Overview

When Laurent Boix-Vives acquired the distressed fledgling brand Dynastar, he already had Rossignol in his portfolio.  Thus was born a sibling rivalry that persists to this day, with the elder trying to establish an untouchable record and the younger always looking for a way to upstage the first-born. 

While we can’t say for certain that the Cham series Dynastar launched in 2013 was a conscious effort to outperform Rossi’s successful S7 model, it’s a plausible assertion.  Dynastar’s powder skis had always been beefier than whatever Rossi had in play; consider the Jeremy Nobis signature Dynastars versus Rossignol’s Bandit XXX, for example.  Heavily rockered, the S7 skied shorter than it measured and without any metal in it was kind of a noodle.  

Retaining the idea of the shorter effective platform, Dynastar gave the Cham a stiff front rocker that was segregated from the main structure of the ski by moving the widest contact point well down the ski.  Then they tucked the last several cm’s of tail in so they also wouldn’t interfere with turn radius. Finally, they turned up the torsional rigidity so the ski could handle higher speeds.  The result was a whole line of S7’s on steroids, christened the Chamonix series in honor of the resort just down the road from Sallanches, where Dynastars are still made.

With an appetite for hugging the fall line, the Cham 97 and Cham 107 developed a strong – literally and figuratively – following in their debut season, but they came across as a bit too aggressive for the weekend warrior.  Overlooked in the excitement over the powerful Cham series headliners were their metal-free doppelgangers, the High Mountain versions meant for true alpinists.  The Cham High Mountain 107 in particular proved a better choice for those who ski less than 50 days a season and mean to use it primarily as a powder ski.  By “better,” we mean you won’t have to work as hard, which is the main rationale for skis this wide in the first place. 

In 2015, Dynastar began the transition to a metal-free Cham collection when it modified the Cham 117 to make this monstrous ski more maneuverable.  The new design, dubbed Cham 2.0, lessened the severity of the front rocker and smoothed out the transition zones in the 5-point sidecut.  The following year the entire Cham line was given the 2.0 treatment, so all the Chams were mellower and easier to ski for those who don’t attack straight down the fall line.

Three years ago, Dynastar launched the Legend X series, an amalgam of a Cham-like chassis with a unique sidewall construction called Powerdrive that first appeared on Dynastar’s Speed Zone and Speed race series the year before. Situated in a section of the forebody where vibration amplitude peaks, Powerdrive consisted of a 3-piece sidewall that both dampened shock and disconnected the core’s components from the fixed outer sidewall. This allowed the separate laminates in the structure to shear relative to one another, so the Legends stayed in better contact with the snow. The combination of Powerdrive and the Chamesque shape made for a relatively soft-flexing, easy-steering set-up that performed at its peak in soft snow. 

2021 was a big year for Dynastar, the first since 2012 without a Cham/Legend as its headliner. As a measure of how long a span that’s been, note that when the Chams debuted, their 5-point sidecut was relatively unusual; no other major brand provided width measurements at five points. Now the reverse it true: there’s hardly an all-mountain ski made that doesn’t incorporate at least some taper at tip and tail.

Stepping into these big shoes last season was a focused, 3-family clan: M-Pro, M-Free and M-Tour. M-Pro spans 4 models in waist widths from 84mm to 105mm, all built with a hybrid poplar/PU core reinforced with a tapered blade of Titanal on top.  Their directional sidecuts and flat tails stand in sharp contrast to the twin-tipped, deeply tapered shape of the M-Free 108 and M-Free 118, which also use a poplar/PU core but unembellished by metal laminates that would weigh them down.  The two M-Tour models are intended for backcountry, so they borrow the flat-tail shape of their M-Pro bros.

As was the case with the Legend series, the women’s versions of M-Pro are identical to the men’s. Note that there is no women’s M-Pro 105, nor are there women-specific versions of M-Free.

The 2022 Season

This pandemic-affected season didn’t leave much room for brand extension, but Dynastar nonetheless found the resources to concoct the M-Free 99, a powder ski in an All-Mountain West package.  The M-Free 99’s arrival rendered the venerable Menace 98 obsolete, removing one of the best cost/value relationships from the world’s ski racks. (Please bow your heads at its passing. Amen.)

