’s Price at evo

Best Budget: Salomon Men’s S/Force 7 & Women’s Aira 76 ST C

Smooth on the slopes and fairly light, the Salomon Men’s S/Force 7 ($500) and Women’s Aira 76 ST C ($400) are built to be less aggressive for newcomers and leisurely skiers. The sets are kitted out with bindings, making this economic price tag even better.

Designed with camber underfoot, both models deliver a stable ride yet relaxed maneuverability for the skier. The rise in the tips adds playfulness and provides an easier lift while cruising patches of powder.

From nose to tail, the skis are constructed with poplar wood in the core, which provides stability, damping, and a pop of power in each turn. If you’re eager to graduate from the rental pool or are having trouble steering an advanced ski, step into either of these pairs.

Best for: Beginner- and intermediate-level skiers focused on on-piste runs

Specs:

Profile: Camber profile with rocker in the tip and a flat tail
Sidecut Radius: Short
Aira 76 ST C Width (mm): 120-121 tip, 76 waist, 102-103 tail
S/Force 7 Width (mm): 123-125 tip, 76 waist, 107-108 tail
Bindings Included: L10 GW (women’s), M11 GW (men’s)
Lengths/Sizes (cm): 130, 140, 150, 160 (women’s) & 150, 160, 167, 175 (men’s)

Pros:

Stellar ski for carving corduroy
Absorbs vibrations well
Quality build

Cons:

Bindings are a tad heavy for some skiers

Check Men’s Price at evoCheck Women’s Price at evo

Best of the Rest

Icelantic Men’s Pioneer 86 & Women’s Riveter 85

If you’re an athletic novice ready to venture into more testy in-bounds terrain, Icelantic offers a range of models including their all-mountain narrowest designs: the Pioneer 86 and Riveter 85 ($629).

These downhill pairs are great carvers built for corduroy runs but can also handle a few inches of fresh snow. The core is constructed with poplar wood, a durable, responsive material that transfers power onto the terrain.

The rocker in the tip and tail makes the ski feel easier to drive and fun to steer through well-spaced glades. Yet the design requires a bit more strength and power to initiate than a beginner-centric ski — this is not for a skier’s first day on the hill. Compared to the other beginner-friendly skis listed here, this pair has a wider shape, which provides a plush ride on groomers and enhanced flotation in deep snow.

Best for: Confident, skilled, and athletic beginner skiers preparing to dive into intermediate terrain with a more advanced setup

Specs:

Profile: Rocker in the tips and tails and camber underfoot
Sidecut Radius: Short
Riveter 85 Width (mm): 120 tip, 85 waist, 107 tail
Pioneer 86 Width (mm): 121 tip, 86 waist, 108 tail
Bindings Included: No
Lengths/Sizes (cm): 150, 155, 162, 169 (women’s) & 166, 174, 182 (men’s)

Pros:

Fairly soft flex
A directional design

Cons:

Not ideal for completely green skiers
Bindings not included

Check Men’s Price at REICheck Women’s Price at REI

Rossignol Men’s Experience 76 & Women’s Experience 76

After time on the greens, some strong beginners are ready to explore intermediate-rated runs and dynamic snow conditions. For those eager athletes, this Rossignol set is a solid ski that will grow with you as your technique and interests evolve around the mountain.

The Experience 76 ($400) is a soft, forgiving, and lightweight silhouette that’s carefree to steer. Initiating turns does not take much power. The wood core and rocker-camber mix feels stable in variable snowpack.

The ski does have a slightly more responsive feel and edge hold compared to other more beginner-centric designs, so be ready for that energy transfer.

Best for: New and established beginner skiers considering or ready to explore diverse snowpack conditions and intermediate terrain

Specs:

Profile: 70% camber plus a mellow rocker in the ski tips and flat tails
Sidecut Radius: Short
Women’s Experience 76 Width (mm): 123 tip, 76 waist, 109 tail
Experience 76 Width (mm): 123 tip, 76 waist, 109 tail
Bindings Included: Xpress 10 GW
Lengths/Sizes (cm): 136, 144, 152, 160 (women’s) & 152, 160, 168, 176 (men’s)

Pros:

100% recycled steel
Base is made with 30% recycled materials
PEFC (Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification) certified poplar wood

Cons:

Not first choice for day one on the slopes

Check Men’s Price at evoCheck Women’s Price at Amazon

Völkl Men’s Deacon X & Women’s Flair 72

With a camber-rocker profile and nimble construction, the Men’s Deacon X and Women’s Flair 72 ($500) are fun-to-ride skis that feel forgiving for newcomers to the sport. These designs feature an early-rise tip, facilitating a more fluid experience while carving the groomers.

