2020-2021 Volkl Secret 102

Ski: 2020-2021 Volkl Secret 102, 170 cm

Test Locations: Crested Butte, CO; Taos Ski Valley & Ski Santa Fe, NM

Days Skied: 10+

Available Lengths: 156, 163, 170 cm

Blister’s Measured Tip-to-Tail Length: 170.6 cm

Blister’s Measured Weight per Ski: 2104 & 2115 grams

Stated Dimensions: 140-102-123 mm

Blister’s Measured Dimensions: 139.5-101.5-122.7 mm

Stated Sidecut Radius (170 cm): 18.1 meters

Measured Tip & Tail Splay (ski decambered): 55 mm / 21 mm

Measured Traditional Camber Underfoot: 2-3 mm

Core: poplar/beech + “titanal “frame” + carbon tips + fiberglass laminate

Base: Sintered P-Tex 2100

Factory Recommended Mount Point: -11.3 cm from center; 74.0 cm from tail

Boots / Bindings: Salomon S/Max 120 W / Marker Griffon

[Note: Our review was conducted on the 19/20 Secret 102, which returns unchanged for 20/21, apart from graphics.]

Kristin Sinnott reviews the Volkl Secret 102 for Blister
20/21 Volkl Secret 102
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Review Navigation:  Specs //  First Look //  Full Review //  Bottom Line //  Rocker Pics

Intro

Volkl made some important updates to their women’s freeride lineup for 19/20, with one of the most notable skis being the new Secret 102.

Building off of the 18/19 Secret ski (which will be renamed the Secret 92 for 19/20), the Secret 102 is the sister ski to their Mantra 102. Volkl is also releasing the women’s Kenja 88, which replaces the old Kenja and uses the same “Titanal Frame” construction used in the Secret, Secret 102, Mantra M5, and Mantra 102. All of these skis return unchanged for 20/21 apart from graphics.

Designed for aggressive female skiers looking for a stable all-mountain ski, the Secret 102’s design stands out in the current women’s ski market, so let’s dive in to see why:

Shape / Rocker Profile

While many skis seems to be getting more tapered and rockered, the Secret 102 sticks with a more traditional shape and rocker profile.

The Secret 102 has very minimal taper, setting it apart from many other skis in this class like the Prior Flute, Liberty Genesis 96, Line Pandora 104, and Armada Tracer 98. Overall, the Secret 102 looks more similar to more traditionally shaped skis like the Blizzard Black Pearl 98 and Armada Victa 97 Ti.

Like the Mantra 102, the Secret 102 has fairly deep rocker lines, but they’re extremely subtle and don’t rise far off the snow / ground until you reach the very ends of the ski.

This combo of (1) minimal taper and (2) subtle rocker profile should equate to lots of effective edge on firm snow, and we’re curious to see how the Secret 102 handles softer / deeper / fresher snow conditions.

Flex Pattern

Here’s how we’d characterize the flex pattern of the Secret 102:

Tips: 8.5
Shovels: 8.5-9
In Front of Toe Piece: 9-9.5
Underfoot: 10
Behind the Heel Piece: 9.5
Tails: 9.5-9

The Secret 102 is a very stiff ski. It’s flex pattern is nearly identical to the 177 cm Mantra M5 and 184 cm Mantra 102.

Many skis these days feature tips (and sometimes, tails) that are significantly softer than their midsections. Not so with the Secret 102. The whole ski is quite stiff, with a subtle difference between the middle and the ends of the ski.

Of the women’s skis we’ve reviewed, the Head Wild Joy is one of the few that comes close in terms of how stiff its flex pattern is.

Weight

Again, unlike many skis these days, the Secret 102 is quite heavy. At a little over 2100 grams per ski for the 170 cm length, the Secret 102 is one of the heaviest women’s-specific skis we’ve ever weighed.

Combined with its stiff flex pattern, more traditional shape and rocker profile, and metal-laminate construction, we expect the Secret 102’s weight to make it very stable at high speeds. But we’re also curious to see how all of that affects the ski at slower speeds and in tighter terrain.

For reference, here are a number of our measured weights (per ski in grams) for some notable skis. Keep in mind the length differences to try and keep things apples-to-apples.

