2022 Men’s Frontside Skis

2022 Men’s Frontside Skis

The frontside of the mountain may not be the most topographically diverse part of the hill, but the skiers who populate it are the most polyglot we’ve got. Timid intermediates, cruising seniors, the terrain park contingent, ski school classes, pods of families and lone dive-bombers all crowd into the same space and try to pretend they’re the only ones there. No wonder we refer to the frontside as a zoo without cages.

Appealing to this many constituencies requires all kinds of skis, from relative noodles to absolute rails, most with system bindings and some without, a few built for comfort and a lot built for speed. It’s the largest field we examine and perhaps the trickiest to find the perfect match. The feature all these skis share is a waist that is neither skinny nor fat and a design that expects to be exposed primarily to groomed terrain.

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Almost every entry-level ski for the neophyte falls into this family, but there are also a lot of choices for skiers who prefer to fly around at 50 mph. The intended terrain is almost exclusively groomed, but the wider bodies within this family will travel off-slope if asked.  Because carving turns is the aspirational activity associated with skiing on groomed trails, this genre is often tagged with the “Carving” label, but we’ve chosen “Frontside” as it’s a more ecumenical term that includes a lot of non-technical skiers in its cadre.  It’s also germane to mention that the very best carving skis aren’t necessarily in this compendium as they are invariably on the narrower end of the spectrum, which is not the ski world’s current flavor-of-the-month.

The majority of skis in this genre are sold with an integrated binding that is inextricably married to a specific model.  While the binding company is responsible for the binding design, it’s up to the ski maker to assemble the interface that secures it to the ski. The integrity of this linkage varies from brand to brand, but the idea behind the so-called “system ski” does not: the binding sets in or on an interface that adds damping, reduces the binding’s natural impingement on ski flex and increases the skier’s leverage over the edge.

There are countless iterations of Frontside skis not covered here for several reasons:

  • The ocean of entry-level packages resides at the bottom of this pool, skis bought primarily to fit a price as much as a purpose. They are generally unavailable for ski testing or demoing.
  • Skier interest in the genre is generally declining as skiers opt for wider and wider footprints. Covering 30 more models would stir up more confusion than sales.
  • Skiers looking for real carving power in a ski less than 80mm underfoot often eschew the narrower recreational carvers for full-on Race skis.

Note we’re not omitting narrower carvers because we don’t like them; generally speaking, the narrower (68mm – 74mm) Technical models do a better job of digging into an arc than the models the market – that’s you, Dear Reader, and your ilk – have embraced as your preference.  Rather we have given them their own proper home among our Realskiers categories, tucked between Non-FIS Race and Frontside.

The best skis in this category are unabashedly skewed to the very skilled skier who lives at a high edge angle.  They do not stoop to conquer, with mushy, terrain-conforming baselines that mask a skier’s aptitude for cutting a clean edge.  They like their snow hard and the throttle open.  Defying both conventional wisdom and our own expectations, top Power models continue also to be among the highest rated for Finesse properties, indicating that it’s possible to make a ski that blazes down the mountain that also feels neck-reining simple to steer. Of course we unearthed a few Power potentates with a more typical disdain for slow, mincing turns, and a miniscule minority of Finesse favorites designed to boost their pilots’ prowess and self-esteem.


The 2022 Men’s Frontside Field

Once upon a time, the Frontside field was populated by two archetypes: supercharged trench-diggers for the dual-track carving set, and the very large family of mostly system skis (including a binding) that comprise the first three price points in the U.S. market. As the popularity of off-piste skiing grew, brands started to extend their off-trail and all-mountain families into the Frontside fold.

What began as a sneaky infiltration is now a full-on invasion of off-trail baselines. Rossi has even created a sub-genre to embrace the concept, the “all-resort” ski, embodied in the new Experience 82 Ti and 82 Basalt. Rossi envisions their target skiers as vacationers who want the total resort experience, of which skiing is just a part. The design accent falls on forgiveness and ease of use for this occasional skier, rather than high-octane carving.

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When Blizzard extended its Flipcore franchise down to the Brahma 82 a couple of years ago, I imagine its product developers were concerned about over-reaching the design’s proper application. (An earlier such attempt, the Latigo, is no longer with us.) Any such concerns must have evaporated, for the 21/22 Brahma 82 now sports the even-flexing TrueBlend core, an upgrade that expands its already considerable performance range. Built exactly like its namesake, the Brahma 88, the Brahma 82 may be less ski, but it’s definitely not less of a ski than its laureled sibling.

