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Frontside Skis

11 Skis That Rail On Hardpack and Boilerplate

These skis have a knack for digging in when the going gets tough.

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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 for days between storms. Ask any Eastern 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 out East.

East Coasters, 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 during SKI’s 2020-’21 gear test. 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 hardpack.

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2021’s Best Frontside Skis for Hardpack – Men’s

2021 Stöckli Stormrider 88

  • Hard-Snow Integrity Score: 4.8/5
  • Avg. Score: 4.45
  • Overall Rank: No. 1
2020-21 Stöckli Stormrider 88

Tester comment: “The edge engagement is crisp and you can feel the ski’s inherent strength. Although these skis are strong, they are not overly demanding. Their directional fortitude builds confidence and begs for more speed. A class stand-out!” —Bob Gleason

Read all about it: 2021 Stöckli Stormrider 88

2021 Blizzard Brahma 88

  • Hard-Snow Integrity Score: 4.77
  • Avg. Score: 4.35/5
  • Overall Rank: No. 2
2020-21 Blizzard Brahma 88

Tester comment: “Very linear. The construction of this line has done wonders for increased stability over the whole ski, and ultra solid edge hold from turn entry to release point. However, it runs the turn long and seems to lock into one shape only. Can be hard to bend and manipulate.” —Matt Schiller

Learn about its strengths and weaknesses: 2021 Blizzard Brahma 88

2021 Fischer RC1 86GT

  • Hard-Snow Integrity Score: 4.5/5
  • Avg. Score: 4.06/5
  • Overall Rank: No. 4
2020-21 Fischer RC1 86GT

Tester comment: “High amplitude, silky race carving. Just stand on it and enjoy the ride! Super quick—love this ski.” —Michael Holmquist

Go deeper: 2021 Fischer RC1 86GT Full Review

2021 Head Kore 87

  • Hard-Snow Integrity Score: 4.32/5
  • Avg. Score: 4.05/5
  • Overall Rank: No. 5
Head Kore 87

Tester comment: “The Kore 87 is confident at speed and not too burly to feel out of place when the snow becomes variable. It’s also forgiving enough to allow for some mistakes. Feels stable when tipped way over on edge and you can definitely push the speed if you wanted to.” —Jon Sexauer

Read more: 2021 Head Kore 87 Full Review

2021 Rossignol Black Ops Escaper

  • Hard-Snow Integrity Score: 4.22/5
  • Avg. Score: 4/5
  • Overall Rank: No. 6 (tied Völkl Kendo 88)
Rossignol Blackops Escaper

Tester comment: “Holds an amazing edge for a ski that isn’t overly stiff. Fun, poppy tail out of the turn and feels right at home ripping groomers, bumps, and tight trees.” —Luke Larsson

See how it stacked up: The Best Men’s Frontside Skis of the Year

2021 Völkl Kendo 88

  • Hard-Snow Integrity Score: 4.22/5
  • Avg. Score: 3.85/5
  • Overall Rank: No. 6 (tied Rossignol Escaper)
2020-21 Volkl Kendo 88

Tester comment: “Ski has something special to it compared to the others. It definitely takes some strong technique to move it, but once you have it figured out it will give you the strongest turns you could dream of.” —Mark Syrovatka

Go deeper: 2021 Völkl Kendo 88 Full Review

2021 Best Frontside Skis for Hardpack – Women’s

2021 Nordica Santa Ana 93

  • Hard-Snow Integrity Score: 4.45/5
  • Avg. Score: 4.41/5
  • Overall Rank: No. 3
Nordica Santa Ana 93

Tester comment: “You really want to be a get up early kind of girl for this hot number. Speed on groomers is divine and leaves a clear trail in its wake. Makes you feel like you are dominating on the hill.” —Georgie Bremner

2021 Stöckli Nela 80

  • Hard-Snow Integrity Score: 4.44/5
  • Avg. Score: 4.44/5
  • Overall Rank: No. 1
2020-21 Stöckli Nela 80

Tester comment: “Super playful, quick, and hard-charging in varying turn sizes, and the generally awesome ski I’ve come to expect from Stöckli. If you’re an advanced carver looking to shred groomers and build that skill set, the Nela 80 could take you there if you’re ready to put in the work. Did I love it? Hell yes! But it seems solidly in the carve camp and has less versatility for different turn styles.” —Cherise Robinson

Go deeper: What we love about the Stöckli Nela 80

2021 Fischer RC1 86GT (unisex ski)

  • Hard-Snow Integrity Score: 4.44/5
  • Avg. Score: 4.31/5
  • Overall Rank: No. 4
2020-21 Fischer RC1 86GT

Tester comment: “A ski for women who like a stiff ski they can push against. You can throw it on edge and it holds and seems like it wants more. Really snaps in and out of the turn. It does fine in bumps and smears turns, too, but it’s a ripper at heart.” —Stephanie Humes

See how it stacked up: The Best Women’s Frontside Skis of the Year

2021 Rossignol Black Ops Stargazer

  • Hard-Snow Integrity Score: 4.33/5
  • Avg. Score: 4.24/5
  • Overall Rank: No. 7
Rossignol Black Ops Stargazer

Tester comment: “I enjoyed this ski so much. It delivers responsive, smooth, arcs with little effort. It was so forgiving and it basically forced you into a great turn time after time. This ski is absolutely accessible to all ability levels and would be a delight no matter the frontside conditions.” —Courtney Krause

Related: Rossignol’s stand-out skis for women

2021 Völkl Kenja 88

  • Hard-Snow Integrity Score: 4.33/5
  • Avg. Score: 3.94/5
  • Overall Rank: No. 12
Volkl Kenja 88

Tester comment: “Get ready for the Hahnenkamm—this ski is ready to carve down the World Cup circuit. Downside: It’s a little stiff for a frontside ski.” —Kelli Gleason

Learn more: 2021 Völkl Kenja 88 Full Review

More Deep Dives into Ski Gear

How wide is too wide for resort skis?
Can wider all-mountain skis hack it back East?
Frontside vs. All-Mountain Skis—What’s the Difference