Like the Marker Alpinist bindings that I reviewed last month, I’ve been putting a pair of Volkl VTA88 Lite skis through their paces on some of our more strenuous trips, so I’ve now skied them everywhere from the Alps to the Caucasus and from Armenia to Arctic Norway.
In terms of what type of ski this is and who it’s aimed at, the Volkl VTA88 Lite is – as the name suggests – is a super light weight out and out touring ski, designed for dedicated ski tourers. I tested a pair of 180’s, which weigh in at just 2.26Kg a pair, so exceptionally light for a ski of these dimensions. Clearly they are a joy to push uphill, but downhill performance and durability are always the big question marks with skis this light (ie I’ve tested and broken/rejected a number of superlight touring skis over the years!)
On to the details – the skis are a classic modern touring profile, with a good length tip rocker, medium stiffness camber underfoot, flat tails and a 21m radius. Experienced ski tourers brought up skiing full camber skis will find find these very familiar, but much easier to ski on!
- Dedicated lightweight touring ski
- Lengths: 160cm, 170cm, 180cm
- Weight: 2.12kg @170cm, 2.26Kg @180cm
- Dimensions: 127/88/106
- Radius: 19m @170cm, 21.5 @180cm
- For use with pin bindings only
- Price – RRP £725
Volkl VTA88 Lite Skis
Intended Use and Setup
A ski this light is only designed for ski touring and indeed the weight optimised binding mounting area makes them only compatible with lightweight pin bindings – ie you should only buy this ski as a dedicated lightweight touring setup, mounted with a pin binding, for 100% human powered skiing; the Volkl VTA88 Lites are not suitable as a crossover/dual use touring and resort skiing ski.
On the subject of binding compatibility, the H shaped mounting reinforcement plate used in many Volkl backcountry skis, is designed for compatibility with Marker bindings – it’s also compatible with most other pin bindings, but you need to check carefully for compatibility before drilling, as it’s not compatible with certain bindings, including some popular telemark bindings etc – so the message is, check before you drill!
Ski Touring near Narvik, Arctic Norway
Not a lot to say here – they are excellent for going uphill! The VTA88 Lites are incredibly light, so appreciably less effort to push uphill than my wider setup – (which are still pretty damn light!) The relatively long turn radius makes for easy skinning and great edge hold on firmer snow and the flat tails are ideal for kick turns. I re-trimmed a pair of old skins to use with these skis which worked fine, or Volkl make custom fit mohair skins for all of their touring skis – these come with a dedicated mounting system (which uses the hole in the ski tip for skin attachment).
The only thing I’m not wholly convinced about is the ice-off topsheet, which occasionally became an ‘ice-on’ topsheet: ie sometimes in cold-but-sunny conditions it iced up more than other skis in the group, rather than less – but as this is about the only negative I can think of, it’s hardly a deal breaker.
With superlight skis, traditionally you have to accept a certain amount of compromise in downhill performance in return for the weight savings on the ascent. With this ski however, Volkl have somehow managed to retain the downhill performance whilst removing a lot of mass: on descents, they ski much better than any other ski in this weight class that I’ve owned or tested – ie there is very little compromise in downhill performance for a big saving in weight.
As mentioned earlier, if you grew up skiing full camber skis without a rocker tip, then the VTA88 Lites will feel very familiar in terms of edge hold and general ski characteristics. However, you’ll find them noticeably easier to turn and easier to ski in soft snow and powder, as the sizeable rocker tip really helps in this respect.
They offer a good amount of pop and respond well to skier input, making them agile and quick edge to edge – so definitely a ski you’ll get the most out of if you ski dynamically and at a good pace. Conversely, I wouldn’t recommend these if you ski at a slower pace, or are still working on your off piste technique, as a more forgiving ski will be more appropriate.
Skiing in crusts and trickier snow types, they proved stable and predictable – the relatively long 21m radius helping steer out smooth, controlled mid length turns and the super light weight making them easy to jump and change edges etc.
Finally, their hard snow performance was a revelation: I’ve never skied such a light ski that holds a decent edge carving on an icy piste (this is absolutely not what these skis are designed for, so it’s a very good test of their edge performance!)
Overall – very impressive downhill performance with no real weak points and best for good standard, dedicated ski tourers.
Enjoying fresh powder below the Stetind
Build Quality and Durability
As a guide, I’m keen to save weight wherever possible – but when it comes to lightweight touring skis, I still value strength and durability over maximum weight saving. The last pair of superlight skis that I had broke in their first season, on a multiday tour (whilst skinning, not skiing!) so I’m pretty wary about super lightweight skis…
The VTA88 Lites are firmly in the superlight category, so I put my faith in Volkl’s reputation for building strong skis with high quality control (and always had a spare pair back in the valley whenever possible!) Removing mass without affecting strength and ski performance is a tricky balancing act – but Volkl look to have got it right in this department, as I’ve had no issues or strength/durability concerns with these skis in their first seasons’ use. They’ve proven dependable and well built, shrugging off any hits without damage – very reassuring so far!
In summary, these are the best super lightweight touring skis that I’ve used to date – they ski exceptionally well for such a lightweight ski and their durability so far has proven good. Put it this way – when it came to handing them back at the end of the season, I decided to ask the Volkl Rep if I could buy them off him (ie for me, they are definitely a keeper!) – kindly, they’ve let me keep them for another season, so a big thanks to Volkl!