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2016 Denali Review


Horton
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Introduction
Rarely in sport of water skiing does a new slalom ski come out that does not resemble a previous generation. Sometimes the resemblance is blatant and sometimes it is hard to see. The 2016 Denali is like no other ski. It is as unique as a high end slalom ski can be. It looks different. It is designed to perform different. The 2016 Denali drips with innovation.

http://www.ballofspray.com/images/2016/denalitop.JPG

General feel
The Denali is a strange mixture of attributes. On the one hand, it dependably turns as hard and fast as any ski reviewed to date. On the other hand, it requires remarkably little physical effort to get very wide and early. Skis that turn this aggressively are usually described as quirky or as requiring a lot of work or both.

When ridden with restrained aggression, the Denali is an absolute joy to ride. It casts the skier out as wide as possible and creates the illusion that the boat is going slow. If the ski is ridden with too much aggression, unmanagable loads are created at the wakes. This excess load creates handle separation for most skiers and causes a vicious circle of frantic skiing.

 Toe Side (Off Side) Turn

Off side turns on the Denali are fast and basically automatic. The end result is that the ski almost always finishes with extreme angle and immediately accelerates to the other side. The ski will forgive skier aggression at the ball, but the resulting angle and load may be hard to manage.

The ski finishes off side turns with a lot of ski in the water and a tip down attitude.

Heel Side (On Side) Turn
The ability to change the effective depth of the fin for the on side independent of off side allows the skier to fine tune the turn radius of the Denali in ways most skiers have never previously known was possible (see Fin Block Notes below). Generally speaking on side turns are fast and sharp.

Loss of water speed at the end of the on side turn is a problem that plagues many skiers. The Denali is perhaps the cure to this problem. The ski seems to never stall or lose speed at the exit of on side.

http://www.ballofspray.com/images/2016/untitled-498.JPG

From the Ball to the Second Wake
Speed and angle are hard things to quantify when talking about a slalom ski. The Denali creates a surprising amount of angle and puts far less stress on the skier than expected. The small amount strength required to run a lot of short line passes is remarkable.

A skier's ability to moderate aggression approaching the wakes is critical. Too much input at the wakes may result in a early but narrow approach to the next ball. When this happens, it is difficult to regain width at the next ball and frantic skiing is the result.

Second Wake to the Ball
The Denali is comfortable and stable from edge change to the ball. Provided that the skier does not do anything imprudent before the second wake, the Denali casts out very wide of the next ball.

The Denali is forgiving to lack of handle control after the edge change. Every ski works better when the skier maintains more tension on the rope, but some skis are more forgiving than others.

http://www.ballofspray.com/images/2016/untitled-686.JPG

Conclusion
The 2016 Denali is a radical design that will prove to be too much for some skiers but magical for skiers with the right skill set.

Fin Block Notes
All other skis on the market are designed to have 3 directions of fin adjustment plus binding placement*. The Denali offers a 4th fin adjustment by adding a set screw that can change the depth of one side of the fin. During this review, I experimented with a range of numbers between .02” and .045” difference between the depth on the right and left side of the fin. Follow this link for more information on this adjustment.

*D3 offers different fin blocks to change the tail rocker of the ski.

Additional Note
All reviewed skis are ridden 20 to 25 rides before a review is written. This review reflects my impressions on the Denali towards the end of the review period. For the first half of this review period, my impressions were not nearly as positive as what is written above. I struggled with the ski and told to the folks at Denali a number of times that they may not like what I was going to write. It appeared that the ski may be too innovative.

During the end of the of the review period, I changed the fin and binding settings, I reverted back to an old boot, the water temps changed, and I changed my level aggression on the ski. What one factor changed the performance of the ski, I do not know for sure. What I do know is that I went from missing passes and skiing in a defensive mode to being surprisingly wide, early and slow at the ball. I suspect the key factor was the adjustment in my level of aggression and load. This ski needs a calm technical skier who does not overload from the ball to the wakes.

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Important thing I forgot to include in the review.

 

The support from Denali is unequaled in skiing. They have a private web forum just for ski set up and customer support.

