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2013-2014 Völkl Katana, 191cm

Review of the Volkl Katana, Blister Gear Review

13/14 Volkl Katana

Ski: Völkl Katana, 191cm

Dimensions (mm): 143-112-132

Boots / Bindings: Salomon Falcon Pro CS/ Marker Jester (DIN at 9)

Mount Location: factory recommended

Test Location: Las Leñas

Days Skied: 2

[Editor’s Note: Our review was conducted on the 11/12 Katana, which was not changed for 12/13 or 13/14, except for the graphics.]

First Impressions

Hand flexing a ski in the shop is rarely a reliable indicator of how it will actually ride. The Katana, however, is an exception. It sports a very shallow, very gradual early rise in the tip and tail (the least amount of discernable rocker I’ve ever seen in a ski), two sheets of titanium in the core, and a 31m turning radius. A quick hand flex will tell you: these things are stiff, especially in the tail. What’s more, the 191 and 198cm versions of the Katana have a significantly stiffer “athlete” flex profile compared to the 184cm and shorter lengths. By all accounts, it’s clear that that this ski was built for speed and stability, and I really enjoy putting those qualities to the test.

The past two days, conditions at Las Leñas were firm and ideal for seeing how much punishment the Katana could take. Yesterday brought a slight drizzle at the base area with strong winds at the top of the Caris chair. In one run, conditions went from very firm and cruddy to at the top, to soft and heavy toward the bottom. Today was colder and less windy, with softer chop to be skied under the Vulcano lift.

Before heading for wide open turns in the steeps, I wanted to let the Katana rail on some groomers under the Minerva lift. Since we first got our hands on this ski, I’ve been very curious to find out how its super gradual rocker design would behave through a carved turn. Here’s what I’ve found: Putting this ski on edge is not difficult. But given its length and minimal taper from tip to tail, the ski is quite slow to enter a turn. During the turn, what little rocker the Katana has was honestly unnoticeable in terms of any kind of instability or chatter. I was only able to detect it on fast run outs onto cat-tracks when I ran the skis bases-flat on the snow. The Katanas’ edge hold was very solid as I carved wide arching turns. In terms of stability through each apex they behave nearly like a fully cambered ski, lacking only the livelier, snappy feel that a cambered profile might promote in exiting a turn.

Völkl should be very happy with the balance in hardpack performance they’ve achieved with the Katana. I’m looking forward to see how this characteristic translates to hard braking and skidded/smear turns. And since we’re testing in the land of steep lines, any flaws or shortcomings will be exposed.

After gaining feel for the Katanas’ basic traits, it was time to let ‘em loose on Cenidor. Conditions at the top were hard yesterday, with thicker frozen chop through the midsection of the run, and consolidated, heavy powder in the run out.

Will Brown sizes up a line on Cenidor, Las Leñas.

In one of my less proficient moments on skis, I confidently boosted off the cornice, and soon found myself going way, way too fast given the conditions, backseat and nuking.  Note to self; yes, the Katana’s have a tiny amount of tail rocker, but they will certainly run away from you if you give them a chance. Thankfully, the 191’s tails are plenty stiff, and provide a beefy platform to help correct any rearward landing. Your calves will give out before the Katanas do.

Having pulled things together, I cut (more like rattled) GS turns down the face of Cenidor. The immediate conclusion: stay strong and the Katana’s will deliver. Ripping turns through crusty chop, they were sufficiently stable. Nothing really remains to be said on this front right now. I couldn’t detect any kind of tip chatter, which certainly would have occurred on a big ski with a more pronounced rocker profile.

Again, I commend Völkl for their approach to a reverse camber profile (which is surprisingly unique among other manufacturers). Honestly, The Katanas are easier to maneuver quickly than I would have thought given how stable they are at high speeds (especially during straightline exits). I can’t speak to skiing on a shorter (slightly softer)  length, but on the 191, you’ll know you’re riding a big ski with metal in the core. The Katanas’ weight is noticeable when billygoating around or making precise low-speed moves. Ski design is full of tradeoffs, and this is one I’m more than willing to live with.

