Ski: 2021-2022 Katana 108, 184 cm
Days Skied: ~16
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
Boots / Bindings: Head Raptor 140 RS; Lange XT3 130 LV; Atomic Redster Club Sport 130; Tecnica Mach1 130 MV / Marker Griffon
[Note: Our review was conducted on the 20/21 Katana 108, which returns unchanged for 21/22.]
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 came back. And it is now the widest ski in Volkl’s “All-Mountain Freeride” collection.
For 20/21, the Volkl Confession went away, so Volkl’s “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.
For 21/22, the Katana 108 returns unchanged, though Volkl is replacing the M5 Mantra and Secret 92 with the M6 Mantra and Secret 96, respectively.
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?
We’ve now had several reviewers on the Katana 108 at Mt. Crested Butte, and have updated this post with our full review. But first, let’s get into the details.
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.
Here’s how we’d characterize the flex pattern of the Katana 108:
In Front of Toe Piece: 9-9.5
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?)
(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.
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.
I’ve spent time on the Katana 108 off and on all season, and recently, I’ve been skiing it every time out. I also just re-read my Flash Review that we published back in April of last year, and I can now say that I was asking back then a lot of the most relevant questions.
So it’s time now to tell you what I’ve found to be the case so far, and I’m really happy to have Luke weighing in here too, and soon, Drew Kelly. Because my feelings about the Katana 108 are a little bit strange, and probably a bit unfair. So I’ll tell you what I mean, but I’ll be very interested to see if Luke and Drew have a pretty different take.
I’m also going to assume that you’ve read our First Look. If you haven’t please do that first.
Jonathan Ellsworth (5’10”, ~175 lbs / 178 cm, 79 kg): This is where the Katana 108 very much feels like the right tool (or sword) for the job. We’ve already told you how heavy this ski is vs. other skis of this width. It has few rivals.
It also has very big shovels that give this ski a hefty swing weight, so you need to be skiing quite fast or be quite strong if you are going to ninja-stick your way fast through tight trees or big moguls.
But give this ski room to run, and you’ve got a very stable platform while also having a ski that is quite willing to pivot a bit. I’m not talking about throwing really quick slashes back-to-back — again, the swing weight of this ski is substantial. But for physically strong skiers, this Katana will definitely pivot, much more easily than the old 184 cm Head Monster 108.
(And we’ll be saying more about the Katana 108 vs. the Head Monster 108 in our Deep Dive, where I’ll personally be very curious to read Drew’s take on the two skis.)
Luke Koppa (5’8”, 155 lbs / 173 cm, 70 kg): Yep, the Katana 108 shines in terrain where you can let it run a bit. Or at the very least, steep terrain where you can easily get and keep some momentum going, rather than fighting the heft of the ski by making a bunch of small, slash-y turns.
For making big turns down something like Mt. Crested Butte’s Headwall, there are few skis that I’ve been on in this class that make the experience as drama-free as the Katana 108. And as Jonathan noted, this ski is pretty easy to feather and pivot, so it doesn’t feel extremely scary when you’re going fast and need to quickly shed some speed. It still requires some physical effort and good technique to do this, but those who are interested in the Katana 108 because of its suspension and stability will likely find it pretty accessible in open terrain.
Jonathan: The Katana 108 is a true chop destroyer. It has the weight to bulldoze through soft chop and variable snow, while its shovels are still soft (and big) enough to plane up above chop rather than knife under it and buck you forward.
I mean, frankly, if this ski didn’t excel in soft chop, it really shouldn’t even exist.
Lighter skis typically require you to ski more actively and dynamically through chop and variable snow, but the Katana really doesn’t. And in this sense, there is some noticeable family resemblance with the metal Katana of bygone days. We skied that old Katana in a 191 cm length. I personally have absolutely no need to move up to a 191cm-long Katana 108. I’m sure the 191 would be fun for really big, open lines, but for inbounds skiing in places that have plenty of tighter, techy terrain, I’ll stick with these 184s.