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@AdamCord I seem to recall going through a similar process myself on 3.1 As a coincidence my production ski arrived today, its beautiful and quite different to 3.1 underneath. Will be interesting to see how it skis compared to the prototype. I'm starting to think the Denali is a bit like an F1 car, spend the time to get it tuned and performance picks up accordingly.
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Excellent review, @Horton. I don't agree with every word, but I really appreciate the care you put into these, and your review seems accurate and insightful.

 

One thing I feel folks should keep in mind is that Denali is a tiny company and -- for now -- doesn't have the factory team to dial in all the settings. This means a lot of "ordinary folks" (including me last fall) have been searching for settings without any firmly established factory starting point. Perhaps not surprisingly, that is a VERY different experience. Fun, btw, but totally different. Never before had I skied on "just plain wrong" settings where the ski had really fundamental flaws (and sometimes the very next day on amazing settings where the ski seemed like a miracle). I now have a much greater appreciation for what factory team folks do!

 

But those who have come onto the ski after settings settled have had more like the usual experience. @Razorskier1 got on the proto after Wish (and to a lesser extent I) had dialed in some 34/-38 settings, and so he jumped on and felt great right away. @6balls inherited that ski and had the same experience.

 

So keep in mind that context. I think by the time the "next round" of folks get their Denalis, the baseline settings for given skier levels will be finely honed, and so things will seem a lot less radical.

 

Bottom line: I'm going to be on Denali for the foreseeable future. The combination of innovation and support is exciting to me.

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Confessions of a crash test dummy. Part 1. I was fortunate to meet @adamhcaldwell at the BOS event in Austin last year and, even luckier still, since I let him beat me in the head-to-head (ha!), he gave me a ski to test. That was the v3.1. I got on it, made one minor adjustment and was running really easy feeling 38s in October, in a drysuit, in 40 degree water. I also ran 38s on the same settings in WPB in 80 degree water within the same month.

 

Part of being a crash test dummy is that it is my job to try some things that are vastly different than my personal, historical preferences. For example, I've always preferred deep and short fins vs. long and shallow. Nevertheless, I was asked to try long and shallow and I did. It was fine, and I was making passes. In fact, I ran 4 at 38 my first look at the pass this spring, so it wasn't bad, just not optimal. I talked with @AdamCord and told him I was going to try short and deep, with settings very close to where I ran the v3.1 ski. He thought it sounded good, but suggested I bump the bindings forward to 29.75. This adjustment made the ski much better suited to my personal style of skiing. Interestingly, I'm 6 feet and 195 and sometimes ski like a horse! Cord tried the settings the next day (with bindings even further ahead). He is way lighter and way better than me, and he also thought they felt great.

 

In short, being a crash test dummy means you are tasked with fast prototyping of settings. You try one thing, try another, and sometimes make massive moves. For example, I moved my bindings from 29.25 to 29.75 in one shift. The goal is to find the edges of the envelope, then fine tune from there. I believe we are getting close to understanding where those edges are, and what kinds of settings and binding placements work.

 

I finally had decent water this morning and had a chance to really start to understand how my current settings feel. I think I am a tiny move on depth and a similarly small move on DFT from being dialed in.

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Oh, and @6balls isn't lying. I set up his Razor and he ran 3 at 39 off in a tournament on it (beating my best tournament score, dang it!). I set up his Denali (actually, I gave it to him to play with using the settings I liked) and he loves that too. I'm a little worried about what will happen the next time he's at my house once he knows my Denali v3.4 is dialed in!

 

Oh, and @RazorRoss3 used my settings on his Razor and killed it, then took my Mapple 6.0 with my settings on it, mounted his bindings and last year set PB after PB on it. Hmmm . . . I have to quit giving my skis away!

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I'm having a blast on this thing (a 3.1 proto). I catch myself thinking about the observer sometimes while I'm skiing; "You like that two ball??? Wait til you see what I do at 4!" and "Early enough for ya?".

 

I agree with Horton...fast, holds tons of angle, low load, seemingly slackless. If I pull too hard it doesn't load it just goes and I'm not fast/narrow...I'm fast, wide and have space. This still translates to the frantic skiing Horton mentions. Like I never slow down and am just flying around the buoys...it's hectic but the ski will carve from fast rather than decel and dump. This won't work for me at 38. 35 was successful this way but scary and less than ideal...gotta throttle back on the lean and then a hot boat time can feel slow.

