This post is sponsored by SkiEssentials.com
This past Spring, I was lucky enough to get the chance to ski next year’s 2014 Volkl RTM 81 skis. I have to say, they really hit the nail on the head with this one! Volkl designed the RTM 81 to expand the RTM series, and bridge the gap between the RTM 80 and the RTM 84. At first this might seem like an unimportant void to have filled, but with just a few tweaks, Volkl managed to turn the RTM 81 into one of my favorite skis.
Let’s start with a breakdown of the basics. The sidecut on these skis is about what you’d expect for a frontside carver: 126/81/108. This puts the radius of the 176 cm length at 18.6m. So what you’re looking at is a solid, mid range radius that’s going to give you the ability to set a carve pretty easily at most speeds. This ski uses Volkl’s XTD Sensor Woodcore, which is the highest end wood core available from Volkl. It uses the most wood in its construction, providing a smooth and precise flex.
The big story with this ski though is the way that it combines its rocker profile with vertical sidewalls and a layer of steel to create a totally unique feel. In case you haven’t noticed, Rocker design is here to stay, thanks to its ability to make skis both easier to use, and more versatile throughout a variety of conditions. For these reasons, Volkl gave the 2014 RTM 81 their “Full Rocker” design, which includes a bit of early rise in the tip and tail of the ski. Underfoot, Volkl did away with Camber, giving these skis a smooth, “surfy” feel.
Ultimately, this is what sets the ski apart. Critiques of zero camber skis might suggest that this “surfy” feel leads to a lack of control on firmer conditions. What they would be forgetting in this instance, is that the Volkl RTM 81 includes both a Dual XTD Transmission Sidewall, as well as a layer of steel. The combination of these two features make the RTM 81 incredibly stable, no matter what your speed is or what the conditions are like. They also add to the unique feel of this ski, as there are few, if any, skis that offer this level of performance without camber underfoot. This is the first frontside ski that I can think of that’s given me that sort-of new “surfy” style, with complete stability.
In case you’re a bit confused by what “surfy” style might mean, let me explain for you. For the past decade or so, skiers have been focused on mastering their carves. In short, this means getting your skis on edge and letting the sidecut do the work. What this approach lacked though, was the element of being able to stop on a dime, or slip into different transitions and elements. This sort-of sideslip motion is greatly aided by the lack of camber in the RTM 81. Don’t get me wrong, the RTM 81 can still rip hard carves like the best of them, but it can also handle this new “surfy” approach to skiing.
So why exactly would you want your skis to have this new “surfy” feel to them? Well the most obvious reason is because it adds variety to what you can do on skis. Not only can you lay hard carves down the face of a black diamond run, but you can also have just as much fun slashing and sliding through the snow on green circle and blue square runs. Want to check out a bit of light snow off to the side of the trail? Not a problem, the Full Rocker and zero camber well let you float on over and spray some snow while you’re at it. See a mogul field mid way down the run? Why not lay down a few hard carves, and then let your skis surf the transitions of the moguls?
This versatility is exactly why the 2014 Volkl RTM 81 is my new favorite ski. I’ve never been on a ski that can handle high speeds, firm conditions, light powder, and moguls all at once. Simply put, these skis are extremely versatile, and feel at home no matter where you take them. A lot of times a ski with a width of 81 mm, vertical sidewalls, and a layer of metal only really feels at home when you’re going Mach 10. Otherwise, a ski like this typically has a hard time getting on edge and really powering through carves.
For me, I really enjoyed the Full Rocker profile that Volkl put on the RTM 81. I admit that I was skeptical at first, but that quickly turned to enthusiasm as I learned to embrace this new style of skiing. It’s almost like I was suddenly able to bring certain attributes from my powder runs onto the firmer groomed runs, without losing my ability to lay down the classic hard carve. Really, I can’t say enough about the Volkl RTM 81. I know that there will be some traditionalists out there who will strongly disagree with the rocker/camber profile of this ski, but in my opinion it is a very positive change. If you’re the type of skier who loves laying down hard carves, but might be getting a little bored of the same old, same old, then I would definitely give the Volkl RTM 81 skis a shot. They’ll add variety to your runs, and I promise you won’t be disappointed. I know I wasn’t!
Posted by Mike Aidala on 7/23/13