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.