Free-Ride Vs All-Mountain Skis – Which One Should You Choose?

As a ski guide and instructor, I have come across various skis when training my clients, and I am well-informed on their value and performance. Though there are a variety of skis in the market, ranging from powder skis to race skis, I have recently had countless skiers pose this question to me before they made a new ski purchase. 

The free-ride and all-mountain skis are some of the best skis on the market. But which one should you choose between two?

This article will explain the two types of ski styles in detail, their differences, and which function each ski is best suited for so we can end this battle once and for all. This information is important for any skier looking to purchase new skis. 

Related: Best Women’s Beginner Skis

Let us take a look.

What Are All-Mountain Skis?

As the name alludes to, this key is designed to function well on all mountain terrains. Whether it is firm snow or deep powder, this ski will help you handle the terrain like a pro. I do not like to fit in a box, and this ski is perfect for people like me. I appreciate the flexibility of choosing a different ski location and terrain to have fun whenever I want.

These skis are perfect for beginners because they allow you to adapt to different skiing conditions helping you to achieve more growth and garner more experience as a skier. 

Even better, the mountain ski is quite cost-effective as you can get to learn the basics using it and still and still be able to switch to other challenging terrains without having to purchase another type of ski. The all-mountain ski is also a good fit for the advanced skier because it allows you to tackle any terrain.

All-mountain skis are typically designed with deep side cuts and rockered tips. This enables them to make easy turns and easily glide over deep powder. They also feature a slim waist of at least 85 m and go only to a maximum of 105mm. 

The thin waist makes it suitable for the ground terrain and powder-filled areas within the mountain. The all-mountain is a very versatile ski design making it easy to use for all, whether you are a kid or an adult. This ski is a perfect fit for all. 

This ski comes with many different variations, so I advise you to carefully check the dimensions and choose the one most suitable for you. What type of skiing you prefer should influence your choice concerning size and dimensions.

What Are Free-Ride Skis?

Often compared to powder skis, free-ride skis are thicker than powder skis. This ski is made for expert skiers. It is designed to perform on ungroomed terrain. They feature a wide profile in order to perform well on powder snow and more rockers to help you maintain steady control on rough and bumpy terrain.

Free riding normally takes place on backcountry terrain. It is designed for skiers who need speed, those who love a challenge, and those ready to conquer difficult terrain and push their limits.

You have two main options when looking to buy the free-ride ski:

1 . Free-ride skis designed with a narrow waist of (90-100)mm. They also have fewer rockers at the tail end of the ski and more fitted at the front. They are best suited for on-piste skiing.

2 . The second option is the free-ride ski with a width of over 100mm. These are best suited for powder and typically have more rocker at the tail.

Free-ide vs All-mountain Skis: The Similarities

There isn’t much difference in terms of looks between these two ski styles. They both come with a twin-shaped design and have rockers installed on them. They both also feature a camber profile making these skis some of the most stable skis on the market. A mix of these two profiles provides great control for you, especially when turning.

Both of these skis also offer versatility and are able to handle different ski terrains without much hassle. Free-ride skis offer a challenging run to every individual.

They push you to improve your ski expertise. Though all-mountain skis are not very challenging, they still offer the ability to learn and grow your skiing abilities, making them very versatile skis.

How Does Free-Ride Ski Differ From All-Mountain Ski?


A flex is a value assigned on your ski based on its level of flexibility. It usually focuses on the tip and tail of your ski. A ski with good flex will help you turn or tip your ski without losing stability.

All-Mountains have a lower flex rating compared to free-ride skis, as they are not designed for extreme challenging terrains like the free-ride skis. The free ride is stiffer than the all-mountain ski, so users can still enjoy stability even at high speeds.


Free-ride skis are quite pricey due to their high-end build, which helps skiers ski through rough terrains. The target market of these skis also is a contributor to the high prices. The all-mountain skis are much more affordable and hence suitable for beginners and casual skiers.

Free-ride skis are also more costly due to their larger size. The materials and technology used to ensure it provides superior performance also tend to make it more expensive.


There are two main profiles used on skis, the camber profile and the rocker profile. Camber helps provide skis with a good grip on the snow. It is especially helpful when doing ski runs at a very fast speed. 

The camber profile typically takes the place of traditional ski profiles. It also comes in a reverse design, which looks like a water ski. The middle touches the ground, and both tips face the sky. They have more floating power in deep powder.

The rocker profile, on the other hand, is a mix of the two camber profiles. Skis fitted with both profiles offer great balance and stability to skiers.


