2020-2021 Volkl Katana 108

Ski: 2020-2021 Katana 108, 184 cm

Available Lengths: 170, 177, 184, 191 cm

Blister’s Measured Tip-to-Tail Length: 183.1 cm

Blister’s Measured Weight per Ski: 2353 & 2360 grams

Stated Dimensions: 146-108-129 mm

Blister’s Measured Dimensions: 145.4-107.7-128.6 mm

Stated Sidecut Radius (184 cm): 19* meters (see below for more on this)

Measured Tip & Tail Splay (ski decambered): 57.5 mm / 21 mm

Measured Traditional Camber Underfoot: 2.5 mm

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

Base: sintered P-Tex 2100

Factory Recommended Mount Point: -11.55 cm from center; 80.0 cm from tail

Jonathan Ellsworth reviews the Volkl Katana 108 for Blister.
20/21 Volkl Katana 108 Top Sheet
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Review Navigation:  Specs //  First Look //  Bottom Line //  Rocker Pics

Intro

The Katana is back.

Well, sort of.

The Katana was first introduced for the 2007-2008 ski season. And while there were some changes to it over the years, in some ways, the Katana never went away.

The “V-Werks” Katana came out in 2014-2015 as a much lighter version of the older Katana that many of us loved, and the V-Werks Katana remains in the current Volkl lineup.

But for 20/21, a truly heavy-metal Katana is back. And it is now the widest ski in Volkl’s “All-Mountain Freeride” collection.

For 20/21, the Volkl Confession goes away, so this “All-Mountain Freeride” collection now consists of the Yumi 80, Kendo 82, Yumi 84, Kendo 88 / Kenja 88, Mantra M5 / Secret 92, Mantra 102 / Secret 102, and Katana 108.

So how similar or different is this new Katana 108 from the current “V-Werks” Katana? And how similar or different is Katana 108 from the old (2011–2014) metal Katana that was discontinued back in 2015?

Let’s get into the details.

Construction

The Katana 108 shares the same “Titanal Frame” construction as many of the skis in Volkl’s All-Mountain Freeride series.

You can get a very in-depth explanation by listening to episode 4 of our GEAR:30 podcast with a few of Volkl’s engineers, but the very brief version is that the “Titanal Frame” skis feature a wood core that’s sandwiched between a full titanal sheet on the bottom and a partial, segmented titanal sheet on the top. The sheets of titanal over the edges near the tips and tails are thicker, while the separate sheet above the core in the binding area is thinner to keep it from being too stiff. The “Titanal Frame” skis also feature carbon fiber sheets at the tips for added strength without adding much more weight. The end goal is to create skis that are similarly damp and stable vs. traditional metal-laminate skis, but that offer better turn initiation and a more accessible ride.

Shape / Rocker Profile

In short, the Katana 108 looks very much like a wider Volkl Mantra 102 — the shapes and rocker profiles of these two skis are extremely similar. Both are quite minimal when it comes to tip and tail taper, with the widest points of their tips and tails being very close to the ends of the skis. The Katana 108’s tips and tails start tapering a tiny bit earlier, but it’s subtle, and the most noticeable difference is that the Katana 108’s tips taper to a bit more of a point after the widest section of its tips.

Katana 108 / Blizzard Cochise 106

One ski that we are extremely eager to A/B against the Katana 108 is the new Blizzard Cochise 106. Compared to that ski, the Katana 108 has significantly wider shovels than the Cochise — if you look at our measured dimensions, the 184 cm Katana 108s tips are almost a centimeter wider than the 184 cm Cochise 106, and that is probably the biggest difference when it comes to shape.

And fun fact — the “185” cm Cochise 106 and the “184” cm Katana 108 we measured have the same exact measured length. So in terms of length, these two skis are exactly apples-to-apples.

Katana 108 vs. OG Katana

Just to be clear, there were several iterations of the previous / old / metal Katana. And in this section, we’re referring to this 2011–2014 version of the Katana that remained the same during that time period aside from graphics updates before it was discontinued for the 14/15 season.

