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. Admittedly, my first thought went to “gimmick ski company”, but this review will show that this is no gimmick ski brand. Soon, I discovered that Matt Sterbenz (founder of 4FRNT) was at the helm of WNDR, and I knew these would be great skis.
In early summer, after the first stricter covid lockdowns ended, Brandon called me asking if I could take some pictures of him with a new WNDR ski 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. 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 got an Intention 110 Reverse Camber and a Vital 100 Regular Camber – this review is for the Vital 100.
Pick Your Geometry
The first thing that stood out for me was being able to pick the geometry for the ski. It’s refreshing to match the camber to the style of skiing you intend to do. I went with a regular camber, 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, which 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 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 three currently). I mounted at recommended for my primary backcountry boot, and I found it a bit more forward than I was used to, which had me questioning my decision to go shorter than WNDR recommendation of a 183 ski length. My resort-style boot had me about 1cm back from recommended, and I found this to be the magic spot for me. If I were to order again and intended only to use one boot, I would go with the recommended size of 183.
Powerful & Damp
I had the opportunity to see if I could find some limits 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 performed just as well in the powder as in moguls fields. 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 holding that energy stable enough for me to release mid-run for a quick twister or two. When I got lazy, and the bumps were smaller, I could bomb through hard chop, launch off rollers and stick less-than-ideal landings. The Vital is a powerful ski that can dampen blows while 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 do.
The Vital tail has a bit more rocker than I prefer. I like my tails relatively 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 challenging to find the magic spot. This, of course, is a personal preference, one that I could adjust to pretty quickly and 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 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 its website about why this works better for skiing. The other moves that WNDR has taken on the environmental front include their factory’s recyclable packaging and renewable energy. I’m not going to get into all that, as this is a ski review. 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 an 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 a setup I could use with a lightweight 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 lightweight 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 vast array of conditions? Do you only have enough money or closet space for a single ski for the 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/
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