More women’s skis are sold in the Frontside category than any other, for several salient reasons:
- The first ski a woman owns is usually a Frontside ski, for better performance on groomed terrain. Anything wider is almost always a second ski,
- Women tend to be smaller than men, so they don’t need a wider ski to achieve some measure of flotation in soft snow, making a Frontside ski more versatile for women than it is for men.
- The category covers a broad price/performance range, so women of widely varying budgets and abilities can find what they want in this genre.
These observations aside, the characteristics of the women’s Frontside category mirror those of the men’s. When our female testers take this cast of characters on snow, they find a lot to like, with the margins between the top scores in a narrow bandwidth. In a competitive field spanning several price points, there are lots of perfectly competent models that don’t rise to our Recommended standards.
While it’s difficult to assess performance across the gender divide, our test results do suggest that a women’s Frontside ski tends to be less aggressive and fall-line oriented than the top men’s models. This shouldn’t surprise, as one of the main criteria for a women’s model is that it be easier to bow. But it does suggest that the more talented and speed-driven women may find a more suitable ride among the men’s favorites.
While American men continue to chase the dream of powder by procuring ever fatter skis for their daily use, most American women harbor no such illusions and so continue to find their favorite skis in the Frontside category. (Could it be that women are inherently more practical than men? Discuss amongst yourselves.)
Looking at the full spectrum of made-for-women models, the Frontside genre falls between the 85mm-94mm-waisted All-Mountain East category, already an overweight girth for a lot of gals, and a tiny clique of kick-butt Technical skis hardly anybody stocks. This has the effect of funneling a high percentage of the female market into the Frontside segment, where they are well served with the widest selection of models found in any women’s category.
The 2018 Frontside Field
Our 2018 Recommended Women’s Frontside models reflect the diversity of this field, but they don’t reveal its depth. Our panel identified only 6 outstanding models from a sampling of 18, and while there’s certainly nothing off about its selections, the weak representation of Recommended models is a product of a testing season dramatically curtailed by poor weather, not an indication that the field is lacking in high quality alternatives.
A couple of models that didn’t make our list through no fault of their own are the new Nordica Astral 84 and an updated Atomic Cloud 9. What few cards we received on these models suggest that they should be ranked among the best in the genre.
The Frontside category covers the widest range of price points, from entry-level to OMG. We pause here to recognize two of the best values in women’s skis, Blizzard’s Black Pearl 78, for those who want a little off-trail flavor in their Frontside ski, and Salomon’s Cira, now with a wood core, which will retail at $499 with a lightweight binding.
Two other models that merit notice are the returning Head Super Joy, a ski we’ve highly Recommended in prior seasons and whose absence here I’d deem an anomaly, and the new Dynastar Legend W 84. Both have podium potential for Finesse skiers looking for a ski that responds to light pressure.
As noted last year, women who like their turns relatively short and their speed under control will find most of these fillies respond promptly to a light touch. If this doesn’t sound like enough ski for how you like to blaze the frontside, you might consider a men’s model or a Technical ski with a more traditional, cambered baseline.