Ski: 2020-2021 Volkl V-Werks Katana, 184 cm
Available Lengths: 177, 184, 191 cm
Blister’s Measured Length (straight tape pull): 182.2 cm
Stated Dimensions (mm): 143-112-132
Blister’s Measured Dimensions: 142.5-112-132
Blister’s Measured Weight per Ski: 1959 & 1975 grams
Stated Sidecut Radius: 23.5 meters
Core Construction: Poplar + Ash underfoot + carbon fiber laminate
Tip / Tail Splay (decambered): 68 mm / 18 mm
Traditional Camber Underfoot: 0 mm
Factory Recommended Line: -13.9 cm from center / 77.2 cm from tail
Mount Location: Recommended Line
Boots / Bindings: Salomon X Pro 120 / Marker Jester (DIN at 11)
Test Location: Taos Ski Valley
Days Skied: 6
[Note: Our review was conducted on the 14/15 Katana, which was not changed for 15/16, 16/17, 17/18, 18/19, 19/20, or 20/21, apart from graphics.]
I spent much of last season actively ignoring the V-Werks Katana. When I first saw it at SIA in January of 2013, I believe it took me about four seconds to dismiss it. (You’ll notice that we didn’t even mention the ski in our SIA coverage that year.)
In fact, Will Brown kept telling me that we needed to review it, and I kept saying No. (Will loves it when I get like this.)
Why was I against it?
1) We love the 191cm ‘standard’ Katana, and it’s still our favorite crud buster / charger. So I wasn’t looking for an update, and I definitely wasn’t longing for a lighter weight, impossibly thin, carbon fiber version of the Katana.
2) While the V-Werks Katana is undeniably gorgeous, it struck me as a gimmick. It seemed like this was Volkl’s equivalent of a concept car that was designed primarily to create buzz. It also seemed like some movie producers told Volkl that there was going to be a skiing sequence in the next Batman movie, so Volkl made a ski that looks like it was designed specifically for the Dark Knight.
3) The ski looks awfully delicate. The standard Katana is one of the all-time greats at destroying everything in its path, so honest question: why make a lighter, thinner, more fragile version of it? The V-Werks Katana seemed like a lot of flash, little substance.
In general, I’m against the trend to remove weight from skis. I think weight is a good thing—especially for resort charger-type skis—and cutting weight creates performance tradeoffs that don’t make the ski better able to charge hard or bust crud. (Cutting weight does, however, make a ski nicer to spin, flip, and walk uphill with it either on your feet or on your shoulder.)
So Why Did We Decide to Review It?
1) This season, Volkl still offered the regular Katana and the V-Werks edition, so we could continue to just choose option A. But Volkl isn’t making the regular Katana next year, just the V-Werks, so it’s probably time to find out what this ski can actually do.
2) Mugzy. Jeff Muggleston is the adult ski school manager at Taos, and he’s been skiing the V-Werks Katana pretty much everyday this season, in all conditions. He’s been raving about them, which moved the needle for me up from “uninterested” to “quite skeptical.”
3) We received this comment on the site from a reader named Rod:
“When are you guys going to review the Volkl V-Werks Katana? There is a paucity of good reviews out there of this ski and unfortunately, given the price, no one is demoing the skis.”
Ok, fine. We’ll review it.
How Volkl Describes the V-Werks Katana
In addition to calling it “The World’s most technically advanced big mountain ski,” Volkl has this to say about the V-Werks Katana:
Völkl extends its V-WERKS technology with the new, super-premium V-WERKS Katana. Lightweight technology reduces weight by 15 percent, while enhancing performance through a unique combination of carbon fiber layers and vertical sidewalls. With an incredibly thin profile and featherlight swing weight, the V-WERKS Katana moves effortlessly through soft snow, while the innovative construction provides stability and edge grip. Also available are custom, pre-cut climbing skins.”
And After Six Days on Snow?
“Shocked” would probably be the right word. I’m shocked by how these feel, how well these ski, and how hard I have been able to push them. In short, the V-Werks Katana might be the most surprising ski that I’ve reviewed for Blister.
Shape + Weight + Flex Pattern
Dialing in the flex pattern is probably the most difficult part of ski construction. And while the V-Werks Katana’s flex pattern is not as stiff as the standard-edition 191cm Katana (and I’ll have to confirm, but I’m not sure that it’s as stiff as the standard 184 Katana, either) Volkl has done something very smart: since they decided to remove weight from a stiff charger ski, they also softened up the flex pattern a touch. The result is that the weight and the flex pattern feel very well matched, and I found it to be much better suited for hard and fast riding in variable resort powder conditions than the DPS Wailer 112RPC Pure3.
