The Best Women's Frontside Skis

The Gear Institute Women’s Ski test took place over three days at Snowbird, Utah, in February of 2018. 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 versatility in the category of Women’s Frontside skis. A key contributor to the versatility 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 84 mm underfoot, is considered more Frontside leaning, while the widest ski, at 93 mm underfoot, is considered more all-mountain, however we have grouped them together.

The trend for 2018-19 continues to be a focus on versatility in terms of combining frontside carving performance with all-mountain resort float and variable snow performance. Manufacturers played with shape and rocker, and in fact, some skis have several radii within the sidecut of the ski, resulting in performance features such as the ability to start a turn aggressively, while adding forgiveness underfoot. Sometimes this sent mixed messages to testers about intended use, while other models seemed to increase Turn Shape Variability and better performance in snow condition variations.

When testing skis for the Frontside category, testers looked for ski traits that contribute in the following categories: Edge-hold, Carving Pleasure, Stability, Turn Shape Variability and Resort Flotation. Some skis lean more toward carving and Frontside performance, scoring high in Carving Pleasure but lower in versatility, while others excelled in all areas. This increase of versatility means that many modern Frontside skis are balanced in all categories—designed carve as well to handle light to moderate amounts of soft or variable snow.

All in all, testers felt that skis in this category would suit a variety of ability levels, with the exception of a few models constructed with metal. There was an overall sense of “predictability” and “stability” from most models and the skis that received the highest scores had the best blend of carving prowess and versatility. Some of the skis in this category could be classified as “directional” or “bi-directional,” meaning that some seek the fall line while others are more playful and surfy. However, that distinction is felt more in the wider, All-mountain models. Many of the skis in this category have a forward mounting position, 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 averaging around 88 mm. Skis that scored lower in the test have lower scores for stability and lacked in Turn Shape Variability and Resort Float.

Review Year
Best in Class
Overall Rating
Price
Name Overall Rating Ratings The Good The Bad Price
Blizzard Black Pearl 88
88
Best in Class
2018
Flotation 7
Stability 8
Edge Hold 8
Carving Pleasure 8
Turn Variability 7

User-friendly

Reliable edge grip with immediate access underfoot

Smooth, even flex

Huge sweet spot

Tip doesn’t entirely engage at initiation

Stiff for smearing turns

Lacks energy in high-speed, aggressive turns

MSRP
$720.00
BEST DEAL
Dynastar Legend W 88
87
Floatation 6
Stability 9
Edge Hold 8
Carving Pleasure 7
Turn Variability 7

A cruiser ski

Easy & intuitive to turn

Smooth & stable in long turns

Good edge hold

Not very playful

Sluggish edge to edge

Slow in slalom turns

MSRP
$700.00
BEST DEAL
evo
Kästle LX 85
86
Flotation 5
Stability 8
Edge Hold 9
Carving Pleasure 8
Turn Variability 6

Smooth & stable, particularly at speed

Predictable & confidence inspiring

Long effective edge

Lacks versatility

Not easy to release edges or shut down at speed

Beefy & stiff; burly for lighter skiers

MSRP
$999.00
BEST DEAL
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
K2 Alluvit 88 Ti
85
Floatation 5
Stability 8
Edge Hold 8
Carving Pleasure 8
Turn Variability 6

Good combo of dampness & energy

Smooth on groomers in short to medium radius turns

Big, easy sweet spot

Peters out in long turns

Stiff tail lacks forgiveness in big arcs

Tip doesn’t engage like a pure carver

MSRP
$750.00
BEST DEAL
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
Head Wild Joy
84
Flotation 8
Stability 4
Edge Hold 8
Carving Pleasure 8
Turn Variability 6

Light but substantial

Good edge hold

Can pivot, smear & handle crud

Sluggish edge-to-edge

Tips can wander

Damp underfoot

MSRP
$750.00
BEST DEAL
K2 Alluvit 88
83
Responsiveness 6
Stability 7
Float 6
Versatility 7
Carving 7

Predictable and easy to use

Moves through slush and crud without hesitation

Skis wider than its 88 mm waist, but carves decent

Best in soft snow

Not for a powerhouse

Loses stability in steep hardpack conditions

Less frontside performance, more freeride

MSRP
$800.00
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
Fischer My Pro MT 86
82
Floatation 5
Stability 6
Edge Hold 7
Carving Pleasure 8
Turn Variability 6

