Völkl takes product development very, very seriously, testing nearly 1,000 different skis a year, in every length it will manufacture. It uses a team of both in-house product designers and a dozen or so “externals” - top instructors and racers - to evaluate every design aspect. Their task is made trickier in that key design elements like Tailored Titanal Frame, 3D Sidecut, Tailored Carbon Tips and the Secret 96’s double-rockered baseline, all need to blend together for the magic to happen. I mention this because the Secret 96 is essentially the same ski as the M6 Mantra, which sounds like a short-cut way to gin up a women’s ski. Far from it. One of the essential design goals of both new skis was to precisely tailor all aspects for all sizes, a process particularly beneficial for the largest and smallest sizes. Every decision was challenged in service to the main goals: more liveliness when pressured; accessible, tighter turn shapes; and smoother behavior in the turn transition, the “drift-to-carve” moment. The intent was to open up both the M6 Mantra the Secret 96 to more skiers, especially in the shorter lengths, i.e., those made for women.