When you first look at any of Dynastar’s Cham skis it is hard not to think, “somebody was smoking some whacky tobaccy when they made that ski.” Even in an age when traditional shapes and construction are rarely the norm anymore the Cham series draws attention with a tip that more resembles the bow of a boat than the shovel of a ski.
In the case of the standard Cham series I tend to agree, but not with the High Mountain versions.
The performance of the Cham skis is easily derived by reading the profile of the skis construction. As a baseline it is built with sandwich construction on a solid wood core. Interpretation? Between the widest part of the tip, before the shovel rockers up, and the tail, before it feathers down to a pintail finish, every Cham ski in the line acts like a traditional cambered ski delivering solid edge hold on firm snow and stability at speed on firm or icy snow.
My first foray on the Cham HM 97 at Sugar Bowl resort were exactly these conditions. It had been six weeks since the last significant storm and the groomers were firm but confidence at speed was not an issue. The Cham’s held like I was riding on rails. Another run down the steep couloirs under the Lincoln chair proved they held on the steeps and my fears that the huge tip would prove a liability swinging through each turn were unfounded. They were nimble yet secure.
On a follow up run at Alpine Meadows in slightly softer conditions with the Cham 97 again proved the reliability of the Cham 97 profile on firm snow, but the metal top sheet of the regular Cham did add enough weight for the tip of the ski swinging through space to be noticeable on jump turns.
What did not happen, as a cursory view suggests would, is the tendency of the rockered tip to flop in the breeze at speed. It does not, not even with the lighter High Mountain version. Admittedly it can be a liability in frozen crud, but not as much as you might expect.
In softer and deeper snow the tip and tail add versatility to the Cham’s performance. Ordinarily a ski that holds well on firm snow simply dives in soft snow. With the Cham’s Levitation Technology, the huge early rise rockered tip, flotation is mechanically guaranteed. In itself that doesn’t imply good performance in deep snow.
That’s where the pintail construction comes in. The common solution is to rocker the tail to allow a ski to release out of a turn easily, but rockered tails suck for earning turns. They make jamming the tail of your ski on a switchback difficult, skins don’t attach well, and make sticking the ski straight down in the snow impossible. By using a tapered width at the tail the Cham HM 97 lets you easily release from one turn into the next, while maintaining simple ski mountaineering functionality for skins, skinning, and rappels.
Does the combination of a pintail and rockered tip work in deep snow? Absolutely. On the heels of the most recent significant dump in Tahoe I took Sugar Bowl’s summit chair to the top of the Judah Ridge. A short, 100 foot walk took me to the cornice overlooking Judah’s east bowl without a single track to spoil the conditions. I dropped in, rolled my knees to turn and the skis took over, floating easily to the top, arcing smoothly and easily transitioning from side to side. I can’t wait to try these puppies in tele mode where they are sure to deliver a smile at least as big as their tips, maybe wider.Besides turning performance, the Cham series, especially the HM versions, are particularly adept for backcountry use. The rockered tip is superb for breaking trail, especially when it is deep. The lack of heft in the HM series makes this all the more noticeable. In addition notches are provided in the tail for climbing skin clips, and there are holes in the tip and tail for use with K2′s proprietary tip and tail kits, or for constructing a rescue sled with these skis.
The basic functionality of every Cham series ski is the same, all that changes is the waist width and whether or not it comes with a metal top sheet (the regular series), or without (the HM versions). Personally I prefer the High Mountain series. Not only does the lack of metal top sheet save weight, it also yields a smoother flexing ski for both powder and firm snow. The metalized versions are overly stiff for yours truly, but if you tip the scales near or above 200 pounds you’ll probably prefer the fatter metal versions (Cham 107).
Cham HM 97
Weight/pr. (178cm): 7 lbs. (3.18 kg)
Turn Radius: 16m
Dimensions (tip-waist-tail): 133-97-113 mm
Lengths avail: 166, 172, 178, 184 cm