The Phantom Verdict — Review

Post by blogger | March 4, 2019      

This post sponsored by our publishing partner Cripple Creek Backcountry. They have a tanning bed.

Phantom tanning bed, it's part of the plot.

Phantom tanning bed, it’s part of the plot.

No, it’s not a legal thriller. If I had a nickle for how many times you guys have asked me about the DPS Phantom ski base glide treatment, I’d be buying a castle in Austria (feel free to start sending those nickels, you are invited). As it is, I began testing Phantom before it retailed. Doing so required a tedious installation involving weather prediction as much as anything else (because of needed sunlight curing). That didn’t work so well. DPS went back to the lab and came up with a better process, involving what’s essentially a high strength tanning bed that cures Phantom with UV light. I’ve done a few A/B tests now, as well as rocking fully treated pairs. I’m here to tell you the stuff works. It’s not alpine race wax, and isn’t much different than Ptex on warm snow, but:

1. Colder temps, definitly works.
2. Warm-cold-warm-cold icing your skis? Works as well as a wax job.
3. Depending on slick wax to prevent climbing skin glue residue? Works.

Downside: a hefty cash outlay (one precious Benjamin per ski pair) for the treatment, though it’s said to last the life of the ski. You can get Phantom as a DIY kit (improved over original), but I strongly recommend avoiding that and having your skis tanned at a properly equipped retailer.

The day that convinced me was nothing special. I was skinning with my A/B test setup, the sun warmed my skis. On one ski, ice formed along the base next to the edges. The other plank was clear. Guess which ski?

For the ultimate, you can wax over Phantom. In our case, we have mostly given up on alpine wax. Too many skis, too little time. Now I look at my waxing tools like my antique backpacks from the 1960s, only the wax doesn’t stir my memories like the rucksack of my youth. If you do need a hydro’ or flouro’ hit now and then, I’m sure you can figure out a way to scent some incense with all that pretty colored stuff in your workshop drawer.

Phantom has an environmental benefit as well. Skiers use an enormous amount of hydrocarbon alpine wax, most of which eventually ends up on the ground, thus eventually in the water table. It’s not like plastic straws in bird noses, but it must be detrimental. Use Phantom, solve the problem. (Phantom chemicals are benign, and pretty much stay with the ski base.)

About that thriller book; they should hire me to write titles.


Please Enjoy A Few Suggested WildSnow Posts


45 Responses to “The Phantom Verdict — Review”

  1. retsalb March 4th, 2019 9:59 am

    Thanks for the write up and taking the time to do an A/B test. The only thing I question is whether the amount of wax skiers use is truly “enormous”. For even racing pros, the % of their total petrochemical consumption that is ski wax is very small. While an imperfect comparison, how many gallons of gas do you use a year and how many gallons of ski wax do you use? Secondly the amount of wax actually on a ski after it has been scrapped and brushed is a lot less than the amount originally put on.

    Extolling the environmental virtues of Phantom is a bit of a red herring, when really we should just drive less.

    On thing that is scary about the high performance realm of ski waxing that uses pure fluorocarbon ski waxes, which does not include most all regular hot wax or anything you don’t need to iron on over 300F, is how it can build up in your blood. A neat article on this is here.

  2. XXX_er March 4th, 2019 10:19 am

    About a month ago I did a set of Lotus 120’s with Phantom under the tutelage of a dealer

    I cleaned well with base cleaner, used the Phantom cure station, lots of power brushing, lots of power polishing

    I been using the 120’s mostly in the side country where I come back on a groomed cattrack with other skiers which is a good place to compare glide

    for a ski with absolutely no wax it seems reasonably fast, certainly fast enough

    i don’t notice the bases turning white on the edges, I haven’t noticed any skinglue migration

    I am gona leave them unwaxed at least for the rest of the season

  3. Darin Berdinka March 4th, 2019 10:43 am

    Wow! This has absolutely convinced me to run out and… it hasn’t.

  4. Larry March 4th, 2019 11:49 am

    I was an early adopter of the DPS Phantom system through their Kickstarter. Yes, it was a PITA to apply and it’s nice to see they’ve addressed some of the initial application challenges. I’ve generally been pleased with the results, however if my ski buddies have a fresh wax application and we’re traversing in the resort, I can’t even come close to keeping up with them on glide. As a result, I find myself still applying hot wax to my resort skis. Bottom line…I think it works great for my backcountry skis, but I won’t likely use it again on resort skis.