Salomon’s new Stance 84 is the latest member of its off-trail Stance clan. Built with a bit less Titanal than its wider kin, the Stance 84 is a competent carver with a remarkably high ceiling for a ski that with a street price of $499. There are many models in the Frontside genre with the same price tag, none of which can hold a candle to the Stance 84.

While we’re on the subject of value propositions, Kästle’s PX81 is a system ski intended to retail at $750, well below Kästle’s usual price stratum. We didn’t get enough scores to rate it, but we got enough feedback to know it’s a strong Frontside ski and a great value for the less aggressive, albeit skilled, on-piste skier.

Little Liberty introduced the evolv 84 last season, extending its original all-mountain family. This season, Liberty added another strut to its Vertical Metal Technology, giving it a 3-rib construction that feels welded to the snow. While the evolv 84’s sidecut and baseline suggest an all-terrain temperament, its innards crave to carve. On groomers in particular, it’s inclination to stay wedded to the snow surface exceeds its interest in slarving around off-trail, a classic characteristic of a carver enveloped in an all-mountain package.

The newest arrival among traditional, on-piste carvers is Blizzard’s Thunderbird R15 WB, with the “R” indicating the sidecut radius and “WB” signifying that it’s the wider version of the R15 tandem. If you’re wondering how carving can be addicting, one spin on the T-Bird R15 WB will make you want another and another. It loads up evenly and blasts off the edge with the energy so many modern skis lack. It’s a welcome addition to the elite club of unadulterated carving tools.

Life is full of regrets, and one of ours is that we weren’t able to catch a ride on Völkl’s new Deacon 76 Master. We were, however, able to rock its thinner twin, the Deacon 72 Master. Both supposedly have tip and tail rocker, but that’s not what the pilot feels. The Deacon 72 Master behaves like a race ski with good manners, always there with just the right response. We strongly suspect the Deacon 76 Master to be its performance peer.

Too many Americans look past the rich Frontside category in search of the all-terrain capabilities of an All-Mountain East or West model. There are always going to be groomer days (sometimes, groomer weeks), when parts of your favorite playground will be not just off-trail but off-limits. If you want to make the most of this massive chunk of your skiing life, you should have a Frontside option in your locker.

Power Picks: High Speed on High Edges

There are several strata of lower-priced Frontside skis made for skiers of modest ambition. You won’t find any of them here. Our Power Picks are intended for experienced skiers with a full skill set; edge grip at high speed is a paramount virtue. The better the skier, the better the match with the skis identified here. They aren’t trying to teach you how to ski fast on firm snow – they expect you to already know how.

Alert readers will observe that there are far more options for Power skiers at the top of this genre than there are Finesse alternatives. This is primarily a Power skier’s domain, as the wealth of choices below confirm.

This is where we issue our annual caveat that a great Power ski is often accompanied by inflated Finesse scores, a signal from the testers that they feel the ski has no flaws or limitations. Point being, a high Finesse score doesn’t guarantee that the model will be easy for anyone to ski, only that it feels automatic to an adept expert.

Völkl Deacon 84 


Three years ago, Völkl resurrected its beloved Mantra by concocting a new technology called Titanal Frame; two years ago, Völkl applied the Titanal Frame touch to its Frontside family. The new pater familias of the Frontside clan is the Deacon 84, and like the M5 Mantra – since succeeded by the M6 – it represents a return to traditional Völkl values.

Compared to the RTM 84 it replaced, the Deacon 84 has more edge-gripping power, more energy out of the turn and an overall bigger performance envelope. It’s not just better than its predecessor; it out-pointed the entire, enormous Frontside field in Total Score, buoyed by the top Finesse score in the category, not bad for what is inherently a Power ski.

What is it about the Deacon 84 that allows it be all skis to all (Frontside) skiers? It’s the alluring combination of a fiberglass torsion box and tactically placed Titanal parts that nullify shock without stifling the glass structure’s naturally springy nature. It’s exceptional rebound – it will lift you right off the snow if you punch it – derives from the Deacon 84’s 3D Glass, top and bottom glass laminates that come together above the sidewall to create a torsion box. The 3-part Titanal Frame anchors the forebody and tail while allowing the center to react to pressure, so the glass can compress and load up energy for the turn transition.

