The Best Men's Frontside Skis

Men’s Frontside Skis 2018-19

Gear Institute’s ski test is held annually at Snowbird, Utah, in conjunction with Mountain Magazine and Outside Magazine. The 2018 test was held in February, with more than 20 testers, several of who work in the snowsports industry as ski instructors, ski patrollers, professional athletes, and magazine editors, as well as one former member of the U.S. Ski Team. Other testers included former NCAA Division 1 ski racers, some hard-charging beer league skiers from the East Coast, and local rippers from Alta, Snowbird, Jackson Hole, Vail, Taos, and Santa Fe, New Mexico. Initial product testing was also conducted in January 2018 at Copper Mountain, Colorado, during the SnowSports Industries America trade show.

Snowbird offers the kind of world-class terrain, including everything from expertly groomed hardpack to tight trees, windswept bowls, big bumps, steep chutes, endless cornices and all-around mixed conditions that allow us to test skis in almost every imaginable condition. With many top name ski manufacturers—Atomic, Dynastar, Rossignol, Salomon, etc…—having their headquarters in Utah (including several, such as Blizzard, with satellite offices in the Beehive State), we can also easily coordinate with the brands to ensure that we test products in exactly the kinds of conditions in which they were designed to excel. We don’t test Powder skis on hardpack, and we don’t test Frontside skis when the Wasatch is experiencing one of its legendary storms. Each day of our test we check the weather conditions, and test the right skis for those conditions.

We do test skis head-to-head, one after the other, rating them on the same criteria that we feel is most relevant to each specific category, with an emphasis on top of the line products for advanced to expert skiers who know how they want a ski to perform. In the Frontside Category, that includes a ski’s Carving Pleasure, for how accurately and consistently it maintains contact with the snow, Edge Hold for how confident the ski feels in an arc at a variety of speeds, Stability, Turn Shape Variability, and Float for how well the ski initiates a turn, particularly in off-piste conditions. We test Frontside Skis on groomers, moguls, in the trees, off Snowbird’s famous Cirque, and in some light powder/crud, cut-up snow to evaluate how well they perform in the kind of lift-served conditions skiers can typically expect to find throughout the season at their local mountain or home hill.

Below is a summary of the overall results of our test, including which ski scored the Best in Class, and the best skis in each specific test classification.

Review Year
Best in Class
Overall Rating
Price
Name Overall Rating Ratings The Good The Bad Price
Rossignol Experience 88 Ti
95
Best in Class
2018
Overall 9
Float 9
Stability 9
Edge Hold 9
Carving Pleasure 10
Turn Shape 9

So versatile

Easy to get—and keep—on edge

Effortless initiation

Loves hard snow—even bumps!

So fluid, at slow or high speeds

Not for pure carvers

Little more rocker than race-style skiers will app

Not as powerful as the Brahma at super high speeds

MSRP
$750.00
BEST DEAL
Rossignol Experience 88
94
Float 8
Stability 9
Edge Hold 9
Carving Pleasure 10
Turn Shape 8

Everything about this ski feels spot on

Very responsive, to a hard or light touch

Great turn variation

Also handles well off-piste

Great edge hold

A couple of testers would have liked a stiffer ski

And also felt medium radius turns were its strong

More damp, less pop

Needs to be on edge

MSRP
$800.00
BEST DEAL
evo
Dynastar Legend X88
92
Overall 9
Float 8
Stability 8
Edge Hold 9
Carving Pleasure 9
Turn Shape 9

Smooth and dynamic

Even flex

Easy to initiate

Responsive

Super edge hold

Has to be in a turn

Better in the fall-line

More lively than damp

Best on softer surfaces

There are a couple better carvers in the class

MSRP
$750.00
BEST DEAL
Atomic Vantage 90 CTI
92
Float 6
Stability 9
Edge Hold 9
Carving Pleasure 9
Turn Shape 9

Smooth, seamless turns

Amazing edge hold

Quick edge-to-edge

Great versatility

Confidence inspiring performance

Absolutely rips at high speed

More carve than float

Performs better at higher speeds

Needs to turned all the time

MSRP
$725.00
BEST DEAL
HEAD Monster 88
90
Float 6
Stability 10
Edge Hold 9
Carving Pleasure 8
Turn Shape 7

Incredible stability

Powerful

Carves with authority

Owns the carve

Excellent edge hold

Not nimble

More damp than pop

It's a lot of ski!