The handling feels smooth and streamlined without any grabbing action at the initiation of a turn. The edge-to-edge transfer doesn’t feel snappy or difficult to steer.

The ski’s core is made with a synthetic plastic composite that’s relatively light and soft to support entry-level skiers. These designs are a nice choice for folks aiming to spend time on-piste plus occasional exploration on the backside of the mountain.

Best for: New on-piste skiers enjoying carves on the hardpack

Specs:

Profile: Classic camber profile with an early-rise rocker in the tip and flat tail
Sidecut Radius: Short
Flair 72 Width (mm): 123 tip, 72 waist, 104 tail
Deacon X Width (mm): 123 tip, 72 waist, 104 tail
Bindings Included: vMotion 10 GW
Lengths/Sizes (cm): 137, 144, 151, 158, 165 (women’s) & 151, 158, 165, 172 (men’s)

Pros:

Great agility for activating and following through short turns
Excels on groomers and handles a variety of snow conditions fairly well

Cons:

Not the strongest design for long, accelerating arched turns

Check Men’s Price at evoCheck Women’s Price at evo

K2 Men’s Mindbender 85 & Women’s Mindbender 85 Alliance

The Mindbender 85 ($400) has a simple, budget-friendly construction that’s fun to ski everywhere on the frontside. The aspen veneer core is lightweight and durable.

For learners, this ski is easy and enjoyable to ride with laidback turn initiation and effortless torsion control. The brand’s SlantWall edge provides a 30-degree angle in the sidewall, which grabs the snow and enhances confidence in the ski’s responsiveness. Much like the Icelantic Riveter and Pioneer, this pair has a wider shape, which enhances flotation in deep snow and provides a more cushy ride on groomers.

Intermediate skiers can also add this set to their quiver as a good-natured addition for casual days at the resort.

Best for: Beginners getting started, those with intermediate-focused goals, and an area with good snow versus everyday corduroy

Specs:

Profile: Gradual rise in the tip, short rise in the tail, and camber underfoot
Sidecut Radius: Short
Mindbender 85 Alliance Width (mm): 130 tip, 85 waist, 113 tail
Mindbender 85 Width (mm): 130 tip, 85 waist, 113 tail
Bindings Included: No
Lengths/Sizes (cm): 149, 156, 163, 170 (women’s) & 156, 163, 170, 177 (men’s)

Pros:

Well-built for cruisers on good snow
A good choice for beginner or intermediate skiers
Handles groomers as well as a bit of powder, moguls, and tree runs

Cons:

Bindings not included
With the width and build, the edge-to-edge is a tad slower
A tad soft for true hardpack

Check Men’s Price at REICheck Women’s Price at REI

Buyer’s Guide: How to Choose Beginner All-Mountain Skis

As you excitedly choose your first pair of downhill skis, you’ll need to consider the best type of ski for you and a few qualities that differentiate each ski model.

Generally, skis are categorized as all-mountain, all-mountain wide, powder, and backcountry. For this guide, we focus on all-mountain skis, which we’ve found the most suitable for skiers just getting started.

All-Mountain Skis

All-mountain is a broad category that includes quality, nuanced builds manufactured by nearly every brand in the ski industry. Each ski model feels unique but also has common traits.

Namely, all-mountain skis handle hardpack groomed runs on the frontside of the ski resort. They can also manage some fresh snowfall, which softens the slope and leads to snowpack variability.

That said, some all-mountain skis carve packed runs better than they navigate soft, fluffy, or deep snow or cut through variability like choppy conditions or ice. Some all-mountain skis perform better than others in powder, on moguls, or whipping through the trees.

Beginner All-Mountain Skis

Beginner all-mountain skis usually cost less and feature integrated bindings. The economic price reflects a construction that is typically softer. These skis are more flexible on the snow, turning feels easier, and the ride is less aggressive. Beginner-friendly designs are also usually narrower.

