Words: The Jaded Local
The only growth in the gear market right now is in backcountry equipment. The big traditional alpine companies are building “sidecountry” gear by lightening up their normal stuff and adding touring capability, and the AT-oriented companies are starting from the opposite end of the spectrum and making their gear burlier and more functional for the down. They’re all shooting for tourable performance boots, a burly-enough-for-inbounds-AND-touring binding, and a 110-115mm-underfoot rockered ski. One rig to rule them all.
Which is a great trend for, well, the kind of person who would be reading this. Just a few short years ago, the mainstream ski industry was focused on milking the baby boomers with the same old boots and bindings in new colors and terrible “all-mountain” skis with carving plates. Now they’re actually competing to make better, more useful gear.
Dynafit is a German AT/ski-mountaineering company that was recently restructured and reinvigorated by a crew of serious go-getters. The Huascaran is their take on the versatile rockered ski mentioned above. I was curious to see if the rando company’s interpretation of a modern freeride ski could hack it in a category with so much competition, or if it would feel like a flimsy twig.
Visually, there’s nothing weird or exaggerated about the shape. Someone (1) at the factory knows what’s up with contemporary fat skis, because it’s a clean, functionally-balanced combination of sidecut, taper, and rocker. Weight was shaved by using a mixed laminate of light woods with bamboo stringers and a techy fiberglass layup, but the whole ski has a very thin profile so there’s just less material overall to, um, weigh something.
They’re not planks but the flex is solid-feeling, and the bases were flat. It’s worth mentioning because it’s difficult enough to make a thin-profile ski strong and stiff enough in both directions, but it’s also a pain to get any wide ski to come out of the press properly flat. The overall build quality looks good as well, with tight tolerances on all the seams.
It’s designed to be a lightweight backcountry powder ski; there’s no backcountry powder to be had right now, but high-speed laps through chopped-out late-day May slush can be pretty revealing. I’ve been on them for about a week now, milking the last of the lift-served season here in Mammoth(2). The result: I have a pile of new skis I need to check out, but I’ve been having too much fun flying around the mountain on what feels like a pair of little slippers. It’s not a game-changer like the TLT5 boot, but it’s worthy.
On the snow, the Huascaran is agile, quick edge-to-edge for the width, but way more predictable and stable than you’d expect from any rockered ski in a short size, let alone one of the lightest. There was nothing mind-blowing about the performance, but it’s a really good ski in a more subtle way--it works and there’s no weird quirks or surprises. I’m sure there’s a limit to how far you can push it, but you’re not going to find it with tech bindings and lightweight boots. Or at least I’d rather not go looking for it.
They do all the slithery slarvy smooth-skidding never-stuff-a-tip things that you want from rocker skis, but hook up properly and rail when you lay them over (well, way over). There’s enough substance underfoot to stand hard on the ski without it folding up. The relaxed sidecut in the tail isn’t going to do something unexpected when you’re straightlining down the groomer to the bar. The taper and rocker make sure it hooks up and releases in an ultra-friendly fashion, but you can still roll it over and get almost the full length of edge engaged in the snow like a regular-ass old-fashioned ski. It skis longer than a lot of rockered skis, but it a good way.
I’m sure the Huascaran wouldn’t be the best thing in a scratchy refrozen couloir, but I doubt it would be worse than anything comparable, and probably better than some. The point of a ski like this isn’t that it’s going to be some kind of precision hard snow weapon anyway. I can’t imagine a much more practical bc ski, and it’s obviously going to kill the pow. Along with upcoming Vulcan boot, Dynafit has a legitimate do-everything rig for everyone but dudes that set their bindings on 15 (although Hoji doesn’t seem to be having any problems shredding on the gear). If zee Germans can maintain this kind of rapid-fire product development, it’s going to put real pressure on an industry that would prefer to spend it’s money on developing shiny new marketing campaigns.
Dynafit Huascaran 177
134-112-123 & 1780 grams per ski
Bros: Lightweight, super-practical and versatile, fun, size run up to 196cm.
Cons: Geeky name(3); points off for using the term “progressive” to describe the rocker in the catalog, although it also says that the Huascaran “is the embodiment of skiing pleasure,” which is pretty much what I’m looking for.
1. Apparently the ski designer’s name is Reiner and he’s "really into surfing.”
2. I guess I should note that I’ve only skied them with the Dynaft binding and TLT5 boot, which definitely feels different than a heavier alpine rig, but I can’t imagine anyone putting a pair of Dukes on a Dynafit ski.
3. I would have called it the Funshred 9000. And the creature on the topsheet graphic is a little off-putting. Apparently it’s supposed to be cross between the company’s snow leopard spirit animal and a fish, somehow symbolizing the, um… to be honest, it sounds to me like the marketing dept. took Ecstasy on some kind of corporate team retreat, came up with something that totally made sense while they were high (“Ja, Dieter, I too am like the mutant kinder of the snow leopard und a halibut! Look at me slither in the dirt--I’m a Landfish!”), and then actually rolled with it.