1440 & 1366 Line Pandora 110, 170 cm (20/21)
1533 & 1537 Armada Trace 98, 172 (17/18–19/20)
1593 & 1609 Armada Trace 108, 172 (17/18–19/20)
1626 & 1645 Line Pandora 104, 165 cm (18/19–20/21)
1651 & 1669 Moment Sierra, 172 cm (17/18–18/19)
1687 & 1695 Elan Ripstick 102 W, 172 cm (20/21)
1709 & 1710 Blizzard Sheeva 10, 172 cm (17/18–20/21)
1711 & 1772 DPS Alchemist Zelda 106 C2, 171 cm (19/20–20/21)
1735 & 1740 K2 Mindbender 106C Alliance, 175 cm (19/20–20/21)
1764 & 1778 Rossignol Soul 7 HD W, 172 cm (17/18–19/20)
1792 & 1792 Nordica Santa Ana 104 Free, 172 cm (20/21)
1839 & 1797 Rossignol BLACKOPS Rallybird, 170 cm (20/21)
1852 & 1831 Rossignol BLACKOPS Rallybird Ti, 170 cm (20/21)
1881 & 1895 Salomon QST Lumen 99, 174 cm (19/20–20/21)
1917 & 1935 Nordica Santa Ana 98, 172 cm (20/21)
1941 & 1948 Salomon QST Stella 106, 174 cm (19/20–20/21)
1983 & 1999 Nordica Santa Ana 100, 177 cm (17/18–19/20)
2076 & 2078 Nordica Santa Ana 110, 177 cm (17/18–19/20)
2104 & 2115 Volkl Secret 102, 170 cm (19/20–20/21)

Some Questions / Things We’re Curious About

(1) As we just alluded to, we’re curious to see how stable the Secret 102 feels at speed.

(2) On the flipside, how difficult will the Secret 102 be when you want to take things slower and ski more conservatively?

(3) Going off of that, what types of skiers (e.g., beginner, intermediate, advanced, expert) will get along best with the Secret 102?

(4) The Secret 102 is on the wider end of the spectrum for a women’s all-mountain ski but, unlike many skis in its class, it doesn’t have a lot of taper or rocker. So how will the Secret 102 perform in fresh snow?

Bottom Line (For Now)

The Volkl Secret 102 looks like a more traditional addition to the women’s all-mountain category. It’s stiff, heavy, and doesn’t feature a very tapered or rockered shape. Stay tuned for updates as we spend more time on this new ski.

FULL REVIEW

Intro

Volkl’s skis have often been stereotyped as being stiff and heavy. There are obviously exceptions to that (just look at their Blaze 106Revolt 104, and numerous touring skis), but if I picked one ski to epitomize that stereotype, it would be the Secret 102. But this is by no means meant as an insult.

With the same construction and a very similar flex pattern as the unisex Volkl Mantra 102, the Secret 102 looks almost identical on paper — except for the top sheet graphic and lengths offered. Based on the similarities, one might assume that the ski performs the same for women, but I’m also much lighter and a bit less aggressive than many of our male reviewers, so I was interested to see how a stiff, heavy women’s ski would perform for lighter weight skiers and how that translates across different conditions.

Kristin Sinnott reviews the Volkl Secret 102 for Blister
Kristin Sinnott on the Volkl Secret 102, Crested Butte, Colorado.

The first few times I skied the Secret 102, I dismissed it as a groomer ski or a ski for people with more mass than me because I didn’t feel that I could charge confidently on it. It wasn’t until I decided to make the Secret 102 work for me — by changing my skiing style to suit the ski — that I discovered that Volkl’s claim about their all-mountain versatility had some merit. After spending some good days and some frustrating days on them, I found the results to be a bit surprising.

Before I get into the details though, here’s what Volkl says of the Secret 102:

“This season the Secret 102 comes with Titanal Frame and Carbon Tips for more stability and dampening. And even better, it features the revolutionary 3 radius sidecut geometry along the full sidewall. This special geometry is 100% adjusted to the tip & tail rocker construction. Depending on the rider’s speed or edge angle the effective edge becomes longer or shorter and the matching sidecut radius provides hold, maneuverability or smooth operation. The Secret is the number one recommendation for all the charging freeride ladies out there. You want to let it all out, here’s the Secret to realize your goals.”