  5. Kevin Woolley March 4th, 2019 11:49 am

    I got my trusty Cho Oyus treated with Phantom at Confluence Kayak last fall. Haven’t had any opportunity in this excellent winter to check glide on slushy snow so far, but have had plenty of chance to be in and out of the shade in powder this winter. Glide on long flat spots has been roughly equal to other ski companions, but hard to measure because of different ski sizes and different sized people. Two trips with my wife in sunny conditions with cold powder in the shade, I had very minor snow sticking to my bases whereas my wife had massive snow sticking to the base that required stopping more than once to scrape off. From my perspective this is a winner so far. Also love not having to wax (I’m lazy on that and almost never waxed before, now I don’t feel like I’m missing anything on glide). Would like to see how this performs in slushy snow. Will probably be treating wife’s skis and my other skis with Phantom.

  6. Lou Dawson 2 March 4th, 2019 11:58 am

    The best blog commenters in the business. Thanks guys! Anyone else have a Phantom take? Lou

  7. steve March 4th, 2019 12:41 pm

    i am still surprised that phantom is not offered built right in to the base material. licensing to other brands would be a huge cash cow for dps… would theoretically make the add on price something reasonable like 20-30 bux. 100 dollars is insane.

  8. Chris March 4th, 2019 2:08 pm

    I treated three new pairs of freshly stone ground skis, of varying width, with Phantom under their kick starter program. Having reservations about the curing process, clear but cold, I asked for, and received Phantom 2.0 for all three pairs. Stone ground and applied again on all of them. I’ve not waxed over any of them and use them exclusively for backcountry. Prior to the Phantom application, I waxed regularly. Being in the Cascades, we’ve had fairly extreme conditions this year, ranging from very cold to very warm snow temperatures, even on the same run- the ultimate test in my mind. I’ve skied two seasons now and overall I’ve been impressed. Spring performance last year was great and my skis never became oxidized on the surface. I’ve not done any A/B testing, and there are many variables to say conclusively, but overall I feel the glide has been comparable to a waxed ski. There are conditions that I’ve felt my partners, with similar width skis and body weight, skiing right next to me, have better glide. This has been noticeable, but primarily at slower speeds. I’ve also experienced a few occasions with tremendous tackiness with rapidly changing surface temperatures- but everyone was also experiencing this, with freshly waxed skis performing the best. We’ve had some noticeable icing this year, compared to others, but this was also evident on non Phantom treated skis. Recently, I decided to wax one pair with a universal cold wax. Immediately I noticed better glide a slower speeds. My overall take, it’s worth not having to wax, and you can always wax over it if you want maximum glide.

  9. Mark Donohoe March 4th, 2019 3:54 pm

    Off topic, but I have been looking at new ski boots and have been amazed that the following are not discontinued.
    Atomic Backland (all models)
    La Sportiva Sparkle

    I read WS almost every day and don’t recall hearing about this. Lou? I really like the look of the backlands (weight and performance wize). Wonder what Atomic plans to replace them with, the newer beef boots are too heavy.

    BTW I will not ever buy a boot with a speed nose. Lou, please tell Dynafit to get a clue on this. (e.g. the TLT 7 looks great, but it has that nose…..).

    Sorry for the off topic, but a blog has this limitation in that there are now place for a general comment. Maybe you could add a forum and Lisa could moderate! 🙂

  10. Mike H March 4th, 2019 5:50 pm

    I just picked up my dream skis with Phantom 2.0 and only have 3 days of cold snow skiing on them but so far so good. Like others have said, I think it’s similar to a 2-3ish day old wax – you dont have the super slick feeling like right after a wax job but they don’t feel slow enough to wax. For the non-race Phantom seems perfect!

  11. Thom March 4th, 2019 8:44 pm

    So every time you do major work on your bases (stone grind, reestablish structure, etc.) you need to fork over a $100?

    I think I’ll take a pass, but I’m not going to tell others how to spend their money 😉

  12. Arnie March 5th, 2019 3:11 am

    @Mark Donohoe
    Don’t know about la sportiva but atomic backland boot is getting an overhaul..from the skiclub gb site:

    “Backland boots have been reduced in weight by 1kg to help with performance uphill. This is mainly because the boots have no tongue shell and have been replaced by the new BOA fit system. The BOA fit system replaces traditional buckles with a twist mechanism that tightens the shell, allowing skiers to tweak the tightness of the boot more freely.”

