Pageviews past week

The cold world of skimo & alpine climbing

The cold world of skimo & alpine climbing

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Dynafit Denali?

This ski review thing is kinda fun and deceptive all at the same time.  I had a new friend ask me this summer, "how can you do a legitimate ski review on the conditions we were skiing as compared to our typical  snow?" 

My answer was, "it is all snow, ya turn left and ya turn right".  That and the fact is I have no interest in skiing on or writing a review from what I would consider "typical snow".

I ski a lot in a maritime snow pack in the Cascades.  But also ski in the Western States interior and the Alps.  I use my skis as tools.  And I have gotten more and more picky on the skis I like and want to spend time on.  I've become more educated about what a ski is capable of and more importantly what I am capable or...or not as a skier.

The picture above is the current crop of what I wanted to ski on this winter.  Everything there is just a slight variation of what I have been skiing on for the past 3 or 4 seasons.

I have had few duplicates of my ski choices.  The first ski that fit that category was the Huascaran.  A mistake on my part as the 196cm ski was not the 177cm ski.  Would seem obvious at first glance but it wasn't to me.   The next time I bought two different sizes of the same ski was with the Cho Oyu.  I used and really liked both sizes of the Cho Oyu.

I picked the short pair of Cho Oyu as one of 4 pair last winter to take to France.  And to be honest, it was pure luck on part to have that specific pair of  Cho.  It was the ski that really saved my ski season there.  Out of the 4 pair of skis along on that trip, for various reasons, I ended up using the Cho Oyu more than any other ski.  From steep skiing (well steep for me anyway) to the Haute Route.  I was impressed with the Cho.  It is a good ski for my own use.

Here are a couple of previous comments on the Cho:

As much as I liked the Cho there were a few things lacking for my own unreserved use.  But I certainly wasn't going to complain because I've had some of my best skiing ever on a Cho Oyu...literally.  By the end of last season I was using the Cho every where without reservation.

Of that new rack pictured above, 4 of the skis there are specific picks to better the performance of the Cho in certain conditions.  Mind you the conditions I am thinking of are pretty harsh.  Which are bad snow, hard base underneath and the results of a fall likely fatal.

The few times I skied that kind of terrain last winter, all on a short Cho Oyu, I wished for a more stable ski.  But I wasn't willing to ditch the super light weight ski and race bindings to get there either.  Instead I tried to adapt my own skiing to the gear as best I could.  97% of the time I simply enjoyed the ski.

Knowing I would be on more, similar terrain this coming winter I wanted to hedge my bets.
So I bought two pair of lwt custom Praxis skis that Keith made up for me @ 9d8 and 110mm.  And two pair of Dynafit skimo boards. (Dynafit's Manaslu and 7-Summit to be reviewed later)   All with the idea of more ski than the Cho was capable of because of the lwt construction.

The two Dynafit Denalis in the above picture were an after thought really.  Unknowingly I figured it would simply be a heavier version of the Cho Oyu with the added width @ 98mm under foot..instead of 88mm.    How bad could it be?

Turns out not bad at all!

Before I start here.  I am making the comparisons of the Cho to Denali because I thought the Cho Oyu was a stellar ski for my own use.  The direct comparison of the specs of the Denali to the Cho should tell you how much I already respect the Denali's performance to date.  I wasn't kidding when I said, "I've had some of my best skiing ever on a Cho Oyu."

Here is the comparison.

Up front, my actual ski's weights:

the 176cm Denali  1247g per ski @ 98mm under foot
the 174cm Cho Oyu 1210g per ski @ 88mm under foot

Less than 3oz per pair heavier and a longer ski with the Denali.
Bonus to the Denali there IMO.

