Expert Review: DPS Zelda Alchemist 106 Skis
This review is my honest opinion of the skis, which I purchased with my own money in December of 2019.
About this Review: This review is my honest opinion of the skis, which I purchased with my own money in December of 2019.
The DPS Zelda Alchemist 106 skis are a great stiffer women’s ski that floats well in powder but can still hold an edge in variable snow conditions. It’s generally hard to find a ski that does well in both powder and carving yet is still light enough to tour with, and this ski really checks all the boxes.
About the gear
- Model: DPS Zelda A106 C2 Women’s 2020
- Size: 163
- Height: 5’3”
- Weight: 115 lbs
- Ski Experience: 20 years
- When I bought these: December 2019
- Days tested: 50+
- Mount position: Factory recommended
- Boots: Scarpa Gea Women’s Alpine Touring Boot
- Boot Size: 22.5
- Bindings: Dynafit ST Rotations
- Where I’ve used it: Utah
- Terrain: Backcountry, two resort days
How they perform
What I was looking for
I was looking for a stiffer all-mountain-ish ski that would still be lightweight enough that I could tour with it. These were my first touring skis, and at the time of purchasing these skis, I had decided I wanted to stop skiing at resorts and just ski in the backcountry. Because of my desire to only ski backcountry, I needed a ski that would perform well on both Utah powder days and variable conditions, choppy days.
I have been skiing my whole life and am an advanced/expert skier, so in addition to wanting this to be an “all-mountain” type option, I also needed something a bit stiffer, which can really limit my options when shopping for women’s skis. It was a difficult decision because I was trying to balance the weight factor with the desire to have a high-performing ski that wasn’t too lightweight that it didn’t ski well.
Why I chose this gear
I deliberated on this purchase. I wanted something that would last a long time and checked all my boxes, but it was also my first touring ski, so I didn’t know if I should spend a ton of money on a ski in case I decided this sport wasn’t for me. Ultimately, I went with the Zeldas because DPS is a local Utah company. I had heard a lot of good things about them, and they seemed to be the stiffest option at around 6 lbs a pair.
I resorted to the expertise of a few friends who had been touring quite a bit longer than I had, and they all told me if they were lighter than 6 lbs, I would not have a good time skiing on the downhill because my skis would be too lightweight. The other options I looked at were the Nordica Santa Anas and the Atomic Backlands. I bought the Atomic Backland boots prior to purchasing the Zeldas. The Atomic Backlands seemed like they weren’t stiff enough, and the Nordica Santa Anas weighed 2.5 lbs more than the Zeldas, so I decided to spend the extra money and go with the Zeldas.
What I love about them
- Speed: These skis are incredibly fast. Most DPS skis come with the DPS Phantom Wax on them, which is basically permanent wax. I have only waxed them once since getting them, and it definitely was not necessary to wax them. My housemate had just started a job at a ski shop and, being nice, took them in for a tuning.
- Edge hold: The Zeldas have a waist width of 106, which is not generally considered an all-mountain ski width but more of a powder ski width. But these are exceptions to that rule. Because the Zeldas are wider, they hold an edge super well, and it’s really easy to initiate turns. I think a lot of that has to do with the lower weight.
- Turns: Again, their weight makes them really quick edge to edge, especially considering their width. The Zeldas are pretty stiff, so they require more power to make turns than a softer, narrower ski, but they turn really well for their stiffness level and width.
- Powder: Powder is where these excel the most. These skis are light, have an upturned tip, and are pretty wide. Powder days with these skis have been the favorite ski days of my life because it’s so effortless, and they float so well.
- Backcountry: Intended to be backcountry skis, the Zeldas do a great job. They are light enough not to punish my legs when I haul them up a mountain, but they are still stiff and stable enough to ski down well.
- Durability: The Zeldas are really durable. I have put 50ish days on them and hit a few rocks without serious damage. The strong base, I think, is in part due to the Phantom Wax I mentioned, but they are also just a really well-made ski.
- Weight: The pair is 6 lbs. Touring skis that are lighter than this are generally made for skimo racing and are intended** **to be fast and light on the uphill, but not made with skiing down a top priority. Heavier skis than this will handle equally well on the downhill but are weightier and slower on the uphill. Since most of my touring partners are in annoyingly good shape, I didn’t need anything slowing me down. These feel really easy on the uphill in terms of weight and ski well.
- Stability: The stability took some getting used to because they were a different ski than I had skied in the past (lighter weight, so they don’t need as much power input in groomer, slush, or powder conditions). However, once I got used to them and got comfortable with them, I realized I could trust the skis to be really stable no matter the conditions.
Issues I’ve encountered
- Moguls: I haven't skied extensive moguls with these skis, but given the stiffness, width, and that they have less dampening than most resort skis, given that they are a touring ski, I would not want to ski moguls with these. That is fine for me because I don’t like moguls and rarely encounter anything resembling moguls in the backcountry.
- Trees: They can handle trees, no doubt, but trees are not my favorite terrain to take them in just since they are a bit wider.
- Groomers: I have taken these skis to the resort twice, and though they handle fairly well compared to other backcountry skis, they are not resort skis and require more energy to turn than groomer skis, given their width and construction.
- Other: When I first bought these skis, I used a really lightweight touring boot (the Atomic Backlands), and the boot was too light compared to the ski. The boots made it difficult to handle my skis, but this wasn't the skis' fault as much as a mismatch between the weight and power needed from my skis and boots. I have since switched to the Scarpa Gea Touring boots, and the skis handle loads better.
Favorite moment with this gear
These are my first pair of backcountry skis, and they have truly changed the world of skiing for me. I grew tired of waiting in lift lines and traffic and paying $1,000 a year for a ski pass. During the first season on these, I did a lot of early morning tours before work at 9 a.m. Skinning up with a headlamp and transitioning to downhill as the sun comes up genuinely made me fall in love with skiing again in a way I hadn’t felt for a few years. (photo above is from a sunrise morning on the Alchemists!)
Value for the money vs. other options
I was surprised I spent over a thousand dollars on skis when I bought these. I had never spent that much before, and as a first touring ski, it was kind of a crazy thing to do. But I generally like uphill athletics and wanted something perfect that would last. These are around $1,200, whereas the Nordica Santa Anas and the Atomic Backlands I mentioned earlier that I had also been considering are both closer to $700. Though they are pricier than comparable options, I would definitely spend that money on them again. They handle so well on both up and downhill, and I have never had a day on them where I felt like I hated them, which is more than I can say for most skis I have tried.
I find myself touring with females with the same skill level pretty often who have complaints about their skis being either too soft or too heavy, and I have never been able to relate to that. It’s frustrating and hard to find a women’s ski that isn’t just a softer, smaller, pink version of a men’s ski (shrink it and pink it, as they say), but DPS really went all in on designing something that would ski well for women and last for a long time.
The DPS Zelda Alchemist 106s are a high-performing women's backcountry ski that can handle any terrain it meets. Though they are pricier, they are durable and will last longer than most other skis. I haven’t had to do a lot of upkeep, such as getting them tuned, and I have been really impressed by their balance of being both light enough for the up, but stiff and stable enough for the downhill. I would buy these again in a heartbeat.