What I glean from this is that the Secret 102 is supposed to turn well at any speed but is predominantly a ski for experts. And I don’t disagree with either of those characterizations, but as mentioned above, the ski is both heavy and stiff, requiring more power from the skier in variable conditions compared to the numerous lighter, softer options in the market.

From the start, it became apparent that an aggressive, forward stance is paramount when riding these skis, especially if you’re on the lighter side. To start, let’s circle back to the questions we raised in our First Look to see how the Secret 102 performed on snow:

(1) We’re curious to see how stable the Secret 102 feels at speed.

I found the Secret 102 to be extremely stable at speed — as long as I was skiing it with an aggressive, forward stance. Inconsistencies in the terrain had a way of bucking me into the backseat, and once there, the skis had a tendency to get away from me. Of all the skis I’ve tested, the Secret 102 is the stiffest and heaviest and so it needs weight and / or strength to flex it and get optimum performance out of its “titanal frame” construction.

Kristin Sinnott reviews the Volkl Secret 102 for Blister
Kristin Sinnott on the Volkl Secret 102, Crested Butte, Colorado.

At 125 lbs, I don’t think I personally have enough mass to really work and drive the 170 cm Secret 102 all the time. Others with more weight behind them or who ski really aggressively might feel differently, and we’re particularly interested to get our reviewer Kara Williard on the 170 cm Secret 102 next season as she often ends up preferring men’s & women’s skis in the 175-180 cm range. There’s a very good chance she’ll get along better with this ski, and we’re planning on updating this review next season once she’s able to ski it at Crested Butte.

(2) On the flipside, how difficult will the Secret 102 be when you want to take things slower and ski more conservatively?

When making slow turns, it’s pretty easy to ski the Secret 102 but it definitely needs a bit of speed to really carve (more on that below).

(3) Going off of that, what types of skiers (e.g., beginner, intermediate, advanced, expert) will get along best with the Secret 102?

I think the answer to this is pretty dependent on weight. The Secret 102 is a heavy, stiff ski that needs a heavy, strong, and / or capable skier to get the most out of the ski. At 125 lbs, I had a hard time flexing the 170 cm version, but when I was more deliberate with my turns (especially in the bumps), I was able to make them work for me. With that in mind I think this ski is best suited for advanced to expert skiers.

Beginner and intermediate skiers will likely have a more difficult time getting the Secret 102 to perform as an all-mountain ski, given its weight and stiff flex pattern. Heavier skiers will find this ski to be more approachable and I think it could work for an intermediate skier in that scenario. But I don’t think many beginners would enjoy the Secret 102.

(4) The Secret 102 is on the wider end of the spectrum for a women’s all-mountain ski but, unlike many skis in its class, it doesn’t have a lot of taper or rocker. So how will the Secret 102 perform in fresh snow?

The Secret 102 performed surprisingly well in certain types of powder and terrain. I’ll go into more detail below, but when the powder was light, I was able to easily control the ski and despite their weight and rocker profile, they floated fairly well.

In heavier / denser powder it was a struggle to get the Secret 102 to turn through tight trees. In open areas under these snow conditions it was easy enough to let them run and I was actually able to sit back and control them fairly easily as long as I was keeping my speed fairly high and making GS-style turns. But this is far from the best ski in this class for making super quick turns at slower speeds in tighter terrain.

Alright, with those questions addressed, let’s go into how the Secret 102 performs in specific conditions:

Groomers

My first turns on the Secret 102 were on smooth, fast groomers and I was impressed (but not surprised) by how well they carved. It didn’t take a lot of effort on my end to get them on edge, and once in the turn, the Secret 102 held onto the carve until I wanted to make them release. I’ve found that some skis (especially 100mm+ wide skis) have a tendency to release from a turn before completion, or to wash out at the beginning of a turn, but the Secret 102 does not have this issue. The more traditional shape of the ski (very minimal tip & tail taper) helps to make it easy to set them on edge and finish carved turns with precision and power.