Needs to be pushed

MSRP
$800.00
BEST DEAL
evo
Head Kore 93
89
Overall 8
Flotation 8
Stability 9
Edge Hold 8
Carving Pleasure 9
Turn Shape 7

Lightweight

Easy carver

Super stability

Very good Frontside ski

Incredible grip

Not as much float

Not as much pop

Needs to be on edge

MSRP
$750.00
BEST DEAL
Salomon XDR 84 Ti
88
Float 7
Stability 7
Edge Hold 8
Carving Pleasure 9
Turn Shape 7

Confident, energetic feel underfoot

Effortless to initiate

Great edge hold

Quick turner

Fun, super round turns

Not as damp

Not as good at big turns

Some testers didn’t like it at high speeds

Needs to be driven all the time

MSRP
$725.00
BEST DEAL
evo
Kastle MX89
88
Float 5
Stability 9
Edge Hold 9
Carving Pleasure 9
Turn Shape 6

Solid feel underfoot—damp and beefy

Stable

Great edge-hold

Master of the GS turn

Charges the fall-line

Needs to be driven

Loses performance at slower speeds

And in shorter turns

Demands your full attention

MSRP
$1,299.00
BEST DEAL
Fischer Pro Mtn 86 Ti
88
Overall 8
Float 6
Stability 8
Edge Hold 9
Carving Pleasure 9
Turn Shape 8

Great edge hold

Super responsive

Feels energetic and damp at the same time

Seamless transitions

Exciting ski

Loses a little performance off-piste

Needs to be driven all the time

Some testers over-powered it at high speeds

MSRP
$799.00
BEST DEAL
Dynastar Legend X84
87
Float 6
Stability 7
Edge Hold 8
Carving Pleasure 9
Turn Shape 7

Great turn variability

Super edge hold

Responsive

Easy to ski

Nice progressive flex

Felt short—larger skiers will want the 184 length

More lively than damp

Best on softer surfaces

There are a couple better carvers in the class

MSRP
$700.00
BEST DEAL
Blizzard Brahma
87
Overall 9
Float 5
Stability 10
Edge Hold 9
Carving Pleasure 8
Turn Shape 6

Super stability

Great edge control

Loves to go fast

Super damp feel

Powerful carve

Not very versatile

Loses performance off-piste

Loses performance at slower speeds

Have to be on your toes

Intermediates need not apply

MSRP
$780.00
BEST DEAL
Elan Ripstick 86
87
Overall 8
Float 6
Stability 8
Edge Hold 9
Carving Pleasure 9
Turn Shape 7

Excellent edge-hold

Very lively

Easy to initiate

Good carver

Sweet swingweight

Not much float

More hard snow specific

Softer than some of the skis in this category

Mixed feelings on dedicated “left” & “right” skis

MSRP
$750.00
BEST DEAL
evo
Nordica Enforcer 93
86
Overall 8
Floatation 5
Stability 9
Edge-hold 9
Carving Pleasure 8
Turn Shape 7

Precise, aggressive ski

Edge hold is awesome

Loves to arc

Fun to ride ALL the way through the turn

Lot of ski for the price

Not for short turns

Will punish late carvers

More damp than lively

Some folks may want to detune the tail

Small amount of Float

MSRP
$749.00
BEST DEAL
Elan 84 XTi
86
Float 4
Stability 7
Edge Hold 9
Carving Pleasure 9
Turn Shape 7

