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Demo days: 2023 Volkl Kenja 88, Blaze 94W and K2 Mindbender 89Ti + 99Ti

scandium

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
We managed to run into 2 demo days this year - the Volkl one at Coronet Peak the day after a very decent dump of snow (~30cm, reasonably heavy and tracked but very soft and they'd left a nice layer on a lot of the groomed runs) and K2 on a hard-snow packed-off-piste at Remarkables. I had previously demoed the Kenja 88 and Blaze 94W in longer lengths on an indoor slope, which didn't really give me a good idea of what they would be like and in fact I enjoyed the Blaze much more in the conditions it was designed for. Sadly they didn't have the Secret at the Volkl day, but the reps thought from my reaction to the new Kenja and the Blaze that it might be a good ski for me if I was looking for something wider than the Kenjas.

Me: 157-158cm/53kg/skis 2019 Volkl Kenja 156cm/adventurous intermediate who is happy on most groomed runs but struggles off-piste on black runs
Mum is 164cm/51kg/skis 2019 Volkl Yumi 154cm/intermediate who prefers groomed runs but will take fresh tracks off-piste

Sorry - no photos of the Volkl demos as the visibility was terrible (we were in the cloud at the top) and my current phone likes to die the death of cold after about a minute out of my pocket.The best visibility was at the end of the day heading into night skiing...and even then it was pretty bad. We did a lap from Coronet Express over to Greengates on the groomers, popping off between the groomed areas, and back across to the bottom of the Coronet Express (pictured) through the Mid and Lower Donkey areas (to the left of this chairlift) which were ungroomed but pretty chopped up.
IMG_20220720_180431.jpg
Volkl Kenja 88 156cm: I enjoyed this on the odd bit of groomed hard snow, but didn't have a chance to really open up the speed limit due to low visibility. This iteration is very pivoty and smeary compared to the older versions, and much less damp. As soon as I got into ungroomed snow I was Not Happy. The tip update compared to the last iteration I skied (2020) means that you tend to deflect and bounce off even softer lumps of snow but still don't really surf, so it's the worst of all worlds. Blech. I want to go THROUGH things if I'm not floating on the surface. I know this version got favourable reviews over on skitalk but clearly they're looking for something different to me - I wanted my own Kenjas (2019, full metal) back as soon as I went off piste because they don't float or surf like the Blaze, but don't charge through like a Kenja or older versions of the Santa Ana 93. They remind me of how the K2 Mindbender 88Ti skiied for me last year.

Volkl Blaze 94W 158cm: I decided to give this another go as my mother really enjoyed it. The shorter length found favour with both of us - it is a pivoty short-to-medium turn ski that actually goes surprisingly fast, and I was faster on ungroomed areas than on the Kenja due to how surfy it was over the soft snow, although with 'surfy' came 'bouncy' with larger piles of snow. I take back what I said about it being too soft - it feels much more solid than the Pandora 94 did for me - and remained stable with speed. They sucked on the odd crusty patch and scraped off bits on groomers because it was challenging to tip them on edge (maybe because we're shorter?) but in the conditions they were meant for were an awesome ski. I would consider this a ski that compensates for my poor off-piste technique.

Mum thought that they 'feel fast' in that she was speeding along much faster than she normally would for the conditions and visibility, attributing this to the stability of the ski and how easy they felt to pivot (easier than the Yumis). They floated well for her over the choppy snow and she kept up with me while I was demoing the Kenjas - highly unusual for us in ungroomed snow. On-piste and on harder snow, they felt like they were hard to get on edge and like they were speeding away from her at times.


