The Best Frontside Skis of 2023
These narrower sticks may have a penchant for carving, but they also like to play in the bumps
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This article was first published by SkiMag.com.
Groomer skis, frontside skis—call them what you will, it doesn’t change what they do, which is rail on corduroy. Boasting waist widths in the 80mm-90mm range, these skis are first and foremost designed to carve up the more manicured slopes of the resort, but they’re also versatile enough to pivot and smear through the moguls and glades just beyond the trail markers. If you’re a frontside aficionado or looking for a ski that has your back during the early season before Old Man Winter really starts blowing, start your ski research with this list of the top-ranked unisex frontside skis of 2023.
How We Test
The following skis appear in ranked order, with the frontside ski that tested best at the 2023 gear test in Sun Valley, Idaho listed at the top. Each ski’s overall score is an indication of how that ski performed across nine different skills categories: Hard-Snow Integrity, Carving, Stability at Speed, Quickness, Responsiveness, Playfulness, Forgiveness, Crud Performance, and Versatility. SKI’s scoring system exists to determine and call attention to the skis that most impressed testers, a crew of ski industry professionals who are advanced and expert skiers from across the country. We believe these skis set the benchmark for what a frontside ski is designed to do. That said, remember that ski testing (and skiing) is somewhat subjective. While we’re big fans of the category-winning Rossignol Experience 82 Ti, it may not be the best choice for every skier. So don’t just look at a ski’s score—read testers’ feedback to understand the nuances of each ski and who it’s best suited to. Otherwise, you might wind up with a great ski, just not the right ski for you.
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Meet the Ski Testers
Age: 49 | Height: 5′6″ | Weight: 145 lbs
Schiller considers himself a blue collar ski industry middleman. He’s spent 32 years in skiing and tried all the jobs within the industry, including lift operator, patroller, race coach, brand rep, World Cup technician, and custom ski boot shop owner. He’s been a gear tester for SKI for more than a decade. If he’s not exploring Utah’s Wasatch backcountry, you’ll find him punching boots at the Park City Boot Room.
Age: 32 | Height: 5′8″ | Weight: 130 lbs.
Harkins grew up ski racing, starting on the icy slopes of New England and finishing at the University of Colorado at Boulder. She now lives in Park City, Utah and works as the Director of Marketing & Communications at the U.S. Ski & Snowboard Team. Harkins has been testing skis since 2016 and has been a SKI gear tester for three seasons.
Age: 29 | Height: 5’10” | Weight: 185
Born and raised in Salt Lake City, Flitton joined the Snowbird ski team as a young racer at the age of 7. He learned his solid ski fundamentals through the Snowbird race team as well as his love of skiing powder. He worked his way through the ranks as a racer, spending time at a ski academy in Vermont before returning to his favorite mountain in Utah. Now he spends his time coaching young freeriders how to send it big at Snowbird. He’s a veteran gear testers who has tested skis for both Powder and SKI.
Age: 23 | Height: 5′6″ | Weight: 130 lbs
Gibbons has spent 22 of his 23 years on this earth on skis. The son of Sturtevants Sports’ head buyer, Tracy Gibbons, Otto has basically lived in the ski shop his whole life and has worked there for the past seven years as a hardgoods buyer. If he’s not in the shop, he’s ripping laps at Washington’s Crystal Mountain.
