Voile Vector BC — Ski Review


This post by WildSnow.com blogger  
Cruising to the Friend's Hut on the Voile Vector BC.

Colorado, USA, cruising to the Friend's Hut on the Voile Vector BC.

I sat out last “downhill” ski season due to double knee surgery, but was getting out quite a bit on my classic xc skis. As I began to venture farther afield and off trail, I began to think something with more float would be nice. Then I saw the Voile Vector BC — a 96 waist full sized alpine ski but with fish scale traction bases. They seemed the perfect option for dinking around on rolling hills. I managed to procure a test pair at the end of the season, only getting a single day before the mountain bike beckoned.

Fast forward to this season: my knees are working like well oiled machinery and it’s game on. I’ve got about a dozen days on the Vectors, including a few early season days of doing exactly what I had intended them for — exploring gentle terrain with no real ‘skiing’ objective. They were perfect for this. The scales allowed me to efficiently cruise along up and down mellow grades through the woods. The perfect ski to ‘go for a walk.’

I’m a telemarker primarily, but have switched to the darkside nearly full time because of a little thing called the tech binding, after flirting with them on and off for the last decade. I’m 6 feet 155 lbs, and while I raced in my youth and ski fairly aggressively, I tend to enjoy shorter skis (175-180 range). The 180 length of the Vectors were about perfect. They ski shorter due to the tip rocker but have lots of float.

I mounted the Vectors with older Dynafit TLT bindings and skied them with Dynafit One PX boots. The beauty of this setup is that all that’s needed to go from ski mode to tour mode is a quick ‘Van Halen’ Dynafit move and then unbuckling of the top boot buckle (which simultaneously puts the boots into walk mode). No skins to mess with. You can literally do this while still in motion as you turn into the uptrack. Quick weapons of mass low angled powder field farming destruction!

Voile Vector BC skis and Dynafit One boots.

Voile Vector BC skis and Dynafit One boots.

Fish scale base.

Fish scale base.

I realized that these might be the perfect hut trip ski as many huts involve a long, low angled slog to get there. So in December I brought them along to the Friends Hut. I managed to get all the way to Tagert/Green Wilson (the bulk of the mileage) on just the scales. But further on the hills steepened and the skins came out of the pack. It was a bit of a shock to suddenly have the extra weight and friction of the skins to push forward after the free feeling of the scales.

The terrain around the Friends Hut is high alpine and was naturally scoured by winds. The Vectors handled icy windpack and chattery sastrugi surprisingly well given their lack of heft, and the tip rocker made breakable crust no trouble at all.

On the way out the long snowmobile road back to Ashcroft, the fish scales showed their flaw. While I had cruised along effortlessly on the way up without the friction and weight of skins to fight against; I was now fighting the friction of the scales on the way down. Everyone with flat bases was able to coast or skate all the way back to the car while I was still kicking and gliding — the same motion I’d been doing on the way up! I arrived at the car having spent much more energy than everyone else.

Since then, I’ve taken the Vectors on a few more outings, including a descent of Treasure Mountain and a day of powder and bumps at the ski resort. The Vectors are a solid, snappy ski, which I don’t need to go into further detail as Anton’s review nails it solidly. But the BC version I tried with the scales was noticeably slower on the downhills. Definitely not a good ski for the area, but I guess that goes without saying; you’ll be kicking and gliding on all the cat tracks.

Bottom line? If you like to putz around low angled terrain (perhaps for high danger days like we had in mid January this year in central Colorado) or have objectives with long rolling approaches (keyword: rolling), Vector BC could be a specialist ski in the quiver. We have many low angle approaches here, but not many rolling ones. While you grin from ear to ear on the way up those types of trails, you’ll curse the scales on the way back unless you encounter some uphills that make the scales useful. Yes, climbing skins were invented for a reason — you can remove them and fly. Traction patterned ski bases are always there, for better or worse.

Voile Vector BC
6lbs 12.2 oz / 3067g per pair 180 cm (verified with digital scale)
121/96/110
23m radius

Voile Vector BC.

Voile Vector BC.