K2 (and Line) at The Remarkables: Freshly groomed with a nice sprinkling of manmade snow overnight on a crisp day, I think around -4 degrees Celsius? Packed off-piste which was pretty solid for the most part with very occasional pockets of softer snow. One lap up Curvey dropping over the side to some naturally forming moguls and one groomer lap up Shadow where they had groomed on the Sunrise Face side (rather than just Calypso side) and also down Mid Steeps so you didn't have to take the cat-track vs. mogul option. Waterfalls was 'slick' that day and I didn't fancy it.
IMG_20220725_103313.jpg
K2 Mindbender 89Ti 158cm: This feels like a totally different ski from the 2022 88Ti which felt like it would go through most things with the right amount of driving - according to the rep, the redesign has made it more energetic and easier to turn. What this mean was I got on a very bouncy-energetic-pivoty-swivelly ski with a tip that almost transmitted every bump to you, aka Not Really My Thing. They were stable at speed and I think would have been better a day or two prior when there was more fresh snow as the small patches of soft snow felt like an absolute floating dream. The bounciness meant I ended up getting a small amount of unintentional air, but the landing was stable. They were very swivelly on the moguls (which were fairly solid, but not ice) and allowed me to be tentative without punishing me.
They did not feel secure on the scraped-off steeper blue run I skiied and felt like they needed real work to carve and hold an edge - to be fair, I think only racing or narrow piste skis would have felt totally secure on that snow.
IMG_20220725_110530.jpg
K2 Mindbender 89Ti 152cm: Mum tried the shorter length and commented immediately on the graphics which were 'a very nice neutral' after being highly unimpressed with Volkl's graphics the other day! The tip 'looked unwieldy' but was easy to turn to the point of 'being lazy when I ski'. Compared to the 2019 Yumi, they seemed 'more stable but less stiff' and 'much harder to get on edge'. That translated to a feeling of being out of control more easily when going faster. The floaty feel was also noticed in soft snow with a sense of going 'over' rather than 'through' the snow, including the same surprise catching air.
IMG_20220725_100004.jpg
K2 Mindbender 99Ti 160cm: I knew this wasn't the day for this ski but decided to jump on it anyway. A stable ski but due to the width I struggled like anything to get them to hold an edge on the aforementioned scraped-off area and my knees were like "What WERE you thinking?"
They weren't a fan of the packed, hard snow off piste (is anyone?) but the rare patch of soft snow I hit made me think they would be stable-with-float and good for a soft snow day. They were a little more challenging to get around than the 89Ti but I can't say for sure if that was because the lack of edge hold was making me more tentative. I would have liked to compare these back-to-back with the Blaze 94W in similar conditions to really get a feel for them.
 

AJM

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
K2 Mindbender 89Ti 158cm: This feels like a totally different ski from the 2022 88Ti which felt like it would go through most things with the right amount of driving - according to the rep, the redesign has made it more energetic and easier to turn. What this mean was I got on a very bouncy-energetic-pivoty-swivelly ski with a tip that almost transmitted every bump to you, aka Not Really My Thing. They were stable at speed and I think would have been better a day or two prior when there was more fresh snow as the small patches of soft snow felt like an absolute floating dream. The bounciness meant I ended up getting a small amount of unintentional air, but the landing was stable. They were very swivelly on the moguls (which were fairly solid, but not ice) and allowed me to be tentative without punishing me.
They did not feel secure on the scraped-off steeper blue run I skiied and felt like they needed real work to carve and hold an edge - to be fair, I think only racing or narrow piste skis would have felt totally secure on that snow.
Great review, thats the ski I was also considering before I pulled the trigger on the Sheevas (which by the way I am in love with !!!) so its great to see what you thought of them. I have a friend who's got them but she works in a ski shop and I'm not sure she's had a chance to take them out yet due to school holiday busyness. Interesting thoughts on the Kenja, I have another friend who bought them and I think so far she likes them. We were skiing some rather unfriendly locked up chop the other day and they seemed to be handling it okayish ..... no one was loving it though or going back for a second go :laughter:
 

NWSkiGirl

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
We managed to run into 2 demo days this year - the Volkl one at Coronet Peak the day after a very decent dump of snow (~30cm, reasonably heavy and tracked but very soft and they'd left a nice layer on a lot of the groomed runs) and K2 on a hard-snow packed-off-piste at Remarkables. I had previously demoed the Kenja 88 and Blaze 94W in longer lengths on an indoor slope, which didn't really give me a good idea of what they would be like and in fact I enjoyed the Blaze much more in the conditions it was designed for. Sadly they didn't have the Secret at the Volkl day, but the reps thought from my reaction to the new Kenja and the Blaze that it might be a good ski for me if I was looking for something wider than the Kenjas.

Me: 157-158cm/53kg/skis 2019 Volkl Kenja 156cm/adventurous intermediate who is happy on most groomed runs but struggles off-piste on black runs
Mum is 164cm/51kg/skis 2019 Volkl Yumi 154cm/intermediate who prefers groomed runs but will take fresh tracks off-piste

Sorry - no photos of the Volkl demos as the visibility was terrible (we were in the cloud at the top) and my current phone likes to die the death of cold after about a minute out of my pocket.The best visibility was at the end of the day heading into night skiing...and even then it was pretty bad. We did a lap from Coronet Express over to Greengates on the groomers, popping off between the groomed areas, and back across to the bottom of the Coronet Express (pictured) through the Mid and Lower Donkey areas (to the left of this chairlift) which were ungroomed but pretty chopped up.
View attachment 18952
Volkl Kenja 88 156cm: I enjoyed this on the odd bit of groomed hard snow, but didn't have a chance to really open up the speed limit due to low visibility. This iteration is very pivoty and smeary compared to the older versions, and much less damp. As soon as I got into ungroomed snow I was Not Happy. The tip update compared to the last iteration I skied (2020) means that you tend to deflect and bounce off even softer lumps of snow but still don't really surf, so it's the worst of all worlds. Blech. I want to go THROUGH things if I'm not floating on the surface. I know this version got favourable reviews over on skitalk but clearly they're looking for something different to me - I wanted my own Kenjas (2019, full metal) back as soon as I went off piste because they don't float or surf like the Blaze, but don't charge through like a Kenja or older versions of the Santa Ana 93. They remind me of how the K2 Mindbender 88Ti skiied for me last year.