Reviews: The Best Frontside Skis of 2023
No. 1: Rossignol Experience 82 Ti ($800)
Overall score: 8.66/10
Lengths (cm): 160, 168, 176, 184
Dimensions (mm): 127-82-115
Radius (m): 16
Pros: Carving, Stability at speed
Cons: Playfulness, Crud performance
The Experience 82 Ti, a carry-over from last season, blew our testers away this year. “This is the ski!” said one. “Knocked it out of the park,” commented another. In the Experience 82 Ti, Rossignol has created a true frontside ski, utilizing two sheets of metal to establish stiffness, while still delivering a lightweight, forgiving ride. Its blend of performance and playfulness allows for any and all speeds, permitting every skier to drive at their unique ability. Intermediate cruisers can push their skills with the ski’s inherent desire for speed, while more-advanced skiers can tap into its reactiveness and power. Our 2023 best in show in the frontside department is a ski with some serious carving chips—it rails like a champion on the corduroy—so take this model out on that bluebird groomer day and feel like the best dang skier on the mountain. “Phenomenal choice for the widest of skier demographics,” said Matt Schiller, one of our Utah-based testers with a racing background. “You’ll have complete confidence that you chose the right ski for whatever the mountain offers.”
No. 2: Blizzard Brahma 88 ($700)
Overall score: 7.88/10
Lengths (cm): 165, 171, 177, 183, 189
Dimensions (mm): 128-88-110
Radius (m): 16
Pros: Stability at speed, Crud performance
Cons: Forgiveness, Hard-snow integrity
The Brahma has consistently been a top ski among SKI testers over the years, so it’s no surprise to see the Brahma 88 back on top in the frontside category. Sporting two sheets of metal, this ski is stable and damp when ripping GS turns on groomers and busting through crud, while its sidecut makes it versatile enough to crush short-swing turns. Beginners might be a little overpowered by this ski’s stiffness, but if you consider yourself a strong intermediate to advanced skier with a strong pair of legs, the Brahma 88 could be a perfect everyday option that lets you rip the whole mountain, from groomers to chunder. “I would love to ski this as a daily driver and hammer it on a low-tide day,” said tester Tommy Flitton, a freeskiing coach based in Utah. “Great ski for anyone looking to lay big, fast turns on- and off-piste.”
No. 3: Armada Declivity 82 Ti ($775)
Overall score: 7.84/10
Lengths (cm): 166, 174, 182
Dimensions (mm): 128-82-110
Radius (m): 15.9
Pros: Carving, Quickness
Cons: Crud performance, Playfulness
Armada gained its fame in the freeskiing world, but with a weapon like the Declivity 82 Ti, the brand is flexing its muscles in the frontside category. Testers praised its easy turn initiation and ability to hold an edge on hardpack, but also its proficiency in bumps and soft snow, making it the perfect tool for a groomer-loving skier who isn’t afraid to play off-piste. What’s more, the Declivity 82 Ti is stable at speed, with plenty of power for a strong driver to tap into, yet it’s also approachable for those looking to increase their fundamental skiing skills throughout a season. “This is a fun groomer ski with an off-trail personality,” said tester Chad Jacob, a race coach from New York. “It feels like an all-mountain ski that flips to a groomer ski with a roll of the ankle.”
No. 4: Völkl Kendo 88 ($700)
Overall score: 7.79/10
Lengths (cm): 163, 170, 177, 184
Dimensions (mm): 129-88-113
Radius (m): 17
Pros: Hard-snow integrity, Stability at speed
Cons: Forgiveness, Playfulness
For years, the Völkl Kendo has been known as a hard-charging and stiff ski, but this season our testers got a chance to see the other side of its personality. While it still hunts for speed and power, Völkl’s Tailored Titanal Frame technology, which reduces the amount of metal in the ski based on its length, allows this year’s model to show off its playfulness. It’s a refreshing change for advanced skiers, and it also welcomes a more intermediate crowd to the Völkl community. Don’t get us wrong—this ski is still damp, allowing a more advanced skier to find its energy out of a turn when dropping a hip on hardpack. It skews toward an all-mountain versus a traditional groomer ski, but testers agreed that the Kendo likes hard snow best and lacks some forgiveness in the crud. “On groomers, this thing rips, but with an 88mm waist, there’s enough ski to allow for some dabbling off-piste from time to time,” said Colorado-based tester Jon Sexauer.
