2022 Women’s Frontside Skis

2022 Women’s Frontside Skis

Only a few years ago, the women’s Frontside genre looked something like the men’s. Now about all the two different collections have in common is a multiplicity of price points that cover the needs of entry-level skiers and those stepping up to something a bit better. Where the two categories diverge is the high end of the market, where the men ride metal-laden carvers with thick plates, integrated bindings and deeply scalloped sidecuts. Today a woman’s Frontside ski is likely to have a design originally intended for off-trail conditions, with no plate and no system binding. A woman looking for a genuine carving ski will find them tucked away in the Women’s Technical category, arguably the most invisible genre on the American market.

The epicenter of the women’s market has shifted to the All-Mountain East category, with its promise of all-terrain versatility. The women’s Frontside genre has become the home of the step-up ski, a model that will help you improve so you can finally make the move to off-trail skiing. It’s presumed that the already accomplished woman will gravitate to something wider or else use a unisex ski if she really wants a high-performance carver.

The 2022 Women’s Frontside Skis Field

On the men’s side of the gender divide, the Frontside category is a nearly homogenous field of powerful carving machines. About the only characteristics of the Women’s Frontside field that unite them are they all have waists widths between 75mm and 84mm, and almost all are part of a larger family of package skis (with a binding) that cover every price point from the basement to the penthouse.

To give you an idea just how diversified the women’s field has become, five new models descend from an off-trail family: Nordica’s Santa Ana 84, Salomon Stance W 84, Rossi’s EXP 82 Ti W, Liberty’s evolv 84 W and Blizzard’s Black Pearl 82. The only unabashed carver in the class of 2022 is the Blizzard Phoenix R13 Ti. True to the history of this genre – if not in step with present cast – the R13 Ti’s closest relative isn’t a fatter model, but the narrower, more powerful Technical flagship of the new Phoenix series, the R14 Pro.

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The all-new, made from scratch, for-women-only Wild Belle DC 84 has been customized for women from its inception. A system ski aimed directly at the female Frontside skier, the Wild Belle DC 84 is that rare model born and bred specifically for this genre. It’s unique, bi-level, dual-plate interface is intended to level a woman’s natural stance with her hips properly aligned for more effective, efficient skiing. Its unique Double Core allows the Wild Belle DC 84 to be soft flexing, smooth riding and responsive.

Blizzard’s two new entries, the updated Black Pearl 82 and all-new Phoenix R13 Ti, come at the Frontside category from opposite directions. The BP 82 is the narrowest of an off-trail clan, while the Phoenix has its roots in the high-octane Technical genre that’s sadly all but invisible in the U.S. The two distantly related models solve the puzzle of how to make Frontside skiing fun in completely different ways.

Rossignol’s EXP 82 Ti W is part of a totally reconceived Experience collection that draws a distinction between All-Mountain and All-Resort; the former includes more varieties of hairball terrain, while the latter comprises a broader scope of experiences than just skiing. The EXP 82 Ti W wraps a high-performance package in a velvet wrapper.

The Stance 84 W from Salomon aims for a low price ($499) all-mountain ski and misses high. For an off-trail series, the Stance models have always displayed a high aptitude for carving, so it’s right at home in this Frontside incarnation. It’s the best value in the Women’s Frontside category.

Last but not least in terms of its performance ceiling, Liberty’s evolv 84w has added another rib to its Vertical Metal Technology, giving it even more determination to resist all efforts to knock it off course. If you’ll pardon the horrid pun, VMT has already proven its mettle as a shock-stifling design; giving the evolv 84w another alu rib makes it an even more effective carving tool.

To learn about the women who penned these reports, please visit our Women’s Test Roster.

Realskiers 2021/22 Women’s Market Coverage

For the second season in a row, God and Nature have conspired to undermine my efforts at collecting women’s ski data. I realize that sounds slightly grandiose, as there were apparently other casualties of the Covid-19 pandemic, but I was thwarted at every turn. I won’t drag you through every twist in the descending death spiral of my testing ambitions, as a brief summary of my final effort will suffice to capture the spirit of the enterprise.

Mount Rose, where I mounted a valiant two-week effort to garner both men’s and women’s data alike, had been closed for a week when I met with Megan Ochs and Lara Allen Hughes in the parking lot of Alpine Meadows, which was itself due to shutter operations that day. The wind was strong enough to bend a 40-foot pine in half, making every evergreen in sight point violently downhill. The temperature was just awful enough to have frozen any groomed terrain, so every flat snow surface had the atomic weight of tungsten. The off-piste would be heinous beyond understanding, not to mention light flatter than a crepe pan.

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These enormously talented ladies were still willing to give it the old college try if I was game. I was not. I’m not any better at accepting the undesirable obvious than the next guy, but I couldn’t see any point in heroic efforts. Whatever numbers issued from the exercise would be both suspect and insufficiently numerous to matter.