Very responsive

Edges well

Easy to Initiate

Versatile turn shapes

Smooth feel

Lost a bit of performance at higher speeds

And on early spring hardpack snow

Better at short to medium radius turns

Not as much flotation

Some people still don’t like dedicated “left” and

MSRP
$899.00
BEST DEAL
Atomic Vantage 90 Ti
85
Overall 7
Float 6
Stability 8
Edge Hold 8
Carving Pleasure 9
Turn Shape 7

Super versatility

Wicked stable

Fast edge to edge

Excellent hold

Loves to get up to speed

More of a carver

Better at medium radius turns

Handles best at higher speeds

Can feel a little planky

MSRP
$725.00
BEST DEAL
Line Supernatural 92
84
Float 7
Stability 8
Edge Hold 7
Carving Pleasure 7
Turn Shape 5

Damp

Good hold on hardpack—even refrozen slush!

Bigger turns are best

Easy to steer

Solid edge grip

Not lively underfoot

Some testers felt it had a speed limit

Especially off-piste

Mixed reviews on how it handles various turn shape

MSRP
$750.00
BEST DEAL
Volkl Kendo
83
Overall 8
Float 5
Stability 8
Edge Hold 8
Carving Pleasure 9
Turn Shape 5

Excellent edge hold

Damp and stable feel

Perfect medium radius turns

Dynamic flex

Peise

Not a lot of energy

Better on-piste

Sleepy at slow speeds

Not as quick edge to edge

MSRP
$775.00
BEST DEAL
Armada Invictus 89TI
83
Overall 7
Float 8
Stability 7
Edge Hold 7
Carving Pleasure 6
Turn Shape 8

Great edge hold

Damp feel—really connects to the snow

Easy to initiate

Stable and predictable

Big sweet spot

Better performance at higher speeds

Not very lively

Better off-piste than on groomed

A few testers would have preferred less tip rocker

MSRP
$700.00
BEST DEAL
N/A
Salomon XDR 88 Ti
83
Overall 7
Float 7
Stability 6
Edge Hold 8
Carving Pleasure 9
Turn Shape 6

Nimble and playful

Great edge-hold

Fun ski

Easy to maneuver

Smooth feel

Needs to be on edge

Prefers short to medium-radius turns

Not much float

More of Frontside carve than all-terrain ski

MSRP
$800.00
BEST DEAL
K2 Pinnacle 88Ti
82
Overall 7
Floatation 8
Stability 7
Edge Hold 7
Carving Pleasure 6
Turn Shape 7

Fun ski

Easy to initiate

Good off-piste

Nice amount of tip rocker

Perfect for spring corn

Small sweet spot

Not as good at shorter turns

Definitely a recreational ski

Race style skiers will be underwhelmed

MSRP
$750.00
BEST DEAL
N/A
Liberty Origin 90
82
Float 7
Stability 7
Edge Hold 7
Carving Pleasure 5
Turn Shape 6

Good edge-hold

Forgiving flex

Loves off-piste, like windpack and bumps

Nice initiation

Easy-to-access performance

Not a pure carver

Hard snow is not its strong suit

Need to load the shovel

Struggled with short radius turns

MSRP
$725.00
BEST DEAL
Black Crows Orb
81
Overall 7
Float 8
Stability 7
Edge Hold 6
Carving Pleasure 6
Turn Shape 7

Great short turns

Good float

Very easy to initiate

Maneuverable

Fun wherever you take it

Better on softer snow

Not as precise a carver

Loses performance at higher speeds

Pronounced tip rocker can make it feel short

MSRP
$759.00
BEST DEAL
DPS Cassiar A85
80
Float 7
Stability 5
Edge Hold 6
Carving Pleasure 6
Turn Shape 6

