I just returned home from three days of Colorado ankle-deep springtime bliss. Nearly any board would have worked for much of the skiing. It was that perfect. But sometimes a special ski, like a special woman, makes even the best things in life better. My wife is the woman, and for the time being Denali is the ski. (I’ve been through many more skis than I have wives, happy to say, and hope to continue the trend.)
What is it about gliding down a mountainside, water crystals stabbing your face and your tribe hooting what are essentially chimpanzee feeding sounds, is so special? Perhaps I already answered that question. If not, I think it’s about flow, and velocity. If you’ve mastered skiing to some degree, not necessarily world-class standards, but at least you can do loose, relaxed, fast and smooth, the feeling seems to lock into your limbic as a primordial dance. I’m thinking perhaps your lizard brain senses you’re moving fast enough to catch anything edible, and that is good.
Thing is, you’ve got to have the right tools on your feet to make the limbic limbo happen.
Consider the Dynafit Cho Oyu. These lively, edge-happy yet powder friendly skis are possibly one of the best touring boards ever produced. Possibly. Yet their >< 88 mm waist still doesn't give you that platform feeling we've come to crave for skiing North American soft snow conditions. Up or down.
Truly, even the most trad European ski tourer -- that guy making one turn for every sixteen inches of elevation drop -- will find that somewhat wider skis offer countless benefits. If for no other reason than easier trail breaking -- or more importantly, how amazingly effective some width and a bit of rocker can be on difficult snow.
Thus, take equal parts Cho Oyu and Huscaran, include a weight-aware core along with careful manufacturing. Name the new guy after one of the most powerful mountains in the world. Result: Denali. Weight, currently 4th lightest on our weight/surface chart and at 98 mm waist still the 6th lightest on our weight/length chart!
But can she ski? Expecting one plank to clone the performance of another model is like trying to have twins 2 years apart. Not gonna happen. But wait, skis are not babies, so perhaps…? I’m here to tell you that yes, Denali skis. They’ll easily be included in our Ultimate Quiver this year, and are most certainly a go-to in my personal stash. Results of now extensive testing:
Powder: While I enjoy playing with the 36 mm (radius 16/11/15, 88 mm waist) sidecut of the Choodie, they don’t slarve or open up that well. In a word, they’re indeed trad. Denali struts 33 mm sidecut (radius 22/21, 97mm waist)). I can easily feel the difference. Denali is more relaxing, more fun. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had a zillion beautiful powder days on the Choodies, but I do have them both available and I’d grab the Denali if pow is on the program. Downside? Dark graphics that create icing events.
Breakable crust: From the 2014 Dynafit press event in Switzerland to the forests of Colorado, I’ve skied breakable on both Choodie and Denali this season. If you’re a traditionalist and can keep the ski carving, Cho Oyu will master the breakable; they’ll feel nervous and a bit demanding, but they’ll do it. Denali does it better, due to increased support and relaxed profile.
Hard snow: Choodie is a lively ride on piste or frozen corn. You’ll find yourself grinning as you attempt to imitate the carve fanatics on their specialized rigs. Denali does fine as well, does tilt & carve, but is not going to inspire you to channel your inner Austrian in the wedlin sense of things. Steep “white ice” corn snow is another matter. I tend to grab the Cho Oyu for corn tours just because it’s a bit lighter weight, but in testing I prefered how the Denali feels on steep hard snow, again because the relaxed profile isn’t trying to turn when you don’t want it to.
Slush and muck: Width always rules. Denali has a longer sweet spot that helps when you get a bit “off” in your body position (e.g., RIDE ‘EM COWBOY!). Slightly extended but not “twin tip” tail is supportive when you need to back-lever out of a situation where a tail tip would result in a wash out.
In summary, Dynafit has come up with two skis that are leaders in the weight/performance arena. Both Cho Oyu and Denali have similar construction. Moderate amount of tip rocker in both skis makes them feel “current” but still turn on the traditional side of the equation. While it won’t perform like a wider, massively rockered boat, Denali will delight the modern human powered pow seeker (moderate width, super low weight = uphill like a ski lift). Cho Oyu is a bit more the traditionalist but still one of the most appealing planks out there for the committed ski tourer. Both skis could wreck your marriage if you’re not careful, and even casual relationships can suffer if time with a ski is picked over that of a human. You have been warned.