All of these characteristics complement skiing on groomed runs, which is usually where beginners spend the majority of their shred day. The best skis for beginners range from true first-timer skis to skis that work well for both a beginner and intermediate (or even an advanced) athlete.

The skis that best bridge multiple skillsets are usually lenient in turns and less assertive but can power through terrain at moderate or high speeds and navigate mixed terrain all over the mountain.

(Photo/Eric Phillips)

Integrated Bindings

Many beginner skis include an integrated binding setup, which can be cost-effective, efficient, and easier for newcomers. After gaining more experience, skiers often opt to select their own bindings that more specifically fit the terrain and performance they prefer and their personal ski style.

Take an extra moment here — ski bindings are an important detail to consider. Unlike snowboards, which have hole patterns and removable bindings that can be swapped out, ski bindings are mounted to the ski. A ski can only be remounted with different bindings once or twice before the structure is compromised. The new drilled holes need to be adequately spaced apart, and there’s only so much real estate to work with on a ski.

Waist Width

We suggest you get started on a pair of narrower all-mountain skis rather than wider or fat all-mountain skis or specialized pairs for the powder, backcountry, or race turns. All-mountain skis on the skinnier side are easier to control and help skiers learn their form on hardpack snow before they head to less-managed pockets around the ski area.

That said, the ideal width for a ski also boils down to personal preference and goals. Do you live in a place that regularly gets a refresh of deep snow? Are you only skiing on powder days? Then consider a slightly wider or wide ski. The waist width makes a big difference with how a ski handles powder. Wider skis equal greater overall volume and float through deep, soft snow.

85mm-95mm waist width: can tackle both groomed and powder runs but excels on groomers
90mm-109mm waist width: offers a more balanced approach through either powder or atop packed snow
100mm and higher waist width for women; 109mm or higher waist width for men: true powder skis that are surfy and floaty in powder. These will perform on groomers but generally won’t feel as agile in turns or easy to control at high speeds

Ski Length

You’ll need to choose an adequate ski length, which is best done by looking at the manufacturer’s suggestions for the ideal height and weight for that ski size.

In general, a ski should reach between your chin and the top of your head when standing upright on the ground. Within that spectrum, a shorter ski will feel easier to turn, and that’s a good trait to start with as a newbie practicing technique.

Longer skis handle higher speeds better and also provide some extra volume for powdery laps, so those are typically preferred by more experienced resort-goers.

Ski Profile: Camber and Rocker

Pay attention to the profile of a ski. Camber is the traditional design, which creates a slight arc in the ski. When flat on the ground, the centermost part of the ski slightly bows off the surface of the snow. Camber equates to energy in a turn and a poppy feeling or strong feedback in the ski.

In more recent years, a bunch of all-mountain skis have been designed with a mix of the opposite shape, which is called rocker. Also known as reverse camber or early rise, a rocker shape is like an upturned banana sitting atop the snow, so the center of the ski hugs the ground while the tips or tail rise off the ground.

Sometimes the rocker is solely in the tips, while other designs have reverse camber in both the tips and tails. The degree and amount of rocker differ between each ski design, too. Rocker shapes offer increased maneuverability, a forgiving edge hold, and enhanced flotation in deep snow.

The majority of the all-mountain skis we highlight here are a hybrid of camber and rockered tips or tails. True traditional cambered skis work well on groomers, but tips with a rise can help make the ski feel more playful with less of a bite in the snowpack.

Ultimately, choosing the best profile comes down to personal preference, which is acquired with experience. A great way to try out different profile shapes is to test drive a few pairs during demo days at ski mountains, which are usually held throughout the season.

Stiffness and Flex

Softer skis are more flexible than their stiffer counterparts. They generally perform best in smooth terrain, at slower speeds, and are less aggressive in turns. Often, beginner skis are constructed with softer materials — usually a foam or composite core — that are more economic and not as difficult to control on the slope.

Stiffer and pricier skis integrate wood partially or fully into the core, and some add a layer of carbon material. Less malleable materials such as wood increase the durability and overall longevity of a ski. It won’t break down as quickly as a foam core and is a better choice for intermediate and advanced skiers who are skiing faster and across rougher terrain or with a more aggressive style.

