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Rating: 3.09 / 5
Waist Width: 81
Lengths: 149, 156, 163
Stability at speed: 3.59 / 5
Hard snow performance: 3.59 / 5
Crud performance: 2.63 / 5
Flotation: 2.00 / 5
Forgiveness: 3.19 / 5
Overall: 3.09 / 5
The Flair 81 is new, and it instantly took Völkl from No. 7 in the Groomed Snow rankings to a tie for second. Völkl uses its 3D Ridge construction to good effect here: Thick down the middle, thin over the edges, it’s notice- ably light for a ski that loves speed so. But here’s a secret: Völkl entered last year’s Groomed Snow ski, the Yumi, in this year’s test as a Value-category contender. The Yumi is less expensive, heavier, about the same width, and it actually outscored every other ski in the category, including non-Value contenders. (See November issue.) So you’ve got choices. But for lightweight, technical performance that comes with a binding, the Flair is hard to beat. McElroy: “Everything I like in a carver: quick, lively, and lays trenches.”
Notes: The Volkl Flair 81, new for 2017, is the widest of the Flairs. Like the top-of-the-line Flair SC, it’s a high-performance carver, but its 81-mm waist width-widest of all the Flairs-makes it a likely choice for soft, velvety Western groomers and softpack, where it won’t trench too deeply. It’s the only Flair to built with Volkl’s 3D Ridge construction: a raised ridge down the center of the ski allows the ski to be thinner, lighter, and more sensitive over the edges without sacrifice of torsional or longitudinal stiffness. Metal-free construction keeps it light and lively-good for soft-snow days-while carbon-reinforcement keeps it light, strong, and snappy. It’s built to be an eager, can’t-miss carver, but a touch of tip and tail rocker makes it easy to skid and pivot for speed control and smooths out bumps in the terrain. And it’s binding, an 11-DIN Marker Wide Ride XL, has a broad footprint, the better to transmit skier energy to the edge. Volkl’s new Flair series of narrow-waisted groomed-snow specialists includes six models ranging from high-performance precision carvers for experts at the top of the line down to soft-flexing, easygoing, affordable cruisers at the bottom. All are designed and sold as ski-binding systems. MSRPs range from $1,125 down to $600 (with likely “street prices” of about $950 down to $500). Constructions and features vary widely, as Volkl takes care to match them to the needs of each target skier. Only two models have the same binding, only two have the same core, etc. But all are narrow-waisted (81 mm down to 73 mm), all have extra-tight, auto-carve sidecuts (for those who know how to tip and pressure), and all are targeted at women who expect to spend most of their time cruising the groomers, fast or slow. Volkl is based in Straubing, Germany (Bavaria), where it has been making skis since 1914. Affiliated brands include Dalbello and Marker. Like K2 and Line, Volkl is a subsidiary of Jarden Corp., which itself became a subsidiary of the Newell Rubbermaid consumer-products conglomerate in 2016. -J.C.