The Best Women's Frontside Skis

The Gear Institute Women’s Ski test took place over three days at Snowbird, Utah, in March of 2017. Six female testers skied each of the skis in the test and completed a detailed test card after each test run.

During a test debriefing session, testers commented on the overall increase of versatility in the category of Women’s Frontside skis. A contributor here is the range of waist widths in this category. Test skis were selected by the manufacturers based on the North American market buying trends, which are wider in waist than in most European markets. The narrowest ski in the Gear Institute Frontside category, at 70 mm underfoot, is considered “Pure Frontside” while the widest ski, at 88 mm underfoot, is considered “All Mountain Frontside,” however we have grouped them together. (In Europe, for example, 70 mm is considered wide for a pure carving ski.) What is noteworthy for 2018 is a more concentrated blend of the versatility valued in North American markets with the demand for frontside performance in terms of carving skills.

While evaluating skis in the Frontside category, testers looked for ski traits that contribute to carving including Edge-hold, Carving pleasure and Turn Shape Variability. This increase of versatility means that many modern Frontside skis are also designed to handle light to moderate amounts of soft or variable snow. Testers looked at Stability and Flotation in this category as well, whereas Pure Frontside test cards substituted Responsiveness for Flotation.

All in all, testers felt that skis in this category would suit a variety of ability levels and there was an overall sense of “predictability” and “stability” from most models. The skis that received the highest scores had the best blend of carving prowess and versatility. Many of these skis have a lightweight construction or weight-reducing technology combined with a high-performance layup, which included full wood cores, full vertical sidewalls, varying degrees of tip rocker and waist widths somewhere around 84 mm to 88 mm. Skis that scored lower in the test have lower scores for stability and lacked in Edge-grip or Carving Pleasure mini-categories.

Review Year
Best in Class
Overall Rating
Price
Name Overall Rating Ratings The Good The Bad Price
Head Supershape Titan Ski Test Results 2016
95
Best in Class
2015
Edge Hold 9
Responsiveness 10
Turn Shape Variability 9
Stability 9
Carving Pleasure 9
Value 9

Responsive at any speed

Best mid-radius turn in the category

Fun & playful

Excellent edge hold

Awesome carving ski

A little sluggish at short radius turns

Most rewarding for stronger skiers

Did not own any single category (other than overall performance, that is)

MSRP
$1,075.00
BEST DEAL
N/A
Dynastar Course Speed Ski Test Results 2016
92
Edge Hold 8
Responsiveness 9
Turn Shape Variability 8
Stability 9
Carving Pleasure 9
Value 9

Fantastic edge hold

Handles variable speeds equally well

Excels at short and mid-radius turns

Very smooth feel

Pure carving ski

Very narrow waist width

Always in carve mode

Other skis were easier to initiate

MSRP
$900.00
BEST DEAL
N/A
Nordica Fire Arrow 80 Ti Ski Test Results 2016
92
Edge Hold 10
Responsiveness 8
Turn Shape Variability 7
Stability 10
Carving Pleasure 9
Value 8

Excellent edge-hold

Superior stability

Good turn shape variability

Confident at high speeds

Rips on every hardback condition

For experts only

No auto-pilot--requires full concentration

Might last longer than you do

MSRP
$1,049.00
BEST DEAL
N/A
Rossignol Pursuit 800 Ski Test Results 2016
91
Edge Hold 8
Responsiveness 9
Turn Shape Variability 8
Stability 9
Carving Pleasure 9
Value 8

Super damp

Strong under foot

Carving machine

Easy to initiate

Good hold

Not versatile

Skied short--think about sizing up if you buy this ski

Narrow underfoot

MSRP
$1,100.00
BEST DEAL
N/A
Volkl RTM 84 Ski Test Results 2016
91
Edge Hold 10
Responsiveness 8
Turn Shape Variability 7
Stability 9
Carving Pleasure 9
Value 8

Loves groomers

Arcs on steep hardpack

Excellent at medium radius turns

Better at higher speeds

Excellent carver

Great grip

Not very playful

Not as versatile as other skis in this category

Very little room for error

MSRP
$1,150.00
BEST DEAL
N/A
Salomon X-Max Ski Test Results 2016
90
Edge Hold 9
Responsiveness 8
Turn Shape Variability 7
Stability 9
Carving Pleasure 8
Value 9