Luke: Especially compared to the current inbounds ski market (which now includes loads of lighter skis), the Katana 108 is exceptionally stable in soft chop. Its big shovels, strong flex pattern, and hefty weight all equate to a ski that feels pretty unfazed when mobbing through cut-up snow.
And that pivot-ability we mentioned above comes in handy here, too. Stay over its shovels, and the Katana 108 feels pretty easy to throw sideways in soft snow. It’s not going to let you do this from a very relaxed, centered stance (or a backseat one), but the Katana 108 didn’t strike me as a ski that feels like it gets locked into a big, high-speed turn and won’t let you get out of it.
Variable Conditions & Crud
Jonathan: The story here is a bit trickier. The softer the “variable” snow is, the more you should just revert back to the paragraph above. But the firmer the crud is … there are times when I have felt like the Katana 108 wants to hook up a bit when I don’t want it to. And this makes sense, given its big shovels and amount of sidecut.
In relatively smooth crud, this is a non-issue, and the Katana 108 smooths things out and makes you feel like you’re back on a groomer.
And in thicker, denser snow (aka, elephant snot?), if you are able to get (and keep) the Katana 108 up to speed, I’d much, much prefer to be on the Katana 108 than a ski with less tip and tail rocker and more traditional camber underfoot (like the Head Monster 108).
But if you’re skiing on refrozen coral reef, that’s where I feel like a ski that has more tip and tail splay and less sidecut (i.e., a ski that has a larger overall sidecut radius) would track better and not have that tendency to want to hook up. We’ll say more about this, but let’s keep things moving for now…
Luke: Personally, I haven’t had any weird experiences with the Katana 108 hooking up unpredictably. I agree with Jonathan in that similarly heavy, straighter-sidecut skis with maybe a bit more rocker tend to perform better in grabby, refrozen conditions.
But that said, I found that driving the Katana 108’s shovels and unweighting its tails made it easy to kind of slarve-carve the Katana through refrozen conditions. I.e., not truly carving it on edge, but also not doing a fully sideways slarve.
Anyway, my main takeaway with this ski in variable, challenging conditions is that it feels extremely composed. The way it smooths out rough snow is rare among skis these days, and I can’t think of many skis I’d rather be on if I was forced to ski fast in awful conditions.
Jonathan: Man I love chalk. Steep chalk. And the Katana 108 feels really, really good on chalk on slopes of any angle, mellow or steep. Because on smooth chalk, those big shovels we keep talking about hook up beautifully and let you carve as hard as you want — at any speed you want — while also (thanks, in part, to its minimal camber underfoot) still allowing you to pivot and slide turns quite comfortably.
Luke: Agreed. Though, personally, since chalk is a pretty forgiving condition, I prefer something lighter and more lively than the Katana 108. While I don’t disagree with what Jonathan said, as someone who loves to get a little airborne between turns when conditions are chalky, I’d opt for something that’s lighter and more energetic than the Katana 108 since I don’t really need its excellent suspension when the conditions are more forgiving and consistent.
Jonathan: As I wrote in my Flash Review, the Katana 108 really isn’t a pow ski by modern-day standards. There are plenty of ~108mm-wide skis that have far more tip and tail rocker than the Katana 108, and will simply plane up in deep snow much better.
But if your “powder” days at the ski area are really just “chop” days, and you rarely get to ski in more than 6-8” of untracked snow before things get quite tracked up, then I could still see this being the widest ski in the quiver of a physically strong skier.
Luke: I’ve only skied the Katana 108 in about 6” of fresh snow and it did totally fine. Regarding what Jonathan said, I have a hunch that the Katana 108 could do just fine in deeper snow — provided that you’re in big, open terrain. It’s not a surfy ski that’s very fun on mellow-angle slopes or in tighter terrain when the snow is deeper. But get it up to speed, and I suspect its big shovels would let it plane nicely for its width.
