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2014-2015 Dynastar Cham 117

Review of the Dynastar Cham 117, Blister Gear Review

2014-2015 Dynastar Cham 117

Ski: 2014-2015 Dynastar Cham 117, 190cm

Stated Dimensions (mm) : 147-117-127

Blister’s Measured Dimensions (mm): 145.5-115.5-125.5

Stated Sidecut Radius: 22 meters

Actual Tip-to-Tail Length (straight tape pull): 189.3cm

Blister’s Measured Weight per Ski: 2165 & 2190 grams

Core: paulownia sandwich laminate

Mount Location: -1cm of “0” / “standard” line

Test Location: Taos Ski Valley; Alta Ski Area

Days Skied: 5

I’ve spent a lot of time this spring skiing a number of ~115mm-underfoot, tip-tapered pow skis with relatively similar shapes: the Moment Governor, the Rossignol Squad 7, the Praxis GPO, the DOWN Skis Countdown 2, and the Dynastar Cham 117. I’ve been biding my time, waiting for storms, making sure I got good time on each of these pow skis in actual pow (still a novel idea in the review world), and I’m finally able to start rolling out these reviews…

For the 14/15 season, Dynastar has created the Cham 117 to occupy the rather glaring gap between the Cham 107 and the Cham 127. And like the currently available Cham HM (High Mountain) series, there is no metal in this new ski.

In positioning the Cham 117, Dynastar has emphasized that this “Cham 2.0” design is “more versatile, more user-friendly, more accessible to a broader demographic than Dynastar is known for.”

Ok, got it.

But then when talking about the two lengths that the Cham 117 will be available in—190cm and 180cm—they say that the “190 is for the big, hard charger,” and while the 180 is for “the guy who is a little smaller, or even for more aggressive ladies.”

Given that we are reviewing the 190, the question I had was, Which is it? Is this really a ski that is able to “charge hard,” or is the primary story here the Cham 117’s “user-friendliness and accessibility?” And how does this Cham 117 stack up against all of these other skis in its class?

Flex Pattern

The very tips of the Cham 117 have a medium flex. It’s not too disimilar to that of the Moment Governor, but the Cham 117’s shovels then go quite soft—softer than the Governor’s, and softer even than the not-stiff-enough shovels of the current Rossignol Squad 7.

Underfoot, the Cham 117s do get quite stiff, then soften up a touch through the tail. On snow, I didn’t find the tails to be punishing, however, and the pretty flat tail of the Cham 117 did make the ski feel like it had a pretty big sweet spot to stand on; I didn’t feel like I was on a rocking horse getting knocked forward and back.

Pow

What the Cham 117 is quite good at is floating. These skis plane very nicely, as they should, given their soft-flexing, rather massive shovels.

The factory “0” mount point on the Cham 117 feels pretty far forward, but I never experienced tip dive in deep sections off of Taos’ Kachina Peak or Alta’s Eagle’s Nest. Floating in deep, consistent snow shouldn’t be an issue; those big, fat, shovels want to plane.

In perfect, late-February snow off of Kachina Peak, I had my most fun laps on the Cham 117s. The combination of good snow and non-bumped-up, mogul-free terrain is where these skis felt most at home.

Jonathan Ellsworth reviews the Dynastar Cham 117 for Blister Gear Review

Jonathan Ellsworth on the Dynastar Cham 117, Kachina, Taos Ski Valley.

The snow doesn’t have to be deep for these to work, by the way. Even just an inch or two of relatively consistent snow is fine for the Cham 117s, and they continue to do well in deep snow and in open spaces.

In deep pow in narrow chutes or tight trees, it takes a confident pilot to ski these—you can’t just smear your way through it all. While not brutally stiff, the Cham 117’s flatter tails mean you need to work some to get the skis to release and turn. I noticed this in some tight chokes with deep snow in Taos’ Werner Chute on March 8. While the Cham 117s feels light for a ski this wide and this long, it does not ski short, and its flat tails in 1-2 feet of deep untracked pow and pushed around piles of pow didn’t do me any favors in tight quarters.