Comments

31 Responses to “Voile Vector BC — Ski Review”

  1. Mike March 25th, 2014 7:53 am

    My wife was looking into getting a pair reecently so we took some out for a demo. I was on my non-scaled AT setup, she was on the vectors with Voile Switchbacks. She was loving it on the way up and was a bit ahead of me, which is not unusual at all. But on the way out, although she didn’t have to stop to pull skins, I was still maybe a mile ahead, easily gliding, while she was working up a good sweat kicking and gliding.

    Basically the exact same experience you had. She ended up finding a used tele setup at the local consignment shop with switchbacks and skins, for a fraction of the price of the Vectors ($200 for everything). Although it is a little heavier, she is much happier, and it saved us a ton of cash.

    Someone should invent “Glide Strips™” to cover up your scales on the way out. Opposite of skins.

  2. Sam March 25th, 2014 7:58 am

    Thanks for the review. Interesting reading. I have a pair of Vector BCs mounted with NTN Freedom bindings. Yes Wildsnow readers, those are telemark (gasp!) bindings, that’s where you can lift up your heels if you want.

    These have proven to be an excellent backcountry ski for the rolling tours and shorter shots we do a lot of in VT. I’m actually surprised not to see more of them in use. One thing that wasn’t obvious to me before using a setup like this, is that I will now take a two turn downhill shot without thinking about it, whereas with skins I don’t really want to rip and the reapply skins for shorter descents.

    I actually take these to our local resort when skiing with our 2 yr old as the scales make pushing her along flats and through lift lines much easier. I agree that you give up a good amount of glide, though I wouldn’t say you lose so much that skiing becomes unfun.

    Overall, this has been a great setup and if your entire group (or at least those setting your tracks) are using them they don’t really hold you back on the up. Of course you aren’t setting Wasatch pitched skin tracks (do you still call them skin tracks if they don’t require skins?), but out here in VT we like some of our ski partners enough to talk on the up so it all works out.

  3. Rhett March 25th, 2014 11:05 am

    I took an old pair of light, narrow tele skis, marked a grid pattern in the future kick zone with a marker, and then got to work with the Dremel tool and a sanding drum bit. Held at a low angle to the ski (with the handle angled towards the ski tail), it actually makes a pretty fair waxless scale pattern. It creates a “negative” pattern, meaning the scales are all below the level of the metal edges. Use a metal scraper to orient all the leftover fuzzies rearward. It doesn’t climb as well as a “positive” base, but doesn’t effect turning/gliding as much. Not as good as the real thing, but you’ll have kicker skins (and maybe kick wax) along anyway. It’s a great way to kill 3 or 4 hours in the garage.

  4. steveo March 25th, 2014 11:06 am

    Good review, and I agree with all the points that Nick made.

    I have the Charger BC, which is 112mm waste ski of the same basic design. It is a great BC tool, but the scales can work against you at times. I’ve found that the ski should be avoided on the ski area as it is slooow on cat tracks, and not very solid on varied terrain. It is at home on soft snow. I’ve also found that the scales do not cause undo friction on soft snow, only on hard pack. So if the snow is soft and the hills are mellow, your friends will be jealous!

    Great ski for meadow skipping on local terrain in Steamboat Springs area. I got mine brand new for $350, and mounted with Dynafit Radical.

  5. Jack March 25th, 2014 11:34 am

    maybe someone could make a fish scale skin. you would then have good rolling hills kick and be able to remove them for faster downhill sections.

  6. Gary March 25th, 2014 1:22 pm

    Jack, take a look at Black Diamond’s Kicker skins. It does what you were thinking about. I have used them for years, but I only take them when I have a long flat areas to traverse.

  7. Jack March 25th, 2014 2:55 pm

    Gary, Very cool. I’ll file that away in the mental data bank.
    Thanks.

  8. Brad Zeerip March 25th, 2014 3:33 pm

    I have a friend who got the Charger BC and they were horrible!! She had the regular charger and loved them so she decided to give the BC version a try. They did not have enough grip to climb effectively and they were not only slow on the down they also skied really poorly…totally railed and locked on edge. We took them to a shop at Jackson with a big high tech base machine and they spent 2.5 hours grinding the scales off and filling them in with P-tex. The skis now have no tunes left in them but the ski just fine. Definitely a gimmick that should be avoided at all costs unless you never want to glide or ski down a hill!!

