2020 Volkl Kendo 88

This one’s already making waves and it’s not even halfway through 2019 yet! The 2020 Volkl Kendo 88 is a true all-mountain ski for advanced and expert level skiers in every sense possible. By combining the traditional Kendo personality with the Titanal frame construction that’s used in the M5 Mantra and other Volkl all-mountain ski, the Kendo 88 is a dream come true for many high-level skiers. With the capability to carve amazing turns as well as off-piste capabilities that are on par with much wider and more bulky skis, the Kendo 88 is breaking down barriers all over the mountain. Our testers were pretty much enamored with the performance and versatility of these great skis.

Jeff Neagle skied the 177 and found it to be just about right. Scores of 4.5 out of 5 for stability, torsional stiffness, versatility, and overall impression are pretty telling of this ski’s ability to cross borders and boundaries. Jeff calls it a “great update to the Kendo. It takes a little while to figure it out, but once you find the sweet spot, it’s a dream.” Thanks to the 3D Radius sidecut, “long radius carves and short radius turns both can be achieved depending on how much you’re initiating the forebody of the ski.” Jeff’s medium-level scores for quickness, playfulness, and forgiveness are not surprising given the beefy build of the Kendo, and he notes that appropriately: “Not exceptionally maneuverable and not the best in tight, un-groomed terrain. Requires strong skiing technique in moguls, trees, etc.” Great analysis and feedback!

Also skiing the 177, Kelby Furrer found it to be a good length. He scored it 5 out of 5 for versatility and 4.5 out of 5 for overall impression. His 3 out of 5 for flotation is almost certainly due to the narrower waist width, but that’s what powder skis are for! He could not, however, mask his enjoyment of the new Kendo. “These skis are frickin’ sweet!! Nice playfulness, responsive as hell, crushed the groomers and the crud. They’re definitely good for advanced skiers, but I feel like anyone could enjoy this except for beginners.” This last bit echoes and reinforces Kelby’s impression of the ski as supremely versatile.

Josh Wolfgang got on the 184 and found the size to his liking. His overall impression was that he “liked it more than the Mantra. Felt very similar but was a bit more playful. It performed well in the bumps as well despite the tail being a bit on the stiff side.” This is great information from Josh, noting some similarities and differences between the Kendo 88 and the M5 Mantra. It’s only 8 mm narrower, so the tradeoff with the soft-snow performance might be closer than some skiers might think.

Justin Perry loved the 177, scoring 5’s out of 5 for stability, maneuverability, torsional stiffness, and overall impression. As an M5 Mantra owner himself, Justin has a good amount of data to base his Kendo review off of. “I’ve always been partial to the Kendo being a great, aggressive, all-mountain ski. Volkl keeps that up with another year of Kendo. Great edge hold and quick underfoot at any speed you want. This ski basically just performs.” Justin has a unique perspective on this ski, and it’s great to hear that the Kendo 88 is following properly in the Mantra’s footsteps.

The beauty of the new Kendo is that it can make any turn, any time, and at any speed. There aren’t a whole lot of skis out there that can make that claim.

Testers

Josh Wolfgang

Age: 23/24Height: 6'1"Weight: 190 lbs.

Ski Style: Fast and carvy with a love for the fall line

Kelby J. Furrer

Age: 29Height: 6'0"Weight: 160 lbs.

Ski Style: Awesome blend of speed and style

Bob St.Pierre

Age: 41Height: 6'2"Weight: 215 lbs.

Ski Style: Adaptable, versatile, ex-competitive mogul skier and coach

Jeff Neagle

Age: 33Height: 5'10"Weight: 150 lbs.

Ski Style: Aggressive freeride with freestyle background

Justin Perry

Age: 29Height: 5'9"Weight: 167 lbs.

Ski Style: Aggressive all-mountain freeride

Marcus Shakun

Age: 39Height: 6'5"Weight: 225 lbs.

Ski Style: Powerful, but playful with the terrain

25 Comments on the “2020 Volkl Kendo 88”

  1. I see that Jeff Neagle skied the 177 and found it “not exceptionally maneuverable and not great in tight, ungroomed terrain” He weighs 150 pounds.

    Kelby Furrer skied the 177 and wrote “Nice playfulness and responsive as hell . . .” He weighs 160 pounds.

    Justin Perry skied the 177 and gave it a 5 for maneuverability [and other things] and found it “quick underfoot for any speed you want.” He weighs 167 pounds.

    It appears that ski length matters, and the same length will impress skiers of different weights differently. To put it another way, any skier testing a given model of ski will likely have significantly different impressions of that model at different lengths.It’s useful to us readers to have information about the skiers’ different weights. But this also sheds light on the challenge of demo days and other opportunities to demo. For some of us guys – maybe lighter in weight, not as strong, maybe older – the shorter lengths aren’t always available for demo, making it difficult to reach a decision about buying a ski in a length shorter than those available for testing. I’d be surprised if I’m the only skier who feels this way.

