The pandemic may have slowed down the amount of model turno
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, five new models descend 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 is 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 new Phoenix series, the R14 Pro.
The all-new, made from scratch, for-women-only Wild Belle DC 84 has been customized for women from its inception. A system ski aimed directly at the female Frontside skier, the Wild Belle DC 84 is that rare model born and bred specifically for this genre. It’s unique, bi-level, dual-plate interface is intended to level a woman’s natural stance with her hips properly aligned for more effective, efficient skiing. Its unique Double Core allows the Wild Belle DC 84 to be soft flexing, smooth riding and responsive.
Blizzard’s two new entries, the updated Black Pearl 82 and all-new Phoenix R13 Ti, come at the Frontside category from opposite directions. The BP 82 is the narrowest of an off-trail clan, while the Phoenix has its roots in the high-octane Technical genre that’s sadly all but invisible in the U.S. The two distantly related models solve the puzzle of how to make Frontside skiing fun in completely different ways.
Rossignol’s EXP 82 Ti W is part of a totally reconceived Experience collection that draws a distinction between All-Mountain and All-Resort; the former includes more varieties of hairball terrain, while the latter comprises a broader scope of experiences than just skiing. The EXP 82 Ti W wraps a high-performance package in a velvet wrapper.
The Stance 84 W from Salomon aims for a low price ($499) all-mountain ski and misses high. For an off-trail series, the Stance models have always displayed a high aptitude for carving, so it’s right at home in this Frontside incarnation. It’s the best value in the Women’s Frontside category.
Last but not least in terms of its performance ceiling, Liberty’s evolv 84w has added another rib to its Vertical Metal Technology, giving it even more determination to resist all efforts to knock it off course. If you’ll pardon the horrid pun, VMT has already proven its mettle as a shock-stifling design; giving the evolv 84w another alu rib makes it an even more effective carving tool.
ver across all categories, but the popularity of the All-Mountain East genre assured that this pivotal genre would see new entrants come hell or high water. Atomic was still able to usher its new Maven 93 C and Maven 86 C into the world, and Rossi created a whole new sub-genre, All-Resort, to describe an emerging skier type who will cotton to the headliner of its overhauled Experience series, the EXP 86 Basalt W.
Three 21/22 models we classify as new are upgrades of existing issues. The Head Kore 91 W and Kore 85 W are part of an across-the-board amelioration of every Kore model, earning high praise from the ladies lucky enough to ski them. Liberty’s evolv 90w grew a new rib in its Vertical Metal Technology make-up, granting it more grip on hard snow and better crud-busting power off-trail.
As noted above, there’s more than one price point in the All-Mountain East genre, and filling one of the lower slots is the new Völkl Blaze 86 W, which makes the backcountry (as well as the resort) more accessible to newcomers with its $499 retail.
Women gravitate to the All-Mountain East genre because it promises a measure of proficiency off-trail without giving up the security of carving on groomers. But groomed slopes aren’t really what they’re made for. Out of 26 models we counted in the category, all but three were the slimmer members of an off-trail family. Only the Head Total Joy, Kästle DX85 and Rossignol’s new EXP 86 Basalt are extensions of Frontside families.
If you’d like to be introduced to the ladies who contributed to these reviews, please visit our Women’s Test Roster.