 

The ski really runs. I've adjusted my pull out significantly earlier to account for the seemingly friction-less glide and width is silly easy. This takes some getting used to.

 

If I lean LESS aggressively and initiate edge change early, it's pretty magical. Even less lean as the line is cut. The onside turn (no washer) is just sick-o. It has all of the huge turn my style is known for over there, but I don't physically hit the water and it doesn't stall it just runs. I have pics of me slam-dunking 2 and 4 from college and have never been able to solve it. A ski partner was gee-whizzed and said wow, you changed your style. Nope, the ski won't let me dunk it's under me too fast...just angle and gone. I'm most excited about this cuz I've lost many a pass on a 2, 4 overturn...and even when it goes right I lose time digging a hole and then have to make it up being a horse behind the boat...no more.

 

The ability to initiate edge change early and still glide out and up...wide and high seem to be what creates such an early line and early finish to turns with respect to the buoys.

 

Overall it's just fun. I'm still in relative disbelief at times when I crack off a 2 or 4, or when I'm earlier than I've ever been in my life at 1,3,5. Sometimes just shaking my head back there with a stupid grin on my face. I don't know that I'll push a PB...those days may be in my rear view mirror but I'm having a ton of fun. Thanks Adams and thanks @razorskier1 for letting me steal your proto. Better keep a close eye on your 3.4

 

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I think @ozski 's comparison to an F1 car is very insightful.  Put an ordinary person in an out of tune F1 car and they will be amazed, then get the car dialed in and you have something unequaled.

 

One of the unique things about this ski is the wide range of fin and binding settings that work well. As an early adopter (guinea pig), a few of the recommendations I tried were so far out of the norm, it gave me visions of the Adams sitting around drinking tequila shots when Adam says "Hey, I wonder what would happen if we try this!"  Then Adam replies "Nah that's crazy, we really need to try THIS!"  But I'll be darned if each of those settings didn't have some really good results.  It comes down to a fundamental design that can be dialed in for a skier's unique style.

If it was easy, they would call it Wakeboarding

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35 is silly on this thing...time to have coffee and read the newspaper before the ball(mostly...I have missed one 35 on it). Took my first poke at 38 today running 3 balls. Don't have gate timing worked out there yet.

 

Here was something telling about speed and angle. I had a nice 1 ball at 38...nice enough that I think I'm ahead so back off too soon going to 2 and I'm narrow. 2 is my big on-side so instead of being patient (like I should have been) I wailed on it. Busted at the waist I'm now heading at the wake looking down at the water and the front of my ski hoping like hell I don't eject.

 

After the wake the ski somehow gets back under me, I stand up and am early for 3 ball with plenty of width but in no mental position to make an effective turn so round it and back to the wake...pass over. I NEVER would have thought I would still be in a 38 going to the outside of 3 after getting super crushed out of 2. Had I been prepared I could have continued the pass.

 

One of the passes a week ago that @razorskier1 pulled me on I did something similar in a nasty wind. Caught the back side of a wave skiing a cross/tailwind and it paused the ski at 2 so now I'm folded over like a lawn chair and think I'm going OTF. After the wake find myself upright and shoot, there's 3 and I'm wide/early. Turn it and finish the pass. Jim is like I saw you in the mirror it looks like you're going to fall out of 2, then you turn 3, rip 4, early to 5 and 6.

 

So...the Denali has a TON of tip support and man is it fast across course. I should have been OTF a couple of times now and not only was I not OTF...I was inexplicably still in the pass.

 

Looking forward to more 35's and more cracks at 38. I don't recall having 35's feel so slow on other skis(meaning it feels like the driver put in 32 mph). With some gate timing curious to see how I do on this ski at 38...I'm excited.

 

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I've told people about this OTF, or lack of thing before. They look at me like I have a 3rd eye. Then I tell them I've never blown a tail in 8 or so months. They just roll there eyes in disbelief.
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@gregy the prototypes had an experimental insert design changed for production. After I stole my brother's prototype I popped rear binding inserts so dropped some epoxy and no issue since over a number of sets.

 

Since we are running the same ski...let's correspond over the season. There have been some mind-bending things that have happened for me on this ski...what fun!