Great short radius turn performance

Super grip on ice

Very stable

Responsiveness

Easy to initiate

Easy to over ski

Needs to be in a turn all the time

Better for skiers who like drive, rather than ride a ski

MSRP
$950.00
BEST DEAL
N/A
Blizzard Power X8 Ski Test Results 2016
89
Edge Hold 9
Responsiveness 8
Turn Shape Variability 7
Stability 9
Carving Pleasure 8
Value 8

Explosively powerful

Endless grip

Very stable

Lots of pop

Awesome at mid to long range turns

Lots of work to make shorter turns

Not as exciting at moderate speeds

Needs to be driven

MSRP
$1,080.00
BEST DEAL
N/A
Scott Black Majic Ski Test Results 2016
89
Edge Hold 8
Responsiveness 9
Turn Shape Variability 8
Stability 8
Carving Pleasure 8
Value 8

Fun to ski

Easy to initiate

Reliable hold

Versatile enough to ski in some off-piste conditions

Little bit of extra rocker makes it accessible to wider range of skiers

Not for ex-racers

Bigger skiers can overpower it

That extra rocker benefits West Coast skiers the most

MSRP
$900.00
BEST DEAL
N/A
Head Wild Joy
89
Best in Class
2018
Flotation 8
Stability 8
Edge Hold 8
Carving Pleasure 7
Turn Variability 8

Nimble

Good stability

Damp with an even flex

Low rebound energy

Tip sluggish to engage on hardpack

Not very forgiving if weight is aft

MSRP
$750.00
BEST DEAL
Blizzard Black Pearl 88
88
Flotation 7
Stability 8
Edge Hold 8
Carving Pleasure 7
Turn Variability 8

Versatile in turn shape and snow condition

Great edge grip

Well balanced

Damp

Not very energetic underfoot

Flotation lacks slightly

MSRP
$720.00
BEST DEAL
Elan Amphibio 14 TI
87
Edge Hold 8
Responsiveness 8
Turn Shape Variability 8
Stability 7
Carving Pleasure 8
Value 8

Smooth ski

Really good edge hold

Easy to initiate

Great frontside ski for a wide variety of skiers

Responsive and stable even at mid-speeds

Gets pushed by anything that isn't groomed

Have to stay centered

On-piste only

Needs to be on edge

Not for race ski fans

MSRP
$950.00
BEST DEAL
N/A
Fischer The Curv
87
Best in Class
2016
Edge Hold 9
Responsiveness 8
Turn Shape Variability 6
Stability 9
Carving Pleasure 7
Value 8

Super damp

Speed hungry

Loves long arcs

Fantastic edge bite

Very solid underfoot

Not versatile

Doesn't do slow turns

Or short

Requires your full attention

Prefers to fly down every slope

MSRP
$1,200.00
BEST DEAL
Atomic Redster DD XT Ski Test Results 2016
86
Edge Hold 10
Responsiveness 7
Turn Shape Variability 6
Stability 10
Carving Pleasure 7
Value 6

Impeccable edge hold

Loves speed--the more, the better

Super carving machine

Rewards hard chargers

Stiff tail

Does not go slow

For experts only

Not maneuverable

MSRP
$1,200.00
BEST DEAL
N/A
Fischer Progressor F19 Ti Ski Test Results 2016
86
Edge Hold 9
Responsiveness 7
Turn Shape Variability 6
Stability 9
Carving Pleasure 8
Value 7

Good edge hold

Solid carver

Damp feel

Very stable

Little bit of work to ski

Not versatile

Too stiff for anything but GS turns

MSRP
$1,050.00
BEST DEAL
N/A
Elan Ripstick 86 W
86
Flotation 8
Stability 7
Edge Hold 7
Carving Pleasure 6
Turn Variability 8

Solid at speed

Versatile in turn shape and snow conditions

A multi-ability level ski

Tip is sluggish to initiate high-performance turns

Lacks bomber edge grip on hardpack

Has a hollow sound

MSRP
$700.00
BEST DEAL
Kastle LX 85
85
Flotation 7
Stability 6
Edge Hold 7
Carving Pleasure 8
Turn Variability 7

