2020 Frontside

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.

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 2020 Frontside Field

I can’t recall a recent year when the Frontside category received so much attention. We see mostly the cream of this immense category – there are many more options at lower price points – yet I still count 18 new models rolling out this fall. There are new series from Atomic, Dynastar, Elan, Fischer, Nordica, Salomon and Völkl aimed squarely at filling the needs of the Frontside skier. Both Atomic and Blizzard infiltrated the Frontside category by extending model franchises that originated elsewhere.

In Atomic’s case the new Vantage 82 Ti and 79 Ti are spin-offs of the all-mountain Vantage series, but the new Redster X9 WB is an offshoot of the Redster race family. A similar scenario plays out at Blizzard, where the Firebird HRC is a combi race model and the Brahma 82 – one of the very rare Finesse skis in the genre – is the thinnest execution of its signature freeride design.

Dynastar already had Legend X 84, a patently off-trail design, in the Frontside arena; now that it has the race-derived Speed Zone 4×4 82 Pro beside it, experts finally have a Dynastar Frontside ski to call their own. It’s such a good all-terrain carver, it will probably attract plenty of Dynastar fans who would otherwise be on a Legend X 84 or 88.

Völkl can lay claim to the best new Frontside ski, the Deacon 84, a brilliant replacement for the retired RTM 84, and the zippy Deacon 80 ain’t too shabby, either. Elan has created a hybrid of sorts in the Wingman series, trying to entice all-terrain skiers to try something narrower. We found both Frontside Wingmen to be excellent new additions to the genre. Liberty continues to impress with its Vertical Metal Technology: both the cat-quick V76 and more all-around V82 return with an extra alu strut, so they’re more stable than ever. (Unexpected fact: Liberty had the slickest base finish of any brand in the test.)

Nordica’s new Spitfires are every bit as good on trail as its kick-ass Enforcer models are off-trail. The Spitfire 76 and 80 weren’t made to make the inept feel good about their progress, they’re made for real skiers with the highest performance expectations. Salomon has reverted to a beefy Frontside series reminiscent of its Enduros of yore, but still make a Finesse alternative in the XDR 84 Ti.

All these new models have rejuvenated the genre, providing skilled skiers with more options than ever.

Power Picks: High-Geared & Gifted

The better your ability, the more you’ll appreciate one of our Power Picks. Not that one has to be a flawless technical skier, but there’s not much point in saddling up a Power ski unless one has the talents to extract its best behaviors. If honest self-appraisal suggests that you might be more into recreation than perfection, you’ll find a better match among the plentiful supply of Finesse winners.

But if you have the talent, boy, are you in for a treat. Our Power Picks are crazy versatile, up for any turn shape at any velocity from puttering to pedal-to-the-metal. Best of all, they’re ready for any snow condition from knee-deep to boilerplate. They turn the entire mountain into an all-you-can-eat buffet. Bon appétit.

Kästle MX84

Did you ever have a ski dream where everything was perfect? You can’t tell if your skis are an extension of your being or visa versa. You flow from turn to turn expending all the energy of a passenger lounging on a high-speed train. The scenery blurs as your speed climbs steadily until you reach a zone where time warps, aging is reversed, and still you’re totally connected to the snow by forces that feel at once magnetic, emotional and gravitational. I can’t guarantee that you’ll arrive at this transcendental state the first time you step into a Kästle MX84, but you will if you keep trying. For if you’re not a beautiful skier before you encounter an MX84, in time it will make you one. This claim probably sounds optimistic, if not delusional, yet several testers claim that the MX84 essentially coached them into making better turns. Rather than
Read more…

Read the full review here

Völkl Deacon 84

Last year Völkl resurrected its beloved Mantra by concocting a new technology called Titanal Frame; this season, Völkl applies the Titanal Frame touch to its Frontside family. The new pater familias is the Deacon 84 and like the M5 Mantra, it represents a return to traditional Völkl values. Compared to the RTM 84 it replaces, 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-scored the entire Frontside field in the primordial technical criteria of early turn entry and short-radius turns, as well as earning the top Finesse score in 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
Read more…