The shape of the Katana 108 is fairly similar to the 11/12 Katana, though the old metal Katana was even less tapered than the Katana 108.

And the old Katana was 112 mm wide underfoot, though its tips were actually a bit narrower (at 143 mm) than the Katana 108’s 146mm-wide tips.

Compared to the whole market of ~108mm-wide skis, the Katana 108 definitely sits on the more traditional, less tapered end of the spectrum when it comes to shape.

Looking at the rocker profile of the Katana 108, it’s again very similar to the Mantra 102. If you look really close, you’ll notice that both skis actually have pretty deep rocker lines, but those rocker lines are extremely subtle, and the tips and tails don’t rise much until the very ends of the skis. The rocker lines of the Katana 108 are almost identical to the Mantra 102’s, with the Katana 108’s rocker lines being just slightly deeper.

The Katana 108’s rocker profile is also pretty similar to the Cochise 106’s, though the Cochise’s rocker lines are a bit deeper. And while both skis feature subtle rocker lines, the Katana 108’s are even more subtle / low slung.

One of the other big differences between the Katana 108 and the old metal Katana is that the Katana 108 features some camber underfoot, while the old metal Katana was a full reverse-camber ski. Looking at our pair of 11/12 Katanas, its rocker lines were extremely subtle, but they did run much deeper into the ski vs. the Katana 108.

Overall, the Katana 108 is not a very rockered ski compared to most modern, 108mm-wide skis.

But in my humble opinion, that subtlety is pretty sexy. And for years now, Volkl has been making skis with fairly deep rocker lines and quite minimal tip and tail splay to very, very good effect.

Flex Pattern

Here’s how we’d characterize the flex pattern of the Katana 108:

Tips: 9-8.5
Shovels: 8-9
In Front of Toe Piece: 9-9.5
Underfoot: 10
Behind the Heel Piece: 9.5-8.5
Tails: 8.5 or 8

This ski is quite strong overall. There’s no part of the Katana 108 that we’d call particularly soft, though unlike some skis like the Head Kore series or DPS Koala F119 we reviewed, you can actually bend most of the Katana 108 while hand-flexing it.

Compared to the Mantra 102, the Katana 108’s tips are a bit stiffer. And its tail might be a hair softer. But the differences are very subtle.

Compared to the 11/12 metal Katana, the Katana 108 is notably stiffer in the tips and shovels, but notably softer at the tail. (Keep in mind, 10-15 years ago, that older, 112mm-wide Katana was supposed to be much more of a soft snow / deep snow ski. So it isn’t all that surprising that this wider, 10-year-old Katana had softer shovels than the Katana 108.)

Compared to the Cochise 106, the Katana 108’s tips are stiffer. And the Cochise 106 actually feels a bit stiffer at the very end of the tail.

Sidecut Radius

Like the Volkl Mantra 102 and Volkl Blaze 106, the Katana 108 features Volkl’s “3D Radius.” Basically, Volkl says their 3D Radius skis feature different sidecut radii throughout the length of the ski. They claim the radius is tightest in the middle, with longer radii at the tips and tails. The idea is that you’re supposed to get the best of both worlds when it comes to the turn shapes you can make; the tighter radius underfoot allowing for easy, shorter carves, while the longer radii at the end should keep the ski from feeling hooky when making longer turns.

We don’t tend to spend a lot of time dwelling on stated sidecut radii numbers, but we can say that the Mantra 102 is a fairly versatile ski when it comes to turn shapes & sizes.

For reference, Volkl says the radius for the 184 cm Katana 108 is 19 meters underfoot, 39 meters at the tip, and 34 meters at the tail. They say the 184 cm Manta 102’s 3D Radius consists of a 20-meter radius underfoot, 27-meter radius at the tips, and a 25-meter radius at the tails.