    Look nice..not sure about boa..might give it a go.

  13. Lou Dawson 2 March 5th, 2019 7:13 am

    Thom, Phantom is said to deeply penetrate the base, they say it can stand up to stone grinds. Lou

  14. Thom March 5th, 2019 7:18 am

    Thsnks, Lou!

  15. woobie March 5th, 2019 7:41 am

    I’ve been wondering when the US Ski Team and the POW (Protect Our Winters) folks would have a chance to put their true dedication to fighting climate change on display. Maybe next year US Alpine-Nordic Ski teams can ski World Cup without any flouros and use something like this to show their green cred. and add some legitimacy to their demands that the US needs to stop driving cars, using petroleum and go Green New Deal. Just like the claim wind and solar energy will enrich the US, they should do great in competition with other countries: Go for the Gold!

  16. Mike H March 5th, 2019 9:08 am

    On the BOA – I was skeptical too but love it on my F1’s. It’s very easy to adjust the fit as long as it is only over part of the boot. I don’t think it would work if the laces extended across the cuff and top of the foot.

  17. XXX_er March 5th, 2019 10:34 am

    Phantom isn’t THE fastest way to go so its just not going to be used for any racing app period

    It might be hard for the average TGR / wildsnow ski nut with a quiver in the double digits/all the waxing gear to wrap their head around Phantom, I still think the Phantom could speak to the vast majority of average skiers who are probably not us

    Consider the average N.A. skier (< 10 ski days a year?) doesn't buy alot of skis, pays a shop to wax if they wax at all, can now always have pretty good glide, so how many store bought wax jobs = 1 Phantom treatment ?

    I probably would have passed on Phantom if i didn't get comped which also means i don't have to justify spending the 100$ so for me " does the stuff work and how ? " is the burning question

  18. Johannes March 5th, 2019 5:10 pm

    Thom, and Lou, the treatment fully penetrates the base, and from what I’ve heard from shop friends is that doing a base grind or two post treatment actually enhances the glide, because the skis are cured sitting upside down, hence the goop penetrates into the bases. This means that it is a one-time investment for the life of the skis.

    I have one pair of skis with Phantom 2.0, and have been skiing them around Tahoe this winter. I’ve skied them inbounds and toured on them, and I’d say my overall take is that it works OK.

    I do like having a fresh waxed pair of skis, and Phantom, as others have mentioned, doesn’t have the same glide as fresh wax. I’d say it feels as if I waxed a week or two ago, though being in Tahoe, we’ve got a lot of wet snow, which it appears to struggle with. One day, skiing through areas with really wet snow under trees, and drier snow between trees, I definitely felt the seesaw of glide-no glide-glide-no glide. Though, I could always wax over the top, so not the end of the world.

    I think if you’re an average resort skier looking for better performance but don’t want to constantly wax your gear, it will be a success. For most people who go touring, I also think it would be a great investment. For people who wax religiously, it might be good to keep a spare liquid wax around just in case.

  19. Lou Dawson 2 March 6th, 2019 9:47 am

    I’d say that waxing over the Phantom is a viable option and key if you want the ultimate slick feeling skis, but the “basic” glide and icing resistance provided by the Phantom is probably enough for most people ski touring. In our case, since we don’t wax our skis much anyway, the Phantom is greatly appreciated. Lou

  20. Martin March 7th, 2019 10:26 am

    It is said that fluoro wax is bad for the skin glue and should best be avoided for touring skis.
    Phantom seems to consist of fluoro components as well – will it interfere with the skin glue?

  21. Thom March 7th, 2019 10:44 am

    Upon further review …

    This definitely looks like a good deal for 90% of the skiers – the sort who wax every season (and tune every 3 years), whether they need to or not 😉

    XXX_er makes a good point – that the average quiver yielding
    Wildsnow / TGR-er with a large quiver might not be the target market. After paying to wax 7 pair of skis, you might not have the $$$ left over to buy that highly lusted after 8th pair.

    … Thom

  22. XXX_er March 7th, 2019 12:44 pm

    I supose you could do Phantom yourself by just putting the skis out in the sun and hand brushing but I think its best to let the pro’s do it with the oven & roto brushes .

