Mar 20 2013

Ski Review: Dynastar’s Cham HM 97

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.

Dynastar’s Cham HM 97. Anarchistic shape delivers versatility and light weight.

In the case of the standard Cham series I tend to agree, but not with the High Mountain versions.

Shano Collins rips it up on Shasta with a pair of Cham HM 97 (and Plum Yak binders).

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.

Cham HM 97. Same as the Cham 97 (133•97•113) without the weight of a metal top sheet.

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.

Cham HM 87 (127•87•103), for those who think enough is enough.

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. ;)

tele update 25apr13

Performance in tele mode was confirmed recently. In-bounds performance in crud and hardpack is as good as a tele ski gets. The absence of metal makes for a smooth, round flex which only enhances the tele sensation. Frozen chicken heads are about the only weakness, but who would judge a ski in such disastrous conditions? In anything soft, from heavy mush to airy light feathers the Cham is an absolute delight. That huge nose up front lifts the ski no matter what density the snow is, and the pintail holds only as long as you want it to, letting you easily transition to the next turn without delay. As a mid-fat tele ski you will have a hard time justifying the weight or width of anything wider.

end update

Preformed holes in the tips for K2 skin clips, or constructing a rescue sled.

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
MSRP: $800
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

© 2013

  • http://twitter.com/andylewicky Andy Lewicky

    This ski was one of the big surprises of the year for me. Very strange to look at, but very nice to ski. Lots of touring potential, lots of fun.

  • teletilyouresmelly

    I have some new Scotty Bob tip rocker skis that share a similar tip shape (which is also like the DPS), and the bobtail also achieves the same thing w/o a twintip- you should give them another shot!

  • Prettypants

    A dream backcountry ski. I own this ski with a dynafit binding and could not be happier. The tip profile of this ski helps it to float in powder. But it’s the tail profile that makes this ski a must have. The tail being stiff and powerful makes it predictable and solid for dropping into icy couloirs.

  • http://www.facebook.com/shano.collins Shano Spencer Collins

    I first tried the Cham series a few weeks ago but did not get a chance to ski the HM line. I was very impressed by the skis overall, but when I got on the HM 97 the other day I was blown away. The ski is a bit softer, but doesn’t give up any stability at the same time. I felt like there was more even flex, and I could initiate the tip much more effectively. Because of the lightweight the ski felt more playful as well than the regular 97. This is a ski I would def put a Dynafit setup on but wouldn’t turn away from skiing any HM in bounds.

  • Ddog

    “I can’t wait to try these puppies in tele mode ”
    Well, did you try them yet?

  • marro.czy

    Will you recommend this ski for telemark? For resort/bc 50/50 would it be better than voile vector?

  • Dostie

    Hold on there guys! I’ll get to it, just haven’t yet. My guess is yes, these rock for tele. Won’t be able to confirm for another week or so since I need to continue testing gear with training heels first. ;)

  • oldnteles

    Thinking tele, what length would you recommend in the HM 97 for someone 5’10″ 165# skiing mainly advanced off-piste in bounds? Thanks.

  • Dostie

    Based on weight – I’d want about 180ish cm of length. However, these ski short on firm snow, long on soft. So 180ish, leaning towards a longer length, like maybe the 185ish version. That also depends on your style, skill, etc. I’m a similar weight and like my skis 175-180cm long, regardless of width or shape. I’d go longer for more hard snow, shorter for soft. That seems counter intuitive, but with hard snow the ski is shorter, with soft snow it acts longer.

  • oldnteles

    Thanks for your thoughts. I ski a 181 K2 100mm that’s fun but too much work for an old guy day in day out (trees & bumps), so thinking about the Cham in a 172. It just sounds short. We mainly ski softer snow so maybe I should just relax and enjoy it.

  • Dan DiMaria

    Did you ever get around to mounting a tele binding on these? Want to mount some AXL bindings on a pair and curious if you have any tips? Pins on chord center? Take into account rocker tip and pin tail when determining chord center?

  • oldmantele

    Have you tried these in tele mode yet? Just picked up a pair (178cm) and want to mount some AXL’s on them. I know the subject has been beaten to death but there’s no center point marked.and the rocker tip/pin tail combo have me wondering. Put them on my bench and marked the contact points at tip and tail but boot looks really far back (at least relative to my old school traditional ski’s). Any suggestions on mounting point? I was thinking I’d go boot center over the alpine center mark.

  • Dostie

    You got it! Go boot center over the alpine center mark. Don’t look back, but do share how it works for you. I haven’t switched mine yet ‘cuz I’m waiting to decide whether I set this ski up for TTS with a Radical, Ion, or TTS toe. Only want to drill one more set of holes so I’m being ultra cautious in my decision.

  • oldmantele

    Thanks for the reply. The combination of late night, old
    eyes, dimly lit garage… I did not see/find the center marks until I took a closer look the next day; for the record there are 2 raised “lines” marking the center point. Haven’t mounted them up yet… mainly because I got sucked into the “well, I’ve got new ski’s, getting new bindings, current boots are old – maybe I should switch to NTN” debate. Current quiver is ancient… Rossignol T4 (178) with Targa T/9, T4 (178) with Targa Ascent, and T3 (182) with Targa T/9. 2007 Garmont Ener-G Mg 26.5 boot. I’m 5′ 9″
    and 175 lbs. 15+ years of tele under my belt.

