An Expert Guide to DPS Skis

Initially a backcountry ski brand, in recent years DPS Skis has branched out to become a common name amongst resort skiers too. Learn more in the guide below!

A pair of DPS Skis on a table.

DPS skis are a familiar sight in the backcountry, where their light build and wide waists make them ideal powder weapons! Photo by Hendrik Morkel

As skiing has exploded in popularity over the last few decades, more and more ski brands are popping up on the radar to compete with the bigger brands that have been dominating the ski industry for generations. Some of these ski startups burn brightly for a few years and then fade away. But there are a select few who manage not only to survive but to thrive, injecting fresh ideas and new technologies into the ski market.

One such startup that has managed to blossom is DPS Skis. You may have seen its unique shapes while waiting in the lift line at your favorite resort, or you perused the bright colors that are the hallmark of its ski lineups and asked yourself: “What’s up with these skis? And why are they so darn expensive?”

In this article, we explore the history of DPS Skis, short though it may be, and dive into its proprietary groundbreaking shaping profile combined with space-age carbon technology to create what many skiers have begun to refer to as the world’s most advanced quiver of skis.

Where It All Began

DPS started in 2005 when Stephen Drake and ski engineer Peter Turner decided they wanted to make better, more perfect skis worthy of all those who pursue the magical mysteries of making turns in deep snow. At the time, Peter Turner was a ski designer for Volant, and he was instrumental in helping to design the Volant Spatula, the brainchild of professional skier Shane McConkey.

The Spatula, which was initially met with widespread skepticism, proved to be revolutionary and far ahead of its time. The Spatula took the idea of the conventional ski—parabolic shape and full camber—and flipped it on its head. It was a full rocker ski, meaning that it resembled a banana laid on its back, wherein the tip and tail rose higher than the middle in order to increase float and playfulness in soft snow. Though the Spatula was waved off by many in the ski industry, its design proved to be game-changing over time. Indeed, almost all skis these days now incorporate some amount of rocker into its design.

Though extremely innovative, the Spatula failed to gain commercial success. But Turner and Drake saw potential in the new design, and they set out to capitalize on it, forming DPS in 2005 at the base of the Wasatch Mountains in Utah.

Drake and Turner set out to make a ski unlike anything anyone had ever seen before — light, nimble, and built with a bombproof construction. The result was the world’s first pure prepreg carbon fiber sandwich ski, which involved laying a full sheet of carbon fiber over the wood core. This gave the ski stiffness and significant flex without the added weight of metal, a staple used by the rest of the ski industry that made skis much heavier.

DPS continued its paradigm-shifting innovation by introducing the legendary Spoon technology, which they incorporated into the infamous Lotus 148 Spoon ski. A ridiculous 148 millimeters at the waist, the Lotus Spoon redefined what a fat ski could do. It featured rocker in the tip and tail with an all-new convex tip that enhanced float and playfulness in the overall ski. But the Spoon also sported a regular sidecut underfoot, and when paired with its carbon technology, DPS proved that you could have an incredibly fat ski that was also fun and playful. With the success of the Spoon and its fusion of space-age carbon technology, DPS convinced even the most devout skeptics that they were in the industry to stay.

Modern Innovations

Three skis, the Volant Spatula on the right, and two versions of the DPS Spoon on the left.

The infamous Volant Spatula, on the right, next to its descendants, the DPS Spoon. Photo by Luke Hinz

Fast forward to today, and DPS is still leading the charge in ski innovation. One of the biggest steps in the last decade was moving ski production from China back to the United States. DPS now has its own factory in Salt Lake City, where it is regularly spitting out powder skiers trusted by the world’s most serious skiers. Recently, DPS introduced a whole new lineup—the Pagoda Tour—based on world-class ski construction, in addition to the Pagoda and the Foundation lines.

DPS Skis Lineup

DPS breaks down its ski lineup according to two factors: the construction and the profile. They use three types of constructions—Pagoda, Pagoda Tour, and Foundation—in order to differentiate their skis. As for profile, DPS has created four different ski shapes—Lotus, RP, C2, and Koala—to appeal to a wide range of skiers. DPS then mixes and matches the different constructions and profiles to tailor a ski perfect for your riding style.

Construction

Pagoda

Sidecut of a ski showing the components of the Pagoda line from DPS Skis.

Components of the Pagoda line from DPS Skis

In Asia, a Pagoda is a building defined by tiers stacked upon one another, and DPS set out to harness the benefits of the architecture in its own skis. They use an ash core set over a lightweight Paulownia core, and they sandwich them between a stiffer aspen core. To finish it all off, they cover the core with two sheets of carbon fiber on the top and on the bottom, much like the tiers of a Pagoda, and then add World Cup race bases. DPS actually brags that each Pagoda ski to come off the production line has over $400 worth of carbon in the build.

Pagoda Tour

Sidecut of a ski showing the components of the Pagoda Tour line from DPS Skis.

Components of the Pagoda Tour line from DPS Skis

The Tour series is the newest in the DPS lineup and was designed to make DPS’s already lightweight skis even lighter to maximize efficiency in the backcountry. They use the same two sheets of carbon fiber over the top and bottom, but they ditch the heavier ash and aspen wood in favor of a pure Paulownia wood core to save weight.