Lightweight

Playful

Easy to Initiate

Performs well on softer snow

Predictable and balanced

Easy to overpower

Not lively

Lack of versatility

High price tag

MSRP
$1,299.00
BEST DEAL
N/A
Rossignol Experience 88 Ti

Rossignol’s Experience 88 was the top ski in our Frontside test last year, and this year Rossignol improved it! The new 88Ti features something Rossi is calling ‘Line Control Technology,’ a World Cup innovation that basically includes a Power Rail down the center of the ski for stability and dampening—and no counter-flexing!—and Titanal construction for exceptional Edge-hold. The ski does have super silky edge initiation and some of the smoothest arcs in the category, yet with all of the slightly wider waist widths in the class this season, it’s still a bit more of a carver than the rest. Bottomline: The new 88Ti is one of the easiest arcing skis we’ve ever tested. It’s so easy to get ripping right away on this ski, that you’ll be forgiven for shattering the speed limit.

Read the Full Review Shop Now at Christy Sports

Dynastar Legend X88

Dynastar continues to upgrade its Legend series, with a new generation of Powerdrive construction—with a progressive rocker profile and five-point sidecut—to provide better on-snow contact, Titanal laminates for power, tip and tail for ease of initiation and hook-free carving, and poplar core for great liveliness. Last year, the brand offered the Legend X84 for the Frontside category. This year, the Legend X88 provides even more all-terrain capability without sacrificing the ski’s great quickness and awesome edge grip. The ski also has a lighter feel and more energy than a lot of other boards in the Frontside Category. For many testers, the increased maneuverability and enhanced rocker can make the ski feel more active and alive in a slalom turn than it does in a GS.

Read the Full Review Shop Now at GearTrade.com

Elan Ripstick 86

The Elan Ripstick 86 is one of the purest carvers in the Frontside category, with wonderfully smooth turn initiation and excellent edge-hold. It 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, resulting in really smooth turn initiation that rolls into a short to medium radius arc with a buttery feel. It doesn’t have enough float to handle more than almost exclusively hard snow conditions, and also felt like it had a bit softer flex than other skis in the category, resulting in a desire to ski at more moderate speeds, and in a medium turn radius. Testers did find this ski incredibly responsive and versatile on Frontside conditions, and also appreciated its ‘pop’ and sense of energy underfoot.

Read the Full Review Shop Now at evo

Blizzard Brahma

Blizzard’s Brahma has earned its place in the pantheon of great hard snow skis, with a penchant for arcing high speed, medium to long radius turns on groomers. It is easily one of the most stable skis in the Frontside Category, and one of the most thrilling skis for people who like to go very fast. The damp feel and great edge control invite you to keep turning up the heat on each arc. Slow down or go too deep off-piste, however, and that high level of performance gets a little harder to find. This is a ski that’s best for advanced to expert level carvers who have the skills to really drive a turn.

Read the Full Review Shop Now at Amazon.com

Black Crows Orb

The Black Crows Orb opened a lot of eyes on our test team with its ability to make effortless short turns both on and off-piste. A fun, eminently maneuverable ski in almost all conditions–especially cut up snow and bumps–the Orb’s ease of initiation and friendly progressive flex provided a welcome break from many of the race style skis in this category. It’s not for skiers who want to test the speed limit. It is for skiers who want a fun all-mountain Frontside ski with easy-to-access performance.

Read the Full Review Shop Now at SummitSports.com

See All Men's Frontside Skis Reviews

Men's Frontside Skis Review Results

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Snowbird offers the kind of world-class terrain that allows us to test skis in almost every imaginable condition, from expertly groomed hardpack to tight trees, windswept bowls, big bumps, steep chutes, endless cornices and all-around mixed conditions. With many top name ski manufacturers — Armada, Atomic, Dynastar, DPS, Rossignol, Salomon, etc. — having their headquarters in Utah (including several, such as Blizzard, with satellite offices in the Beehive State), we can also easily coordinate with the brands to ensure that we test products in exactly the kinds of conditions in which they were designed to excel. We don’t test Powder skis on hardpack, and we don’t test Frontside skis when the Wasatch is experiencing one of its legendary storms. Each day of our test we check the weather conditions, and test the right skis for those conditions accordingly.

