2024 Men’s Frontside Skis

2024 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 continuing drought in consumer – and consequently, retailer – interest has put such a crimp in our on-snow evaluations of the genre that we no longer cover it. 

The best Frontside skis 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 2024 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. Two seasons ago, 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 TrueBlend core of the returning Brahma 82 was softened last season by the simple expedient of thinning it a bit, an upgrade that expanded 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.

For the 23/24 season, Dynastar replaced its fabled 4X4 series with the 3-model M-Cross collection (E-Cross for women), in which the middle model, the M-Cross 82, falls into the Frontside genre. Up against powerhouse carving tools, the metal-free M-Cross 82 was outgunned, and so does not appear among our Recommended ranks. Two new models that hewed closer to the traditional Frontside formula for a carving ski did ascend into our Recommended elite: the Rossignol Forza 70o V-Ti and the Stöckli Montero AS.  The Rossi delivers an endless spool of effortless carved turns at every edge angle, while the latest Montero is obsessed with short turns that wouldn’t be derailed by an earthquake.  Also new to the Frontside clique is the Nordica Steadfast 80, which brings top-notch carving capability within reach of the masses with an MSRP of $699.00 with a binding.

While we’re on the subject of cost/value relationships, the Salomon Stance 84 continues to impress for its high performance ceiling at a price – $500 flat, $650 with a binding – that makes it the best value in the Alpine ski market.

Blizzard made some modifications to the built-in binding interface on its Non-FIS Race models and the already well-received R15 WB LTD. In our limited experience, both the new Firebird HRC and the R15 WB were a skosh smoother, accelerating out of a big-bellied turn without losing connection to the snow.  The essential character of both models remained intact, so we don’t label them as new this year.  This isn’t to imply that interfaces can’t be transformative, only that these two established star products were already so good, the uptick in performance didn’t substantially alter what were pretty damn fine skis to begin with.

One of the casualties of dealer indifference to carving skis as a group, is that some exquisite skis go largely unnoticed. Perhaps no brand has invested as much in carve-centric models with genuine racing pedigrees without receiving commensurate U.S. market support as Atomic. I’ve never skied a Redster spin-off model that didn’t perform at a best-in-class level, yet you won’t find the Redster Q9.8 among our Recommended models due to an extreme paucity of data. What a shame.

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

Four 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 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.

Several factors work together to make the Deacon V.Werks easy to steer into a tight-radius turn without a lot of encouragement from the pilot. The cambered center section of its 3D Radius Sidecut is slalom-turn tight (14m@172cm); all the skier has to do to activate it is tilt the edge to a high angle, a normal move for anyone who knows how to carve. To make it easier to depress into a deep carve, the abbreviated camber line underfoot is fairly shallow and soft. The tip and tail rockers are long and gradual so the long-radius zones at front and rear don’t interfere with the ski’s quickness edge to edge.

The absence of metal and low elevation of the Marker system give the Deacon V.Werks a clarity of snow feel and lively energy that’s relatively rare among elite carvers.  Most skis this damp and quiet on the edge are anything but nimble, but the Deacon V.Werks feels agile, quick to find the edge and lively coming off it. Jim Schaffner called it, “Idiot proof!!! This ski has great range. I found that the fore/aft balance was perfect, and the sweet spot as big as a locomotive. A powerful yet compliant arcing machine, it’s like having an auto-correct feature that makes it easier to ski.”

Read the full review here

Völkl Deacon 84

 Five years ago, Völkl resurrected its beloved Mantra by concocting a new technology called Titanal Frame; four years ago, Völkl applied the Titanal Frame touch to its Frontside family. The latest 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; in its debut season, 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.

As if immaculate edge grip weren’t enough, on the Deacon 84 it comes in three sizes, small, medium and large, facilitated by a triple-radius sidecut that gives the pilot total control over turn shape. Jim Schaffner, a Masterfit University instructor and longtime coach, “found this ski to be very versatile.  This ski was super easy to pivot/ drift, yet at the same time, on medium pitch runs where I could go for it and really engage the front of the ski, I could feel the power and control. This is going to be a very popular ski for a large group of the market,” he presciently predicted.