The 11/12–13/14 Katana had a traditional sidecut radius, which Volkl said was 25.8 meters for the 184 cm length, and 28.2 meters for the 191 cm length.

On paper, the 184 cm Katana 108’s 19-meter underfoot stated sidecut radius is pretty tight (especially for a Katana), while its 39- & 34-meter stated sidecut radii at the tips and tails are extremely long. So we’re very curious to see how all of this works out on snow.

Mount Point

The Katana 108 has a very traditional mount point of -11.5 cm from true center, which is in line with many of Volkl’s directional freeride skis for the past decade.

Weight

So … is this new, metal-laminate Katana 108 still a hefty ski? Yep, it most definitely is.

At an average measured weight of 2356 grams per ski for the 184 cm length, the Katana 108 is one of the heaviest skis in its class. (Happy Easter, everybody!)

In fact, of the ~100-110mm-wide skis we’ve weighed that will be available for the 20/21 season, the 192 cm Dynastar M-Pro 105 (formerly called the Pro Rider) is the only one that’s heavier than the 184 cm Katana 108.

And FWIW, our pair of the 11/12–13/14, 191 cm metal Katana weighed in at 2397 & 2427 grams per ski, which is not drastically heavier than the 184 cm Katana 108, despite the length differences.

*happy noises*

The Year of Ellsworth continues!

(And my sincere apologies for the 30,000,000 other things happening around the world that very much suck about the Year of Ellsworth. But at least we got a heavy Katana back? Right? No? Um, let’s move on….)

Now, the weight of the Katana 108 actually maybe shouldn’t come as that much of a surprise, given that the Mantra 102 is also a “heavy” ski, and the Katana 108 shares the same construction.

And while I still maintain that the V-Werks Katana is an exceptionally good ski in its own right, we are very, very glad that this new Katana 108 is not some lightweight ski.

Not all skis need to be heavy, or ought to be heavy. But lightweight skis still do not ski the same as heavier skis, and that is simply a fact. So I don’t even like all this talk about the Katana 108 being “heavy.” It isn’t heavy. For a ski like this, it is “Right.” It is “Good.” “Correct.” “Appropriate.” “Not Stupid.”

For reference, here are a whole bunch of our measured weights (per ski, in grams) for a number of notable skis. As always, note the length differences to keep things apples to apples.

