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Jan

11

Women’s All Mountain Front Side

The yin to the All Mountain Powder yang, AMF skis tend to feature underfoot waist widths of 80 to 90 millimeters.

1. Head Kore 87 W | Dimensions: 127/85/107 | MSRP: $750

“Carvaholics, the Kore 87 W will feed your addiction,” said one tester. The newest and narrowest addition to Head’s all-mountain Kore fleet is built for laying way out on edge on perfect corduroy, but it’s gossamer and easy-skiing enough to shred spring corn inbounds or out. Credit for that goes to graphene—the lightest and toughest material known to science—in the tips and a carbon layer in the body, which makes the Kore 87 W backcountry light and resort stable. Koroyd inserts, that honeycomb polymer you’ve seen, eats up vibration like metal, but without the weight penalty. “It has guts in steeps and hardpack, but is surfy and playful too,” said a tester. A tapered tip makes off-trail skiing smoother and flattens the learning curve for aspiring carvers, taking away the need to stay alert in turn initiation. “You don’t need beautiful form to make perfect turns,” said one of our testers, a patroller at Steamboat. Swami Gripe: Anybody can carve a turn on the Kore 87, but experts might want more tip engagement at the start of the turn. Swami Like: Our smaller and least aggressive women testers raved about how inviting the Kore 87 is. Our strongest skiers applauded the edge grip and stability in the belly of the turn. 

 

2. Rossignol Blackops Stargazer | Dimensions: 127/94/117 | MSRP: $700

How did the fattest ski in our All Mountain Frontside test make it to the second spot on the podium? By excelling at the intangibles. That’s what we glean when we see the words “intuitive” and “balanced” on so many test cards. When a ski feels right to you, then performance feeds off confidence. “Yes!” said a tester. “It’s loaded with latent power. When you ski it slow it’s easy and predictable, but the harder you push it and the faster you go the more it comes alive.” Credit for that feel rests with too many things to list here, but involves decades of institutional knowledge and a factory test crew that’s committed to getting the balance—flex, flex, flex—right. But underneath the top sheet there’s actually a lot of tech happening. Air Tips keep the swingweight down and Damp Tech quiets vibration. Swami Gripe: Our smallest testers were challenged by the 170. Downsize if you’re uncertain.
Swami Like: Said a tester: “You can initiate a whole range of turn shapes on-trail and off. It’s an all mountain ski for most people, but you can carve it up too.” Our recommendation? If you ski out west, but don’t need 105 millimeters to float on most powder days, the Stargazer is an All Mountain ski that loves to get on edge.  

 

3. Dynastar M-Pro 84 W | Dimensions: 123/84/106 | MSRP: $600

When our test cards are peppered with words like “lively, agile, and poppy,” but also “damp, quiet, and predictable” you know you’ve hit on a ski with the right mix of attributes for all mountain skiing. That was the feedback on the brand-new M-Pro 84 W. “It butters and carves equally, but it’s also easy on the legs,” read one test card. The key might rest in Dynastar’s new hybrid core which sees stout and long-lasting poplar sided by damp and lightweight polyurethane. The ride that core delivers is both silky and dynamic. Our women testers loved it whether they were making slow carves or flat-out hauling. The 84 is so maneuverable that it handles either turn shape. A titanium plate amps the stability. Swami Gripe: At 84 millimeters underfoot, they’re a bit narrow for deep snow areas like Utah and Jackson. Swami Like: Look here if you want a ski that you can improve on. “So easy to get on edge,” said a tester. “They want to carve and don’t need much input to do so. And they’re stable, but don’t feel excessively beefy.”  

 

4. Stöckli Nela 80 | Dimensions: 121/80/106 | MSRP: $949

It’s the skinniest ski to win inclusion on these pages, but as fun as the Nela 80 is in short swing turns, it is far more than a pure carver. Stöckli employs a lightweight core and a soft flex to make the Nela as enjoyable as possible for women skiers. On groomers that makes for dynamic fall line skiing. Off-trail on packed snow, that trait carries over. “Turn ’em big or turn ’em small, just keep turning them,” said a tester. “They put a pop in your step.” That’s all in keeping with the biggest trend in ski construction we’re seeing. Today’s easy flexing skis are approachable for intermediates, but it’s only as you advance and grow confident achieving higher edge angles or traveling at greater speeds that you experience all that the ski has to offer. Again, this only works when you get the sweet spot of the ski right. The premium built Nela just feels natural. Swami Gripe: The Nela likes to turn. That can be demanding if you tend to skid around when you get tired. Swami Like: “The most trustworthy edging in the category,” said a tester. “They’re super solid, but light and easy flexing at the same time.”

