2023 Men’s Frontside Skis

2023 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 2023 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. Last season, Rossi even created a sub-genre to embrace the concept, the “all-resort” ski, embodied in its 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.

Stöckli Montero AR

Stöckli already made the best ski in the Frontside genre, the 2022 Laser AR, but the Swiss have a habit of upgrading their models whether they need it or not, so in 2023 they gave the AR a slightly wider waist, a skinnier tip, a wider tail and a new damping system, all in the service of making a perfect on-trail ski a bit better at pummeling ungroomed snow into submission. We can’t think of another model in any genre that is better able to handle a full-speed transition from a granite-hard groomer to unkempt crud without flinching.

Read the full review here


Völkl Deacon v.Werks

Three years ago, 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 M6 Mantra and new Kendo 88.  Working in concert with Tailored Titanal Frame, Tailored Carbon Tips give the latest Mantra and Kendo the same clear connection to the front of the ski found in the Deacon v.Werks.

All carving skis are judged by how well they maintain edge connection throughout the turn on hard snow. Classically, the key to keeping a ski quiet all along its edge was to ladle on the Titanal, a proven method that achieves its damping objective in part by its mass.  As an innovator in lightweight design, v.Werks instead turned to its wheelhouse material, carbon, to make a damp, non-metal ski that would be light and responsive.

Read the full review here

Völkl Deacon 84


Four years ago, Völkl resurrected its beloved Mantra by concocting a new technology called Titanal Frame; three 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.

Read the full review here

Stöckli Montero AX

Every year, Stöckli publishes what is easily the most lavish product brochure in the ski world.  As is the case with its skis, no expense is spared.  It’s a bound volume, more like a coffee-table book than a brochure, on heavy, glossy paper you’d normally find in a book of swanky art reproductions. Product features are broken down and explained in minute detail. It’s an exquisite presentation.

But their thumbnail product descriptions are as hilarious as the catalog is beautiful. Bear in mind as you read Stockli’s positioning piffle that the Swiss have a full line of models, covering all sorts of specialized uses, and even have graphs that make it clear that the Montero AX isn’t, in fact, made for everything.  But you’d never know it from its catalog description.

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 Thunderbird R15 WB, introduced just last year, doesn’t try to mask its racing pedigree with a carbon overdose; the communication with the angled edge is crisp and clear.

Read the full review here

Head Supershape e-Titan

Of the four Supershape models, the one that underwent the most telling transformation two years ago was the e-Titan. In previous generations, the Titan and Rally were very close in every respect. In the current Supershape family, the e-Titan has 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 22/23 e-Titan to the Titans of yore, the latest issue feels smoother flexing and easier to compress at less than rocket speeds.

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 22/23, returning unchanged from the incarnations introduced just two years ago.

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.

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.

Read the full review here

Kästle MX83

Kästle’s current MX83, now in its third 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.

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 would be smothered by heavy plates and lifters. “This ski has great feel for the snow,” confirms Bobo’s Theron Lee.

The reason the revival of the MX83 ought to interest experts everywhere is because it responds so intuitively to technical commands.

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.

“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 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.

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.

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.

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.


Read the full review here

K2 Disruption 78 Ti

As is often the case in the world ski market, K2’s 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

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.

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.

Read the full review here

Finesse Favorites: Easy Riders

We’ve now covered 15 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 22/23 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 models introduced just last year 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 Blizzard Brahma 82 has a slightly thinner core profile this year to make it even more compliant. 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.

Salomon Stance 84

The Stance 84’s most stunning achievement isn’t its top-of-the-podium finish among our Finesse Favorites, or even its elite, on-trail performance; the headline story about Salomon’s 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.

Read the full review here

Rossignol Experience 82 Ti

 Rossignol has re-dedicated its core, Experience series to fit the lifestyle of the modern resort visitor for whom skiing is just a part of his Instagram vacation. The top model in the EXP series is no longer aimed at an all-mountain expert, but someone who wants to savor a bouquet of experiences of which skiing is only one scent.

The Experience 82 Ti will make the new, all-resort skier feel like a world-beater. It eases into the turn along a gently rockered forebody, finding the edge underfoot and holding securely on any groomed condition shy of glassy boilerplate. It releases the turn like it was a wounded dove, letting go without fanfare. Its baseline is easy to foot steer, so even the technique-free can navigate intermediate slopes in control. An expert would notice that the platform underfoot has some give at both ends, but for an intermediate this looseness is more blessing than curse.

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?

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 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.

With a sidecut made for carving but a baseline inclined to drift, the EXP 82 Basalt tries to accentuate the positive and disarm the negatives.

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.

Read the full review here