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 and the Secret 96 to more skiers, especially in the shorter lengths, i.e., those made for women. Völkl has a long history of developing strong women’s skis, like the Kenja, Aura and Kiku. With the Secret 96, Völkl has created another fabulous, benchmark model able to provide extraordinary performance that’s accessible to larger swath of the women’s market.