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2016-2017 Volkl Aura

Julia Van Raalte reviews the Volkl Aura for Blister Gear Review

Volkl Aura

Ski: 2016-2017 Volkl Aura, 170cm

Available Lengths: 156, 163, 170 cm

Actual Tip-to-Tail Length (straight tape pull): 170.5cm

Stated Dimensions (mm): 132-100-118

Blister’s Measured Weight per Ski: 1956 & 1936 grams

Stated Sidecut Radius: 21.5 meters

Core Construction: Poplar/Beech + Titanal Metal + Fiberglass Laminate

Mount Location: Recommended Line

Boots / Bindings: Lange RS 120 S.C. / Marker Griffin (DIN at 8)

Test Locations: Broken River Ski Area; Mt. Cheeseman Ski Area; Temple Basin Ski Area

Days Skied: 6

[Editor’s Note: Our review was conducted on the 14/15 Aura, which was not changed for 15/16 or 16/17, except for the graphics.]

For the last six months, I have been really excited to get some time on the redesigned Volkl Aura.

As I mentioned in my preview of the new Aura, I was quite surprised by Volkl’s decision to fully rocker the ski; the earlier, cambered versions of the ski were popular among many former racers since it was a solid ski that carved really well.

After skiing the Aura for the last week in Canterbury, New Zealand, I’ve been quite impressed at how well it handled some pretty challenging conditions. Although I still need to further evaluate how the new Aura performs in soft snow and on groomers, it already feels like a more versatile ski than previous versions.

Firm, Bumpy Snow

The Canterbury club fields in New Zealand are some of the coolest places to ski in the world; the region is absolutely spectacular, and whatever the conditions, people are enthusiastic, friendly, and always seem to be having fun. After arriving at the beautiful Broken River Ski Area and reacquainting myself with the rope tows and nutcrackers, I was finally ready to point the Aura downhill.

The snow in Broken River’s main bowl was chalky and firm, with plenty of low, scattered bumps. Since I was just trying to get my ski legs back on those first runs, I carefully worked my way through the bumps.

While making smaller, frequent turns at slower speeds, the Aura felt great. Whether I was driving more energy into the shovels for a more powerful turn, or easing up for a mellower pace, the Aura was responsive and fun.

Julia Van Raalte reviews the Volkl Aura, Blister Gear Review

Julia Van Raalte on the Volkl Aura, Broken River Ski Area, New Zealand.

As a point of reference, I have spent some time on a number of the Aura’s relatives: the 13/14 170cm Aura, the 13/14 184cm Mantra, and the 14/15 177cm Mantra. Each of these skis feels quite distinct, but I was curious to see where, exactly, the 14/15 Aura would fit in to this strong lineup. 

Compared to the three other skis, the 14/15 Aura felt the most nimble and quick. While I loved the stability and power of the 13/14 184cm Mantra, it was demanding enough that it never felt like a light and easy ski for me. And while I could make short radius turns on the old Aura, the tails took a little longer to release through a turn. Finally, I found the 14/15 177cm Mantra to be much more accessible than the previous version, and the shorter length of the Aura unsurprisingly made it easier to execute fast turns.

Given the bumpy hardpack at Broken River, I figured I would prefer a heavier, damp ski like the 13/14 Mantra in order to get the most stability. But I really liked the new Aura, and couldn’t believe how hard I could push it.

Even though I tend to prefer a longer ski, the 170cm Aura allowed me to make quick changes of direction really easily. And considering how light and easy the Aura was to turn, it still felt impressively stable.

At faster speeds over firm, variable snow, I experienced very little tip flap or deflection, and the shovels felt plenty supportive. At the same time, I found the Aura to be quite forgiving when tossed into the backseat.

I have yet to feel that the 170cm Aura is too much ski for me, nor have I felt that it wasn’t enough for me—which is something I have experienced with other skis around 170cm.