The free-ride ski is well suited for the backcountry and deep powder, while the all-mountain ski performs well in nearly every condition. The all-mountain is quite versatile.

Free-ride skis are better suited for expert skiers and skiing off-piste while all-mountain skis are beginner-friendly and great for on-piste skiing. They are quite easy to maneuver through any terrain.

Turning Radius 

Free-ride skis usually have a wider turning radius than all-mountain skis. All-mountain skis usually have a smaller radius to help enhance carving capabilities.

A larger turning radius for the free-ride skis allows you to make bigger turns at the higher speed that it functions with. The turning radius is moderate so that you can quickly turn around small objects on the skiing terrain.


Free-ride skis are typically wider compared to all-mountain skis. This makes free-ride skis more suitable for operating in deep powder conditions. A wider ski increases the ski floating capabilities. On the other hand, all-mountain skis are quite narrow due to their suitability for on-piste skiing.

Length Of The Board 

A board’s length determines the performance of a ski. Shortboards are ideal for maneuvering through narrow terrains because they are easier to control. However, it might be quite challenging to maintain balance on a shortboard.

A longer board offers you more stability. Free-ride boards are longer compared to all-mountain skis because users need more control and stability due to the fast speeds on the snowy terrain.

The Shape Of The Board 

All-mountain skis can work in all ski conditions and are easy to switch from beginner to expert level. They have a flexible design and can move in different directions.

Unlike the all-mountain ski, the free-ride ski usually has a singular directional shape due to its fast speeds. They are not ideal for riding switches, and it may be dangerous to try to do so while skiing with this board. 

The high speed you will be moving out may throw you away from the board. This may leave you with nursing injuries.

Experience Level 

Free-riding skis are meant for expert skiers. This is because they are designed for highly challenging terrains and fast speeds. This can be dangerous for entry-level skiers as they cannot control the ski better yet.

All-mountain skis are easy to use by all skiers, from beginners to advanced and expert skiers. This is because they have a lower flex and allow you to move through different terrains as you improve your skill.

The Board’s Base 

There are two types of ski bases, sintered and extruded bases.  Free-ride bases come with sintered bases. These are usually designed using crushed pellets placed onto the board at very high temperatures. 

Sintered bases require high maintenance and are one of the reasons why free-ride skis are very expensive. This is because the process is extensive and utilizes costly products and technology.

All-mountain skis are fitted with extruded bases. Boards suitable for beginners feature this type of base. This is because they are cheaper to make and durable. This is especially helpful since you will likely hit and graze different surfaces when learning to ski. This base is made of pellets that have been melted together.

Frequently Asked Questions 

Can You Carve With Free-Ride Skis?

No, you cannot carve with free-ride skis. This is because of their high flex level and the high speed it offers. It, therefore, cannot make quick turns around tiny spaces. All-mountain skis, however, have better carving power and can seamlessly move around tiny spaces without much hassle.

Which Type Of Ski Is Best For Beginners?

All-mountain skis are better suited for beginners. This is because they are easy to control and are designed to adapt to different skiing conditions. They allow you to continuously learn and grow your skill set while practicing on different ski terrains.

Can You Use Free-Ride Skis On-Piste?

Yes, free-ride skis can be used on-piste. They are, however, designed for off-piste skiing due to their wider waist, which is perfect for deep powder snow conditions. All-mountain skis are better suited for on-piste skiing.

What Is The Difference Between On-Piste And Off-Piste Skiing?

Piste is a marked ski path down mountain terrain. It is a typically groomed trail that has been specifically designed for skiers. It can, however, also be ungroomed. The shape and baseboard of the ski determine whether a ski can be used on-piste or off-piste.

Off-piste refers to powder terrain. The trail is usually unmarked. It, therefore, needs you to use a wider waist ski to improve the ski floating power. 

On-piste is generally meant for all-mountain skis as it has a narrower waist and is able to carve around tight spaces. Skis with shorter lengths are better designed for on-piste skiing. Therefore, the choice of on-piste or non-piste skiing depends on your ski.

Bottom Line

To be able to make the right choice on which ski board to purchase between the two, you need first to decide on the terrain you will be skiing on. Is it off-piste or on-piste? If you want to ski on-piste but enjoy the freedom to switch terrains, the all-mountain ski is the better option.

If you love to have a challenge and do not want to be confined to a piste, then the free-ride ski is best suited for you. Free-ride skis are for skiers who love to enjoy high speeds while skiing. It is one of the skis that offers the most freedom to users.

No matter which skis you settle for, make sure they are a great fit so you can enjoy your next ski run.

Mitchelle Lynn