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Oct 13 2015

Review: Volkl’s VTA88

Even with a pair of one of the heaviest alpine tech bindings mounted to them, Marker’s Kingpin, Volkl’s new VTA88 is a bonafide welterweight. Without bindings you might even consider them to be featherweight, but that would suggest an absence of muscle that in reality, the VTA has no shortage of.

Volkl Tour Alpine - a skinny Katana. 127-88-106

Volkl Tour Alpine – a skinny Katana. 127-88-106


Think of the VTA88 as a slim version of what Volkl pioneered with their 112mm waisted V-Werks Katana ski; a ski that is undeniably light for its size, yet nimble and damp despite a preponderance of carbon fiber in the construction. Thus, the VTA88 is a ski that defies belief, weighing in at a skosh over a kilogram (2 lbs., 4 oz) in the 170cm length.

Volkl prefers to talk in terms of weight by surface area. At 0.59 grams per square centimeter it is certainly one of if not the lightest touring ski made by an alpine brand. What you will notice is how “normal” the skiing performance is, contrary to what you would expect from such a light ski with carbon fiber construction.

3D Construction

The key is Volkl’s 3D wood core construction mated with wings of carbon fiber at the tip and tail. The central rib of wood provides a classic smooth flex along the length of the ski. This is why the Katana, the BMT series, and the VTA all have a round turn shape.

Carbon tends to make a ski stiff, but with a brittle, dampless response that causes the ski to chatter whilst attempting to hold an edge on hard snow. That’s the genius behind Volkl’s 3D construction. The ski is thinner at the edges, where traditional construction implies that less mass means less edgehold. Except at the thin edges there is a lot of carbon and precious little else. My theory is the thinner edges allow them to yield a bit under pressure so that they exhibit something usually absent with carbon fiber skis, dampness. The end result is a ski that is light, stiff, and yet it holds an edge on hard snow without chattering as speed increases.

Flotation

It does tend to sink in deep snow, owing to less than 90mm at the waist, and an overall stiff flex which does not improve flotation beyond what the surface area provides. There is a bit of tip rocker, but with an 88mm waist rocker can only help so much. Even so, I’ve skied narrower skis and still had a smile when skiing the funk, but we both know that for deep, fat, or funky snow there are better skis available. The VTA88 is far better than old school but still not a fat school tool. In soft, chopped up crud it skied fine as long as you held a carving line. If you try to bleed speed the limits of lightweight become more evident and you’ll get tossed a bit, especially as the crud freezes solid.

Edging Power

Lots of lightweight skis can hold an edge, but only at slower speeds. The VTA88 holds true to that formula, although you can push ‘em to the 40mph range and they still held. Like the BMT series, the VTA88 pumps out turns with a smooth round shape and a snappy rebound, only faster ‘cuz they’re narrower. By the time the corn ripens, you’ll be yodeling with delight as they rebound in perfect rhythm to the song your legs are jammin’ to.

Going the Distance

Where the VTA88 rules is on long tours where the compromise in deep snow is balanced with the ability to allow long tours deep into the backcountry. The VTA88 isn’t just a lightweight ski that works well in the backcountry, it comes with a notch in the tail for skin clips, and a reinforced tip with a hole for use with Volkl’s proprietary, Skin Pin tip hook which is clean and unobtrusive. It won’t get knocked off short of a gremlin twisting it off. That also means you can’t simply rip the hide with your skis attached since the tip hook needs to be twisted to let go. No worries, the VTA88 works well with other skin tip and tail combinations too.

Mounting

Stay inside the white and you'll be alright.

Stay inside the white and you’ll be alright.

The VTA88 shares the same core mounting pattern as Volkl’s Katana and BMT series, meaning you can’t expect to mount any binding to it. However, in terms of the tech bindings that make the most sense to pair with these skis, you should be okay with almost any of ‘em, especially Marker’s Kingpin,, but do double check before committing.

Conclusion

For those who are counting grams, there are a lot of choices for lightweight skis this season. Few have the heritage and track record that Volkl has amassed, and with the VTA88 Volkl manages to stay true to their first priority of producing a ski that skis well, but also happens to weigh less than five pounds per pair. Substantially less.

Volkl
VTA88
MSRP: $1100
Dimensions: 127-88-106 mm
Lengths available: 160, 170, 180 cm
Weight/ski (170cm): 2 lbs., 4 oz. (1020 grams)

Note: The original weight/area value of 90 g/cm2 was dramatically inaccurate. The erroneous information above was updated to 0.59 g/cm2 on 21oct15.
© 2015
 

  • http://www.nstelemark.com Larry White

    Interesting, the VTA88 has the same dimensions as my favourite skis – the Volkl Kendos. These might be worth trying.

  • David M Place

    Craig, thanks for review. I’ve really enjoyed you take on Volkl’s carbon skis.

    I pulled the trigger on a pair Vwerks Katana’s w/KingPins (I’ll be eating a lot of PB&J’s…….$$$). I’m thinking a the VTA will be a great spring mountianeering ski.

    Just to clarify, the skis you reviewed are the “VTA 88 Lite” (correct?)
    Looking at Volkl’s euro web site, they also build a non carbon version of the VTA.

    Thanks again and I hope El Niño is kind to Tahoe.

    Dave Place
    Bend, OR

  • Dostie

    By and large there’s a lot of good skis out there and you have to adapt a little to most, but they all force you to crack your face with a smile. Whatever magic dust Volkl is using in their carbon fiber layups is – it’s goooood. I do think the thinness on the edges is the difference ‘cuz no one else does that, and no other carbon fiber ski skis like the Katana’s, BMT’s and the VTA ski. Quite remarkable IMO.

  • dnm

    thanks for the review!

    Any idea how the light and non-light versions compare in skiing? I did ski the non-carbon one and liked it a lot in pretty much all conditions I tried it (no deep pow) – will I like the light version as well? the non-carbon is about 200g/ski heavier.
    Thanks,
    Dan

  • Jaap Kerkvliet

    Craig, what exactly do you mean with ” … you can’t expect to mount any binding to it” and that with the tech bindings? Is it not possible to drive these skies with, say, a 22D AXL?

  • Dostie

    I’m talking about the mounting area. Did you notice the image I posted? The mounting area is not solid wood, so you can’t mount any old binding to these skis. The mounting pattern needs to fit within the confines of that “H” pattern. If it doesn’t, it won’t hold.