REVIEWS AND TESTS
Ski Tests & Reviews
WNDR Alpine Vital 100 176cm 2020-2021
918 500 W Unit B
Salt Lake City, UT 84101
Suggested Retail Price (MSRP):
free shipping in Canada and U.S.A.
$100 usd flat rate shipping anywhere else in the World.
Rating (with comments):
(1="get me off these things"->10="I have to own a pair")
9 Backcountry & resort hardpack surfaces (for a backcountry ski)
9+ Mixed surface conditions backcountry & resort
8+ Powder backcountry for its width
WNDR Alpine is the first recreational consumer product company spawned by the management and investors of Checkerspot (https://www.checkerspot.com), a public-benefit biotech company started in 2016 pioneering materials science to replace petroleum-based oils in various plastics used as components in consumer products. Snow industry vets, Matt Sterbenz and Daniel Malmrose, alongside Pep Fujas and Xan Marshland spearheaded WNDR (Wonder) Alpine to design and manufacture backcountry skis using Checkerspot's algae-based bio plastics, and demonstrate manufacturing techniques and product lifecycle policies to reduce environmental impact of ski production and disposal lifecycles while proving bio-based components could deliver performance meeting or exceeding their petroleum-based predecessors. Their first product was the Intention 110 ski, and most recently they released the Vital 100 for tighter terrain where grip and agility are higher priority. Interestingly, they offer either ski in cambered, or reverse-cambered profiles.
"Built for precision. The ALL-NEW Vital 100 is your ski for alpine conquests - a precision tool for situations where edge hold is paramount. Featuring our proprietary AlgalTech™ ski materials platform. Impressively stable for its weight, this ski charges intuitively in any condition, while remaining easy to pivot for technical maneuverability. The secret of the Vital 100’s unique performance characteristics lies in the integration of advanced biobased materials, which allow it to punch above its weight class in any terrain."
"Extruded plastic, polyurethane and carbon fiber have been taken from other industries and repurposed by ski brands. Our industry has rarely had access to materials built explicitly with skiing in mind. For the first time in history, we’re using biotechnology to design materials derived from microalgae specifically for backcountry skiing. Petroleum has historically been a key ingredient in materials across the outdoor industry. But there are only so many types of material innovations and performance gains we can get from petroleum.Seeking to break the mold, we teamed up with scientists from Checkerspot and collectively created the WNDR Alpine brand. We use biotechnology to design our own materials—with performance characteristics that reach beyond what petroleum products can offer. AlgalTech™ fuses biomanufacturing and chemistry with materials science and advanced fabrication techniques to unlock better performance characteristics. Algal Wall is a biobased cast polyurethane that protects the Algal Core and delivers superior damping and resistance to impact to traditional ski building materials. To integrate this material directly into our ski's construction, we use a channel on the outside of the core as a mold for pouring in the liquid sidewall material. This creates a seamless and virtually unbreakable bond with the aspen as the sidewall hardens, increasing the overall structural integrity of the ski.
The colder it gets, the more durable Algal Wall gets - all while retaining predictable stiffness in a ski. See why it’s better.
Manufacturing Algal Wall diverts plastic waste from the landfill compared to traditional use of extruded plastic sidewalls.
Polyurethane biobased carbon content 60% by ASTM D6866-18 Method B."
Technical Ski Data:
Vertically laminated, domestically sourced aspen with high-density, algal polyurethane stringers. Biobased carbon content 41% by ASTM D6866.
Algal Wall cast polyurethane sidewalls utilizing a proprietary biobased polyurethane, engineered to improve edge hold and bondline strength with core over traditional materials. Biobased carbon content 60% by ASTM D6866.
Biobased Entropy Resins Super Sap® technology replaces traditional petroleum-based resin systems. The certified bio-based content per ASTM D6866 of the ER-305 Resin is 28%.
