March and April storms have made for some fun ski testing conditions the past few weeks. Although the bulk of our testing occurs at our local ski hill, I did take a few select skis up to British Columbia for a week of ski touring. Here is a quick report on the Volkl Nunataq, Voile Charger and Dynafit Stoke backcountry skis.
Volkl Nunataq - 139-107-123: Volkl steps into the backcountry ski world with four new skis featuring lightweight construction. The Nunataq is the widest of the new skis and matches the Gotama dimension profile, but it weighs in at a respectable 7 lbs 12 oz a pair. The Nunataq matches flat camber with moderate tip and tail rocker. The Nunataq served up excellent powder skiing. It is lively and ready to turn at any moment. Bigger skiers felt it reasonably soft, with a big sweetspot. Lighter skiers found the same big sweetspot, but described its flex as moderate. Either way, the Nunataq serves up a blend of traditional turning merged with the ability to smear and slide with new school style. The proprietary climbing skin system was developed with Colltex skins. The skins are very lightweight (a blend of mohair and synthetic plush). The tip connection is specific to the Volkl ski tip, and although a little fussy, they worked great and offer great glide. It is so nice to get skins precut to you skis.
Overall, the Nunataq is a lively, wide powder ski ideally suited to mid-winter and deep snow conditions. It is wide enough that we see it as a quiver ski. The kind of ski you take for pure powder skiing fun. Of course, once you get used to the 107mm underfoot and rocker profile, you may redefine what constitutes pure powder skiing fun.
Voile Charger - 137-112-126: Although not new for 2011, the Voile Charger remains a distinct standout in the backcountry powder ski category. The Charger is a super playful ski that is incredibly agile for its dimensions - and respectably light at 7lbs 8oz per pair (171cm). The Charger makes you feel like you can do no wrong. It floats and turns with incredible ease, making short work of any soft snow.
We see the Charger as a quiver ski - a playful mid-winter powder board. It handles the gamut of backcountry snow conditions, but it excels in soft and deep snow. The Charger offers up quick short turns in the trees and opens up without hesitation in alpine terrain. Its moderate tip and tail rocker profile lend the ski a little new school smearability and make sure you float with ease, but it still turns our old school arcs if you prefer. If your quiver is in need of a playful powwder ski, the Charger deserves your attention.
Dynafit Stoke - 129-105-119: The Stoke was released last season, but holds its own in the freeride mountaineering category. The new more forward binding location gives the ski a more responsive feel and makes it more versatile in its turn shape. The Stoke is a very capable ski, but rather than a playful powder board personality, it is a do-it-all mountaineering ski with soft snow dimensions. Its personality is more serious and get-it-done oriented than pure hedonistic powder consumption. The Stoke is at home in mixed alpine snow. From the wind effected ridgelines to protected basins, the Stoke is ready. Its modest early rise tip does not have the easy initiation of a more rockered ski, but it keeps the Stoke ready for the next turn in any condition. The Stoke weighs in at an impressive 7 lbs 1 oz (173cm) and is ideal for big tours and varied backcountry snow conditions.