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Dynastar Cham 97

post #1 of 5
Thread Starter 
Product: Dynastar Cham 97

Length Tested: 178

Dimensions/Turn Radius: 133/97/112 with R=16

Camber: Other. Rocker and early rise on tip, flat tail with pintail end.

Binding: Look PX 12

Mount point: Suggested (boot center)

Environment & Conditions: Soft groomers & firm groomers on piste, chop/cutup and 8" fresh off-piste.

Location of Test: western Montana

Number of Runs: 4 full days

Snow Conditions: as stated under Environment & Conditions

Demo or Own: Own

Tester Info:

Username: yours truly

Age: five one

Height/Weight: 178cm/5'10", and 145 lbs.

Ski Days/Season: around 100

Years Skiing: 30

Aggressiveness: Aggressive(Driver)

Current Quiver: Elan 888 @ 177cm, Elan 1010 @ 183cm, Dynastar Cham 97 @ 178cm

Home Area: dark, grey place where it snows in the winter

Preferred Terrain: off-piste

I decided to get some new skis this year and had narrowed down to Blizzard Bonafide @ 180cm or Dynastar Cham 97 @ 178cm. When I finally stopped procrastinating and tried to order my new skis, Blizzard had sold out of its Bonafides, so I went with the Cham 97.

I skied the Bonafide for 3 runs last year and didn't like the short-ski feel or loose engagement of the rockered ends, but did find them fun despite the disorienting nature of the rockered ends. I admit confusion as to why people felt non-rockered skis were "hooky" or "didn't want to let go" at the end of a turn. I haven't experienced those things on my non-rockered skis before. It seemed to me a shorter effective ski is a detriment, not a benefit. But I was willing to admit I was closed-minded on this issue and so I was willing to get a newer geometry, shape, design for this season.

The first day out on the Cham 97 was in cut-up new snow and on soft groomers. And I was on new boots as well. The skis and boots felt like strangers, I skied awkwardly and had lots of upper body action going on, apparently trying to help the skis do their thing. I was in an all-day clinic, so I didn't really free-ski the way I like to when I learn a new ski. All that compounded to make me not really like the skis on the first day. I thought maybe I'd wasted my money and would be selling them shortly.

I skied 2 more days on my Elan 888 and then on my 4th day out this year I got back onto the Cham 97s. I had an easier time learning the skis, and started to sense their strengths and weaknesses. By the end of the day I was really happy to have bought them and had decided they will be my regular ski once our coverage has buried all the base-gouging rocks that now litter a few must-ski areas of the mountain.


1) Very stable and powerful. I can drive them through just about any kind of crud I've encountered so far, from cutup days-old powder to some consolidated heavy chunks of snow that tend to want to redirect your skis. Also, we have an oft-criticized "runout" area that results from a funneling of many runs onto a heavily-tracked, somewhat narrow and occasionally sketchy road that's rated black diamond. On that runout my favorite strategy is simply point it and go. Most skiers and boarders go back-and-forth on the narrow roadbed, which is slower and more cautious I guess, but it's not necessary if your skis are stable and you don't mind the wind whistling in your ears. On this runout I can just point and go and no matter how fast I get going the Cham 97 feels bombproof. Like it wants another 20 or 30 mph from me.

2) Tip planes easily. The tips seek the surface more often than a 97mm waist might suggest. I hear others saying this is a benefit. I don't notice a direct skiing benefit from it myself, but I do notice the tips seek a higher point on these skis than on my Elan 1010. I don't have a lot of issues with tip-stuffing so I'm almost reluctant to call this a benefit, but I suppose others may like it or seek it specifically.

3) Tail can be engaged, or left to smear, at the skier's discretion. Normally I have to detune the tails pretty extensively to get this experience, and then I give up some edgehold at the rearmost part of the skis. I didn't detune the Cham 97 at all. Not one whit. When I wanted to feel like I was running a GS course the Cham 97 was right there with me. When I wanted to soften a turn finish I could do that too, without much effort.

4) Predictable even when skiing with a flat-ski style. I'm not much for flat ski, swivel-feet turns, I don't enjoy them and don't find them useful anywhere except trying to ride the troughs when in the bumps. But I recognize a lot of intermediate and advanced skiers aren't really very dynamic in their skiing and spend more time with flattish skis than with edges engaged powerfully. Those skiers could ride this ski pretty happily -- though they're not going to be getting their money's worth out of it, and it's likely to feel somewhat planky while they're doing that.


1) They can feel planky and lifeless if you're skiing them flattish.