    1. Hi Ben!
      We talk about this all the time, and that’s one of the nice things about our test, is that if you find a tester you identify with, either size-wise or ski ability, it makes it a bit easier to determine sizing for yourself. Everything skis differently, and we’ve noticed some pretty sizable differences between similar skis, even within the same company. We do our best to point out if a certain ski consistently feels long or short. To commiserate more, I’m on the opposite end, as a big guy, and I have to ski shorter skis and try to pretend that either I’m smaller or the ski is bigger in order to put an accurate description to the ski. It’s all in the name of fun, though! Thanks for the input!
      SE

  2. I am trying to decide between the Deacon 84 and the Kendo 88. I ski on the East Coast, but try to get at least one trip to Utah per year. I ski mostly on piste, hard pack (or icy conditions), with occasional forays into the moguls or powder if it’s around. I would call myself an advanced skier, and I tend to ski fairly fast. Given all this, I have been leaning towards the Deacon. That being said, I’m worried that the Deacon might be a bit demanding, especially at the end of the day. I’m 50 years old, and my legs are not what they used to be. My sense is that the Kendo will also perform well at speed on hard pack, while being a bit easier to handle. Any advice would be appreciated.

    1. Hi Matt!
      I’d say the Kendo will tire you out faster than the Deacon just because it’s heavier. They’re both pretty stiff, and we’ve actually been discussing these skis and their similarities around the office lately, so it’s a pretty good comparison. My co-worker thinks that Volkl should not have made both, as they kind of cancel each other out. Yes you get better pure carving performance from the Deacon, but the Kendo is no slouch either. Off-trail, in the moguls, and elsewhere where turn variety is key, the Deacon does just fine, and in fact, outperformed my expectations. For a one ski east coast stick, I think the Deacon is the way to go. If you go out west and it snows, do yourself a favor and rent some wider skis. Have fun!
      SE

      1. Thanks for the advice! I think it makes sense to rent skis out west for heavy snow, instead of trying to have one ski for all possible conditions. Given this, maybe it makes more sense for me to go with the Deacon 80 for an East Coast carver / occasional off piste ski. I suppose the 80 would be a bit lighter, and based on your review it seems like it might be a bit more flexible. From what I can tell, the main difference in construction is the lack of a titinal frame, but all the reviews seem to indicate that the 80 is very stable at speed on hard snow. Any thoughts on the 80 vs the 84? Thanks!

    2. Matt,
      I just spent some time on both of those skis. Seems like we’re pretty similar (east coast, mostly on trail). I’m 58 and legs are the first things to get tired. I really liked both skis, but the Deacon 84s were a bit more fun while still being very controllable. The Kendos felt a bit more “serious” and a bit more work, but I also felt like they were guiding me towards better skiing. FWIW. I think you’d be happy with either.

  3. Kendo 88 vs. Kenja 88???
    Is there any difference in the way these skis perform? The Kenja wasn’t available for testing yesterday, but I fell in love with the Kendo at the 170cm length. Being a woman, I do prefer the Kenja‘s graphics so would like to order a pair as long as they bring everything to the mountain as the Kendo does.

    1. Hi Becky!
      No difference at all! The Kenja’s graphics and the shorter lengths are the only thing setting them apart. Same build. Have fun!
      SE

  4. Hello Jeff, i really need and advise for my next buy. I weight 72 kg and my height is 1.77. My sky level is advanced, not expert in comp but good level.
    I have a doubt between the Kendo 88 and the Kanjo 84. I want the stability of the Kendo in high speeds and off piste , but after reading about the Kanjo , i like to make short turns and a easy going ski. My fear is that the Kendo forces to do only big turns.
    Thank you for your help, happy new year! r

    1. Hi Daniel!
      While the Kendo does fare well in long turns, the 2020 has Volkl’s 3D Radius, which gives the ski more versatility in terms of turn shape. A lot of skiers in our test were surprised at the upper-end of the Kanjo, so if you’re worried that it won’t be high-performance enough, I feel like our testers experiences should assuage any hesitations. I’d say the Kanjo is the way to go. Have fun!
      SE

  5. Hi SE!

    I have a similar question to Daniel above. Kendo 88 vs. Kenja 84? I’m an advanced and experienced skiër (184 cm; 78 kg) which skies both on and off piste, high speed and likes to do both bigger and smaller turns. Would you still stick to Kanjo?

    Thanks in advance! All the best.

    Kind regards,

    Daan

    1. Hi Daan!
      I think so. That Kanjo has a surprisingly high-performance ceiling. There’s not a huge difference in width, so unless you really want the extra 4 mm in width and an extra sheet of metal, I’d stick to the Kanjo. Have fun!
      SE

  6. Intermediate (advanced at one point in life) dad skier here who grew up in Utah and trying to get my kids into skiing now that they are old enough.

    6’1”, 185 lbs – been going back and forth between Kendo, Mantra and Nordica Enforcer. I keep seeing how amazing the Kendo is over the years, but don’t want to “punch above my weight class” in terms of expertise if I go with the Volkl. I’ll be mostly chasing my kids on groomed run, hitting the blue runs and the occasional hope to get off piste in the trees, and at times challenge myself with black diamonds, moguls, etc with skis that I can use for a long time.

