Long Term Review: 2020-2021 WNDR Vital 100

Clay Malott | | Gear ReviewGear Review
Powder skiing on the Vital is a treat! Photo credit: Clay Malott

This past winter and spring, I had the pleasure of skiing on WNDR’s brand new Vital 100 skiAll too often in the ski industry, equipment is reviewed for a handful of days and then is sent back to the brand. I had the incredible opportunity to ski over sixty days on these skis this season, which has given me a well-rounded, detailed feel for the ski; its strengths, weaknesses, and performance in every snow condition and terrain. This ski is designed to be a backcountry ski, but skiing on it at the resort allowed me to push it to its limits, and hence why I’ve included several resort test criteria (moguls, groomers, etc.).

If you’re unaware why WNDR Alpine is so awesome and is creating so much excitement in the industry, you can read my post detailing what makes WNDR so specialAnd now, without further ado, the review!

Reviewer Stats:

  • Name: Clay Malott
  • Days skied on the 2020-2021 WNDR Vital 100: 63
  • Height: 6’3″
  • Weight: 160lbs
  • Skiing Level: Expert
  • Boots used: Scarpa Maestrale XT, Scarpa F1, Salomon S/PRO 120
  • Bindings used: Salomon Shift 13
  • Testing location: Aspen, Colorado

Technical Specifications:

  • Dimensions: 126-100-118mm
  • Radius: 24m @ 183cm
  • Weight: 1850g @ 183cm
  • Lengths available: 169, 176, 183, 190cm
  • Camber profiles available: Rocker-Camber-Rocker, Reverse Camber
  • Intended Use: Backcountry

Powder:

Powder skiing on the Vital is a treat! Photo credit: Clay Malott

This ski was absolutely excellent in powder and soft snow, considering its dimensions. At 100mm underfoot, the WNDR Vital is by no means a powder ski. However, the secret to the Vital’s exceptional performance in this category is the 126mm tip width, which allows it to pop up still and float in deeper snow. Unlike some other powder skis that I’ve been on in the past, the WNDR Vital doesn’t completely prevent you from sinking at all; I found that it was the perfect mixture between float and sink, where it’s floaty enough to retain speed but allows you to sink enough to cherish the feeling of slicing through fluffy delight. There were only a few days this season that had me wishing for a slightly wider ski. Category score: 9.

Groomers and hard snow:

Despite its low weight, the WNDR Vital was still able to charge on hard snow. Photo credit: Clay Malott

As mentioned above, this ski is made for backcountry skiing. However, when skiing in the resort, I was really blown away by its performance at speed on hard snow, especially considering its low weight at 1850g per ski. The dampness of the Vital on hard snow quickly became the most impressive part of the ski in my mind; I was able to ski very tricky, firm snow without significant chatter. This ski is moderately stiff, so it didn’t necessarily have the same energy out of the apex of a carving turn at speed as a stiffer, resort-specific ski. However, despite its low weight, this ski absolutely blows other touring skis out of the water on hard snow and could even compete with some softer resort-specific skis. Category score: 8.

Crud/chopped snow:

Skiing in chopped conditions is always more difficult than consistent snow, particularly when the crud is set up after a minor melt and freeze cycle. I was extremely grateful for the Vital’s slightly heavier weight in the backcountry compared to other skis. The ski’s weight allowed it to plow through whatever junk was thrown at it much more than lighter touring skis, and I never felt like they were getting thrown around to the point where it was unmanageable. I was quite impressed with the performance in this category. Category score: 8.

Turnability:

Me, mid hop-turn, enjoying the poppy, energetic Vital 100. Photo credit: Levi Kritzik

The nimbleness of the ski was hands down my favorite aspect of it. There are numerous situations where this comes in handy. In moguls, I could transition from one mogul to another efficiently and without having to muscle the ski around the turns. In the trees, I was able to fly through them. The relatively lightweight nature and the playfulness that comes with the camber design allowed me to make split-second turns that would be otherwise impossible with traditional downhill skis. In tight chutes, the springy camber made short, hoppy turns extremely easy and smooth. Since the ski isn’t too stiff and has a nice camber shape to it, it doesn’t take much energy to charge the ski for a turn but it was still supportive enough to give the pop for fun and energetic turns in tight situations. This was by far my favorite part of the ski, and if I could give it an 11, I would! Category score: 10.

Touring:

In a touring ski, there are always compromises. In many lightweight touring skis, they absolutely fly uphill but are very chattery and unstable on the descent. In the case of the Vital 100, they are heavier than a flimsy skimo ski on the skin track but are an absolute dream on the descent. I mounted the Vitals with the Salomon Shift binding, which allowed me to push the ski to its limits to test it without being limited by binding performance. If you mounted these with a lighter, proper touring binding, I think it would be a very nice choice for a well-rounded daily driver, a ski that performs well on the up and the down. Category score: 7.

Overall impressions:

I must admit, when I first heard about WNDR Alpine’s innovative derivation of materials, I was skeptical. “How can material obtained from algae stand up to hours upon hours of charging hard in the mountains?” But after a full season of testing them, my doubts have been extinguished. WNDR Alpine is leading the charge on sustainable engineering in the ski industry, and they are doing so without compromising ski performance.

I would recommend the Vital 100 for a skier looking for a touring ski without sacrificing downhill performance. Although WNDR Alpine advertises the Vital 100 as a backcountry ski (which I loved in the backcountry), I can absolutely see this ski seeing significant usage in the resort, as well. When paired with a downhill oriented binding like the Shift, I could absolutely see these being used a 50/50 resort/backcountry ski.

Overall, I am very impressed with the product that WNDR has produced. I will absolutely be continuing to ski on the Vital 100 for many seasons to come!


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