I never found a speed limit if the groomer was smooth. What I found surprising, at first, was how the ski could get bumped off course if there was an inconsistency in the terrain. Even on fresh corduroy, if the cats left some holes or large ridges on the trail, the Secret 102 felt unpredictable to me during my first few days on them. Combining that with how quickly the skis seemed to get up to speed and how challenging that speed can be to shut down at times, this made me a bit nervous on crowded groomers.

Kristin Sinnott reviews the Volkl Secret 102 for Blister
Kristin Sinnott on the Volkl Secret 102, Crested Butte, Colorado.

Eventually, I learned that as long as I maintained an aggressive, forward stance, I could better control the skis on any terrain and at any speed. Those first runs that left me a little intimidated by the Secret 102 were due to my body position being a bit more upright and centered as I’d gotten used to skiing on lighter, more forgiving skis like the Liberty Genesis 106 and the DPS Zelda A106 C2.

When compared to the 177 cm Nordica Santa Ana 110, another stiff, heavy, all-mountain charger, I was surprised that the Secret 102 didn’t produce the same energy at the end of each turn. In contrast, the Secret 102 felt a bit sluggish — which isn’t to say it wasn’t great on groomers, it just didn’t feel as poppy to me.

That said, I think this comes down to my weight — a friend heavier than me thought the Secret 102 produced a lot of energy coming out of each turn, which I think again highlights just how strong this ski is. FWIW, this is something that our male reviewers also noticed with the Mantra 102 — it seems like the heavier, stronger, and / or more aggressive you are, the more likely it is that you’ll find the Secret 102 / Mantra 102 to feel both stable and energetic.

Powder

I spent a morning on the Secret 102 skiing powder on some steep terrain that varied from tight chutes to glades to a wide-open apron. The snow also varied from fresh and light to heavy and wet, as is usually the case when you find untracked runs days after a storm. In pockets of 18+ inches of light, untouched powder, the Secret 102 did great. I found myself gravitating towards the backseat in the deeper areas (as I will with most ~100mm-wide skis) and the Secret 102 worked fine as long as I wasn’t having to make quick turns. As mentioned earlier, it’s easy to get out of control when not skiing the Secret 102 aggressively, but light powder in open terrain seemed to be a bit of an exception. In these conditions I was able to make big turns and even surf / slarve a bit without feeling like they were overpowering me.

Kristin Sinnott on the Volkl Secret 102, Crested Butte, Colorado.

When the conditions weren’t super deep I could ski with a more centered or forward stance, and I was able to turn / maneuver the Secret 102 easier in some tight spots (the more you’re pressuring the shovels on these skis, the easier it is to turn). But when the snow was heavy and deep, the skis had a tendency to get away from me. I felt the need to weight the back of the ski to get the tips up in heavy snow, but the Secret 102 demanded I ski more centered or forward in order to get the tails to release and make quick turns in the trees.

All in all, for an all-mountain-oriented, 102mm-wide ski, the Secret 102 is a decent powder ski if the snow is light and / or the terrain leaves you room to make bigger turns. But as the snow gets heavier, the more demanding design of the ski becomes more noticeable. Skiers heavier / stronger than me will probably find it easier to turn the Secret 102 in denser powder, but those looking for a nimble, easy ski in powder should look to lighter, more rockered, & more tapered options.

Chop & Crud

Based on their similar weights and the titanal constructions, I hoped that the Secret 102 would perform as well as the (18/19–19/20) Nordica Santa Ana 110 in chop. The Santa Ana 110 still amazes me in terms of how well it plows over and through chop of any depth or thickness. However, the Secret 102 did not exhibit the same characteristics in these conditions — at least for me.

