Voile HyperDrifter Review
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|Pros||Fast float, incredible weight (for the size), acceptable poor snow performance||Stable, damp, versatile, floaty, balanced||Stable, damp, predictable||All-around performance, damp, inexpensive, available, sweet-spot weight||Fast, smooth, reliable, versatile|
|Cons||Abysmal, scary firm snow performance, specialized application||Moderately heavy, not optimal firm snow performance||Mid-weight, no real stand out performance||Soft and damp||Heavy|
|Bottom Line||Among the most specialized skis in our test, it's optimized for the deepest of days in the deepest of regions||This is our favorite ski for modern, all-around backcountry skiing, bringing traditional reliability, modern dimensions, and performance balance||Good skis for good skiers in all kinds of conditions; the definition of all around backcountry skis||Inexpensive, proven all-around performance that's suitable for a wide variety of backcountry skiers and ski conditions||Heavy, big skis for hard-charging performance beneath a wide range of skiers in all backcountry ski scenarios|
|Rating Categories||Voile HyperDrifter||Blizzard Zero G 105||Black Crows Camox F...||K2 Wayback 106||Elan Ripstick 106|
|Firm Snow (20%)|
|Crud and Poor Snow (20%)|
|Stability at Speed (15%)|
|Specs||Voile HyperDrifter||Blizzard Zero G 105||Black Crows Camox F...||K2 Wayback 106||Elan Ripstick 106|
|Weight Per Pair||7.0 lbs||6.7 lbs||6.7 lbs||6.9 lbs||8.2 lbs|
|Weight Per Ski||1545g, 1585g
|Weight Per Pair||3130g||3025g||3024g||3075g||3715g|
|Weight Per Surface Area Ratio, g/cm^2||0.64||0.72||0.71||0.71||0.86|
|Available Lengths (cm)||171, 178, 186||164, 172, 180, 188||157.1, 164.3, 172.1, 178.4, 183.4||172, 179, 186||167, 174, 181, 188|
|Claimed Dimensions (mm)||155/121/138||133/105/118||130/97/115||136/106/124||143/106/120|
|Measured Dimensions (mm)||154/121/138||133/104/118||137/97/117||135/107/123||143/105/119|
|Construction Type||Cap||Sandwich||Sandwich||Sandwich Cap Hybrid||Sandwich|
|Core Material||Paulownia||Paulownia||Paulownia, poplar||Paulownia||Tubelite|
|Rocker/Camber||Tip rocker, camber underfoot||Tip and tail rocker||Tip rocker, camber underfoot||Tip rocker, slight camber underfoot||Tip and tail rocker, camber underfoot|
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Voile HyperDrifter is the widest ski we have ever tested. At 121mm underfoot, this is a deep, soft snow specialist. We dragged our feet for a long time in testing skis this big, as they were historically so heavy. Somehow Voile flipped the script and made a giant powder specialist at a very average, acceptable weight. We are glad we came around; it's awesome to have big skis like this at our disposal. When it seems "too deep to ski" (yes, that happens sometimes), the HyperDrifter recalibrates your expectations.
In absolute terms, the HyperDrifter is light. When we correct for its size, its weight is remarkable. We weighed the 178cm testers at 1545 and 1585 grams, for an average of 1565g per ski (3130 grams for the pair). In imperial units, that is 7.0 pounds. No matter how you look at it, this is a respectable raw weight point to meet. Bigger skis require bigger, heavier skins, so factor a few dozen additional grams in for that. In the soft snow you'll use these in, the greater girth will cart around more snow on the top sheet. This can be a very significant weight factor.
Despite our warnings, you will find these skis to feel light in all the right ways. We don't know of any other skis of this size that are this light. That is a good thing considering their other performance attributes. On our repeatable, simple "weight-to-surface-area" calculation, the HyperDrifter nearly tops the chart. The only skis that do better are ridiculously light but much narrower. Nothing within 20mm of width comes even close to the weight-to-surface-area ratio of the HyperDrifter.