Having said that, with just a bit more room to operate, if you are keeping things moving down the fall line rather than having to make turns perpendicular to the fall line, the tails won’t be an issue, and this ski will work well.

Bumped-Up, Variable Terrain (Flex Pattern, Cont.)

The most significant thing in comparing the flex patterns of the Governor and the Cham is that, while the initial flex of the two skis’ shovels don’t feel all that different, after you have initially bent the Governor’s shovels, they progressively stiffen up. With the shovel of the Cham 117, the flex is also soft initially, but it remains soft once you’ve pushed deeper into the flex pattern.

On snow, I believe this is a big reason why the Governor can be pushed much harder in variable snow and bumped-up terrain than the Cham 117. The Governor hits something and the shovels absorb in a forgiving way initially, but then the ski feels (and actually becomes) more substantial. The forebody of the Cham 117, however,  gives way, and just continues to give way. The shovels are the shovels of a big, soft, relatively lightweight pow ski with a tapered tip, which is not optimal for variable conditions or bumped-up terrain at speed. As noted above, the pretty flat tail of the Cham 117 did help make the ski feel like it had a pretty big sweet spot to stand on, fore and aft, in soft, smooth and consistent snow. But in deep chop and bumped-up terrain, those shovels can be prone to deflection.

If someone is purchasing a 190cm, 117mm-underfoot ski with a flat tail and a huge, wide shovel, I’m guessing that he or she isn’t small. Is it safe to assume that this skier will weigh at least 175+ lbs., and be a strong skier? It’s actually probably safe to assume that the skier will weigh 190+ lbs, or 220+ lbs., etc. So that has me wondering, why make the shovels of the Cham 117 so soft?

I will wager that the tip rocker on these skis would still help them turn easily and plane well, even if Dynastar stiffened up the flex of the shovels. Doing so would make these decidedly easy-turning, floaty skis more substantial at higher speeds on more variable terrain and snow conditions (the kind of skiing a “big, hard charger” might look to do). And for the record, this is the same criticism I have of the current Rossignol Squad 7. The shovels are simply too damn soft, and it’s making some really nice skis ski less nice than they could.

Fresh Snow on Firm Bumps

Two days ago at Alta, we had about 4” of new snow on top of some pretty firm bumps, and it was snowing on and off throughout the day. Especially in the Eagle’s Nest area, there were spots where the 4” had been pushed into some pretty deep mounds of pow.

All things considered, I thought the Cham 117s handled the fresh pow on top of firm bumps pretty well. The tips would deflect pretty easily, and though this wasn’t difficult to manage, I still was never willing to open the Cham up like I would have—comfortably—on the Moment Governor.

Groomers

The Cham 117s have been remarkably underwhelming on groomers so far. Especially when a ski doesn’t have tail rocker, I want it to be great on groomers. But the Cham 117 has been difficult to get up on edge, and pretty unwilling to hold an edge and track.

I’ve been skiing a couple of skis lately with pretty similar shapes to the Cham 117, the Moment Governor and the Rossi Squad 7, and both are much more fun on groomers as they hold an edge better and are less scary at high speeds.

If you’re looking for a fat ski to handle deep snow, and you tend to just ski bases flat on groomers back to the chair lift, then the Cham 117s will be totally fine. Or if you’ll only be taking these into the backcountry (where you’re more likely to encounter fresh, smooth conditions), then fine. But if carving performance really matters to you, there are far better options out there.

19 Comments

  1. Jared Smith April 1, 2014 Reply

    I would really like to hear more about the Praxis GPO. Is a review coming for the GPO as well? You guys do a great job of helping people understand the qualities of a ski and if they will work for a particular type of skier, keep up the good work!