Read the full review here

Blizzard Thunderbird R15 WB


In the fat ski genres where Americans buy the vast majority of their skis, Blizzard is riding a decade-long hot streak. If you only look at skis over 85mm at the waist, it seems like Blizzard hasn’t missed a beat since the launch of its Flipcore baseline. But if you take a step back and look at the world market, there’s a category or two of carvers, skis meant to execute perfect, technical turns on hard snow, where Blizzard is all but invisible, at least in the U.S. For whatever reasons, its Quattro series never captured the imagination of the American carving public. The only way Blizzard was able to penetrate the Frontside segment stateside was with a tiny-waisted off-trail model (Brahma 82), which is sort of like entering the category via the service entrance.

Consider the problem solved. The new Thunderbird R15 WB doesn’t try to mask its racing pedigree with a carbon overdose; the communication with the angled edge is crisp and clear. The Thunderbird’s snow feel is like HDTV compared to the Quattro’s low-def reception. One reason the T-bird R15 WB feels so sublimely connected is its TrueBlend core has been modified to fit the hard-snow environment. By re-positioning tendrils of high-density beech within strata of lighter poplar, TrueBlend creates a perfectly balanced flex for each size. This may sound like esoterica only an expert can feel, but it’s palpable, and it’s wonderful.

Complementing TrueBlend is a carbon platform underfoot to help muffle shocks without losing the precision of the ski/snow connection. Called Active Carbon Armor, it’s essentially the carbon inlay under the topskin of the Blizzard Firebird race skis brought to the surface, where it can free up the core to bend more freely. With this combination of wood and carbon, Blizzard has finally found a way to make a carver that is both quiet on the edge and explosive off it. And boy, is it fun to drive.

Read the full review here

Head Supershape e-Rally


Head didn’t invent the shaped ski, but when the Carving Revolution was in its infancy it was the first major brand to commit to the concept with its Cyber series. Over the last quarter century its commitment hasn’t wavered, consistently offering several skis in its collection with curvaceous sidecuts. For the last decade, the focus of Head’s non-race carving models has been the Supershape series, a family that remains intact in 21/22, returning intact the incarnations introduced just last year.

In light of its long history of making category-crushing carvers, it’s saying something to assert that the latest batch of Supershapes is the best ever and that among them the e-Rally hits the sweetspot. As it approaches a new turn, the e-Rally is like the smarty pants in class who is practically jumping out of his seat because he knows the right answer. At the first hint of recognition that its pilot wants to change direction, it dips and tugs into the turn; all it needs is a little more encouragement in the form of a tilted edge and it’s cutting a short-radius arc you couldn’t bobble if you tried. As the skier’s energy shifts to the tail at arc’s end, the e-Rally provides an earthquake-proof platform for transitioning to the next exhilarating turn.

With its 54mm-drop between tip and waist width along with two thick, end-to-end, wall-to-wall sheets of Titanal, you’d surmise the e-Rally isn’t open to suggestion about turn shape. But you’d be wrong. Sure, if you take full advantage of its sidecut you can cut a world-class slalom turn, but back off the edge angle and you can extract whatever shape you want.

Read the full review here

Kästle MX83 


Kästle’s current MX83, reprised from last season, is both typical of a current trend and atypical in a way all its own. The trend it’s party to is how a series of modest modifications amount to a significant change, especially in Finesse qualities. It’s unique among such upgraded models in that the name it’s re-assuming happens to be the legendary MX83, inarguably one of the greatest Frontside models ever made.

Let’s first dissect the tech tweaks that distinguish the new MX83 from the MX84 it replaced, starting from the tip, which is 2mm narrower yet houses a fresh version of Kästle’s signature Hollowtech insert that nearly fills the entire shovel. A less noticeable but equally important alteration took place in the core, where heavy silver fir was swapped out for poplar, the reigning lightweight wood of choice among Big Mountain models. In a 175cm that will be a popular size, the MX83 comes in 58g’s lighter than the 176cm MX84.

Unlike many Frontside models, the MX83 has no shock-sucking binding interface to muffle snow feel. If purchased as a system, the Tyrolia binding it’s mated with connects toe and heel but remains relatively close to the ski. This gives the MX83 a sensitive feel for the snow surface that’s smothered by heavy plates and lifters. “This ski has great feel for the snow,” confirms Bobo’s Theron Lee.