On another note, since I talk about this all the time, I’m giving Volkl 100 points once again for the consistency of the Katana’s flex pattern. There are no hinge points in the pattern, and the shovels and tips are only slightly softer than the tail. This generally makes for a larger sweet spot on a ski, and it continues to genuinely confuse me as to why some companies make skis with shovels that are much softer than the tails. I do not believe that doing so makes skiing easier for anyone, either beginners or experts.
The V-Werks Katana actually hand flexes about as stiff as the 13/14 Mantra, and slightly stiffer than the 14/15 Mantra. The ski flexes fairly stout, but on snow, it has not felt to me like an unforgiving ski that wants to kick your ass. I’d say it skis a bit softer than it hand flexes, especially through the shovels.
While this might be an odd place to start for a big-mountain pow ski, the V-Werks Katana is a seriously fast, powerful, and smooth carver on groomers. Especially on anything soft, I could lay this ski over as easily as the 98-mm underfoot skis I have recently been riding (Rossignol Experience 98 & 100; 13/14 and 14/15 Mantra; Praxis 9D8), and the V-Werks Katana is easy to bend when brought up to speed.
The caveat to this is that, at speeds of 50-60+ miles per hour, the more I was really wishing for well-manicured groomers. Whereas the 13/14 Volkl Mantra is one of the best skis I’ve ridden on roughed up groomers, the lightweight, thin shovels and tails of the V-Werks Katana don’t steamroll smaller bumps as well.
Compared to another excellent, powerful ~110mm-underfoot carver, the Nordica Helldorado, the V-Werks Katana requires a bit more precision at very high speeds due to its thinned-out tips and tails and lack of traditional camber. When carving, I often like to load up the tails of a ski to launch me into the next turn, but on the V-Werks Katana, loading up the tails (and hence, getting off the shovels a touch) isn’t a great idea if you’re on roughed-up groomers; the uphill ski in particular is in a prime position to wander. So in such situations, I’m now just much more careful to stay on and weight the shovels than I am on skis with heavier shovels and traditional camber underfoot.
(Of course, you could also just slow down a bit, too, but whatever.)
Taos picked up about 30 inches of snow this past week, so it has been a perfect time to test pow performance. And the V-Werks Katana has been excellent. While its tips and tails are relatively stiff, they are also thin and lightweight, and I never experienced any tip dive in deep snow in the Waterfowl, Thunderbird, and High Somewhere areas of Taos’ West Basin. I haven’t been on the 191 standard Katana in some time, and I’ve never skied the 184 length. But I am confident that the V-Werks Katana floats and planes better in pow than the standard version.
Two days ago, Kachina Peak was blanketed with perfect New Mexico blower on top of a beautiful, cream cheese layer. It was ridiculously good, and there was nothing difficult or challenging about it. Making big, fast turns felt totally natural, and the skis were stable and completely cooperative.
Later, in slightly sun baked, thicker untracked snow down Walkyries and the What Chutes, the V-Werks Katanas were still outstanding.
It’s shovels weren’t folding up or fighting back against me, and the skis provided a super smooth, stable ride. This wouldn’t be surprising for a fatter, heavier ski like the Moment Bibby Pro, but I was pleased to see how well the V-Werks Katana handled both light pow and heavier, untracked snow.
The V-Werks ride isn’t super surfy and loose; the rocker line & splay combinations are too subtle for that. Rather, these skis plane well, don’t tip dive, and make pow easy to ski while also providing serious all-mountain capability especially in softer conditions.
An even better surprise is how well the V-Werks has handled soft chop—basically, like it isn’t chop at all. Here, the shape and stiffness of the Katana’s shovels are really beneficial, and work much better in cut up conditions than skis with lightweight, soft-flexing shovels and heavily tapered tips, like the 13-14 / 14-15 Rossignol Squad 7. I was getting no deflection on the Katana at speed in soft bumps (Al’s Run, Castor / Pollux, etc.) in instances where I had to apply a much lighter touch to the Squad 7.
The low swingweight of the V-Werks make these a very easy 112mm-underfoot ski in bumps, whether windscoured, firm, and fast, or big, soft, and slow. The skis are quick, super predictable, and easy to pivot on their no-traditional-camber-having bases.