Weght: 1721g and 1743g measured
"If we have the means, we reserve the right to repair items prior to replacing them. Items will be repaired or replaced if, upon inspection by a member of our team, they are found to be defective in materials or workmanship. Upon receipt of customer’s properly completed warranty claim forms, WNDR will review and, if approved, issue a RMA # to the customer. WNDR warrants products to be free from defects in materials and workmanship for a period of one (1) year from the original date of purchase."
"We prototype and test our skis both in the lab and with feedback from athletes, guides, and mountain professionals. We don’t release a product unless we love it, and we’re confident that you’ll love our skis as much as we do. If for any reason you’re not 100% satisfied with a product manufactured by WNDR Alpine, you may ship it back to us for a full refund under our Love It or Return It Policy."
"We take pride in acting responsibly and seek to give our customers an opportunity to join us through the WNDR Takeback Program. As a first step, we always encourage you to sell or donate your skis to friends, family or a local charity. We will also take back your skis at the end of life and, depending on the condition, we may: 1) refurbish and find them a new home, 2) deconstruct and re-use parts of the internal materials, or 3) upcycle the skis. In all cases, we inspect the worn skis and utilize the data to help us improve our manufacturing process and ultimately the ski performance. Lastly, as an incentive, if you send your skis back within 3 years, you will receive 20% off a new pair of skis, and have the peace of mind knowing that your old skis have been dealt with responsibly."
Bindings, Boots & Wax Used:
Salomon S/Lab Shift MNC 13 bindings
La Sportiva Spectre 2.0 boots
Salomon S-Max 130 Carbon boots
Green Ice Waxes
Really appealing topsheet graphic design, with excellent fit-and-finish of all the components. Tune and base structure out of the box were better than average. Not super-light...the weigh in-hand is right in the middle of similarly sized backcountry skis, neither super light or super heavy. Sidecut looks like a freeride ski with decent tip rocker. Somewhat soft-ish tip flex and significant rocker profile leading smoothly to a firm midsection and moderately stiff and flatish tail (our test ski is the cambered edition), leading us to think the ski will be easy to turn and finish in a directional manner and ski a bit shorter than its measured length. WNDR claims a 123cm running surface length for the 176cm model. Torsional strength appears moderately strong by hand testing. Damp, and moderately energetic rebound response. The Vital 100s look and feel like an all-purpose backcountry ski with an emphasis on grip and agility.
Boilerplate eastern hardpack, dense snow pack, dry natural fresh and multi-day settled powder, resort corduroy, shin-deep fluffy powder, refrozen, regroomed old manmade resort snow, soft bumps, hard bumps, low-angle and moderate-angle tree runs.
WNDR Alpine has taken a state-of-the-art, ecologically-centered material production and assembly process and demonstrated the ability to create a seriously versatile backcountry ski for the masses. The ability to replace 40-60% of the petroleum-based polyurethane ingredients with algal materials grown in a lab, adhere the sidewalls to the core with natural bonding (no epoxy adhesives) using a poured-liquid sidewall mold technique and complete the adhesion of other materials in the layup with bio-based resins (like so many other builders these days) is impressive (It helps to have a Silicon Valley biotech startup as a partner). Combine the innovative eco-sensitive materials and manufacturing science with a progressive, rock-solid ski geometry design and you get a ski that delivers high-performance fun and effectiveness for a huge population of skiers.
The Vital 100 is a completely intuitive, zero-learning curve ski with a grippy and energetic feel that delivers a confident, predictable behavior all over the mountain in all kinds of conditions. WNDR's Vital 100 essentially shows what a jack-of-all-trades ski design can be for backcountry touring where people encounter tightish conditions requiring security and float underfoot, agility and smooth behaviors in variable conditions. The Vital 100 has a wide array of competencies across the spectrum and a naturally intuitive personality and behavior profile so nearly any skier can jump on it and finish the day happy and satisfied, and that's the kind of goal we like to see ski makers achieve. While some skis may hit higher marks for lightest-weight, most intense downhill performance, super-surfy powder response, dead-solid speed handling or agility in tight terrain, the Vital 100 achieves really high marks for all these categories with no real downsides we could find. Since backcountry skiing is all about encountering whatever the mountains have in store for you that day, a ski with a huge bandwidth of high performance in nearly every condition is exactly what a huge variety of skiers want. WNDR Alpine's Vital 100 should put other ski builders on notice that modern ski and materials science means compromises in performance are quickly becoming more and more unneccesary for backcountry skiers. WNDR's skis represent the future of the craft of building backcountry skis with minimized ecological impacts during production and a "close-the-loop" take-back program to minimize waste at the end of a recreational product's lifespan by taking the product back from the consumer if they chose.