Read the full review here

Liberty V76

The V76 imparts a thrilling cocktail of sensations that don’t normally mix. It’s inherently both lively and damp, urgently on and off a steeply angled edge or content to ride a relaxed, languid arc. Best of all, it’s instantly accessible; you don’t need to adapt to it because it’s already one move ahead, adapting to you. For this reason it’s a brilliant re-entry vehicle for skiers who have been out of the sport for over a decade and want to try something that is both new and yet familiar. The unique construction that allows the V76 to simultaneously maintain world-class snow contact and sensuous snow feel is Vertical Metal Technology (VMT). VMT consists of vertical aluminum struts that run tip to tail. When it was introduced last season, the V76 had two such struts; for 20/20, Liberty has added a third to boost its effectiveness on hard snow. As you
Read more…

Read the full review here

Fischer RC4 The Curv GT

Fischer doesn’t F-around when it comes to carving skis. The Austrian brand is über focused on winning World Cup races, where its best results in recent years have come in slalom. A SL race ski is essentially a carving ski on steroids, made to the precise specifications mandated by FIS, ski racing’s governing body. If you want to really test your mettle, you can always seek out a Fischer FIS SL, but unless you train over 300 days a year, I wouldn’t advise it. If you belong on a true race ski, most likely it will find you, not the other way around. The idea behind The Curv GT is to use more or less the same race construction but to jigger its shape to make its immaculate carves more etch-able by the “average” expert. All of the 3 Curv models use a Triple Radius sidecut that begins and ends
Read more…

Read the full review here

Elan Wingman 82 Ti

Elan created the Wingman series to bridge the worlds of on-trail and off-trail skiing, planting a flagship model in both the All-Mountain East and Frontside genres. The top of the latter ladder is the Wingman 82 Cti, a strong ski with such a gentle disposition we classified as a Finesse model. Based on the TNT Technology that originated with the off-trail Ripstick series, the Wingman 82 Cti is reinforced both with a central topsheet of Titanal and twin carbon rods near the base, which mirror the shape of the sidecut. To create a step-down model, Elan eliminated the expense of the carbon rods and the cost of carving out their CNC-created channels, resulting in the Wingman 82 Ti. Drum roll, please. The Wingman 82 Ti will most likely sell for $399. That’s without a binding, but still, $399. Does it ski as well as the Wingman Cti? No, and if
Read more…

Read the full review here

Head Supershape i.Titan

Head wasn’t the first ski manufacturer to market a carving ski, but it was the first major brand to not only embrace the Carving concept but to adopt it as the cohering principle behind every ski it made. This primordial dedication to the art of creating a continuous track has reached its purest expression in Head’s Supershape series, where the i.Titan is the widest (80mm waist) among peers. Despite its relatively broad beam, the i.Titan feels as quick to the edge as any 75mm stick on the slopes. It feels more agile than it measures for three main reasons. First, there’s its shape, with a 57mm drop between the tip and the waist, so as soon as it’s tipped, it’s carving on a multi-radius, continuous edge. Second, its front rocker is so shallow it does nothing to inhibit early turn entry. And third, the piezos in its tail stiffen up
Read more…

Read the full review here

Dynastar Speed Zone 4×4 82 Pro

The American skier’s ongoing infatuation with fat skis has so distorted our collective notion of what an all-terrain ski should look like that we no longer remember the days when the best skiers’ everyday ride was a race ski or something similar. As recently as the late 1990’s, a ski as wide as Dynastar’s Speed Zone 4×4 82 Pro would have been regarded as a powder-only behemoth. Dynastar remembers that epoch because it helped re-define the all-terrain ski when it launched the original 4×4 in 1998. With a less exaggerated sidecut than the shaped skis of the era along with a wider waist, the first 4×4 was immediately recognized as a breakthrough ski in an all-mountain category that had previously been stocked with race ski spin-offs. I remember taking my first runs on them at a Solitude trade fair where I took them out first thing and never brought ‘em
Read more…

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 new 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 sometime 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
Read more…

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 one ski can change skiers’ infatuation with wide, off-trail models, but the Dobermann Spitfire 80 RB would gladly volunteer for the job. Powerful and playful in nearly equal measures, it’s such a confidence-inspiring platform that you’ll want to take it with you everywhere you go. “Easy turning and forgiving,” notes Bobo’s Theron Lee. “Very user friendly, drifts well but holds an edge at higher edge angles. Feels like a western Frontside ski, able to handle soft snow as well as hard. Good energy feedback but not overly damp. Better at speed,
Read more…

