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Jan

7

All Mountain Frontside

These skis tend to feature underfoot waist widths of 80 millimeters to 90 millimeters.

All mountain frontside skis tend to feature underfoot waist widths of 80 millimeters to 90 millimeters. Those slighter dimensions let these dynamic skis enter and exit turns with less effort while offering more edge grip on hard snow. Look here if you ski 70 percent of your time on machine groomed snow no matter where you live, and tend to ski bumps or firm snow when you venture off-trail. There’s also growing evidence that skis of these waist widths transfer less leverage to your knees, saving wear and tear.

 

1) Rossignol Experience 88 Ti Dimensions: 127/88/117 | MSRP:  $750

Unlike Rossignol’s Black Ops featured in this issue, the Experience 88 Ti is absolutely loaded with techy features, like weight-saving “air tips” and strips of material embedded vertically into the core of the ski to boost power. We can attest that the 88 Ti shreds harder than any all mountain frontside ski we tested. It loves to carve. Our testers gushed about how natural the turn shape is and how easy it is to mix that turn shape up. And because it requires no extra thinking to pilot and only returns as much power as you give it, it works well for a huge range of skiers—from intermediates to former pros. Off-trail, it’s nimble and able to smear in bumps and chalky chutes. In fact, you barely notice when you’re transitioning from groomed terrain to chalky alpine snow, the 88 just handles it. Swami Gripe: Defines the category. No complaints. Swami Like: “How can a ski with no speed limit at the top end also be this forgiving and playful when you’re relaxing?” asked a tester. “It’s again the most versatile ski I’ve ever tested.” 

 

2) Nordica Enforcer 88 | Dimensions: 122/88/110 | MSRP: $750

Last year Nordica reduced the ABS plastic in the tip and extended the wood core, which resulted in a more playful and nimble ski. But it’s still a wood and metal ski built for experts. To handle groomed snow on-trail and skier packed snow off-trail, a full 50 percent of the Enforcer 88 is cambered. That makes the ski glide better, edge more powerfully, and offers more rebound and life than the fatter and more rockered Enforcers. “Best balance of stability and energy in the category,” said a tester. “And you can make a whole range of turn shapes on it.” Swami Gripe: We had very little criticism of the 88, but a few more carving minded testers thought the tail was a bit loose on hardpack. Swami Like: The rockered tip and tail are what make the 88 so capable off-trail. We’d ski it every day back East and in the early season out West. It’s so quick edge-to-edge that it makes for fun carving when the off-trail snow is too rugged to bother with.  

 

3) Fischer RC One 86 GT | Dimensions: 130/86/116 | MSRP: $900 (with binding)

This Fischer got on the podium because it was the most powerful ski in the test—and our testers love to wail turns on hardpack. It’s more of a versatile frontside ski than a true all-mountain ski. It’s kind of heavy for one thing. The RC One comes with a system binding, but the ski alone—much wood and metal—weighs more than 2,400 grams. But it’s also nimble enough to dump speed—on groomers. Off-trail it struggles to surf and slash, but if you love to rail high-speed turns most of the time and still want a ski that can handle softer snow (on groomers again) then this is our new favorite. Think of it as an extra wide pure frontside ski. When groomed snow softens in the spring sun that width gives you more bite. Ditto when two inches of fluff cover the corduroy. Swami Gripe: The combination of the deep sidecut and system binding make it tough to navigate in bumps and crud. Swami Like: They sure make groomers fun. “So easy to tip over,” said a tester. “But you can mix up the turn shape easily because the tip and tails are forgiving.”

 

4) Salomon S/Force Bold | Dimensions: 132/84/116 | MSRP: $1,200 (with bindings)

We had firm snow for our Steamboat All Mountain Frontside test and many of the more carving-focused models were best suited to it. The brand new S/Force Bold was another winner. This is a serious frontside ski, with two sheets of metal sandwiching a full poplar wood core. And it just rips medium radius turns with very little coaxing or coaching. There are other enhancements: The system bindings integrates with the ski seamlessly delivering what Salomon calls “edge amplifier” technology maximizing power. It’s immediately noticeable on hardpack: “Incredible grip,” said a tester. “Smooth, damp with great energy. One of the best medium radius turns I’ve ever experienced.” Swami Gripe: As with the Fischer, it’s a precision carving machine—only wider. You’ll have to pick and choose your off-trail excursions. A solid base with wind-buffed snow on top is nice for off-trail carving. It can be tough to smear heavy skis off-trail. Swami Like: “They might have the biggest cojones in the category—in a good way,” said a tester. “They’re heavy, damp, and stable, but they go where you point them.”  

 

5) Stöckli Laser AR | Dimensions: 130/83/112 | MSRP: $1,249

Once upon a time, an 83-millimeter ski was considered quite plump. Now skis of that dimension are designed largely for railing carved turns on firm snow while still allowing for a forgiving ride off-trail. That’s the overview of Stöckli’s Laser AR, but when you look at the price tag you know there’s more going on. Stöclkli is one of a handful of boutique ski builders left in the industry. Unlike the scores of garage ski makers out there, they build the best skis money can buy. For evidence, you only need to look at a few World Cup podiums. What that means for consumers is skis made out of wood and metal laminates that both flex beautifully into turns, but also offer undying stability at speeds. With the Laser, the biggest difference in construction from the brand’s racier skis is that the core is built from lightweight woods (fuma and balsa) that make for a friendlier ride and less fatigue. Swami Gripe: It can be tough to get it up and out of the snow. Swami Like: “The best mix of pure power and ease of use,” said a tester. 

