For over 14 years DPS has been shaking up the industry by building uniquely shaped and high tech construction skis. With their Alchemist line, they improved performance of their classic shape by making a lightweight but damp carbon construction ski that will perform in a variety of snow conditions. I had always enjoyed their flagship ski - the Wailer 112 RP in untouched powder, but I felt it came up a bit short in chop and could be downright scary on hard pack. When I got the chance to borrow the Alchemist Wailer 112 RP2 last winter, I was intrigued but skeptical. By the end of the winter they had me believing in black magic.
What Goes Into a $1300 Ski?
One of the first things people ask when looking at a DPS skis is “Why does it cost so much?” Many ski companies are building skis with carbon fiber but few have been as innovative with carbon constructions as DPS.
Due to tensile strength, carbon fiber is ten times stronger than aluminum (titanal) while being roughly 40% lighter. But unlike bike frames, carbon skis are not 100% carbon fiber. Most carbon skis are built using traditional materials like hardwoods or fiberglass and incorporate a dry laminate sheet of carbon fiber to enhance stiffness while saving weight. The layers are then pressed and held together using epoxy resins. Unfortunately, this method can cause uneven flex patterns and high lateral energy transfer in the ski, often leading to a stiff chattery ride on hard pack or chop.
To counter this, DPS has worked for the last 10 year to improve the quality of the carbon used in their lay-up by “pre-impregnating” the carbon with their proprietary resin. DPS’s prepreg carbon is developed using the same process as carbon in Formula 1 cars and fighter jets. The resin was developed by DPS specifically to dampen vibration.
I got a chance to catch up with Peter Turner, DPS co-founder and lead engineer last spring on Alta’s classic Collins lift. While discussing ski performance, he explained that one of the unique aspects of prepreg is its ability to provide a consistent lateral and torsional flex throughout the material. When using a sheet of carbon in a traditional wet lay-up, you are likely to press more resin into one part of the fiber than another. This leads to stiffer sections in some parts of the ski. “Think carbon swiss cheese” Turner explained. “Pre-preg prevents that.”
DPS teams this special carbon construction with a solid aspen core and world cup sintered bases. When matched with their unique 5 point side cut and signature rocker profile, you get a high-tech, superior machine. For a more in depth rundown of shape dimensions, flex patterns, and weights, head over to this review by our friends at Blister.
But How Do They Ski?
When flexing the Alchemist Wailer 112 RP2 in the shop, the tip had a noticeably more progressive feeling then previous models, though I wondered if it would be too stiff to maintain the surfy feel for which the Wailers were known. I couldn't have been more wrong.
My first true test came on a big powder dump on the steep, bumpy terrain of Mary Jane. The 112’s felt stable and damp with a huge sweet spot. I was immediately impressed by the lack of flutter in the tip, especially in chopped up snow. This is a huge upgrade from the previous (Pure 3) version of the ski, that had a tendency to be squirrely when the going got tough.
Despite the stiffness, the 112’s were very lively and easy to move, with quick turn initiation and smooth release from the tapered tails. This allows you to vary turn shape, even in deep snow, and easily scrub speed when entering tight or uneven terrain. For mount position, I chose the recommended mounting point, which felt ideal for the ski. This point is a little further back from previous models of the Wailer and thanks to a larger sweet spot, it takes some of the guesswork out of choosing a proper mounting point.
As the season progressed, the Wailer 112s became my primary mid-season touring ski. Though certainly not the lightest touring ski, it’s no hog either, coming in at 1920 grams per ski in a 184 cm length. This is over 200 grams lighter than similar skis like the Super 7 HD or Enforcer 110. I teamed up the 112’s with a pair of Dynafit Rotation 2.0 touring bindings, creating a super capable powder touring kit just shy of 12 pounds for the pair.
While touring in the tight beetle kill ridden zones of the front range, I came to appreciate the quick turning tails and low swing weight. The heavily rockered nose also provided ample float, even at slow speeds, and allowed for easy breaking of trail in deeper snow. Above treeline the 112’s shined as well, feeling reliable on nasty windbuff and providing a super stable platform for charging large bowls and dropping cornices.
Although a 112 underfoot with a touring binding is far from an ideal set-up for hard groomers, the Wailer held its own on the hardpack and continued to be fun and nimble, especially when carving short radius turns. On longer radius turns the large nose did feel overly grabby. I ended up detuning the tip slightly past the contact point, which seemed to allow for smoother initiation of a wider variety of turn shapes. The Alchemist Yvette 112 RP2 offers the same construction and shape in the shorter lengths of 178cm, 168cm, and 158cm for ladies. The Alchemist Wailer 112 RP2 comes in lengths of 189cm, 184cm, 178cm, and 168cm for the guys.
The Bottom Line
With the Alchemist Wailer 112 RP2 (and Yvette 112), DPS has once again pushed the envelope of weight vs performance. The Wailers had me smiling run after run and provided confidence and power in a wide variety of snow, all while maintaining their roots as a fun and easy tool to ski. Equally at home in the backcountry, slackcountry, or chasing leftover powder stashes, the Wailer 112 Alchemist is one of the most versatile powder skis on the market. Now all we need is for El Nino to stick around and deliver another season like last year. We’re already starting the snow dances at Bentgate.
During DPS’s Dreamtime event, Bentgate Mountaineering has limited edition versions of the Alchemist Wailer 112 RP2 (weblink) and Alchemist Yvette 112 RP2 (weblink) available at DPS’s best price of the season!