The spring of 2014 in and around Aspen was one that backcountry riders won’t soon forget. Mid-March brought an extended melt-freeze cycle that turned our typically-treacherous snowpack into a uniform, solid structure that inspired great confidence. As a result, the types of big lines that are rarely ready before late spring–if they become ready at all–were welcoming skiers before the calendar turned to April.
Even better, subsequent snowfall came sporadically and in small doses, providing a recurring string of pow atop the rock-solid foundation.
Such rare and remarkable conditions require a rare and remarkable ski: a ski light enough to make quick work of the 4,000 to 5,000 foot accents required to gain a summit from the still snow-covered valley floors, but also wide and stable enough to make the way back down everything you dreamed it would be.
Lucky for me, I was armed with a pair of Voile V8s, the perfect ski for those perfect days.
I tested the first iteration of the V8 for Wildsnow in 2012, before it became available to the public, and spent more time gushing than a tween at a One Direction show. True to my word, I went out at the beginning of last season and grabbed a pair in the 176 length.
Because the V8 remains virtually unchanged for 2015 (aside from a minor change to the top-sheet graphic), my 30-plus days on the 2014 version of the ski should be equally applicable to Voile’s latest offering.
The 176 length sports a 112mm-width and weighs in at just a tick over 7 lbs for the pair, representing success in the fat-but-light engineering struggle, particularly given that the V8 has only a single layer of carbon fiber in its construction as well as attractive prices — on sale or not. Or, if you prefer terms created by Mad Scientist Dawson to quantify just how amazing that weight-to-size ratio is, the 176 V8 scores an impressibly low weight vs surface area score of 76, which is only a bit heavier than the full-carbon fiber feathers. In addition, the V8 gets a 9.24 on the Wildsnow weight vs length chart (which doesn’t consider width). That’s average to below average even compared to narrower skis, meaning you still get some bang for your buck when you consider the weight and width of the V8.
While any number of playful analogies describe how well the V8 climbs, I prefer to put it into terms the backcountry skier can appreciate. When the calendar turned to mid-April last season, ample powder remained at the higher elevations, but with the chairlifts closing, sidecountry excursions became a thing of the past. As a result, the buy-in necessary to sample that powder became much more expensive: generally in the neighborhood of a 5,000 foot climb.
It was at that moment that the remainder of my ski partners swapped out their fatter skis for skinnier tools, sacrificing the fun factor on the descent for easier skinning on the up. I, on the other hand, stayed true to my V8s, knowing I’d suffer virtually no weight penalty on the climb, and that I’d be laughing on the way down while my partners longed for their wider boards.
That is not to say the V8 is always the perfect choice for a big climb, however. Be warned: when your partners witness you with fresh legs and sporting skis with a 141 mm tip (in the 176), they’ll always be looking to you to break trail.
Of course, it’s once you’ve reached the top that the V8 really shines, particularly on those picturesque powder days that were the norm last spring in Colorado. With its wide shovel and a touch of rocker in both the tip and tail, the V8 floats every bit as well as your trusty resort fat ski. They are also both stable at speed yet playful and responsive, meaning they were just as fun smearing big turns on the wide-open flanks of Garrett Peak as they were hop-turning down the narrow confines of the Pearl Couloir.
When you reach the lower elevations and hero powder gives way to crud or chunder, the light weight of the V8 may briefly serve as a detriment, causing the tips to get kicked around a bit at speed, but not nearly as badly as some other light skis I’ve sampled.
Should the lower flanks be covered in glorious spring corn, however, the V8 thrives once again. With a tight sidecut, impressive torsional rigidity, a tapered tail and a 17 meter turning radius (in the 176), the ski carves fantastically well when things get firm, with nary a trace of chatter at high speeds.
Lastly, the V8 will win your affection even when resting in your garage or office, as its simple, surf-inspired top-sheet graphics are a purist’s dream.
Perfect days can be hard to come by in the backcountry. But when they happen, you don’t want to find yourself kicking yourself for your choice of skis, sullenly repeating to yourself, “I should have had a V8.”
In addition to the 176, the V8 is also available in lengths of 165, 186 and 193, with corresponding waist widths of 107, 115 and 119. You can purchase the V8 from Cripple Creek Backcountry (free shipping).
(Guest blogger Tony Nitti is a CPA specializing in tax planning. He lives in the Roaring Fork Valley of Colorado with his wife and two children. When he’s not skiing or skimo racing, he has fun writing about tax policy at Forbes.com, so he’s uniquely prepared for battering at the hands of extremely passionate commenters and talk show hosts such as he-who-shall-not-be-named.)