Read the full review here

Nordica Dobermann Spitfire 80 RB  


When Nordica was finding its feet as a ski brand, it earned its first critical acclaim and commercial foothold with its collection of carving skis. In the current market, the runaway success of Nordica’s Enforcer series has pushed its Frontside Spitfire models into the shadows, an unfortunate byproduct of Nordica’s ascendance into the first rank of ski makers. No single ski can change American skiers’ infatuation with wide, off-trail models, but the Dobermann Spitfire 80 RB would gladly volunteer for the job. Powerful and playful in nearly equal measures, it’s such a confidence-inspiring platform that you’ll want to take it with you everywhere you go.

“Easy turning and forgiving,” notes Bobo’s Theron Lee. “Very user friendly, drifts well but holds an edge at higher edge angles. Feels like a western Frontside ski, able to handle soft snow as well as hard. Good energy feedback but not overly damp. Better at speed, low response at slower speeds. Suitable for intermediates up to and including Frontside speed addicts.”

The tip-to-tail camber line on the Spitfire 80 RB creates an instant connection at the top of the turn and releases energy at the bottom with a peppy pop. “A great dynamic performer,” assesses Start Haus’ Jim Schaffner. “I could have a blast all day on groomers with this one.”

Read the full review here

Völkl Deacon v.Werks  


Völkl has always cultivated a high-end clientele, both in terms of skill set and what they’re willing to pay for skis. The German brand has been so successful at cultivating an affluent, expert customer base that it has the enviable problem of being pigeonholed as a high-end ski for talented skiers. But even the expert-ski market has a price ceiling above which it’s risky to rise, which puts a damper on commercial adventurism.

But what if money were no object? To answer this envelope-pressing question Völkl created v.werks, a special production unit that focused on the Holy Grail of ski design, superlight construction wedded to elite performance. The star product of the v.werks lab was the Katana V.Werks, which remains in the line in 21/22. Its 3D.Ridge chassis worked so well it became the backbone of Völkl’s non-race collections. Within a few years of the Katana’s introduction, its DNA had spread to nearly every corner of Völkl’s recreational collection. From a construction standpoint, the Katana became the conceptual grandfather of almost the entire line.

Last season, I speculated that the freshly minted Deacon v.werks wouldn’t have the same downstream impact as the Katana v.werks, but I may have spoken too soon. One of the most esoteric features of the Deacon v.werks was a lattice-work of carbon fibers crisscrossing the tip, which inspired the Tailored Carbon Tips of the new M6 Mantra. Working in concert with Titanal Frame, Tailored Carbon Tips give the M6 Mantra the same clear connection to the front of the ski found in the Deacon v.werks.

Read the full review here

Head Supershape e-Titan


Of the four Supershape models, the one that underwent the most telling transformation last season was the e-Titan. In previous generations, the Titan and Rally were very close in every respect. Last year, the e-Titan put more distance between it and its thinner sibling.

It’s not just that the e-Titan plumped up to an 84mm waist; it also was trimmed down at tip and tail. By taking some of the shape out of the sidecut, the e-Titan became more adapted to irregular terrain and even powder, while the e-Rally remained a purebred carver. To put it more plainly, the e-Titan is more at home in a big-bellied GS arc while the e-Rally is genetically inclined to SL turns.

Comparing the 21/22 e-Titan to the Titans of yore, the latest issue feels smoother flexing and easier to compress at less than rocket speeds. This is due in part to how Head takes advantage of Graphene’s ridiculous strength-to-weight ratio to re-distribute heavier materials so they’re not all concentrated underfoot. Reducing the core profile underfoot and making the middle of the ski softer allows it bend more fully, unleashing the e-Titan’s flawless grip. The flex pattern is matched to the sidecut and baseline of each length to achieve a more fluid, balanced flex pattern that makes skiing feel as natural as walking.

Read the full review here

Völkl Deacon 80


There’s a trail of clues that would lead a ski behavioral therapist to believe that the Völkl Deacon 80 is the inferior in the relationship with its bigger brother, the Deacon 84. For starters, there’s its price, which works out to $100 less at retail. Price is usually an indicator of the cost of goods, and sure enough, the Deacon 80 uses glass for its 3-piece top laminate instead of the Titanal in the 84. And the Deacon 80 is, of course, narrower, which among carving skis can sometimes indicate that it’s geared slightly lower.