    Any advice on what I should go with for the above, as well as any other brands/models to consider?

    1. Hi Brandon!
      Are you looking for a ski for you or for skiing with your kids, because they’re two pretty different things. I use a Nordica Soul Rider 87 to ski with my kids and I also have an Enforcer for my own skiing. I’ve tried the Enforcer with the kids, and it’s very tiresome. I can ski the Soul Rider for myself and have a good enough time on it while I don’t really ever want to use my Enforcers with my kids again. This pair of skis for you might have to border on the tool rather than toy side of things. That said, on your list, I’d go with the Kendo because it’s lighter and easier to ski than the other two, and still has a very high gear. Hope that helps!
      SE

      1. Thank you! I plan to go for myself but to help the kids and then ski with the kids as they improve. (I’ll let the ski schools take care if the MAJOR work at the beginning 😃).

        With my size which Kendo length would you recommend?

  7. Hi – Trying to decide on a narrower pair of skis in a quiver of 2. I have I skied Fischer Ranger 102 FR 177 mounted at +2cm from recommended (that I bought from skiessentials) for the past couple seasons that I really like. This season I got some Moment Wildcat 108 184 – never thought I’d say this but I found them to be for me just simply more fun overall on almost all the days (west coast/tahoe 5’7 150 expert with priority on tree skiing and fast). Wildcats are surfier and very quick and pivoty but can also go very fast. Debating what might be my narrower ski for the minority of days of firm/ice or just plain ski FAST on-piste, to potentially complement the Wildcats and be a different style of skiing (longer effective edge, damper, fast, more chargy and less playful).
    Options:
    1) keep the ranger 102: altho there will hardly be any days I want to take them over wildcat 108 because wildcats are in a way even more fun to carve once im going fast enough and have them on edge, and I dont think theyre even enough better on ice to even justify owning vs selling to someone else to enjoy. Also for the more centered type of stance the skis with shapes like these require, wildcats are more fun and smooth.
    2) Mantra M5 177: I think more damp, narrower, better carve, better on ice/firm, less quick/surfy/pivoty than wildcat 108
    3) Kendo 177: same as what I said about Mantra M5 but even narrower: are they more damp / fast than M5?
    4) Ranger 94 177: not different enough from ranger 102 to justify here perhaps? And I think maybe not different enough from even the wildcats in terms of chargy vs playful to really justify for me on west coast?

    1. Hi Jeff!
      I like to have more difference in my quiver–usually trying to keep 10mm between ski widths so as to avoid crossover. It sounds like you’re looking for a 108 to 96 split to me. I’d go with the M5 as you may find that the Kendo is a bit too narrow–sounds like you prefer wider skis. You’ll lose a bit of edge grip and quickness from M5 to Kendo, but not too bad. That’d be a great two-ski quiver for your application, I’d say. Take care!
      SE

  8. Hi!
    I would like to buy a kendo 88 but I don’t know which size I should choose.
    My height is 6ft1 and my weight is 164 lbs. I’m 21 and I’ve an advanced level. I’m skiing a little bit more on the piste than off piste (70%-30%).
    So which kendo size do you advise for my profile? 🙂
    Thank you very much

    1. Hi Baptiste!
      I’d go with the 177 in your size and stats. The 184 might be a bit cumbersome unless you know that you like longer skis and greater stability at speed, but overall I think the 177 will let you have more fun with a bit more quickness and maneuverability. Take care!
      SE

  9. Good morning,

    I just ordered the 170cm Kendo. I’m 65, 5’8″, 160 lbs and focused on high speed cruising in the Canadian Rockies. I struggled deciding between the 170 and 177 and am looking for validation that I made the right decision?

    Gary

  10. Hi!

    I am trying to decide between the Deacon 76 and the Kendo 88. I ski on Chile, mostly on piste, hard pack groomed, with occasional forays into off piste if it’s around. Im an advanced skier, and I tend to ski really fast. Im 24 years old, height 187 CM and weight 82 KG
    Given all this, I have been leaning towards the Deacon because of the carving experience (I always had this tipe of skis).
    However the guy of the ski shop recommended me more the Kendo 88, saying that also is really good on carving and you have more versatility. The thing is that Im scared of changing the tipe of skis that I used to and I have the doubt about if the Kendos will maintain the edge carving at high speeds in groomed snow and is not going to be a little bit floppy or soft skis.
    Any advice would be appreciated.
    Best Regards

    1. Hi Alejandro!
      The Kendo is not nearly the carver that the Deacon 76 is, so if that’s the type of skiing you enjoy, then I’d go Deacon. True, that the Kendo is more versatile, but that doesn’t sound like what you’re looking for. Conversely, if you adventure off-piste, you’re not going to get the capabilities of the Kendo. It’s all about compromise, but it sounds like you’re correctly leaning to the Deacon. Always looking for a middle-ground, you should also check out the Deacon 84 just for kicks. Have fun!
      SE

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