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Frontside Skis

10 Frontside Skis That Rail On Hardpack and Are Made for Eastern Skiers

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 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 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.

2022’s Best Frontside Skis for Hardpack

Stöckli Nela 80

The women’s-specific Nela 80 has the same heritage as all Stöckli skis, which means she was born to tear up groomers and speed down the fall line. But this version is more accommodating than the aggro unisex skis that came before her.

  • Hard-Snow Integrity Score: 4.59/5
  • Overall Score: 4.18/5
  • Gender: Women’s-specific
2022 Stöckli Nela 80

Tester Feedback

“Impressed by the versatility of this ski. I always wish this ski could be a little more lively but I think it’s ability to cut through snow like it’s butter makes it a favorite in this category. Intermediate through advanced skiers would love this ski, but I wish it was a little longer for the expert woman.” —Marina Knight

Stöckli Stormrider 88

With two sheets of metal, the Stormrider 88 has some serious backbone, and strong intermediates through experts will enjoy these versatile frontside skis more than enough to justify the price.

  • Hard-Snow Integrity Score: 4.54/5
  • Overall Score: 4.09/5
  • Gender: Unisex
2022 Stöckli Stormrider 88

Tester Feedback

“For the first run of the morning on fresh, cold corduroy, I reached for the Stormrider 88.  The sound of this sharp and controlled knife cutting into the groomed is music to my ears. Whatever combination of metal and wood Stöckli uses provides a quality very few skis achieve. If money is no object, and finer crafted tools line your workshop, this ski belongs in your garage next to the Cervelo and Gibson Les Paul.” —Matt Schiller

Völkl Kendo

Built with Völkl’s 3D Radius Sidecut, what’s unique about the Kendo is that it has a shorter turn radius at slower speeds and longer one when you kick it into gear. The result is a ski that’s easier to get on edge and is especially maneuverable in the steeps.

  • Hard-Snow Integrity Score: 4.54/5
  • Overall Score: 4.15/5
  • Gender: Unisex
2022 Völkl Kendo 88

Tester Feedback

“The Kendo just has my number. This ski defines the Frontside category! It has a ripping, agile waist width, and its strong sidewalls bite like teeth into the hardest snow and do not let go. While all this power is grabbing and going, your feet are just calm and relaxed. I did not feel this raw but refined agility from any other ski in the test. Heads and tails above the rest and best in test so far!” —Matt Schiller

Blizzard Brahma 88

They might look like narrow all-mountain skis, but the Brahmas perform like Formula 1-inspired superchargers thanks to a serious construction of metal plus multiwood core.

  • Hard-Snow Integrity Score: 4.5/5
  • Overall Score: 3.91/5
  • Gender: Unisex
2022 Blizzard Brahma 88

Tester Feedback

“Nice balance of energy and stability. Very smooth. Not as energetic and snappy on the groomers as I was hoping—felt a little damp. Good edge hold, though, and really fun off-piste as well in bumps and crud. Good frontside ski for an advanced to expert skier who’s looking for more stability than playfulness.” —Nick Loomans

Nordica Enforcer 94

The Enforcer 94 is a stable in our annual Gear Guide for good reason: testers just love this rock-steady yet versatile ski. Built with two sheets of metal and Nordica’s proprietary wood core blend, the Enforcer 94 is a stiff ski that shines on the groomed as well as in the crud.

  • Hard-Snow Integrity Score: 4.42/5
  • Overall Score: 4.07/5
  • Gender: Unisex
2022 Nordica Enforcer 94

Tester Feedback

“Comfortable on the groomers, where you can load it up well to get the tip to hinge and hook up when needed. Anyone skiing this ski needs to be able to stay in front of it. If it isn’t engaged, it isn’t going to help you out.” —Otto Gibbons

Fischer RC One 86 GT

With a unique construction layup that incorporates shaped Titanal and Fischer’s BAFATEX technology for stability at speed, the RC One 86 GT can crush the frontside without crushing you.

  • Hard-Snow Integrity Score: 4.25/5
  • Overall Score: 3.82/5
  • Gender: Unisex
2022 Fischer RC One 86GT

Tester Feedback

“Really fun, super quick, and energetic. Phenomenal edge hold. Actually skied bumps and crud well even in the short length. Almost feels like it belongs in the carving ski category more than frontside. Great carving ski for intermediate to advanced skiers who also want to tackle bumps and crud on occasion…but more of a carving ski. Really stable at high speed even in a short length.” —Nick Loomans

Nordica Santa Ana 93

This Santa Ana featuring less metal than its previous iteration is a tad more forgiving, but it’s still a Nordica which means it’s built for speed and arcing turns on edge. Thanks to its heavier construction, it’s one of the most dependable and stable skis in the Frontside category.

  • Hard-Snow Integrity Score: 4.21/5
  • Overall Score: 4.11/5
  • Gender: Women’s-specific
2022 Nordica Santa Ana 93

Tester Feedback

“Really solid ski. You have to stay on it to get it to energize. But when you do, you can trust them all the way. Doesn’t love the softer crud, but a good groomer ski and would enjoy a softer open bowl.” —Courtney Harkins

Elan Wildcat 86 C Black Edition

Thanks to an additional carbon reinforcement and laminated wood core, the new Wildcat loves to go fast; she doesn’t necessarily like to be told to slow down or take it easy, which makes her ideally suited to advanced skiers who like to shred the frontside.

  • Hard-Snow Integrity Score: 4.1/5
  • Overall Score: 3.74/5
  • Gender: Women’s-specific
2022 Elan Wildcat 86 C Black Edition

Tester Feedback

“Rock solid and amazing edge control. A bit of a one trick pony, though. If carving is your game, this is a machine.” —Tracy Gibbons

Völkl Kenja 88

It’s hard to beat a Völkl in the Hard-Snow Integrity department, which is why testers continue to love the Kenja 88 for frontside carving. With 88mm underfoot, Völkl’s 3D Radius technology, and a bomber Titanal frame construction, the Kenja 88 really excels on hardpack.

  • Hard-Snow Integrity Score: 4.09/5
  • Overall Score: 3.84/5
  • Gender: Women’s-specific
2022 Völkl Kenja 88

Tester Feedback

“Really stable feeling. Like that I could feel the full length of the ski underfoot. Only thing missing is a small rebound effect out of the turn.” —Foreste Peterson

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