First Look: 2015-2016 Volkl One, 186cm
Dimensions (mm): 138-116-130
Sidecut Radius: 27.5 meters
Actual Tip to Tail Length (straight tape pull): 185.0 cm
Blister’s Measured Weight Per Ski: 2373 & 2378
Mount Position: +1 of Factory Recommended
Boots / Bindings: Salomon X-Pro 120 / Marker Jester
Test Location: Mount Olympus, New Zealand
Days Skied: 2[Editor’s Note: Our review was conducted on the 14/15 One, which was not changed for 15/16, except for the graphics.] Preface: I picked the new Volkl One as part of my two-ski quiver for Taos, and as I noted there, I still need to get more time on the One, especially in deeper snow. But a lot of readers have been asking us about this, so here is a very preliminary first look.
In some fairly big news this season: Volkl has come out with some new “fun-shape” skis, the One and the Two.
Given that I’ve been rekindling a love affair with the non-fun-shaped Volkl Mantra (review forthcoming), I didn’t really care, because I assumed that Volkl was just jumping on an industry trend and building a super-rockered, super-soft, pow noodle with a tiny sidecut radius—not that there’d be anything wrong with that, we’ve just already seen it.
Thankfully, Jason Hutchins and Will Brown kept insisting that we needed to take the One down to Canterbury, New Zealand with us, so we did.
And it wasn’t till we were down in New Zealand (and sadly, it wasn’t till we were pretty far into the trip), that I finally began to really check this ski out.
So despite the fact that this ski would generate a lot of interest, I didn’t really feel like skiing it, and I kept waiting for the “right conditions” to emerge: basically fairly deep, perfect snow—you know, the type of snow where basically any ski will do just fine.
But having put two days on the One in big-mountain terrain and conditions that were far from deep, perfect pow, I can definitely say that I wasn’t giving the designers of the One nearly enough credit. So I’ll apologize for that, and we’ll be following up with a 2nd Look as soon as possible.
First, let’s look at Volkl’s own description of the One:
“A powder ski for easy, drifty turns, the new Völkl One is a brand new model for skiers who want to excel in both deep and variable snow conditions. The early taper in the tip and tail allow the ski to instantly maneuver in any direction at any time. ELP Full Rocker design allows a slightly stiffer flex than other skis in this category, for added stability.”
A powder ski for easy, drifty turns…
Yeah. A quick glance at the very seriously significant amount of tip and tail rocker on the One is enough to hammer home the point that this ski will do “easy, drifty” really well. It has (a) deep rocker lines and (b) a substantial amount of splay in both the tip and tail. And I admit—in general, I don’t mind if skis have either a or b, but I’m not that interested in a and b. And that is a big reason why the One didn’t immediately pique my interest. But let’s continue:
For skiers who want to excel in both deep and variable snow conditions.
Wait, what? Excel in deep snow, sure. And I am already willing to wager that the Volkl One will be one of the best ~115mm pow skis out there in deeeep snow. 116mm underfoot isn’t that fat, nor is the One’s tip, at 138mm. But look at those deep rocker lines and the amount of splay…
But what’s crazy is the next claim, the “For skiers who want to excel in … variable snow conditions.”
Normally, this is where I cry “Marketing BS.” Lots of tip rocker + lots of splay = fun in pow, and allows a ski to “maneuver in any direction at any time” — e.g. slash quick turns, pivot through trees, or execute huge, sustained, sideways, power slides.
But excel in variable?
And this is where I think the One gets really interesting. Look at the tips and tails. Volkl talks about the “early taper in the tip and tail,” but I’m not sure that “early taper” best describes the One’s tip and tail shapes. Skis like the Armada JJ, the new Rossignol Super 7, or the DPS Wailer 112RP have a lot of early taper—where the widest point of the tip is pushed further down into the body of the ski. In general skis like that are very quick and have a low swing weight, because mass has been moved away from the extremities of the ski. But as a result, stability in chop and crud is often diminished.
The One, however, doesn’t actually have a lot of taper in the tip and tail—that is, the widest section of the shovel isn’t much wider than the narrowest portion of the shovel and tip. Compared to the JJ, the One’s tips and tails are quite straight, not tapered. So the widest portions of the tip and tail are actually quite close to the extremities of the ski—a common design quality of skis that are good in variable conditions, chop, and crud.
And you know what else?
