One likely has to ask.."why start with this photo?"
I have thought long and hard on how to do this review.
For some rappelling on skis is going to seem pretty extreme. For others? They would be skiing here unfazed, where I was really happy to have a rope for a pitch or two.
This ski review thing is kinda fun and deceptive all at the same time. I had a new friend ask me this summer, "how can you do a legitimate ski review on the conditions we were skiing as compared to our typical snow?"
My answer was, "it is all snow, ya turn left and ya turn right". That and the fact is I have no interest in skiing on or writing a review from what I would consider "typical snow".
I ski a lot in a maritime snow pack in the Cascades. But also ski in the Western States interior and the Alps. I use my skis as tools. And I have gotten more and more picky on the skis I like and want to spend time on. I've become more educated about what a ski is capable of and more importantly what I am capable or...or not as a skier.
The picture above is the current crop of what I wanted to ski on this winter. Everything there is just a slight variation of what I have been skiing on for the past 3 or 4 seasons.
I have had few duplicates of my ski choices. The first ski that fit that category was the Huascaran. A mistake on my part as the 196cm ski was not the 177cm ski. Would seem obvious at first glance but it wasn't to me. The next time I bought two different sizes of the same ski was with the Cho Oyu. I used and really liked both sizes of the Cho Oyu.
I picked the short pair of Cho Oyu as one of 4 pair last winter to take to France. And to be honest, it was pure luck on part to have that specific pair of Cho. It was the ski that really saved my ski season there. Out of the 4 pair of skis along on that trip, for various reasons, I ended up using the Cho Oyu more than any other ski. From steep skiing (well steep for me anyway) to the Haute Route. I was impressed with the Cho. It is a good ski for my own use.
Here are a couple of previous comments on the Cho:
As much as I liked the Cho there were a few things lacking for my own unreserved use. But I certainly wasn't going to complain because I've had some of my best skiing ever on a Cho Oyu...literally. By the end of last season I was using the Cho every where without reservation.
Of that new rack pictured above, 4 of the skis there are specific picks to better the performance of the Cho in certain conditions. Mind you the conditions I am thinking of are pretty harsh. Which are bad snow, hard base underneath and the results of a fall likely fatal.
The few times I skied that kind of terrain last winter, all on a short Cho Oyu, I wished for a more stable ski. But I wasn't willing to ditch the super light weight ski and race bindings to get there either. Instead I tried to adapt my own skiing to the gear as best I could. 97% of the time I simply enjoyed the ski.
Knowing I would be on more, similar terrain this coming winter I wanted to hedge my bets.
So I bought two pair of lwt custom Praxis skis that Keith made up for me @ 9d8 and 110mm. And two pair of Dynafit skimo boards. (Dynafit's Manaslu and 7-Summit to be reviewed later) All with the idea of more ski than the Cho was capable of because of the lwt construction.
The two Dynafit Denalis in the above picture were an after thought really. Unknowingly I figured it would simply be a heavier version of the Cho Oyu with the added width @ 98mm under foot..instead of 88mm. How bad could it be?
Turns out not bad at all!
Before I start here. I am making the comparisons of the Cho to Denali because I thought the Cho Oyu was a stellar ski for my own use. The direct comparison of the specs of the Denali to the Cho should tell you how much I already respect the Denali's performance to date. I wasn't kidding when I said, "I've had some of my best skiing ever on a Cho Oyu."
Here is the comparison.
Up front, my actual ski's weights:
the 176cm Denali 1247g per ski @ 98mm under foot
the 174cm Cho Oyu 1210g per ski @ 88mm under foot
Less than 3oz per pair heavier and a longer ski with the Denali.
Bonus to the Denali there IMO.
Dimensions 125-88-111 
turn radius 16-12-15m 
410-430mm tip rocker, 160mm tail rocker
What all that means to me is a more stable, less hooky ski on nasty conditions. Not that I consider the Cho hooky, it isn't. But I did ski some of the worst wind pack, wind and rain breakable crust and ice conditions on the Denali that I have ever skied. Few, if any skis would have made those conditions enjoyable. Not enjoyable snow conditions by any means but the Denali ended up being a solid choice for me. I was able to stay up right the majority of time when my partners weren't always so fortunate on lesser skis. I'm convinced it was advanced ski technology that was unable to cope with the ever changing and generally terrible conditions more than it was my skiing ability.
Not that I was rocking every turn/run by comparison either mind you. But I was getting down in one piece on the Denali and happy with the ski. More so than I thought I might/should be. I also brought a 2nd pair of very solid all terrain skis on that trip, but never ended up using them. Funny as I wasn't even tempted to take them out of the ski bag. Says a lot on just how good the Denali was in the variable conditions we had.
One of the places I thought the Cho really shined last year was our early hard snow conditions here in the PNW. The Cho skied exceptionally well on those perfectly groomed but pretty hard snow conditions we had in late December and early January here in the PNW. Turns out I got a day or two on similar conditions during the Austral winter. And while it was obvious some of my ski partners really wanted to see if I could actually ski the Denali, even my 176cm version was up to almost anything a big free style ski was capable of on hard pack. Where the Cho would have been done on groomers, the Denali even in a short 176cm was still cruising like a champ. That surprised me. As did the Denali's performance on ice worthy of crampons. The kind of ice you generally only see in the mountains above 10 or 12K feet.
Breakable crust that I would have preferred a DPS Spoon on, or at least 115mm under foot, the Denali skied with little effort. Wasn't the ski in the way, that is for sure. More my lack of technique.
I have some bigger, lwt, wood core ski to fill in the gaps on the nasty snow of any steep French gullies this winter. Only time on those new boards will tell me which of those skis will better the Denali. But at least for me the Denali to date have been better than the Cho in hard conditions. And the Cho was a proven bench mark as a lwt ski for me last winter.
I bought both the 176cm ski which I have skied on and the 184cm Denali hoping I can take advantage of both sizes.
The video from last Spring shows a place I was wanting more ski than the Cho. The Denali might be just enough more ski for some added some security there..that day..those conditions. Make no mistake these are wider versions of really good skimo boards. They aren't the typical touring skis or the typical soft snow ski. They are true mountaineering skis. The Cho is a well proven version of that definition even while being just one year old. From my little time on the Denali I think it is a even more mature version of that tool. With race bindings on them I hope to prove that statement to myself over and over again this winter.
Some are sure to ask..as I did. How about a comparison to the La Sportiva Nano? To start with $300 to $500 more @ retail. Ouch! I have not skied the Vapor yet. But the comparisons on soft snow between the Denali and the Vapor, from those I trust, have been very favorable.
But money no object? Ya gotta wonder right?
It is a very modern 5 point ski. Some advantages there.
General consensus from those that I know that have skied both:
"Mind blowing weight for a powder plank!"
1180g [172cm] for one ski
Generous tip rocker, camber underfoot, gentle tail rocker
I've always had high hopes for this tool. Great retail price point to start with, @ $175.00 per tool. Now with a ice specific pick and a more comfortable handle. It was good as a Gen 1 version. Suspect the Gen 2 version of the Raptor will be even better for my own use. I know just by looking at the new handle (less spike more open finger hook) the ease of rotation will be improved significantly.
I'm looking forward to using them and then writing a full review.
A few years ago on the original version @ the Weeping Wall.
1st generation Raptor
No smoke and mirrors here, but real design changes coming from climbers using the tools not the marketing department.