2) Engaging and using the tail is more subtle than obvious, and may lead to the ski feeling planky when you don't get it right. The sweet spot for using the tail is small, even though the ski will feel stable if the tail isn't used. This lends to a strange combination of forgiving and relatively demanding. Forgiving if you don't use the tail -- but then you're not really getting much out of the ski. Demanding if you want to maximize the ski's abilities.

3) Requires centered stance when you want to ski hard snow/groomers with good edge engagement and high edge angles. If you can stay centered they feel like a race ski, but if you're wobbly they may not feel all that stable or powerful, and may not satisfy your carve urge.
post #2 of 5
Thread Starter 
One thing I didn't mention in the review is the way this ski has polarized reviewers. I'd put that down to the 3 weaknesses I listed, and what a given reviewer wants a ski to do, or not do. I'd say that it took me longer to learn this ski than any other new ski I've owned or demo'd, and that may suggest why some people give it a negative review -- they didn't get enough time on the ski to learn what it wants from its driver.

Another reason may be the relative stiffness of the ski from the forward contact point, back through the end of the tail. If you're not heavy, aggressive, fast, or technically refined the ski might just feel planky and un-responsive.

I would not be eager to put an intermediate (intermediate = skill-wise, regardless of whether he/she ventures into black diamond terrain) on this ski because the mid-level skier isn't going to get much money's worth out of the expense of buying it. There are other, more forgiving skis in this waist width and intent category, and I'd be inclined to put an intermediate on one of those. Sierra Jim has spent plenty of time talking about the skis in this category, and I would suggest reading his thoughts if you're an intermediate skier looking for something in this category. To maximize your enjoyment of the Cham 97, your skills should be fairly solid.
post #3 of 5

Product: Dynastar Cham 97

Length Tested: 178 and 184

Environment & Conditions: Soft & hard packed groomers  on piste, chop/cutup and 8" fresh off. Soft bumps.

Location of Test: VT

Number of Runs: 2 full days

Demo or Own: Demo but likely to own

Tester Info:

Age: 45

Height/Weight: 6'1", and 185 lbs.

Ski Days/Season: 20-25

Years Skiing: 25

Aggressiveness: Aggressive(Driver)

Preferred Terrain: off-piste

I generally agree with the Veteran. I really loved these skis almost immediately.  First, these skis ski short. I'm normally not comfortable with a length above the high 170's but the 184 felt like  a 176 length. In fact I'm seriously considering buying the 184 even though that seems like a LOT of ski. Second, these skis need to be skied hard and to have some mountain under them. I would not recommend  these for a beginner or someone who wants to ski flatish groomers all day. Without some slope or skiing them hard, I found that the tails definitely get a little sloppy. These tails need to be on edge to some degree inorder to feel right. Also, these are heavy skis! Granted my demo's had  heafty bindings mounted on a plate, but even with lighter bindings they're going to be heavy. However this is more in lugging them around than it is in skiing. These are AMAZINGLY nimble skis for their size. I had no problem in tighter glades and soft but fairly deep bumps. They turn real easy and are quicker edge to edge than you would expect. The shorter size really didn't seem to be more nimble to me (at least  not significantly so) and might have felt a touch slower and less stable.


Overall I'm sold on these skis but the big issue is whether to ski them longer than normal (184) or stay with my normal length (178).

post #4 of 5
Thread Starter 
Zipp, I'd bet that at 185 lbs the 184 would be the happier choice. I think the Dynastar website ski finder would suggest the 184 for that weight. I'm sure it's what I'd ski if I were 40 lbs heavier.

You're right about the tails, getting them to be usable for a load-the-tail-and-pop-out-of-turn requires some attention and precision because they want to smear/drift when you don't nail the engagement.
post #5 of 5

I just got back from doing 3 days of demos in Vermont on several skis in 2 different waist-width categories.  I had not intended to demo the Cham 97, but did so at the recommendation of the shop tech I was working with.  I am not an expert (probably entry/low Level 8), so definitely have lots more to work on in terms of skills/technique.


I was really surprised by this ski.  At no time while I was skiing them (4 inches newer snow over refrozen/groomed hardpack that day) did I feel like I was on a 97-width ski.  They were definitely more comfortable with short radius turns than most skis this width I have been on.  They were easy to turn, quick edge-to-edge and seemed comfortable in places I did not expect them to be. 


I tried them a 2nd time on my 3rd day to see how they handled groomed and frozen Eastern hardpack.  No, I would not confuse their performance in these conditions with some of the better sub-80 width frontside rippers I have used or demo'd, but I was surprised how they at least held their own in these conditions.  Overall, these skis were a real eye-opener for me and will get some serious consideration.

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