The first time I heard about WNDR skis was in early 2020 while going for a quick lap with Brandon Gulstene. His top sheet stood out and I questioned what brand it was, “Wonder, they’re from Salt Lake City and they use Algae instead of petroleum…” is what I’m sure the answer sounded like. Admittingly, my first thought went to “gimmick ski company” but, as this review will show, this is no gimmick ski brand. Soon I found out that Matt Sterbenz (founder of 4FRNT) was at the helm of WNDR and I knew at the very least these would be great skis.
In early summer, after the first stricter covid lockdowns ended, Brandon gave me a call asking if I could take some pictures of him with a new WNDR ski that was coming out in the 20/21 season. At the time I didn’t know much about the ski he was using, as it was a prototype, but I was happy to help. Later in the summer Brandon joined me on a rather silly summer ski mission, again he had the new WNDR prototype in hand which had been named Vital. At the time I was also in contact with Pep Fujas, who left K2 to join WNDR in a marketing and product position, and he offered to send me a couple of WNDR skis to try out. I ended up getting a Intention 110 Reverse Camber and a Vital 100 Regular Camber – this review is for the Vital 100.
Pick Your Geometry
The first thing that really stood out for me was being able to pick the geometry for the ski. It’s refreshing to be able to match the camber to the style of skiing you intend to do. I went with a regular camber as I was hoping to use the Vital both at the resort and in the backcountry. The Vital is marketed in a “go anywhere, do anything” approach and I wanted to see how true that held. For me reverse camber is more of a “powder only” ski, so I got the 110 width with reverse, which I’ll be doing a separate review for.
I ended up getting the Vital in a 176cm length, their website recommended I get 183cm but for resort skiing I enjoy a slightly shorter ski. The 176 came in at around 1750g per ski, this of course is a bit heavier than all of my other backcountry skis in the same width range but it shouldn’t be considered “heavy”. The weight also has an upside, I can charge variable snow harder on the Vital than I can on a ski that weighs 300g less. I also found skiing bumps and taking airs with bad landings easier to pull off with the extra weight.
I mounted a Plum Guide 12 to the Vital 100 because I wanted to use the ski with all my boot models (I have 3 currently). I center mounted for my main backcountry boot and I found the center mount a bit forward than I was used to, which had be questioning my decision to go shorter than WNDR recommended. My resort style boot had me about 1cm back from center and I found this to be the magic spot for me. If I was ordering again and intended to only use one boot, I would go with the recommended size of 183 and mount it on their center line.
Powerful & Damp
I had the opportunity to see if I could find some kind of limit for the Vital during a recent powder day at the resort. The day started with fresh lines and easy turns but quickly became chop before ending with mega bumps. The ski preformed just as well in the powder as it did in moguls fields. In fact this ski had me skiing moguls like I was 20 again, I was extremely impressed by how smooth the ski felt in large carved out bumps, while still being able to hold that energy stable enough for me to release mid run for a quick twister or two. When I got lazy and the bumps weren’t as large, I was able to bomb through hard chop, launch off rollers and stick less than ideal landings. This is a powerful ski that seems to be able to dampen blows while still holding the energy I need to pop off the next feature. If there are limits to the Vital I won’t be the skier to find them and I want an autograph of the ones that does.
The tail has a bit more rocker than I prefer. I like my tails fairly flat/stiff and although I wouldn’t say the Vital isn’t stiff, it’s obviously not flat. I like to do a lot of little roller pops/tail jibs and it took me a bit to figure out that I needed to release the energy closer to my heel than off the actual tail. When trying to do a tail press in powder I found it difficult to find the magic spot. This of course is a personal preference, one that I was able to adjust to pretty quickly and it was definitely not a deal breaker. The tails also don’t hold skins on very well before altering them a bit, luckily WNDR has added a soft end cap on their tails and cutting out a little groove for the skin is super easy – every ski company should be adding these end caps at this point.
Algae & Environment
“Are those the algae skis?”, is often the first thing I hear while out skiing on a WNDR. I don’t know enough about the algae subject to comment on it other than it’s awesome to see companies move away from petroleum. Outside of the environmental reasons for the switch, WNDR has a whole whack of info on their website about why this works better for skiing. The other moves that WNDR has taken on the environmental front include recyclable packaging and renewable energy in their factory. I’m not going to get into all that, as this is a ski review, but again you can read all about it on their website.
One Ski Quiver
After using this ski in the backcountry and at the resort I can safely say this is a excellent choice for those looking to own one ski that can do it all. I’ve skied the Vital in everything from steep ice off backcountry summits to resort powder with a smile on my face. Mounting this ski with a Plum Guide provided me with a setup I could use with a light weight backcountry boot and a heavier resort style boot while being able to ski at the height of my ability in each situation. By putting a light weight binding on it the overall weight is less of an issue too.
The Ski For You?
Are you looking for a powerful ski that can handle a huge array of conditions? Do you only have enough money or closet space for a single ski which you need for resort, backcountry powder and spring missions? Are you willing to trade 300g per ski for increased performance? If so the WNDR Vital 100 is an excellent choice.
For more information about WNDR check out their website at: https://wndr-alpine.com/