The Best Frontside Skis
A frontside ski is for exactly what the name implies: skiing all over the front side of the mountain. You can start the morning on fresh corduroy, wiggle your way through a bump run, and carve your way down the firm (or if you’re lucky, freshly groomed) steeps. Skis in this category are slightly more versatile than a carving ski and will do best in well-skied conditions, but are not going to excel in powder.
When one of your hardest grading – and grumpiest – testers says, “Anyone who tries this ski will find a way to own it,” you know you’re looking at a potential Best in Class. With “Excellent,” to Favorite,” rankings on the majority of test cards, and only two testers ranking it a mere “Good,” (“Awful” is our lowest, and least marked overall ranking), you become very curious to see how the numbers add up. Spoiler alert: They’re right at the top. This ski soars with its ability to handle all Frontside terrain, all speeds, and a variety of abilities with a clean, exciting sense of response. It is more damp than lively, and needs to be on edge, in a carve (preferably medium radius) to perform at its best. But unlike most of the other skis in the Frontside Category, it doesn’t just reward a hard or lighter touch. In this case, the ski does both, giving standup style foot turners quick edge-to-edge capabilities, and deep angulating carvers the kind of race style arc they love the most. How’s the Experience 88 HD? Really sweet!
Atomic hit it out of the park with the Vantage 90 CTI, a ski that combines power, finesse, and lots of fun and excitement with a lightweight feel. It does prefer to be on edge all the time, and offers a little less float than some of the other skis in this class, but so what. The Vantage 90 owns lift-serve conditions and could easily be your go-to ski for all but the deepest days on the hill.
Elan’s 84 XTi features the brand’s Amphibio Technology, with dedicated left and right skis. Amphibio has more camber on the inside edge and rocker on the outside edge of each ski, creating really smooth turn initiation that rolls into a short to medium radius arc with a smooth, buttery feel. Testers found this ski incredibly responsive and versatile on Frontside conditions at all but the longest turns and highest speeds. It doesn’t have as much Flotation as some of the other skis in the category, like the K2 Pinnacle 88 or Line Supernatural 92, and on the flipside, also lost some performance on hardpack. Its overall responsiveness and constant ski-to-snow contact does make it a wonderfully damp ski with the kind of strong edge hold a wide variety of advanced and expert skiers will appreciate.
Head’s Monster 88 wowed testers with its power and stability, with many calling it out as the most stable ski in the Frontside Category, if not in the entire test. This is a ski that rewards people who push it, especially at faster speeds, where it also exhibits some of the most bomber edge-hold in the entire class. It’s a lot of ski to ride all day or even all season. It will overwhelm anyone looking for a more poppy, lively feel, and especially anyone who isn’t an expert and looking for a ski to help them progress. For aggressive skiers who want to sink into each arc with authority, this is a great bet.
The Head Wild Joy is a versatile Frontside ski. With a 90 mm waist, it’s wider than any other ski in the category, but very nimble for its girth and stable for its lightweight construction. Testers gave the Wild Joy middle to high scores across the board, favoring Turn Shape Variability and Flotation. “It feels like a fat, versatile slalom ski,” said one tester. “It’s fun to ski, smooth and capable of a variety of turn shapes.” Testers did comment on the tip, however, noting that it had trouble engaging on hardpack snow and had a tendency to chatter at speed. “The rockered tip is a penalty at the top of the turn on super hard snow, but the ski excels on all other terrain,” noted one tester. All in all, the Head Wild Joy is a wide and lightweight ski that’s also nimble and stable, and accessible to intermediates and experts alike.
Kastle’s LX 85 is a quick turning, easy-flexing ski for capable carvers as well as intermediates looking for a confidence boost. Kastle’s LX 85 is a quick turning, easy-flexing ski that scored high marks for Edge Hold and Carving Pleasure. At 85 mm underfoot and outfitted with a lightweight construction, the LX 85 best suits frontside enthusiasts who want a light and maneuverable ski. To aggressive skiers, the tip felt light and the lightweight construction lowered testers confidence to crank high speed arcs. To others, the LX (which designates Kastle’s lightweight line) was, as one tester posits, “easy-peasy – the perfect combo of grace and grit without being too dainty."
Best Versatility in Turn Shape and Snow Conditions
Blizzard Black Pearl 88Frontside Skis, Ski & Snow, Skis & Women's Frontside Skis
Updates to the Blizzard Black Pearl 88 result in a well-balanced, reliable and versatile ski that’s fun in a variety of turn shapes and snow conditions. Edge hold was acceptable, though not as grippy as some other skis in the category, and flotation echoed those same lines. All in all, however, testers praised the Black Pearl as a go-to ski for all levels, east to west, both on piste and off.
Best Blend of Lightweight Construction and Performance
Elan Ripstick 86 WFrontside Skis, Ski & Snow, Skis & Women's Frontside Skis
The Elan Ripstick 86 W is a hybrid Frontside ski, combining stability underfoot on the groomers with easy pivoting in soft snow. Testers gave the 86-mm waisted ski highest marks for Stability and Edge Hold. Some testers noted that the skis’ all-mountain tip shape did not engage quickly in high performance turns, but was instead a spot-on design for soft snow conditions. Overall, testers praised the lightweight construction, which felt strong and sturdy underfoot in a variety of turn shapes and conditions.