Dynafit Denali Ski – Quiver Arrow of the Week

This post by WildSnow.com blogger  
Dynafit Denali offers exceptional performance/weight ratio in a wider platform.

Dynafit Denali offers exceptional performance/weight ratio in a wider platform.

“Denali” is a good name for a ski. Indeed, I’m wondering why someone didn’t use it before Dynafit slapped the moniker on their new, wider version of their well received Cho Oyu model. (Or perhaps, somewhere, a ski was named Denali? Trivia contest?)

We now know that the incredibly low mass Cho Oyu is a little ripper — holding well on piste, railing, but also bouncy fun in powder. Nonetheless, Cho’s 88 mm waist is skinny. If you’re spoiled by having a bountiful platform under your feet, perhaps the “100 mm” standard that many ski alpinsits feel skis well and isn’t so wide as to tour heavy, “Choodie” is thus too narrow (though the >< 88 mm waisted ski is a common choice in Europe).

Enter Denali, at 129/97/114 (measured) sidecut this plank still has a Euro style profile that’ll cut tick-tock turns, but also has the width (near 100 at the waist) and beef to be supportive and confidence inspiring if you open it up. What is more, Denali presently ranks as the fourth lightest ski in our extensive weight vs. surface area chart!

Exceptional at 1,247 grams per 176 cm ski. If you earn your turns, this alone is a major shopping point. I mean, even if this ski was average it would be tempting, but it most certainly skis above average so it’s an easy choice for the quiver.

I skied the Denali ski in a variety of conditions. On hardpack they honor their torsionally rigid build with plenty of traction. The sidecut makes them lively and “turny,” stability at speed was average for this type of geometry. The ski is damp enough for ski touring but it’s not a noodle; in re-frozen crud (the vibe test!) you can feel every bump and wrinkle. Combine that with rigid tech bindings and a shorter choice in length and you won’t want to be making multiple laps on ski lifts. But again, this is a touring ski and we test skis for human powered skiing. In that sense, I’d call this ski “bouncy and lively” with one of the best performance/weight ratios ever.

(Note that most skis we test with this sort of lighter construction are noisy on hardpack, sometimes LOUD. If you ski a lot of frozen spring corn snow or piste, this is a valid consideration so keep it in mind. Earplugs are for hut snoring, not for skiing.)

This is not a particularly rockered ski, though it does have some rocker in the tip. Unlike heavily rockered skis Denali could probably be utilized in a slightly shorter length. That’s a good way to save weight, make kick turns easier, and stowage on your rucksack a reasonable endeavor instead of feeling like you’re hauling a telephone pole. Nonetheless, after testing the 176 it did feel so good I’d hesitate to drop a step in length. My advice is thus go with forehead length, or cheek if you can demo before buying to make sure the shorter choice isn’t too squirrely.

Denali has tip and tail notches for Dynafit Speed model skins, but other types of tip/tail fixation will work. They do not have rescue holes, and the dark color does little to help with top-skin icing. That said, I still like the graphics. As one who skied on the tallest mountain in North America before it was commonly called Denali, then went back a few years ago and skied it again, I enjoy being reminded of “the big one.” After all, some of the hardest and also the best days of my career as an alpinist were spent on that mountain. The hardest days are hopefully in my past, but many best days are to come — and some will be on Denali, the ski.


43 Responses to “Dynafit Denali Ski – Quiver Arrow of the Week”

  1. Mark Worley March 21st, 2014 9:19 am

    I’ll be talking with Pete Swenson and the local Dynafit rep to get the low down on when I can get a pair of these. Aside from the dark color, they sound really good.

  2. Ted March 21st, 2014 10:03 am
  3. DLV March 21st, 2014 10:04 am

    Interesting binding setup you got on them thar skis.

