2020 Volkl Deacon 84 Ski Review: // Ski Reviews
Replacing one of the world's most popular skis is no easy task, but if anyone is up for the challenge, Volkl can certainly answer the call. Ever since 2012, the RTM 84 has dazzled troves of front-side skiers with its poise, precision, and all-around versatility. They intended the ski to, quite literally, Ride The Mountain, and that's exactly what it did for almost a decade. For 2020, the RTM line has morphed into and joined up with the Deacon line, previously known only for its beer leaguer race skis. Now the Deacon line is quite formidable, with the 84 at the top of the width list, as the 86 has been dropped. Some things have changed, and others have stayed the same, but the overall nature of the ski is right where it should be-a total and complete package when it comes to on-trail precision and off-piste possibilities.
The 3D Ridge that's found on the previous RTM's, and current Flair and Freeride models carries over to the Deacon 84, but in a slightly different way. The ridge is designed to absorb vibrations and make for a stable ride, and it does a great job at that. With the new design, the 3D Ridge is integrated into the ski in a bit lower of a format. It's more recessed into the core, so it doesn't stick out quite like the previous version. This allows for the vertical sidewalls to take hold and bear the brunt of the power to the edges of the ski. By combining the 3D Ridge and the Titanal Frame, the Deacon 84 is a substantial improvement in overall poise and stability.
Volkl started using its Titanal Frame when the M5 Mantra was introduced, and it makes a lot of sense as far as on-trail skiing is concerned. The metal over the edges in the frame makes for a highly precise and predictable carve, with minimal vibrations and maximum power. So why not put it in their carving skis? Well, they did, and it works. Since the frame doesn't extend throughout the whole ski, but rather starts and stops between the forebody and the tail, it allows for a more consistent and natural flex pattern throughout. For a carving ski, this also makes a lot of sense in that it affords a deeper carve and a smoother turn. The Titanal Frame eliminates the need for the UVO on the previous RTM 84, making for a sleeker look and a smoother performance. This brings us to the next point of order of the all-new Deacon 84, the 3D Turn Radius.
I've got to quote from Volkl here, as the verbiage can be tricky, but again, the bottom line is that it works. "Three radii in one ski shape deliver maximum versatility-long radii at the tip and tail provide stability and smoothness, and a short radius in the mid-body allows the skier to switch from long arcs to short turns at will, at any speed!" So how does this technology translate to the actual slope? Really well, in fact. Basically, it means that you can make any turn shape at any time. Volkl lists three different radii for the Deacon 84, but at the 177 cm length, they average it out to a 16.9-meter shape. I noticed that the more you pressured the central portion of the ski, the quicker it came around. I will say that it did take me a run or two to figure it out, but after that, the ski felt natural and intuitive and responsive to my input. When I felt like opening it up and making longer radius turns, the ski responded in kind, and wasn't twitchy like a normal 17-meter radius ski can be at higher speeds. They're claiming a 24-meter radius in the tip, so when you're going fast, this is the shape that the ski wants to take. When you set your edge hard, short-swing turns result accordingly. This technology is now being used on a handful of Volkl's 2020 skis, including the Kendo 88, so it looks like they're putting some serious stock into this design.
As a system ski, you're getting a Lowride XL 13 FR binding with GripWalk capabilities. The biggest distinction with this system is that Volkl has lowered the stand height 10 mm over the previous RTM 84 version. This brings the skier closer to the snow and offers greater precision and balance. The rails are still integrated into the ski, so the resulting performance is still exact and pin-point accurate. Being closer to the snow gives you a quicker edge to edge ability, further increasing your ability for short-swing turns and off-trail capabilities. Speaking of off-trail...
At 84 mm underfoot and with an XTD tip and tail rocker profile, the Deacon 84 is one of those skis that blurs the line between front side and all-mountain. As such, it's important that we test this thing off-piste. It's a great groomer ski to be sure, but how about moguls, trees, and crud? First off, my initial test run on these skis was made on a trail full of death cookies, so I was challenged right from the start. I was very impressed with their composure and stability even when confronted with difficult snow conditions. Off-trail that day, there was a bit of fresh snow, and the 132 mm tip of the Deacon 84 stayed right on top of it all. The low stand height combined with the quick-turning nature of the ski made moguls and trees easy and fun to ski through. While the older RTM 84 had thinner sidewalls, the Titanal Frame of the Deacon 84 has beefier sides, and this gives the skier a lot more confidence in off-trail scenarios. I always felt like I was going to catch an edge on the RTM, but not so much with the Deacon. It's a whole different sense of power. I'm sure nobody will mistake these for pure powder skis, and that's not the point, but for skiers who live in low-snow areas or who have a wider pair, the versatility and soft-snow performance of the Deacon 84 should not go overlooked
Fans of the RTM 84 will love the upgrades, as Volkl has basically improved the ski in almost every way. It's stronger, smoother, and has a higher-performance ceiling, all while remaining accessible and fun for advancing intermediates looking for that wider front side ski. It's hard to imagine that Volkl would change up something as popular and polished as the RTM 84, but when you get on the Deacon, you'll likely understand pretty quickly that this is a huge boost in poise and performance.