1787 & 1793 Fauna Pioneer, 184 cm (19/20–20/21)
1806 & 1862 Armada Tracer 108, 180 cm (19/20–20/21)
1848 & 1903 Line Sick Day 104, 186 cm (17/18–20/21)
1849 & 1922 Elan Ripstick 106, 188 cm (17/18–19/20)
1883 & 1898 Rossignol BLACKOPS Sender, 178 cm (20/21)
1959 & 1975 Volkl V-Werks Katana, 184 cm (14/15–20/21)
1996 & 2012 Dynastar Legend X106, 188 cm (17/18–19/20)
1999 & 2020 Rossignol BLACKOPS Sender Ti, 180 cm (20/21)
2005 & 2035 Liberty Origin 106, 187 cm (19/20–20/21)
2006 & 2065 Head Kore 105, 189 cm (19/20–20/21)
2011 & 2028 Moment Wildcat 108, 184 cm (19/20)
2027 & 2052 K2 Reckoner 112, 184 cm (20/21)
2030 & 2039 Rossignol Soul 7 HD, 188 cm (17/18–19/20)
2042 & 2062 Dynastar M-Pro 99, 186 cm (20/21)
2079 & 2105 Kastle FX106 HP, 184 cm (19/20–20/21)
2097 & 2113 DPS Alchemist Wailer 106 C2, 189 cm (19/20–20/21)
2101 & 2104 Fischer Ranger 102 FR, 184 cm (18/19–20/21)
2110 & 2119 Moment Wildcat 108, 190 cm (19/20)
2112 & 2125 4FRNT MSP 107, 187 cm (18/19–20/21)
2120 & 2134 Blizzard Rustler 10, 188 cm (19/20–20/21)
2143 & 2194 ON3P Wrenegade 108, 184 cm (18/19–19/20)
2153 & 2184 Rossignol BLACKOPS Sender Ti, 187 cm (20/21)
2165 & 2211 K2 Mindbender 108Ti, 186 cm (19/20–20/21)
2165 & 2219 Icelantic Nomad 105, 191 cm (19/20–20/21)
2170 & 2180 Dynastar M-Free 108, 182 cm (20/21)
2177 & 2180 Moment Commander 108, 188 cm (19/20)
2182 & 2218 Nordica Enforcer 110 Free, 185 cm (17/18–20/21)
2188 & 2190 Prior Northwest 110, 190 cm (19/20–20/21)
2190 & 2268 Armada ARV 106Ti LTD, 188 cm (18/19–19/20)
2202 & 2209 Shaggy’s Ahmeek 105, 186 cm (19/20)
2218 & 2244 Volkl Mantra 102, 184 cm (19/20–20/21)
2232 & 2242 Blizzard Cochise 106, 185 cm (20/21)
2232 & 2244 ON3P Woodsman 108, 187 cm (19/20)
2233 & 2255 Nordica Enforcer 104 Free, 186 cm (19/20–20/21)
2250 & 2307 Argent Badger, 184 cm (19/20)
2283 & 2290 ON3P Wrenegade 108, 189 cm (18/19–19/20)
2312 & 2386 Prior Husume, 188 cm (17/18–20/21)
2318 & 2341 J Skis The Metal, 186 cm (16/17–19/20)
2321 & 2335 Fischer Ranger 107 Ti, 189 cm (19/20–20/21)
2325 & 2352 Folsom Blister Pro 104, 186 cm (19/20)
2370 & 2387 Volkl Confession, 193 cm (18/19–19/20)
2353 & 2360 Volkl Katana 108, 184 cm (20/21)
2376 & 2393 Blizzard Cochise, 185 cm (15/16–19/20)
2397 & 2427 Volkl Katana, 191 cm (13/14)
2603 & 2604 Dynastar M-Pro 105, 192 cm (16/17; 20/21)

Some Questions / Things We’re Curious About

(1) The big one: just how similar is the Katana 108 to the old metal Katana? Will the Katana 108 fill the Katana-shaped hole in so many skiers’ hearts?

(2) The Katana 108 appears to be very similar to the Volkl Mantra 102, so just how much similarity is there on snow? (Should this ski just have been called the Mantra 108?)

(3) And what about other modern chargers like the new Blizzard Cochise 106, ON3P Wrenegade 108, Fischer Ranger 107Ti, and Folsom Blister Pro 104?

(4) Given that the Katana 108 will be the widest ski in Volkl’s 20/21 “All-Mountain Freeride” collection, how well will this ski handle deeper conditions?

(5) When will the lifts start turning again?

Bottom Line (For Now)

If you’re going to bring out a new ski and give it the old “Katana” name, you’d better not screw this ski up. Volkl got the weight right. And it seems like they got the rocker profile and flex pattern right. Now let’s go see about the rest.

Flash Review

Blister Members can now check out our Flash Review of the Katana 108 for our initial impressions. Become a Blister member now to check out this and all of our Flash Reviews, plus get exclusive deals and discounts on skis, and personalized gear recommendations from us.

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8 comments on “2020-2021 Volkl Katana 108”

  1. I have been searching for the return of that stable & damp ~105mm ski that can chew up chop/variable but can then pivot a bit when you hit the treeline or tight spots. A couple of years ago I was hoping the latest generation BC Corvus would fill the niche – it had the shape, rocker profile and construction but when it was released it sounded like BC had put it on a bit too much of a diet (although a number of og Cochise owners do swear by the Corvus).
    So I was naturally very excited when I heard news of both a Katana 108 and the tweaked Cochise for 2020. But then I got a bit worried again when I read the very initial impressions on the Cochise and also saw that the K108 looked more like a M108 big mountain carver on paper. No point speculating though. I will wait eagerly for the full reviews of both skis and the deep dive comparison (whenever circumstances allow that to be).
    Cheers