Scraped-Off Slopes & Ice
Jonathan: While the Katana 108 does have a couple millimeters of traditional camber underfoot … it really feels and performs like it doesn’t. Like it’s a flat ski with fairly subtle tip and tail splay.
And for this reason, I wouldn’t say that the Katana 108 really shines if you happen to find yourself needing to feather turns or slide your turns down very firm slopes.
The ski will hold an edge pretty well down very firm groomers if you’re really willing to commit to your edges, but I’d much rather be carving icy groomers on that Head Monster 108 — which does (in my opinion) feel like a fat carving ski. The Katana 108 doesn’t.
Luke: This is probably where Jonathan and I disagree the most. Personally, I find this ski very predictable (for a 108mm-wide ski) on icy sections. No, it’s not as easy to engage and dig in its edges as a far narrower carving ski. But the Katana 108 has offered reliable bite on ice for a ski this wide, and if I really commit to driving it, I can’t think of many similarly wide skis — that are currently in production — that I’d rather be on. Then again, I don’t think performance on ice should be a priority for anyone when considering a 108mm-wide ski.
Jonathan: Luke’s point is a fair one about the Katana 108 vs other, currently available 108mm-wide skis on the market. There isn’t anything we’ve been on that I think is significantly better on ice than the Katana 108 … and I definitely agree that it’s “predictable.” But there are skis with flatter tails and more traditional camber underfoot that do provide better edge hold on ice than the Katana 108.
Drew Kelly (5’11”, 160 lbs / 180 cm, 72 kg): I’ll pipe in at this point, since I skied the Katana 108 more in the early season, when these scraped-off icy conditions were common (and I haven’t had anything notably different to add to the above sections).
I have to say, I initially doubted the Katana 108’s ability in these circumstances, given its minimal camber and fairly deep tip and tail rocker lines. My assumptions were happily proven wrong on the first run. I found the Katana 108 to be very precise under these conditions, especially in comparison to other current skis of this width. I did find that, when making high-speed “medium-short radius” turns, when a ski seems to bend the most, I did experience a little chatter. Overall though I was very impressed. And as someone whose everyday ski is 108 mm underfoot, I personally prioritize a ski’s ability to perform on ice as well as big mountain lines, steeps, and bumps. I’d be interested in A/B-ing the Katana 108 against the Fischer Ranger 107 Ti, which is really the only other ski of similar width, apart from the previously mentioned Head Monster 108, that feels comparable on ice to me.
Jonathan: Get the ski on edge and commit, and the ski will exhibit good edge hold and remain quite stable at high speeds. But for a mere mortal like me (but probably not for a non-mere-mortal like Drew Kelly?) … I really couldn’t make the Katana 108 do anything cool on a groomer. It will arc big turns, but I would by no means call it an exhilarating carver.
It initiates turns well, but I’m either not powerful enough or heavy enough to really bend those shovels. This isn’t really a complaint, since I’ve been on record for years saying that I don’t really need (or really even want) my ~108mm-wide all-mountain skis to be great carvers. (Since, the better they are at carving, the more likely it is that they will feel less at home on off-piste steeps, which is where I personally like my ~108mm-wide skis to excel.)
And this then raises — for me, at least — the question: why give this very heavy Katana 108 quite so much sidecut?
Again, I will absolutely defer to Luke or Drew if they feel differently about this ski on groomers … but if you’ve got a big gun like this, I wouldn’t mind if those shovels weren’t quite as wide, which would reduce the substantial swing weight of the ski, while also making this (substantial) ski a bit easier to flick around, and less likely to hook up in very firm, moguled terrain.
Such changes would likely make the Katana 108 less good on groomers … but I just have trouble imagining that very many people interested in this ski would actually purchase it for its groomer prowess. But I could be wrong, and maybe I just described you to a T.
