Ski: 2013-2014 Völkl Katana, 191cm
Dimensions (mm): 143-112-132
Boots / Bindings: Salomon Falcon Pro CS / Marker Jester (DIN at 9)
Mount Location: +2cm from factory recommended line
Test Location: Las Leñas, Taos Ski Valley
Days Skied: 8
(To read Part 1 of Will’s review of the Katana, click here.)
Wind plays a huge role in where the very best snow collects on the mountains of Las Leñas. If you’re familiar enough with the terrain to have an idea of where it blows, a great pow day can turn into an epic one. Lucky for us, Jonathan and I were skiing yesterday with Alex Weston and Pablo Thomas, two experienced backcountry guides from Las Leñas who know these mountains as well as anyone. (We’re also going to be heading out in the next day or two with Claudio Margaride, the director of Las Leñas’ backcountry guide program. And yes, life is really, really good right now.)
Saturday graced us with a blanket of dry, shreddable South American pow under bluebird skies. Fueled by media lunas (sweet Argentinean croissants) and café con leche from the Innsbrook, we headed straight for the Marte chair. Once at the top, we traversed over to Penélope, a moderately steep couloir (around 40̊ ) that’s about 30’ wide at the narrowest point.
Alex dropped in first and I was quick to follow him, eager to smear the Katana through the deep, soft chop below us. I moved the mount point 2cm forward from the day before, and it noticeably improved the skis’ maneuverability at slower speeds. The Katanas made quick work of Penélope. It was really the ideal ski for the terrain and conditions: super stable, yet relatively nimble and precise for their size.
On Penélope, and in similar conditions later that day in light pow on Mercurio Variante and Sombrero, the Katanas demonstrated no hooky tendencies or an urge to tip dive. They behave very predictably through fresh snow. In turns through powder, unlike a ski with a larger shovel and more abrupt tip rocker profile, resistance on the bottom of the ski is distributed evenly along the whole length of the long, gradual early rise. The result? Ripping huge fast turns down lower part of Ulises, skier’s right off of Penélope, was insanely fun. In fresh snow, they were some of the most balanced, predictable boards I’ve ever been on.
The Katanas are just as stable in short, bobbing turns through pow as they are making high speed slarvey ones. Give these skis the slightest amount of soft snow to run in, and you can smoothly make any kind of turn you like.
They are not, however, pivoty or surfy by any means; if you’re searching for a ski with those traits, look elsewhere. But if you like the stability and directional “tracking” feel of a flat tailed ski in powder, look no further.
On hardpack, an intermediate skier might find the Katana a bit slow and heavy. If you find yourself on groomers more than in the steeps, there are more energetic, forgiving, and manageable skis out there. For advanced and expert skiers willing to work a little bit harder in tight spots in exchange for more stiffness and stability in chop, and for those looking for a charger that is a blast in the pow, the Völkl Katana ought to receive some serious consideration.
NEXT: NORTHERN HEMISPHERE UPDATE – TAOS SKI VALLEY