  4. Aaron March 21st, 2014 12:23 pm

    Interesting, I’d really love to get on a pair. I’ve been updating my years old backcountry ski quiver this year and the jump in technology in just the past few years is astounding. I’ve been fortunate to be using a 171 Nanga Parbat with Speed SLs this season for fitness and mountaineering objectives and have been absolutely blown away by how light these skis are. I’ve been able to drop 4lbs with this setup and have never had so much energy lap after lap.

    Looks like the Denali will fit right into a quiver spot nicely at 97 under for general winter touring. I’m slightly concerned about the lack of mass, as our conditions here in the PNW can quite often be heavy, moist, and bumpy. I get thrown around a bit on the Nangas in challenging hard cut-up conditions, but then again for a ski that weighs sub 1k, that’s to be expected. Would these react similarly in the same conditions? Might stay in the 1.3-1.4kg range to make the concrete more manageable?

  5. Joe Risi March 21st, 2014 1:22 pm

    Perfect dimensions for a quiver killer ski! Can’t wait to get my step into these skis!

  6. UpSki Kevin March 21st, 2014 1:26 pm

    wow- I bet I’d be skiing on these right now if they had come out one month ago when I was on the market. But I’m plenty happy on the Cho Oyu as my newest go-to ski… really impressive what they are doing here! my skiis/bindings now weigh less than my boots.

  7. Gentle Sasquatch March 21st, 2014 4:41 pm

    I was in Munich last week and held the Cho You in my hand. Unbelievable how light they feel, although the graphic design of the top sheets is not my cup of tea.

  8. Andy M. March 21st, 2014 5:26 pm

    Lou, can you comment on their turn radius (perceived) vs. the Cho Oyu? The stats on the Denali look great except on the Dynafit specs they apparently went from a 12m radius (Cho Oyu) to 21m (Denali). I’m mostly thinking of tree skiing, but a bit of in steep jump turn chutes.

  9. Paddy March 21st, 2014 10:10 pm

    I skied my new Cho Oyu’s for the first time yesterday, and I’m head-over-heels in love. I’m seeing a future quiver of two Cho + Denali for the deeper days. Just curious what boots you skied them with? I wish that was some info Ski reviewers gave more consistently. I think there’s a BIG difference in someone’s perception of a ski on Scarpa Freedoms vs Aliens (for instance). As a light is right guy I’m always interested in how little boot you can get away with on a particular ski.

  10. zippy the pinhead March 22nd, 2014 6:18 am

    Andy M,
    In the case of jump-turns, the turning radius of the ski is has no impact. (Swing-weight is the important factor there.)

    A ski’s “turning radius” is measured for a carved turn where the edge of the ski is in contact with the snow throughout.

    When you make a jump-turn, you are essentially turning in the air, rather than through the arc of a turn, so the measured radius of the ski is meaningless in that case.

    Hope that clears things up.

    Happy trails….


  11. See March 22nd, 2014 8:29 am

    Some people (like me) prefer straight skis for steep, hard snow (tight chutes) because more of the edge makes contact without having to decamber the ski as much.

  12. Lou Dawson March 22nd, 2014 9:44 am

    As perhaps most of you guys know, I had a brief career in skiing the steeps, mostly back when skis were narrow and straight. But I did get onto steep hard snow quite a bit with sidecut skis. I can say from experience that too much sidecut does make it more difficult to ski steep terrain hard snow safely and in control. Sure, you are turning in the air at least part of the time if you’re doing jump turns or semi-jump turn “peddle” turns, or variations of all above (wild flailing jump turns are really not that great on 50 degree or steeper, as you land too hard and going too fast). But the sidecut lands squirrly, and doesn’t make a good platform. As I don’t ski the steeps any more by intent I can’t say what sidecut and radius would be best for hard snow steeper than 40 degrees, but from past experience I can easily say I’d rather be on a straighter ski than the Choodie or Denali. On steeper soft snow this is less of a concern, but anyone who wants to make a regular thing out of skiing no-fall steeps should by all means experiment with different lengths and sidecuts of skis, you life depends on it. Lou

  13. Lou Dawson March 22nd, 2014 9:46 am

    Ted, you rule the WildSnow trivia roost!