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I got mine Tuesday, and tried it with the settings that were on it: 6.905,2.435/2.465, .750. I Went with 29.5 binding. I emailed Cord and he suggested I go with 6.830,2.470/2.500,.765 and 29,75 binding. It's not the ski, I sure it's me, but I'm finding it to feel like it has a small sweet spot. Just two,sets on these settings, but.... Here's where I'm am a performance wise. Last week on my old ski I ran 35 twice, for the first time this year. Yesterday on the Denali I ran back to back 32's couldn't get past 2 ball at 35. Still trying to get a proper glide and gate though.
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@LeonL -- ski glides forever, so gate timing is different. I also believe that the "work zone" ends earlier than I've felt with other skis. Often on other skis I'm still on the leaning edge at wake 2. On this ski I'm flat off of wake two and changing edges. My personal belief is that the ski design creates so much speed and space, that us mere mortals need to "de-tune" the ski somewhat to bridge ourselves into the design. I'm still moving deeper on the fin (testing 2.515 today) with my bindings 29.75. I've run a bunch of 35s with it at 2.50 and ran 4.5 and 4 at 38 two nights ago and felt pretty good, but I still need to take a little performance out of the ski. Oh, and my wing is 10 degrees. That seemed to help make the ski feel more familiar as well.
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@LeonL if your connected with Cord, and can get some video up on the Denali forum, they will get you sorted out in short order. But what Jim is saying has some truth. The ski puts you in a different place with different visuals. If your trying to get it to feel like your old ski in terms of timing and visuals, you may be going the wrong direction. Example..keep your eye one when I start to transition to the new edge..almost before centerline. And that's 32. Not something I've ever been able to do on other skis. By the way, I'm not "doing" the edge change, physics is. It's what the ski does long before that, that makes that happen. If I tried to make it ski the same as my other skis it would be rather pointless to change skis. It feels nothing like my other skis and I do not want it to.

https://vimeo.com/169380519

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Thanks, @Razorskier1 and @Wish. I really need a few more sets before I would even think about posting a video. I'm trying to find where to stand, I guess you could say. I really need to let the ski do its thing without me trying to make it suit what I'm accustomed to. Oh, by the way, I'm a M7, so I'm at 32. To some extent, uncharted territory for Denali, the best I can determine.
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@LeonL I post up video all the time. It has been really helpful. If I was trying to set the ski off of feel alone I have no idea where the fin would be at. Mine is on some settings that as a skier I feel 'meh' about, but overall it looks really good on video.

For me, the best way to tune a ski is not to get too comfortable until you know it is close. You will change how you ski to make a ski work with mediocre settings. The Adams, as well as the rest of us, will help you sort things out.

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Running

29.75

6.86

2.515 (no offset for shallow/deep sides)

0.815

10 degrees

Ski feels much more "familiar", for lack of a better term. Ran a bunch of 35s in a wicked head-tail today and all of them felt good. I will stay with these settings for now. Looking forward to playing at 38 off tomorrow morning.

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Ripped another tail 35 today to go with head 35 yesterday...only missed one 35 to date this season. Soon time to start taking some serious cracks at 38 for June in MN.

 

As @wish discussed...this ski is different. Apply GUT to it, understand what physics are going on in the course, understand what the ski brings to the table, begin to leverage that with your technical changes to work WITH the ski and you may just be amazed...like the ski is teaching me to ski...I know that sounds ridiculous.

 

This is different thinking, different design, and I believe requires some buy-in and openness to change in ideology (and possibly technique). Same old stuff (with minor tweaks)...same old scores...I don't have too many more years of physicality and I've been doing the same stuff on different skis for 30 years with the same results. I'm a believer that the ski design here is really a leap in forward thinking based on the physics of course skiing. The Adams understand the physics and are applying ski design to it...this may be the way forward.

 

I can't stuff the tip, I can't blow the tail, I can't slam dunk my onside. I'm across course in a heart beat with space and width...but the ski doesn't have big brakes...so good thing I've got all day before the ball. As a result my exit ball speed is high and I'm stupid early again. If by chance I'm late AND fast the ski still turns just throw down a big edge change and ride it...crazy how it carves and runs with pace...may seem hectic but still in the pass. I've had to adjust to sight lines and pace...stupid early and carrying pace.

