Length Tested: 178cm
Dimensions/Turn Radius: 113 / 97 / 133, 15m radius
Camber: Rockered Tip w/camber
Mount point: Suggested
Environment & Conditions:
Location of Test: Squaw Valley
Number of Runs: All day
Snow Conditions: Spring conditions, not quite corn
Demo or Own: Demo
Height/Weight: 5'9", 150 lbs.
Ski Days/Season: 30
Years Skiing: ~20
Current Quiver: 2012 Blizzard Bonafide 180; 2006 Dynastar Legend 8000 172
Home Area: Squaw Valley
Preferred Terrain: bumps, off-piste, trees
Conclusion: A fun modern all-mountain ski with some tail.
Pros: Nice "pop" out of turns. Pivotable. Rails if you lay it over.
Cons: Some tip flap. Debatable tail.
My initial impression of the Cham 97 was that it was easy and familiar. Having spent most of this season on Bonafides, that's not surprising. The Cham feels pretty similar at first. It has a similar pivoty feel and also needs exaggerated tipping to get it to carve. It should be skied from the center of the foot.
What pleasantly surprised me was the energy of the Cham 97. It delivered a nice pop at the end of the turn. If the Bonafide is a hiking boot, the Cham 97 is a sneaker.
On paper, the Cham 97 has an aggressive turn radius. Perhaps it was the soft snow, but I didn't really feel it. To me that's a good thing. I'm not looking for this size of ski to do slalom turns. And I don't think any skis in this class are ice skates.
In chopped-up snow at speed, I noticed some tip flap, which is not surprising for a big, wide, rockered tip. Still, the ski tracked fine and turned as desired. Here's a look at the Cham 97's shape:
It's pretty clear from the picture that the tip rocker isn't matched by any corresponding rocker in the tail. Instead, the tail appears more traditionally flat. What the designers have done is to thin the sandwich fairly abruptly behind the binding, making the tail flexible, but present.
I think the tail of this ski is the most interesting and, probably, controversial part. Likely, people will love it or hate it. Personally, I had the tail catch on me a few times in off-piste conditions. I don't enjoy surprises like that. For a ski with tip rocker and a pivoty feel, having a flat tail like that seems a bit odd.
I could have switched these skis out for my Bonafides easily, but I ended up keeping them for the whole day. I think by the afternoon, I had adjusted my skiing style to take advantage of the tail. It can be reassuring to have it there, even if it sometimes prevents the ski from smearing cleanly around moguls. I'm not sure, but it may be that the tail provides some of that pop that I liked.
In all, I think Dynastar has put together a fun, versatile ski. I'm glad they haven't produced a clone of someone else's ski. Variety is the spice of life and some people are going to snap this up for its tail. Frankly, if I owned this instead of my current skis, life would be fine.