To ski the Aura hard through these conditions necessitated a different style of skiing than what I might use on the Mantra; rather than arcing big and powerful turns across the hardpack, the Aura requires more intentional and quick turns around the bumps. Since I like to make turns anyway, this approach suited me well, and I appreciated the Aura’s combination of agility and stability 

Recycled Powder

While the club fields have some excellent terrain inbounds, the lines that are accessible within a relatively short hiking distance are remarkable. After a twenty-minute hike, we found some beautiful, longer lines with nice, recycled powder (i.e. snow consisting of softened wind or sun crusts).

Julia Van Raalte reviews the Volkl Aura, Blister Gear Review

Julia Van Raalte on the Volkl Aura, Mt Cheeseman Ski Area, Canterbury, New Zealand.

I was really able to open things up and make long, sweeping turns down the untracked bowl. Since the snow was still a bit variable and had a little bit of a crust, I found the Aura’s speed limit pretty quickly. If I got going too fast, the ski began to feel a little shaky. This could also be a result of the Aura’s 170cm length, which is slightly shorter than what I am used to skiing. Still, the ski planed across the surface of the snow really well, and had a smooth, surfy feel through each turn.

Heavy Wet Snow

After enjoying the older powder up high, we encountered some deeper snow that the sun had warmed, but was just starting to refreeze. Curious to see how the Aura would fare in this heavy and crunchy snow, I carried some speed into the first few turns; however, I had to shut it down pretty quickly. Although these conditions would be challenging on most skis, the Aura didn’t feel quite substantial enough to really drive through snow, and I got tossed around a bit.

After slowing down, though, the Aura was able to stay on top and make lighter, quicker turns through the grabby snow. While the tails occasionally got caught up in the crust, they still felt pretty loose, and I imagine that the tails on the previous Aura would not have released as well. A heavier, more damp ski like the Blizzard Samba might have smoothed out the snow more effectively, but I appreciated the how easily I could maneuver the Aura through the tricky snow.

Who’s It For?

If you’re looking for a big mountain charger or a ski that can steamroll choppy snow, then a burlier, more damp ski like the Blizzard Dakota or the 13/14 Mantra might be a better option than the Aura. While I was still able to ski big, steep faces on the Aura, I wasn’t comfortable going top speed.

On the other hand, if you’d prefer a lighter, very easy ski and are not as concerned about stability at high speeds, a ski like the Rossignol Savory 7 would be a better choice. The Volkl Aura sits somewhere in the middle of that range; it’s still a stable ski, but will allow you to make quick turns, too.

Bottom Line (For Now)

Some of the biggest questions I had in my preview of the Aura were related to the ski’s carving and powder performance. While I need to ski the Aura more on groomers and in fresh powder, given its impressive hardpack and variable, mixed snow capabilities, I predict the Aura will be a lot of fun on groomers and in powder.

The new Aura has undergone some pretty significant changes this season, and it does feel like a more versatile ski than the earlier models. While I loved how well the old Aura carved, the new Aura has been more fun in a wider range of challenging conditions. So far, the Aura has proven to be a light, quick, and stable option that is great in both hard and soft conditions.

(You can now read Morgan Sweeny’s 2nd Look on the Aura.)

 

NEXT: ROCKER PROFILE PICS

 

1 Comment

  1. Moa November 12, 2015 Reply

    Great review!

    I’m doing a season in the Italian Alps this winter and is looking for a new pair of skis. I am a former racer and do therefore have high requrements when it comes to skis.

    When working I will only ski on pist, but as soon as I get a day off I will go hunting for powder. Aura seems like the perfect compination of pist and offpist, but I am concerned that it might be to much of a compromise.

    Therefore I am curious about what you think: Is Aura mor pist or offpist? Will I as a raceskier be disappointed with its response when skiing on piste? Or will I wish I bought something with a wider waist when skiing offpist?

    Thanks,
    Moa

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