 

6) Völkl Kendo 88 | Dimensions: 129/88/111 | MSRP: $775

“So versatile and fun,” said a tester. “The new Kendo does everything you want it to and responds with energy.” OK, that’s a glowing review, but take note of the word “everything.” Like the Experience 88 and the Enforcer 88, the Kendo is more of a true all mountain ski. The shape and the lack of a system binding mean it excels in bumps and chalky chutes and even in the trees if the snow is consolidated enough. It also rips in powder, if the powder falls on groomed snow and you don’t have to worry about floating too much. Credit for all this newfound versatility rests with Völkl’s Titanal Frame construction, which allows the ski to hook-up and hold on hardpack, but surf just enough off-trail. Swami Gripe: The new lightweight build can get deflected if you’re hitting frozen chunks straight on. Keep it on edge. Swami Like: Völkl went away from underfoot camber on many of their skis in the not to distant past. We’re glad that they brought it back through almost the entire line. Camber helps advanced skiers find the carve, and it brings zest to those who already have their carve down.  

 

7) Blizzard Brahma 88 | Dimensions: 127/88/111 | MSRP: $780

We’ve been lauding praise on the Brahma for years now, and even though the tune was a little too tight (sharp) on our test skis, the traits that made the Brahma one of the best skiing East Coast or Summit County, Colorado, All Mountain Frontside skis of all time shined through. The edgehold compares with the system skis we tested; so too, with the stability. But although they excel at carving, you can still work them through bumps and chutes and trees when the conditions are right. “The beauty of the Brahma is that you can carve trenches with it if the only good skiing to be had is on groomed snow,” said a tester, “but when the natural snow is cold and chalky or goes to spring corn you can rip everywhere.” Swami Gripe: This is true of all skis, but the tune has to be right to attain versatility. If you feel like your skis only perform well at one task, check the tune. Swami Like: It’s made for experts that love energy return. 

 

8) Elan Wingman 86 CTI | Dimensions: 130/86/115 | MSRP: $800

This brand-new model from Elan bridges the gap between the more carving-centric skis in the category like the Fischer and the Salomon, and the more versatile off-trail rides like the Rossignol and the Nordica. It’s also one of the easiest skiing skis we tried. Thanks to Elan’s Amphibio design, which puts a touch more rocker on the outside edges, you can butter the Wingmans from turn-to-turn without ever feeling they’ll slap you for relaxing. But they made our cut because, as easy as they are to ski, an aggressive expert can still load them up with energy and get energy in return. They come to life the more you challenge yourself. As for their off-trail chops, you can buy them with a system binding or flat and mount them with a two piece binding that offers more snow feel. Do the latter and they’ll respond to smearing. Of all the carvers in this test, they dumped speed and pivoted the best. Swami Gripe: The biggest and fastest skiers might find the Wingman soft. Swami Like: “Makes a bunch of beautiful turn shapes,” said a tester.

 

9) Atomic Vantage 86 TI | Dimensions: 125/86/108.5 | MSRP: $725 (flat) $1,030 (system binding)

Atomic has dedicated itself to building lightweight skis of late, and even though there’s titanium in the Tank Mesh that reinforces the core, the Vantage 86 TI is no exception. But here the lightness is backed up with energy. The Vantage also offers loads of torsional strength, which translates to powerful edgehold. The feel on snow is lively and powered up—a few testers thought it was the most dynamic ski in the test. As long as you keep it on edge, the Vantage wails and offers surprisingly deep edge penetration. Off-trail, though, the lightweight characteristics really kick in, letting you pop off the terrain and redirect the tips with very little effort. “Silky with ample power and easy to mix up the turn shape,” said a tester. “Skis well in bumps.” Swami Gripe: The downside to that feathery and energized feel is a bit of skittishness at high speeds on harder snow. Again the key is to keep the ski on edge. Swami Like: “The epitome of the new All Mountain Frontside skis,” said a tester. “It’s versatile without sacrificing much of anything.”

 

 

10) Liberty Evolv90 | Dimensions: 132/90/114 | MSRP: $800

Liberty is a Colorado company that’s done a good job of making powder skis in the past. We were surprised as hell that they’d suddenly be competitive in the All Mountain Frontside category. Credit for that goes to a construction technique they unveiled in some pure carving skis last year called VMT. It stands for Vertical Metal Technology and the name does a good job of describing it. Most skis with metal in them lay it down horizontally in a sandwich. The metal in the Evolv90 is inserted between bamboo vertically. The technique keeps the weight down while it dramatically boosts stability by pushing the ski back down on the snow as you weight and unweight it. “This Liberty was one of the most fun skis of the day,” said a veteran tester. “It’s super adaptable to both the terrain and the conditions. It’s easy to ski, but it’s got some strength and edgehold to it.” Swami Gripe: As much as we loved it, we’d like to see some more energy in future models. It hugs the terrain, but needs just a bit more pop. Swami Like: A U.S. based company competing with the Euros again? Cool! 

 

11) Head Kore 93 | Dimensions: 133/93/115 | MSRP: $750

You should know that most of the skis we reviewed here are dynamic by design. Meaning the more you push them the more alive they get. The Kore 93 is a different animal. It’s the easiest handling ski in the category, which makes it accessible to a massive range of would-be customers. Thanks to Koroyd inlaid in the core, vibration is a nonissue and the ski just wants to contour the terrain, boosting confidence. Those properties remain constant whether you’re skiing at 10 miles an hour or 30. Meaning that the harder you drive it the more it just gobbles up vibration. The ride quality is silky smooth either way. Off-trail it performs best in harbor chop. On-trail it outshines many a ski when the corduroy is long gone and the snow is chopped up. Swami Gripe: Our testers would like more life in the ski, and by that we mean a bit more pop in transitions. Swami Like: A big chunk of the skiing public will love this confidence inspiring lightweight ski. 

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