While these indicators are all true enough, the reality on snow is that the Deacon 80 is definitely in its brother’s league but it offers a different bundle of sensations. It’s more of a step laterally than down the product quality ladder. It uses the same structure as the 84’s Titanal Frame, with glass and a slice of spring steel in lieu of Titanal. The 80 copies the 3D.Ridge and 3D.Glass construction of the 84, it has exactly the same size splits (ranging from 162cm to 182cm) and while it’s slimmer, it’s thinner by the same 4mm everywhere, so its sidecut radii are also identical to the 84’s.

Alert readers will note the reference to “radii” in the last sentence, for the Deacon 80 also mimics the 3D Radius Sidecut of its big bro. The multi-radius shape is what gives the Deacon 80 the ability to make short turns or long on a whim; when the skier applies the additional edge angle needed to execute a tidy turn, it automatically activates the tighter-radius mid-section. Flatten out the ski and it reverts to a comfortable, long-radius cruiser.

Read the full review here

Fischer RC One 82 GT 


Frontside skis and World Cup, FIS-blessed race skis both allege they’re on their best behavior on hard snow. That much is true, but don’t think for a minute that they handle prepared slopes the same way. The fact is, the gulf between race skis and recreational skis made for the same (or at least, similar) surface has never been deeper or wider. Race skis don’t just require skills that 95% of the ski population don’t possess; they require physical conditioning and mental discipline absent in closer to 99% of the general population.

The Fischer RC One 82 GT is built to bridge this gap. If you want to feel like the demi-god of carving, your search is over. There’s no need to get in an exaggerated posture or press into the tips for all you’re worth; the RC One 82 GT is easily directed from a comfortable, centered stance. They behave like World Cup training wheels: you can mimic the moves of the masters without having to have their level of athleticism and skill.

Its edge grip is to die for. On a steep pitch where other Frontside specialists would flinch, the RC One 82 GT held with far less exertion. This is precisely the mission of the Frontside ski: to magnify the skier’s energy rather than drain it. The extra weight this ski hauls around helps a ton when it comes to sticking to a pencil-thin line on hardpack. Its sidecut and construction deliver an ultra-secure, short-radius turn; its shock-sucking mass and materials keep it quiet when you let it run.

Read the full review here

Nordica Dobermann Spitfire 76 RB  


If you don’t know how to engage a ski at the top of the turn, and don’t care to know, you might as well stop reading about the Nordica Dobermann Spitfire 76 RB right now. It has the cleanest, highest, earliest connection to the next turn in a category in which this particular trait is prized. But if you’re still lingering on the downhill edge when you should already be tilting in the other direction, you’ll miss the moment. Don’t worry if you do, for the Spitfire 76 will find the edge as soon as you give it a chance. But part of what makes this review an unblushing rave will pass you by.

If you’re hooked on the G’s generated in a short turn, you’ll feel right at home on this cobra-quick stick. It has the reflexes of a fencer, moving unerringly into the center of the arc where it ignites and, as it says in its name, fires the skier across the fall line. The Dobermann Spitfire 76 RB has all the qualities a strong skier expects in a race ski, just de-tuned a red hair so it’s more fun for freeskiing. Jim Schaffner from Start Haus, a big man with an engrained race technique for which the term “powerful” seems inadequate, wrote of the Spitfire 76, “I felt like I could do anything on this ski. It’s fun, lively, snappy, with a dash of the Dobermann race heritage feel.”

The better you are as a skier, the more you’ll appreciate the Spitfire 76. It’s both reason and reward for why you bothered to get good in the first place. The more speed you run through its fully loaded, race-caliber construction, the more accurate and active it becomes. Nordica’s history as a ski maker isn’t long, but during its young life it has already acquired a reputation for quality carving tools. The Spitfire 76 RB is unequivocally better than all its ancestry.

Read the full review here

Salomon S/Force Bold 


Salomon has been riding the Lighter is Better bandwagon for several product cycles, laboring to refine a combination of fibers that will deliver the quiet ride of two sheets of Titanal without the weight. It’s a noble quest, and Salomon’s 20/21 QST series made giant strides in that direction, but at the end of the day, every material in a ski has certain inimitable behaviors that include a signature vibration all its own.

Which is a long way of saying that nothing else vibrates at the same frequency as Titanal, which is why it is de rigeur in every race ski extant. With the S/Force Bold, Salomon set its lightweight agenda aside and unleashed a high-tech arsenal of shock-sucking devices that includes top and bottom Titanal laminates.