While the 170 cm Secret 102 is even heavier than the 177 cm Santa Ana 110, the Secret 102 is also narrower, stiffer, and has much less tip & tail rocker. On more than one occasion, I got a bit out of control when speeding down uneven conditions as the skis got bounced around and it was hard to rein them back in at times. Again, I attribute this to me not skiing them in an aggressive forward stance 100% of the time. The Secret 102 demands aggressive skiing in challenging conditions, which perhaps is why Volkl says they are the “first choice for Freeride skiers.” On the flip side, the Santa Ana 110 stands out in that, while it’s quite heavy and stable, it also has a much bigger sweet spot and is more forgiving if you end up backseat. So, if you have a tendency to be defensive or ski with caution in variable conditions, the Secret 102 can quickly get away from you and you’d likely be better off on a ski with a bit more rocker and a softer flex pattern.

Kristin Sinnott reviews the Volkl Secret 102 for Blister
Kristin Sinnott on the Volkl Secret 102, Crested Butte, Colorado.

The bottom line is that, at my weight, if I don’t take charge of the skis, these skis take charge of me. When I felt strong and when I was really on top of it, the Secret 102 effectively plowed through chop and inconsistencies in the groomers, but if I started to relax or let my guard down, the skis started behaving a little more unpredictably. I recently asked that same friend mentioned above what they thought and was informed that they thought the Secret 102 excelled in soft chop and uneven moguls with snappy responsiveness and stability. The metal construction was more easily flexed by my friend’s added weight and the ski provided an energetic rebound when put on edge so that they seemed to accelerate coming out of each turn. So to summarize again — the more aggressive, strong, and / or heavy you are, the more likely you’ll find the Secret 102 to feel very stable in chop & crud.

Moguls, Trees, & Tight Terrain

In soft bumps, the Secret 102 is manageable and even enjoyable as I was able to carve, pivot, and smear turns fairly easily. On one of my favorite runs at Taos (Reforma), for example, the bumps weren’t super big and I found the skis to be great at smearing and carving turns while also allowing me to charge down the run when I felt like it. As mentioned previously, when I stayed on top of the skis in a balanced, forward body position and thought about skiing aggressively, they worked great. Skiing “aggressively” to me means paying close attention to weight distribution throughout the turn and being able to use my leg muscles to add power when needed. Doing so, I was able to flex the ski a bit more, get the tails to release, and take advantage of the Secret 102’s strong flex and damp feel.

Kristin Sinnott reviews the Volkl Secret 102 for Blister
Kristin Sinnott on the Volkl Secret 102, Crested Butte, Colorado.

Given its minimal rocker and taper, the Secret 102 feels long for its 170 cm length compared to the numerous other skis I’ve used in that length that are lighter, more tapered, and / or more rockered. In combination with the stiff and heavy build, it’s no surprise the Secret 102 is challenging in really big bumps. When the moguls were large I found myself accidentally clicking the skis together as I tried to maneuver myself down the run. On Al’s Run, a prominent bump run at Taos, it was challenging to pivot the skis and I found myself hopping / dramatically unweighting some of my turns instead of being able to just pivot between the big bumps.

Who’s It For?

If you’re a hard-charging lady who gravitates towards men’s skis or just prefers stiff, heavy skis, the Secret 102 might be perfect for you. Given that many women’s skis right now are so much lighter, softer, more rockered, and / or more tapered than the Secret 102, it definitely stands out in the market for aggressive skiers who appreciate a damp, strong, & precise all-mountain ski.

If you’re a beginner, intermediate, or lighter advanced / expert skier who appreciates quickness and / or a forgiving ski, there are many better options (see the Women’s Skis section in our Winter Buyer’s Guide).

It’s also worth reiterating that, due to its weight, shape, flex pattern & rocker profile, the Secret 102 feels longer on snow compared to most other women’s skis, so I’d encourage most women to size down if they’re at all worried about a given length being too long.

Bottom Line

The Volkl Secret 102 is one of the stiffest and heaviest women’s skis we’ve tested. If you have the strength to really work and bend a stiff ski, are a heavier skier, or just tend to ski with a very aggressive, forward stance, the Secret 102 offers a lot to like. For those who fit that description, the Secret 102 is a very damp, stable all-mountain ski that carves well and can handle most conditions and terrain. It’s just that, more than most women’s skis these days, you need to ski the Secret 102 aggressively to get the most out of it.