  14. Lou Dawson March 22nd, 2014 9:52 am

    Paddy, I ski the Denali with my TLT6-P no add-on tongues. A bit more boot would be better, but the compromise is fine for my style (mostly human powered). I prefer to have super lightweight rigs on my feet, if I ride lifts I don’t do very many laps as that’s when less boot can get annoying (after foot muscles fatigue, etc.). I’ve got other boots I can activate if something happens like a day of cat skiing or more than a few rides on the Aspen Mountain gondola. But I’d rather be strolling through an aspen forest in the quiet backcountry, or climbing a peak during an early corn morning…


  15. Chet March 22nd, 2014 11:00 am

    Lou, good review, thanks. Have you tried the Dynastar Cham 97 HM? The Denali looks similar in geometry. The Cham HM definitely will be heavier, and I’m guessing a bit more stout. But similar shape.

  16. Lou Dawson March 22nd, 2014 11:04 am

    Too heavy for me.

  17. Michael March 22nd, 2014 7:52 pm

    Off topic but in response to Chet I’ve got some 178 cham HMs that I like so far. About 12 touring days on them in spring CA conditions. They weigh 1700 g per ski (1690 & 1705 on my scale). Not the lightest, but light enough to be a consideration for touring. With Plums they make a good touring rig. They’re damper than your average touring ski IMO. Good edge hold. I’ve skied a couple steep chutes (45 degrees or so) in firmish snow and they’ve held. I can’t say the sidecut held me back. Love ‘em in corn. Good in crusty and heavy snow for the size. The tip stays up easily. I haven’t skied them in good pow but I can’t imagine they’d perform poorly given their performance in other variable snow.

    Anyways the Denali looks similar in dimensions. I imagine it will be an awesome lightweight ski. I’d love to have it in my quiver for really long tours in all conditions..

  18. Michael March 22nd, 2014 7:56 pm

    Oh yeah one complaint with the chams is mediocre skinning performance on steep side hilling. I imagine it’s the rocker, tight sidecut, and short sidecut running length ( lots of taper). Anyways, not a deal breaker and they’re not a disaster in this regard.

    Regarding the sidecut in steep terrain, I agree that I’d prefer less sidecut if I made a habit of skiing firm steeps, but the chams performed adequately here.

  19. Michael March 22nd, 2014 7:57 pm

    Sorry they’re Cham 97 HMs btw

  20. doug March 22nd, 2014 8:27 pm

    may the best days yet to come…

  21. Erik Erikson March 23rd, 2014 12:48 am

    88 mm is even still considered to be on the wider side in Europe / Austria, what I personally really cannot understand (one of the best things ever coming from America is the idea of riding wider planks ;-)
    On very many tours in Europe the skintracks ar allready beaten and it is often a little akward to follow them on wider skies, cause they won´t fit in. This is especially true for the 100 mm class. Another reason too look for untouched terrain, which gets harder and harder from year to year…

  22. Daniel March 23rd, 2014 3:20 am

    I like wide skis for what they can do. But for 80% of ski tours in the alps you are simply better off on something around 90mm. I could see a 100mm ski as a one ski quiver in the alps, but I much prefer a 90/110 quiver. Anything skies in powder, but not everything climbs hard stuff well. 90 is the new 70 in the alps and it is here to stay :-)
    If I hadn’t just bought 2 skis I’d be more than tempted to try the CHO.

  23. Rodney March 23rd, 2014 7:57 am

    I agree. I have the Scott Crus’airs for harder days and Nanutaq’s for softer days – seems to work well!