  9. stevenjo March 25th, 2014 4:22 pm

    I was glad to see Voile make scaled ski offerings but have never cared much for the vector itself. It would be awesome if Wildsnow did a feature on how to homebrew a scale pattern on the out of date spring skis we no longer ski but loath to throw out…. I’ve thought about everything from the chisel and a 12pack to some kind of hot iron stamp but never got beyond the idea phase to give it a go.

  10. Jeff March 25th, 2014 5:48 pm

    I have the voile vector bc setup with the telemark tech binding and scarpa f3s. I ski southeastern bc.

    It’s the perfect setup for low altitude tours with multiple descents on days where I don’t want to risk avy country. I often do tours with 2-3 descents approximately the size of a moderate sized ski hill back east, without skinning up once. I’d hate to have to skin up multiple times. I’m getting so used to this gear I’m starting to get annoyed anytime I have to skin. . . Lol

    The vectors also work surprisingly well for cross country skiing off track when the powder is too deep for tradtitional cross country gear, or even my fischer s-bound 112s (though there are times camber is nice)

    No I wouldn’t want to use these skis at a ski resort. But I don’t think there is a slope I couldn’t handle with this gear. You just can’t bomb through resort chop at 95 km/hr like you do with your heavy stiff resort skis.

    I also think freeheel is an advantage for this sort of skiing – it would get pretty annoying to have to fiddle with dynafits every flat section I hit.

    This is a great setup as long as you know what you are using it for.

  11. Phil M March 25th, 2014 6:26 pm

    These things can be great for the Adirondacks, where we have long, rolling, hiking trail approaches to the goods. You almost can’t do it without either kick wax, scales, or skinny skins (skins ripped to 1″ width). I use all three, and pick my weapon for the day based on conditions.

  12. Ben2 March 25th, 2014 8:14 pm

    Kicker skins are useful but they don’t glide nearly as well as fishscale bases in my experience. Of course kick wax should be the best, but you need consistent conditions or it’s a pain. I have never used one of the Voile BC fat waxless skis, but have used a Fischer Outtabounds (narrower, less positive scale pattern) and a couple of homemade experiments with dremeling grooves into old alpine skis. They’ve all been better gliders than kicker skins, and would glide reasonably well on any slope that was false flat or downhill enough that you’d glide without skins, like an approach road.

    Maybe the Voile scale pattern is just that much more positive/aggressive in order to climb steeper tracks, and has more drag? Or people aren’t waxing these skis? You still need to put some glide wax on a “waxless” fishscale ski.

  13. Lou Dawson March 25th, 2014 8:33 pm

    Everyone, don’t forget, just use a narrower ski with a straight cut 100% mohair skin — take a tip from the rando skimo racers. It works. Occam’s razor, simplest solution.

  14. Charlie Hagedorn March 25th, 2014 9:33 pm

    If you have skin trimmings that are wide-enough, you can use them as kicker skins. They’re not perfect, but they’re free. When they work, they work well. Sometimes 1.5 cm of skin underfoot is enough, and the glide can be excellent.

  15. Ben3 March 25th, 2014 9:47 pm

    Good post Nick. From the comments looks like there’s a good deal of interest out there for this configuration.

    about two years ago I was looking into a setup exactly like this. My use cases where: 1 rolling terrain in untracked powder nordic skiing 2. for kite skiing and 3. some hut touring/winter camping trips. unfortunately the vectors hadn’t been released yet so I ended up going with madshus annums, a three pin hardwire setup and scarpa t3′s.

    A few forums I posted on for opinions all thought that I was crazy, that tech bindings/boots would destroy my feet especially on flat terrain and that any scaled ski would be a wet noodle for these things. I wouldn’t expect to charge down 50 degree stuff every day on them but maybe you never know. Anyway haven’t had much luck with serious telemark turns (freeheeling still feels most comfortable in a straight line) i have been happy with the float of wide Nordic gear on untracked powder but the weight sucks.

    Any thoughts on the overall idea of my use cases if I where to remount with tech binders and picked up some tlt’s? How would the vectors compare to my annums?