The most demanding tests are done, and so far I have nothing but positive things to say about the Katana. I may move the mount point forward tomorrow (probably something like 2cm), simply to see if I can make them a bit quicker at slower speeds, hopefully without sacrificing their charging capabilities.

Will Brown, Vulcano area, Las Leñas.

Snow is falling in Las Leñas right now, and the Marte chair will soon be open. Fresh snow and demanding lines await us, and I’ll be commenting on the skis’ float and their stability in the air. After two days on these, my hunch is that the Katanas will not disappoint.

 

For Part 2 of Will’s review of the Katana, click here.

20 Comments

  1. Kyle Keefe February 7, 2012 Reply

    Hi,
    I’ve been looking for a new powder ski, and I currently ski the 09 hellbents. This may be to broad of a question but what do you think the best powder ski would be for me?
    I am 6 foot 175 pounds and an expert skier. Spend most of the day dropping cliffs at Red Mountain in BC. I do a lot of sled skiing in endless pow and also do a lot of off piste in tight gnarly trees and crud at the resort. Looking to do flips and spins as well. I’ve been pointing toward the AK JJ. What do you guys think?

    • Will Brown February 8, 2012 Reply

      Hey Kyle,

      Glad to help out. First, is there anything about the Hellbents that you aren’t happy with? Are you looking for a ski with better crud/chop performance or versatility? There are lots of options out there for the kind of skiing you’re looking for, but they all have their own strong points. The AK JJ is certainly an option, but it’s a slightly different animal than the ON3P Caylor, for example. The Caylor is a heavier ski that does great in untracked pow and can dominate chop. Yet as a result of their sweet dampening performance, the Caylors ski a little heavier than the JJ, which wouldn’t be as ideal for throwing spins or flips. A good compromise between the two might be the MOMENT Bibby Pro. It’s a little lighter than the Caylor and is more fun on groomers, but isn’t quite as soft in the tips and tails as the JJ. In a slightly different class, you have skis like the Rossi Squad 7 and ON3P Billygoat. They’re set up to be slightly more directional than the JJ or Caylor. We have reviews up on all the skis I’ve mentioned, and more. Take a look around the site and let me know what sounds appealing based on the reviews (in addition to what you’re looking for in a new pow ski).

      Hope this helps you out

      WB

  2. AK January 23, 2013 Reply

    Can you guys offer a comparison to how the 191 Katana skis compared to the 185 Nordica Girish, which you guys loved in your review here?

    I own both the 184 Katana and the 185 Girish, and frankly the 185 Girish skis more like what I thought the Katana would be. Now, this isn’t necessarily a good or bad thing. It’s just that when people say the Katana is a fatter Volkl Mantra, I expected it to ski a certain way. However, to me it was considerably more playful, “easy” and a more enjoyable to ski than I ever expected. The low rocker profile for me is really dialed. It performs well on hard snow, but pivots more than enough for me to enjoy it in bumps or tight trees. I guess the only issue is that the 184 could charge more.

    So that brings me to my original question. How does the stiffer “athlete” flex that the 191 has compare to the Girish? For me the Girsh skis like a freight train. It’s amazing on even the hardest snow it does big GS turns better than any other ski I have been on. However, the absence of early rise in the tail makes it much less of an easy ride as compared to he Katana and skis much longer at 185 than the 184 Katana of nearly the same stated length. Also, even thought the 184 Katana hand flexes stiffer than the Girish, it certainly doesn’t ski as stiff. Does the 191 Katana ski stiffer than the Girish? Does it ski longer? I would assume not by much given that the low rocker in the 184 makes it very managable (not short, but more managable).

    I know it has been said on this site that you could kill yourself skiing the 191 Katana in a resort, but is it that much more ski than the Girish?

