Overall: Five Stars for an excellent ratio of surface area to weight, with the float that would be expected from its wide rockered tip, and unexpectedly strong firm-snow performance given its nearly triple-digit waist and nearly unbelievable weight.
Background on product familiarity: So far I have skied on the 2014-15 version in a 168cm for a little over 24,000 earned vertical of backcountry powder plus about half a day of lift-served in various conditions. Mounted with ISMF-prohibited combination of Dynafit Speed Superlite toes and Plum Race 165 heels (mainly for reasons of random expediency, as I have nothing against SSL heels or Plum Race toes). So far for boots I’ve used Dynafit EVO for backcountry and Dynafit TLT5 Performance (stock Velcro strap replaced with elastic version for extra responsiveness) for resort and sidecountry. Closest ski I have previously used is probably the original-generation Dynafit Manaslu (169cm, 92mm with rockered tip but traditional tail).
First, the first impressions out of the box: With its notched tip, shovel width extension, radically slimmed-down final ~3cm of tail, and thinner cross sections in the tip and tail, the Denali makes quite the first impression. Then again, it’s pretty much just a wider version of the Cho Oyu and Nanga Parbat that debuted last season, and that have been joined this season by price point redesigns of the Manaslu and Seven Summits.
Mounting will have you worrying about dulling your drill bit and depleting your drill battery, but you certainly won’t have to worry about stripped screw holes or bindings pull-outs: the wider 4.1mm drill bit rec is serious, just as serious as the massive metal binding retention plate lurking somewhere in the ski innards. (And unlike some other light skis, the profile is of normal thickness, so no need to compromise retention by filing down screw lengths.)
In my 168cm length, the 97mm waist works with a 100mm Dynafit ski crampon.
Second impressions, in use: I hesitate to latch onto a marketing campaign theme, but the IFMGA endorsement makes sense for this ski. Unlike many skis with waist widths around the century mark, the Denali copes well with all sorts of firm surfaces often encountered in a true ski mountaineering context, as opposed to the pleasantly soft snow that is the typical goal of backcountry skiing. Even skiing resort groomers was so much fun that I sometimes delayed skiing steep ungroomed terrain and venturing into the untracked backcountry powder – my only “complaint” is that at true GS speeds (i.e., what non-racers call SuperG speed) if I then encountered some uneven snow, I noticed lots of tip flapping.
And unlike many competing wide skis, the Denanli rocker seems to be optimized to enhance float through unconsolidated nastiness while still allowing a normal length selection and without any strange complications for rocker versus sidecut placement. All this for a weight penalty of, well, actually, the Denali is probably lighter than the overwhelmingly vast majority of skis marketed for and used in the backcountry, regardless of width.
Third impressions, for long-term durability: I can’t pass judgment on that yet given my usage, but I haven’t heard of any durability issues with the identically constructed Cho Oyu or Nanga Parbat. Plus the tips and tails don’t skimp on metal reinforcement.
Thanks for the thoughtful review. Your TLT5 modification sounds interesting, since the velcro is the worst feature of that great boot. If you're able to share details of your modification that would be much appreciated.
The mod is a Scarpa Active Power Strap (resewn to size down for the smaller circumference of the slender TLT5 as compared to some big clunky boot). Essentially the same idea as a Booster Strap but with a typical velcro closure instead of the big cam buckle. In addition to allowing the top of the shell to be cranked tight while still allowing some nice give, it's also wider than the original.
Oh, and review update: this past summer I brought the Denali with me on a business trip to Chile. I was way too early in the season, but still got in two days of a skiing, for a mix of resort frozen groomers, resort powder, sidecountry spring conditions, and backcountry volcanic pretty-much-everything. The Denali was the perfect quiver-of-one for that trip!
Thanks for the thorough write-up Jonathan. How would you compare the Denali to the Movement Response X, apart from the 130g weight penalty (according to Dynafit, your site measures Denali to be lighter)?
Planning to use them for long(er) days in all sorts of average snow, with the occasional fresh cm´s on top. Stability and confidence in 3D snow and steeper spots is a benefit. The Cho-oyu fell off the list due to its short radius, and I could hold on to my 2kg 105mm sticks for resort travel or pow days.
me: 85kg, 190cm, currently on a scarpa maestrale RS but may go for something lighter next year.
Although I felt that the Response-X had excellent float far beyond its rather modest waist width, it just didn't perform on the firm like I would expect. (The confusing part is that I still have my Logic-X -- no rocker but otherwise almost identical dimensions -- and although demoted to rock status, they still ski great on the firm.)
By contrast, I feel that the Denali does everything well. Even on those Chilean groomers (Corralco definitely needs to spend the extra pesos on diesel and staff time for a second groomer pass after a vicious thaw-refreeze cycle), although the optimal setup would have been a FIS-stock GS race skis, I could still have fun on the Denali. And the float was then excellent when we found the windblown overnight pow on the lee side of ridgelines. Plus perfect of course for the spring snow during some sidecountry skinning. (If this sounds like a bizarrely strange yet enjoyable ski day, it was! By contrast, the backcountry volcano the next day was just the typical combination of going through fall>winter>spring at the different elevations.)
Thanks! Forgot to mention that all firm snow i ski is in the backcountry, no groomers up here. Not much carving involved due to bumpiness or angle.
Would you still consider the response-x a worse performer then the denali when considering mountaineering / frozen/firm bc use?
Yes, my reference to the resort groomers was just as a worst-case scenario.
I used the Response-X on some nasty frozen junk on Mt Washington (one of that mountain's specialties!) and on Mt Hood (Crater Rock on a spring day that never quite warmed up at that elevation, with many skiers even walking down from there) -- I survived, but the Denali would definitely have performed better in those conditions.
Enjoying some final turns at the end of a backcountry tour near Boise back in December 2016 after the USSMA races at Brundage.
This trip also highlighted the Denali's versatility: excellent in the untracked backcountry powder near Boise (Mores Creek Summit), yet also excellent the prior two days on the resort's cut-up "cake"-like powder and even the firm groomers.
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