Volkl Secret 96 Review
Cons: Too burly for lighter gals, not nimble
Compare to Similar Products
Volkl Secret 96
$689.00 at Amazon
|Check Price at Backcountry|
Compare at 3 sellers
$599.99 at Amazon
|$679 List||$649.95 at Backcountry|
Compare at 2 sellers
|Pros||Superbly stable at high speeds, great edge hold||Crud blaster, dependable, great one-ski quiver option, good for every ability level||Awesome powder tool, fabulous fun factor even for light skiers, affordable price||Great stability at high speeds, good on hard snow and crud, more affordable than others||Quick edge to edge, strong carving ski|
|Cons||Too burly for lighter gals, not nimble||No wow-factor, not a lot of rebound||Gets bouncy in crud, slight tip flap, doesn’t carve perfectly||Only for shallower pow days, needs strong skier to guide them||Need to be engaged to ski it well, not much excitement, sinks in deeper snow|
|Bottom Line||A good choice for hard-charging speed demons that still performs decently off-piste||A great all-rounder ski that we think is the most versatile option for a one-ski quiver||A fun and responsive toy for powder days, groomer antics, and bumps, with a value-oriented price tag||This model will do great in everything but the deepest powder and is ideal for an aggressive skier||Though not especially playful in deep powder, this ski is our top choice for carving with its skinny waist and quickness edge to edge|
|Rating Categories||Volkl Secret 96||Nordica Santa Ana 98||Elan Ripstick 94 W||Faction Dictator 2.0X||Blizzard Black Pear...|
|Stability At Speed (20%)|
|Carving Ability (20%)|
|Powder Performance (20%)|
|Crud Performance (20%)|
|Terrain Playfulness (15%)|
|Specs||Volkl Secret 96||Nordica Santa Ana 98||Elan Ripstick 94 W||Faction Dictator 2.0X||Blizzard Black Pear...|
|Waist Width (mm)||96||98||96||96||88|
|Shape (Tip-Waist-Tail) (mm)||135-96-119||132-98-120||136-96-111||127-96-117||128-88-110|
|Available Lengths (cm)||149, 156, 163, 170||151, 158, 165, 172, 179||154, 162, 170, 178||155, 163, 171, 175, 179, 183, 187||147, 153, 159, 165, 171, 177|
|Length Tested (cm)||170||172||178||171||171|
|Rocker Style||Tip and tail, camber underfoot||Tip and tail, camber underfoot||Tip and tail, cambered inside edge Amphibio tech||Tip and tail, camber underfoot||Tip and tail rocker, camber underfoot|
|Weight Per Pair (lbs)||8.5||8.1||7.4||7.9||8.0|
|Construction Type||Full sidewall||Energy Ti W||SST sidewall||Sandwich||Sandwich compound sidewall|
|Core Material||Beech and poplar||Performance Wood & Metal||Tubelite wood||Paulownia & Poplar||True Blend Woodcore|
|Intended Purpose||All-Mountain||All-Mountain||All-Mountain||All-Mountain, Big Mountain||All-Mountain|
Our Analysis and Test Results
This is a strong and solid ski for a strong and solid skier, but it might be a little much to handle for less experienced ladies. We were disappointed that the Volkl Secret 96 didn't quite compare to the discontinued Secret 92, one of our favorite skis of all time for its agile nature, reliable strength, and all-around versatility. This new iteration is a bit of a one-trick pony compared to its predecessor.
Stability at Speed
This is where the Secret 96 really shines, finding its comfort zone in the fast lane. When we wanted to go fast, on groomers or otherwise, we reached for this ski. The Secret 96 wins our award for stability for its dependable strength across the entire length of the ski — from tip to tail — even at the highest speeds we pushed it to. At slower speeds, in the steeps, its edge hold was excellent and made us feel confident that we would stick every turn. We experienced little to no edge chatter on hard-packed snow or early morning ice, and when we cruised downhill at top speed, we were thrilled to not experience the tip chatter so prevalent in many all-mountain skis.