 

5. Fischer RC One 86 GT | Dimensions: 130/86/116 | MSRP: $799

If most of the AMF skis on these pages were designed to ski groomers 70 percent of the time, the RC One 86 (we featured it in the unisex AMF pages as well) is more in the 90 percent range. It’s the closest thing to a pure frontside ski in the AMF test, even though at 86 millimeters underfoot it would appear wide enough for routine off-trail smearing. The story here is about full-length sidecut: when you extend that hourglass in a ski (instead of tapering the ends) the shovel hooks up earlier in the turn and the tail holds on later. “Pure carving genius,” said a tester. “You can make short or long radius turns and ride the pop from edge to edge.” We’re fans of such wide carving skis for all day shredding on groomers: When the snow softens or gets pushed into piles later in the day, that extra width lets the edges penetrate and find firm snow to carve off. Look here if you want to make technical tip-to-tail arcs. Swami Gripe: You can shut this Fischer down easily on groomers, but it’s not much for smearing turns off-trail and the tail is too much for bumps. Swami Like: It’s a unisex ski. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Our women’s test director loved setting up high edge angles on it. And our backcountry minded tester that’s just finding her carve dug them too. “For me it was an intro to carving ski,” she said.

 

6. Nordica Santa Ana 93 | Dimensions: 126.5/93/114.5 | MSRP: $750 

Sometimes our rankings don’t represent cohesion, but division. That was the case with the new Santa Ana 93. Our top four technical skiers (three of whom have run ski tests in the past) flipped out over its top-end stability at speed and endless edge grip. But four of our less seasoned testers found it took a bit of muscle to maneuver. What’s the takeaway here? While it’s true that Nordica builds skis for stronger skiers, the perception versus reality dynamic might also be at play. When a brand has a reputation for burly skis with burly names like “Enforcer”, “Helldorado,” and “Hell and Back,” it can be tough to overcome. But the skiability of the new Santa Ana impressed our less charging skiers too. “All you have to do is nudge them and they drive smoothly into a medium radius arc,” said one. Our take? This is a winning bet if you’re already a strong skier or you want to become one. The stability scores top the charts, but it’s manageable off-trail in packed snow or cut up powder. Swami Gripe: It’s not as quick turning as most of the skis in the AMF category.
Swami Like: “The quintessential All Mountain Frontside ski,” said our women’s test director. “Carves like a narrower ski; floats like a fatter ski.”

 

7. Armada Victa 87 Ti | Dimensions: 129/87/119.5 | MSRP: $775  

It might look like a loose freeride ski, but the Invicta 87 is a ripping All Mountain Frontsider that carves a damn fine medium radius turn while still being versatile enough for off-trail directional shredding. The tip is extra supple for easy turn entry and shock absorption while skiing off-trail. Titanium alloy reinforcing a stout poplar core offers solid edgehold and stability. A tail that lets you finish the turn with gusto, and adds pop in transitions. “I was surprised by how much personality this Armada has,” said a tester. “You can ski it easy if you want to, but it has an old-school feel at the end of the turn if you feel like pushing it.” At 87 millimeters underfoot, it’s a great everyday ski back East or in powder challenged locales. At Steamboat it excelled in the trees after the new snow had been packed down. But on groomers it hooks up and holds on to those medium radius arcs as well as many of the more frontside focused skis we tested. Swami Gripe: That supple tip makes the Victa more versatile in all manner of terrain, but it doesn’t engage as positively in a carve as skis like the Stöckli Nela. Swami Like: All Mountain Frontside skis like these could also be called All Mountain East Coast or Summit County, Colorado skis. On hardpack or third-buckle deep powder the Victa 87 is madly versatile.    