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
Read more…

Read the full review here

Head Supershape i.Rally

My favorite story about how Head engineers went about optimizing Graphene – carbon in its most elemental form, a matrix of the hexagonal atom a mere one atom thick, or deep, or wide or however you want to measure something so infinitesimal – in their Supershape series of carving skis. Having already made a collection of women’s skis from scratch using the new material, the Head R&D team knew they could use Graphene to tinker with flex distribution with minimal effect on mass distribution. The logical thing to do, particularly as skis like the i.Rally weren’t famous for being light, was to trim down the core and thin out the metal laminates to make a more accessible carver for the masses. So what did Head do? Just the opposite: it thickened the i.Rally’s top and bottom sheets of Titanal and widened them all the way to the edge, then built
Read more…

Read the full review here

Salomon S/Force Bold

The S/Force Bold is an unapologetic Frontside carver. If you want to find out how deep a new snowfall is, take a run on the S/Force Bold and you’re almost certain to find the bottom. Any ski this stable can make its way through off-trail porridge, but it will send out the occasional reminder that you’re running against its grain. The reason the S/Force Bold is laden dampening agents and associated avoirdupois is to maximize edging power and stability on hard snow, which is its happy place. When it’s running fast and loose in its element, the S/Force Bold is “damp, stable, with very strong edge hold,” says Bobo’s Pat Parraguirre, identifying its dominant traits. “If you like speed and grip – this ski is for you! Great high-speed carver.”

Read the full review here

Atomic Redster X9 WB

Atomic’s entries in the Frontside genre come from the two different categories that abut it: the new Vantage 79 Ti and 82 Ti import their Prolite chassis from the wider world of All-Mountain models, while the latest Redster, the X9 WB, is a direct descendant of the Redster X9, a tight-radius Technical ski. Like brothers that don’t get along, they’re both from the same family but they could not be more different. The “WB” in this Redster’s name stands for Wide Body, but by today’s standards its 75mm waist looks painfully corseted. Its sidecut radius is only 13.5m in a 168cm, roughly the dimensions of a World Cup slalom. If the pilot tilts it to a high edge angle, it will tuck into a short-radius turn with the eagerness of a cutting horse cornering a calf. (Note that it earns a 9.0 for short-radius turns, one of the best scores
Read more…

Read the full review here

Völkl Deacon 76

What a proud papa the Völkl Deacon 76 must be. When it slipped quietly into Völkl’s line last year to replace the creaky Code collection, all the ballyhoo was rightfully concentrated on the M5 Mantra. There was no hint at the time of the little Deacons in utero in R&D, gearing up to replace the redoubtable RTM 84 and RTM 81, veteran Frontside carvers that had come to the end of their dual-track lines. The new kids turned out to be real firecrackers, fulfilling every father’s dream of out-performing his expectations. But as often seems to be the case with kids, they don’t want to do things Dad’s way. Where the Deacon 76 is quiet and unhurried, the new Deacon 84 and 80 are bundles of energy. The Deacon 76 likes to luxuriate in a long turn that never loses snow contact; the kinder prefer a catch-and-release approach that involves
Read more…

Read the full review here

Blizzard Firebird HRC

The new Blizzard Firebird HRC isn’t really a race ski – its dimensions run afoul of FIS regulations – but don’t tell it that. Despite its 76mm waist, the HRC thinks it belongs right between the Firebird WRC and Firebird SRC, Blizzard’s non-FIS GS and SL models, respectively. It may not be exactly what a meld of the WRC and SRC would look like, but it mimics their race-room construction and does its best to match their capabilities. Please don’t get defensive, but if you don’t care for the HRC’s comportment, you may not be good enough for it. It uses bi-directional carbon weave both horizontally underfoot, for power at the top of the turn, and in vertical struts that keep it plastered to the snow through turn exit. The combination makes a ski that Corty Lawrence describes as feeling like a “quintessential GS. It needs to be stood on,
Read more…

Read the full review here

Liberty V82

Last year 3 brands introduced high-end models with vertical laminates made from metal or carbon. Liberty’s version, with two aluminum ribs trisecting the bamboo/poplar core, earned the highest scores from our panelists. This season, Liberty added a third metal strut to the men’s V-series models it introduced last year. Liberty’s Vertical Metal Technology (VMT) is as effective a system for maintaining snow contact as any extant, short of loading the ski up with every dampening agent known to man. Theron Lee of Bobo’s succinctly describes how it feels: “damp but not dead.” One reason the V82 skis so well is that the metal ribs don’t work alone. Two 1cm-wide swathes of carbon straddle the center strut, poured PU sidewalls have a calming effect on the edges they rest on and a carbon base layer adds bonus buffering. The result is very close to race-ski grip without having each run feel
Read more…