Read the full review here

Stöckli Montero AX

The Montero AX has only been in the Stöckli line for a year, but in a sense it’s been around for years, for it was built on the bones of the Laser AX, a legendary Frontside powerhouse with legions of fans.  The Laser AX, and its stablemate, the Laser AR, were re-anointed last year as Montero models, in part to signal that the pair weren’t really Lasers, as the Laser label was reserved for race skis and the Monteros are definitely for free-skiing.  To reinforce the differentiation of the Montero spin-offs, the Montero AX was plumped up by roughly 2mm everywhere, but it retains all of the traits that made the Laser AX an icon of Frontside performance.

A carving savant, the Montero AX can execute any turn shape on demand, but it brings a special flair to short, snappy, slalom turns.  Because the Montero AX has the delightful tendency to fire the skier into the next turn, its capacity to set and maintain a staccato turn pace is unparalleled in a genre dedicated to short-turn accuracy.

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 two seasons ago and given a modest upgrade for 23/24,  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.  (This critical interface was the focus of the most recent upgrade.) 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

Montero AS

Read the full review here

Kästle MX83

Kästle’s current MX83, now in its fourth 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. All you have to do is look where you want to go, and you’re there. Its fully cambered baseline feels super-glued to the snow, inviting speeds that would cause lesser lights to shake loose. Most skis this torsionally rigid don’t flow over and around moguls too well, but the MX83 has an almost liquid flow bred into its bones. Cautionary note: if mogul performance really matters to you, stay away from the 182cm length, as it’s not too nifty a drifter, and it’s too long for troughs cut by shorter skis and boards.

One of the best indicators of a great ski is how well it performs in conditions for which it wasn’t made.  By this measure, the MX83 remains an all-time great. Sure, it’s a gas to make deep trenches in corduroy at speeds that on another ski would be terrifying, but the MX83 adopts the same attitude towards all terrain. It doesn’t care where you point it because it’s confident in its abilities, a self-assurance that invariably rubs off on its pilot.

Read the full review here

Head Supershape e-Titan

Of the four Supershape models, the one that underwent the most telling transformation three 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 23/24 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.

Head’s deep roots in race ski design has honed a keen interest and expertise in exotic damping methods, a tradition continued in the e-Titan. Gone are the previous KERS piezos in the tail of the i.Titan. Head’s new form of shock therapy, Energy Management Circuit (EMC), is located in key vibrational nodes on either side of the binding.  The EMC system is pre-set to nullify vibrations when they hit 80Hz, which you won’t hit unless you’re cooking, but if you do hit this threshold it will become an addiction. You won’t be able to stop hitting it. Jim Schaffner of Start Haus, who still attacks every run like it was race course, called the e-Titan, “Awesome! Playful yet powerful! A home run!”

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 23/24, returning unchanged from the incarnations introduced just three 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.  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

Rossignol Forza 70o V-Ti

Unlike some of the power-obsessed avatars of the Carving clan that dominate the Technical and Frontside Power rankings, the Forza 70o V-Ti has a refreshingly open mind about turn radius. True, it’s 14m sidecut is made to cut a tidy corner when laid on edge, but a deeper dive into its sidecut dimensions reveals how its shape enhances the skier’s perception of its versatility.

Shape is the defining design feature of every ski in the carving class; of course, how the ski is constructed matters, too, but all the best carvers share a rich construction. Take a closer look at the sidecut dimensions cited at the top of this review.  Note that there’s a 58mm differential between the widest point in the tip and the narrowest point at the waist. That’s a huge number, more than you’ll find on a World Cup Slalom race ski, and the main reason the Forza 70 impressed every tester with its ability to latch onto an edge at the tippy-top of the turn.

By maximizing its pull into the turn and the facility at which it releases the edge, the Forza gives its pilot a lot of choices in turn shape. Because it begins on a tight trajectory, it’s easy to keep it on that path, but just as easy to let it fire back into the fall line. Veteran ski and boot tester Jim Schaffner was dazzled by the Forza’s range: “Precise, accurate, lively: what a fantastic tool! Balanced well fore/aft, so it has a large sweet spot.  This ski would have a spot in my quiver,” he concludes.