  2. LP April 1, 2014 Reply

    Why did Dynastar sell out to the masses and stop making race stock skis like the LP and XXL…it’s a true shame. Although understandable as a business :)

  3. bob April 2, 2014 Reply

    The last good ski Dynastar made was the LP 105, great DD ski for the west! The Dynastar rep I talked to said they didn’t sell enough 105s (less than 100 pairs in the US) to make it another year. Now they have the Sham series..

  4. Fawn Ingrieter April 2, 2014 Reply

    I’m always stunned at the ignorance feigning at expertise that makes up the reviews written by the trust-fund babies who comprise the gear review staff here.

    Mount “too far forward”? Uh, nearly everyone who complains about the mount location chosen by Dynastar is talking about it being too far rearward.

    Tips “too soft” and softer than a marshmallow (not your literal words, but the effect of them)?

    Not stable enough for a manly ripper like you, but maybe okay for a person who just got out of wedge tursn?

    Why don’t you just stop reviewing skis, and reduce the entire blog to this sentiment —

    WE AT BLISTER ARE BADASS. You, the reader, are not. No ski is burly enough for us. No bike is “aggressive” enough for us. Kayaks turn red when our boaters paddle them, because their chines are too soft, their lines too wimpy, their bow/stern volume too high for us Masters of the Wheel.

    It would be sorta funny as an April Fool’s joke for the 7th graders in your audience, and it would be completely honest otherwise.

    Gosh. I’m so humbled by your immense greatness and impeccable radness. I may have to kill myself.

    • Author

      Responding to angry internet accusations isn’t a great use of time, so I’ll just leave it at this:

      1) I have no trust fund. If you’re going to accuse me of that, then I’d at least like to be receiving those trust fund checks.

      2) Did you read the opening? Dynastar said they made this particular ski more user-friendly, more accessible. I can—and did—confirm that this is true.

    • Justin April 2, 2014 Reply

      Why are you here then?

  5. Blister Member
    Michael April 2, 2014 Reply

    Keep up the great work Jonathan and the rest of the Blister crew. Best review site out there, bar none. Thanks.

    • Brian April 3, 2014 Reply

      Agreed. Hands down the best reviews out there. And it’s nice to know they’re coming from qualified “badasses” that have enough experience and ability to actually review the wide range of gear properly. Not everyone has the same style or the same desires, but these guys are very clear about how they ski and what they are looking for from what they are reviewing. Keep up the good work Blister!

  6. AK bRUIN April 2, 2014 Reply

    Mount these at the Freeride line..I have been skiing these 190cm the last 3 months and can say they are the best of the bunch for railing groomers, it’s not even close. Everyone that try’s mine all say the same thing…they ski “narrower” than a 117 and rip the groomers with a smooth even flex and pop out of the turn. Best in floatation and quick and nimble. Can’t say I ever agree really with any of Blister’s reviews. As a 220lb ex racer who has loads of experience in ski tuning, racing, and backcountry, I find that Blister favors bigger burly skis that are less about finesse and not in favor of dynamic high edge angles. The Moment Governor? Please, that thing couldn’t find a round flex pattern if it was put under a steam roller. The 117 is a game changer for me, and has made me realize what I was looking for in a fatter ski. Powerful, damp, smooth, and nimble. The shape is what makes this ski work…it can smear with the best of them but does not make you smear (ala Bentchetler, Soul 7, etc). Like all Dynastar’s, it favors high edge angles and dynamic, high energy skiing. The ore you put into it, the more you get out of it.

    • Author

      1) You’re an ex-racer that has 40 lbs. on me, and you can’t bend the 2014-2015 Governor? (And I am talking about the 14/15 Governor, just to be clear, not the 12/13 or 11/12 Governor, right?)

      2) The Governor isn’t really a “bigger, burlier” ski than the Cham 117. They have very similar weights, and as I note, the Cham 117s are actually stiffer underfoot and through the tail than the Governor. But as I’ve A/B-ed these 2 skis this spring, there is no question that the 14/15 Governor is more damp than the Cham 117.