  24. Erik Erikson March 23rd, 2014 10:49 am

    Concerning 100 mm as a one-ski-quiver in the alps: As said above, if one of your main goals is as little effort as possible on the uphill (and thats what you would buy a light ski for), you also have to consider the width of the skintracks. Most times in Austria there will be one allready ( and you´ll look for untracked terrain on the down). And almost always they will be to narrow for your 100 mm plank, as very few people here use such wide skies. So part of the advantage of a light ski will be eaten up by more effort on the up.
    I personally don´t care for that, my main ski is a coomback which is heavy AND considered to be very wide where I live. But If I were that lucky to have the time for more than 2 or 3 tours a week my legs probably would not be strong enough for that ski…

  25. etto March 23rd, 2014 11:03 am


    The bindings seem to be Dynafit Speed Classic (or turn or whatever they’re called this season) with B&D volcano riser plates.

  26. Daniel March 23rd, 2014 11:06 am


    coincidentally I have a Cruis’Air for the same purpose. Amazing ski. Huascaran for deep.

  27. Lenka K. March 23rd, 2014 11:50 am

    It’s nice to voice the Euro perspective too! :)

    As Erik, Daniel & Rodney pointed out, it’s not just about tradition, it’s about what makes sense. And I see I’m not alone in thinking that a 90/110mm (Völkl Amaruq/Whitedot Ranger) quiver makes really good sense.

    I’d only disagree on the ratio: I ski about 80% of the time powder/110mm & 20% spring corn/90mm.

    But this is still the exception to the rule: I’ve just spent a “spring-skiing” week in Southern Tyrol, where EVERYONE else was sporting 70-80mm-waisted skis.

    Lenka K.

  28. Erik Erikson March 23rd, 2014 12:48 pm

    Lenka, do you ski the regular or the lighter carbon version of the whitedot ranger?
    And at the moment most people posting here on wildsnow seem to be of the opinion that more weight in a ski does not bring really that much advantages (if any) on the down. What is your experience concerning the whitedots, which are said to be very good but quite heavy?

  29. Erik Erikson March 23rd, 2014 1:00 pm

    Lenka, missed to ask in my previous post: Any recommendations where to go in South Tirol? Plan to do so next week for like 5 days, have just been to Ost-Tirol this season and am not exactly sure where its best in South-Tirol at the moment.
    (Lou, this is really getting a round-the-clock site – when Americans sleep, Euros take over and start to exchange here on wildsnow… ;-)

  30. Frame March 23rd, 2014 2:28 pm

    Have spent some time stroking the Ranger carbon version at the shop. Would be keen to hear your experience with the ski.

  31. Lou Dawson March 23rd, 2014 7:08 pm

    Erik, indeed! I’m having trouble with sleep deprivation but I love it that we keep the Euro influence going!

  32. Fernando Pereira March 23rd, 2014 9:14 pm

    I had the opportunity to compare the Cho Oyu with the Dynastar Cham 87 HM on long tours in wind-and-sun-blasted snow (plus soem corn, slush, and cut-up pow) in Chamonix a week ago, and I much preferred the Cham 87, even with its higher weight. The uphill benefits of the lighter Cho Oyu were more than negated by much harder work managing them on difficult snow downhill. The deep sidecut was a real challenge. In contrast, the Cham 87s surfed through nasty snow, absorbing the punishment much better. I liked the Cham 87s so much that I got a pair for my spring skiing.

  33. Erik Erikson March 24th, 2014 4:22 am

    Fernando, in your opinion: Is it more the weight or the different sidecut that makes the Cham a better ski for you? (Still don´t want to accept that their should be almost no advantage in hauling a heavier plank up the hill… and my coombacks are useless weight compared to lighter skis of the same dimensions)

  34. Jack March 24th, 2014 8:33 am

    Lou and everybody. [This is a fairly random place to comment] I had a great day
    at Sugarloaf yesterday, skinned up in reasonable time under blue skies. Skied glades, some rough windpack with deep runnels (10″) and icy tops, and then skied lift-service groomers all day.

    I just want to thank you Lou, in a very heartfelt way, and all the contributors here at Wild Snow for being my electronic mentor. I feel as if I am really launched on an AT career.