Hardpack and Boilerplate:
To test the real hard snow performance of the Algae-based sidewalls supporting the edges in conditions other than backcountry woods settings, we spent some days on boilerplate resort groomers here in Vermont, and drove the Vital 100s with a pair of Salomon X/Max 130 carbon boots on top of the Salomon Shift bindings. If the Vital 100s had any hard-snow behavioral weaknesses, driving them with a 130 flex downhill boot on race-like surfaces would reveal them. For a backcountry-oriented 100mm ski, WNDR's Vital 100 has an impressively grippy hold on hard surfaces right out of the box as tuned. We found the Vital 100's edgehold was as good, if not better than some 100mm all-mountain skis on hard terrain, with excellent vibration control and frequency damping underfoot. Feedback through the boot is accurate and sensitive, letting you know what the surface density is like at all times without being annoying when the snow gets rock-hard and roughed up. The relatively short running length due to the generous tip rocker means the Vital 100 feels shorter than its overall length at higher speeds on hardpack, but it feels controlled and smooth at all times with just a hint of tip flap at eye-watering speeds on rough terrain, yet has great contact with the snow at all times. The rocker profile and camber allow some pretty quick edge-to-edge transitions on hard surfaces (on piste or off), so agilty is always good and lively, but never nervous or disoriented on hardpack. Rough and choppy hardpack sensations are well-controlled on descent, with predictable, consistent grip and behaviors which can upset lighter, more flimsy backcountry skis. If you frequently encounter hard surfaces in your routes, the Vital 100 gives you a solid, predictable and grippy platform with its factory tune as delivered. We were surprised how well the Vital 100 felt on hard snow, considering its easy-to-ski, playful nature. The combination of materials and design works in hard snow conditions just great.
Mixed Surface & Variable Conditions:
The Vital 100s really show their wide range of adaptablity when snow conditions are mixed with variable densities and textures because the geometry of the ski allows intuitive, reliable navigation behaviors while the materials deliver a quiet, yet playful and secure feel underfoot. Agility at low, moderate and higher speeds is always excellent, with just a hint of unexpected quickness at highest speeds in mixed surfaces (likely due to the short contact length of our 176 and its generous tip rocker), but most backcountry skiing is not at warp 9 high-speed levels, and if you do frequent those speed levels, you would choose a longer version of the Vital 100s. The tip rocker and taper profile provides excellent float and directional choice in variable snow conditions without darty feelings. Predictabilty, agility and reliablity were the words that came to mind most often with the Vital 100s in mixed snow. Eastern tree skiing feels totally natural with the Vital 100s, allowing great manuverabilty with spunky, fun, playful response and great edge security when needed. Bumpy terrain is absorbed nicely with just a hint of tip deflection if you're off balance, but the deflection seems to feel limited to the very early part of the rockered tips, and as you contact the terrain with the forebody and midbody of the ski, it stabilizes and stays on trajectory. You can bank your turns or pivot a flat ski quickly with equal confort, which is a nice combo. The Vital 100s are the kind of ski you can ski all day in variable conditions and feel totally comfortable and unspent when the daylight starts fading.