No. 5: Kästle MX83 ($1,249)
Overall score: 7.78/10
Lengths (cm): 154, 161, 168, 175, 182
Dimensions (mm): 126-83-112
Radius (m): 16.3
Pros: Hard-snow integrity, Stability at speed
Cons: Playfulness, Crud performance
The Kästle MX83 is a beast—in a good way. It arcs perfect turns down hardpack at high speed, allowing for the throttle to be pushed and new edge angles to be discovered. While this ski is truly designed early morning laps on firm groomers, it could bop around in the afternoon bumps once the snow warms up (if your legs are still feeling springy enough to actively steer this ski through the mogul field). Ex-racers loved the ride, and Kästle is proud of its race-inspired construction that makes the ski damp and powerful. But that makes this ride best suited to a more advanced skier with strong legs. The MX83 performs optimally when it’s driven, not ridden. “This ski’s carefully crafted construction yields a home run for the groomer-loving, wind-in-the-face soul skier,” said Schiller. Tester Otto Gibbons, a buyer for Sturtevant’s ski shop in Bellevue, Wash., added, “A nice, wide GS ski that is not overly demanding. Lay them over and let ’em rip.”
No. 6: Dynastar Speed 763 ($1,050)
Overall score: 7.68/10
Lengths (cm): 158, 166, 174, 182
Dimensions (mm): 124-75-109
Radius (m): 15
Pros: Carving, Hard-snow integrity
Cons: Crud performance, Versatility
Get excited, carving enthusiasts: The Dynastar Speed 763 is a category-defining groomer ski that can rip short- to medium-swing turns on hardpack all day long. While the race-inspired construction rewards the skier with a fearless mentality, this ski’s quick edge-to-edge power transfer makes it a fantastic teaching tool for someone who wants to lap greens and blues or try their hand at the local NASTAR course. Longer-radius turns aren’t exactly in this ski’s wheelhouse, as it gets a little squirrely at high speeds, but it’s an ideal choice for cruising with the family on the weekends. “It’s so easy to roll it up and arc hard,” said Flitton. “Doesn’t take much effort or speed. I think the groomer-exclusive skier would have a great time out here.”
No. 7: Nordica Enforcer 88 ($700)
Overall score: 7.29/10
Lengths: 165, 172, 179, 186
Dimensions: 121-88-109 (172)
Pros: Crud performance, Hard-snow integrity
Cons: Playfulness, Forgiveness
In the tester feedback for the Nordica Enforcer 88, the words “confident” and “dependable” were used again and again. And those are perfect terms to illustrate this staunchly reliable ski. Year over year, Nordica remains at or near the top of each category, and the 2023 version of the Enforcer 88 is no different. This model isn’t for everyone—it’s stiff and burly, requiring some strength to get it around—but if you can hit the accelerator, it will perform, and its early rise tip and slight tail rocker make even the cruddiest snow feel smooth and buttery. However, testers said it can be hard to tap into the ski’s playfulness and quickness, especially if you’re feeling a little off or consider yourself more of a novice. “With a profile similar to that of its bigger-waisted brothers, this is a confident charger for groomer days that wants to be pushed hard,” said Jacob.
No. 8: Head Supershape e-Titan ($1,300 with PRD 12 GW bindings)
Overall score: 7.26/10
Lengths (cm): 156, 163, 170, 177, 184
Dimensions (mm): 133-84-115
Radius (m): 15.7
Pros: Hard-snow integrity, Carving
Cons: Forgiveness, Crud performance
Testers were polarized on this ski, but all said it was a solid groomer ripper that puts out what the skier puts into it. The Supershape e-Titan moves nicely from edge to edge, with beginners able to access its power, while confident intermediate to advanced skiers will garner energy out of each turn. However, the wider waist and stiff tip and tail gave it just one turn shape, and it doesn’t like to be off the corduroy, with a few testers stating that the skis feel like planks underfoot in crud and soft snow. But if you’re looking for an option that seeks out hardpack, consider this ride. “Pleasantly surprised by the smooth edge grip. Serious tool for a serious hard-snow skier,” said tester Peter Nestor, a Sun Valley local who knows a thing or two about hard and fast groomers.