Ouch. Don't try and press these into firm snow duty. Uphill and down, hard snow on the HyperDrifter is terrifying; all that width only works against you. To save weight, Voile has foregone sophisticated materials and construction that would enhance torsional rigidity. You can "survival ski" groomers or polished exit luge runs, but you will definitely notice the shortcomings.
It should be easy to test specialized tools like the HyperDrifter. We wouldn't be wrong to entirely avoid hard snow and ice on these. No one should be pretending they will function there. Nonetheless, we know you will press the issue and try these out in varied conditions, so we did too. We chased down drought-season groomed resort terrain on one test day and found — to no one's surprise — poor performance, to put it mildly. Edges refuse to grab. Even if you can elicit a little traction, you risk losing it with the slightest lapse of attention or change in texture.
Our lead test editor experienced his best-ever powder day on the HyperDrifter. Huge skis are specialized for powder snow. Bigger is better, and these are the biggest. Don't let our enthusiastic words, though, make you think that you need 120mm skis for deep days. That same day that Jed tested the Voile and had an amazing day, other skiers were on all-mountain touring skis and echoed his sentiment. Good powder skiing is good skiing, no matter the equipment.
The best powder days are the best days, period, regardless of equipment. That being said, the HyperDrifter gives you some more important options. Huge skis like this enable more momentum in the deepest of snow. When those "normally" equipped are bogging down and trenching themselves, you might float and gain a little more speed on the HyperDrifter. More importantly, when avalanche hazard or terrain options (or both) press you into gentler terrain on soft snow, big skis also enable more speed and momentum. This is good; making gentler terrain more enjoyable becomes a risk management device. If you can have fun on 25-degree powder terrain, why take the avalanche risks associated with steeper terrain?
They do alright, surprisingly. Size does matter when it comes to tough snow types. We can't say it enough; choose these skis for those deepest, best days. However, if you screw up your assessment and things get sloppy or refreeze with a breakable crust, having a tool that backs you up is great. The HyperDrifter does as well in tough snow as other similar-weight skis. The more we test, the more we find that weight is the primary determinant of tough snow performance.
Lighter skis force you into survival skiing in tough snow before heavier ones, all else equal. Even when other design attributes seem wildly different (comparing, for instance, the 1500g 121mm HyperDrifter to a 1500g 95mm all-mountain touring ski), the poor snow performance comes quite close together. The poor snow performance of the HyperDrifter is acceptable to good, all things considered.
Stability at Speed
You choose these skis for deep pow wiggling. They are specialized tools for deep snow. Super deep snow is inherently slow, relatively speaking. You might also choose these for shallower snow on gentler pitches. If your terrain choice is low angle and the snow is soft, big skis like this can enhance your experience by enabling carriage of more momentum. We are still not talking about high speeds.
If you try and press these skis into truly high-speed skiing, you will get bucked around. They aren't made for high speed. They wobble and chatter and skid at high speeds. These are no-compromises, deep snow tools. When the snow is soft but fast, the Voile will keep up, but something heavier will do better.
Should You Buy the Voile HyperDrifter?
If you've got the means and have even the occasional opportunity to get into truly deep powder snow, having the Voile HyperDrifter at your disposal can be a ton of fun. The real trick is making sure you have them when you want them and aren't stuck with them on the days where they become a liability.
What Other Backcountry Skis Should You Consider?
Before you buy the HyperDrifter, you will definitely want an all-around backcountry ski like the Blizzard Zero G 105, a day-to-day hard charger. The Movement Alp Tracks 100 is another great option and is more "fast and light" optimized. Both are suitable first pairs of all-around backcountry skis. If you have a setup like that and have found yourself regularly wishing for more float, consider the HyperDrifter next. If you want a big, light fatty ski but the HyperDrifter isn't available, we also like the Black Diamond Helio Carbon 115.
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