2024 Women’s Frontside Skis

2024 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 2024 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, the five models introduced two years ago all descended 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 was 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 Phoenix series, the R14 Pro.

This season’s short roster of new Frontside models includes the significantly altered Absolut Joy and Super Joy from Head, Stöckli’s Montero AW and the E-Cross 82 from Dynastar, the middle model in a new series that replaces the venerable 4×4’s. The Montero AW is essentially the Montero AX with a lighter core and much narrower tail. Both the Heads are part of a new Joy series that seriously slimmed down their carve-centric tips, ceding more control over turn shape to the pilot. The Absolut Joy is a great value for the aspiring advanced skier, while the Super Joy delivers superior carving accuracy for more skilled skiers.

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

Realskiers 2023/24 Women’s Market Coverage

As my regular Dear Readers can attest, I’ve been lamenting my inability to corral sufficient test scores on women’s skis for several seasons now. Realskiers’ traditional methodology depends on ski shop personnel to provide feedback, but the number of women evaluating skis for specialty shops – never a big number to begin with – has been steadily dwindling.

The primary culprit for the loss in women’s data has been understaffing, a plague that has decimated the entire population of testers, men and women. The pandemic and the gradual erosion of the ties that connect suppliers with the retail community as a whole haven’t helped the situation. Recognizing that shop personnel simply weren’t going to be available, I turned to the instruction community, arranging to put dozens of women’s skis into adjacent shops (or trailers) for female instructors at Palisades and Mt. Rose. I drove a dozen skis down to Mammoth to participate in a women’s clinic, to little avail. In all these endeavors I got some takers, for which I am eternally grateful.

But if limited data is going to be used for ranking results, the relevance of that result will also be limited. I’ve preached the merits of narratives over data for years; in this context, narratives will reveal more trenchant insights than plumbing the depths of numbers that derive from two runs.

Which brings us to the next salient point: once we determine limited data is of limited value, how does Realskiers address the women’s market? How do we separate wheat from chaff? That’s my call, based on my knowledge of the ski’s design, its history in the marketplace and what I can glean from the few cards and comments I’ve corralled.

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But 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 – or not – since made-for-women models first appeared. And I haven’t exactly been on the sidelines in the fight for women’s rights in equipment selection. 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.

In short, while I won’t pass muster as a female, I could very well be the next best option. I’ve been an advocate for women-specific designs for decades. It is in this spirit that I offer the commentaries 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 our Recommended 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.

2024 Women’s Frontside

Fischer RC One 82 GT

 Fischer maintains that your skis don’t know your gender, and our ladies’ limited experience with the RC One 82 GT 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.

Read the full review here

Head Super Joy

Over the last decade, the Frontside field has evolved to such a degree that Head’s Super Joy, the consummate carving machine, now looks more like an outlier than the norm.  Over that time span, the Super Joy’s construction and shape have undergone a series of major alterations; it’s still focused on carving up groomers and it still enjoys the unique advantages of having Graphene in its make-up, but the last two upgrades have altered the Super Joy’s on-snow comportment considerably.

Just a few years ago, Head overhauled the Super Joy’s insides, kicking Koroyd to the curb and replacing it with an all-wood (Karuba and ash) core, supplemented by fiberglass for substance and snap, and more carbon for shock damping and snow contact.  Head also adorned the Super Joy with its Energy Management Circuit (EMC) that converts vibrations into electricity, which it uses to stifle high-frequency shocks. As significant as these construction changes were, the improvements made to the 2024 Super Joy have again raised its game to an entirely new level.

The most obvious change is in its skinnier sidecut, particularly at the tip, where Head has lopped off nearly a centimeter. The narrower forebody won’t insist on tucking into the tippy-top of every turn, which is a major change in how the ski routinely behaves. While the new sidecut also entails a longer turn radius, it still skews to the short-turn side of the turn spectrum.  It just cedes more control to the pilot regarding trajectory.  Perhaps most importantly, the new sidecut will make the Super Joy far more amenable to off-trail conditions, so they needn’t always stick to perfectly manicured corduroy.

Read the full review here

Blizzard Black Pearl 82

The Black Pearl 82 underwent the TrueBlend make-over two years ago, 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 Pearl 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

Rossignol Experience W 82 Ti

Last year, Rossignol 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 @ 159cm), they’re not of the high-twitch, trench-digger variety, but more languid, rolling smoothly on and 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.

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

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