What I ended up with was very few completed test cards on a very large number of women’s skis. Statistically as useless as Confederate currency, the long list at least helped define the boundaries of the women’s field and yielded enough comments to provide a taste of a given ski’s capabilities.

But results as uneven as a self-administered Covid-19 haircut don’t merit comparison or publication, so you won’t find them anywhere here.  While this is certainly not the outcome I set out to achieve, anecdotal, on-snow test reports aren’t the only available source of product information.  I’m on familiar terms with many of the key players in the small world of product designers and developers. I know every product’s current story and recent history. At a minimum, I’ve skied the closest unisex version of virtually every women’s ski.

But, however lamentably, I’m not a woman, nor do I identify as one. I do not presume to speak for womankind. But I do understand ski equipment, and how it has been modified for women since made-for-women models first appeared.

In short, I may not pass muster as a female, but I could very well be the next best thing.

When I orchestrated all equipment testing for Snow Country Magazine, I put an equal number of men and women on the hill every day, in every genre, even though women’s skis were a relatively unimportant corner of the market. When I wrote Salomon’s Certification Manual, I allowed for a woman’s bindings to be mounted forward without losing certification, giving Jeanie Thoren a boost when she needed it, in the early 1980’s.

Point being, I haven’t exactly been on the sidelines in the fight for women’s rights in equipment selection. I’m an advocate for any movement that brings more women to the mountains.

It is in this spirit that I offer the thumbnail comments that accompany each women’s ski referenced here. I’ll cite any (female) tester comments I can cull from my database, but otherwise the characterizations of each model mentioned are of my own creation.

You’ll find a list of the key women’s models in each of the four major ski categories – Frontside, All-Mountain East, All-Mountain West and Big Mountain – in the Realskiers Gear Guide. Women’s models are also sorted by brand in the Brand Profiles section of our members’ site. Both listings include links to U.S. specialty dealers who carry the model being reviewed.

2022 Women’s Frontside  

Fischer RC One 82 GT WS 


Fischer maintains that your skis don’t know your gender, and our ladies’ limited experience with the RC One 82 GT WS (for Women’s Series) tends to support this contention. Both Clare Martin from Peter Glenn and Lara Hughes-Allen from the Mt. Rose Ski School raved about it, despite having very different ski bios. For Clare, who works retail in the southeast, the RC One 82 GT was a huge step up from her norm, liberating her to make turns for the first time that the Level-3 Lara could make in her sleep. Their verbatim reports indicate just how large a slice of the women’s ski population the RC One 82 GT might serve. (Note the humongous size range).

Lara Hughes-Allen wrote, “This ski skied like a very tuned-down GS ski. It held the turn well, even on very firm conditions. This ski felt versatile in a variety of turn shapes and sizes as well as snow conditions. Its stiffness and edging mean that it will run away with you a bit if you’re not balanced and dynamic over the ski.”

Read the full review here

Dynastar E 4×4 7 


Don’t let the new model name throw you, the E 4×4 7 is to all intents and purposes last year’s Intense 4×4 82 Pro, the top of a four-model series of recreational Frontside models. All are system skis, meaning they come with a made-to-match binding included in the price.

The E 4×4 7 works as an all-terrain ski with a Frontside bias. This is how Dynastar tester Jennifer Simpson outlined its performance envelope last season:

“These skis are great for days when you are likely to encounter a variety of snow conditions. This ski is fun, fun, fun on the groomers, and while they’re wider than my go-to carving skis, they’re quick edge-to-edge and will leave satisfying deep grooves in the corduroy.

Read the full review here

Blizzard Black Pearl 82


The Black Pearl 82 underwent the TrueBlend make-over this season, a fairly complex process given that the model’s sidecut remained a constant. What changed was how high-density beech and low-weight poplar are scattered across the core to create a perfectly balanced flex for every size. Once committed to this level of customization, Blizzard went ahead and synchronized the baseline, sidecut and flex for every length, which in the case of the Black Pearl 82 is a lot (145cm – 173cm).

A key component in the Woman Specific Design of the BP 82 is a dash of Titanal underfoot which helps this off-trail design hold its own on hardpack. Combined with the new flex pattern, the Titanal’s effect on edge grip extends beyond its actual dimensions. While this still doesn’t convert the Pearl 82 into a full-on carver – where is the elevated platform or the tight-waisted shape? – it won’t wimp-out on groomers.

Read the full review here

Nordica Santa Ana 84


Once a brand has star product, the tendency is to extend this concept in every direction as far as it will go. This is how we end up with a model like the Santa Ana 84, an all-terrain design shrunk down to the dimensions of a Frontside ski. Bear in mind that its five Santa Ana sisters are all broader in the beam than the svelte 84, which suggests that the youngest member of the family may be the runt of litter, with less of whatever made the design popular in the first place.