    • Will Brown February 7, 2013 Reply

      Hey AK,

      This is a little tough for me to answer, as I’ve only skied the 191 Katana (not the 184, so I don’t know exactly how the flexes of the two lengths compare) and the 185 Girish (not the 192). Compared to the 185 Girish, not surprisingly the 191 Katana feels like a lot more ski in terms of material length, and I can tell you that it is seriously stiff through the tail. You’ve probably seen Ian McIntosh lay down some pretty serious lines on the ski. As I remember the 191 Katana does feel like a bigger, more demanding ski than the 185 Girish – the 192 Girish probably would be more comparable. I could see myself working the 185 Girish around in resort on an every-day basis. If I’m trying to go anywhere near bumps of tight trees, I can’t say I’d want to do that on the 191 Katana. Hope this helps.

      Will

  3. Kevin April 1, 2013 Reply

    I’m looking for the hardest charging ski for soft and hard chop up powder and hard, even icy, crud
    What are the options??

    thanks,
    Kevin

    • Will Brown April 2, 2013 Reply

      Hey Kevin,

      The Katana would probably be my first choice if crud busting was the priority, but you might also look into the Blizzard Cochise and Moment Belafonte.

      WB

      • Kevin April 4, 2013 Reply

        awesome thank you very much!
        how would it compare to the Rossignol Squad 7 (which I’m skiing now) and the Rossignol Experience 98 (which I used to consider before starting to do some freeride comps)??

        Thanks again
        Kevin

      • Kevin April 5, 2013 Reply

        I have practicaly already read at least half the reviews on this site, I absolutely love this site, so thanks!!

        Let me give a bit more details as for what I was looking for
        So right now I’m skiing the Squad 7 (thanks to the reviews on this site!) and I absolutely love these ski’s, especially on anything soft. They are absolutely fabulous anywhere on the mountain in powder en soft snow.
        I used to consider the Experience 98 as a second ski to complete my 2 ski quiver.
        Now, since I noticed that the Squad 7 tips flap quite a bit on harder snow and don’t quite charge as hard in icy crud and I started doing freeride competitions, I’m starting to lean to different ski than the E98 to complete my quiver.
        What I’m looking for in this ski is, to basicaly complement my Squad 7
        -Hard charging capability in hard/ icy chop/crud
        -No flapping, good performance on very steep, icy terrain (on the slopes and off-piste)
        -and if possible, so not very important, some nice on piste performance, carving

        Thank you very much for your help,
        Kevin

        PS if you would ever plan on coming to europe, let me know, I might be able to help, show you around (especially in La Plagne / Paradiski if come for skiing, if you’re here for visiting, I can show you around Belgium and the Nürburgring ;) )

        • Will Brown April 6, 2013 Reply

          Hi Kevin,

          The Katana will definitely be a more stable, better balanced, crud busting machine next to your Squads. Given your quiver set-up, however, I think I’d go for the slightly narrower Blizzard Cochise, which has the exact same sort of super mellow camber profile as the Katana, but will be a little more appropriate for those firm, cruddy days. Give the Cochise reviews a look if you haven’t already and lemme know what you think.

          Will

          • Kevin April 8, 2013 Reply

            First of all I want to thank you for your feedback and help!!! That is very much apreciated!!!
            I think I now have read these reviews about 5 times each!
            Since there is almost no direct comparision it’s difficult to really know how they compare to eachother, they both seem to be very good but which one is best? When I read the cochise reviews, I realy like what I’m reading, but every time you compare it directly with the katana, I like the katana’s charging ability. I do agree though that the Cochise will make my quiver more suited to various conditions and types of skiing, plus it’s a less fatiguing/demanding ski. but I have some questions
            – Which one would be best for an offpiste 45° couloir with hard but flat/smooth snow (wind blown noth face)??
            – The Cochise would be the best on the slopes I guess???
            – What do you exactly mean with “those firm, cruddy days” , I thought the Katana would be best there? I did English A at college in the US but since I didnt grow up in the US I don’t know the ski specific terms that well. :s
            – What would you recommend if I had to choose between the 191 katana and the 193 Cochise???
            I’m 23 yo, 6 foot, 170 lbs (and growing but not going to be past 185), work out in the gym 3 to 4 times a week and ski at an expert level, doing freeride competitions.

