Here's Volkl's most successful ski in the men's test, and no wonder. Testers loved how good it made them look. Yes, it's a metal-reinforced carver at heart, and it loves to be tipped up high and pressured into deep arcs of all sizes. But what the team admired most was its balance of skills. There's just enough width to venture into off-piste crud, to make the most of boot-high powder days, or to set a strong edge on spring-soft corduroy without trenching too deeply. You don't have to drive it at top speed to have fun, and its quickness is almost unmatched in the category. Britt: "A great hangover ski: so easy, no thought required."
At 115 mm underfoot and with gradual rocker through- out, the all-new one W wins in Flotation-no surprise there. But it's far too well bred for new-school smear- ing. It's damp, stable, power- ful, and...hot pink. Perfect for a take-no-prisoners charger, we think. (Matching war paint sold separately.) Those who can handle it will find the confidence to push the limits of gravity and velocity. "A crud-busting, powder-slaying, hard-charging stick," said Galena Gleason.
The name's the same-and almost 10 years old-but this year's Mantra further evolves. It's a modest two mm wider. More important, it adopts the full-length rocker other Volkl fatties favor, with tip taper thrown in for a looser feel. It's not as buoyant as others in the category, but testers loved its utility-knife versatil- ity, admiring especially its hardpack and crud game. Larsen: "Friendlier than past Mantras; still stout enough to charge."
Here's an option for skiers ready for something just a little wider. Unlike other Volkls, the Kendo didn't thrill testers with any one skill, but it does almost anything a re- sort skier asks of it and puts up consistent scores across the board. Testers were more excited about other Volkls (see Groomed Snow and Mixed Snow West). But the steady Kendo is a reliable ride. Gleason: "Smooth, consistent, yet vigorous."
Manufacturers keep entering wider and wider waists in this category, and testers keep reward- ing them. The long-esteemed Gotama belongs to Volkl's Big Mountain collection, but it's plenty happy on typical resort terrain, especially if there's soft snow to be found. Testers loved its flotation and crud-busting skills-not surprising, given its considerable girth and terrain-smoothing full- length rocker. And while it's not especially quick in tight spots, it's remarkably manageable for such
a big ski. Basso: "Volkl has the full-rocker thing figured out. A great one-ski-quiver for Little Cottonwood Canyon."
A precise and cunning slayer, this perennial winner attacks the hill with audacity and tenacity. It's hyperalert to input, which means yours had better be good, and it prefers to move at eye-watering speeds. It shares the indomitable construction- metal, fiberglass, and wood-of the Aura (another perennial winner in Mixed West) but with an ice-dicing waist width. Sounds a little menacing? Yes. (Testers didn't nickname it the Railin' Ninja for nothing.) But those who can wield it will rip the guts out of any run, regardless of how hard the snow is. "This much fun on a ski should be illegal," said Brown Lovell.
Some would argue this perennial winner didn't need redesigning, but when it comes to perfection- ism, Volkl's R&D guys are clinical. The idea was to give it a new tapered tip and full rocker for more maneuverability and accessibility. Well, fans of the original will be happy to hear that while the rocker does offer a measure of forgiveness, the Aura still skis like it has something to prove. It's the women's version of the Mantra and it boasts two sheets of metal that stand up to hard-charging, deep-trenching women. It earned No. 1 in Stability and Hard Snow and No. 2 in Crud. "Volkl = integrity = performance," said Jenn Gibbons.
WAIST WIDTH84, 85, 86mm
TIP/TAIL/WAIST127-84-109 (159); 12
LENGTHS159, 167, 175
RATING: 3.09 / 5
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The new all-mountain women's ski from Stockli has an 85-mm waist, so it's preferred habitat is groomed snow, but it's wide enough to handle mixed-snow conditions too. Stockli, known for its cambered precision on hardpack, introduces Powder Rocker in this ski-the longest rockered tip in its collection. A new wood core is 10 percent lighter than the unisex version, with linen-reinforced balsa wood combined with fuma and ash, then reinforced with metal. The wood core lends responsiveness and integrity; the metal laminates durability and high-speed calm. Vertical sidewalls give edge grip and solidity. Women's models, like the Motion, also boast a Softflex construction, which is more flexible for lighter frames and easier to control.
Stockli Skis, now under its third generation of family ownership, is based in Wohusen, Switzerland, near Lucerne.