Ski: Völkl Katana, 191cm
Dimensions (mm): 143-112-132
Boots / Bindings: Salomon Falcon Pro CS/ Marker Jester (DIN at 9)
Mount Location: factory recommended
Test Location: Las Leñas
Days Skied: 2
[Editor’s Note: Our review was conducted on the 11/12 Katana, which was not changed for 12/13 or 13/14, except for the graphics.]
Hand flexing a ski in the shop is rarely a reliable indicator of how it will actually ride. The Katana, however, is an exception. It sports a very shallow, very gradual early rise in the tip and tail (the least amount of discernable rocker I’ve ever seen in a ski), two sheets of titanium in the core, and a 31m turning radius. A quick hand flex will tell you: these things are stiff, especially in the tail. What’s more, the 191 and 198cm versions of the Katana have a significantly stiffer “athlete” flex profile compared to the 184cm and shorter lengths. By all accounts, it’s clear that that this ski was built for speed and stability, and I really enjoy putting those qualities to the test.
The past two days, conditions at Las Leñas were firm and ideal for seeing how much punishment the Katana could take. Yesterday brought a slight drizzle at the base area with strong winds at the top of the Caris chair. In one run, conditions went from very firm and cruddy to at the top, to soft and heavy toward the bottom. Today was colder and less windy, with softer chop to be skied under the Vulcano lift.
Before heading for wide open turns in the steeps, I wanted to let the Katana rail on some groomers under the Minerva lift. Since we first got our hands on this ski, I’ve been very curious to find out how its super gradual rocker design would behave through a carved turn. Here’s what I’ve found: Putting this ski on edge is not difficult. But given its length and minimal taper from tip to tail, the ski is quite slow to enter a turn. During the turn, what little rocker the Katana has was honestly unnoticeable in terms of any kind of instability or chatter. I was only able to detect it on fast run outs onto cat-tracks when I ran the skis bases-flat on the snow. The Katanas’ edge hold was very solid as I carved wide arching turns. In terms of stability through each apex they behave nearly like a fully cambered ski, lacking only the livelier, snappy feel that a cambered profile might promote in exiting a turn.
Völkl should be very happy with the balance in hardpack performance they’ve achieved with the Katana. I’m looking forward to see how this characteristic translates to hard braking and skidded/smear turns. And since we’re testing in the land of steep lines, any flaws or shortcomings will be exposed.
After gaining feel for the Katanas’ basic traits, it was time to let ‘em loose on Cenidor. Conditions at the top were hard yesterday, with thicker frozen chop through the midsection of the run, and consolidated, heavy powder in the run out.
In one of my less proficient moments on skis, I confidently boosted off the cornice, and soon found myself going way, way too fast given the conditions, backseat and nuking. Note to self; yes, the Katana’s have a tiny amount of tail rocker, but they will certainly run away from you if you give them a chance. Thankfully, the 191’s tails are plenty stiff, and provide a beefy platform to help correct any rearward landing. Your calves will give out before the Katanas do.
Having pulled things together, I cut (more like rattled) GS turns down the face of Cenidor. The immediate conclusion: stay strong and the Katana’s will deliver. Ripping turns through crusty chop, they were sufficiently stable. Nothing really remains to be said on this front right now. I couldn’t detect any kind of tip chatter, which certainly would have occurred on a big ski with a more pronounced rocker profile.
Again, I commend Völkl for their approach to a reverse camber profile (which is surprisingly unique among other manufacturers). Honestly, The Katanas are easier to maneuver quickly than I would have thought given how stable they are at high speeds (especially during straightline exits). I can’t speak to skiing on a shorter (slightly softer) length, but on the 191, you’ll know you’re riding a big ski with metal in the core. The Katanas’ weight is noticeable when billygoating around or making precise low-speed moves. Ski design is full of tradeoffs, and this is one I’m more than willing to live with.
The most demanding tests are done, and so far I have nothing but positive things to say about the Katana. I may move the mount point forward tomorrow (probably something like 2cm), simply to see if I can make them a bit quicker at slower speeds, hopefully without sacrificing their charging capabilities.
Snow is falling in Las Leñas right now, and the Marte chair will soon be open. Fresh snow and demanding lines await us, and I’ll be commenting on the skis’ float and their stability in the air. After two days on these, my hunch is that the Katanas will not disappoint.
For Part 2 of Will’s review of the Katana, click here.