Once Salomon opted for stability over agility, it went all in, inserting an interface between ski and (integrated) binding called Edge Amplifier that channels energy directly to the edge. Its Crossover tip is embellished with TPU bumpers on either side of a layer of carbon/flax (C/FX) fibers that work with the Ti and TPU to keep its slightly rockered tip from wavering off course.

Read the full review here

K2 Disruption 78 Ti 


As befits the brand that made “rocker” an enduring entry in the ski design lexicon, K2 hasn’t paid much attention to the ski market below an 80mm waist width – where cambered baselines still dwell – since the brand lost interest in racing around the turn of the millennium. In 20/21, K2 error corrected with a vengeance by launching the 10-model Disruption series of carving skis.

As is often the case in the world ski market, K2’s new carving collection straddles the Technical/Frontside divide, with the vector models landing on the skinny side (in K2’s case, 71m-74mm waists), and the more versatile, less demanding (and often less expensive) models populating the slightly wider Frontside domain. In the Disruption series, the 78 Ti isn’t a watered-down carver, just a wider one, as it borrows the same construction and almost fully cambered baseline of the flagship Disruption MTi.

Both the power and forgiveness inherent in the Disruption 78 Ti derive from the same source, a single band of Titanal the runs nearly the entire length of the ski in a uniform width that matches the waist dimension. This creates an edge that holds firmly yet softly, as if its aluminum alloy guts were wrapped in velvet. On soft groomers, it feels like the edge is cushioned yet never loses contact, thanks in large part to a baseline that has zero tail elevation and only a smidgeon of early rise at the tip.

Read the full review here

Dynastar Speed 4×4 963


The American skier’s ongoing infatuation with fat skis has so distorted our collective notion of what an all-terrain ski should look like that we no longer remember the days when the best skiers’ everyday ride was a race ski or something similar. As recently as the late 1990’s, a ski as wide as Dynastar’s Speed 4×4 963 would have been regarded as a powder-only behemoth.

 Dynastar remembers that epoch because it helped re-define the all-terrain ski when it launched the original 4×4 in 1998. With a less exaggerated sidecut than the shaped skis of the era along with a wider waist, the first 4×4 was immediately recognized as a breakthrough ski in an all-mountain category that had previously been stocked with race ski spin-offs. I remember taking my first runs on them at a Solitude trade fair where I took them out first thing and never brought them back. My belated apologies.

The 4×4 is attached to the Speed family, but it’s actually a separate breed. In keeping with the overall trend to lighter skis, the 4×4 963 uses a multi-material core with laminated beech providing the primary structure and a band of polyurethane (PU) between the wood and the outer sidewall. The PU adds a dampening element as well as being lighter than the wood it replaces.

Read the full review here

Blizzard Firebird HRC


The Blizzard Firebird HRC isn’t really a race ski – its dimensions run afoul of FIS regulations – but don’t tell it that. Despite its 76mm waist, the HRC thinks it belongs right between the Firebird WRC and Firebird SRC, Blizzard’s non-FIS GS and SL models, respectively. It may not be exactly what a meld of the WRC and SRC would look like, but it mimics their race-room construction and does its best to match their capabilities.

Please don’t get defensive, but if you don’t care for the HRC’s comportment, you may not be good enough for it. It uses bi-directional carbon weave both horizontally underfoot, for power at the top of the turn, and in vertical struts that keep it plastered to the snow through turn exit. The combination makes a ski that Corty Lawrence describes as feeling like a “quintessential GS. It needs to be stood on, no complacency allowed, don’t get lazy.

“When you stand on the edge at operating speed,” Corty continues, “the HRC is exceedingly rewarding. Super confident underfoot, it enters turns with enthusiasm (better be on the front of your boots!) and comes off the turn with ample energy (better be where you¹re supposed to be here, too!) Turn shape can be modulated with authoritative subtlety, which isn’t the contradiction it sounds like. Shorter turns can be accomplished at speed, but at pedestrian velocities it must be muscled,” Corty concludes.

Read the full review here

Rossignol Hero Elite Plus Ti  

You can tell a lot about a ski by its immediate family. Rossi’s Hero Elite Plus Ti is closely related to the Hero Elite LT Ti and ST Ti, both legit non-FIS Race models, even though the Plus Ti’s plus-sized shape (78mm) is many mm’s more ample than the 71mm waist of the LT Ti and 68mm midriff on the SL Ti. The Hero Elite Plus Ti not only uses the same construction as its gate-bashing sibs, its sidecut radius is the same as the ST’s in the167cm size preferred by slalom specialists.