    Spent a couple days on NTN demo’s and tried not to like it.
    But even with ill fitting boots and ski’s I found the step-in convenience, brakes, release, tour mode, and fact that I adjusted to the new feel very quickly has me leaning that way. The weight difference is negligible. Thinking of Garmont Prophets (found some NOS at a steal of a price), or Scarpa TX Pro’s and Freedom bindings (also wondering about the upcoming 22Designs NTN binding). Decisions, decisions.

    I find the TTS binding intriguing but I live on a ski area
    and anymore 90% of my skiing is on area. Only want to drill them once… thinking of using quiver killers so I can switch them up if needed. Although I doubt the Axl, Freedom, and upcoming 22Designs NTN will have the same pattern.

    I’ll post back when I get it figured out, but might not make
    any decisions until the lifts spin next November and the manufacturers have
    their new stuff on the shelves.

  • Dostie

    One thing to remember with NTN – especially with your boot size (26.5). That is right at the dividing line for small VS large NTN plates. Make sure you know what you have (lg or sm) before you get the binding. If Scott or Crispi, you’re probably a large NTN plate. If Scarpa, might be a small (for 26.0). Check it with your boot in the store before you buy.

  • skier6

    If you go NTN, I would suggest getting the Freedom or NT Bulldog bindings. The NTN Freeride binding is really heavy. I ski all three of these bindings on various skis, and for the release, lighter weight, “feel” for the ski, Freedom is my resort choice. For tele touring, the Telebulldog binding.
    Watch your fit with the Garmont Prophets. Many skiers have had toe bang in this boot. Get a good bootfitter to check the shell size and make sure you have enough toe room.
    ps. I ski the resort with NTN Prophets/Freedoms most of the time, but I have to wear super thin socks.

  • oldmantele

    I just bought a pair of 26.5 Prophets on eBay, NIB for $275.00. Guess I’ll know if they fit when they arrive; hoping they run true to size. Every other Tele boot I’ve ever owned was 26.5. No shortage of boot fitters around here. If they don’t fit they’ll go back on eBay but I’ve skied a friends 27.5 Prophets and they were at least a full size too big. Main concern is 3 buckle vs. 4. Love my Ener-G 4 buckle. I always leave the top 2 buckles/power strap loose when skinning (more ankle flex) and wonder if I’ll get too much heel lift (blisters!) with the 3 buckle boot. If they don’t work I’ll give the Scarpa TX Pro another shot.

    Same friend has broken 3 or 4 pair of Freerides – that lattice metal piece at the bottom keeps cracking around the pivot bolt. Lucky for him they replace them under warranty every time.

    Prophet/Freedom combo is what I’m probably going to start with. The Freedom tours way better than what I’m used to so I have no issues with the resistance. I am curious to see what 22Designs come out with but I’m betting it will be bulletproof and heavy relative to the Freedom… and seems a few years away. TTS has a lot of appeal but it doesn’t seem quite ready for prime time yet.

  • oldmantele

    Good point! The Scarpa TX Pro that I demo’d was a 26.5 and it used the large plate. I will have to confirm with the shop now that I just bought 2013 Garmont Prophets in 26.5. I’m on the cusp on a lot of things – it’s a PITA.

  • John ‘Ski’ Shaski

    Dostie -

    Are you still riding these skis?

    Where did you end up with your mount position?

    Thinking about searching out a pair of these in 178cm, mounting them with NTN Freedoms, TTS or some TTS/NTN hybrid.

    Looking for a ‘mythical’ 70% resort / 30% touring set-up.

    I’m 5’8″ and 150lbs, on the cusp between intermediate and expert.
    NTN Freeride/TX Pro combo at the resort (Rossi Sickle, mounted 2cm forward).
    TTS/TX Pros for the skin-track (Volkl Inuk, mounted 1.5cm forward).

    Any comment appreciated.

    Love the site. Thanks.

  • Dostie

    Sold ‘em to a friend. My final conclusion was boot center mark was perfect for locked heel, but a tad too forward for free heel which is why I sold ‘em. If I’d moved ‘em back then there would have been too many holes to sell later. My guess is back 1 cm from recommended (boot center on center mark of the ski). If you like active bindings, go TTS with cable around the heel. Less active, you can go TTS + NTN (Meidjo).

  • John ‘Ski’ Shaski

    I found a pair of 2013 Cham 97 HMs in 178cm (mounted once, for AT).

    Looking at the -1cm (boot-sole-center-to-manufacturer’s-mark-on-ski) for telemark…seems like A LOT of ski out front and not much left in back.

    Using the old-school, boot-pin-line-to-ski-balance-point as another reference point, the boot-sole-center falls a hair forward (actually a pretty solid match but…still forward) of the manufacturer’s mark.

    What skiing style preferences and/or ski sidecut-flex-camber characteristics would you sight to defend the -1cm from manufacturer’s mark mounting position?

    Sometimes this discussion feels arcane and neurotic but, as you pointed out…no one wants to see more holes in their top-sheets than is necessary!


  • Dostie

    Because of the dramatic tip rocker it only “looks” like a lot of ski out front. Judge it more from where the hard snow contact points are – for tip and tail. That will help you “center” up your position. I go -1cm for tele PROVIDED you initiate with your rear foot, not with the front foot. If the latter, then manufacturers recommended location is probably the best. YMMV. Measure twice, no thrice, drill once.

  • John ‘Ski’ Shaski

    Makes a lot of sense, Dostie. Thanks for the calming influence!

    Some pros from CO helped me clean up my technique and boosted my confidence when they suggested ‘dropping the uphill knee to initiate’ transitions. Sounds similar to your caveat.

    The time is near…

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