The Dynafit ZZeus boots and Manaslu skis have already had a thorough dissection by Lou (and he’s got another ZZeus review on tap here for publication in a few days, as he’s been using the boots on occasion up at Independence Pass.) I contacted WildSnow and asked Lou if he wanted another take — to add impressions from my own perspective outside of Wildsnow’s usual circle of reviewers. “Sure!” was the answer, so here goes.
Dynafit’s Canadian reps loaned me a set of boots, skis and Dynafit Speed Skins for review. I managed to get about five days on the gear – three corn days and two powder; enough to get the flavor of the equipment. I weigh 155 lbs and ski mainly in the Coast Mountains of British Columbia in the Vancouver/Whistler/Squamish area. My skiing is usually in fairly high moisture-content snow. Accordingly, my preference is for bigger skis and boots.
|Side by side comparison of Garmont’s MegaRide; Dynafit’s ZZeus; and Scarpa’s Spirit 3|
I weighed the boots on a kitchen scale (also, check out Lou’s boot weight comparo.) ZZeus is not light – 1950g for a single boot! Stuffing my Intuition liners in the boots dropped 100g; significant weight savings (the provided Dynafit liner is a hefty 320g, but to be fair is a super beefy and durable inner that probably holds up to wear and tear better than nearly anything else.).
From Lou’s review and his articles re gear weights, you already know that Manaslu is among the lightest of the 90mm + waisted skis out there, at 1457gr per ski in the 178 cms size. While these are not inexpensive skis, you have to lay even more cash for a pair of Goode Carbons or other more esoteric brands if you want such weight savings. So, nice to see Dynafit living up to their marketing story.
|Garmont’s MegaRide; Dynafit’s ZZeus; and Scarpa’s Spirit 3 – different buckle philosophies.|
On Snow Performance – boots
ZZeus is made out of PU Plastic, which gets stiffer as temperatures drop. Since I was using the boot in mild spring temperatures I never got to assess how much ZZeus would change in flex – that will be something to watch out for in the colder part of the year.
On the uphill and flats, ZZeus felt fine but didn’t strike me as anything revolutionary in touring performance. Rearward cuff motion is excellent, and at the forward end of a stride you’ll enjoy not being blocked by a tongue, though in a long stride you’ll still feel resistance from the lower overlap. Indeed, it was amazing to to look down at my feet and see an overlap boot that looked so much like an alpine shoe yet had a perfectly serviceable touring stride. (Please consider such muted praise in the context that it is a boot designed to be biased towards downhill performance.)
For bootpacking, ZZeus also felt fine. The sole has decent grip and the boot flexes acceptably. During my limited days of testing there was no tendency for the buckles to flip open when walking in snow. Still, with their fresh start in design it would have been nice if Dynafit had done something more inventive to totally protect the lower two buckles from damage or inadvertent opening. The ZZeus’s extra hefty weight was not that apparent during my test days. Although the tours were of the 1600m/5000 ft variety they were just day trips; it is my experience that extra weight really begins to show its detriments on tours longer than that, (or at altitude like Colorado skiers have to suffer with).
The downhill is of course where Zzeus shines. As billed in ski industry buzz, overlap boots are meant to offer a more progressive feel in downhill performance – as opposed to the on – off control of tongued boots. Zzeus lives up to the hype. Edge transfer and weighting of skis felt telepathic on these boots. Buckles are slightly cammed and are easy to engage and tighten. The boot feels tight but not constricting and my heel was held down without undue pressure. At my weight and aggression level, ZZeus felt perfect – neither too soft nor too stiff.
With that said, if the Zzeus is perfect for me could it be too little boot for heavier skiers or overkill for lighter or more finesse skiers? I’d say the latter is axiomatic (as many skiers seem to do fine on much less beefy boots), but the jury is still out on just how ZZeus will fit in the now vast selection of what Lou calls “beef boots.” Perhaps most importantly, there seems to be no way to easily tune ZZeus either for more or less stiffness or cuff angle (though the cant rivet will be appreciated by those who need it). Perhaps I am looking the gift horse of a perfectly dialed ski boot in the mouth, but these are considerations to raise given the customizability of some other touring boot offerings.
If I were a light to medium sized skier who predominantly skied inbounds with short trips to the backcountry, I would make the Dynafit ZZeus boot one of the first boots I would try. It has that beautiful unquantifiable “feel” which is almost a requirement to make alpine equipment perform well. However, even the dedicated ski tourer will be impressed by the tourability and downhill performance combined in this package. Beyond that, the swappable soles are beautifully engineered and the liner is stunning (if slightly heavy).
|ZZeus has hard stops in the interior – like most modern boots.|
On Snow Performance – Manaslu Skis
I didn’t quite know what to make of the Manaslu. To be perfectly honest, I already have a nice pair of 90mm skis with Dynafits with which I am content and was a little reluctant to distract myself from the ZZeus review. Moreover, the Manaslu was billed as a powder ski and when I started the review in mid April, I anticipated that SW British Columbia would be entering corn season shortly.
To try to not have too much variability in the ski-boot equation I used my own personal pair of Garmont MegaRides with Manaslu; first in firm hardpack conditions in some tours in local Vancouver ski area mountains. When a late-season low-pressure system coincided with cold front resulting in a dump of snow I also managed to get in some decent tours using the skis in soft snow.
|On the left, new Scarpa plug liners. On the right, Dynafit TPX liners that come stock with ZZeus|
Unsurprisingly, the Manaslu toured well. It’s incredibly light. Paired with the also very light Dynafit Speed Skins, the ski is a joy when climbing.
Manaslu has a slight twin tip in the tail but more radically, has quite a bit of reverse camber at the tip; a design feature that is supposed to make it easier to initiate turns in powder. Please read Lou’s review for more color about the design of Manaslu – including the ski geometry and reasons for the design.
|Tip and tail differences between Manaslu and a more traditional design – the Atomic R:EX|
Manaslu performed quite nicely in corn and firm snow. That is to say, it performed as well as any 90mm + waisted ski would be expected to perform. It didn’t rail turns like a slalom carver but it did hold an edge. One does not buy a fat ski for its hardpack performance; so I was stoked when a dump of snow hit the mountains north of Pemberton and I managed to get some turns using the Manaslu in powder.
In powder, Manaslu came alive on a bigger slope where I could let the ski run a bit more in larger radius turns (2 laps on a 45 to 40 degree slope; each lap being 300+ meters) They are very stable at speed; I could ski them backseat and let the skis really run or stay centered and lay tracks on the slope with utmost confidence while watching sluff roar downhill.
In low speed to medium speed turns Manaslu was underwhelming. The ski felt a tad sluggish and required some degree of up and down unweighting to initiate edges. More, I was surprised by the tendency of the big tip to wander in low speed turns. Granted, some of this could have been caused by my chosen mounting position, or my simply not being used to the ski (I didn’t have a lot of time on them). But worth noting. As always, demo if possible so you can decide for yourself.
My conclusion: Due to their girth and specialization, Manaslu is not an all-around one quiver ski. It is, however, worthy of consideration by a person rounding out their arsenal. The lack of weight combined with adequate girth is especially attractive.
|Lee testing the Dynafit skis & boots on Mt. Matier.|
(Guest blogger Lee Lau is an avid skier and outdoorsman embarking on many adventures with his loving, and sometimes concerned wife, Sharon. He has over 15 years of experience skiing, ski-touring and dabbles in mountaineering. In the “off-season” he is occasionally found working in his day job as an intellectual property lawyer when he is not mountain biking. As a resident of Vancouver, British Columbia, Lee’s playground extends mainly to Western Canada, including South West B.C. and the Selkirks.)