Two years ago, Rossi converted all of the Hero Elite clan to a new damping system, Line Control Technology. (LCT). Instead of using horizontal sheets of Titanal, as has been the case for decades among race models, LCT uses a vertical Ti laminate down the center of the ski so the forebody is more resistant to deflection. Torsional rigidity is softened a tad to allow the deep sidecut to engage gradually and progressively as the ski is tipped and pressured. “Stable and forgiving into the turn,” assures Scott Sahr from Aspen Ski and Board, “without compromising edge contact.”

Read the full review here

Liberty evolv 84

If you assembled a personality profile of the Liberty evolv 84 based on appearances, you could be excused for thinking it’s some variety of all-mountain ski. Which I’m sure it’s intended to be, but it behaves more like a GS ski with a fall-line fixation. Its sunny cosmetics suggest a free spirit that will float over anything fluffy; in reality, the evolv 84 is one of the most connected carvers in the Frontside genre.

The reason the evolv 84 is so well planted on planet Earth is its triple-ribbed core. A little background: Liberty grew up as a brand building bamboo and carbon skis that would bring both lightweight and stability to wide-body skis. Then designer and co-owner Dan Chalfant conceived of Vertical Metal Technology (VMT), aluminum ribs placed vertically in the core so they would resist deflection more than the putty-soft horizontal Titanal sheets that are the norm.

Which is why the 21/22 evolv models have a distinct, carving-ski feel. As embodied in the new evolv 84, VMT creates a ski with a fall-line disposition. Short turns tend to be shallow, keeping close to the shortest path downhill. If you want it to head cross-hill, get forward and drive the evolv 84 as you would a race ski. Its tail provides a platform you can trust, so while its turn finish isn’t explosive, it’s totally trustworthy.



Read the full review here

Finesse Favorites: Easy Riders

We’ve now covered 19 current Frontside models, and we’ve yet to review a single ski with a higher Finesse score than Power score. That tells you how biased the category is towards trench-digging carvers. But as noted in our introductory overview of the 21/22 market, the Frontside genre has been infiltrated by more models with double-rockered baselines and softer flexes, which is where we find our five Finesse Favorites. Note that all our Recommended models are Silver Skier Selections.

The top echelon of men’s Frontside skis isn’t made for Finesse skiers, period, end of story. Finesse skiers are instead served by the cascade of step-down models that populate the bulk of the Frontside category. Generally speaking, these lower priced models don’t stand a chance competing against the elite of the genre so you won’t usually find them among our Recommended medallion recipients.

But there are exceptions to every rule. Rossi has a brace of new models that are tailored specifically for the recreational skier who isn’t trying to crush it. Salomon’s Stance 84 is a step-down model that punches well above its $499 street price. The new and improved Blizzard Brahma 82 has exceptional snow connection despite having a baseline made for off-trail adventure. And the K2 Disruption 82 Ti brings K2’s legendary ease of operation to a category overloaded with Power options. If you’re looking for a lightweight, pliable carver, these five are your best options.

Rossignol Experience 82 Ti


Rossignol believes it has identified a new skier type, and I’m afraid Rossi may be right.

The new skier is unequivocally a visitor, but one cut from different cloth from those minted in the misty past. He (and she) approach the entire resort, not just the ski area, treating it like a theme park. Don’t just ski – what a quaint notion! – but drink deep from the well of resort life. Ride a dog sled. Feed an elk. Go fishing. Take a balloon ride. Get out there and experience all of it, and don’t forget to log it all on your resort app and Instagram, or you won’t really believe it ever happened.

Sorry, I can’t suppress my tone of amazement. You see, ski resorts have been pitching this multi-verse vacation for at least three decades, and for most of that time the message hasn’t resonated with the longtime skiers and boarders who were their mainstream visitors.

I suppose this evolution in ski resort visitor behavior isn’t high on the list of recent culture shifts, but it’s starting to show up in how skis are made and marketed. If you only have two weeks of vacation a year and consecrate five precious days to a ski trip (seven, including travel), this sort of postcard visit that mixes in as many different photo ops as possible begins to make some sort of sense.