    Ive read some stuff from Luc mehl and his epic transits on similar gear but never heard much about how the gear performs (yay wildsnow gear heads and your reviews)

    Also- is it me or is this an inordinate amount of Bens on here?

    Anyway thanks again nick for the piece

  16. John S March 26th, 2014 1:25 am

    I just bought a pair of vector Bc’s and skied the Rossignol BC125′s for the past few seasons. I have a pair of chargers that I love and was drawn to the early rise of the Vectors. I’ve found the fishscale skis perform best in softer spring snow conditions. They’re great for long glacier approaches in Alaska and mellow hut trips. One thing I have noticed about the fish scales that hasn’t been discussed yet, is that they out perform traditional skis in the very wet spring snow. A traditional ski even when waxed appropriately has a strong suction effect when skiing the wet stuff. The varied base of the fish sales seems to not create as much suction and I find that I am faster on fish scales than my friends on traditional skis when the snow turns grabby.

  17. michael pike March 26th, 2014 1:34 am

    Ben3,
    I had the Karhu Guides, which became the Annums, mounted with Voile 3pin cables, and T2s. They were good for me skiing 40* pitches in Sierra spring conditions but totally sucked on low angle ice as the fish scales got totally squirrely.
    I went with the Vector BCs with dynafit SLTs and TLT5′s and couldn’t be happier.
    I have tele skied for 50 yrs, but at 66 realized my technique and thigh muscles wern’t getting any stronger. Also, although I never had a serious injury, I became more concerned with release safety. Now I can still ski my steep runs with confidence.
    Of course I have many heavier setups and do use mini skins at times. Its nice to have options.

  18. Eric Steig March 26th, 2014 8:17 am

    My 2 cents: I have thought about getting Vector BCs, but I have found that I anything that’s I can ski *up* with my Karhu Guides (= Madshus Annum), sans skins, I can ski down. If its actually steep or difficult enough that I want a bigger ski, then I’ll be using skins most of the time anyway, and there’s no need for fish scales. After waiting 30 years for someone to come out with a ski like the Vector BC, I won’t get getting em. That said, I would definitely consider them if I were planning a multi day spring trip over ice fields or other relatively flat terrain.

  19. Ron March 26th, 2014 8:51 am

    Got a pair of 180 Vector BC’s that I have used for the past three seasons. I have always had a waxless tele ski in my quiver for decades and the BC is by far the best one. So to appreciate the ski you need to have a attitude for waxless and understand the pluses and minus of waxless skiing in general. For me skiing around Tahoe the ski would surely suck skiing resort snow as the scales grab groomed snow and put the brakes on. So, IMO, they are a quiver ski for skiing soft snow in the BC and especially good on corn and Winter powder. They are great for doing long car shuttles where there is along runout at the bottom on mixed terrain and are great doing high traversing without skins when skiing gulleys and canyons to gain quick extra vert for extra turns. They can easily ski all the terrain here around Tahoe. WTBS, you need skins period for any climbing and the skis are slower overall generally and very slow on granular snow. So the scales just give you a little and are most welcome and of course do well on low angle tours. They ski well in regards to turns and smoothly skiing any decent slope in the BC. Anyway, I like them as a quiver ski, wife has a pair and she likes them as well as a quiver ski. For the guy above who has a friend who had to grind the scales off and the skis suck, Sounds like more operator inability than a flaw in the concept as there is many who ski this catagory and just about all love the skis.

    Additionally, mine are mounted tele with Voile X2 bindings and use T2 Ecos.

  20. Kevin March 26th, 2014 10:50 am

    I’ve had the Vector BC’s 180cm, mounted w/TTS bindings, driven by Scarpa F1 Carbons and BD BOA liners, for 3 years now. This set up has opened new options for me. Previously I would have avoided terrain that involved long low angle slogs before ramping up to more steep terrain. This set up allows you to much more quickly and easily traverse this terrain, to the point it is dare I say enjoyable as you kick and glide you way to hidden treasures.
    Yes once you hit the steeper inclines your back to using skins, however at times I have been able to avoid their use entirely with careful contouring and get to the top much faster.
    Down hill performance has been excellent on both powder, crust, and corn conditions. Yes on the run outs they are definitely slower, and not fun when negotiating cat tracks, Sometimes this can be an advantage when going down “low angle black diamond” gulleys that have iced up by the end of a tour on your way home.

