2016 Denali Review

HortonHorton Posts: 23,672 Administrator
edited June 2016 in Ski Tests

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.

denalitop

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.

untitled 498

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.

untitled 686

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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Comments

  • HortonHorton Posts: 23,672 Administrator
    edited June 2016
    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.

    Support BallOfSpray by supporting the companies that support BallOfSpray

    Connelly / DBSkis /   Denali / Eden Ski Lake  / Goode / HO Syndicate / MasterCraft / Masterline

    O'Brien / Performance Ski and Surf / PTM Edge / Stokes / Reflex / Radar / Wakeye

  • ozskiozski Posts: 1,379
    Interesting review, I think it highlights the importance of getting the setup right and you won't find better product support anywhere.
    'Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.'' Boat 2005 Nautique 196 6L ZO - Ski: KD Platinum

  • AdamCordAdamCord Posts: 483 Open or 55K Rated Skier
    @ozski unfortunately for @Horton we basically just used him as a fin setting test dummy for the first half of his rides. I'm not sure he enjoyed that part but it helped us immensely. Thanks Horton! >:)
    Wish
  • ozskiozski Posts: 1,379
    @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.
    'Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.'' Boat 2005 Nautique 196 6L ZO - Ski: KD Platinum

    AdamCordBruce_ButterfieldCaleBurdick
  • 6balls6balls Posts: 4,495 ★★★Triple Panda Award Recipient ★★★
    edited June 2016
    I just let my brother dial in skis, then steal them. Someone should buy (or steal like @dirt or myself) Horton's Denali and just ride.
    Dave Ross--die cancer die
    WishThan_BoganadamhcaldwellRazorskier1
  • Razorskier1Razorskier1 Posts: 3,414 Mega Baller
    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.
    Jim Ross
    adamhcaldwelljipster43Than_Bogan
  • Razorskier1Razorskier1 Posts: 3,414 Mega Baller
    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!
    Jim Ross
  • Than_BoganThan_Bogan Posts: 5,632 Mega Baller
    @Razorskier1 Or start charging people to set up their skis...
    Nathaniel Bogan -- GUT Padawan
  • 6balls6balls Posts: 4,495 ★★★Triple Panda Award Recipient ★★★
    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
    Dave Ross--die cancer die
    Bruce_Butterfield
  • Bruce_ButterfieldBruce_Butterfield Posts: 1,050 Mega Baller

    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.
    WishIlivetoskiphauswirth
  • 6balls6balls Posts: 4,495 ★★★Triple Panda Award Recipient ★★★
    edited June 2016
    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.
    Dave Ross--die cancer die
    Razorskier1Than_Boganpumpinpete
  • Razorskier1Razorskier1 Posts: 3,414 Mega Baller
    Yep. You can do some things on the ski that just don't seem real.
    Jim Ross
  • WishWish Posts: 6,768 Mega Baller
    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.
    >>> 11.25..a different kettle of fish. <<<
    6ballsThan_Bogan
  • gregygregy Posts: 2,378 Mega Baller
    @6balls I've got the same ski from Bruce. Hadn't tried it yet due to a bad insert. I'm heading to my shop now to fix it. You got me excited about trying it.
  • 6balls6balls Posts: 4,495 ★★★Triple Panda Award Recipient ★★★
    @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!
    Dave Ross--die cancer die
    gregy
  • LeonLLeonL Posts: 1,923 Crazy Baller
    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.
    Leon Leonard Stillwater Lake KY - SR Driver SR Judge
    dvskier
  • Razorskier1Razorskier1 Posts: 3,414 Mega Baller
    @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.
    Jim Ross
  • WishWish Posts: 6,768 Mega Baller
    edited June 2016
    @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.
    >>> 11.25..a different kettle of fish. <<<
    Than_Bogan
  • Than_BoganThan_Bogan Posts: 5,632 Mega Baller
    Yep, definitely take full advantage of the support forum. Huge reason to be on a Denali!
    Nathaniel Bogan -- GUT Padawan
    [Deleted User]
  • WishWish Posts: 6,768 Mega Baller
    haha.. nope sure doesn't but it is .5 miles per hour faster to compensate..a little.
    >>> 11.25..a different kettle of fish. <<<
    [Deleted User]
  • Than_BoganThan_Bogan Posts: 5,632 Mega Baller
    @OB1 I think you need to publish a guide to determining if a pass counts.
    Nathaniel Bogan -- GUT Padawan
    [Deleted User]
  • Texas6Texas6 Posts: 2,115 Mega Baller
    Nice 2 ball @Wish
    Daryn Dean - Lakes of Katy, TX
    ***Robbed out of Hundreds of Panda Worthy Posts***
  • LeonLLeonL Posts: 1,923 Crazy Baller
    edited June 2016
    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.
    Leon Leonard Stillwater Lake KY - SR Driver SR Judge
  • Than_BoganThan_Bogan Posts: 5,632 Mega Baller
    @LeonL Up to you, but my advice is: Don't be shy. We all look awful on video and Team Denali is really, really, good at figuring out setup tweaks based on video.
    Nathaniel Bogan -- GUT Padawan
  • TriplettTriplett Posts: 205 Open or 55K Rated Skier
    @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.
    Brent Triplett - Michigan
  • 6balls6balls Posts: 4,495 ★★★Triple Panda Award Recipient ★★★
    @wish awesome 2,4. Can just see how the ski runs after the ball without stalling despite a tight radius turn. I'm loving that feature.
    Dave Ross--die cancer die
  • Razorskier1Razorskier1 Posts: 3,414 Mega Baller
    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.
    Jim Ross
  • 6balls6balls Posts: 4,495 ★★★Triple Panda Award Recipient ★★★
    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.
    Dave Ross--die cancer die
    Than_BoganJack KinneTexas6bradbWishFLeboeuf
  • Razorskier1Razorskier1 Posts: 3,414 Mega Baller
    @OB1 doesn't need to publish a guide. We all know what it is. Only tournament passes on ZO count. Wait . . . do the tournaments have to be record capable? I guess I can't remember the rules.
    Jim Ross
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