  2. This heavier weight 100-110 underfoot segment is the go to ski, and for me, the best single quiver ski for my local Vail Colorado lift serviced resort terrain (although I currently have a 4 ski quiver, but would be satisfied with 3). My current favorite is the new DPS Foundation Wailer 106 C2. It is the finest all-Mountain carving ski I have ridden. It has superb linear and progressive edge engagement, and off piste powder characteristics. It should be on your above list of comparisons in this heavier segment (different from the lighter DPS Wailer Alchemist 106 C2, also a fine ski).

    I wish you would include edge angles and specific tuning-detuning (how to make the ski perform as it did out of the box from the factory) in your reviews. This is overlooked by most skiers, and is critical if your a serious skier. As most advanced-expert skiers know, ski shop tunes vary widely, are subjective, and rarely replicate the factory tune and detune. Many shops recommend tuning out of the box, “WRONG”, as a added sales bonus. Ski your new skis out of the box. Yes, occasionally new skis will have a issue, need minor tuning adjustment or break-in, but allow “yourself” to determine needed action.
    The DPS F106 C2 is a fine example of edge angle knowledge. The factory uses .7 bottom and 1 degree side, and then detuning of the tip and tail (what percentage of shops would tune and detune this ski properly, unless you specify, and are then able to compare to the feel of the original factory tune and do a personal touch up?). A depiction of how to detune each ski (which could be notated in your photo section), so it skis like the “factory tune”, would go a long way in helping skiers understand this process. I realize this may be a challenge, and detuning will eventually be adjusted based on each skiers profile, and available ski lengths. I have been known to change edge angles and detuning, as skis age and break down.
    Even within the DPS line, their edge angles vary with each ski, and type of construction.
    The recommended edge angle sites you will find on the internet generalize, are not always accurate, and normally outdated.
    You have the most detailed reviews in the business, adding tuning details to your reviews would be a Important element to your clientele.

    • For someone so focused on edge tuning, I’m a little surprised by your calling a 106mm ski the finest all-mountain “carving” ski.

      I do agree with you on factory tune though, and I wish more brands were more explicit on how they ship.

      • Leo, yep, I was shocked as well with this skis carving ability for a wide all-Mountain. In my current Quiver, I have the Rossi Hero short turn (which is considered a pretty good carving ski at 68mm underfoot-13m turn radius, and it is), Blizzard Bonafide “current construction”…also a great ski for its category, Liberty Genome….impressive for the ultra wide pow segment, for those deep days. I had the opportunity to ride many skis in all categories, from race to wide powder, over the last few years as well.
        I believe Jonathan from this site has reviewed the previous generation DPS F106, and other sites as well. Take a look at his comments, the C2 is similar, a bit narrower tip tail. I have skied both, and the current A106 as well. The F106 C2 was in my Quiver for the entire “shortened season” this year, but I did get a little over 80 sessions (not all on this ski, but the majority), in all variety of conditions….I will stick with my original comment.

        • Huh, that’s even more surprising given the relatively flat amount of camber. I’d love to try a pair. Surely the ski must be far slower edge-to-edge than your rossis?

  3. I never bought the katana because it just wasn’t a good fit for my type of skiing but wow did they have the nicest top sheets of any Volkl ski.

  4. I’m surprised they didn’t call it Gotama for its size, which used to sit between Mantra and Katana. It seems their trend to get rid of all their full-reverse camber since M5. I’m expecting/hoping to see a revamp in V-Werks Katana (112 full-reverse camber, still going unchanged for 4 or 5 years) as well. I’m loving my V-Werks Mantra 99! (right in between Mantra M5 and Mantra 102) I’m also very curious if you have any info on new makeup for their touring lines, VTA and BMTs.

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