Volkl Mantra (2011)

At 96 mm, the Mantra was second-fattest in the category. That put it at a disadvantage in terms of quickness and all-mountain versatility, but it will rock those powder days. It’s a traditional-camber, wood-core, laminate construction—built for racy edge-grip that belies its girth; demanding, but also rewarding. It was No. 3 in Flotation, yet still in the middle of the pack for Hard-Snow Grip. It loves long arcs and high speeds, erring on the side of power over finesse. Among all the rockered skis, it feels especially long and burly, which skilled traditionalists will love. “A dynamic one-ski-quiver gem for experts,” said Malone.
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Volkl Mantra 2011

Rating: / 5
Price: $825.00
Year: 2011
Level: 3
Gender: Male
Waist Width:
Tip/Tail/Waist: 133/96/116
Lengths: 184

Stability at speed: 3.63 / 5
Hard snow performance: 3.24 / 5
Crud performance: 3.08 / 5
Forgiveness: 2.16 / 5

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2011 Volkl Gotma

Volkl Gotama (2011)

The original backcountry twin-tip returns with minor modification this year. It’s fully, but subtly, rockered, with a long, gradual tip-to-tail bend. Völkl takes care to make sure rocker and sidecut work together: Tip a Gotama up on groomers, and there’s plenty of edge-to-snow contact for easy carving. But it’s built for soft snow. It surfs and smears readily in powder and smoothly manages crud. There were more dynamic skis in the test, but the Gotama won accolades for versatility and mellow user-friendliness. “A versatile tool for powder and crud—even carves on hardpack; fun and easy,” said Casey.

2011 Volkl Kenja

Volkl Kenja (2011)

Völkl’s got a thing for Japan. We suspect it’s because they craft skis as fine as samurai swords—and the graphics are cool, besides. Enter Kenja (“wise one”). It has the same hip freeride feel as the wider Aura and Kiku—plus Völkl’s classic edge-grip to rail on the groomed. It’s No. 1 in Stability and Rebound and last in Quickness/Bumps, which tells you it likes speed and power. It’s stiff, too, but a tapered tail scrubs speed in powder and releases relatively easily on groomed, earning it respectable scores in Forgiveness. Still, its talents are best suited for experts. “Stable, yet not heavy,” said Gibbons. “Performs best when pushed.”V

Volkl Kiku

Volkl Kiku (2011)

Gradual rocker from tip to tail is the Kiku’s secret to unsurpassed smoothness. It’s steady, damp and humming with Völkl power. Testers scored it high in Flotation (No. 3), Crud Performance (No. 3) and Overall Impression (No. 2). It craves long turns and virgin powder the most, but when prodded, it’s not too stubborn to hustle through tight trees and bumps, too. You do have to steer it from exactly the right spot; but for those who find that spot, the rewards are rich. “A strong and powerful ski, it delivers performance in perfect fluff and the more- challenging chop,” said Moscarella.

Volkl Tierra

Volkl Tierra (2011)

If precision and control are what you’re after, the Tierra is your ski. Its aptly named “double grip” construction adds more material to support the edges and distribute pressure evenly down the ski when it’s flexed at high speeds. Translation: It has the control of a Ferrari and edge-bite of an ice skate. It should come with a warning label for non-experts, though: The Tierra always revs high, and it refuses to deviate from the fall line. Scoring first in Hard-Snow Grip and last among winners in Forgiveness, it makes you pay for your mistakes. “Begged for speed and didn’t get nervous or break away,” said Schultz.

Volkl Kendo

Volkl Kendo (2011)

The Kendo, frankly, sparked disagreement. It’s a narrower version of the highly decorated Mantra (see No. 13). Kendo means “way of the knife,” and with a sturdy, race-ready construction and two sheets of metal, that’s an apt image for its performance on groomed. Its lightness surprised us, and there was consensus regarding its Quickness (No. 2). But some testers saw it as a burly carver most at home on hardpack; others enjoyed it more in bumps and crud. One of our pickiest testers was its biggest proponent. “Rips the heck out of the hill in every facet: pow, crud, bumps, carving,” said Elling.

Blizzard M-Power

Blizzard M-Power (2011)

It’s built like a race ski in some respects—wood core, metal laminates, vertical side walls. Blizzard’s new Power System—a carbon reinforcement bar connected to an oil-filled piston underfoot—adds tip and tail pressure at speed while quieting the ski between turns. Blizzard softens the flex and adds tip rocker for manageability and soft-snow versatility, but it’s still very much a go-fast ski: No. 2 in Stability at Speed, No. 1 in Hard-Snow Grip. It’s thrilling, but it expects you to know what you’re doing. Easterners will love the tenaciousness. “Give it the gas; it gives back,” said Malone.