Luke: Ok, well Jonathan and I are back in agreement again. I think the Katana 108 is an excellent carver for its width when it comes to edge hold and turn initiation. But at the same time, at my size, I wasn’t really bending it into tight turns or finding that it produced much energy coming out of one. I’ve witnessed Drew Kelly’s ability to bend it more than I can, but for most folks, I think the Katana 108 is a very good ski for cruising groomers at fairly moderate edge angles and making GS and Super G turns. And frankly, that’s probably how a big-mountain charger should perform on piste. But if you like to snap off shorter turns at aggressive edge angles, this isn’t your ski. (But a shorter length of the new M6 Mantra might be. Stay tuned for our review on the new M6 Mantra.)
Drew: I’m surprised that Jonathan and Luke seem to feel only moderately impressed by the Katana 108’s carving ability. I feel like this is a ski that can hold its own against even some narrower, dedicated carving skis. I found the Katana to suffer slightly on icy groomers, but on a freshly groomed morning lap down International (our main steep, long groomer here at Mt. Crested Butte) I came out at the bottom with an insuppressible grin on my face. Part of that feeling came from the ski’s strong torsional rigidity, even flex pattern, and rearward mount point, and part of it I think came from the 3D radius, which allowed me to feel like I was on both a playful and lively ski, and a damp charger, at lower and higher speeds. This ski will require a lot of input for most skiers, but given that my daily driver is the Monster 108, the Katana 108 felt more lively at slower speeds than that ski. So, in response to Jonathan’s thoughts on the wide shovels: I appreciate the sidecut they create.
Jonathan: In moguls where you can actually find a nice line, the Katana 108 is fine. Get it up to speed and it will make little pivot turns very well (e.g., making turns between 10 and 2 o’clock on the dial). But if you lose your line and need to start wrenching turns out between 9 and 3 on the dial … and … did I mention that those shovels produce a very substantial swing weight?
Luke: Yep. The Katana 108 is pretty manageable in “normal” to “more open” bump lines, but in the really tight ones, it feels like a lot of ski — cause it is a lot of ski.
Again, I never found the Katana 108 to feel unpredictably hooky and found it generally pretty easy to pivot (when skiing with good technique). Combined with its smooth suspension, that actually made it pretty ideal in more open bump lines that also happened to be really firm. There, it feels a lot more planted than the lighter, quicker options, and I can keep my momentum going downhill since I’m not making a ton of abrupt, slash-y turns. But for skiing bumps with an active style, skiing a lot of very tight bumps, or if I need something forgiving of poor technique, that’s where I’d opt for a different ski.
Drew: Here I’d agree with everything Luke and Jonathan have said, emphasizing that those wide shovels feel pretty awkward in tight spots and would occasionally hook up and throw me.
Jonathan: Relatedly, I have to say that, while the suspension of the Katana 108 is certainly “good” … I wouldn’t call it best-in-class. The ski feels extremely planted and quite damp, that’s for sure. But especially in firm moguls, the ski wouldn’t exactly disappear, and could sometimes feel a bit harsher than I might want a ski this heavy to feel. I might be splitting hairs here, and we’ll see whether Luke and Drew agree with me.
That said, if you are mostly skiing smooth (not-super-moguled) terrain, you will likely find the suspension of this ski to be lacking nothing, and it will feel as damp as you would expect a ski like this to feel.
E.g., for skiing flat-out down corn-covered big lines, I can think of few other skis that would offer the same stability, pivotability, and blow-your-hair-back sensations.
I think what everyone reading this review will need to determine is exactly where they want their heavy-metal 108mm-wide ski to shine.
Luke: I think context is very important here. The 184 cm Katana 108 is one of the heaviest skis in its class these days. So, if you’re comparing it to the approximately million skis in this class that are a few hundred grams lighter, I’d call the Katana 108’s suspension phenomenal. But if we’re looking at the few other skis that are coming in at a similar weight to the Katana 108, then I guess there are a couple that win by a small margin in terms of just how smooth they feel.