Zippy & quick

Slalom oriented, short turn radius

Easy turn initiation & release

Tails stay hooked in bumps

Gets bumped around in variable snow

Not a confidence booster in GS turns at speed

MSRP
$599.00
BEST DEAL
evo
Scott Slight 83 W
82
Floatation 4
Stability 7
Edge Hold 7
Carving Pleasure 8
Turn Variability 6

Solid edge-to-edge

Zippy & lively

Forgiving & unintimidating

Breaks away at high speeds

Chattery on steeper slopes

A bit one-dimensional in Turn Shape Variability

MSRP
$750.00
BEST DEAL
N/A
Stöckli Stormrider 85 Motion
82
Floatation 4
Stability 7
Edge Hold 8
Carving Pleasure 8
Turn Variability 5

Damp & sturdy

Bomber edge hold & fast edge-to-edge

Solid as a rock

Feels sluggish on steep terrain at speed

The tips can hook up at speed

Low turn shape variability

MSRP
$750.00
BEST DEAL
N/A
DPS Uschi 87 Alchemist
80
Floatation 3
Stability 7
Edge Hold 7
Carving Pleasure 8
Turn Variability 5

Holds well in GS turns

Decent stability & good edge hold on groomers

Playful & forgiving

Lacks tip shape and engagement into an arc

Lacks turn shape variability

Feels light at speed

MSRP
$1,300.00
BEST DEAL
evo
Blizzard Black Pearl 88

As the middle model in Blizzard’s freeride, all-mountain Black Pearl line, the Black Pearl 88 is a versatile ski ideal not only for a variety of terrain and snow conditions, but also for a wide range of skiers. Versatility and a huge sweet spot result from a balance of lightweight construction and wide frontside shape, which creates an easy flexing ski with enough torsional rigidity so that it can handle high speed, aggressive turns. To some testers, the less than shapely sidecut means a lack of snap out of the turn as well as mediocre float from the relatively narrow tip. However, high marks from testers appeared across the board for all criteria including Stability, Edge-hold and Carving Pleasure, with the exception of slightly lower scores for Turn Shape Variability and Float.

Read the Full Review Shop Now at SummitSports.com

Dynastar Legend W 88

Got cruisers? The Dynastar Legend W 88 is a smooth, damp, easy ride with a big sweet spot. Testers favored the ski’s stability and carving pleasure, particularly in long turns. Slightly lower scores were tallied for variability of turn shape and flotation, where testers felt the dampness and shape created a slightly sluggish feeling in tight turns and powder snow.

Read the Full Review Shop Now at evo

Head Wild Joy

The Head Wild Joy has a construction that balances lightweight properties with performance. The 90 mm waist width sits on the higher end of the spectrum for the category, but the sub 14 m turning radius means it behaves like a super shaped ski. In fact, the wide tip both engages easily well as providing flotation in soft snow. The Wild Joy received it’s highest scores for Edge-hold, Carving Pleasure and Flotation, with lower marks for Turn Shape Variability and Stability, due to slow edge-to-edge response as well as a wandering tip on steep and icy slopes.

Read the Full Review Shop Now at Amazon.com

Fischer My Pro MT 86

A quick-turning ski with a short turn demeanor, the Fischer My Pro MT 86 has an emphasis on Frontside and less on all-mountain ski. It has traditional carving ski elements, such as a sandwich sidewall construction and a wood core, with some weight-reducing technology such as Air Tec and Razorshape. The 86-mm-waisted ski received its highest tester scores for Carving Pleasure and lower scores for Turn Shape Variability and Flotation.

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 84 mm underfoot all the way up to up to 93 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 titanium 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 criteria: Stability, Edge-hold, Carving Pleasure, Turn Shape Variability and Resort Flotation.

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 Kastle LX 85. 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 Nordica Santa Ana 93 felt “sure-footed” and stable as well as the Stocklil Stormrider 85, which felt “bomber underfoot.”

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 Blizzard Black Pearl 88 received high marks here, as well as Nordica Santa Ana 93, Stockli Stormrider 85 and Fischer My Pro Mt 86. The Scott Slight 83 W was “zippy, edge-to-edge,” with good short-turn radius edge grip.

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 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 the 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.

Most skis in this category received moderate to high scores here, with the Head Wild Joy, Blizzard Black Pearl 88 and Kastle LX 85 taking the lead. The K2 Alluvit 88 had an “easy sweet spot,” which increased Carving Pleasure.

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).

The Head Wild Joy, Black Pearl 88 and Dynastar Legend 87 W 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 Head Wild Joy and the Blizzard Black Pearl 88 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.

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 heavily 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 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 February of 2018. 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 criteria: 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 are used to segment qualities like 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.