Frontside skis are often overlooked in favor of their wider all-mountain brethren and the ultra-fancy, high-performance carving skis of the world, but the fact of the matter is, this style of ski reaches out to the majority of skiers. Not all skier’s have easy access to the dreamy types of conditions and terrain that are so well publicized in ski movies and magazines. The majority of skiers don’t always get knee-deep overnight storms or endless vertical of ungroomed terrain. Most skiers are spending time on the groomers doing hot laps, hitting the occasional bump line or want a ski that will be comfortable on longer extensions of the groomers when they travel to the rockies for a week long vacation.
What are Frontside Skis?
Frontside skis are designed to spend nearly all of their time on the groomers. Waist widths can vary, but typically around 85mm at the waist is the sweet spot you want to be at for strong intermediates to experts. This waist width is easily capable of maintaining a nimble edge-to-edge feeling with enough girth to motor through crud or light powder. Regardless of skill level, there is a frontside ski for everyone, from your bare-bones beginner skier to your most aggressive expert. The majority of frontside skis also include bindings. Not only is this a convenience, but, more importantly, they allow the ski to flex naturally for incredible edge hold, especially on firm or icy slopes.
Let’s Get to the Top Picks
With frontside skis being such a popular category, it was extremely difficult to narrow this down to only five skis. It’s a good thing that we are equipped with quality testers who have gone to lengths to put each ski through a rigorous testing regimen. These are the top five frontside skis according to our testers:
1. Atomic Vantage X 83 CTi
The Atomic Vantage X 83 CTi is back again for its second season. Unchanged aside from the color, this ski has a unique combination of agility and stability. Atomic’s Firewall Sidewalls have notches cut into them at strategic points that allow the ski to flex naturally. This sidewall construction also delivers incredible edge hold with the ability to dampen out vibrations for smooth rides down the mountain. The Carbon Tank Mesh has woven strings of Carbon that add power and energy while reducing the overall weight of the ski. A Titanium Backbone runs the entire length of the ski, but not edge to edge. This serves as another weight reduction technique while, most importantly, adds longitudinal power for stability at top speeds.
2. Head Power Instinct TI Pro
The Head Power Instinct Ti Pro is the lightest-weight ski on this list. Head uses a material called Graphene when building their skis. Graphene has an incredibly high strength-to-weight ratio, making it a perfect material for producing skis. The Graphene WC Sandwich Cap Construction is the very same used in Head’s World Cup Race skis, but in a much more manageable flex pattern for the strong intermediate to expert level skier. The Power Instinct is made with the ERA 3.0 Technology that specifically caters the amount of rocker, rebound and turning radius to the skill set of whom that ski is designed for, giving you an easy to control ride that reacts like it was designed just for you.
3. Rossignol Experience 88 HD
The Rossignol Experience 88 HD is the most accessible ski on the list, meaning that an athletic intermediate skier who is still working on their technique can easily use it as a game improvement ski. That’s not to say that aggressive experts don’t also enjoy this ski as well. Rossi’s Carbon Alloy Matrix is made from woven together fibers of Basalt and Carbon to add an energetic feeling and enhanced edge hold. The Auto-Turn Rocker makes the E88 impressively easy to maneuver into any shape turn you want. An Air Tip pulls heavier material away from the ski to lower the swingweight. The E88 has been a best-seller since its inception several seasons ago, and for good reason.
4. Salomon XDR 88 TI
Salomon’s XDR 88 TI is a freight train of a ski. Loaded with energy, this is one of the more demanding skis on this list. The XDR 88 has the uncanny ability to motor through crud as if it was groomed piste. Salomon’s new CFX Construction helps reduce some of the weight, but this is not a very lightweight ride. The full woodcore, layer of carbon and single Ti Laminate rides best at medium to fast speeds for heavier or more aggressive skiers. A Pulse Pad Dampening System sits underneath the binding platform to smooth out the ride when you are really charging. The shape and rocker profile of the XDR 88 makes this the most versatile ski on this list for heading off piste.
5. Volkl RTM 84
Volkl’s RTM 84 is the biggest speed demon and the most demanding ski on the list, making it for advanced to expert skiers only. This bad boy is loaded with technology, and it rides like it utilizes every bit of it. First up, the RTM 84 has the UVO situated on the shovel of the ski. UVO stands for Ultimate Vibration Object, which dampens out vibrations on three different axis’ to make your ride down the mountain incredibly smooth. The 3D Ridge Technology has a raised ridge down the center of the ski, with a thinner profile across the sidewalls. This lowers the amount of inertia it takes to roll the RTM 84 into carves. New to the RTM 84 this season is the 3D Glass. The 3D Glass has vertically laminated glass behind the sidewalls to improve rebound and add torsional power.
Selecting just five of the largest category of ski was incredibly difficult. There is an infinite amount of options for you in the frontside ski category, which offers something for everyone from beginners to experts. If you are a realist and know that you do not need some ultra-wide and rockered powder ski since nearly all of your time is spent on the frontside of the mountain, this is the category of skis for you. Frontside skis offer plenty of performance when you find one that has a skill level and construction to match your skiing.