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Frontside Skis

10 Skis That Are Part Corduroy-Destroyer, Part Crud-Crusher

These frontside skis successfully straddle the line between the carving and all-mountain categories.

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The Frontside ski category is a little nebulous. We first started testing skis in this new category in 2019, when it became clear that there was a significant gap between carving and all-mountain skis—not in the product department, necessarily, but in skier demand and expectations.

By then rocker technology had converted many traditionally on-piste skiers to all-mountain explorers, and gone were the days when skiers exclusively stuck to the groomed or ungroomed. Skiers who once upon a time only lived for cruising groomers suddenly started venturing into the moguls and trees just off the groomed runs after realizing that, thanks to rockered skis, they could actually get off the beaten path.

And so ski brands began making narrower all-mountain tools—skis that still had rockered tips (and perhaps tails) to make off-piste skiing easier, but also still had enough effective edge and sidecut to promote solid edge grip and performance on trail. Because, while many skiers were beginning to explore off-trail, the majority of the ski population still sticks to groomed runs for the majority of the time.

On that topic: These North American resorts have the freshest corduroy 

It’s for this group of skiers that we launched the Frontside category, in which we test narrow all-mountain skis designed for skiers who spend around 70 percent of their time on trail and 30 percent exploring terrain and conditions just beyond the groomers.

The skis in this category have a waist width of around 85mm and are expected to be stable at speed, have solid edge grip on hard-snow, yet have enough versatility in their designs and constructions to seamlessly transition off the groomers and into the moguls, trees, and crud beyond the trail markers.

Related: How wide is too wide for resort skis?

Those are our expectations for this category. But not all skis entered into the Frontside department are there yet. Some are still hanging onto their carving DNA while others, try as they might on hard-snow, are really still all-mountain skis at heart.

But some brands are nailing it when it comes to producing skis that hold up on boilerplate and make bashing moguls and slithering through tight trees accessible and fun. To find these skis in our test results, look not only for the skis that rank highest in the Frontside category overall, but for those that score high marks in the Versatility department.

To make your gear search easier, we’ve listed the most versatile Frontside skis from SKI’s 2020-’21 test below. If you’re a serious gearhead and looking for brand-new skis that top the Frontside category, stay tuned for the results from our 2021-’22 test, available in our Gear Guide come October.

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2021’s Most Versatile Women’s Frontside Skis

2021 Nordica Santa Ana 93

  • Versatility Score: 4.4/5
  • Overall Score: 4.41/5
  • Overall Rank: #3
Nordica Santa Ana 93

Tester comment: “A very balanced ski. A beginner or an expert could have a nice ride on these. Stable but with personality and soft enough to offer some forgiveness. Poppy and quick in the bumps but also an all around badass zooming down the groomers.” —Jessi Hackett

Get the full picture: 2021 Nordica Santa Ana 93 Full Review

2021 Rossignol Black Ops Stargazer

  • Versatility Score: 4.28/5
  • Overall Score: 4.24/5
  • Overall Rank: #7

Tester comment: “Perfect skis for this category. Snappy and playful when gripping and ripping. It slashes through the crud and slithers through the bumps.” —Kelli Gleason

Go deeper: 2021 Rossignol Stargazer Full Review

2021 Head Kore 87W

  • Versatility Score: 4.25/5
  • Overall Score: 4.4/5
  • Overall Rank: #1 (tied with Stöckli Nela 88)
2020-21 Head Kore 87W

Tester comment: “I felt immediately comfortable on these. Light underfoot but it doesn’t ski that way. Solid, snappy, playful, and a bit damp all at once—a great balance of characteristics. I would give this ski to someone who prefers to stay on-piste but likes to venture out on the entire mountain every now and again.”  —Stephanie Humes

See how it stacks up against the Stöckli Nela 88: Best Women’s Frontside Skis of the Year

2021 Dynastar M Pro 84 W

  • Versatility Score: 4.22/5
  • Overall Score: 4.24/5
  • Overall Rank: #6
2020-21 Dynastar M Pro 84 W

Tester comment: “Easy like Sunday morning. This ski is gentle without being wimpy. It skis tight trees like a champ. Not one of the stronger skis in the category but it gave me a sense of confidence that I could be-bop anywhere on the mountain with ease.” —Robin Barnes

Learn more: 2021 Dynastar M Pro 84 W Full Review

2021 Scott Slight 83 W

  • Versatility Score: 4.17/5
  • Overall Score: 4.15/5
  • Overall Rank: #9
2020-21 Scott Slight 83 W

Tester comment: “This ski is smooth, confidence-building, and handles most things that come her way. A nice easy rider for an emerging to high intermediate.” – Courtney Krause

Get more details: 2021 Scott Slight 83 W 

2021’s Most Versatile Men’s Frontside Skis

2021 Stöckli Stormrider 88

  • Versatility Score: 4.4/5
  • Overall Score: 4.45/5
  • Overall Rank: #1
2020-21 Stöckli Stormrider 88

Tester comment: “Really impressive! Gentle when needed, then plenty of gears for the asking. Ultra stable for drag racing, but also light and nimble for making the money carve. This is a category-defining ski!” —Matt Schiller

Read the full review: 2021 Stöckli Storrmrider 88 

2021 Blizzard Brahma 88

  • Versatility Score: 4.23/5
  • Overall Score: 4.35/5
  • Overall Rank: #2
2020-21 Blizzard Brahma 88

Tester comment: “A powerful tool to dominate both groomers and steeps. A solid platform to stomp on. Not all that forgiving, but manageable—like a rowdy but agreeable teenager!” —Peter Donahue

More about this ski: 2021 Blizzard Brahma 88 Full Review

2021 K2 Mindbender 90Ti

  • Versatility Score: 4.08/5
  • Overall Score: 4.16/5
  • Overall Rank: #3
2020-21 K2 Mindbender 90Ti

Tester comment: “This is a really balanced ski. Rips groomers but is also playful and stable. Versatile enough to ski well in all conditions. It may not excel in any one skill department, but it does everything well. A great frontside ski for someone who wants a well rounded narrower ski.”
Nick Loomans

See how it stacks up against the rest: Best Men’s Frontside Skis of the Year

2021 Fischer RC One 86GT

  • Versatility Score: 4.06/5
  • Overall Score: 4.06/5
  • Overall Rank: #4
2020-21 Fischer RC1 86GT

Tester comment: “This is a fun ripper that’s quick and playful yet stable. Would make an awesome groomer and frontside ski. If you’re looking for a carving ski that can still also ski some soft, skied-out snow and some bumps, this is a great choice. Best for aggressive skiers.” —Nick Loomans

Get the full picture: 2021 Fischer RC One 86GT Full Review

2021 Elan Wingman 86 CTi Fusion X

  • Versatility Score: 4.05 / 5
  • Overall Score: 3.99 / 5
  • Overall Rank: #7
2020-21 Elan Wingman 86 CTi FusionX

Tester comment: “Like its name suggests, the ski has your back and will be your wingman anytime. Amazingly fun all-mountain carver with a great snap at the end of the turn. Perfect tool to perfect or learn that carve turn.” —Luke Larsson

Learn more: 2021 Elan Wingman 86 CTi Fusion

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