by Frank V. Persall
Ski terrain terms can be confusing for a beginner level skier. What is the difference between powder, big mountain, all-mountain, and frontside skis anyway?
The most popular type of ski is the frontside ski. They are a large category in themselves, having designs from complete beginner to fast charging expert levels, and they are sold more heavily than any other style.
But Frank, what is a frontside skier?
The “frontside” skier is just what the name implies: a person who skis on the front side of the mountain – on the busy, well-skied and groomed steeps.
In ski jargon, the “frontside” of a ski resort is the side of the mountain which has the base lodge and other facilities. It is the side which is well-developed and maintained, groomed regularly, and has the most controlled terrain.
(In contrast, the “backside” is just the other side of the mountain, generally with lesser facilities and rough terrain. This side is preferred by skiers looking for a more adventurous and riskier skiing experience, since the backside slopes are mostly untamed, with limited grooming. Some resorts even keep the backside terrain out of bounds.)
What does the frontside ski ground being “groomed” mean? It means that the snowy slopes are regularly manicured by machine (tractors, piste caterpillars and snowcats), spreading out snow evenly and smoothing out ruts and bumps.
The groomed slope is often referred to as a groomer in ski lingo, or even a piste. Skiing “off-piste” thus refers to skiing on unprepared skiing grounds.
A groomer is also called corduroy, because of the slight ridges in the snow left by the grooming machines, which resemble the pattern of corduroy fabric. It is regarded as the best kind of surface to ski on.
As you’d have already derived from the above information, a frontside “ski” is one which is designed to spend most of its time on groomed trails.
These skis are also called frontside “carvers”, because they are narrow-waisted (68 mm – 85 mm) and allow for more agility in “carving” your way on trails and skidding and wiggling through bump runs. These are loved by skiers who want to perfect their sharp turns on the groomers.
Although they are well-suited to groomed slopes, the don’t do well on cruddy and rough terrains. For those rougher terrains, skis with wider waists are preferred. Similarly, frontside skis perform well in firm snow conditions, but would not be ideal in powder (areas with freshly-fallen, loose, powdery snow).
They are a bit versatile though and can bear the occasional bumps.
Moreover, there is a broad range available, from novices all the way up to hardcore professionals.
Bottom line: Frontside skiers are those who ski on the groomed, corduroy-patterned slopes of mountain front sides, in areas which don’t get regular snowfall. They prefer narrow-waisted skis which give agility and speed over those smoothly carved trails, rather than the wide-waisted skis which are more suited to rough landscapes.
About Frank V. Persall
Frank is originally from the UK, but he has a passion for skiing that knows no bounds. He has made it his life's mission to visit the best ski resorts across the USA and the World. Frank loves spending time with his wife and three children on ski slopes, as they all share his love for the activity.