 

I would say for long pullers that need a big shut-down at the ball this is not your ski without changes to technique or buy-in to theory.

 

I'm really enjoying this ski. I love to ski regardless but I've had more fun this spring than any spring I can remember.

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@OB1, so you're saying that having a boat path camera and display(even when not required) results in drivers making a greater effort to drive a straight, centered path? Somewhat surprising because all the drivers I know (whether on candid camera or not) endeavor to give the best of their ability. That's obviously a relatively small percentage of all the drivers out there of course. There are bad drivers, or shall I say somewhat incompetent ones, but I still think they try. And I don't think they would do any better or worse if the glass eye was on them or not. If it takes a camera to get the best out of them...well shame on 'em. Just my thoughts. Sorry if I went off the subject of this thread, I just kinda got led that way by the last few posts.
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Another telling point. I can usually only handle skiing about 3 times per week. I would go more cuz summer is short in MN but I start getting worse and getting very sore. Twice per week too little to improve, 4 times per week start breaking down physically and run short sets with lots of just running the opener. Three times/week ideal but don't often get it.

 

Fast forward to this unique year:

 

I think I've only missed 3 days in the last 3 weeks (how fortunate on weather and ski partner availability!!!). I feel good, I feel strong. Today felt a little tired going in but not sore, ripped off another batch of 33.5 off and another 35. Shoot yesterday I started at 33.5 instead of my typical 28 opener. Conclusion: the Denali is easy on my body.

 

Anybody got a spare 3.1? Send it my way, please.

 

Also, hardly a set goes by where I don't ask someone in the boat if they saw "that" whatever "that" was for the day. Usually it's how early, how fast this ski gets side to side, or that freakish 2 or 4 ball. Sometimes it's the same stuff and you would think I would now realize is normal but I'm still just gee-whizzed at times. Too fun.

 

 

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@LeonL I'm a righty running D3 leverage front and a toe loop...so 2 and 4 are on-sides for me.

 

Had an "aha" moment today. A little more knee bend and a little more forward on gate pull out and the ski just flew out to wide. So I think OK, ski the pass that way then (this was 33.5 off). Wow, a little more over the front due to some more knee in the lean...holy smokers. Super wide, super early. Ran two of those shaking my head on the ends after hearing that the boat time was fast. Ripped 35 to follow.

 

I historically don't miss many 35s...but it isn't pretty and every time I'm out the gates I'm like "whew"...I know it's weird. I don't go into it knowing I'm going to make it like I do at 28 and 32 and 35 always feels risky. 35 has also been abusive so I don't really "train" it...I run one and take a crack at 38 or go back to 28 or 32 for technical work. Out the end gates today at 35 I look at the driver and shrug my shoulders like "Huh...did you see that????"

 

For the first time I feel like 35 may become just another pass...really growing my sense of easy confidence. If I can train 35...maybe the end goal of more 38's is possible. Best season of my life was just over twenty 38's...one of 'em even counted :wink:

 

I'm being very methodical and not jumping on purple given I'm status post two spine surgeries in two years...but I feel some real potential here. If I run 35's easier than ever before and with less strain on my frame...I'm ok with that alone. I know the purple line isn't exactly giving passes away to most skiers...but I got new ammo here.

 

I am on PP classic also...ZO may mess with me a bit we'll see. So far so fun.

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Have not said much in regards to the review and like @Than_Bogan I agree with most if not all of it but one line gives me pause and seems inconsistent based on recent posts, my personal experience, seeing people ski on it and hearing stories about it. I'm not taking anything away from the review process as I feel that it is an invaluable resource for skiers. I feel the statement of it being a radical design that "will prove to be too much for some skiers but magical for skiers with the right skill set", is a bit vague by itself and possibly misleading when you could technically say that for just about just any high end ski. But there is the reality that not every ski fits everybody and I agree with that. Some even revert back to an old ski model after testing new. Even pros. Recent posts suggest a certain skill set is not required for success. Not all success is based of buoy count but that usually falls in line as well. Also recent statement by our intergalactic leader has suggested that there are not many if any skis anymore that like COM back on the tail of the ski. This has even forced me to change my style a bit.

 

Denali centers "it's science" on COM forward for efficiency and there is ton of support under the front foot allowing for speed through the turn. The reason for a lot of posts saying "low loads" or "easy on the body". A good thing.