      3) Glad you’re psyched on this ski. I think a lot of people will like it, though calling the 117 a game changer makes me wonder what you’ve been skiing on the past 4-5 years?

  7. AK bRUIN April 3, 2014 Reply

    Jonathan-

    1. The Governor (and in my opinion, all Moments) have a unbalanced flex- they don’t necessarily bend around you evenly in the middle of the turn. I can bend anything fine, but its the flex pattern that gets me pumped on certain skis. The 117 bends smoothly throughout the arc, and you can feather the tip and tail release more quickly, let off the gas if need be, etc.

    2. See above.

    2. Volkl Shiro, Dynastar Big Dump, Atomic Automatic, Blizzard Bonafide

    • Author

      Thanks, AK. “It’s the flex pattern that gets me pumped on certain skis” – totally agree with you (see comments I’ve made about the LINE SFB, V-WERKS Katana, etc.), and I guess it wouldn’t be too surprising to me if, given our weight differences and perhaps our skiing styles, if you and I had different preferences in terms of what that flex pattern felt like. I want consistency in that flex pattern, but I want that consistency primarily for off-piste, variable performance. Evidently, that less consistent flex of the Cham (softer shovels, stiffer tails) feels better – “more rounded” – to you on groomers, but off-piste as well.

      Anyway, I’ll try to get back out on the 117s and play some more with that mount point. I’ll update if I get different results.

  8. AK bRUIN April 3, 2014 Reply

    Jonathan- Right on, looking forward to seeing what you think about skiing on the freeride line. Cheers.

  9. stuckathuntermtn on TGR April 4, 2014 Reply

    Man, I was really looking forward to this ski and this is a huge letdown. :(
    It seems like a lot of the bigger companies are into making skis for people who don’t/can’t lean forward. Tips and tails should be rockered OR soft. Not both. And without a 185, this skis is either too short or too long for me, lol.
    Thanks for your always thorough review.
    It sounds like it’s more of a bc ski if it’s that fat and can’t be driven hard over tracked out powder or hold a solid edge with a flat tail, so it might work well for someone there. Especially since, i’m guessing it skis long so you can go with a shorter length for techy stuff and weight savings.
    Oh well.

  10. Blister Member
    dennis April 12, 2014 Reply

    Thanks Blister for your great reviews. Fawn, what is up with your attitude? SIMMA DOWN!!

  11. David Jensen May 6, 2014 Reply

    I like my Dynastar Cham 107 skis, and I think that I will like them even more now because I had them re-mounted at the -2cm spot behind the recommended line. I e-mailed Reine Barkered, and he explained that he, Aurlien Ducroz and all of the Dynastar Pro guys had them at this position. He says that they are just as quick, but more stable and balanced if you are a race boot forward pressure type of skier. You should try the Cham 117 at this position, and I’m sure that you will be surprised. I just wish that the Cham 117 had some metal in it to stiffen the front end up to charge through junk snow, crud, and melt-and- re-freeze with the same prowess that the Cham 107 has. When I get my skis back from the shop I’ll give you my two-bit review on the rearward mount. Can’t wait!!

  12. Michel Mat August 20, 2016 Reply

    I use the Cham 117 for powder, and i think it is the best ski in the Cham line. I ski them 190 mounted -2 with Langes 130, it is the right position. It is stable, go pretty fast but turn easily very well balanced you can do pretty long arcs very clean and shorts turn pretty smooth and change the rythm as you want in function off the elements. The rocker is light, with a progressive shovel : just perfect floating and stability.
    The Cham 107 2.0 (mounted -2) and the Mythic shovels are not so progressive they are manoeuvrable but not stables… They are good skis for medium level and can be interesting for better skiers as touring skis…
    The Cham 117 is pretty easy but still a good ski for high level skiers action. But i think This Cham 117 need a bigger size for big guys who like tu go very fast…

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