But apparently, that wasn’t enough for the brains at DPS; they went a step further, introducing aerospace foam into the Paulownia core in order to lighten it further without sacrificing the integrity. The final construction is a ski that can lap the skintrack all day and still ski with the stability of a resort ski on the way down.

Foundation

Sidecut of showing the Components of the Foundation line from DPS Skis.

Components of the Foundation line from DPS Skis

The Foundation line focuses on more traditional ski construction and is less weight-conscious. It uses an aspen wood core combined with a triaxial fiberglass design to produce a damp and stable ski at any speed. Meanwhile, it sheds much of the carbon fiber seen in the Pagoda lines, utilizing simple carbon stringers down the length of the ski. The Foundation is intended to be a more traditional ski in a more traditional price range for the discerning skier, while still providing DPS’s proprietary feel on snow.

The three lines above make up DPS’s different construction types, but within each construction type are also four different types of skis: Lotus, RP, C2, and Koala.

Profile

Lotus

The DPS Lotus Ski.

The DPS Lotus: funny-looking, but so satisfying

The Lotus is a direct descendent of the original Spoon — the design that put DPS’s skis on the map. These are uber-fat skis that make powder skiing stupid fun, from the beginner skier all the way to the advanced skier. The Lotus starts at a burly 117mm waist but goes all the way up to an absurd 124mm, simply defying physics. The Lotus line is recognizable due to its very distinct shape: they sport long rocker lines, less effective edge, and a very low taper, meaning the widest part of the ski is far lower on the ski than most typical profiles. At first glance, the Lotus looks comical; but your skepticism will be short-lived once you’ve hopped on a pair for your first ride, where the Lotus provides unparalleled float, stability, and fun in powder.

RP

The DPS Foundation 100 RP ski.

The Foundation 100 RP: a fun and intuitive powder ski

RP is short for “Resort Powder,” and it is the bread and butter of DPS. They are typically wider skis, either 100 or 112mm, yet they have a 15m turn radius, which is unheard of for such a wide ski. This makes any RP ski, from the skinny and light 90 RP to the wider and powder-focused 112 RP, a shockingly nimble and intuitive ski. It’s the type of ski that a veteran powder hunter can drive hard on a deep day, but it can just as easily be a beginner’s first pair of skis due to its easygoing nature. The RP was built on the idea that nothing is more fun than skiing powder, and that thrill should be achievable for anyone on skis, from brand-new beginners to experts.

C2

The Pagoda C2 94 Ski.

Whereas the RP line is easygoing and nimble, the C2 line is faster and more directional. C2 skis are built in a more traditional style, with much less rocker and more effective edge, resulting in the ski having a longer turn radius than other DPS skis. This makes C2 skis a bit stiffer and a bit more demanding, but it also makes them much more stable and damp at higher speeds. The C2 appeals to racer-type skiers who want complete control over their skis.

Koala

The DPS Koala 103 ski.

The Koala 103: the most awesome plush animal you’ve ever skied on

Koala is the newest addition to the DPS family and is named after DPS’s signature athletes: Santiago Guzman, Dash Longe, and Piers Solomon, aka the Koalas. The impetus behind the Koala was to make a full-bore freestyle ski that can make the whole mountain your playground. They offer a more symmetrical shape, similar in style to more popular twin-tip skis, making it easier to flip, spin, and style your way either through the park or off any natural hit your imagination can seek out. They also have a more centered mounting point to make spins and riding switch easier. The Koalas are more geared toward advanced and expert skiers who see every feature as an excuse to get some air!

Phantom

Phantom Ski wax.

One of the biggest things to come out of DPS in the last decade is the Phantom waxless base treatment. For as long as skiing has been around, skiers have applied wax to their skis to increase their glide over snow. But wax has proven to be expensive, time-consuming, and not-so-great for the environment.

DPS set out to change this with Phantom. In short, it is a one-time application to the base of your skis followed by a curing process activated by either Phantom Glide or natural sunlight that effectively keeps water out of your base. Take note — Phantom is not a wax. Instead, it is a short-chain compound that works its way into the base of the ski permanently. One quick application of Phantom, and your skis will never need to see a stick of wax ever again. Phantom makes your ski days more enjoyable, keeps your wallet fatter, and protects the health of the planet—that’s a win-win … er, win?

Though DPS has long been labeled as a smaller, more “boutique” ski brand, its time in the shadows of the larger ski manufacturers is quickly coming to an end. DPS skis are quickly becoming synonymous with approachable and fun powder skis that appeal to a wide range of skiers, all while using advanced technology to create the most versatile ski on snow. If you are interested in finding the right DPS ski for you and your skiing style, please reach out to me or my fellow Ski Experts here at Curated.

Ski Expert Luke Hinz
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Luke Hinz
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Written By
If my parents could have foreseen how deep my obession for skiing would become, they might never have put me on skis. I've been fortunate enough to experience the entire spectrum of skiing; from growing up racing on icy Midwest slopes, to exploring every nook and cranny of the Wasatch Range backcoun...

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