Length Tested:178 longest if next year's length:rolleyes
Dimensions/Turn Radius: 15m
Camber (select one, delete the rest) Early Rise Tip & Tail
Binding: Demo Markers
Mount point: Suggested +1
Environment & Conditions: firm to 8"
Location of Test: Vermont!
Number of Runs: many
Demo or Own: Demo! Marshall & I have talked for 2 years about a new kind of ski, one that would tear around, yet could close down the radius on command & stivot. Much like a WC racer, yet at the mortal level - more to follow on this concept as I use a family member as a test dumbie....
Height/Weight: 5'9" / 139#
Ski Days/Season: 30+
Years Skiing: 35
Current Quiver: too many
Home Area: Okemo, Vermont & chilling in the backcountry!!!
Preferred Terrain - any!
Every once in a while in your skiing, you have one of those moments where things start to change and you see the sport in an entirely different light. Several years back I had such a moment when I first saw the DPS spoon 150 prototype video. In this video Stephan Drake nails what I've been thinking about for some time. What he does is nothing short of remarkable, he takes a turn that's already in progress and completely changes the radius in the direction of the skis yet does it in a way that is both technical and powerful. I've been thinking about this concept and how to go about it for some time. What he does resembles a surfer cutting back across the crest of a wave. Drake produces a highly angulated and yet smooth feathering of the radius over and over again in deep powder. There just may be something to that DPS factory.
Racers have been playing around with the same thing for a few years. Ted Ligety has mastered the art & in the ski racing community, the term is called the stivot. This adjustment of the turn, should not be confused with skidding or slarving. The difference is where the pivot point is and how you're able to manipulate power into the turn. While I had isolated moments where I was able to perform this act on other skis, this was generally on a closed hill racecourse or in perfect powder. I began talking to manufactures and factories about how this could be replicated on what the 99% of the skiing population has to endure: on-piste packed powder. Initially there is considerable resistance to this concept, as what most manufacturers were putting out increasingly wider skis for the epic deep days. I also import skis from smaller factories & get to play on tons of new models via ExoticSkis.com. I've long said on this board, that there are skis that make you look good in the lift line and then there are skis that make you look good on the hill. With this notion in mind I've spent the last couple years searching for a ski it would let you set the radius and close down on command, but that would still have the power and the ability to tear up hard packed snow. Some people of ask what's wrong with just the general racing ski or hyper carver? You'll find the answer to this very quickly if you've ever tried to change the prescribed radius on a ski without excessive speed or World Cup abilities. Generally with the modern sidecut of skis, you're locked into one prescribed radius and if you want to different turn you have to go get a different set of sticks. Attempts to trial this on race skis often produce a hooky or catch sensation that punishes the skier.
At about the same time, Marshall from DPS let me in on the secret that the company have been working on such an item for a while. I learned that they were looking to produce a ski it would tear around on hardback, feather radius, and be able to close down the turn on command with exacting power. The concept sounded rather interesting and I knew other manufacturers were also playing around with manipulating the taper angles in thier shovels.
During last season, I tested a number of skis that had these highly manipulated shovels. While the concepts were interesting, some of them really were far off the mark. One nameless ski actually double ejected the pilot when you tried to cut the skis back across the hill hard.
Almost when I had forgotten about the conversation with Marshall, DPS contacted me about a month ago and said your ski is ready.
Drake owning the element.
Out of the box, the ski is just incredibly light. What I first noticed was just a lack of any weight or any real mass to the product. These came pre-mounted with a set of marker demo bindings. I was completely shocked as I generally feel the demo bindings are atrociously heavy and a terrible way to get a feel for a ski. The ski has incredibly elegant smooth lines. Every angle and manipulation to the design was both subtle and flawless. When I compared these to some of the skis I had in my quiver, I quickly noted how the shovel was excessively low and had a long sloping rise. This is a concept that is taking hold with other manufacturers as well, however DPS really lowered the height of the tip & widened the area above the front contact point. The other notable feature is that we contact area is quite minimal for the ski. This is a 178 cm ski yet there appears to be minimal contact on the actual bases. While others are doing this, the results are not as impressive. As soon as you roll the ski onto an edge, you immediately see how the design begins to work. The accentuated tip and tale will begin to cut into the snow surface and yet when you flatten the ski out there contact is diminished in half. Yet again other ski manufactures are also using the same technology & design to decrease contact length to produce easier turning skis. For as light as the skis were they were remarkably stiff. Marshall had informed me that this pair was both 7% stiffer than the production models would be and was also lacking a layer of rubber it would eventually make it into the consumer version.
My first impressions upon taking the skis to the hill was it was almost like carrying a set of poles. While riding the chairlift I had looked at a couple times to make sure that I was actually not just sitting there in my boots.
