Ski: Volkl Bridge, 179cm
Dimensions (mm): 128-95-115
Actual Tip to Tail Length (straight tape pull): 176.5cm
Boots / Bindings: Tecnica Dragon 120 / Marker Jester (DIN at 9)
Mount Location: factory recommended
Test Location: Taos Ski Valley
Days Skied: 8
(Editor’s Note: Our review was conducted on the 11/12 Bridge, which is unchanged for 13/14, and 14/15, except for the graphics.)
These days, there are two things that deserve the preoccupation of skiers: the search for the Higgs Boson in particle physics, and the quest for that mythical, One ski that can perform well in all conditions.
Why? Well, the Higgs gives the universe mass, which makes gravity—and thus skiing—possible. But why the other? Why do we need to limit ourselves to a single, all purpose ski?
We’re all familiar with the trade-offs that such a one-ski solution must overcome: fatness and float versus edge-to-edge quickness and rotational turning radius. So why don’t we just grab from the quiver the right ski for the day at hand? It’s simple: snow conditions change relentlessly, from run to run and from hour to hour throughout the day. So while we can never make the same turn twice (which sounds more philosophical than it should), it’s equally true that the same pair of skis must often carry us through an ever-changing snowscape.
You might start out on a fresh eight inches, but the reason you don’t just bring out the big boys is because you know that within a few hours you’ll be skiing packed out powder bumps, perhaps with an icy lining, and of course they’ve already groomed the run-outs for high-speed motoring.
Then there’s the “day after,” or powder hangover, when you come back for more the following day and find your favorite side stash guarded by a southeast facing mine field of crud ruts (probably your own). Now you need a ski that’s stiff enough and has enough contact on the snow to save your ass.
Obviously, then, the search for a multi-talented, “all mountain” ski is more than an interesting engineering problem, or a product in search of a market. It’s real-world driven.
The folks at Volkl have addressed this need with their most popular free-skiing model, the Bridge. My current thinking is that the narrowest underfoot waist for a ski providing comfort and flotation in powder (not to mention exhilaration) is 95 to 100 mm. Conversely, the widest ski that can still allow credible bump skiing without a deformation of style is around 105. (To establish that limit, I went out and tried some 105 K2 Kung Fujas on hard bumps. They felt bloated.)
The Bridge, at 128-95-115, is at the narrower end of this all-mountain, all-condition sweet spot. Its turning radius, at 20.7 for the 179s, is not unusual. This is no frontside carver. What is different for a ski of such modest dimensions is that it is fully, although very gradually, rockered tip and tail, with no camber underfoot. That’s a powder configuration usually (though not exclusively—c.f. Will Brown’s review of the Rossignol’s Scimitar)—reserved for skis at least ~110mm and up.
My first day on the Bridge was a scenario much like the one described above, with a beautiful but by no means bottomless powder coating (I’d say eight inches, max). The remarkable thing is that on the first few runs down Taos’ famous Longhorn, I never felt bottom. The ski floated free and fast and encouraged that release from all inhibitions that makes powder skiers act like snowboarders.
Better yet, I smoked my friend “HD” (He who works at a certain big orange building supply store.) “Wow, what’s gotten into you? What are you on?” (Rest assured: no drugs were involved in this or any other test.)
Now I can’t say that I wouldn’t have had even more fun riding on something fatter than the Bridge, but on that powder morning, I didn’t happen to see anyone fly by me on the fun scale (certainly not HD).
An added bonus of a powder ski this small and light is that it remains fairly maneuverable in tight quarters; turns are natural and stressless, but also precise if need be. This confidence translates into bagging narrow, tight-tree powder shots once the obvious first-track lines are exhausted.