Read the full review here

Rossignol Hero Elite Plus Ti

You can tell a lot about a ski by its immediate family. Rossi’s Hero Elite Plus Ti is closely related to the Hero Elite LT Ti and ST Ti, both legit non-FIS Race models, even though the Plus Ti’s plus-sized shape (78mm) is many mm’s more ample than the 71mm waist of the LT Ti and 68mm midriff on the SL Ti. The Hero Elite Plus Ti not only uses the same construction as its gate-bashing sibs, its sidecut radius is the same as the ST’s in the167cm size preferred by slalom specialists. Last year Rossi converted all of the Hero Elite clan to a new damping system, Line Control Technology. (LCT). Instead of using horizontal sheets of Titanal, as has been the case for decades among race models, LCT uses a vertical Ti laminate down the center of the ski so the forebody is more resistant to deflection. Torsional
Read more…

Read the full review here

Fischer RC One 82 GT

The new RC One 82 GT doesn’t get quite as large a dose of Titanal as its running mate, the All-Mountain East RC One 86 GT, but it’s hardly a delicate flower. A Titanal sheath rolls over the top of its Air Carbon Ti core, and another TI laminate gives it race-caliber grip underfoot. In the shovel and tail, the Ti is replaced with Bafatex®, Fischer’s own shock-absorbing synthetic. The RC One 82 GT uses the same triple-radius (short-long-short) as The Curv, so the softer zones on the ski curl more easily while the middle delivers unshakeable support. Given its origins and substantial construction, you’d expect the RC One 82 GT to be “a blast at speed as much as mellow cruising,” as Ward Pyles of Peter Glenn discovered. “Super quick edge to edge,” he adds. “Fast, quick, rips everything,” concurs a Jan’s tester, whose boss, Jack Walzer managed to
Read more…

Read the full review here

Monster 83 Ti

Because all the Monsters, and especially the 83, were constructed like elite carving skis (or detuned race skis, take your pick), the 83 Ti is still a great fit for its category while its wider kin – always anachronisms in their respective genres – are extinct. In recent years, Head has tinkered with the 83 Ti’s tip shape and contact point, but it didn’t change its attitude or aptitude one bit. It still skis unmistakably like a wood-and-metal ski, even if Graphene is part of its formula. In this lay-up, the Graphene isn’t used as much for its infinitesimal mass as for its ability to soften the flex at tip and tail relative to the middle. Once upon a time, all Monsters had the same MSRP, which made some sense as all were made from the same recipe. Now that the aging Monsters have lost most of their sales mojo
Read more…

Read the full review here

Finesse Favorites: Easy Riders

The top echelon of unisex 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 find them among our Recommended medallion recipients.

Any unisex Frontside model that earns its highest marks for Finesse properties is perforce an oddity, and so it is with this season’s tiny sample. The new Blizzard Brahma 82 is a blast to ski despite having little in common with the Frontside community. The Salomon XDR 84 Ti is deliberately vying for lightest-in-show in a category stocked with heavyweights. If you want a really lightweight, pliable carver, it’s one of your few options.

Elan Wingman 82 CTi

The new Wingman 82 Cti from Elan demonstrates the proposition that the best way to imbue a Frontside ski with greater terrain versatility is to begin with an off-trail template. The Wingman series borrows its structure from Elan’s Ripstick collection, which uses twin 3mm carbon rods near the base to lend strength, dampening and rebound to its poplar and Paulownia core. To give the ski more poise on piste, Elan squared up and flattened out the tail and added a band of Titanal to the ski’s mid-section for good measure. That the Wingman 82 Cti would excel at twin-track carving was foreordained by its TruLine Amphibio design, an Elan staple. Amphibio is the umbrella term for an asymmetric sidecut that puts a longer effective edge on the inside of the ski and a shorter camber zone along the outside edge. In other words, the ski is rockered along the longitudinal
Read more…

Read the full review here

Blizzard Brahma 82

This ski shouldn’t be here. 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? If a sitcom producer cast a story about the Frontside category, all the proper club members would be draped in Armani, while the brash Brahma 82 would crash the party in flip-flops, jams and a tattered tee. In short, the Brahma 82 is here because it’s so damn easy and fun to ski. It’s one of a tiny minority of Frontside skis with a higher Finesse score than Power score. Of course, it’s ease of use wouldn’t mean squat if it couldn’t hold on hard snow, but the Brahma 82 grips ferociously because beneath its mellow
Read more…