Cho Oyu
Dimensions   125-88-111 [174]
turn radius      16-12-15m [174]
410-430mm tip rocker, 160mm tail rocker

Dimensions   131-98-116 [176]
turn radius        22.0/21.0 [176]
430mm tip rocker, camber, 200mm tail rocker

What all that means to me is a more stable, less hooky ski on nasty conditions.  Not that I consider the Cho hooky, it isn't.  But I did ski some of the worst wind pack, wind and rain breakable crust and ice conditions on the Denali that I have ever skied.   Few, if any skis would have made those conditions enjoyable. Not enjoyable snow conditions by any means but the Denali ended up being a solid choice for me.  I was able to stay up right the majority of time when my partners weren't always so fortunate on lesser skis.   I'm convinced it was advanced ski technology that was unable to cope with the ever changing and generally terrible conditions more than it was my skiing ability.

Not that I was rocking every turn/run by comparison either mind you.  But I was getting down in one piece on the Denali and happy with the ski.  More so than I thought I might/should be.  I also brought a 2nd pair of very solid all terrain skis on that trip, but never ended up using them.  Funny as I wasn't even tempted to take them out of the ski bag.  Says a lot on just how good the Denali was in the variable conditions we had.

One of the places I thought the Cho really shined last year was our early hard snow conditions here in the PNW.  The Cho skied exceptionally well on those perfectly groomed but pretty hard snow conditions we had in late December and early January here in the PNW.  Turns out I got a day or two on similar conditions during the Austral winter.  And while it was obvious some of my ski partners really wanted to see if I could actually ski the Denali, even my 176cm version was up to almost anything a big free style ski was capable of on hard pack.  Where the Cho would have been done on groomers, the Denali even in a short 176cm was still cruising like a champ.  That surprised me.  As did the Denali's performance on ice worthy of crampons.  The kind of ice you generally only see in the mountains above 10 or 12K feet.

Breakable crust that I would have preferred a DPS Spoon on, or at least 115mm under foot,  the Denali skied with little effort.  Wasn't the ski in the way, that is for sure.  More my lack of technique.

I have some bigger, lwt, wood core ski to fill in the gaps on the nasty snow of any steep French gullies this winter.  Only time on those new boards will tell me which of those skis will better the Denali.  But at least for me the Denali to date have been better than the Cho in hard conditions.  And the Cho was a proven bench mark as a lwt ski for me last winter.

I bought both the 176cm ski which I have skied on and the 184cm Denali hoping I can take advantage of both sizes.

The video from last Spring shows a place I was wanting more ski than the Cho.  The Denali might be just enough more ski for some added some security there..that day..those conditions.   Make no mistake these are wider versions of really good skimo boards.  They aren't the typical touring skis or the typical soft snow ski.  They are true mountaineering skis.  The Cho is a well proven version of that definition even while being just one year old.  From my little time on the Denali I think it is a even more mature version of that tool.   With race bindings on them I hope to prove that statement to myself over and over again this winter.

Some are sure to I did.  How about a comparison to the La Sportiva Nano?  To start with $300 to $500 more @ retail.  Ouch!  I have not skied the Vapor yet.  But the comparisons on soft snow between the Denali and the Vapor, from those I trust, have been very favorable.

But money no object?  Ya gotta wonder right?
It is a very modern 5 point ski.  Some advantages there.

General consensus from those that I know that have skied both:
"Mind blowing weight for a powder plank!"

1180g [172cm] for one ski
129-103-120 [172]
19m [172]
Generous tip rocker, camber underfoot, gentle tail rocker

For everything skimo related look here:


Unknown said...

Fascinating,, interesting. The collection of skis is probably more than I'd be comfortable spending,, but your impression is the Denali fills more types of skiing with minimal compromise? I currently have two radically different skis,, short and "fat" (130-90-110 by 130cm) and my new depthless powder skis (145-120-126) work really well in the two snow types I encounter. Mu short fat approach skis get me in and out of spring and autumn tree covered slopes and the powder skis will get there ultimate test in Niseko this winter (but they are hero skis so far). I'd love one ski that I'd enjoy on both. So does the denali snap a turn?