    The product is baked/UV’d in (i think there is some heat?) with the DPS oven, roto brush every bit of it off after each of the 2 applications with a roto brush labeled ” Phantom only ” and then polish well with a different roto brush.

    I’m pretty sure I got all the Phantom off but the shop did say to ski them before using skins

    besides Lou I do know of one happy customer who liked Phantom enough to do his whole quiver

  23. Lou Dawson 2 March 7th, 2019 1:30 pm

    DIY with Phantom is difficult, but can be done. Better have roto brushes and a waxing area, and plenty of sun. Lou

  24. XXX_er March 7th, 2019 1:41 pm

    It was pointed out to me not to put it on the shovels and then watch as 10$ worth of product runs off on the floor, wipe it off the top sheet quickly

    little tricks eh !

    wish I had roto brushes

  25. john nobil March 7th, 2019 1:48 pm

    Wax thread? Couldn’t resist this topic! while the ski shops are buying phantom curing boxes, why not just bring back hotboxes? Lou you may need to explain the hotbox to the younger touring audience 🙂
    imo it’s the best of both worlds: longest wax retention and many many days of that fast glide. unfortunately most shops “don’t have space for one” or is it that just a lack of marketing hype… next episode: wildsnow diy hotbox? we’re fortunate that one of the original Mammoth shops (Kitts) still maintains the old skool ski hotbox, maybe the only one in Cali outside of a race department! it just works

  26. XXX_er March 7th, 2019 2:48 pm

    Hot boxes used incandescent bulbs to provide heat but I don’t think they had the UV which is the main thing a Phantom curing box does

    I think XC ski shops still have hot boxes

    hot boxes were also good for warming up pizza !

  27. Brian Harder March 7th, 2019 10:55 pm

    Being pretty much a weekend warrior these days, I’m not ready to abandon the Friday night tune and wax ritual that I enjoy so much. My bases are flat, edges sharp and skis fast when I need them to be. Simply walking into my shop, flipping on the light and donning my apron starts each week’s dose of giddy anticipation.

  28. Swiss Hoser March 7th, 2019 11:41 pm

    You are so right Brian! What you are describing is borderline spiritual.
    My own workshop is a temple to religious ski preparation and bike maintenance. I will boast that my wife and I have the fastest running skis at the resort when we’re in-bounds. We consistently out-glide other skiers on the longer and more notorious transit sections…on our fat skis.
    Wax on. Wax off. Wax on…

  29. Kristian March 8th, 2019 9:02 am

    Hey, wax aficionados!

    What’s the best most efficient way of catching all of the mess from scraping? Is there any other simple solution besides building a large custom wooden box? Anything that can be ordered online, etc?

  30. XXX_er March 8th, 2019 9:20 am

    besides dropping wax shavings yer also dropping sharp & or heavy tools so I put a 4×8 sheet of particle board under my wax bench to protect a laminate floor, its big enough to catch much of the wax shavings which I vacuum up with a shop vac

    call me jaded but i got over waxing long ago, to all the people bringing up/talking about wax

    Phantom is NOT wax

  31. brian harder March 8th, 2019 9:41 am

    Most of the time I don’t scrape. Crayon the wax and roto brush. Doesn’t look as pretty but for bc skiing it works great and is way less messy.

  32. Thom March 8th, 2019 9:53 am

    As far as excess wax scrapings …

    Terry from Slidewright (great fellow) touches the wax bar to his iron and then “crayons”/rubs the wax onto the ski. You put much less needless wax on the base.

    He irons it in and then blots off 90% of the wax by placing a shop paper towel on the base and ironing over that.

    There’s hardly anything left over to scrape. After scraping, he finishes the normal way – brushing/rotobrushing.

    I think he has a video on has website.

    I do the crayon part, but blot with standard paper towels which aren’t as abdorbant. Even this works quite well.

    … Thom

  33. Lou Dawson 2 March 8th, 2019 10:36 am

    A wax box is easy to make. The blog post below covers one. I made one that’s nothing more than 5 pieces of 1/2 inch plywood, and sits on my workbench. Wax box is hands down the best way to catch scrapings. I just vacuum it out when I’m done, but could easily salvage the scrapings. The box makes the process so clean you could do it on your living room carpet (or perhaps you do that anyway?). (smile)

  34. Kristian March 8th, 2019 3:07 pm

    Kitchen or dining room table + 2 curious cats. (No space for a workshop.)

    Lots of good ideas.