We do test skis head-to-head, one after the other, rating them on the same criteria that we feel is most relevant to each specific category, with an emphasis on top of the line products for advanced to expert skiers who know how they want a ski to perform. In the Frontside Category, that includes a ski’s Carving Pleasure, for how accurately and consistently it maintains contact with the snow, Edge Hold for how confident the ski feels in an arc at a variety of speeds, Stability, Turn Shape Variability, and Float for how well the ski initiates a turn, particularly in off-piste conditions. We test Frontside Skis on groomers, moguls, in the trees, off Snowbird’s famous Cirque, and in some light powder/crud, cut-up snow to evaluate how well they perform in the kind of lift-served conditions skiers can typically expect to find throughout the season at their local mountain or home hill.

Carving Pleasure Overview

Elan’s 84 XTi is one of the best pure carving skis we’ve ever tested, but that could be said for many of the skis in the Frontside Category. A majority of the skis in this category use a mix of Titanal and wood in the core of the ski for equal parts power and flex. The result is, skis like Dynaster Legend X84, Atomic Vantage 90 CTI, Fischer Pro Mtn 86 Ti, Kastle MX89, Rossignol Experience 88 and Volkl Kendo all scored 8s, 9s, or 10s (out of a possible 10) in the Carving Classification.

Float Overview

Several skis earned higher scores in the Float Classification, such as the Armada Invictus 89TI, Black Crows Orb, K2 Pinnacle 88, Liberty Origin 90 and DPS Cassiar, but did not do as well in the Stability or Carving Pleasure Classification. We found that in general, the more tip rocker and ease of initiation — especially in off-piste conditions—  the less overall Edge Hold it had on the hardpack. The Rossignol Experience 88, which earned Best in Class in the Frontside Category, did also earn a score of 8 for Float (out of a possible 10), while the versatile Salomon XDR 84 Ti, also earned 7 while garnering a score of 9 in the Carving Classification. The majority of the top skis for Edge Hold and Stability in the Frontside Category, however, such as the Head Monster 88, Elan 84 XTi and Kastle MX89 received 5s or 6s for their relative lack of Float.

Turn Shape Variability Overview

Along with the Float Classification, Turn Shape Variability was where we saw some of the biggest discrepancies in the Frontside Category. Skis such as the Dynaster Legend X84, Fischer Pro Mtn 86 Ti, Rossignol Experience 88 and Salomon XDR 84 Ti showed remarkable versatility, often because of a progressive sidecut for better edge to snow contact in a variety of turn shapes, as well as a slightly softer shovel flex. Stiffer skis, such as the Head Monster 88, Blizzard Brahma and Volkl Kendo made great GS style turns, especially at moderate to higher speeds, but were difficult to move into shorter turns while still maintaining a round turn shape. Softer flexing skis, such as the K2 Pinnacle 88, made great short swing turns, but felt overpowered at higher speeds, especially on hardpack.

Stability and Edge Hold Overview

Thanks to the aforementioned use of metal and wood laminates in the construction of the majority of skis in the Frontside Category, along with a traditional sidewall sandwich in which the skis basically layered from the base up, Stability and Edge Hold were consistently good across the board. In stiffer skis such as the Blizzard Brahma, Head Monster 88, Kastle MX89, Line Supernatural 92 and Rossignol Experience 88, Stability Classification scores ranged from 8 (out of a possible 10) to as high as a 10 for the Head. Lighter weight skis, particularly cap/sidewall construction hybrids (in which a cap over the sandwich construction covers the laminates) exhibited slightly less Edge Hold and Stability, especially on the hardpack. Overall though, Stability scores in the Frontside Category were consistently above average.