Volkl Nanuq Ski Review: What Goes Up, Must Come Down // Ski Reviews
In a day and age where backcountry touring has become more and more popular the question of whether to lean towards alpine performance or uphill capabilities is more prevalent than ever. Too often are we sacrificing downhill performance for a super light ski, or alternatively skiing up on a heavy, alpine oriented ski, only to be completely gassed for the ski down. Ski companies all over the world have been trying to find the happy medium: a ski that will go uphill with ease, yet doesn’t sacrifice too much performance coming back down (that is, after all, the “fun” part). A few seasons ago Volkl hit the market with the Nanuq, an extremely versatile ski that perhaps hits this middle ground better than any other.
The Nanuq’s shape owes much of its design to the ever popular Volkl Mantra, with some subtle differences. The ski has an overall cambered construction, with a rockered tip, unlike the new completely reverse camber Mantra. It is also slightly narrower under foot, coming in at 96mm, compared to the Mantra’s 100mm waist. The real difference between the Mantra and the Nanuq is seen in the weight. A single Mantra weighs in at 2036g at the 177cm length, while the Nanuq comes in at 1650g, significant weight savings. This is mostly due to the Nanuq not using any metal in its construction and Volkl’s “multilayer wood core light” helps further reduce weight. Sure, it’s not a super light randonee race ski, but it’s light enough for efficient climbing.
Initially our testers commented on the weight of the Nanuq while going uphill. Some were coming off extremely light setups that sacrifice some downhill performance and noticed the extra weight when they first set off on the Nanuq. The overall impression, however, was that the Nanuq hits a really nice range for those trying to find a perfect in between weight. Although it was noticeable at first, none of our testers felt held back on their ascents by the ski. On the contrary, most seemed to completely forget that it’s heavier than their superlight setups. This is partly due to the shape of the ski. The wide shovel and rockered tip help keep the ski on top of the snow making skinning much more efficient than when your tips are sinking in deep or variable snow. Our testers were overall very pleased by the skis uphill performance.
When we got to the top, took off our skins and pointed the skis downhill, the smiles really started to come out. First of all, our testers weren’t exhausted from touring with a heavy alpine oriented ski, so our legs were fresh starting our descent. We skied a variety of snow conditions, from firm and frozen to some tracked out softer snow. The Nanuq skied quite well through whatever we pointed it towards. The light weight helps keep the skis surprisingly nimble at slow speeds despite the relatively large turn radius (24.6m at 177cm). As the ski has an overall cambered shape, it does require more input from the skier to make quick short turns than a ski with more rocker, especially one with a rockered tail. Because of this we wouldn’t necessarily recommend the Nanuq to beginner/intermediate skiers, but those who are comfortable manipulating turn shape on a bigger turn radius ski will be pleased at how maneuverable it is.
The Nanuq really shines at higher speeds where it is exceptionally stable for its weight. It handled chopped up variable snow very well and is a ski that inspired confidence through tricky situations and conditions. When talking alpine performance, the Nanuq is a lot of ski considering its relatively low weight. It’s not as quiet and stable as the Mantra, but retains some of the Mantra’s overall characteristics in the stability category. This is perhaps matched by its maneuverability at higher speeds. Contrary to slower speeds where the ski requires a fair amount of skier input, at high speeds the Nanuq carves exceptionally well, yet releases its edges and smears turns surprisingly easily for a ski with no tail rocker. It’s extremely quick and lively for a ski with a 24.6m turn radius.
Overall we were extremely impressed by the Nanuq both uphill and downhill. Volkl has achieved a ski with very even performance between ascent and descent, resulting in a ski that’s near, if not at, the top of its category. If you’re looking for a well-rounded touring ski that doesn’t sacrifice alpine performance, consider adding the Nanuq to your quiver. We were also so impressed by its alpine performance that we’re very confident recommending the Nanuq to those looking for lighter weight alpine skis. You don’t necessarily have to mount a touring binding on the Nanuq to enjoy it. If you’ve skied the Mantra and find it just too heavy, the Nanuq is a great mid-fat lightweight all mountain ski and would be a perfect “do everything” ski for lighter weight and less aggressive skiers.
Need more reasons to love the Nanuq? It’s one of the most environmentally friendly skis on the market. Volkl uses 100% recycled material on the skis base, 60% recycled material on the edges, a completely plastic-free top sheet, and limits the use of epoxy resins in the skis construction.
Now pick your binding, get out there, and have some fun!