The perfect ski job? Bob Perlmutter may have it. As co-manager of Aspen Mountain Powder Tours, he has been taking clients snowcat skiing on the back of Ajax for the past 30 years. 10,000+ vert on work days, 35 years of AT skiing with Lou, and various other ski adventures around the world makes Bob a valued contributor for the WildSnow Ultimate Quiver review. Two years ago, he skied the Volkl Nunataq in a 178 cm. Other WildSnow reviewers loved the ski. He didn’t. He said the 178 felt like a clunky GS ski with little playfulness, and had to ski them fast, 30 mph or more, before they felt responsive. Perhaps they were too long since he is 130 pounds, 5’8″ tall, and generally prefers a slightly shorter ski.
This year, Volkl sent us the Nunataq in 170 cm. Just as a tailored pair of jeans can make you look better than Beyoncé, the right length can turn a ski from clunker to cruiser. Would the 170s impress Bob? I handed them over and here’s his take.
“I skied them for five days of guiding snow cat powder skiing with a run down late afternoon groomers on Aspen Mountain to top off the day. The experience was exactly opposite of my previous time on the 178’s. To my surprise, I found the 170 Volkl Nunataq to be perfectly sublime, smooth as silk yet surprisingly responsive. Despite what I thought would be too short, 170 cm provided adequate surface area to float pow yet offered energetic life and responsiveness, not too damp or too dead despite the smoothness.
The real test came when a group of young, sponsored free ride athletes showed up to book the cat. Bachelor party alpine style…I knew it would be a day of non stop, hard-charging hubris. Not quite ready to trust the Nunataqs, I spent the morning on my favorite full carbon construction powder planks. In the afternoon I switched over to the Nunataqs. To my delight, they easily kept pace with the exuberant lads. When it came time to put the pedal to the metal, they didn’t let me down. Age, cunning, and the right equipment still holds it’s own with youthful exuberance less the big air.
In the shorter 170 cm length, the Nunataqs were much more maneuverable than the 178s I skied previously. Nor did they require mach schnell speeds to get them going. That said, I still found the optimum turning radius to be rounder with a medium to longer radius turn shape. The Nunataq doesn’t offer the lightning quick edge to edge responsiveness of narrower skis or full carbon construction skis, but the preferred turn shape is not one lacking responsiveness.
The Nunataq is fully rockered tip to tail. It took a few turns on a late afternoon groomer down Ajax to figure out how to carve and not wash out. But once I dialed in the stance, I was impressed with how well they tracked for a shorter length. Being fully rockered they required a higher edge angle but once tipped over on edge they engage quite well, carving beautiful arcs. Also, the skis had no issues with deflection in chopped snow. When I farmed an acre of sun crust, they sliced through it like powder.”
Volkl Nunataq 170 cm, 139/107/123, 1618 grams or 57 ounces per ski. Below average WildSnow surface vs weight score.
Mounting position notes: Bob skied at neutral position as marked on the 170s. The indicated mount position for our 2012/13 178s seemed a bit rearward mounted. Lou skied them that way as well as mounting 1 cm forward, which he liked better. The newer 178 Nunataq with the updated graphics has a changed mount position and mounting on factory mark is where you want to be. True to form with our extensive testing of Ultimate Quiver skis, we’ve frequently been trying different mount positions. Doing so sometimes results in too much workshop time, but has been worth it time after time.
Shopping notes: The graphics will change for 2013/14 but the award-winning Nunataq is the same ski no matter which model year. We’ve seen these on sale at brick-and-mortar shops so if you can’t find any online do some phone calls. Nunataq was overall winner of this season’s Alpin Magazine ski tests, which is significant. During testing this year we’ve found our selected ski lengths to be as important as ever, as is the boot mount position. Perhaps things have always been that way and we’re just more sensitive for some reason. Whatever the case, if you are Bob’s size be sure to consider the 170 length. If you’re larger, Lou and other testers concur that the 178 length is their favorite and a go-to winner. Overall, no doubt whatsoever that Volkl Nunataq will again be in our Ultimate Quiver.
Check Backcountry.com and see if they’ve got any.