Dane said...

For me, the Denali is a good one quiver ski. And I ask a lot from my skis. The only ski in this year's chorus line I'd consider as my "only" ski. Snap a turn? Oh, ya.

Unknown said...

Good write up. Really interested in the Denali. Living on the east coast I ski a lot of marginal conditions where a "wider" touring ski certainly helps blast through the crud and mank. I feel as though the Denali has a good edge bite without having too much floppy rocker. I am 6 feet and 160 pounds. My skiing style is aggressive and I spend a lot of time skiing slides and Mount Washington in New Hampshire. Thinking of the 184 Denali. Too big for me?

As a broke college student it really helps to get such great advice on gear from cold thistle so I am always so satisfied on my purchases.

Thanks Dane!!

Anonymous said...

damn dane you always have such a nice quiver!

Dane said...

Chris, I was pretty surprised just how good the Denali was on some nasty hard water ice. Nothing I have ever owned would have done much better. And at least they are light in weight. I out weigh you by 40# @ 200 and could live with the 176, short of the fluff days we get here or yoyo skiing on the lifts. I've become a fan of shorter skis as they get wider. So take my suggestion with a grain or two of salt on length. With a modern ski in everything from 197cm @ 117 to 160cm race skis I find myself grabbing the short skis if forced to choose and not knowing what kind of conditions I'll be skiing. I spent more time on a 174 Cho last season than almost any other ski I own. The other ski I used as a daily driver was a 182 GPO, again on the short side for me. 180+/- use to be short for me. But reality says I like them (short) and more importantly have never wanted for a longer ski even on the really short (I consider 174cm really short) ski in use.

A stiffer ski with more body and heavier construction, sure. That I have wanted. But never wanted them longer.

If I have a choice I will still use a 190cm +/- ski when the snow is really good.

But then I am happy making lots of turns on a pair of 174 Denalis in good snow too. FWIW my 182 Denali is only 50g heavier than the 176 per ski.

Mike said...

I am interested to hear your thoughts on the Manaslu 2.0 compared to the Denali. When looking at the descriptions and the weights it seems clear that Manaslu is a more tradition construction and Denali is carbon. I have not skied a carbon ski, but from the reviews of a bunch of these skis it sounds like they have some different characteristics than what I might be used to. Particularly loud chattering. The question is go with Denali or is $200 higher price too much for 8mm extra width and 100g/ski weight saving. Especially if this will be a quiver of one, touring specific setup.

Dane said...

I like a damp wood ski just not the weight. 174 Man weighs 4oz+ more per ski than the 176 Denali I have. More like 115g per ski or 1/2 pound extra on your feet. For me the extra money is worth the weight drop 98% of the time. Not like the Dynafit skis are full carbon. Chatter isn't an issue nor is noise compared to something like a DPS carbon ski....which are annoying for noise IMO.

CapacityCSO said...

Dane, great to have your comments on this. I've got a nice Trab Stevio setup and am looking for another ski which will still work with my TLT5s and yet offer more width and good edge hold. This sounds pretty ideal. I'm curious if you've ever tried the Volkl BC line (Katana's et al). I loved the Atomic and Volkl skis I used inbounds for years and have wondered how they'd do out back. I too am often in the East, but SLC and Cham too, so very keen to hear about your experience on the Denali. I'd also like your thoughts on the skins used, and binding of choice. Keep 'em coming. Best, Thom

Dane said...

Race bindings for the most part on everything now. Taken a while to build a good sized cache of them as they are expensive! Skins? After using pretty much everything in the last 30 years, if I can, I use Dynafit. Like the attachments. And the skins seem to work well for me. As I said ski-mo skis, which is where my interests are. So a systems approach works best for me. Dynafit just seems to have the gear that works for what I am doing the majority of time. You can see my other choice for "real skis". But the boots and bindings stay the same. TLT6P boot and race binders generally in one form or another.