  21. Mitch R. March 26th, 2014 8:20 pm

    Thanks for the good review and all of the comments!

    I use the Rossignol BC 125 in the BWCA, where the terrain is flat lakes or portages with deep untracked powder.

    The fish scale works fine on the flats, but requires wax or kicker skins for the portages.

    Definitely a quiver ski with a narrow application, but a huge improvement iover my old Kahru 10th Mountain skis.

  22. Ben3 March 27th, 2014 9:46 pm

    Mitch R. What boot / binding setup do you use?

  23. Mitch R. March 28th, 2014 8:01 am

    Ben3:

    I used vintage Riva 2 bindings and Scarpa T3 boots, taken from long discarded mid-90′s telemark skis.

    A simple Voile Mountaineer binding would be fine for the BWCA.

    I use thermo-moldable liners in the old T3 boots in case the inside of the boots ever get wet from lake overflow.

    Lake overflow happens when the weight of the snow cracks the ice causing the snow above the ice to become saturated with water. You are skiing along on the pristine snow, when all of a sudden, the skis break through the snow and land in the slush below.

    I looked seriously at the Vector BCs, but for the BWCA, they were overkill.

    Just so that Lou does not banish me from this site as a non-believer, I have reformed my old telemark ways just like A/T Anonymous (http://vimeo.com/8913214), learned to love the locked heal, and now happily own AT gear. :-)

  24. Lou Dawson March 28th, 2014 8:05 am

    Mitch, my telemarker filter was flashing red, but just went green. (grin)

  25. Daniel March 29th, 2014 4:01 am

    Sold mine. Simply had not enough use for them. You need either a group on similar gear or to be a solo tourer. And terrain that justifies scales. I had neither.

  26. Christian Nybø March 29th, 2014 10:40 am

    Atomic are playing around with a concept of interchangeable skin blocks for fast cross country skiing, have a look at their skin tec line.

  27. Mitch R. March 29th, 2014 12:54 pm

    Christian:

    Thank you for sharing the Atomic Skin Tec info!

    I need to get a pair of those! I have been away from Nordic skiing for 7 years, and should upgrade all of my old skis.

  28. Rob April 16th, 2014 3:12 am

    Thanks everyone for the extremely useful comments here. I just finished a short tour…3 mile approach hut trip with low-angled glade skiing and am TOTALLY sold on the waxless-fishscale concept (I’m using Fischer S-Bound 88s). I somewhat wished I had gone wider and thanks to everyone’s comments will be adding a pair of Vector BCs to my quiver. Previously I had tried Rossignol BC70s (for cross-country) with less than laudable results. I’m glad I gave waxless another try as, especially in the spring, skins can be problematic glopping up with wet snow. Thanks again for taking the time to comment and thanks Wildsnow for the article.

  29. Tom Beachman April 29th, 2014 9:49 am

    As a Tele guy who has experienced every fitful attempt at coming up with the ideal bc touring/skiing rig over the past 34 years, I have perspective. From Bonna’s, to Tuas and Toute Neige to Karhu Guides and everything in between, I can say this about the pros and cons of Voile Vector BC’s. Those of you who are telemark skiers, ignore the negative reviews by AT guys. The fishscales on Voile Vectors do work,and as a comparison, do better than the Karhu Guides or Annums. When I demoed the Vectors, the shop was so lame they never prepped them and they were horrible gliders. After I waxed and applied liquid glide wax on the Vectors, they were great.To cut to the quick, my Voile Vector BC in 180cms. is the best bc tool I have ever experienced for the telemark skier. I just don’t think the AT gear with the stiff boot, toe pivoting bindings allow for the same purchase that the good Ole Tele rig provides. PS Use with Voile Switchback bindings and you are good to go. They will climb 20+ degrees just fine.

  30. Mitch R. April 29th, 2014 10:02 am

    Tom:

    You have put bad thoughts in my head! :-)

    What boot would you use? T1, T2?

  31. Tom Beachman April 29th, 2014 1:27 pm

    I use T2 & 3. They will do the job.

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