A wood core provides a snappier sensation from turn to turn, a greater transfer of energy, and improved stability at bigger speeds.

Sidecut and Turn Radius

The sidecut or turn radius of a ski indicates whether a ski excels at making tight turns or big, sweeping turns, which gain more speed on a slope. Skis with a low sidecut radius are better suited for tighter, shorter turns, which are ideal for beginners and skiers who want to maintain a low or moderate speed. We note the sidecut radius for each product listed in our guide.

The sidecut radius refers to the arc or the radius created by the dimensions of the tip, waist, and tail of the ski, if those edges were to extend to create a full circle. So, a longer ski length of the same ski will typically increase the turn radius, and the turn will feel less snappy. If you look at each ski’s specific sidecut radius, you’ll notice short radius turns result from radius numbers in the low- to mid-teens, usually around 17 m. A radius of less than 15 m is optimal for carving hardpack slopes. A 15m-20m range is better suited for conditions all over the mountain.

Price

Beginner all-mountain skis carry entry-level price tags due to the materials and construction that are easier to control, which helps new skiers hone their skills. Often these skis are pre-paired with bindings, too, which creates more value for newcomers to the resort.

FAQ

What Skis Should a Beginner Use?

Many ski brands build skis that are tailored to beginners. Beginner-centric skis have several qualities in common.

A ski binding is often conveniently included in the bundle. Beginner skis also cost less than top-tier designs. That budget price tag is a reflection of materials in the construction that are not as premium or durable for aggressive, high-volume use. Budget skis are still well-made but are developed to match a certain environment and user.

Also, the widths from the tip to waist to tail are typically narrower. Extra volume isn’t key for skiers who need to stick to the consistent hardpack. And groomed runs are the best place to learn your foundation and gain ski muscle.

Are Short or Long Skis Better for Beginners?

Start by checking with the ski manufacturer regarding a recommended size for your height and weight. Each ski has its own flex rating, and taking skier mass into account is helpful for pairing skiers with the correct size.

Shorter skis are more maneuverable than their longer counterparts. A shorter ski supports faster turns versus the long, speed-inducing turns achieved with longer skis and experienced skiers. Longer skis also add more volume underfoot and cut powder more easily, so they’re a good choice for floating in deep snow.

Do You Need Special Skis for Powder Days?

All-mountain skis are generally able to handle a mix of groomed runs and powder, but each design has a greater affinity for one or the other. If you ski groomed runs most of the time, it’s a good idea to invest in a ski that complements the experience of carving hardpack snow and managing higher speeds. You’ll still be able to ski in powder with said design, but it won’t feel as effortless.

The waist width, ski length, and profile shape make the biggest difference with how a ski handles powder. Wider equals greater overall volume and float through powder. Skis with an 85mm-95mm waist can tackle both groomed and powder runs but excel on groomers. Wider designs with a 90mm-109mm waist offer a more balanced approach through either powder or atop packed snow.

True powder skis are really surfy and buttery in powder: 100 mm or higher for women, or 109 mm and greater for men. These will still perform on groomers, but they generally won’t feel as easy and nimble to control at high speeds or agile in quick turns.

Longer skis likewise add volume beneath a skier, which helps with float. That said, check out the manufacturer’s suggestions for the ideal weight and height for that ski size, which we don’t recommend you exceed.

Profile shape can also enhance maneuverability and hover in powder via fully rockered designs or rockered tips and tails, otherwise known as early rise or reverse camber. Though these terms are used across various skis created by different brands, the precise amount of rise is unique and can feel subtly different between each design.

How Do You Take Care of Skis?

After a day on the hill, it’s a good idea to dry off your skis. To maintain the edges, you can smooth out the burrs — small nicks in the metal — with a pocket stone. After a few days of use, and especially after abuse on hardpack snow, you can replenish the hot wax.

Choose a wax for the current snow conditions and temperatures you’re skiing in. It’s a good idea to invest in a ski wax iron, which is specifically designed for waxing skis, so the temperature is more controllable and doesn’t get too hot for your ski’s base.

At least once a season, it’s really nice to get your skis tuned up by a professional tuner at a local ski shop, which will confidently know and have the equipment to tune and sharpen the edges, perform a base grind, repair gouges in the base, and apply a robust wax.

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