Ski: 2018-2019 Volkl Kendo, 177cm
Available Lengths: 163, 170, 177, 184cm
Actual Tip-to-Tail Length (straight tape pull): 177.8cm
Stated Dimensions (mm): 127-90-110
Blister’s Measured Dimensions (mm): 126.5-89.5-109
Blister’s Measured Weight per Ski: 1920 & 1940 grams
Stated Sidecut Radius (177cm): 20.8 meters
Core Construction: Poplar + Ash Underfoot + Titanal (2 Layers) + Fiberglass Laminate
Tip / Tail Splay (ski decambered): 60mm / 16mm
Tip / Tail Rocker Line (ski decambered): ~33cm / ~21.5cm
Traditional Camber Underfoot: 4-5 mm
Factory Recommended Line: ~10.7cm from center / ~87.2cm from tail
Mount Location: Recommended Line
Boots / Bindings: Lange RX 130 LV / Marker Jester (DIN 11)
Days Skied: 3
[Note: Our review was conducted on the 15/16 Kendo, which was not changed for 16/17, 17/18, or 18/19, apart from graphics.]
For 15/16, Volkl gives us a new Kendo:
“A brand new Kendo debuts for 15/16, with a wider waist, early taper in the tip, and the addition of tip and tail rocker. These new design elements allow the Kendo to be more playful in soft snow, while maintaining the edge grip, stability, and frontside performance that have made it so popular.”
Volkl classifies the Kendo as a ski for advanced and expert skiers. They also say that it is designed for “50% groomed, 50% powder.”
That’s very interesting: groomers and powder. No talk of moguls, or variable snow, or difficult off-piste conditions. Their emphasis (to the exclusion of everything else) is on Groomers and Pow. I actually love it when companies exhibit this sort of specificity, rather than just write, “This ski kills it everywhere, in all conditions, all the time.” But how accurate is this characterization of the Kendo?
Two of us put a combined six days on the Kendo down in New Zealand, so we’ll speak to the Kendo’s groomer and pow performance, but we’ll throw in a variety of off-piste conditions, too, just to try to give you a broader sense of the Kendo’s strengths and weaknesses.
We’ll also talk about how similar or different the performance of this new Kendo is compared to the previous one—but with one caveat.
Previously, I had only skied the 13/14 – 14/15 Kendo, and only in a 184cm length. We were supposed to take a new 184cm Kendo with us down to New Zealand, but instead, a 177cm Kendo arrived instead, just before we left.
The good news is that more skiers will purchase the 177cm Kendo than the 184cm, so this review may be even more relevant to a greater number of people. But the bad news is that my comparisons will not be exactly apples-to-apples.
So with that caveat, I’ll go ahead and reveal the spoiler: my take on the 15/16, 177cm Kendo lines up quite closely with my take on the 13/14 – 14/15 Kendo—the 184cm model. I’ve written about there being a pretty significant difference between the 187cm Blizzard Brahma and the 180cm Brahma, or the 184cm Mantra vs. the 177 Mantra. But I did not notice a big difference between the 15/16 177cm Kendo and the 13/14 184cm Kendo.
When resorts open in November, I’ll get on the 15/16 Kendo in a 184 and provide an update.
But anyway, back to the new 177…
The rocker profile of the Kendo is a thing of beauty. It has a rocker line that’s about 33 centimeters deep when the ski is decambered, with an incredibly subtle amount of splay that grows increasingly wider up through the tips. This is one of my favorite things about a number of the skis that Volkl is building: they throw a relatively deep tip or tail rocker line on a ski, then go super subtle on the splay til you get very close to the tip or tail. It’s a beautiful design that still allows these skis to carve extremely well, and you don’t end up with an excessive (aka, “dumb”) amount of tip rocker / tip splay.
So yes, Volkl can tout the Kendo’s new tail rocker, but it is minimal. And the previous versions of the Kendo had tip rocker, so that isn’t new.
As for the “wider width,” well the previous Kendo had a stated width of 89mm. We measured the 15/16 Kendo at 89.5, and the tip at 126.5. So going off the stated specs of the 14/15 Kendo, the new Kendo got half a millimeter wider in the tip and waist.
Volkl also touts the Kendo’s new tapered tips, and there is a bit of noticeable taper. But thankfully, that taper is quite minimal. I tend to think that pin tails are the most overrated design element in skis, and that tip taper is the 2nd most overrated element. And the skinnier the ski gets, the less relevant tip taper is (the skinnier the ski, the less need there is to quicken the ski up), and one can go overboard quickly with taper.
So I’m glad that the Kendo’s tip taper is quite minimal; it didn’t feel like a detriment in chopped up / tracked out off-piste conditions, where (contrary to popular belief) tip taper will often contribute to a ski’s tendency to deflect in variable conditions.
Here’s how we’d charecterize the flex pattern of the Kendo:
In Front of Toe Piece: 9.5-10
Behind Heel Piece: 9-8.5
The tips and tails of this ski are pretty similar in terms of flex. I love this. The Mantra is like this too, and (generally speaking) both the Kendo and the Mantra have stiffer shovels than many of their competitors. This is a very precise and impressive rocker profile and flex pattern.
So in case you were worried, rest easy: the Kendo has definitely not been dumbed down or watered down.
NEXT: Performance: Groomers, Moguls, Powder, Variable, Etc.