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.
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.
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.
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.
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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