 

8. Elan Ripstick 88 W | Dimensions: 130/88/105 | MSRP: $700 

Elan updated the much loved Ripstick 88 W this year with smartly placed strips of carbon over the inside edges to boost grip and add a touch of pop. Our testers loved the improvements. Where the Ripstick used to be a bit more soft-snow centric, the new version skis everything well. “The perfect ski for this category,” said a tester. “It can slink through everything off-trail, but it rips way harder on groomers now.” The key to that versatility is Elan’s totally unique footprint, which puts more rocker on the outside edges and more edge contact on the inside edges of dedicated left and right skis. The effect is that the skis are both buttery and grippy in all the right places. “You can swing them around effortlessly if you feel like smearing lazy turns, or set them up in beauty arcs,” said a tester. Swami Gripe: We used to be wary of asymmetrical skis because if you hit a rock on the inside edge you can’t simply swap the left for the right. But that’s really only a deterrent on low tide ski hills. Swami Like: Some skiers want to push themselves and their skis hard all day. Others want to switch on cruise control and enjoy the ride. The Ripsticks excel at brainless arcing. 

 

9. Völkl Kenja 88 | Dimensions: 129/88/111 | MSRP: $775

All the Editor’s Choice award winning skis are pretty damn great. The key is to find the ski that suits your style and favorite terrain the best. Take the Kenja for example. A carbon tip and Völkl’s Titanal Frame construction give it a unique snow feel—crisp and precise when it’s up on edge. But at the same time, the soft flexing tip and tail allow for mistakes and slashy off-trail skiing where a smeared pivot turn is just as likely as an edged arc. A shape-shifter, the Kenja features a modern multi radius sidecut that lets you arc sweeping turns when you feel like it, or short swing carves on fall line groomers. The more you push it the more it gives back. “It dices short swings, but can leave trenches if you really lay it over,” said a tester. So who should buy it? Look here if you love a ski with a crisp feel that comes alive in perfect corduroy, but you also ski off-trail. Swami Gripe: That crisp feel can be disconcerting and glassy at high speeds, but despite the electric feedback, the Kenja sticks to the snow. Swami Like: Skis that perform well at slow speeds, but turn on when the skier drives them harder tend to help with progression. It’s also nice to be able to lay off the gas once in a while. 

 

10. Salomon Stance 88 W | Dimensions: 120/88/102 | MSRP: $725

Salomon says its brand-new Stance line is “crafted to charge,” and they aren’t kidding. The Stance was the most adept high-speed, high edge angle ski in the women’s AMF test. “It’s as stable as an old-school competition big mountain ski, but it lays down a race ski arc,” said a race coach. If that all sounds un-Salomon like to you, that’s by design. The Stance is a position ski for Salomon. They’re letting the world know that the brand known for fun and surfy skis can build skis with world-class oomph too. Look here if you love to ski fast and have the dynamic style to wake up this much wood and metal. The Stance repays that type of hard skiing. If you only ski slowly and tend to check and skid more than you carve and pop, the Stance will feel perfectly adequate if a little dull. The flex is built for women, but there are still two sheets of metal on top of a wood core here. Swami Gripe: We don’t have any complaints. Plenty of women like to hammer and deserve a ski that can handle that style of skiing. Swami Like: A podium pick from our race coach tester, she said, “The Stance nails the All Mountain Frontside category. You can get crazy aggressive if you want to, but you can ski it easy too.” 

 

   

11. Atomic Vantage 90 Ti | Dimensions: 126/90/112 | MSRP: $725

Atomic and Salomon are sister companies, but the Vantage 90 and the Stance 88 could not be farther apart in concept. First launched during the lightweight craze, the midfat Vantage 90 Ti W delivers eerily grippy edgehold in a superlight build that excels at off-trail skiing or slow-speed corduroy ripping in packed powder: Ideal if you’re in the market for an off-trail ski, but don’t need or want the extra width of a fatter All Mountain ski. “It slarves, carves, sluffs, floats, and if you dump some speed it skis early morning hardpack just fine too,” said a tester. We’ve written about the tech that makes the Atomic work for years, but the edge grip comes courtesy of ample torsional rigidity and complicated vibration eating mesh layers that keep the edges contouring the snowpack instead of chattering and breaking free. Swami Gripe: At 1,600 grams, no matter how sophisticated the technology is, the ski will deflect when it hits a chunk that weightier skis will bash through or simply absorb. Swami Like: At 1,600 grams the 90 is an adept backcountry crossover ski and could handle long tours.

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