Many of our testers found the Volkl Aura to be their favorite ski in the bunch. We think this is an extremely versatile ski that loves to go fast and charge hard. Our testers were surprised by its performance on groomed terrain despite its fully rockered profile but were not surprised by its expected superior performance in the powder. The Aura is a stiff ski that can plow through the chop with ease but will take its driver for a ride if you don't stay on top of it. The stiffest ski in this review, it is meant for an expert lady skier who will have tons of fun driving it around the whole mountain. They have a large turn radius and prefer to go fast with as few turns as possible, but will turn on a dime when asked nicely.
Volkl Aura Review
Cons: Expensive, not great for carving
Our Analysis and Test Results
Not for the faint-hearted, the Volkl Aura is a versatile, stiff, crud busting machine that advanced skier ladies will love. This ski is as comfortable skiing big mountain lines as it is making quick turns in the trees and carving the groomers. We think it is a high quality, versatile ski that will take you all over the mountain. It has an element of playfulness and is springy in the powder, but needs someone who knows how to drive it.
All of our female ski testers have varied abilities and ski styles, and sometimes it is hard to come to a consensus about which skis are the best. Those skiers who love to make large-radius turns and go fast really appreciated the Aura's stability. The Aura is the only model in this all-mountain category that has a full rocker profile, although it is much more understated than a typical powder ski's rocker. The center of the ski is virtually flat, with rocker arcing up on both the tip and the tail. This gives the ski great float in powder and chop but allows it to turn easily in tight situations, like trees.
Stability at Speed
The Aura is hands down the most stable ski we have tested. With two sheets of titanium and full sidewall construction, this ski is made for speed. It is extremely stable, and we have not noticed any chatter or flopping when carving turns on hardpack or in steep terrain. It is extremely damp and is more comfortable going fast than it is cruising along. The Head Great Joy have a similar feel at speed with stable edge grip, but their exaggerated tips get to flopping more than the Aura.
Some of our testers found themselves going faster than they usually go on these skis and feeling okay with it. We think Volkl has designed a race car of a ski; you won't even notice how fast you are going. The Rossignol Soul 7 HD W is another very stable ski in this review that likes to carve tighter turns on the groomers. The K2 FulLUVit 95 and the Atomic Vantage WMN 95 C are much floppier at speeds and prefer to butter and smear their way down the mountain.
With stability often comes stiffness: our more aggressive ladies had no problem driving this ski around, and plowing through anything in their paths, but our more intermediate-to-advanced testers had more difficulty staying on top of these stiff sticks. The Aura seems to have a learning curve, and they may be a bit bossy to some and want to take you for a ride. One intermediate skier compared it to "walking a dog versus the dog walking you", but the same testers had some "AHA" moments and realized what they needed to do to drive the ski.
The Blizzard Black Pearl is an advanced ladies ski that still charges, skis similarly to the Aura, but is slightly easier to stay on top of. That said, this ski is recommended for an advanced to expert skier who can stay on top of this stiff ski. If you are looking for a ski that will grow with you, the Icelantic Oracle 88 is an excellent choice for a more intermediate level skier.
The Aura can hold its own in this category and can hold an edge, but has a huge turn radius and wide waist, so it likes longer powerful turns. Any ski with a fully rockered profile is simply not built to carve — but that doesn't mean this ski can't do it. We still had a lot of fun carving down the groomers, but you need to think about the Volkl's larger turning radius and wider waist width, and put a little extra effort in. Instead of simply tipping the skis on edge at the top of the turn and letting the sidecut do the rest, like you can with the Head Great Joy, you need to add a little rotation into the initiation. You'll have to tell the skis which way you intend them to carve and then they can take it from there. Without this extra rotary input, the outside ski likes to slip away on its own trajectory. The Aura's turn radius is 21.5M, and we love carving big turns on it; the Icelantic Oracles and the Soul 7s come in next at 18m each.
The Aura holds an edge very well on the hard stuff because of its sidewall construction and stiff materials. Its wide waist and rockered profile mean it is not meant to rail tight turns and would prefer to butter them. It likes big, long, powerful turns and will hold that edge the whole way around. Not surprisingly, 100mm underfoot and minimum sidecut does not make the Aura very quick from edge-to-edge without effort. For the more aggressive skiers, this pair of skis can feel like a quick and responsive ski if driven. A ski that is almost even more versatile that has fun edge-to-edge quickness is the Elan Ripstick 94 W.
