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Frontside Skis

10 Skis That Rail On Hardpack And Are Made For Early-Season Turns

These skis cut through the hard stuff like a hot knife through butter.

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There’s no denying that rocker technology has changed our sport in some really positive ways. It’s made skiing more accessible and more fun for beginners; it’s helped coax intermediates off the groomers and introduce them to the joys of skiing off-piste; and it’s allowed experts to take skiing to new heights.

But there is one significant downside to rocker technology: It reduces the amount of effective edge on a ski, or the amount of edge that makes contact with the snow when the ski is pressured throughout the turn. As a result, a rockered ski doesn’t have the same edge grip as a fully cambered ski.

Related: What is rocker technology and how does it affect ski performance?

Now, some would argue that the pros of rocker still far outweigh the cons, including reduced hard-snow performance. But those people likely ski out West, where the snow is significantly softer, even during the early season and on days between storms. Ask any Eastern or Midwest skier what they value most in a dedicated frontside ski, and they’ll unequivocally tell you it is performance on hard-snow—a ski that can’t hack it on boilerplate has no business east of the Rockies.

Skiers of the East and Midwest, we hear you loud and clear. So for you, we’ve picked out the frontside skis that scored the highest marks in the Hard-Snow Integrity category at SKI’s 2023 Gear Test in Sun Valley, where testers encountered bulletproof snow thanks to a fierce freeze-thaw cycle in early March.

These skis do still feature some measure of rocker—because most recreational skis feature at least some tip rocker these days—but they all impressed testers with their knack for digging in and railing turns on hard snow.

2023’s Best Frontside Skis for Hard Snow

Rossignol Experience 82 Ti

2023 Rossignol Experience 82 Ti
(Photo: Kevin Zansler)

Hard-Snow Integrity Score: 8.78/10
Overall Score: 8.66/10
Gender: Unisex

The Rossignol Experience 82 Ti was named 2023’s best performing frontside ski after blowing testers away with its performance across nine skills categories at the gear test in Sun Valley, Idaho, including the hard-snow integrity department.

Tester Feedback

“Phenomenal choice for widest skier demographics. You’ll have complete confidence you chose the right ski for whatever the mountain offers.” —Matt Schiller

Read the full review of the Rossignol Experience 82 Ti and see how it scored in every skill department

Head Supershape e.Titan

Head Supershape e-Titan
(Photo: Courtesy Head)

Hard-Snow Integrity Score: 8.63/10
Overall Score: 7.26/10
Gender: Unisex

The Head Supershape e-Titan isn’t the most versatile frontside ski, but it’s one of the more solid groomer rippers that gives back what the skiers puts into it tenfold. Just make sure you’re strong enough to put the required energy into it.

Tester Feedback

“Pleasantly surprised by the smooth edge grip, but a little disappointed by the amount of effort needed to bend the forebody into a turn. It’s a serious tool for a serious hard-snow skier.” —Peter Nestor

Read the full review of the Head Supershape e-Titan and see how it scored in every skill department

Dynastar Speed 763

Dynastar Speed 763
(Photo: Courtesy Dynastar)

Hard-Snow Integrity Score: 8.33/10
Overall Score: 7.68/10
Gender: Unisex

The Dynastar Speed 763 is a category-defining groomer ski that can rip short-to-medium turns on hardpack all day long.

Tester Feedback

“I expected it to feel like a slalom ski, but was surprised to feel how soft the top was. This is a race ski for the regular people. It rips but can also be fun at slower speeds.” —Chad Jacob

Read the full review of the Dynastar Speed 763 and see how it scored in every skill department

Völkl Kendo 88

Völkl Kendo 88
(Photo: Courtesy Völkl)

Hard-Snow Integrity Score: 8.22/10
Overall Score: 7.79/10
Gender: Unisex

For years, the Völkl Kendo 88 has been known as a hard-charging and stiff ski, but this season our testers got a chance to see its more playful side thanks to a key construction update. It still hunts for speed and power, but it’s a little more approachable than in the past.

Tester Feedback

“The Kendo is always a blast to tip over on edge because of how confident this ski makes you feel. For hard-charging skiers who prioritize on-piste performance, the Kendo is a no-brainer. With 88mm underfoot you still have plenty of width to dabble in softer conditions off-piste, but it’s going to require some attention in mixed snow conditions as it isn’t the most forgiving ski around.” —Jon Sexauer

Read the full review of the Völkl Kendo 88 and see how it scored in every skill department

Rossignol Experience W 82 Ti

2023 Rossignol Experience 82 Ti
The 2023 Rossignol Experience 82 Ti took home the top price in the frontside category. (Photo: Kevin Zansler)

Hard-Snow Integrity Score: 8.2/10
Overall Score: 8.12/10
Gender: Women’s

Like her brother, the women’s Rossignol Experience W 82 Ti majorly impressed testers with her performance in all nine skills categories, earning the highest marks across the board to win the women’s Frontside category at this year’s gear test.