Read the full review here

Salomon Stance 84 


The Stance 84’s most stunning achievement isn’t its podium finish among our Finesse Favorites, or even its elite, on-trail performance; the headline story about Salomon’s new Stance 84 is its off-the-charts value. The Stance 84 is slotted to sell at $499; there’s a slew of models slated to retail at $699 or more that can’t hold a candle to it.

There’s always a reason why a modestly priced model punches above its weight. In the case of the Stance 84, it’s because Salomon trimmed its most expensive elements without eliminating them altogether. The Stance 84 retains a single topsheet of Titanal, with the distinctive Stance cut-out in its forebody filled with carbon instead of Salomon’s signature super-fiber, C/FX. It turns out to be more than enough to keep the Stance 84 calm on edge when it’s rocking the groomed terrain it prefers.

Unlike most hard-snow oriented carvers, the Stance 84 doesn’t have a built-in bias for a complete, cross-hill turn finish. Instead, its comparatively narrow tail relaxes its grip right after the turn transition, maintaining the momentum that makes cruising groomers effortless. The forebody remains supple and easy to curl into a series of short turns that cross-cross the fall line.

Read the full review here

Blizzard Brahma 82 


Last season we opined in this space that this descendant of an off-trail brood looks out of place among carvers with an on-trail pedigree. Skis with a patently off-piste baseline have no business infiltrating the ranks of Frontside models, by definition the domain of deep sidecuts and highly arched camber lines. How does a ski whose Flipcore baseline is practically already bowing manage to mingle with the second cousins of true race skis? It still seems like the Brahma 82 is trying to crash a party hosted by club to which it doesn’t belong.

You see, Frontside skis are supposed to share a mutual obsession with maintaining a continuous carve, while the double-rockered Brahma 82 seems ill suited to the task. Where is the performance-enhancing binding interface, the elevated standheight, the wasp-waisted sidecut, the squared-off tail? It’s unadorned by rods or plates. How can it hold its own against a genre full of pumped-up trench diggers?

But just as in a Hallmark Network story, the scrawny little kid with hardly any shape and no racing pedigree turns out to charm everyone he meets. He goes along to get along, never objecting to changes in turn trajectory and readily responding to suggestion. Like the ideal manservant, the Brahma 82 does its duty without calling attention to itself, yet is always ready to serve. It has a sensitive side, too, for it has a feel for the snow some of the more macho Frontside skis don’t display.

Read the full review here

Rossignol Experience 82 Basalt 


Because the Frontside category comprises the most complete price/ability range in the ski market, its membership includes models meant for both end of the skills spectrum. In other words, some models are made to assist the uninitiated along the path to conscious competence, while others serve those who’ve already achieved total carving awareness.

The new Rossignol Experience 82 Basalt is the rare bird that can serve both initiates taking the next step along their journey and those who’ve already arrived at their destination. Skiers who have endured the indignities of rentals and/or tattered hand-me-downs will find salvation in the EXP 82 Basalt. In the lower speed range inhabited by the less talented, it’s mindlessly simple to steer. It’s a classic confidence-builder for someone climbing the ability ladder.

Rossi envisions another natural mate for the EXP 82 Basalt: the competent, occasional skier for whom skiing is just part of the resort experience. All he asks of his gear is that he not have to hassle with it or worry about it. The EXP 82 Basalt is comfortable in any condition its owner is likely to care for, and supremely forgiving on the soft groomers that are his bliss.

Read the full review here

K2 Disruption 82 Ti 


K2 has always placed Forgiveness at or near the top of its hierarchy of desirable ski qualities. True to this heritage, the Disruption 82 Ti earned its highest marks for Forgiveness/Ease, which helped make it one of the few Finesse skis in a horde of Power-crazed carvers.

The most obvious reason why the Disruption 82 Ti comes across as easier to ski is its width; at 82mm underfoot, and with a less radical sidecut than most Frontside Power skis, it’s easier to throw into a drift and it won’t buck when introduced to ungroomed terrain.

The less transparent reason pertains to how it’s built: the Ti I-Beam that gives the Disruption 82 Ti its bite is only as wide as its midsection. This gives the edge elsewhere a subtle flexibility that’s ideal for anything but boilerplate or frozen ridges of spring corduroy. In softer snow, the less critical edge won’t try to dig its way to China the way a super-charged Power ski may. On mid-winter, early AM groomers, it’s delicious.

Read the full review here