We were excited to bring the Volkl 90eight skis into the fold of our testing crew, given how we've enjoyed the Volkl Auras in years past. Unfortunately, we were mostly disappointed with this new variation. We hoped that they might be a regular-camber version of the Aura, but they're entirely different. The regular camber aspect doesn't seem to aid them much either, as it's so subtle. We felt a distinct catchiness at the end of each turn, and we hypothesized that the factory tune might have been too sharp at the front half of the ski. After a re/detune, the issue was mitigated, but we never fell in love with them. They require intense precision and power, and the results aren't particularly exciting even when you deliver on these conditions.
Volkl 90eight W Review
Compare prices at 2 resellers Pros: Stiff, decent in crud
Cons: Difficult to turn, hooks up, lifeless
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The name Volkl tends to inspire images of hard-charging Germans on slick alpine pistes; these skis definitely live up to the ruggedness of that history, but aside from their brutish character, they don't have much to offer the typical weekend warrior.
Stability at Speed
Given Volkl's propensity for stiffness, we expected these skis to perform well in this category, and they did not disappoint. Once you have acquired the ski's attention and set it moving on course, the 90Eights are content to plug along like a Mack truck on the highway; the trouble is when you decide you want to exit or change lanes. As tester Carrie Pritchard noted, "Sometimes I think it takes an act of God to turn these things!" However, regarding stability and edge hold, they are strong performers, though still not nearly as impressive as their sister ski, the Auras. They outdo the K2 FulLuvits and the Atomic Vantage in this metric.
Another category in which we hoped these skis would excel, but in this case, they fell somewhat short. Their limited camber underfoot (the ski looks nearly flat, with rocker tips) makes it difficult to get it to bend and grip the snow with any chutzpah. The main issue we had with this ski was that straight out of the factory, the front half of the ski seemed to be tuned excessively sharp, causing a grabby-ness at the end of the turn and not allowing an easy release and start of a new turn. Once we had the skis professionally retuned, this issue was somewhat abated, but the fear of hooking uphill when we wanted to go down remained. Therefore, the 90Eights don't score nearly as high as the Head Great Joys or the Rossignol Soul 7 HD W in this field. One tester talked about the need to propel one's weight forward at the start of a new turn to stay on top of them.
Fortunately, the stiffness of the 90Eights is mitigated in deeper snow by their wide waist and rockered tips, and we found that they held their own and could stay afloat even in sticky Sierra Cement. Sadly though, before the retune, they were still gripping the snow even in powder and were not conducive to flowy, big mountain powder turns. After having the edges retuned, though, they stayed on top of the fresh and allowed a more fluid experience.
As with the other categories, the ski was shooting uphill at the end of the turn in crud — perhaps to a greater extent as it was being deflected by the chunky snow. However, after the retune, rough-and-tumble snow conditions are where this ski's power shines through. With a de-tuned front half, the 90eights can be a powerhouse in the chop, using their rigidity to bust through funky snow.
We did not find these skis to be very lively at all; they received our lowest ranking here of any ski in any metric. There is virtually no rebound, especially compared to the Soul 7s and the Elan Ripstick 94 W. They're in the middle of the bunch when it comes to their weight, and they don't spring into the air very easily. The 90eights* have regular camber underfoot, unlike the fully rockered Auras, but the camber is so slight that they're nearly flat. Flat describes the experience of skiing them, as well. You can't let up on these boards; you must remind them of who is in charge at all times, which doesn't lend itself to a light-hearted experience.
The 90Eights do not love the moguls. They don't smear across the top of bumps well, and they're a bit too stiff to keep them rolling with the punches. They tend to launch their unsuspecting skier into the air rather than submitting to being driven across the undulating surface. They perform similarly to the Auras in this regard.
The 90Eights are an option for a very strong and slightly heavier skier who doesn't mind the possibility of tuning the skis before they feel perfect. They are not ideal for an intermediate skier, or someone who likes to ski with their brain turned down low. They require a vigilant handler at all times, but if provided with a guide, they will reward their skier with performance in crud and even in wet powder. If you desire something easier to turn and less needy, the K2s or the Icelantic Oracle 88s might be a better choice.
This ski retails at $649, and while that is in the upper half price-wise of the skis we tested, we think it is a good price for this ski. As many skiers might like to have them de-tuned, it may be worth considering that tuning cost of approximately $60 on top of the retail cost. If you're hunting for even more of a steal, for a versatile ski, the Icelantics, the Elans, and the Black Pearls all sell for $600.
A stiff and powerful ski that sometimes rewards a strong skier in the right conditions, but will punish those who can't handle it.
Other Versions and Accessories
The Volkl Auras are the other Volkl we included in our review this season, and they hardly compare. The Auras are simply a better ski in every way, but they still require a very competent and aggressive skier to woman-handle them.
— Renee McCormack