2017 Volkl RTM 86 UVO Ski Review: Power, Grip, Speed // Ski Reviews
Volkl has been turning heads in the past few seasons with some innovative designs and really high performing skis. Whether it’s the new 90Eight, the updated Mantra and Kendo, or even their more freeride/freestyle skis like the One and the Revolt, they've kept us, and the rest of the skiing community, quite impressed. This season Volkl made some big changes to their frontside oriented, “all-mountain” RTM line much to the delight of skiers who like responsive, energetic carving skis.
The previous (2015 and prior) versions of Volkl’s RTM line played around with reverse camber skis. In fact, in the past few seasons we’ve seen A LOT of reverse camber Volkl skis across all their lines: powder, freeride, and even frontside carving. In some cases, like the Volkl One and even the Mantra, the reverse camber works really well. In the RTM series, however, it was met with some mixed reviews. Less aggressive intermediate and even advanced skiers generally liked the previous RTM as it was extremely user friendly. It was easy to initiate turns, not overly stiff, and relatively forgiving for a frontside carving ski. These same characteristics, however, turned some more aggressive advanced and expert skiers away from the RTM series. Some felt the skis were too quick to release their tail edge or were constantly either initiating for exiting a turn, instead of holding smooth powerful carves.
For this season, and carrying over into 2017, Volkl completely redesigned the RTM series and gave us a new, wider model, the RTM 86. We saw big changes in the design, construction, and technology supporting the new skis. First off, and perhaps most importantly, the skis now have a rocker/camber/rocker design instead of the full reverse camber (full rocker) we saw on the previous versions. We’ll talk about how this effects performance a little further down in this article, but for now let’s just say we were happy to see camber in the RTM line. Camber generally provides energy and responsiveness that full rocker skis lack, characteristics we think are important for aggressive performance frontside skis.
The construction of the new RTM 86 is also completely reworked. The skis now use Volkl’s 3D.Ridge technology, which was previously only found on their V-Werks models. Volkl boasts that this new build style is probably the most effective construction ever conceived by Volkl engineers, and that’s saying a lot. Essentially the skis use a raised center ridge that tapers off as you reach the tips. This reduces overall weight and inertia around the center of the ski, which increases agility and maneuverability. It also allows Volkl to really hone in on the proper flex characteristics of each individual model. In addition to performing better than the previous RTM construction, it also looks much sleeker and overall more aesthetically pleasing. Volkl also uses their UVO technology, which is a freely floating vibration damper system that’s really quite unique. This reduces vibrations and chatter in both the horizontal and vertical aspects of the ski resulting in a much smoother ride, and uninterrupted, improved edge grip.
So, now you know the major design and construction changes in the new RTM series. You’re probably wondering what we actually thought of the RTM 86 when we hit the slopes. We’re happy to report the new RTM series is definitely an improvement over the previous construction, and as you might have guessed, the RTM 86 is now the top performer in their frontside oriented all mountain collection. We spent time on both the RTM 86 as well as the slightly narrower 84 version. The 86 is certainly a stiffer ski that really works best for aggressive advanced and expert skiers. Those who aren’t driving as powerful turns will likely prefer the 84 as it is noticeably softer flexing, although still performs very well. The 86 likes to be skied hard and fast, and will reward you if you’re comfortable doing so. At slow speeds, the ski at times seems almost too stiff and too stable, but as soon as you start building speed and arcing more powerful turns, it all starts to make sense and turns into a pretty beautiful thing.
The stability and smoothness of the RTM 86 is very impressive. Even the most aggressive skiers will have a hard time out-skiing the abilities of this ski. It’s not really a good choice for skiers who want a cruising, easy-to-ski groomer ski. Those skiers will likely prefer the softer, narrower RTM 81. Because it’s relatively stiff and a pretty wide platform for a carving ski, the skier really needs to drive the ski. Some have called it tiring, but we call it rewarding. A powerful expert ski doesn’t need to be easy to ski in our opinion. The RTM 86 is certainly not for everyone and less aggressive skiers may find them overwhelming and tiring. Aggressive, powerful skiers, however, will love the skis ability to stay calm and smooth no matter how hard you charge. As soon as you get the ski at speed you’ll absolutely forget about any “tiring” nature you felt at slow speeds as it’s replaced with smoothness, edge grip, and balance that’s pretty unmatched for a carving ski with a mid-80mm waist width. Because it’s best at high speeds, it’s perhaps not a great choice for a one-ski-quiver, although the waist width could potentially suggest that to some. Unless you’re spending the majority of your time on-piste, you’ll want another ski in your quiver for trees, moguls, powder, etc. However, If you are the type that just likes to carve turns on groomers, no matter the snow conditions, you’ll love the RTM 86 as the width allows you to make powerful turns even through soft snow conditions as the ski doesn’t get bogged down and caught up as much as a narrower ski would.
To summarize, The RTM 86 is a powerful, smooth, carving ski. Intermediate and less aggressive advanced skiers may find it a little bit overpowering and should look towards either the RTM 81 or 84 as a carving ski or to the Kendo or as an all mountain ski. The new construction and technology is extremely commendable and Volkl has really made a big improvement over the previous version of the RTM and has turned the ski into what we always wanted it to be: an aggressive hard charging frontside ski that will leave railroad track trenches all over your local groomers.