Volkl Blaze 94W 158cm: I decided to give this another go as my mother really enjoyed it. The shorter length found favour with both of us - it is a pivoty short-to-medium turn ski that actually goes surprisingly fast, and I was faster on ungroomed areas than on the Kenja due to how surfy it was over the soft snow, although with 'surfy' came 'bouncy' with larger piles of snow. I take back what I said about it being too soft - it feels much more solid than the Pandora 94 did for me - and remained stable with speed. They sucked on the odd crusty patch and scraped off bits on groomers because it was challenging to tip them on edge (maybe because we're shorter?) but in the conditions they were meant for were an awesome ski. I would consider this a ski that compensates for my poor off-piste technique.

Mum thought that they 'feel fast' in that she was speeding along much faster than she normally would for the conditions and visibility, attributing this to the stability of the ski and how easy they felt to pivot (easier than the Yumis). They floated well for her over the choppy snow and she kept up with me while I was demoing the Kenjas - highly unusual for us in ungroomed snow. On-piste and on harder snow, they felt like they were hard to get on edge and like they were speeding away from her at times.


K2 (and Line) at The Remarkables: Freshly groomed with a nice sprinkling of manmade snow overnight on a crisp day, I think around -4 degrees Celsius? Packed off-piste which was pretty solid for the most part with very occasional pockets of softer snow. One lap up Curvey dropping over the side to some naturally forming moguls and one groomer lap up Shadow where they had groomed on the Sunrise Face side (rather than just Calypso side) and also down Mid Steeps so you didn't have to take the cat-track vs. mogul option. Waterfalls was 'slick' that day and I didn't fancy it.
View attachment 18949
K2 Mindbender 89Ti 158cm: This feels like a totally different ski from the 2022 88Ti which felt like it would go through most things with the right amount of driving - according to the rep, the redesign has made it more energetic and easier to turn. What this mean was I got on a very bouncy-energetic-pivoty-swivelly ski with a tip that almost transmitted every bump to you, aka Not Really My Thing. They were stable at speed and I think would have been better a day or two prior when there was more fresh snow as the small patches of soft snow felt like an absolute floating dream. The bounciness meant I ended up getting a small amount of unintentional air, but the landing was stable. They were very swivelly on the moguls (which were fairly solid, but not ice) and allowed me to be tentative without punishing me.
They did not feel secure on the scraped-off steeper blue run I skiied and felt like they needed real work to carve and hold an edge - to be fair, I think only racing or narrow piste skis would have felt totally secure on that snow.
View attachment 18950
K2 Mindbender 89Ti 152cm: Mum tried the shorter length and commented immediately on the graphics which were 'a very nice neutral' after being highly unimpressed with Volkl's graphics the other day! The tip 'looked unwieldy' but was easy to turn to the point of 'being lazy when I ski'. Compared to the 2019 Yumi, they seemed 'more stable but less stiff' and 'much harder to get on edge'. That translated to a feeling of being out of control more easily when going faster. The floaty feel was also noticed in soft snow with a sense of going 'over' rather than 'through' the snow, including the same surprise catching air.
View attachment 18953
K2 Mindbender 99Ti 160cm: I knew this wasn't the day for this ski but decided to jump on it anyway. A stable ski but due to the width I struggled like anything to get them to hold an edge on the aforementioned scraped-off area and my knees were like "What WERE you thinking?"
They weren't a fan of the packed, hard snow off piste (is anyone?) but the rare patch of soft snow I hit made me think they would be stable-with-float and good for a soft snow day. They were a little more challenging to get around than the 89Ti but I can't say for sure if that was because the lack of edge hold was making me more tentative. I would have liked to compare these back-to-back with the Blaze 94W in similar conditions to really get a feel for them.
The Kenjas are not for me - they like to drive and I like my freedom! I'm thinking I might like the Blaze, though. Thanks for sharing!
 

scandium

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
Great review, thats the ski I was also considering before I pulled the trigger on the Sheevas (which by the way I am in love with !!!) so its great to see what you thought of them. I have a friend who's got them but she works in a ski shop and I'm not sure she's had a chance to take them out yet due to school holiday busyness. Interesting thoughts on the Kenja, I have another friend who bought them and I think so far she likes them. We were skiing some rather unfriendly locked up chop the other day and they seemed to be handling it okayish ..... no one was loving it though or going back for a second go :laughter:
I have to say if you like the Sheevas I think you will like this update. In my opinion the old Mindbender was closer to the Kenja and now is a lot more like the Sheeva. My thoughts on the Kenja are also based around my strong preference for metal or at least some dampness - I preferred the SA93 over the Sheeva on the 2021 models, for example. I think there will be many people who like the update to the Kenja (the skitalk review is overwhelmingly positive) but for those who liked the feel of the old version I think it may be too far removed.

