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Used and Abused: DPS Zelda 106 Tour1

Time to ditch that burly resort-turned-backcountry setup.

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Skis for backcountry skiing
Skin tracks seem endless on a heavy backcountry setup. File photo

As much as I love skiing, I’m still learning to love backcountry skiing. I’ve had some backcountry ski days where I’ve finished a lap feeling cheated—as though the handful of downhill turns just weren’t enough to justify the long uphill slog. It’s not that I don’t enjoy the touring part of backcountry skiing, it’s just that my main agenda in any type of skiing is getting in some serious downhill mileage. And to get in that kind of mileage while backcountry skiing—well, you have to put in the miles on the uphill portion, too. On my resort-turned-backcountry setup—pretty burly skis with an AT frame binding which makes for heavy combo—I just didn’t have the stamina to put in those uphill miles.

But when I tested the DPS Zelda 106 Tour1, everything changed. Now I have a bone to pick with the people who have been telling me that, based on my skiing style, I should stick to stiff skis with metal and bindings with a real toe and heel piece in my backcountry setup. Sure, it may be a little heavier on the uphill, but at least I wouldn’t be sacrificing downhill performance and could charge the way I like to.

DPS Zelda 106 Tour1 2019
The DPS Zelda 106 comes in two different construction options: the Alchemist, a heavier ski meant for the resort, and the Tour1, lighter-weight and designed for the backcountry. Photo courtesy of DPS

When I got on the Zelda 106 Tour1 skis for the first time in the Crested Butte, Colo. backcountry, I immediately realized my so-called friends had lied. My old backcountry set-up wasn’t just a “little” heavier—it was soul-crushingly heavy. After clicking into the Dynafit bindings and beginning the uphill march, I couldn’t believe how light the Zelda 106 Tour1 skis felt. With only 1,340 grams under each foot, it’s like I was walking on the moon—totally weightless compared to the mass I was pushing along on my previous setup.

The huge weight discrepancy wasn’t just due to the lighter bindings, but the ski itself. Whereas the Alchemist construction version of the Zelda 106 features a slightly heavier Aspen wood core sandwiched between DPS’ signature prepreg carbon fiber laminate–made damper with additives—the Tour1 construction swaps in a lighter weight balsa wood core between a combination of prepreg carbon and glass laminate to shave additional grams. 

DPS’ Tour1 construction made significantly quicker work of steep climbs, requiring less energy with every step, and saving some gas in the tank to put in extra miles. The 168cm length also made it easy to maneuver into kick-turns on the climb through tight Aspen trees.

I was not the only one to notice how much more efficiently I was moving on the Zelda Tour1. My brother—usually a drill sergeant on forced backcountry marches—noticed the difference, too. Instead of lagging 50 feet behind him, I was only 20 feet behind. Rather than stopping for two snack breaks within the first 45 minutes of skinning, I only took one—though, let me be clear, I would have enjoyed more.

Overall, I was thrilled with every aspect of the Zelda Tour1’s uphill performance. But then, I knew I would be. Going with a lighter set-up for enhanced ascension is a no-brainer. What I worried about was whether I’d be able to rely on these lightweight skis in the variable snow on the downhill.

Turns out, I could. I’m used to skiing longer skis in an aggressive, forward stance, so it took a few turns to figure the Zeldas out. But on these lighter, shorter planks, I had to stay in a more neutral, upright position to keep from overpowering the ski and making the shovel dive into the six inches of dense powder we were skiing. But once I adjusted my stance, these incredibly light skis are surprisingly damp with a reliable flex pattern that manages variable snow well. When I did get into some softer snow and remembered to keep my weight centered, the Zeldas floated like a dream.

When I reached the bottom of the descent and transitioned into touring mode for the skin back to the trailhead, I felt that every step of the climb had been worth the effort—not because the downhill skiing was that rewarding (the snow had been funky, the terrain pretty moderate because of heightened avalanche danger), but because the slog up wasn’t such a slog on the Zelda 106 Tour1. 

DPS Zelda 106 Tour 1 Specs:

  • Dimensions (in millimeters): 130 / 106 / 120
  • Radius: 18m @168cm
  • Lengths: 158cm, 168cm
  • Weight: 1340g per ski average weight @ 168cm; 1215g per ski average weight @ 158cm
  • MSRP: $1,099.00 (or wait until DPS Dreamtime to buy these sticks on the cheap)