No. 9: Salomon Stance 84 ($600)
Overall score: 7.25/10
Lengths (cm): 161, 169, 177, 185
Dimensions (mm): 123-84-106
Radius (m): 16
Pros: Forgiveness, Carving
Cons: Stability at speed, Crud performance
Looking for an all-mountain ski that can rip on groomers? The Salomon Stance 84 fits the bill. Testers praised how easy it is to get on edge and find its pop and play when arcing groomers, while also lauding its versatility when charging in the bumps. While more-advanced testers felt that the ski is a little soft, they enjoyed its agility and quickness on all surfaces, traits that stem from its poplar wood core with a layer of Titanal with carbon windows. Overall, the Stance 84’s effortless turns and forgiveness make it an ideal tool for beginners to intermediates, but any level could (and will) enjoy the ride. “This ski packs a ton of performance and provides a balanced feel and a smooth ride,” said New Hampshire-based tester and hardgoods buyer Dylan Hall. “Plus, it is priced substantially lower than its competitors. This is a great ride for any level of skier.”
No. 10: Stöckli Montero AR ($1,349)
Overall score: 7.14/10
Lengths (cm): 165, 170, 175, 180, 185
Dimensions (mm): 124-84-114
Radius (m): 16.3
Pros: Hard-snow integrity, Stability at speed
Cons: Quickness, Forgiveness
Montero means “hunter” in Spanish, and the name felt appropriate for this Stöckli ski that liked to stalk and prey on fast and firm groomers. However, testers found that the burly Montero AR lacks the energy and rebound that many of the other brands packed into their 2023 frontside offerings. Many stated that the ski seems to only like one turn shape and that it isn’t forgiving if you find yourself in the backseat. However, if you prefer a more conventional frontside ski, the Montero is stable and will get you from first chair to après with no complaints. “This is a predictable, stable ski that will not let you down, but it lacks turn-shape versatility and forgiveness,” said Hall. “It’s a lot of ski if you get it into the sweet spot.”
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the best frontside resort skis for men?
- Rossignol Experience 82 Ti
- Blizzard Brahma 88
- Armada Declivity 82 Ti
- Völkl Kendo 88
- Kästle MX 83
- Dynastar Speed 763
- Nordica Enforcer 88
- Head Supershape e.Titan
- Salomon Stance 84
- Stöckli Montero AR
What are frontside skis?
Do-it-all skis with middle-of-the-road waists (81mm-90mm), a more moderate rocker profile primarily in the tip, more camber underfoot, and a flatter tail. This kind of profile orients all-mountain narrow skis towards the frontside of the mountain, and these skis generally perform best on groomed terrain or in the bumps. While rockered tips add some versatility, these skis are not designed to be skied in deep powder.
What’s the difference between carving ski and frontside skis?
Carving skis give it away in the name: They’re designed to rip down groomed terrain. Think of them as race skis that were made more accessible to the everyday skier and everyday skiing. Frontside skis can be just as reliable on groomers and hardpack, even with a little added tip rocker. But because frontside skis are typically a little straighter from tip to tail with a slightly wider waist, they don’t have the same innate carving capabilities as carving skis. Where frontside skis win out is in the Versatility department—they’re designed to perform even off the groomers.
In short: Carving skis are the scalpels of skis, designed to be handled by an experienced hand and leave precise incisions on the snow. A frontside ski is more like a machete—it’s still sharp and effective but requires you to be far less precise in your cutting. ?Read more here.
What’s the difference between men’s and women’s skis?
In truth, most skis are unisex and not gender-specific. Many brands produce the ski with the exact same construction technologies for both genders, but often create two different top sheets to appeal to men vs. women. A handful of brands are making truly women’s-specific skis, where the ski takes a woman’s physique into account when building the ski. Men and women can ski on the same ski but may want to choose different lengths depending on their height and their skiing ability.