The Kenjas are not for me - they like to drive and I like my freedom! I'm thinking I might like the Blaze, though. Thanks for sharing!
I think I feel more secure driving - that being said, if I lived in close proximity to somewhere that had reliable and frequent soft snow I would love the Blazes. I'm thinking they might be the ski I would have loved in Japan...
 

NWSkiGirl

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
I have to say if you like the Sheevas I think you will like this update. In my opinion the old Mindbender was closer to the Kenja and now is a lot more like the Sheeva. My thoughts on the Kenja are also based around my strong preference for metal or at least some dampness - I preferred the SA93 over the Sheeva on the 2021 models, for example. I think there will be many people who like the update to the Kenja (the skitalk review is overwhelmingly positive) but for those who liked the feel of the old version I think it may be too far removed.


I think I feel more secure driving - that being said, if I lived in close proximity to somewhere that had reliable and frequent soft snow I would love the Blazes. I'm thinking they might be the ski I would have loved in Japan...
Good to know! We do get a lot of soft snow up here in Seattle, but it's wet. Thanks. :-)
 
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scandium

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
Good to know! We do get a lot of soft snow up here in Seattle, but it's wet. Thanks. :-)
Definitely try them - New Zealand gets pretty wet snow that sets like concrete at times...
 

fgor

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
Great reviews! Though it's a shame Volkl didn't have the Secret - I've been hoping to catch a Volkl demo day and try out that ski, but i guess this year won't be the year for it either :P
 

Mudgirl630

Angel Diva
I love my three pairs of Kenja, all metal and stiff. I was very sad to hear of the updates. Why did they even do it? Did they change Kendo also? I probably will not buy another pair. So sad....
I wonder what skis are close to the old.version of Kenja......
 

scandium

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
I love my three pairs of Kenja, all metal and stiff. I was very sad to hear of the updates. Why did they even do it? Did they change Kendo also? I probably will not buy another pair. So sad....
I wonder what skis are close to the old.version of Kenja......
Yes, Kendo is softer through the tip now too, I talked to someone on the lift who had the old version of Kendo then bought the new version last year (so would have been 2022 version) and found them softer. He didn't mind so much because "they're still fun".
 

scandium

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
Update on the K2 Mindbender 99Ti: I fortuitously ran into a K2/Line demo day coinciding with the sprinkling of fresh snow at Cardrona + snowguns overnight, so of course took the Mindbender 99Ti out in more appropriate conditions (soft groomers with a sprinkling on top) and wow, what fun! Easy to turn in soft snow, stable, did not find their speed limit - but hell on my knees if I tried to carve and scary on anything solid, as previously noted.
 

scandium

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
D09571A1-A51E-40E7-9F11-BD9D21F2E785.jpeg
I gave the Kenjas another go (just a topsheet change this year) and I still don't like them. I had more groomer snow this go around and I'm not really impressed at all with them, still the same issues with the tip and they seem to only want to make shorter turns. They aren't really unstable (low vis meant I was going slow anyway) but they aren't confidence inspiring to go fast.
 

BlizzardBabe

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
. . . I think I feel more secure driving - that being said, if I lived in close proximity to somewhere that had reliable and frequent soft snow I would love the Blazes. I'm thinking they might be the ski I would have loved in Japan...
I have had the Blaze 86 for 2 seasons now and have loved them on eastern (US) ice and western hard pack and powder. They are an incredibly versatile ski. I'll still be pulling them out this year and they'll likely be my go-to western ski. That said, on our mid-Atlantic man-made ice arena I found that I truly loved the Stockli Nela 80 for everyday on-piste turns ("on-piste" being the only option here). :(
 

mustski

Angel Diva
Yes, Kendo is softer through the tip now too, I talked to someone on the lift who had the old version of Kendo then bought the new version last year (so would have been 2022 version) and found them softer. He didn't mind so much because "they're still fun".
There are no differences in construction between Kenja and Kendo or Secret 96 and Mantra M6. The only difference is graphics. If you can’t find a Secret to demo, look for the M6. I like a fairly burly ski and find the secret just powers through everything - even the heavy, wet, spring piles.
 

NWSkiGirl

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
View attachment 21504
I gave the Kenjas another go (just a topsheet change this year) and I still don't like them. I had more groomer snow this go around and I'm not really impressed at all with them, still the same issues with the tip and they seem to only want to make shorter turns. They aren't really unstable (low vis meant I was going slow anyway) but they aren't confidence inspiring to go fast.
I didn’t like them! They seemed to want to do the driving and complete my turns for me.
 

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