Frontside 2017

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Sexy has finally made its way into frontside skiing. Groomers and carving may sound staid, but with direct trickle-down from the World Cup and substantial R&D, some of the most exciting developments these days are taking place on the frontside of the mountain. The bottom line: adding weight reductions and easier skiing to firm-snow performance, edge grip and control means a whole lot of fun to come.

by Ryan Stuart in Buyer’s Guide 2017 issue



   In a case of man learning a trick from nature, Stöckli borrowed from the flexible shell of a turtle to make its hand-made skis friendly for intermediate skiers. Between the rigid hexagons on a turtle’s shell are gaps that allow the shell to expand a little to make breathing easier. Stöckli tweaked this idea, carving an S-pattern through the sheet of metal inside its Laser AX, CX and SX skis. The groove allows the ski to bend smoothly, ideal for easy turning, but tip the ski on edge and the turtle shell engages, stiffening the ski torsionally. Translation: the ski is smooth at slow speeds, but can still hold an edge.



   Already loved from coast to coast, Head’s i.Supershape line of skis gets an upgrade with a sheet of graphene under the binding. The one-atom-thick, tougher-than-steel material smooths out the flex of the skis. Then Head redesigned the tip and tail shapes but kept the KERS, a chip in the tail that adds energy back into the ski. Each of the four models has a different rocker profile, creating unique personalities from cruise to better-hold-on.


   Nordica’s N-Move promises long days on the slopes. The 102 last means more room for toe wiggling, and a screw in the rear of the boot customizes stance. There’s a walk mode, a grippy sole and the overlapping construction is watertight—no more snow- or slush-soaked socks. This boot is no slipper, though: the three buckles are backed up by a super strap—a power strap with a buckle.



   Line Skis brings its mountain-as-playground vibe to the groomers with the Supernatural, the best frontside ski we’ve tried from Line. With a metal centre and 86mm waist, it’s the ski you want when it keeps snowing after the groomer has done its thing.


   When Blizzard wanted to design a new carving ski line, the Quattro, it didn’t rely on trickle-down technology from the World Cup but focused instead on four main construction points specifically for frontside skiing. The parameters shift through the line, intermediate to ripper, east versus
west, but the gist stays the same. 1. Materials: varying amounts of carbon and titanium. 2. IQ:
the integrated binding essentially floats over the ski, attached with only one centre screw and wings that extend toward the tip and tail. 3. Rocker: ranging from two to six mm at the tip and tail. 4. Shape: waist widths range from 72-84mm and each model comes in an east and west, firm and soft widths.




   Advancing from an intermediate to an expert can be a long slog. The right ski can make it easier and that’s the plan with the Elan Twilight. Built to smooth out the learning curve, the forgiving, easy-turning and lively ski helps an intermediate skier progress from the groomed to bumps, trees and steeps. Sorry guys, ladies only.


   No sense carrying around something you’re not going to use. That’s the thinking behind the construction of the Völkl RMT 81 and the women’s equivalent, Flair 81. Völkl milled out excess material from these skis to create a new rail system to which the integrated binding attaches. The one-screw attachment of the binding ensures it won’t interfere with the ski’s flex.


   Salomon figures the ideal waist width for groomer skiing is 73mm. From there, the company just tweaks ski length and construction to match snow conditions and turn shape in its three-ski family of X-Max skis. For leaving trenches in the east, pick the powerful X12; softer snow and more off-groomer skiers will prefer the X8. The X10 lands in between.


   Deconstructed, the Head Advant Edge looks as if it should be the hardest boot to get on—it’s actually the opposite. The lower cuff of the boot rises several inches higher than most other boots. The design lends leverage: flex into the front of the boot and energy transfers to the ski faster. The same applies to putting it on: push the tongue forward and leverage opens the shell effortlessly. Even the buckles get in on the mechanical advantage, with a double cam system that makes closing them easy.



   Take a race ski, soften the shovel and add a little more shape, and you’ve got the Nordica Spitfire. Attached to a strong skier, it rails groomers—especially at high speed.



Ryan Stuart
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