So……where are frontside skis going?
Good question and one that probably bears some explanation. The first thing to note is that the high tech frontside carver category is being de-emphasized to a fair degree. These have been skis that are either thinly disguised race skis (Dynastar Course Ti) or tech enhanced skis like (Blizzi G or M Power). The reason they are being de-emphasised is not that people ski groomers much less than they used to but actually it’s because they have been deluded into thinking that the world revolves around powder skiing (even for those that almost never do it).
Now…..coming from the perspective of a ski shop buyer, this is all good b/c folks are trooping in the door asking for categories of skis that they don’t currently have. Whether they ever actually utilize the capabilities that some of these skis offer is more or less irrelevant. That is the type of ski that folks are axin’ for these days so that’s what is being offered by the manufacturing community.
But…….what do they really need?
For the primarily groomer oriented skier or the all around skier looking for the optimal tool for low snow conditions, there have always been great specialty skis available. Some of these have been race constructions on “cheater” shapes while others have been skis with a boatload of technology that prioritizes hard snow/high speeds. By their nature, these skis are stiff overall, extra stiff torsionally and are usually loaded with dampening qualities either via construction or via technology. For high speed groomer zoomin’ it gets no better than this. But!!! The fact is that most skiers that buy these skis are in fact not ex-racers or L-III instructors. The reality is that most of these skis offer a level of grip, power and sophistication that the average guy that thinks he’s a good skier will in fact, never utilize.
So…………..what do they really, really, REALLY, need? Probably something like the following…………….
Picture a ski with about an 80-90mm waist width, a medium (15-18m) turn radius, a solid build and a medium or medium-firm flex. Then…….add a little tip or tail rocker (or a touch of both). Finally carefully manage torsional stiffness and add on technology so that the ski is a little easier to ski and not exceptionally heavy.
This is a ski that is good to very good on most firm surfaces anywhere in the US or North America. But……the level of grip and dampening will be a touch below the very best of the pure frontside skis. OTH, you get a ski that is more comfortable in mixed conditions than the width might normally imply. This type of ski will tolerate your mistakes in bumps and wind chop much better than the techier hard snow rides and still be able to ski as fast as most folks will ever even think about.
This is the versatile frontsider or the “all mountain” frontsider. This is the result of ski makers realizing that the majority of skiers are really frontsiders anyway and so they have moderated the extremes a little. They have already done this in the 50/50 “all mountain” stuff by toning down the rocker and also moderating the flex. (most of the saaaayyyyy….98mm (ish) skis are not super stiff nor do they have inordinate amounts of rocker) The frontside ski is now evolving in the same manner. There will be a lot of great choices in the 80-90mm range and for sure, some will still be either near racelike or high tech carvers. However, most will sacrifice a little of that ice-pick hard snow feel in favor of more versatility. There will (I think) be several more examples of this category in the up-coming 2013 mix and of course we shouldn’t forget that that there are some great examples of this already in place right now.