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Frontside Skis

10 Frontside Skis That Handle the Crud As Well As the Corduroy

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 2021-’22 test below.

2022’s Most Versatile Frontside Skis

Nordica Enforcer 94

  • Gender: Unisex
  • Waist width: 93mm
  • Versatility Score: 4.29/5
  • Overall Score: 4.07/5
2022 Nordica Enforcer 94

Tester comment: “The enforcer 94 had a little extra girth in the waist, which helps it in the crud and spring conditions, but may sacrifice some points in hard-snow performance. Personally, I think the Enforcer 94 is a great do-it-all ski for someone looking to split time evenly between groomed terrain and variable snow off-piste. The skis demand some attention, but aren’t too burly to beat you up for being out of position. Even from the backseat, you can stand back up and regain control before the skis really take off.” —Jon Sexauer

See how the 2022 Nordica Enforcer 94 scored in every skill category in the extended review.

Armada Declivity 88 C

  • Gender: Unisex
  • Waist width: 88mm
  • Versatility Score: 4.21/5
  • Overall Score: 4.12/5
2022 ARMADA DECLIVITY 88 C

Tester comment: “Seamless transitions from chop to corduroy. The Declivity 88 is as damp as you would want for firm mornings, but offers enough snow feedback to know how hard you can push on it. It’s happy to cruise and happy to gun it for speed. It seems there are few times that this ski wouldn’t shine.” —Nick Loomans

See how the 2022 Armada Declivity 88 C scored in every skill category in the extended review.

Stöckli Stormrider 88

  • Gender: Unisex
  • Waist width: 88mm
  • Versatility Score: 4.19/5
  • Overall Score: 4.09/5
2022 Stöckli Stormrider 88

Tester comment: “The Storm Rider 88 is smooth, easy to engage, and a joy to roll from edge to edge. Easy tip engagement allows for comfortable mobility in the bumps or when avoiding rocks, yet the ski still has the power underfoot and through the tail to really bound from edge to edge. If you can engage a ski tip, you can feel the silk that is a Stöckli.” —Otto Gibbons

See how the 2022 Stöckli Stormrider 88 scored in every skill category in the extended review.

Völkl Kendo 88

  • Gender: Unisex
  • Waist width: 88mm
  • Versatility Score: 4.18/5
  • Overall Score: 4.15/5
2022 Völkl Kendo 88

Tester comment: “The Kendo 88 is stable yet energetic. A great combination of energy, quickness, and stability. Skis well in all conditions. Felt like a GS ski on the groomers. Maybe not as forgiving as some, but more forgiving than expected.” —Nick Loomans

See how the 2022 Völkl Kendo 88 scored in every skill category in the extended review.

Dynastar M-Pro 90

  • Gender: Unisex
  • Waist width: 90mm
  • Versatility Score: 4.04/5
  • Overall Score: 3.94/5
2022 Dynastar M-Pro 90

Tester comment: “The rocker profile gives this ski a ton of playfulness and maneuverability in the crud and variable snow conditions. It’s light and agile, but still stable and silky smooth. It’s really solid and smooth on-piste. You could put everything into these and get a lot of love back. Really impressed with this ski.” —Dustin Cook

See how the 2022 Dynastar M-Pro 90 scored in every skill category in the extended review.

Stöckli Nela 80

  • Gender: Women’s
  • Waist width: 80mm
  • Versatility Score: 4.36/5
  • Overall Score: 4.18/5
2022 Stöckli Nela 80

Tester comment: “I was impressed by the versatility of this ski. I always wish that this ski could be a little more lively, but I think it’s ability to cut like butter through the snow makes it a favorite in this category. I can see intermediate through advanced skiers loving this ski. Just wish it was a little longer for the expert woman.” —Marina Knight

See how the 2022 Stöckli Nela 80 scored in every skill category in the extended review.

Nordica Santa Ana 93

  • Gender: Women’s
  • Waist width: 93mm
  • Versatility Score: 4.25/5
  • Overall Score: 4.11/5
2022 Nordica Santa Ana 93

Tester comment: “Step up the drive a tad and you can go anywhere on the Santa Ana 93. Moguls, crud, medium to large turns, small and short turns—this ski does it all with stability and predictability. Tail releases very easily so the skier determines turn shape.” —Tracy Gibbons

See how the 2022 Nordica Santa Ana 93 scored in every skill category in the extended review.

Blizzard Black Pearl 88

  • Gender: Women’s
  • Waist width: 88mm
  • Versatility Score: 4.08/5
  • Overall Score: 3.88/5
2022 Blizzard Black Pearl 88

Tester comment: The Black Pearl 88 is very responsive and stable. It’s like a men’s SL ski that also handles moguls. Just a very good, all-around ski.” —Katie Ryan

See how the 2022 Blizzard Black Pearl 88 scored in every skill category in the extended review.

Dynastar M-Pro 84 W

  • Gender: Women’s
  • Waist width: 84mm
  • Versatility Score: 4.05/5
  • Overall Score: 3.9/5
2022 Dynastar M Pro 84 W

Tester comment: “This ski is really solid. You could rip anything: throw down big turns, carve a few short ones, and everything in between. Anyone could ski the Dynastar M-Pro 84W, from a beginner to a pro. It does like to go straighter versus turn across the hill.” —Courtney Harkins

See how the 2022 Dynastar M-Pro 84 W scored in every skill category in the extended review.

Völkl Kenja 88

  • Gender: Women’s
  • Waist width: 88mm
  • Versatility Score: 4.05/5
  • Overall Score: 3.84/5
2022 Völkl Kenja 88

Tester comment: The Kenja 88 is damp but really forgiving and allowed me to ski lots of turn shapes cleanly. I also liked that I could dial down the speed and ski it easy and it still felt smooth and not chattery. It’s a really well-balanced ski for an advanced intermediate to expert charger.” —Marina Knight

See how the 2022 Völkl Kenja 88 scored in every skill category in the extended review.

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