Editor’s Note: Each January, ski companies roll out a preview of their gear for next season. Many wait until the Outdoor Retailer trade show, which happens next week in Salt Lake City. Others hold smaller pre-releases before OR. Last week Dynafit gave Powder a pre-preview in France where we got a first look.
For years now, Dynafit has been the leading binding company in the United States for backcountry skiers. They’ve also made a strong showing in boots, with Vulcans and TLT 6s everywhere. Not so, however, with their skis. More often than not, you see their bindings on some other brand’s sticks, in large part because so much of the company’s current line is designed for ski mountaineering and ski running, both of which are more popular in Europe.
That might soon change. This past weekend in Arêches Beaufort, France, the company announced its new skis for the 2015/16 season, including for the first time two freeride touring models, a new genre for Dynafit. Designed in large part by American athlete Cody Barnhill, the two new skis are aimed at people who want to use Dynafit bindings to access and rip bigger lines where the other skis in the Dynafit line would flounder.
If you saw the Dynafit film From the Road (about American communications manager Eric Henderson’s trip to re-ski Meteorite in Alaska where he broke his neck back in 2009) you got a glance at both of the new models. Those blue skis Henderson was on as he charged down the famous line again are the Chugach, and the red ones you saw Cody Barnhill using to ski other steep, iconic Alaskan lines are the Hokkaido.
At 135-107-121mm and a turning radius of 22m (in a 181cm), with double rocker but also tons of torsional rigidity and plenty of grip when the snow is bulletproof, the Chugach are meant for pucker-inducing lines where there’s no room to mess around. With an ash-poplar wood core and integrated fiberglass and carbon, they’re also plenty lightweight (the 181 weighs 1950 grams per ski) you won’t bonk on the way up to your line. The Hokkaido are essentially the same ski but slightly fatter underfoot for the deeper days.
So far this season the Alps have had a less than stellar year, so snow conditions were variable when took the skis out in the region around Areches-Beaufort. Then again, we could experience the skis’ full performance. At higher elevations around 8,000 feet we found powder, which the Chugach danced through like a ballerina. Lower down, where a melt-freeze crust and ice made things tricky, and awful, the ski charged like a bulldozer.
To build out the freeride line, the company also showed off a new boot—the Khiôn—and a new jacket called the Yotei. The Khiôn is a four-buckle boot that’s purposely designed to match with something like the Beast 16 bindings for maximum stability. It’s not quite as stiff as the flagship Vulcan, but still powerful enough to steer anything you throw at it, plus it has better progressive flex than the Vulcan, for those who like their boots to have a little giveback. Built as a “snow-dynamic” piece, the bottom part has an aerodynamic design to cut down on snow friction but a 102.5 last to make sure your feet aren’t crushed. All versions of the boot are made from pebax and an upgraded version also features a carbon exoskeleton a liner with a Boa closure system.
The Yotei is a full Gore-Tex piece built with that company’s new C-KNIT Backer Technology that makes the overall jacket softer to the touch and less crunchy. More rugged than the Dyanfit Beast jacket, which came out for the current season, the Yotei is better suited for a cold lift ride or for technical scrambles up rocky terrain. But it’s also supposed to breathe well, which is still the primary concern for a company primarily known for helping people ski uphill.