I was able to get several days in on the skis initially and my impressions were nothing short of overwhelmed. The ski is quite phenomenal in that when you are just puttering around it feels like you have nothing on your feet. However, once you start turning the sidecut readily & engages. The rider is able to make turns with great ease. Now every ski at this point in time should be able to rail without any difficulty ; put the ski on edge and hold it there and it should carve. What was rather interesting about this game was the ability to initiate the turn and actually feel like you're performing a tip stand at the same time. The skis actually let you get up on the shovels and hold onto the turn from the tip of the ski. This ski is hands down the easiest ski to initiate that I've ever experienced. The sensation was completely effortless. Simply load the tip initiate your turn, feather and adjust it will and repeat. Turn after turn after turn the same easy, smooth, effortless initiation occurred even it slower speeds in lower angles. It was so easy to get up on the shovel, that it felt like to ski was actually bending back at you and you were actively performing a tip stand at 40 miles an hour.
Once you were able to get a handle of performing this front of the ski initiation, it was effortless to manipulate the turn and drop the rest of the body of the ski into a perfect carve. Once you were up on edge it was clear to see that the amount of torsional stability was just absurd. The ski had some stiffness to it longitudinally, yet nothing compared to the lateral stiffness of the ski.
It was completely clear that once you got the ski into some rhythmic turns, it would just reward you again and again and again. Another really noticeable difference with the ski is the ability to drive them without the need of an uber stiff boot . For the testing purposes I skied in both my Full Tilt boots with a number six tongue & a consumer plug with a 100 flex.
To really load up a ski and engage the tips or make the turns at speed that this DPS product was producing, I would typically need to be in a real plug boot north of the 120 range. This is a really nice feature in that you could ski all day with a relatively mild flexing boot and not get punished.
I was able to ski this ski on both terra firma and upwards of 8 inches. I really found it it was quite phenomenal for on-piste skiing. I also found that even when the trails were more groomed, you were quite able to take the ski and just straight running without any chatter or flapping from the tips or tails. Overall, the ski was incredibly well-balanced and even when we were able to get some small cliffs to drop off of, the ski really held its own and supported you on the landings.
About the only area that I was not impressed with the DPS 85 was in the bumps. This might be due to the testing length and my size. I really found that the ski had a quite binary feel and did not hug the bumps very well. I was definitely anticipating that the ski would perform a little bit better in the bumps however it was on par with some other products I've tried recently. (Perhaps the production version rubber & softer flex would be different?)
For Eastern style backcountry skiing, this gives absolute perfect ride. It is light enough and not that wide to produce a heavy ski you're going to have to haul, yet you're able to easily get in between turns/trees where larger planks will feel more like boards. Again the rather large shovel was quite able to handle the crud snow in the backcountry. This was seen to be on par better than other skis have taken into the Easter backcountry recently.
DPS really hit the nail on the head with this ski. This is absolutely the perfect ski for a resort style skier: East or West. While turning you really don't notice to the skis 85 mm underfoot. It feels more akin to a scalpel. In softer snow, crud, powder you don't realize that you're only skiing on a ski so narrow. I would attribute this largely to the low swing weight & great tapered shovel.
So what DPS has very astutely produced is a ski that has an incredible shovel to it, great flex and rigidity to handle multi-radius turns, low swing weight to hit it effortlessly and allow you to manipulate and feather turn and an overall product that is just absolutely perfect for the skier who is going to spend their time riding the chairlift.
Unless you have a helicopter or a snowmobile in your future ski plans, this is really the ski should be looking at. I don't think it's an understatement to say that this is probably the ski that majority the big name manufacturers are to be chasing for a while. Where DPS is really hit this out of the park is they produced a ski that can be a 99% winner for every condition you're going to see and is completely easy to turn. The ski is so easy to turn, while I had my brother who had not skied in 18 years up, I threw him on the ski and just let them go. There's some video out there from him just ripping around and it's quite amazing to see how easy it is to manipulate the ski. For the advanced skier this is really your quiver of one type ski.
Another really important footnote here is that where most exotic and indie ski manufactures struggle is in their R&D. I've seem a lot of exotic skis that have great construction or have good builds behind them, however by the time their product makes it to market it's really an outdated design. This problem is reverberated with the smaller companies who don't have the funding to do the research and development to produce a relevant ski. While DPS is an awesome company, they are still relatively small brand on the scene. For DPS to produce a ski that turns and initiates better than any slalom race board I've been able to test to date, is quite a phenomenal accomplishment. I think as the pendulum swings back to more appropriate all mountain and technical skis, this DPS 85 is well placed in the market for years to come.
Another not to be negelcted comment about DPS is the cult following & ease of re-sale. Few brands hold their value to this degree.
One minor grievnce, WTF happended to the color guy when this was on the line? For a brand established upon bold colors & classic good styling, the color leaves a little to long for. Do me a solid & ship me a pair in a lime green variant!
Review in process!