Read the full review here

Salomon XDR 84 Ti

Salomon as always had a soft spot for soft skis with a short turn radius. Some of its more popular series, like X-Scream and X-Wing, were sought out by skiers who liked their ability to maneuver in tight corners, like those found in the never-groomed moguls on High Rustler at Alta. Which brings us to the XDR 84 Ti, which depends on a weave of carbon and flax fibers (C/FX), square sidewalls and a patch of Titanal underfoot to provide enough substance to handle firm, Frontside conditions, with an emphasis on ease over aggression. Pat Parraguirre from Bobo’s, who might know more people in Reno on a first-name basis than any public official, is a lightweight expert who prefers skis that have a high response to low-pressure input. “Very predictable and smooth feeling on snow. It’s like putting on an old pair of leather gloves: damp and smooth,” says the
Read more…

Read the full review here

2020 Women’s Frontside

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. Only one of our 2020 Recommended models could fairly be described as a carving ski.

Now the epicenter of the women’s market has shifted to the All-Mountain East category, with its promise of all-terrain versatility. What the women’s Frontside genre has become is home to 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 man’s ski if she really wants a carver.

The 2020 Women’s Frontside Field

The 2020 women’s Frontside collection is practically the polar opposite of the men’s.. While almost every men’s Recommended Frontside model is a Power ski, the women’s Recommended models are wall-to-wall Finesse skis. None of our women’s winners is even a system ski, although some suggest a binding option. The data tells us five of the seven Recommended women’s models are Power skis, but data isn’t always conclusive and in this instance is flat-out misleading. There’s no way, for example, that the Blizzard Black Pearl 78 is a Power ski, and it has the highest Power score in the genre.

Not to pick on the Black Pearl 78, it’s obviously a lovely ski, but it’s a backside ski with Frontside waist dimension. It should be the anomaly in the field, not the standard bearer. A case could be made that all seven of our Recommended models are actually Finesse skis that hold a competent edge with little coaxing. Women who want a stouter carving tool should look either in the Power-obsessed unisex field or among the handful of women’s Technical skis.

The vast majority of women’s Frontside models are made for women of less than expert ability and can’t score high enough to make our Recommended cut. Our small clique of winners have the pizzazz to sustain an advanced skier’s interest yet aren’t so high-geared an athletic intermediate can’t enjoy them. Women who like their turns relatively short and their speed under control will find these fillies responsive to gentle handling.

Power Picks: Muted Mastery

Women won’t find the unalloyed carving machines that dominate the Power listings on the other side of the gender divide. The women’s Power Picks don’t depend on massive doses of speed to become responsive, nor do they have to ride at a high edge angle to demonstrate their prowess. They’re instantly accessible to skiers of modest skills yet have a performance envelope that extends well into the advanced sphere. Built to latch onto the top of the turn but release it gently, they’re a joy for ladies who are already capable carvers and patient companions for those on the brink of advanced ability.

Blizzard Black Pearl 78

The position of the Black Pearl 78 in our test over the last two seasons has to be the most anomalous in the entire test. The Frontside category is supposed to the province of dedicated carvers, skis with extravagant sidecuts, shock-sucking interfaces and elevated binding systems. How did this flat, plain Jane with a shallow, off-trail shape and double rockered baseline not only end up in this den of carvers, but leading it in Power points? One possible answer is the Black Pearl 78 actually is the best carving tool in the Frontside drawer. Its test scores, which admittedly can be misleading, lead the large field in early turn entry, continuous, accurate carving and short-radius turns. That’s a tough trifecta to simply dismiss as anecdotal. Hell, all scores are anecdotal, but we wouldn’t use them if they didn’t tend to accurately reflect behavior. One stat we don’t capture – because
Read more…

Read the full review here

Line Pandora 84

In keeping with the inverted world of women’s Frontside skis, where true carvers are nearly extinct and off-trail baselines are increasingly the norm, the Line Pandora 84 has its scores backward. It’s no more a Power ski than Taylor Swift is a power lifter; it’s a soft, buttery, compliant little cupcake of a ski that holds a nice edge all along the camber zone in its modestly rockered baseline. When one considers Line’s dewy-cheeked demographic and the Pandora 84’s below-market price, it becomes clear just who this ultralight all-terrain ski is for: Miss Teen America, that’s who. It’s not for the ex-racer or the off-piste adventurer, but the girl next door who just wants to have fun. Line will turn 25 this year, yet it’s never lost touch with the youth market from which it draws its inspiration and its energy.