            Again, thank you very much!
            Greets,
            Kevin

  4. Will Brown April 9, 2013 Reply

    To Kevin’s comment above,

    This is a tough choice, because both could be very good for what your’re looking to do. They’re extremely similar. Both have pretty much identical camber profiles, and nearly the same turn radii. The only real difference between the 193 Cochise and 191 Katana is their width. The Cochise is 108mm underfoot, and the Katana 112mm (it might be a tiny bit heavier, but it’s not noticeable, neither ski is light in the first place). In those lengths, both are skis that love to go seriously fast, make few turns, and destroy crud. If high-speed stability in wide-open terrain was my #1 priority, either would be just fine, so what’s the real difference? It would have to come down to the width. if conditions were a little soft or powdery, then I’d take the Katana for a touch of added float, just because its a touch wider. I’d take the Cochise if I expected to be in firm, variable conditions more often. That’s the only real difference I can think of between the 191 Katana and the 193 Cochise, and it’s a slight one. For you, given that firmer conditions might be more common over softer ones (you have your Squads for that), I’d still lean to the Cochise.

    And if we’re talking about the Cochise, I’m inclined to make a case for the 185, even if you’re skiing comps. Have you read Rob Dickinson’s review of the 185cm Cochise? (http://blistergearreview.com/gear-reviews/3rd-look-blizzard-cochise)

    Even if I wanted a 100% dedicated comp ski, and never planned to ski tress, bumps, or anything but wide-open terrain, I still think I would go for the 185 over the 193. I’m 6’2″, and find the 185 is still very, very stable, but a little easier to work through quick turns before a takeoff or in tight spots. It’s also a ski you can actually take into some tighter terrain/trees/bumps if you want (I wouldn’t want to do that on the 193 or 191 Katana). Rob skis the 185 over the 193 in freeride comps, as he feels the 193 would be a more of a handful in tight, technical terrain, and the stability gains vs the 185 at speed are negligible.

    That’s everything I can think of. Hope this helps, Kevin.

    Best,

    Will

  5. Kevin April 26, 2013 Reply

    Thats everything that I needed to know!! perfect!
    very detailed, specific and clear!
    awesome!
    Thank you very much!! exactly what I needed to know!

  6. Theo October 21, 2013 Reply

    Hi, im looking to buy a pair of Katanas, but i cannot decide the length. Im 6’4 and weigh 180. I ski in Telluride Co. I am a very aggresive skier, and compete in big mountain comps. Do you think i should get the 191, or 198?

    Thanks ,Theo

    • Hey, Theo – I’m certain that Will and I would agree that the 191 will be enough ski for you. Not to say you couldn’t ski the 198 – I’m sure you could – I just don’t think you’ll *need* the *extra* stability or weight. Honestly, you’d have to weigh an extra 30-40 lbs before you’d get me to say that you really might want to consider the 198. The 191 will feel stable yet still fairly flickable. In short, I think you’ll love it.

  7. Theo October 29, 2013 Reply

    Sweet thank you!

  8. Brian December 18, 2013 Reply

    You guys really need to upload a rocker profile photo of the 191s.

  9. Dave April 19, 2014 Reply

    How come you don’t specify the Katana’s weitght? I’ve been searching around for 20 minutes and can’t find it. Its weird given the big deal that’s being made on the v-werks – if I dont know how much a standard Katana weighs, how can I compare? If you know, could you post it? thanks!

  10. Evan February 18, 2015 Reply

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