Tester Feedback

“Performed perfectly on the very firm groomer early in the morning. The more energy you lay into it, the longer the edge engages. Dependable groomer ski for a wide array of abilities.” —Michelle Nicholson

Read the full review of the Rossignol Experience W 82 Ti and see how it scored in every skill department

Nordica Santa Ana 88

2023 Nordica Santa Ana 88
(Photo: Courtesy Nordica)

Hard-Snow Integrity Score: 8.14/10
Overall Score: 8.15/10
Gender: Women’s

Gear testers across the board agreed that the Nordica Santa Ana 88 is the perfect ski for any woman on any mountain. Ex-racers and experts loved the ski’s desire to get on edge and arc turns, while intermediate skiers felt like heroes at all speeds and turn shapes thanks to its stability.

Tester Feedback

“This ski is a total crusher. Long GS turns all day, baby. Such a fun ski to push hard and set tracks down. Holds its own on hard snow and felt very stable when things got icy. Not the most nimble ski on the market, but that doesn’t bother me.” —Kelly Klein

Read the full review of the Nordica Santa Ana 88 and see how it scored in every skill department

Armada Declivity 82 Ti

Armada Declivity 82 Ti
(Photo: Courtesy Armada)

Hard-Snow Integrity Score: 8/10
Overall Score: 7.84/10
Gender: Unisex

Armada gained its fame in the freeskiing world, but with a weapon like the Declivity 82 Ti, the brand is flexing its muscle in the frontside category.

Tester Feedback

“It surprised me with how unbelievably stable they are at speed and how hard they bite. This ski is rad! I really liked it and it’s kind of a surprisingly sweet option for a groomer ski.” —Tommy Flitton

Read the full review of the Armada Declivity 82 Ti and see how it scored in every skill department

Völkl Kenja 88

2023 Völkl Kenja 88
(Photo: Courtesy Völkl)

Hard-Snow Integrity Score: 8.14/10
Overall Score: 7.76/10
Gender: Women’s

The Völkl Kenja is a dependable ski with confidence-inspiring energy…if you work for it. While it is more animated and livelier than past iterations, it’s still a burly ski—but that means when you hit the gas, it’ll blast into hyperspeed.

Tester Feedback

“It’s quite burly unless you size down, but very stable and dependable. I call it an advanced ski. If you are willing to work for it, it’ll give you anything you want.” —Abby Ghent

Read the full review of the Völkl Kenja 88 and see how it scored in every skill department

Blizzard Black Pearl 88

2023 Blizzard Black Pearl 88
(Photo: Courtesy Blizzard)

Hard-Snow Integrity Score: 8.14/10
Overall Score: 7.54/10
Gender: Women’s

One of the most popular women’s skis on the market, the Blizzard Black Pearl 88 showed again why it’s beloved. Its confidence-inspiring feel and dependability stood out in the gear test, and its stability on hard snow and versatility makes it a one-quiver option for many, especially women out East.

Tester Feedback

“I skied it in the 165cm length and I was pleasantly surprised by how stable and solid it felt at speed. This ski continues to be a top performer in the frontside category. A technical skier will like what this ski has to offer.” —Tracy Gibbons

Read the full review of the Blizzard Black Pearl 88 and see how it scored in every skill department

Stöckli Nela 88

2023 Stöckli Nela 88
(Photo: Courtesy of Stöckli)

Hard-Snow Integrity Score: 8/10
Overall Score: 7.77/10
Gender: Women’s

With its wider waist width, the Nela 88 is a versatile and narrow all-mountain ski that can tackle groomers, crud, and everything in between. It’s not a groomer-specific tool, but like all Stöckli skis, it knows how to get on edge.

Tester Feedback

“Really wish they made this ski in longer lengths. It felt quite short and thus I didn’t feel like I could push it as hard as I would have liked. Overall it still holds up well, it’s super smooth and predictable with a nice touch of energy.” —Tracy Gibbons

Read the full review of the Stöckli Nela 88 and see how it scored in every skill department

More 2023 Gear Reviews

The best frontside skis of 2023
The best women’s frontside skis of 2023
Can wide all-mountain skis hack it back East?