Volkl has integrated new technology into this ski called "Tailored Titanal Frame," meaning that they have adjusted the amount of titanal material for each length of ski, making the longer ones stiffer (for ostensibly bigger and stronger skiers) and the shorter ones softer. Since we only tested the skis in one length, we cannot comment on whether this tactic is effective or not. However, our smaller testers did feel that while the 170-centimeter length (which was still an appropriate length for them) was very stable, it was also a little too beefy to bend easily. Our larger testers felt they could bend the ski but that it lacked much rebound or agility. Testers of all sizes and abilities, however, enjoyed the dependability of this freight train when the goal was speed and stability.
As already noted, the Secret 96's ability to hold an edge on any type of snow impressed us and made us feel extremely confident rolling onto an edge and carving a turn. The 16-meter advertised turn radius seemed a tighter exaggeration than we all felt; we would have guessed more like 18 meters if we were made to blind test it.
Volkl's "3D radius" technology can only be truly understood by the most deeply geeky of ski engineers, but their claim is that the tip and tail of the ski have a longer radius than the center, allowing for easier turn entries and exits. We weren't sure what to make of this assertion, but we certainly didn't find it to be very apparent in the ski's behavior. Our testing determined that the Secret holds the edge in a carved turn well, but it doesn't feel like a short 16-meter turn. Because we felt comfortable going fast on them, we could get them to bend and arc at those higher speeds but did not feel a ton of rebound or responsiveness from them.
The Secret 96 has a very wide shovel at the tip, which serves to plow a pathway for the rest of the ski through deep conditions. These same fat shovels, however, have a tendency to clank together when skiing in powder with a slightly narrower stance. We found this to be more annoying and distracting than actually detrimental, though.
Overall, the Secret's 96-millimeter waist and large rockered tip keep it floating on medium-depth days. If it were to get truly deep and light, however, it is possible that the ski's stiffness would be an impairment, as it might be difficult to bend the ski against that type of soft snow.
The Volkl stiffness propels this ski through most chunky terrain, but it doesn't seem to slice through with the same nonchalance as did the old Secret 92. It remains capable, however, and we found ourselves reaching for this ski in the days after a storm.
The wide shovel does have a tendency to get bounced around a bit, which put us off balance occasionally. Luckily, a little tip deflection on this powerful ski is a bit like a bullet train hitting a pebble on the tracks: there's not much consequence.
This is another metric in which this ski did not compete well with its predecessor, as we found ourselves missing the Secret 92's nimbleness and dexterity. The Secret 96 did not give us a fun pop of rebound at the end of the turn, nor did it feel particularly sprightly or quick.
It is fine enough to get airborne, but the best part of a drop on this ski is getting back to the ground where it belongs and cruising away at top speed. There is an element of joy in the confidence this ski inspires, but we wouldn't call it traditionally playful.
The Secret 96 is not the ideal tool for mogul skiing. It doesn't bend easily between bumps, doesn't feel quick enough to maneuver in tight spaces, and generally feels large and cumbersome in this environment.
Given that this is a very high-quality ski that sits at the mid-range of the group, we think this ski provides excellent value for the price. It is not the most versatile, however, so those looking for a one-ski quiver might look further. However, for anyone who wants to blast down the slopes at top speed on a reliable piece of German engineering, this ski is a sure thing.
A well-made and reliable ski that excels at going fast and holding on tight, the Secret 96 provides a decent ride in most terrain.
— Renee McCormack
Ad-free. Influence-free. Powered by Testing.
GearLab is founded on the principle of honest, objective, reviews. Our experts test thousands of products each year using thoughtful test plans that bring out key performance differences between competing products. And, to assure complete independence, we buy all the products we test ourselves. No cherry-picked units sent by manufacturers. No sponsored content. No ads. Just real, honest, side-by-side testing and comparison.Learn More