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13 comments on “2020-2021 Volkl Secret 102”

  1. Is there still hope for getting a secret review out?

    Trying to figure secret 102 to secret 92 to Kenja 88, coming from a beat up but much loved pair of 2012 kenjas

    • I’m also coming from a beat up, much loved pair of 2015 Kenja’s, and a pair of 2012 Kenja’s before that.

      I demo’d this ski this past weekend and did not like it at all. It was very sluggish to turn. I started out the morning in widely spaced trees and variable powder and thought perhaps the Secret was better suited to a wider radius turn. I opened it up on an intermediate groomer and nope, still sluggish. Felt like I was fighting the ski the whole time to make it do what I wanted, and yet it did not feel stable underfoot. I mistrusted the ski the whole time.

      For perspective and to disclose bias, I’m a former competitive mogul skier – I like my skis to be quick and responsive. I loved Volkl’s old Kenja, and hated the 2016 Kenja. I also really liked the old Aura and Kiku – I had skied demo pairs from the same 2012-2015ish era.

      These Secrets are nothing like the old Aura. If you liked the old Kenja/Aura/Kiku, I do not expect you’ll like these.

      • What length did you ski?

        I am confused, as the review of the m5 Mantra seem to be great, and Secret is supposed to be just a 2mm skinnier version of Mantra, but with the new Kenja so close in size it makes it hard to pick the right ski!

        Unfortunately I can’t get a demo pair of Volkls in my area

        • 170. My Kenja’s were also 170s.

          I thought a little bit more about it & I realized another factor that may have influenced my experience is weight. I’m strong, but I only weight 125 lbs. As the review above says, it is a heavier ski (plus I had demo bindings on it). It’s possible a heavier skier would enjoy the ski more – naturally exert more force on it, feel more stable, & power it around more.

          • Alta,
            I too think skier weight is an important factor and like you, I weight 125lbs. I’m really hoping to have the full review for you soon.

      • Thank you Christine ! Much appreciate getting a review! The Kenya/Secret/Secret 102 lineup is so confusing to me right now, and with the last couple of core shots my old Kenna really had to go)

        I mainly ski SiverStar and Big White, and have a Star/Soul 7 for really deep days

      • Did you end up publishing a review? I’m seriously eyeing these and haven’t been able to find many helpful reviews. Would love to hear what you think!

  2. I found these to want to stay on edge quite a bit, which isn’t ideal for my speed or varied terrain. Maybe traditional is a good word here? I hate to say this, but the review makes them sound like a lot of work unless you’re an aggressive ex-racer type who can blast through anything at speed. Kristin described this much more eloquently than myself.

  3. My partner’s Volkl Secrets (149 cm) are the stiffest skis in the house. That means stiffer than ON3p Kartels, Mantra M4s, Blizzard Zero G 108s, Praxis Protests, Moment DeathWish, Blizzard Brahmas and her beloved Atomic Centuries. She rides the Secrets in style, particularly in harder conditions, but it’s hard to imagine bumping up to the 102. Beast-mode anyone?

    • I weigh 115 lbs and an 5’3”. I ski the Secret 102’s in the 158 and they are amazing. Yes they are stiff and heavy, but perfect for busting through chop and skiing really fast. They have schooled me to be conscious of being on top of my turns. I honestly think they have improved my skiing. I think they make both short and long turns equally well, and do really well in the typical 6” powder day, especially in the trees. Once the pow becomes cut up, they plow through everything! Before I got these , I skied Kenja’s in a 156 and it was a lot of work. Also I felt tossed around in the chop. The Secret 102’s are now my all mountain ski here in Vail and Beaver Creek. I skied them in deep and heavy Jackson Hole pow, Oark City groomers and at Vail and Beaver Creek, for most of February and mid March, around 20 days. I think the recommendation to size down is a good one. My wife also skis the Secret 102 in the 162, and she weighs 125. Perhaps Kristin would have enjoyed them more in a shorter length.

  4. I feel like there’s going to be a huge hole in the market with the Santa Ana line softening up and these being more demanding. Such a shame since the original SAs were a really nice balance between weight and accessibility. I’ve been super eager to get on these, but feel like sizing down and going +2 on the mount might help.

    Someone needs to A/B these against the original Dakotas to crown a burliest women’s ski of all time.

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