2023 Völkl Secret 96 Review
If you’re looking for an all-mountain ski that can also carve up a storm, look no further
This article was first published by SkiMag.com.
The Scores (out of 10)
- Overall Score: 7.74/10
- Rank: #7
- Versatility: 7.8
- Crud Performance: 8
- Playfulness: 6.6
- Responsiveness: 7.2
- Hard-Snow Integrity: 8.6
- Quickness: 7.2
- Stability at Speed: 8.8
- Carving: 9
- Flotation: 6.4
- Forgiveness: 6.2
- Price: $750
- Lengths: 149, 156, 163, 170, 177
- Dimensions: 135-96-119
- Radius: 14m (163)
- Level: Advanced to Expert
In a Nutshell
- Pros: Stability at Speed (#2), Carving (#1)
- Cons: Playfulness (#18), Flotation (#14)
Völkl’s Tailored Titanal Frame has made all the difference in how approachable and fun the brand’s all-mountain skis are, including the Secret 96. This technology, first implemented in the Mantra series two seasons ago and now making its way into the Secret line, adjusts the amount of metal around the ski’s edges according to the length of the ski to ensure an appropriate flex. This means that shorter lengths of the ski feature a narrower metal frame and are therefore a tad softer, while the longer lengths have a wider metal frame and are accordingly stiffer. It makes perfect sense, and is great news for petite skiers, who now actually get a shorter ski that flexes like it’s supposed to.
But it also means it’s never been more important to get the right length of ski for your physique, skiing ability, and skiing style. Because the Tailored Titanal Frame does what it’s supposed to, testers noticed a significant difference between how the Secret 96 skied in the 163cm length versus the 170cm length.
Aggressive testers who normally prefer a 170cm ski really enjoyed the Secret 96 in the shorter length, calling it playful, energetic, and yet still very stable and dependable. Testers who skied the Secret 96 in their usual length found it significantly less playful and energetic, but raved about the ski’s knack for digging in on hardpack and carving up a storm.
“If you ski it too long and don’t have the strength to flex it, it’ll take you for a ride,” said tester Avery Pese, an expert skier from the East . “Surprised how happy I was on the shorter length. Much easier to whip around the trees and bumps without sacrificing stability at higher speeds or flotation through heavy snow.”
The lesson here: the Secret 96 is a versatile all-mountain ski no matter how you slice it. Regardless of the length, all testers praised this ski’s performance on hardpack and on edge, giving it the highest category scores in Carving and the second-highest in Stability at Speed and Hard-Snow Integrity. Thanks to Völkl’s 3D radius technology and a rockered tip, the Secret 96 is also no slouch in the crud performance department, with testers calling out its smooth handling in less than favorable conditions. “Since it’s so stable, it transitions well from firm to chunky snow. It also seamlessly weaves in and out of bumps, then glides right onto groomers,” said Jackson Hole-based tester Lily Krass.
But if you’re not quite an expert yet or prefer a ski with some pop and pizazz, go for this ski in a shorter length. If you’re an expert who values stability at speed and performance on groomers as well as all-mountain prowess, you’ll dig the Secret 96 in the longer lengths.
“I expected such a stable ski to be less lively, but it seems to thrive the more you put into it,” said Krass, who is an expert skier and preferred the Secret in the 170cm length. “Surprised at the mix of stability and energy. A reliable ski that feels super solid underfoot when you want support and responsiveness in soft and firm conditions.”
“3D radius makes this ski more playful and fun, while the Titanal frame gives this baby the strength and dampening it needs for the groomers,” said Pesce. “I’d feel confident putting any advanced to expert skier looking for the ultimate all-mountain machine on this ski (in the right length).”
Jenny Wiegand is SKI’s managing editor. Born and raised in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, Jenny grew up exploring the Alps on skis, bikes, and her own two feet. She has since traded in the Alps for the Rockies to seek new trails, new adventures, and write about her favorite sport—skiing—in her new home of Boulder, Colo. Since joining the SKI Magazine editorial team in 2018, Jenny has written and edited stories for SKI’s print and digital outlets. A lifelong skier and former club racer, Jenny is also a self-proclaimed gearhead and puts that knowledge to good use as one of SKI Magazine’s official gear testers.