Light and maneuverable

Great combo of grace and grit

Fun to carve

Tip feels light at speed

Less stable in high speed arcs

Less forgiving in turn transitions

MSRP
$999.00
BEST DEAL
N/A
Elan Amphibio 16 Ski Test Results 2016
84
Edge Hold 8
Responsiveness 7
Turn Shape Variability 8
Stability 6
Carving Pleasure 8
Value 7

Lightning quick

Easy initiation

Damp hold

Smooth turns

Quickness comes at some cost to stability

Felt limited to medium radius turns

And moderate speeds

MSRP
$1,100.00
BEST DEAL
N/A
Volkl Yumi
84
Flotation 6
Stability 7
Edge Hold 7
Carving Pleasure 7
Turn Variability 7

Easy to maneuver in a variety of snow conditions

Quick edge-to-edge

Easy to butter or carve

Predictable, but not exciting

Nervous at high speed

Too light

MSRP
$650.00
BEST DEAL
evo
Nordica Astral 84
82
Flotation 6
Stability 7
Edge Hold 7
Carving Pleasure 6
Turn Variability 6

Solid underfoot

Shines in medium-radius turns

Confidence inspiring

Slow rise tip doesn’t engage quickly in turns

Low rebound energy

Feels lethargic in short turns

MSRP
$799.00
BEST DEAL
K2 iKonic 80 Ti Ski Test Results 2016
78
Edge Hold 6
Responsiveness 7
Turn Shape Variability 7
Stability 6
Carving Pleasure 6
Value 6

Easy to turn

Forgiving

Performs in a wide variety of frontside conditions

Don't have to be an expert to ski it

Not as much fun at high speeds

Not as exciting for experts

Too soft for railing GS

MSRP
$1,000.00
BEST DEAL
Kastle CPM 82 Ski Test Results 2016
77
Edge Hold 7
Responsiveness 6
Turn Shape Variability 7
Stability 7
Carving Pleasure 7
Value 3

Predictable

Easy to initiate

Handled variable conditions at medium speeds

Makes silky medium radius turns

Took some work to get on a high edge angle

Many testers felt they had to adjust their style to suit the ski

More intermediate friendly

MSRP
$1,499.00
BEST DEAL
N/A
Head Wild Joy

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.

Read the Full Review Shop Now at Amazon.com

Kastle LX 85

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."

Read the Full Review Shop Now at

Blizzard Black Pearl 88

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.

Read the Full Review Shop Now at Amazon.com

Elan Ripstick 86 W

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.

Read the Full Review Shop Now at Amazon.com

Fischer My Curve

The Fischer My Curve leans more toward pure carve than Frontside, thanks to its 68-mm waist and race-oriented sandwich sidewall construction. Testers gave high scores for Carving Pleasure and Responsiveness, though with a caveat: “If you love making short swings all day long, than My Curve is yours,” according to one tester. Labeled a one-trick pony, My Curve excels at short turns, while resisting long arcs, giving testers the feeling of “hooking up” at the turn’s end. The ski felt stable, as long as the turn transitions were speedy. All in all, testers praised My Curve’s aptitude for quick edge-to-edge performance and carving pleasure in short turns.

Read the Full Review Shop Now at evo

See All Women's Frontside Skis Reviews

Women’s Frontside Ski Review Results

by: Last Updated:

Skis in the Frontside ski category are designed to carve up the corduroy or icy hardpack on the ski resort’s front trails. To achieve this, engineers put a premium on precision, edge grip, responsiveness and a relatively tight turn radius. Tip rocker is often added for ease of turn entry, while flat tails are common to help with quick turn exit. However, shapes can vary as waist widths do in this category. The Frontside ski waists range from 70 mm underfoot all the way to 90 mm. The narrower the ski, the tighter the turn radius, but wider skis in this category have more versatility.

Some of the skis in this category are inspired by World Cup racing skis, with design elements that reduce weight, increase edge grip and smooth out the flex. It’s common to find sandwich sidewall constructions with a wood core and a material like carbon or titanal that adds torsional rigidity. Other skis in this category are descendants from wider, All-mountain oriented siblings and have the ability to butter or smear instead, though often at the sacrifice of some amount of edge-hold.

