Pros: Powder, Crud, slushy pistes, moguls
Cons: Ice, icey hardpack
Product: 2012-2013 Volkl Shiro with Marker Baron bindings.
Length Tested: 183
Dimensions: 151-119-135, Radius: 26.4
Camber: Full Rocker
Binding: Marker Baron
Mount point: Boot Center (Volkl 0)
Environment & Conditions:
Location of Test: Chamonix & Courmayeur
Number of Runs: Many.
Snow Conditions: Ultra light powder, heavy powder, windblown powder, rain crust, wind crust, tracked out powder, corn, 90% of other crud variations, fresh icy pistes, cut up pistes, slushy pistes, soft moguls, icy moguls, slushy moguls and probably more that I've forgotten about.
Demo or Own: Own.
Height/Weight: 175cm, 70kgs.
Ski Days/Season: Average year 10-30 days.
Years Skiing: 17
Aggressiveness: Moderate(Finesse) / Aggressive(Driver) - depending on how buggered my legs are
Current Quiver: Volkl Shiro 183, Fischer RX9 175, Volkl Bridge 179 (to be sold), CoreUPT Dirty Bastards 172
Home Area: Rhone Alps
Preferred Terrain: off-piste, trees
I was absolutely terrified of skiing these skis when I first saw them lying in the hallway at home after coming back from university. Completely terrified, in part due to reading how fat skis 'just don't perform' out of their target terrain, and how damn big these ones were. The widest and longest skis I'd ever skied had been my Volkl Bridges, which next to these looked like skinny race skis (Bridges are 95mm waist).
However, I did think things through before I bought them, they're a little taller than I am, and are rockered in such a way that their size really shouldn't impede non-powder skiing all that much.
After getting to Chamonix the night before, my first run of the trip was the Vallee Blanche, 22km of off piste goodness, albeit slightly cut up off piste goodness. It was a wierd but awesome week, with snow conditions changing almost every day, we even had some rain (in Jan?!?) and like I've already listed, the vast majority of snow conditions out there.
The Shiros were a dream in almost all snow conditions.
Powder, Crud, Raincrust:
Charging down the Vallee Blanche in big wide turns through windblown and fresh powder was one of the easiest things I'd ever done, these skis feel so, so stable at speed in powder and crud it's ridiculous. One complaint I read was that it was apparently quite easy to go over the tips of these skis, although I imagine that's only happened to those who've mounted them at the 2+-3+ mounting point many of the pros have them at, as I didn't feel it was possible to go over the tips with them. Not only were they stable at speed, but also very easy to turn out of large turns into smaller ones, skiing much shorter than their 183 length.
I'm not going to say much more about their open powder performance, they're a powder ski, a damn good one at that and it's not really a surprise how well they did.
Tree skiing super light powder in Courmayeur in the later part of the trip, with my legs slowly getting more and more upset with me, they were as playful as the shorter and thinner Bridges (which as far as I'm concerned are a brilliant tree ski). Although I have to say (probably more down to the fact that my legs were dying), as the trees got tighter (0.5m gaps anyone?), I did start to notice their size for the first time.
Thanks to the variable snow conditions, I largely missed out on giving the skis a lot of hucking and air practice, although the few smaller landings that I did get to do I barely even noticed landing, the Shiros just kept going as if they'd never left the ground.
Besides being powder skis, the Shiros seem to just plough through any type of crud without the rider even noticing. They're quite flexible, first leading me to dread that they were going to be knocked about in tracked out powder and other crud like my Bridges had been, but they didn't. They just went straight through everything, leaving my legs really quite happy. They were still quick and easy to turn in crud, and were happy to charge through it as if it were powder, and really inspired confidence at charging through the stuff without worry.
I hate skiing raincrust. I suppose most people do too. Still, the Shiros were ice-breaker like and once my technique got the hang of skiing that horrible, horrible frozen pond crap it was actually quite fun to ski.
Fresh icy pistes, cut up pistes, slushy pistes, soft moguls, icy moguls, slushy moguls:
They were a lot of fun, and performed very well on anything that wasn't ice, or early morning icy hardpack. Edge to edge through slushy pistes, 'softer' piste snow they were carving like a dream, and thanks to their quite gradual rocker easy to throw into short turns when the need arose, I even enjoyed them in moguls. Using the rocker to smear and roll over moguls was actually a lot of fun, and made getting through them quick.
Their stability through crud and powder at speed was shown off again on the pistes. Also, I noticed very little chatter despite how rockered the skis are.
The only condition in which they weren't fun (but still perfectly safe to get through) was ice and early morning icy hardpack. I didn't feel at all like opening up with them and the edge hold just wasn't there when I needed to lose a lot of speed quickly.
I did a little bit of touring with them, at some quite we'll-need-to-walk-if-this-gets-any-steeper skin tracks, where the ski's width made up for my mohair skin's not-so-grippyness at steeper angles (never felt like I was about to slip, and I'm quite a novice tourer).
I'd insert a short rant about Barons freezing up, but that's nothing new, I've already ordered some silicone to stop it from happening again.
Best skis I've ever skied. So damn happy with them. And they'll shut up the 'fat skis are terrible for anything but powder' crowd, which is a nice added bonus.
I'm now selling the Bridges, which Volkl markets as the all-all-all mountain ski, something I agreed with before I skied the Shiros. The Shiros do everything better besides ice than their 95mm waisted little brothers (park is probably an exception... but why you'd ski the bridges in park is beyond me anyway...), they've just got a bigger turn radius, which in most situations is hardly noticeable nor a problem. Just try to stay away from ice, although the Bridges suck at ice too.
I think a two ski quiver for an off piste orientated skier, consisting of the Shiro and something like the Bushwhacker, Kendo or perhaps RTM (and equivalents) to deal with piste and hard snow days should cover 99% of all skiing needs.
In the meantime, the Shiro's will be my every day driver.