We didn't get to ski the Vital 100s in deep powder, but we did get time in shin deep lightweight fluff in open terrain and in tight woods conditions. The ratio of rockered profile to cambered midsection and flatish tail seemed well balanced with excellent floatation up front at various speeds delivering a playful, smearable feel, yet allowing a powerful change of direction on-demand with excellent rebound oomph if you loaded the ski and released it. Driftablity was intuitive, balanced and easy...just what you want. Open terrain or tight tree skiing in powder is easy and really fun with agility and stability. If you frequent deeper powder conditions and want a 100mm-waisted ski, you may want to size-up the Vital 100s to get a more true-to-length feel since the generous rocker tip profile generates the feel of a shorter-than-they-measure ski in powder. The only drawback we found with the Vital 100 in powdery conditions was it was only 100mm underfoot.. (where are those Intention 110s when you need them... hey WNDR... how about a 120mm powder ski with similar construction features??)
Turn Initiation, Apex & Finish:
The Vital 100s initiate turns very easily at slow, moderate or high speeds. You don't need to "get-them-up-to-speed" to get quick engagement. Just tip them over a bit, apply a bit of pressure and bingo...you have a ski engaged in the snow, eager to change direction as desired. This does not mean they are darty at most speeds (perhaps slighly unexpectedly quick at highest speeds in firm, 3D snow due to their short effective edge...but they do it quietly and with control), but responsive and easy to engage into a variety of turn shapes. You can initiate turns and modify the radius pretty easily without protest, even pushing the Vital 100s into tigher-than-design-spec radius without the ski protesting or pushing back. Turn initiation is conmpliant without feeling wimpy or uncertain. Turns initiate intutively at a variety of speeds without any special technique or action by the skier. The rockered tips quickly lead to pressuring the midbody of the ski which is fairly stout and a reliable platform, with turn finishing on the tails feeling solid, round and reliable in all conditions. WNDR gave the Vital 100s a fairly progressive mounting point (84.1cm from tail in 176cm length (measured 175cm straight tape pull), so turn agility is always on tap, yet you can ride the tails in a drawn-out GS-like finish on-demand and feel stable and well-connected with a confident grip under pressure. The playful engagement into turns migrates into a solid-feeling midbody and tail platform, with no discernable washout or loss of composure through the turn sequence, even at moderate to higher speeds...something backcountry skiers will appreciate. It takes only a couple of turns to understand how the Vital 100 wants to change direction in different conditions and speeds.
Manufacturer's Mounting Position:
WNDR recommends the 176cm Vital 100 be mounted with boot center 84.1 cm from the tail, which is 3.4cm behind ski center (our ski measured 175cm tip to tail straight tape pull), so pretty progressive. We left the Salomon Shifts mounted as-recommended and had no urge to change them.
Analogies: ("This ski is like...")
Your eager, reliable best dog you always want outside with you anywhere you go. Your best outdoor adventure buddy. Always eager, always able to go anywhere you want to go and do it playfully the whole day.
Disappears underfoot as soon as you start skiing.
Goes anywhere, does pretty much anything.
Remarkable grip on hardpack for a backcountry ski.
Not super light for backcountry. Skis lighter than it weighs.
Dances through skied-out surfaces nicely.
It can carve!
Things I Would Change About This Ski:
Add a skin notch to the tail.
Short Answer When Someone Asks "What Do You Think About This Ski?":
WNDR's Vital 100 is a great example of a a do-it-all backcountry ski with no real shortcomings.
You can find lighter backcountry skis, but you'd be hard-pressed to find another ski that does so many things so well in so many conditions. Add innovative, cutting-edge eco-sensitive material engineering, end-of-lifecycle takeback program and "love-em-or-get-a-refund" return policy and you have a really progressive company behind the product. All for $700 retail and free shipping.
What kind of skier is this ski good for and not suitable for?
The Vital 100 will probably suit any backcountry skier from beginner to hard-charging expert. That's impressive.
Super-high speed, big-line backcountry freeriders may find the Vital 100 a bit soft in the forebody (but they shouldn't really).
Advice To People Considering This Ski:
Size-up if your terrain is higher-speed or big powder conditions most of the time.
Several companies provide discounts or donations to support our ski testing program.
Your browser does not support iframes.