The Elephant in the Room: The Volkl Mantra 102 vs the Volkl Katana 108
Jonathan: I have to confess that if my feelings about the Katana 108 seem a bit … subdued, it’s due in part to the fact that the Volkl Mantra 102 exists. Because I think that ski is exceptional.
We’ll say more about it in our Deep Dive, but for me personally, the 184 cm Mantra 102 offers many of the best attributes of the Katana 108, while also offering fewer of the downsides. So again, you’ll need to think about exactly where you want to use the Katana 108. But when I think about that question, the fact is that I would be breaking out the Katana 108 on all the same days that I would be breaking out the Mantra 102. I.e., when it hasn’t snowed in over 3-4 days.
I raised the question in my Flash Review of whether the Katana 108 should really have been named the Mantra 108. And I think the answer is a resounding, “Yes,” because it feels so very much like a wider Mantra 102. And I personally would rather opt for the skinnier Mantra 102.
But if a wider Mantra 102 sounds more interesting to you, and you like the sound of what I or Luke have described, then I think you will not be unpleasantly surprised with what the 108 brings to the table.
Luke: Yeah, this is an interesting question. Part of me wonders why Volkl didn’t stick to the old Katana width of 112 mm underfoot, and / or give the Katana 108 a bit more tip and tail rocker. Cause there’s certainly some overlap between it and the Mantra 102.
That said, I think I’d go with the Katana 108 over the Mantra 102 if I skied at a place with mostly open terrain. Because to me, the Katana 108 is a slight step-above the Mantra 102 when it comes to suspension and max-speed stability. And I’d rather ski the Katana 108 in softer conditions due to its slightly better flotation and slightly more maneuverable (i.e., easier to pivot) feel in soft snow.
But for a place like Mt. Crested Butte — where we’re constantly skiing tight, techy terrain — I agree that the lighter Mantra 102 makes more sense for my preferences.
Drew: I mostly agree here as well — but I will say that I’d pick the Katana 108 over the Mantra 102 for an everyday ski at just about any location where I knew I’d be jumping off things or skiing steep, off-piste terrain. I just find the wider ski to be more predictable and versatile for the many (mostly unpleasant, often unpredictable and punchy) snow conditions experienced in that type of terrain. If the Katana was any wider I would start to hesitate with that choice, given the increased torsional leverage to my hips and knees on the firmer snow of everyday conditions.
I think of the Mantra 102 as being applicable to mostly the same type of snow conditions as the Katana 108, but in different terrain, i.e. mostly bumps and groomers where the snow is more consistent.
Who’s It For?
We’ve already outlined this a bit throughout this review, but the Katana 108 is for those skiers whose top priorities are stability at speed and good suspension on rough conditions, and who do not need their ~108mm-wide ski to be particularly light, easy in tight spots, or exciting at slow speeds.
If you like the sound of a wider Volkl Mantra 102, then you should definitely check out the Volkl Katana 108. It’s a strong ski for strong skiers, but it’s also a lot more maneuverable than a lot of more traditional, equally heavy chargers. The Katana 108 is absolutely not the ski for most skiers. But it’s easy to imagine it being a favorite ski for the right skier.
Deep Dive Comparisons
Become a Blister Member or Deep Dive subscriber to check out our Deep Dive comparisons of the Katana 108 to see how it compares to the old Katana, Volkl Mantra 102, Head Monster 108, Blizzard Cochise 106, Dynastar M-Pro 105 / Pro Rider, Folsom Blister Pro 104, Rossignol Blackops Sender Ti, Black Crows Corvus, Fischer Ranger 107 Ti, Prior Husume, Nordica Enforcer 100, Nordica Enforcer 104 Free, K2 Mindbender 108Ti, 4FRNT MSP 107, Fischer Ranger 102 FR, J Skis Hotshot, Salomon QST 106, Dynastar M-Free 108, & ON3P Woodsman 108.