Read the full review here

Blizzard Black Pearl 82

At a scant 4mm wider in the waist than the Black Pearl 78, the new 82 shares a lot of its attributes, including a somewhat surprising preference for the consistency of groomed runs over the anything-goes conditions encountered off-trail. Perry Schaffner, like her dad Jim an archetype of racing power and efficiency, filed this report after a couple of turns on the dance floor with the Black Pearl 82: “The Blizzard Black Pearl in a 173cm length was really great on freshly groomed snow. I can make both large- and short-radius turns very easily and carve while carrying good speed if I want it, but I also have the ability to slow myself down. When I skied off the groomed run into some of the skied-out powder from yesterday it felt like it didn’t perform quite as well as I got bucked around a bit, so I would definitely say
Read more…

Read the full review here

Rossignol Experience 84 AI W

When Rossi pushed the reset button on its cornerstone Experience series last season, it flipped from what was essentially a Frontside collection to a more off-trail orientation. The change is most noticeable in the tip, in part because Rossi’s Air Tip design catches the eye and because its pulled-back contact point and amply rockered forebody (30% of the total ski length) loosen up the tip. Because of the Experience 84 AI W’s soft and compliant forebody, it rolls into the top of a turn as long as the pilot keeps pressure on it. Like its ideal pilot, it prefers its snow soft and its speed held in check. Its tidy, 12m radius sidecut is a short-turn specialist. Skiers whose carving skills are still in utero will find that its relatively short contact area will allow them to swivel their turns with impunity.

Read the full review here

Elan Interra 82

At 82mm underfoot, Elan’s new Interra 82 seems to occupy a no-man’s land between traditional carving skis, such as sister ski Insomnia, and the current focus of the women’s market, All-Mountain East models with a midriff between 88mm and 93mm. No doubt about it, the All-Mountain East genre, with its promise of all-terrain mastery, has charmed the market into believing that it’s the Promised Land of women-specific skis. But as I argue in “82 is the new 88”, the gradual shift to narrower footprints has inspired several suppliers, including Elan, to lay a new stepping-stone in the path back to more realistic sidecuts. The reason the Women’s All-Mountain East genre assumed a dominant position in the U.S. market was its presumed superiority in off-trail conditions. But there are several reasons why many women would be even better off on a ski like the Interra 82.

Read the full review here

Finesse Favorites: Ability Boosters

A case could be made that the whole idea of acquiring a modern ski is to make the business of getting from point A to point B as easy and effortless as possible. The skis our test panel has identified have taken this mission to heart. These aren’t limp noodles that lose their zest for living as soon as you stomp on the accelerator; our pair of Finesse Favorites also received more than respectable Power scores. As the skier progresses in ability under their gentle guidance, they have the performance reserve to carry her to the next ability level without breaking stride.

Dynastar Legend W 84

The Dynastar Legend W 84’s position at the top of our panel’s favorite Frontside Finesse skis of 2020 illustrates an interesting phenomenon that sometimes occurs when a brand uses the same ski for both men and women, particularly when said ski doesn’t use Titanal in its stock recipe. The women’s skis garner higher points than the men’s, as has been the case the last couple of years with Dynastar. If you’re familiar with Dynastar’s recent history, then you know the Cham series was conceived as a freeride, off-trail family. Given its bloodlines, the Legend W 84 has no trepidation about traveling off-trail, where it’s better at drift across broken snow than most in the genre. When it’s confined to corduroy quarters, its user-friendly baseline allows it to pivot or carve on command, and its tidy turn radius (12m @ 156cm) creates a lovely short arc. As one tester noted last
Read more…

Read the full review here

Völkl Yumi

The Völkl Yumi is what we in the retail trade refer to a “step-up” ski. It isn’t a top-of-the-line charger but neither is it as frail as fettuccine, like so many entry-level package skis. It’s called a step-up ski because it’s bound to be an improvement over whatever is serving this skier at the moment, be a rental ski, a hand-me-down, a buying mistake or something fished out of a bargain bin at a ski swap. As for where this first-new-ski buyer is stepping to, the Yumi leaves that entirely up to her. Equipped with an all-wood core and partial topsheet of Titanal, the Yumi has the intestinal fortitude to cope with life on groomers, where its gift for short-radius turns encourages intermediates to get their act together. At 84mm underfoot, the Yumi is fat for a Frontside ski, so it can manage its business in a foot of fluff
Read more…

Read the full review here

© 2019-20 Realskiers.com | Contact Us | Reset Password

Facebook
YouTube