When testing Frontside skis, testers used the following mini-rating criteria: Stability, Edge-hold, Carving Pleasure, Turn Shape Variability and either Flotation (for skis 80 mm underfoot and wider) or Responsiveness (for skis with sub-80 mm waists).

Stability

Stability refers to how confidently the tester felt the ski reacted to a variety of snow conditions and terrain. Stability can come from great snow contact or edge grip, but also a damp construction. Testers often use comments such as “solid at speed,” “huge sweet spot,” and “conquers crud or cut up powder.” Stability also comes in to play when testers think about skiers who are looking to improve or breakthrough from beginner to intermediate and would benefit from a ski that increases confidence by providing a stable platform.

Highest Stability scores were given to the Head Wild Joy, Blizzard Black Pearl 88 and the Atomic Cloud 12. Testers felt that the Wild Joy had a great combo of stability and agility. Thanks to this trait, testers agreed the Wild Joy could elevate an intermediate skier to advanced, while adding enough interest to experts. Testers appreciated the well-balanced flex and stability of the Black Pearl 88 in a variety of turn shapes. The Atomic Cloud 12, at 70 mm underfoot, had stability at speed, like a soft GS ski. Skis like the Fischer My Curve elicited a wide range of comments, though overall, testers felt the ski was stable only in GS turns and was a “one-trick pony.” The Volkl Yumi had decent Stability, but some testers felt it washed out at the end of a long radius turn.

Edge-hold

Edge-hold, or grip, refers to the ski’s performance on edge and its ability to hold an arc on firm snow. Testers talk about feeling the ski edges engage in the snow from tip to tail, like railroad tracks. Race skis typically have vertical sidewall sandwich constructions, built for precision and maximum grip. Testers talk about the skis hooking up, sometimes too much in certain turn shapes, or sometimes appropriately for a feeling of great rebound.

The Fischer My Curve and Atomic Cloud 12—the narrowest of the group—received high marks for Edge-hold. The Blizzard Black Pearl 88 also received high marks here. There were no low marks for Edge-hold, though the Nordica Astral 84 and Volkl Yumi received moderate marks. Testers felt that the Astral lacked rebound out of the turn and washed out of GS arcs, while the Yumi lacked edge-grip for aggressive skiers.

Carving Pleasure

Carving Pleasure refers essentially to how fun the ski feels while carving. Specifically testers look at the ski’s ability to hold the turn consistently throughout a small, medium or a large radius turn. Carving comments often mention ease of turn initiation or exit of the turn. Testers also look at the flex pattern of the ski, whether it’s a soft-flexing ski (“easy going flex pattern for a variety of ability levels”) or stiff (“needs a hefty skier to stomp on this ski”). When looking at this criteria, some skis fit into one of two descriptions: directional or bi-directional. Directional means they ski seeks the fall line and probably has a race-inspired construction. Bi-directional means the ski has a more surfy feel with a freeride-inspired construction.

As mentioned in the Edge-hold description, the narrowest skis received high scores for carving, including Edge-hold and Carving Pleasure. All in all, however, most skis in this category received moderate to high scores here, with the Head Wild Joy, Blizzard Black Pearl 88 and Kastle LX 88 taking the lead. The Elan Ripstick 86 received slightly lower Carving Pleasure scores as testers mentioned a delay in tip engagement into the turn as one cause.

Turn Shape Variability

Versatility is trending in the Frontside category as manufactures seek to make skis that blend great edge-hold with wider waist widths. This blend of skills increases versatility for moguls to hardpack to light powder. However, Turn Shape Variability also refers to turn radius and testers often categorized turns as SL-type turns (tighter turn radius) to GS-type turns (larger radius turns).

Testers said the Fischer My Curve and the Atomic Cloud 12 excel at large radius GS turns, however, Variability scores are slightly lower because of this focus, which means they are harder to tighten the turn radius and make short turns. The Head Wild Joy received high scores for Turn Shape Variability across the board because testers felt it shined in all turn shapes.