 

I've seen others on the ski that would not qualify as technically sound with the right skill set but ski it close to their average or better. But I also think there is a line for beginners to perhaps not cross into a high end ski purchasing (especially below 28mph) but that in general is already understood by most of those readers that are just starting in the course for which none of the reviews/skis are intended for. Pryer to learning about GUT and the "how to" of it I'd say I was good enough but far from technical. I know more now then in the last 20yrs based on the Adams discoveries and basically consider how I skied a yr ago to be the wrong skill set and had to have a FranknSki, my S2 with mods, just to get it done. I rode the Denali with that lack of skill set in the beginning for months. I ran more 38s on it then last 2 skies I've owned combined inside of 6 months and dropped 28 as an opener. So to me, the "right skill set" boils down to just being a course skier at 28mph and above ..take your pick as to what level skill set. I know when I tested every ski on the market for 5 month period there were skis that I rode better then others but I don't think any of them fit into a ..you need a certain skill set to ride, especially a course skier. I'll say some were user friendly or they rewarded a certain style over others. The style for most skies these days are COM forward. But all those test skis were amazing in their own way and all different. Does the Denali design look different.?..yes. Does it ski different..?...very. Is that a bad thing...heck no. Isn't that what we want? Look back at what was said in the review as far as performance.

 

The Adams have pushed an envelope in performance that I will admit is something to get used to. My ski partner is having trouble rapping his head around it. But it's what he's having to rap his head around that points to what we are all looking for. He says having a ski that puts a visually strange amount of space before the ball is different. He feels like the ski won't maintain enough speed to get there but it does. Having a ski that turns with that much speed and trusting that it will is hard. Not understanding such low loads compared to his other ski is a change. Being in an OTF or tail blowing position and it not happen is a surprise. And being told less is more and to not work so hard improves the skis performance and it ends up that way becomes a head scratcher. Do you know who doesn't want these things? These observations about the Denali are heard across many skill sets riding the ski. Look back at comments of guys riding it. My first write up on it was chalk full of them. And it was odd. It just rode different. So, I would say that this ski doesn't require the "right skill set" but rather the "right mindset" of acceptance that the ski will...fill in the blank...and success will soon fallow. Myself included.

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I can. All forward on both RTP and double boot set ups. Both skis through 35. Going back and forth however has prevented 38s but the forward is much better. Less of me has to climb up on the ski... I'm already there. Just stand tall and ride.
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Not sure there was any accusations in @Than_Bogan text or tone. Rather informing the readers that there has been advances in understanding this exotic looking ski. Its not a new version of the ski but a discovery making it feel like one. More like riding a 3.1b version and a 3.4b version. And remember, while there are pros riding this ski providing essential information to the designers, there is a flood of information that is accessed by the Adams on the Danali forum from so many average Joe skiers where things often come to a general consensus.
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Horton - "will prove to be too much for some skiers but magical for skiers with the right skill set"

Wish - "right skill set" but rather the "right mindset"

 

So, what is the definition of "skill set?"

A couple of ideas.

 

Skill in setting up a ski (binding & fin) (specifically a Denali).

For every ski I've owned since fins became adjustable, I've made one... maybe three adjustments over the typical two to three seasons on a ski. (I've heard that this is what Nate does, so I must be justified.) I've found that Denali requires much more tuning and correspondingly is more sensitive to adjustments. Oh, and the Adams are there to help with setup every step-of-the-way.

 

Skill in COM forward.

First, you need to know that COM is... Center Of Mass. Remember, not everyone knows every abbreviation and acronym used on BOS (oops Ball Of Spray). Heck, I'm not even sure that COM and BOS are acronyms?

Second, skiing with your COM forward is a difficult skill, a mindset, and maybe a fear to get over. Especially, on a Denali... that appears to have no tip rise. Don't worry it has enough.

Third, I suspect not many of us really know what COM forward is or looks like. I pretend to know, but honestly I really don't know - at least per the Adams' GUT (Grand Unified Theory).

 

Developing these two skills can take a lot of time and energy. Skies cost a lot of money.

Therefore, perfecting these two skills might prove to be too much for some skiers but magical for others. (Hmm, is sounding like Horton a good thing?)

 

 

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