  35. XXX_er March 9th, 2019 11:44 am

    Kristian when I was renting and I couldn’t set up a shop I used a Black & Decker workmate to hold a form made of 2×8 chucked in the table to hold either skis or snow boards . The workmate folds up to a compact size and you can put down a drop sheet for the wax

  36. Dxxx May 20th, 2019 10:43 am

    DPS PHANTOM. I consider this review a bit of a shill review for DPS and not the most objective. There is definitely problems with Phantom and as well documented on Blister Review testing.
    The Phantom treatment is VERY PROBLEMATIC on fresh new snow which is on the damp side. You will get ICING EVERY TIME YOU RIP SKINS OR EVEN WHEN YOU STOP ON FRESH SNOW ON THE DAMP SIDE This is well documented. Do you want to wonder if the icing will clear every time you push off? The minor comments in this review open the icing in comparison to waxed skiis is not at all accurate under these conditions. Buyer be ware.

  37. Thom May 20th, 2019 12:41 pm

    Hi Dxxx,

    While I’m not the least bit inclined to try the Phantom, it seems to have a target audience who will benefit from it. I’ve ridden lifts with folks who tune their skis every 3-4 years … whether they need it or not 😉

    I think your “shill” comments are a bit harsh. Perhaps if you opened up a Patreon account for Lou to set up a full-blown, Consumer Reports style lab it would be a justified comment.

    The Blister Review isn’t nearly as bad as you make it out to be with your selective quotes, and the Blister team seems OK with its quirks.

    None of this makes me want to run out and dump $600 to treat 6 pairs of skis however 😉

    … Thom

  38. Lou Dawson 2 May 20th, 2019 12:43 pm

    Dxx, it’s my experience. I waited more than year to review, much to the scolding of folks who wanted my early take. I was not initially convinced. If someone doesn’t agree, perhaps that makes them a shill for another company for all I know. I did not experience the “well documented” stuff you mention. But each to his own. I’m certain any reputable shop would stand by Phantom and issue a refund to a clearly dissatisfied customer. Please do me a favor, and if you have not done so leave a link to my review in the Blister comments.Thanks, Lou

  39. Lou Dawson 2 May 20th, 2019 1:09 pm

    Dxx, I’m assuming you used Phantom in a lot of conditions, and found the same problems Blister did? Please share your own experience.

    I used it. A lot. Including doing my own DIY applications when they first started retailing, which I did NOT review as I was not happy. But both Lisa and I are happy with the tanning box applied product.


  40. x May 20th, 2019 5:55 pm

    I have Phantom on the one set of lotus 120’s, what I did alot was compare my glide to the glide of other folks at the hill that I was riding with, my glide seemed pretty good for a ski with zero wax on the bases but then I would ride with other skiers who told me they had zero wax and they still had ok glide in comparison.

    I’m not sure if I got a chance to use them with skins but I just looked and there is no glue migration

    I used them from the end of Jan. into late season & never ever noticed snow sticking to bases, the lotus is my go-to for slush cup which was pretty moist but no problem, so far phantom glide seems OK or better and will need more testing by this gear head

    I didn’t think the blister review read all that bad

    I don’t think Dxxx actualy tried Phantom glide, I kind of wondered how and why this post seemed to come out of nowhere after the ski season is pretty much over

    maybe next year I will compare them to my other set of lotus 120

  41. See May 21st, 2019 8:39 pm

    So Dx, are you experienced with the product? I’m not.

  42. Thom May 22nd, 2019 12:53 am

    Lou raises an excellent point about self-application, and remember that his DIY “failure” was in Carbondale at around 7,000 feet altitude (approx. 2,100m) so if you’re at lower altitude, your results are likely to suffer even more.

    … Thom

  43. XXX_er May 22nd, 2019 8:39 am

    I was told there should be a lot of white powder coming off the bases when brushing the product off after the UV fixing or the application might not be right

    SO the UV “box/oven” & rotary brushes to get all that product off might be reasons to go to a shop ?

    some how my post 3 above ^^ only had one x

  44. Other Aaron May 22nd, 2019 9:09 am


    Are you sure your tech wasn’t just doing lines of your bases? ;P


  45. XXX_er May 22nd, 2019 2:01 pm

    Other Aaron I was doing this Phantom instal at this shop myself and it didn’t even occur to me, but I will admit to having a powerful lust for the craft beer !

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