Flotation

Flotation for the Frontside category refers to Resort Float, or the ski’s ability to provide some flotation in soft snow (but not huge powder days). This most often refers to the tip’s performance and waist width. Some of the tips in this category have some sort of weight-reducing technology, which not only decreases swing weight but also increased flotation and nearly all have some amount of tip rocker, which helps with flotation as well as adding maneuverability.

The Nordica Astral 84, the Head Wild Joy and the Volkl Yumi received high scores for flotation, which really translates to versatility from groomers to a little bit of off-piste terrain or soft snow. They all have fairly wide tips which help with float.

Responsiveness

Responsiveness measures the liveliness and reaction time of a ski in a wide variety of terrain. Testers most often note this as “quick edge-to-edge,” or “lively and agile” or “energetic.” Some of the skis in this category have noticeable edge grip combined with a wider waist, resulting in the feeling that the ski is “like a fat GS ski.”

Testers commented on Responsiveness for the Atomic Cloud 12 and the Fischer My Curve with adjectives such as “peppy,” “dynamic” and “energetic.” Testers recommend these skis to East or West skiers who want pure carving performance on the groomers.

Review Conclusion

In reality, typical daily snow conditions include groomers and hardpack and call for a Frontside ski with a narrow to mid-fat waist width, best for performance-oriented carved turns. Many consumers are looking for a ski that can perform well on hardpack as well as some soft snow, while providing stability and sturdy edge-hold. Some of the skis feel more dynamic and energetic, while others feel stable and predictable.

Frontside skis lean heavy on edge grip and carving, while All Mountain skis focus more on versatility or a blending of skills. With a waist width range between 70 mm and 90 mm, the Frontside ski category can blur the lines between Frontside and  All Mountain, but the North American trend leans toward an overall versatility instead of the pure carving acumen of race skis, or pure carving skis.

All in all, our experienced testers were impressed by the high quality of the Women’s Frontside skis. In years past, only a few skis rose to the top in terms of being awarded high scores in all of our mini-rating criteria and the Frontside skis that received the highest scores had the best blend of skills—most importantly Edge-hold and Carving Pleasure.

Test Methods

The Gear Institute Women’s Ski test took place over three days at Snowbird, Utah, in March of 2017. Six female testers skied each of the skis in the test and completed a detailed test card after each test run. Testers ranged from Olympians, to former racers and coaches to ski instructors and skiers who prefer backcountry/off-piste conditions. Categories were concluded on the same day so that skis were tested during similar conditions and on the same terrain. An in-depth look into construction and performance of the skis took place in Vail, CO, during a December industry event where testers skied on all test skis under similar conditions.

Testers were instructed to view each ski as a “Tabula Rasa,” or blank slate. Test cards included initial rankings of Favorite, Excellent, Good and Awful. Testers were asked to list three things they both liked and disliked about each ski as well as answering the question, “Who is the ideal customer?” Lastly, testers rated the criteria in terms of best to worst in the following mini-categories; Responsiveness or Flotation, Stability, Edge-hold, Carving Pleasure and Turn Shape Variability.

What makes a great Frontside ski?

With so many great skis in the Frontside category, how do skiers decide which one is right? Tester comments demonstrate a criteria they used to segment stiff, precise, performance-oriented Frontside skis versus easier to turn, moderate flexing models. They often mention ex-racers, hard-chargers or beer league skiers as ideal customers for the skis that have a race-inspired design. For the wider, all-mountain inspired Frontside skis, testers used descriptions such as “confidence-inspiring,” “versatile” and “a ski to advance on.”

With these two designations—and a 20 mm range in waist widths in this category—skiers can decide whether they want a more aggressive narrow ski that behaves like a race ski in terms of hooking up in the turn and exiting quickly, or a slightly wider model that can be skied with a less aggressive stance and compensate for errors like getting in the backseat thanks to a softer flex and friendly sidecut.

Overall, Frontside skis are designed to place carving properties above all else. Most models have a small amount of tip rocker for added maneuverability and ease of entry into the turn, as well as some dampening element that can increase feelings of stability at all speeds. Also, most skis are designed to reduce weight without over-softening the ski. This includes strategically milled out tips or cores and unique combination of hard and soft wood, carbon, or other materials such as flax or basalt. These construction techniques result in balanced skis that feel lightweight yet strong for a variety of ability levels.