Volkl doesn’t mention it in their description, but check out the sidecut radius of the 186cm One—27.5 meters. That’s a much bigger sidecut radius than most “fun-shape” skis. The 185cm Armada JJ = 16 meters. The 184cm DPS Wailer 112RP = 15-18 meters. The 188cm, 13/14 Rossignol Super 7 = 20.8 meters.
Look back at those skis that are famous for their performance in variable conditions, and you will rarely find a ski with less than a 25-meter sidecut radius. And the 186cm One has a sidecut radius right around that of the 191cm Volkl Katana, the 187cm Moment Belafonte, and the 185cm Blizzard Cochise. Interesting.
But that’s not all. Volkl continues:
ELP Full Rocker design allows a slightly stiffer flex than other skis in this category…
And Volkl’s not kidding. And they could have left out the word “slightly.” The One is a pretty stiff ski, and it is definitely stiff compared to “other skis in this category.”
When handflexing, the tail of the One is a little softer than the tip, but the One has a strong-medium, maybe even medium-stiff, flex through the forebody and behind the binding of the ski.
Compared to the 13/14 Blizzard Gunsmoke, the One is softer over the twinned-up portion of the tail (the very last 3-4cms of the tail), but it then it quickly gets stiffer toward the bindings than the Gunsmoke does.
Compared to the Kastle West 110, the One is simply stiffer all around. The West 110 has a soft tail, a medium flex underfoot, and transition from medium to medium / soft through the forebody of the ski and the tip.
Exception to the Rule: Volkl One vs. Praxis MVP — in a stiff, carbon layup
While the MVP is narrower than the One, the MVP has a fairly similar rocker profile to the One. But the MVP was a ski that didn’t quite click for several of us at Blister (Jason Hutchins, Garrett Altmann, and I all put time on it) and as Jason wrote in his review of the MVP, he felt that the stiff flex pattern worked against the other design elements of the ski.
Personally, I think there are a couple other key differences between the MVP and the One: the MVP in a stiff flex was being positioned as a comp ski, where emphasis is placed on performance at high speeds in firm, variable conditions. And for that application, the weight-to-stiffness ratio of our test pair, in addition to the rocker profile of the MVP, wasn’t an ideal fit. (The One isn’t as stiff as the MVPs, and the One weighs ~250 grams more per ski than our MVPs.)
Also, the One is being positioned as a loose, easy, drifty pow ski—a soft-snow ski. And in soft chop, the One works very well. But it’s certainly not a comp ski that will go destroy bad conditions. This is a pow ski, and a ski for playing in soft chop and handling transitions from lighter- to heavier-density snow.
Notice that Volkl doesn’t even mention the word “carving” in their description of the One. I don’t think that was an accident. They’re not selling this as a ski to go dice up groomers, and in their description of their other new, fatter pow ski, the “Two,” they explicitly say that the Two is meant to smear, not carve. Cool. Accuracy and truth and advertising. +1 to you, Volkl.
We didn’t ski any groomers in New Zealand, so I can’t say how good or bad the One is at that activity that Volkl doesn’t even mention in their description of the ski. Good on ’em. This is a pow ski. It’s not a one-ski quiver. Use it accordingly.
What I can say is that you will get back to the chairlift on groomers just fine. You just might not be making super race-steeze, high-angulation carves, that’s all. That okay for now? Hope that’s okay for now. This is a pow ski.
Volkl One: On-Snow Performance
So in two days in New Zealand, how did the One do? It did well, especially given that I had it in conditions that it wasn’t designed for.
My first day on the One, we were skiing at Mount Olympus, and in the middle of a freeze-thaw-freeze cycle. But on this day, temperatures got warmer later, and we spent the morning skiing a lot of very firm, coral reef-type snow. No ski handles this stuff well, and I was pretty nervous, because I figured I was on precisely the opposite type of ski you’d want for conditions like these.
But the One smoothed out those conditions far more than I’d expected. More than anything, I figured that the significant amount of tip and tail rocker would make these skis feel like I was skiing coral reef on ice skates. But as I was chasing snowboard reviewer Justin Bobb around the mountain (Justin is impervious to horrible conditions), I found that so long as I maintained a centered, slightly forward stance and didn’t let myself get knocked into the backseat, the One handled the coral reef far better than I would have imagined.
Thick, Dense Untracked
In heavy cream-cheese snow, the One was smooth, and never felt grabby or hooky. And when we were skiing bigger, open lines at Olympus, the One handled transitions from lighter to denser snow quite well.
NEXT PAGE: Lighter, Deeper Pow