With its full rocker profile and fat 100mm waist, the Aura shines in any soft or powdery snow conditions. We had a ton of fun slicing through buttery wind buff, and the winter provided many multi-foot dumps to test out the Aura in. This ski feels very springy in powder, and we had fun hopping around on it. The Aura likes to make long, sweeping turns at high speeds, floating through the powder. One of our favorite skis in powder other than the Aura is the K2 FulLUVit 95 because of its broad shovel and wide 98mm waist. We also love the nimble and floaty Rossignol Soul 7 in any soft snow or powder.
The Camber-less Aura does take some getting used to in the powder if you're used to tipping and pressuring your skis in deep snow. Instead, the rockered profile was created to more efficiently float and butter the turn in powder, so twisting and pivoting the ski through the fresh is a better approach. This ski performs well in either very light champagne powder, or else in only up to 6-8" of powder, where it is still possible to rotate your feet and legs with accuracy. In heavier or deeper snow, we prefer to have something which more easily builds a base of snow underneath from which to rebound, like the Rossignol Soul 7.
The Aura excels in this category and will eat anything that is thrown at it for breakfast. Because it is so heavy and stiff, it plows through any kind of chop, from tracked out powder to heavy, wet crud, without batting an eye. This ski excels in these conditions because of the rocker and stiffness. The Dynastar Legend W96 is also a lot of fun in the chop.
Some of our testers feel like they are being bucked off of ex-Editors choice winner in variable conditions because it requires a lot from its driver and needs a balanced stance. We think that with practice, those testers will know how to handle the Aura and be ready to charge through everything. We skied the K2 FulLuvit's, and the Aura back to back and noticed how the soft K2 deflected us off the crud, but the Aura just plowed on through. Because of its small effective edge, the Aura can grab on in icy conditions and are way more confidence inspiring than a lighter ski like the Atomic Vantage that gets bounced around. They can also easily bust through breakable crust and smear around in slush and heavy conditions.
Our testers disagreed on whether this ski is very lively, but many said it has a certain element of playfulness. With its rockered profile, turning and buttering on soft snow is great fun and they spin on a dime when you ask them to twist. We love going fast and jumping off of things on these skis. We think they are playful skis for the right skier who has the experience and weight to drive the ski, but would steer an intermediate skier towards the Elan Ripsticks or Icelantic Oracle for an easier, uncomplicated ride.
Our tester who prefers carvy, nimble skis says about the Auras: Is the Hulk playful? Or Attila the Hun? No, probably not. But they're strong, unwavering, and have other positive attributes. But playful is not one.
Bumps Skiing Performance
You have to stay on top of these skis to drive them properly. You also really need to work to bring them around tighter than what they're designed for — and they are not designed for moguls. The Aura feel too stiff and are difficult to maintain ski-snow contact within the ever-changing topography of the moguls. They are not an ideal bump ski.
This contender is a stiff, high-performance ski, meant for an expert female skier. This is an all-mountain ski that handles surprisingly well on groomed runs, but it tends towards the big mountain and off-piste side of the spectrum. Volkl says the Aura is suited for 40 percent groomed terrain and 60 percent powder. If you are a lady shredder who wants to rip big lines all over the resort, this is the ski for you. A step down in aggressiveness from this ski but with similar inclinations is the Blizzard Black Pearl — a great crud buster and powder ski — or the Icelantic Oracle, which is a good choice for an intermediate to advanced skier who wants to spend more time getting off-piste. This is a ski you need to spend some time getting to know, but it can become a valuable asset to your quiver — or your quiver-of-one.
At a lower price nowadays of $699 retail, the Aura is priced on the middle-to-high end of this review. We think it is worth it. Volkl is known for quality construction and is a very reputable ski manufacturer. This is a ski that can become your one-ski-quiver and will last you a long time. If you just can't swing the Aura's price tag, check out our Best Buy Award Winner the Icelantic Oracle for a fun ski at a great price.
The Aura is made from quality materials and seems to be very durable. The binding mount area is reinforced with hardwood for extra screw hold, and the full sidewall construction is much more durable than cap construction, like that found on the Rossignol Soul 7. The Aura was so popular with our testers that it is hard to say whether the additional scratches and core shots on the bases are due to a softer base material, or just because they got skied a lot more than the other skis in this review. We think it is the latter.
If you are an aggressive female skier who is looking for your new best friend, look no further. Of all the women's all-mountain skis we tested, this competitor is the stiffest, fastest, and busts through the chop the best. We love how stable it is at speeds and how we feel like we're driving a racecar (or perhaps a TGV, depending on your perspective). It has great float in soft snow and damp, solid edge hold on the hardpack. Its full rocker profile adds an element of playfulness, and we had a hard time tracking them down all season because many of our testers loved skiing them so much.
— Jessica Haist and Renee McCormack