A pivotal point to remember about the M-Free 99 (and the same holds true for the entire M-Line) is that each of the three sizes was developed on its own, so it’s really three different skis, sorted by size. The shortest length, 171cm, has been made for those of smaller mass, also known as women. The 185cm is for the ripper who tears down the fall line regardless of the conditions.

Last year, Dynastar introduced the M-Line, covering the spectrum of off-piste skiing; for 2021/22, the French brand has likewise re-imagined its S-Line, which also includes three families: Race, Speed and Speed 4×4.  (If you’re looking for the Speed Zone 4×4 82 Pro, it’s now the Speed 4×4 963.). The technology that bridges both umbrella collections and gives all Dynastars a unique feel is a hybrid core that uses a poplar center between two sections of milled PU. 

The combination of lightweight elements, a dynamic shearing action within the core and PU’s natural damping and response to pressure is what creates the Dynastar sensation of lightness, agility and power. This distinctive snow feel is present across all genres, from the Frontside, Speed 4×4 family to the ginormous M-Free 118. 

E Lite 9

Over the past two seasons, Dynastar has completely transformed its collection, tackling the freeride sector with the M-Line last year, and re-positioning its on-piste S-Line for 21/22. The E Lite models form the women’s division of the Speed series, meant for carving up corduroy. As is often the case, the top model – the E Lite 9 – resides in the Technical genre, while its wider and softer siblings are Frontside fillies. Note the “Lite” …READ MORE

Speed 963

Dynastar has completely rebuilt their product line over the last two seasons, focusing on its Freeride collection last year and reconfiguring its On-Piste clan for 21/22. The constant across both the M-Line and S-Line is Dynastar’s signature hybrid core, comprised of milled PU and, in the case of the Speed 963, poplar. The Speed 963 gets its power from a sculpted Titanal laminate that’s sidewall-to-sidewall underfoot and runs along the edge as it extends towards …READ MORE

E 4×4 7

Don’t let the new model name throw you, the E 4×4 7 is to all intents and purposes last year’s Intense 4×4 82 Pro, the top of a four-model series of recreational Frontside models. All are system skis, meaning they come with a made-to-match binding included in the price. The E 4×4 7 works as an all-terrain ski with a Frontside bias. This is how Dynastar tester Jennifer Simpson outlined its performance envelope last season: …READ MORE

Speed 4×4 963

The 21/22 version of the 4×4 is attached to the Speed family, but it’s actually a separate breed. In keeping with the overall trend to lighter skis, the 4×4 963 uses a multi-material core with laminated beech providing the primary structure and a band of polyurethane (PU) between the wood and the outer sidewall. The PU adds a dampening element as well as being lighter than the wood it replaces. To preserve stability on edge, …READ MORE

M-Free 99

The simplest way to characterize the new M-Free 99 from Dynastar is it’s a narrow Powder ski, a genre that’s otherwise populated by models over 113mm underfoot. In groomed conditions, its tip and tail have nothing to do except dangle above the snow surface, waiting to be called into action. Considering how loose its extremities are, it’s cool, calm and collected underfoot, moving edge to edge in medium-radius turns without drawing attention to the fact …READ MORE

M-Pro 99

Skiers who don’t barrel straight down the fall line will appreciate the M-Pro 99’s mix of agility and stability. Its natural inclination is to make a medium to long radius turn; short turns will tend to involve a bit of drift at the top and bottom with a clean edge in the belly of the turn. Chargers who attack the hill like Footloose’s Larry Rhoads will want to step up to the 186cm length, which …READ MORE

M-Pro 99 W

The M-Pro line that Dynastar introduced last year is hierarchical, with the M-Pro 99 and 99 W sitting on top of a 3-model range. This means the M-Pro 99 W isn’t just the widest ski in the range, it’s the also the best. Women who’ve attained advanced ability should probably on the M-Pro 99 W even if they’re likely to spend half their time on groomed terrain. I make this suggestion despite the fact that …READ MORE

M-Free 108

The M-Free 108 isn’t a twin-tip by accident, but by intent: it expects its pilot to break the bonds of gravity at every opportunity, and doesn’t want to limit his options. When one is taking off and landing in loose, uneven snow, the instinct to smear is essential to survival. The M-Free 108 is able to stay calm while tearing through crud in high gear because it wraps its unusual PU and poplar core in …READ MORE