(Editor’s note: Consumer use subsequent to this review has indicated Denali ski is perhaps unaccetably fragile. We thus do not recommend it. Dynafit Dhaulagiri and Manaslu models are an alternative.)
“Denali” is a good name for a ski. Indeed, I’m wondering why someone didn’t use it before Dynafit slapped the moniker on their new, wider version of their well received Cho Oyu model. (Or perhaps, somewhere, a ski was named Denali? Trivia contest?)
We now know that the incredibly low mass Cho Oyu is a little ripper — holding well on piste, railing, but also bouncy fun in powder. Nonetheless, Cho’s 88 mm waist is skinny. If you’re spoiled by having a bountiful platform under your feet, perhaps the “100 mm” standard that many ski alpinists feel skis well and isn’t so wide as to tour heavy, “Choodie” is thus too narrow (though the >< 88 mm waisted ski is a common choice in Europe).
Enter Denali, at 129/97/114 (measured) sidecut this plank still has a Euro style profile that’ll cut tick-tock turns, but also has the width (near 100 at the waist) and beef to be supportive and confidence inspiring if you open it up. What is more, Denali presently ranks as the fourth lightest ski in our extensive weight vs. surface area chart!
Exceptional at 1,247 grams per 176 cm ski. If you earn your turns, this alone is a major shopping point. I mean, even if this ski was average it would be tempting, but it most certainly skis above average so it’s an easy choice for the quiver.
I skied the Denali ski in a variety of conditions. On hardpack they honor their torsionally rigid build with plenty of traction. The sidecut makes them lively and “turny,” stability at speed was average for this type of geometry. The ski is damp enough for ski touring but it’s not a noodle; in re-frozen crud (the vibe test!) you can feel every bump and wrinkle. Combine that with rigid tech bindings and a shorter choice in length and you won’t want to be making multiple laps on ski lifts. But again, this is a touring ski and we test skis for human powered skiing. In that sense, I’d call this ski “bouncy and lively” with one of the best performance/weight ratios ever.
(Note that most skis we test with this sort of lighter construction are noisy on hardpack, sometimes LOUD. If you ski a lot of frozen spring corn snow or piste, this is a valid consideration so keep it in mind. Earplugs are for hut snoring, not for skiing.)
This is not a particularly rockered ski, though it does have some rocker in the tip. Unlike heavily rockered skis Denali could probably be utilized in a slightly shorter length. That’s a good way to save weight, make kick turns easier, and stowage on your rucksack a reasonable endeavor instead of feeling like you’re hauling a telephone pole. Nonetheless, after testing the 176 it did feel so good I’d hesitate to drop a step in length. My advice is thus go with forehead length, or cheek if you can demo before buying to make sure the shorter choice isn’t too squirrely.
Denali has tip and tail notches for Dynafit Speed model skins, but other types of tip/tail fixation will work. They do not have rescue holes, and the dark color does little to help with top-skin icing. That said, I still like the graphics. As one who skied on the tallest mountain in North America before it was commonly called Denali, then went back a few years ago and skied it again, I enjoy being reminded of “the big one.” After all, some of the hardest and also the best days of my career as an alpinist were spent on that mountain. The hardest days are hopefully in my past, but many best days are to come — and some will be on Denali, the ski.
WildSnow.com publisher emeritus and founder Lou (Louis Dawson) has a 50+ years career in climbing, backcountry skiing and ski mountaineering. He was the first person in history to ski down all 54 Colorado 14,000-foot peaks, has authored numerous books about about backcountry skiing, and has skied from the summit of Denali in Alaska, North America’s highest mountain.