    BTW, the 182 Coombacks were AMAZING in their ability to float on really sketchy crud and edge on ice. Love the skis.

  35. Lou Dawson March 24th, 2014 8:44 am

    Jack, nice to hear! Lou

  36. Mike Marolt March 25th, 2014 11:44 am

    On steep slopes, the side cut has been an issue, but with the slight front rocker on some of the AT skis these days, for me, it’s really eliminated the issue. I never thought I would buy into the rocker concept, especially for AT skiing, but it really has some great advantages. This is obvious in powder, but for this specific reason, on steep hard snow, I am sold….

    I’d love to get on the Denali; it looks / sounds like the ultimate ski for what I do.

  37. Lou Dawson April 7th, 2014 5:07 pm

    All, please bear in mind that this is actually a “first look” after only a few days on the Denali. I recently gave them another three days of testing in a variety of conditions. I can honestly say they’re one of the best ski touring skis I’ve ever used. I’ll either add to this review, or do a new review. Stay tuned. Lou

  38. Tore Bugge April 11th, 2014 11:39 am

    I just got off a pair of Denalis, wich I´ve spent the last two days hiking on. Ok, not a whole lot of time, but it didn´t feel quite right…

    First things first, I´m 182cm and weigh just under 80kg. I used to ski hard, but after double knee surgery I take things a bit more easy now. Conditions here mixed and not ideal. From 0-600meters it was wet, heavy snow, from 600 and up it was breakable windpack with big spots of soft, windborne snow. The skis I tried were 184. This season I´ve been on a pair of 182 Grand Tetons wich I love. They are turny in the soft stuff but can haul enough ass for my part. Not as bomber as my old Black Crows Corvus or BD Zealots, but still decent.

    Anyhow, I had problems making the Denalis turn! They almost felt like piste-skis! I had to get them up to speed and carve like a mofo to make them come to life. After having a go on the Cho Oyus earlier, I thought this was very odd. The tail is stiff, and even though the geometry are a descendant of the venerable Armada JJ, they felt like old non-rockered skis – which I would have chosen in bodylength+5cm or thereabouts (Had a DPS Wailer 112RP in 190, very easy to ski!).

    My conclusion is that the Denali should NOT be chosen too long, despite looking like the kind of ski you otherwise would. It´s still on my wishlist for next season, but definetely the 174… So yeah, I completely agree with your review.

    Didn´t get any chance to ski the more down-to-earth 2015 Se7en Summit or Baltoro? Both the Cho Oyu and the Denali is quite pricey!


  39. Tore Bugge April 11th, 2014 11:43 am

    Too many typos and horrible english. Sorry bout that.

    - The Cho Oyus I tried were short and very turny and fun.
    - I´d choose the JJ´s in body length +5, not old piste skis. I wouldn’t have had old piste skis at all.

    Can´t be asked to correct my own typos, but that was the two things I thought I should clarify.

    (Editor’s note: appreciate the additional take on the skis, we fixed a few typos.)

  40. Björn July 11th, 2014 3:14 am

    How tall are you?

  41. Tore July 11th, 2014 3:20 am

    I’m 183cm, 83kg and “just another guy”-levelskier

  42. Björn July 12th, 2014 9:18 am

    I wanted to know how tall Lou is! :D Because I’m considering the Denali, but don’t know exactly if I shoul buy the 176 or the 184.
    Sorry Tore :P

  43. Lou Dawson 2 July 12th, 2014 10:10 am

    Lou’s stats: 71 inches, 180 cm, weight average to lighter.

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Welcome to Louis (Lou) Dawson's backcountry skiing information opinion website and e magazine. Lou's passion for the past 45 years has been alpinism, climbing, mountaineering and skiing -- along with all manner of outdoor recreation. He has authored numerous books and articles about backcountry skiing and is well known as the first person to ski down all 54 of Colorado's 14,000-foot peaks, otherwise known as the Fourteeners! Books and free back country news and information here, and tons of Randonnee rando telemark info.

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