Ah, but Nordica was prescient enough to realize that a narrow ski will probably spend more of its life on groomers, so it came up with Terrain Specific Metal, a formula that adds more metal as the model’s surface area shrinks. Thus the Santa Ana 84 runs its top metal laminate to within 14mm of the edge, so it will grip the snow surface more tenaciously than its plumper sisters.

Read the full review here

Rossignol Experience 82 Ti W


Rossignol has completely overhauled its keystone Experience series, re-defining its target customers as recreational skiers who want to take in the entire resort experience, of which skiing is but a part. They’ll spend most of the day on groomed slopes, but want a ski that will allow them to travel off to the side of the trail should conditions be favorable. They expect quality and performance, but they’re not looking to stretch the performance envelope as much as stay comfortably inside it. It’s unisex counterpart, the Experience 82 Ti, is the highest rated Finesse ski in the Frontside genre, a strong indication the women’s version will exude the same properties.

The Experience (EXP, for short) 82 Ti W is all about ease. While its sidecut favors short turns (13m @ 160cm), they’re not of the high-twitch, trench-digger variety, but more languid, rolling smoothly on an off the edge under a light rein. While they respond to proper technique, they aren’t so high strung as to require it. If the skier can press into the forebody, she’ll find the front end will hook up and stay well connected. Less skilled skiers who adopt a more centered stance should be able to foot-swivel the shorter lengths without resistance.

Read the full review here

Salomon Stance W 84


Every so often a ski maker screws up and makes a ski that’s considerably better than it needs to be. Salomon removed half the Titanal from its pricier (and wider) Stances to extend the Stance family down to the $499 price point, intending to drop the performance level to fit the target skier’s performance expectations.

Instead, it exceeded them. The Ti-C Frame Single Ti construction delivers a connected, carved turn that won’t wilt on crisp, early morning corduroy even when driven with an open throttle. It’s unlikely that many experts will slum it in the bargain basement where the Stance W 84 dwells, but they’d be gob-smacked it they did. For the intermediate who is its most likely operator, the Stance W 84 provides a performance ceiling that will most likely never be taxed.

Read the full review here

Blizzard Phoenix R13 Ti


[Note: Blizzard decided not to bring in the Phoenix R13 Ti this year. This review is being provided as a public service, but is not, in fact, actionable in the U.S.]

Blizzard applied its well-honed knack for morphing a unisex template into a genuine women’s model to its new Thunderbird/Phoenix series of mostly Frontside rides. The flagship Phoenix R13 Ti cuts a women’s specific (W.S.D.) TrueBlend core into a unique sidecut that shifts the entire shape forward 1cm, then moves the mount point to match it.

The Phoenix R13 Ti isn’t a watered-down design, but a brilliant, high-energy carver meant for women who know how to arc it and spark it. The international team of women who fined tuned its design are technical masters who log hundreds of test runs in pursuit of a better ski. When one of our female testers essayed the men’s Thunderbird R15 WB, she gave it perfect scores for technical merit; since the Phoenix R13 Ti is made along the same lines, it’s highly probable the women’s skis can rip just as well.

Read the full review here

Nordica Wild Belle DC 84  


When ski makers start from scratch to make a women’s ski, the usual target isn’t the most talented lass, but those less likely to succeed without a little help. All the features that make the Wild Belle DC 84 adapted for women are attuned in particular to ladies who are still ascending the learning curve. It’s cushioned Double Core, two-tiered binding platform and soft, round flex all work to promote better balance and reduced effort on the part of someone still learning the ropes.

The “DC” in the Wild Belle DC 84 stands for Double Core, its tip-to-tail damping technology that inserts a rubber mat between the upper and lower poplar and beech cores. The core makes a ski that’s supple and damp, with a sidecut that promotes early turn entry and a gentle release. Its whole shtick is making a smooth, carved turn on groomed slopes while the pilot operates from a comfortable stance.

Read the full review here

Liberty evolv84w

When the fabulous Kim Beekman opined in her review of last season’s evolv 84 W that it “definitely prefers to mach the groomed at eye-watering speeds,” she had her finger on what makes the evolv 84w special. Even though it belongs to an all-mountain family of which it is the narrowest member, it behaves as if it has a carving obsession. Over the off-season, Liberty encouraged this behavior by adding a third aluminum strut to its Vertical Metal Technology core.

Which is why the 21/22 evolv 84w has a distinct, carving-ski feel 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 84w as you would a race ski. As the sublimely powerful Megan Ochs somewhat cryptically encapsulated its personality, “this ski skied like a stiffer ski than what it actually is. Well done,” said the demanding Ms. Ochs, who, BTW, is strong enough to bend an I-beam.

Read the full review here