The scene is familiar, a packed ski resort on a generous powder day. Snow falls in sheets from the sky, and everyone is excited. You arrive early, hoping to speed through the rental line so you can enjoy nature's bounty. Only that never happens. The process takes hours. When you finally get your gear, half the day is gone, and the snowfall has stopped.
Given all the hassle and cost of skiing, missing hours’ worth of skiing is very disheartening. If you’re an intermediate skier trying to get away from the rental dance, you’re going to need to buy your first pair of skis. Below, we gathered the 9 best intermediate skis for those ready to get serious about skiing.
My Review Process
I’ve been skiing for the past 25 years, and 8 of those have been as a ski instructor in Colorado. I have a lot of experience guiding skiers along their journey. Throughout my time skiing, I’ve tested many skis and found the best options for an intermediate skier.
Ski selection is an important key to success. It can either greatly improve your skiing experience or hinder development. With one of the options below, you’ll be well on your way to skiing harder terrain with skill and confidence.
The Nordica Enforcer 94 is my favorite intermediate ski. The design hits the sweet spot with camber underfoot and rocker at each end (scroll down to our buying guide to find out more about rocker and camber). The Nordica Enforcer 94 has all-mountain characteristics, so you can haul down groomers, get onto your edges for carving, and stay stable at higher speeds.
The one downside is the weight at 9 lbs. per pair. With this heavy of a ski, deep powder days will be more challenging. The rocker tip and tail help, but you’ll be using a lot of energy to ski through deep accumulations.
Aside from the deepest powder days, the Nordica Enforcer is an equal-opportunity ski that can handle just about every type of terrain. For intermediate skiers, having a type of ski that allows for easy edge control and speed sets a fantastic foundation for skill development.
The Head Kore 93 skis are a versatile model with a lightweight design and great all-mountain capabilities. With this type of ski, you can make tight turns, get onto your edges easily, handle bumps with precision and even shred low-end powder conditions.
Because of its light design, the Kore does feel a bit bouncy at high speeds. Additionally, with only 93 mm underfoot, the narrow waist of the Kore can handle new snow to a point. However, deep powder snow will prove challenging.
If you want a pair of skis that can handle the vast majority of conditions in a responsive way, the Head Kore 93 is perfect.
This fantastic all-mountain ski really shines when you pick up some speed. With superior carving ability, easy edge control, and rock-solid stability at speed, it’s hard not to have fun with the Mantra M6. Low-end powder days (less than 6 in/15 cm) are also easy to navigate for these skis.
Like our best overall pick, the Mantra M6 has a weight issue. It’s over 9 lbs. per pair, and that’s most apparent on deep powder days. It’s also a drag to carry the skis across large parking lots or through ski villages.
The Mantra M6 performs best on firm snow, groomed trails, choppy snow, and variable conditions. It's a ski that's perfect for intermediate skiers who want to play with speed, control, carving, and short turns.
The Salmon QST Lux 98 is my favorite ski model for backcountry intermediate skiers. They are an incredibly versatile model, given their narrower width. The rocker profile gives them adequate float, and at speed, they are stable. You can also get onto your edges and carve easily with the QST.
Unfortunatelythe Salomon QST's capabilities in powder snow aren't the best. The skis have a thinner width and can handle lower-end powder, but you’ll need to work harder to keep your ski tips up. The QST also had a bit of trouble managing spring slush.
Even still, these skis can handle just about every terrain consideration an intermediate-level skier would be interested in, including sidecountry and backcountry adventures.
I love the control, lightweight feel, and all-mountain capabilities. These skis also chew through soft powder well. However, they were a bit unstable in the crud, which is best described as clumps of snow that are often icy and heavy.
However, the Pandora excels in mid-winter conditions and is a versatile and fun ski to play on. If you ever needed a one-quiver solution with all-mountain, deeper powder, and backcountry capabilities, this is it.
Powder may be the most buzzworthy word in skiing. But for beginner-intermediate skiers, it should take a backseat to skill building. That’s why the Rossignol Experience 78 Ca is such a nice find. These lightweight skis have all-mountain capabilities, are great for learning to carve, and are easy to control.
The big downside is that these are narrow carving skis, so navigating through powder conditions is challenging. However, learning fundamental skiing skills is a lot easier on a pair of responsive skis, just like the Rossignol Experience 78 Ca.
The Volkl Kendo 88 is my pick for the best intermediate carving ski. This is a highly specialized carving ski while maintaining an all-mountain appeal. It can handle some terrain variability but is best for piste skiing and carving down hard-packed slopes and groomed snow.
Because it is such a specialized ski, the Volkl Kendo is less maneuverable in tight spaces like trees. The narrow ski profile also makes it a fairly poor performer in powder. But for intermediate skiers focusing on speed, control, and carving, you can’t beat what the Kendo offers.
The Blizzard Rustler 11 is a great ski that can help you bridge the gap from an intermediate to an advanced skill level. This versatile skican rip up groomers at speed, boasts great carving potential, and does surprisingly well in fresh snow.
Tree skiing can be a bit challenging because it is a strong ski that operates best with medium and large turns. You can ski trees with minimal issues, but it takes a lot of energy. Still, the Blizzard Rustler 11 is a great all-terrain ski that can help you grow into an advanced skier.
Our second hybrid option, the Armada ARV 96, is a terrain park-first ski with surprising downhill control. This is a great option if you want to dabble in the park and also enjoy speed, edge control, and general all-mountain capabilities.
