2020 DPS Wailer Alchemist 100 RP Ski Review: // Ski Reviews
Here on SkiEssentials.com, we spend a lot of time looking at the latest and greatest skis in terms of design, construction, and overall performance. Over the past two decades, DPS has been a brand pushing the capabilities of skis with innovative construction and designs arguably more than any other. Their headquarters is located in the heart of Utah ski country, they own and operate their own factory, and they continue to release skis with eye-catching and head-turning designs and characteristics. They are, without question, an important brand in the sport of skiing. Sure, they don't manufacture nearly as many skis in a given year as some of the bigger, more established brands, but their designs certainly help push the entire sport in new directions. With that said, we're excited to share our review of the new 2020 DPS Wailer 100 Alchemist RP.
The new Wailer 100 essentially replaces the Wailer 99. There are plenty of similarities, but a lot has changed as well. Let's look at shape first. The Wailer 100 uses DPS' RP shaping concept. It has a 15 m turn radius throughout all lengths, and the amount of rocker and early taper has been reduced compared to the 99. It still has the classic DPS shape with its early tapered tips and tails, but it's a little less pronounced than on the 99. We see this shape from a lot of other companies these days, and it's something we talk about quite a bit here on Chairlift Chat. This rockered and early tapered shape typically provides a very maneuverable ski, and that's even something that, in my opinion, has become synonymous with most DPS skis. Even with these changes compared to the 99, my expectation was this ski would be an absolute blast in tight terrain, un-groomed snow conditions, and anywhere you have to make quick movements or adjustments to your skiing. Before we get into that, however, let's touch on construction.
Since the early 2000s, DPS has been on a quest to create a construction that has the perfect balance of reactiveness and dampness. Skis that use carbon fiber can sometimes be too reactive. A super lightweight ski that responds immediately to everything that's happening to it isn't always that fun to ski. It can create a very twitchy, unstable feeling. DPS has easily been one of the leading companies in terms of tweaking the performance of carbon construction skis, and this is hands down the best yet. The new Alchemist construction uses an aspen wood core sandwiched between two sheets of pure prepreg carbon fiber. DPS then adds proprietary damping additives in specific areas of the ski. Despite my prying attempts, DPS kept the details of their construction fairly secret, which is understandable. They did, however, say that this new version of the Alchemist construction has a more balanced and more refined flex pattern. The tip is also designed to be more supple, which when combined with a flatter tail gives you both smoother, easier turn initiation as well as a more complete, crisper finish to a turn.
So, what do we think? Well, I'll be the first to admit that I typically don't choose skis with this much early taper for my personal skis, but I actually think that made me a perfect person to test these skis. My first impression of them was on relatively firm, groomed snow, and I was pretty darn blown away. DPS is essentially trying to provide the same feel and performance we get from skis with metal, but in a much lighter package. The swing weight is noticeable as soon as you click into them. The skis I was testing had relatively heavy Tyrolia Attack 13 demo bindings, so picking the skis up didn't make them feel particularly light, but as soon as they were on my feet, they definitely did. The 179 cm length I was testing is typically right up my alley at 5'10 and 150 lbs, and for a ski that long they felt quite a bit lighter than skis with metal. The stability and vibration damping is down-right impressive, period. Considering it uses as much rocker and early taper as it does, and considering there's no metal in it, it's staggeringly-good.
It's not uncommon for me to get on skis that use a similar shape and feel a little bit nervous. Losing effective edge length and contact with the snow typically results in a fairly unstable feel for me, especially on firm snow, but the Wailer 100 Alchemist RP feels smooth and relatively powerful. It's not matching the performance of a full cambered ski with metal, but even aggressive expert skiers will be hard-pressed to push it past its limits for edge grip. Heavy aggressive skiers will more easily than someone my size, but it's quite good for a ski with this shape. The 15 m turn radius is really fun, too. It has a nice round flex from tip to tail that feels very even. It doesn't feel like the tip wants to fold over when you're linking carving turns. It's responsive in and out of a carving turn, holds an edge well, and far surpassed my expectations on firm snow for a ski like this. You'll have a silly grin on your face as you lay down perfectly round railroad-track turns down your favorite groomer. There's very minimal noticeable tip flap for a ski with this shape, which was very refreshing.
Now, while I didn't have huge expectations for it on firm snow, I expected it to be an absolute blast in tighter terrain like our east coast trees. Saying that it met my expectations would be accurate, but also probably a little bit of an understatement. If you like skiing tight off-piste terrain, you'll absolutely love this ski. While the rocker profile and early taper was reduced, it still feels super-maneuverable. I think the shorter turn radius helps. I wasn't always sliding or flicking my turns, sometimes you'll find time in the trees to actually initiate a bit of a carve, which is really fun. Skis like this, especially in un-groomed terrain and softer snow, respond to skier input super quickly. For some, it might be too quick, but I think most people will love it. I consider it best for someone who is always seeking out the most challenging lines and always looking to push their ability in un-groomed terrain, but from a technical standpoint more than pure speed. It's not a speed-demon, and that's more true in off-piste terrain than on trail, in my opinion. If you like to make really long, slow, smearing, slashing, slarving turns in deep snow, you might want something with less early taper in the tips and tails. I spend a lot of time on skis that don't use as much early taper, so it took me a moment to adapt to the performance of these skis, especially in deeper snow. It likes to be driven, and it likes the skier to make purposeful decisions. It prefers more moderate speeds over stupid-fast, I-might-hurt-myself skiing, but that's perfectly okay with me.
So, what's the take-away here? If you're looking for one pair of skis to do everything and you're comfortable with the DPS price range, it honestly doesn't get much better than this for most skiers. I say most skiers because there are some people who prefer bigger turns and speed over smaller turns and technical lines. That's okay, because there are plenty of skis out there for those people. I do, however, think the latter describes a significantly bigger percentage of the skiing population. Not many skiers choose to ski or even have access to big, wide open terrain where they can open up the speed limit. Not many skiers feel comfortable or want to ski fast enough that the Wailer 100 won't work for them. For the majority of skiers out there, the mix of performance that the Wailer 100 delivers is perfect. Carve some turns on groomers, feel like a pro snaking through the trees, and feel comfortable, stable, and smooth while doing so.