I found the Forza to be as easy to steer as it is accurate on edge, nailing that elusive, balanced blend of Finesse and Power properties. Of course, it won’t float or drift as well as a ski with more surface area and less sidecut, but these limitations are inherent in all the best carvers in its category. For the easy manner in which it rolls on and off a steeply angled edge, we confer upon the Forza 70o V-Ti a Silver Skier Selection.

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.

According to our results, the Deacon 80 performs just a hair below its beefier bro in all technical criteria except the all-important one of continuous carving, the defining characteristic of the Frontside genre. While it’s not quite as lively coming off the edge as the 84, for this very reason it’s easier to move edge to edge without breaking contact with the snow.

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.

There’s a mini-trend emerging of loose Frontside skis that are meant to be more amenable to off-trail action; the RC One 82 GT can hold its own in some off-piste conditions, but it remains an unequivocally Frontside ski. While it aims to please a highly skilled skier, it’s not hard to ski. In fact, its stability throughout its inexhaustible speed range makes it a great tool for getting an advanced skier over the expert hump.


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.

As embodied in the 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.

Because it’s not a system ski – there’s no plate or other interface between the skier and the snow – the evolv 84 has a clarity of snow feel that most carvers with its tenacity lack.  John Beesley, erstwhile head of the Mt. Rose Ski School,” praised the evolv 84 for its “great snow-ski feedback.”


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.

While the Disruption 78 Ti is a departure from K2’s twin obsessions with Freeride and Freestyle designs, it’s pure K2 in its emphasis on ease of use. You don’t have to have perfect timing or Navy Seal fitness, just point, tip, repeat, and look Ma!, you’re carving! Okay, it’s not quite that simple, but damn near. Anyone buying his/her first pair of skis who anticipates staying on groomers for the foreseeable future will discover that the Disruption 78Ti encourages proper edging skills without requiring them.

Read the full review here

Finesse Favorites: Easy Riders

We’ve now covered 14 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 23/24 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.

Blizzard Brahma 82

Two years ago, 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, whereas 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?

In its quest to prove it belongs, in 21/22 the Brahma 82 added another line to its resume, upgrading its core construction to TrueBlend, Blizzard’s way of micro-managing its poplar and beech laminates to produce the optimal flex pattern for every length. It bears mention that the rest of the Brahma 82’s lay-up is mostly made up of carbon and 2 ½ layers of Titanal, as rich a construction as you’ll find in the genre.

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. There’s no question a so-so skier can develop advanced skills while in its care, for it can make linked, fall-line-following, short turns all day long.

In a category loaded to the gills with high-octane chargers, the kinder, gentler EXP 82 Ti stands out for its forgiveness and ease, earning it our third-highest aggregate Finesse score and a Silver Skier Selection.

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 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.

We weren’t able to test the Stance 84 in off-trail conditions, but there’s no reason to think it wouldn’t do well.  As a practical matter, the typical Stance 84 customer doesn’t ski off trail unless he gets lost. He’s more likely to need help mastering the basics on-trail, where the Stance 84 proves to be that rarest of gems, a true bargain.  Every brand will tell you that its $499 model skis amazingly well – for its price. The Stance 84 skis amazingly well, period.

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. As a learning vehicle, it’s more into gentle encouragement than demanding strict adherence to carving principles.  As a long-term companion, it will be reliable as long as you keep your ambitions in check. For someone who is skiing more for social reasons – say, to hang with the grand-kids – the EXP 82 Basalt is just what the ski doctor ordered. Note that the $799.95 MSRP includes a binding.


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.

While it’s definitely a carver of the kinder, gentler variety, beneath its easy-going veneer it’s still a trench-digger at heart. The widest model in the Disruption clan, the 82 Ti is predisposed to a medium-radius arc that it can reel off without much effort on the pilot’s part. It stays connected in part because the Ti I-Beam runs tip to tail and in part because its baseline has only a teensy bit of tip rocker that doesn’t prevent the low-to-the-snow shovel from finding the edge at the top of the turn.

Read the full review here