If you enjoy freestyle skiing and the terrain park, you’ll want to consider these hybrid skis. While it’ll work well with its all-mountain appeal, the Armada shines brightest with a little terrain park mixed in.
What Are Intermediate Skis?
Intermediate skis are usually the first pair of skis that people buy. They work best for people who have a few years of skiing experience and are ready for tougher terrain but would rather not rent skis.
Intermediate skis are often longer and heavier than beginner skis. They provide more stability when you go faster and allow you to hammer out more advanced skiing concepts. Speed and control lead to better skiing on the slopes.
What Is An Intermediate Skier?
Intermediate skiers don’t rely on a wedge formation to slow down and can make turns in a full parallel stance. They can also ski all beginner slopes and at least half of the intermediate runs at any resort. If you’re working on hockey stops, turn shape, rhythm, and speed control, then you’re an intermediate skier.
The intermediate ability level is large. You can be a beginner-intermediate, regular intermediate, or advanced-intermediate. A ton of development happens in this phase of skiing. Getting your own intermediate skis helps by removing the tedious rental process and getting you onto the hill faster. A skier on the hill longer has more opportunities to learn and improve.
Intermediate Skis Buying Guide
If you’re trying to settle on an intermediate ski, keep the following points in mind.
Ski prices vary wildly. New models can often cost anywhere from $500-800, depending on demand and branding. This is a steep price range, so it helps to dive into ski comparisons before settling on a purchase. Prices tend to drop steeply when you look for previous years' models.
Type Of Skiing
Intermediate skiers make up a huge range of individual abilities. Every time you ski is an opportunity to observe which runs you tend to favor more, and that’ll help narrow down what you like. If you don’t know or feel that you belong in a generalist category, opt for an all-mountain ski. All-mountain skis perform adequately on just about every snow surface.
If you know that groomers and nice front-side runs are what you like to ski, a carving ski is the best bet. If you’re itching to try some backcountry or sidecountry runs, get a hybrid or backcountry ski. For those obsessed with deep snow, a powder ski may be the right choice.
When standing vertically, a ski should rise from the floor to an area between your chin and head. Beginner skiers will want shorter skis, so closer to the chin. Advanced skiers will likely want longer skis, so a length closer to the top of your head.
For intermediate skiers, measure your height in cm, and then subtract 10-15 cm to arrive at an intermediate length. You can choose skis that are both longer and shorter than an intermediate length, but it will impact how you ski. Shorter skis turn faster but aren’t stable at speed. Longer skis will help you master tougher concepts but may be hard to control initially.
Width helps determine the style of ski you’re after. A thinner ski, somewhere between 65-85 mm underfoot, is better for carving. Thin skis go fast and provide great edge control on hard-packed surfaces but don’t work well in powder or choppy conditions.
All mountain skis usually have a width of between 85-100 mm. Powder skis are even wider and have a width of 100 mm or more. While all mountain skis provide decent edge control, the width and larger surface area of powder skis make edge control difficult. Powder skis shine in soft snow.
A sidecut is part of the shape of the ski. Sidecut refers to the difference between the narrow part of the ski underfoot and the wider tail and tip. A smaller sidecut radius allows you to make short turns a lot easier. This is particularly beneficial for carving skis on hard-packed snow.
A larger sidecut means the ski generally makes wider turns. Large sidecuts benefit downhill skis and powder skis.
Rocker And Camber
Camber and rocker are both bends in the shape of a ski. Lay a ski down on a flat surface and look at it from the side. If a ski has a camber, you’ll see the tip and tail touch the surface while the middle is elevated.
A camber profile helps maintain edge control while skiing. When you turn, you push down on your skis, which pushes down the camber. When you exit a turn, the pressure is relieved, and you’ll bounce up faster and with less energy burned. Carving skis, all-mountain skis, and downhill skis benefit from camber.
Rocker is a camber in reverse. The center of the ski is the lowest to the surface, while the ski bends up at the tip and tail. For powder skis, you want more rocker because the bend helps keep the ski tips higher than the center of the ski. Maintaining control in deeper snow means having your ski tips higher so you can break through the surface of the snow.
If you’re an intermediate skier looking for the best overall option, I recommend the Nordica Enforcer 94. Beginner-intermediates will enjoy the Rossignol 78 Ca, while advanced-intermediate skiers should try the Blizzard Rustler 11.
If you're interested in backcountry skiing, get the Salomon QST 98. Hybrid ski options like the Line Pandora 104 and the Armada ARV 96 are also great. For fans of lightweight design, the Head Kore 93 is hard to beat.
You should buy intermediate skis when you can link turns in a parallel stance, stop on command, and manage speed down a variety of intermediate slopes. Other skills you should have include loading and unloading a chairlift, picking yourself up after a fall, and learning how to use ski poles.
If you hold a ski vertically, with the tail touching the ground, the right size should be between your chin and your head. For intermediate skiers, ski length should be from your chin up to the bridge of your nose.
Short skis have specific applications, namely for beginners and for skiers who enjoy the terrain park. The main detractor to short skis occurs at speed when they are harder to control and feel bouncy or less stable.
The longer the ski, the more material is used. The more material used in a ski, the heavier it will be.
To progress, you need to master a few concepts. The big ones are stopping on command, loading/unloading from a chair lift, connecting turns, starting to lean weight on the outside ski when turning, and managing speed on intermediate runs.
*The information on this site is based on research and first-hand experience but should not be treated as medical advice. Before beginning any new activity, we recommend consulting with a physician, nutritionist or other relevant professional healthcare provider.