Volkl brings back a classic with the Katana 108.
Note: the 2021-2022 Volkl Katana 108 features new art, but it is the same ski structurally as the previous version (2020-2021). This review was originally published in November 2020.
If you’ve been around skiing for a minute, your ears will perk up when they hear “Katana.” For 2020-21, Volkl pays homage to its legendary model while infusing plenty of fresh tech into the new edition.
Before I first skied the new Katana 108, I knew there was a lot on the line. When Volkl announced they were reviving the vaunted Katana name, they set expectations pretty high. After ripping these on a gorgeous bluebird day, I have to say—the new Katana 108 delivers.
Skiing at Eldora, I drew perfect Colorado blue skies with sparkling groomers and soft stashes of snow left over from the last storm.
Clicking into the Katana 108, I wondered a few things. One, would this ski live up to the hype the Katana name generates? Would it be an indestructible crud-buster?
And two: with a hefty construction, how versatile would the Katana be when not obliterating mixed snow?
First things first: This is not a ski for timid skiers. While I found it to be pretty capable at slower speeds, this ski wants to go fast and be driven hard. Once I got up to speed on groomers, I let the 3D radius sidecut go to work. I had no issue driving this ski as hard as I could in both short and long turns. Hitting Mach-speed, I found a very smooth ride that didn’t allow for any chatter or deflection. It also linked turns smoothly and didn’t feel hooky. This is the kind of smooth and reliable performance you really only get with heftier skis (read: not “lightweight freeride skis”).
Bumps and Trees
Now to the biggest surprise of the day: the Katana 108 can rip bumps. Get into a rhythm, attack the fall-line, and you’ll have no issues—unless you just aren’t used to a ski this wide, in which case, it could feel clunky.
Despite its aggressive build, the ski also navigates trees without making you feel like you’re going to eat wood. With a bit of room to run, there was just enough nimbleness from the touch of tail rocker to release the ski in the end of turns. It snaps and pivots well, intuitively linking turns. Again, it’s not smeary like some other skis in this category, and it’s probably not the best option for casual skiers or cruisers. But more aggressive folks, especially those who loved the old Katana, are drooling over this new version. And they won’t be disappointed.
Powder and Mixed Snow
The new Katana was born and bred to ski and destroy big-mountain terrain in just about every type of snow. This is almost certainly the most stable ski I’ve been on when plowing through mixed snow and crud. Its straight-lining ability and overall stability when skiing flat or arcing long-radius turns is impressive. For those skiers wanting a ski they can straight-line Union Peak with, you’ve found your ski. This is the arena the Katana thrives in with its weight and size. But, once again, Volkl’s design flourishes, like 3D radius sidecut and Titanal Frame, give the Katana 108 a little bit more accessibility and easier turn initiation than old-school hulks.
A defining characteristic I found while on the Katana was the continued smoothness of the ride. Even when riding well past my speed limit or plowing through gnarly ice and crud, the Katana stayed composed.
The Katana 108 is by no means an intermediate ski or a lightweight freeride ski. While its nimbleness is quite good for a ski with these chops, it’s certainly not a ski to slash and surf with. I found that in tight trees, you really need to attack the fall line on the Katana 108. That doesn’t mean you have to ski fast, but it does mean the Katana punishes indecision and tentative turns. Certainly potential buyers of the Katana are well aware of these downsides. If you attack the fall line and want a ski to drive then all of these are totally fine tradeoffs for someone wanting the power and dampness that it provides.
The Katana 108 is for the skier who wants a big stiff powerful ski. In that category, though, it is more accessible than past versions, thanks to some new-age Volkl design flourishes. If you want to ski fast in all snow types and rule the mountain, few skis are better than the Katana 108.