The DPS Tour1 Wailer 99 is one of the more specialized products in our otherwise general purpose selection. Surely, many will make the Wailer 99 work in all conditions, but it is most at home in great powder on long, high energy days of ski touring. The lightweight construction is great for the up but deserves gentleness and kindness in handling and riding. Don't ride these for day-to-day use on the ski lifts. If you want something more robust and versatile, check out our Editors' Choice Kastle TX 98.
DPS Tour1 Wailer 99 Review
Compare prices at 2 resellers Pros: Light and surfy
Cons: Get pushed around at speed and in funky snow, squirrely firm snow performance
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Our Analysis and Test Results
DPS skis have a cult following in the American backcountry ski community. They are a small company, based in the US, making good products. Their Tour1 construction, like contemporary offerings from other companies, continues to drop the weight with little compromise in certain aspects of performance.
The DPS Wailer 99 Tour1 weighs around five and a half pounds. For a pair of skis that performs this well in everyone's favorite snow conditions, this is excellent. Others are bringing all-around performance near this weight, but none are this well suited for exclusive soft snow riding.
Only one other pair of skis in our review are lighter than the Wailer Tour1. Those, the Top Pick Atomic Backland UL 78 are much lighter but also much narrower. The Atomic is suitable for all-around snow conditions but doesn't perform as well in deep powder snow as the DPS. For achieving massive mileage on deep snow, the DPS wins our Top Pick award. The low weight is phenomenal energy saving. One tester, comparing the DPS skis to a more traditional, heavier backcountry ski she uses day-to-day, noted that the DPS Tour1 is apt to make her weaker. There's just so much less mass to lug around.
Stability at Speed
Of all the design and construction characteristics of a ski, weight is the one most directly associated with stability at speed. Heavier skis are more stable when going fast. The lightweight and powder focused Wailer 99 is pretty wobbly and unsteady at high speeds; this is not what they are for. As a lightweight tool, we definitely noticed that the Tour1 Wailer 99 prefers shorter radius turns at a more moderate pace. In perfect snow, our test team felt they could open it up, tentatively. When it got weird, we had to reign it in more than on beefier tools.
For truly maching in the mountains, something like the ultra-beefy, Top Pick winning Black Crows Corvus Freebird is as different from the Tour1 as can be within a single category. Both the Wailer and the Kastle TX 98 preferred short to medium radius turns, but the extra mass of the Kastle gave us more confidence when doing so at a high rate. The same can be said of the Volkl VTA 98, except that the Volkl is more adept in turns of different radii. We've recently taken possession of a pair of the Wailer 112 in Tour1 construction. We look forward to comparing the stability of the two different DPS skis with very different dimensions.
Few expect a lightweight, mid-fat, cap-constructed, rockered ski from Utah to perform well when it gets icy. The DPS met our expectations in this regard and is a great tool for the colder and drier regions. If you ski mainly powder snow and are good at hunting it down when conditions get tougher, you'll do well with the DPS. The occasional foray into steeper, firmer conditions with the DPS scared our test team a little bit more than we'd like to admit.
While we could certainly survive the hard stuff, we felt better on the Best Buy Blizzard Zero G or Fischer Hannibal. Given the different regions and preferences in our backcountry ski community, we chose multiple Top Pick winners. Each ski we tested is suited for all-around backcountry skiing, but the Tour1 prefers the soft, and the Black Crows likes to go fast. The Atomic Backland UL is much better than the DPS on firm stuff. If you live in a warmer region known for firmer snow or seek primarily steep, firm lines, the Dynafit Beast 98 is a better choice. The difference in firm snow performance between the DPS and Blizzard is one of the more significant differences in our entire test. They essentially fall at different ends of the spectrum. Additionally, the strong all-around ultralight Fischer Hannibal grabbed the firmest conditions more confidently and surfed corn snow more enjoyably than the DPS.
All the skis we tested were fun in powder snow. Great powder snow is fun on all skis; it is that simple. That being said, because powder snow is just so much fun and easy to ski (given at least a rudimentary understanding of the technique required, of course), all backcountry skiers wish to just get more and more of it. The DPS is wide enough and shaped nicely to surf in soft snow, with that ultralight construction empowering big days of fast cold smoke. Surprisingly, the stiffer and narrower Blizzard Zero G 95 is almost as enjoyable as the DPS in the soft and fresh.
Basically, all the skis we tested are fun in powder snow. The lightest ones, like the Tour1 Wailer 99, enable either more vertical, more uphill speed, or fresher legs when you get there. All of that leads to more enjoyable powder skiing. As such, the DPS is our Top Pick for powder skiing. A close competitor, at least in terms of downhill performance, is the Black Diamond Helio 105. The Helio loves soft snow descending, but it is much heavier than the Wailer 99.
The width, rocker, and carbon inclusions in the DPS fare alright in the choppier conditions. Many backcountry powder days involve some sort of survival skiing. Whether it is sun crusted, wind jacked, or skier chopped, your run or tour often involves something other than ski movie quality riding. For those turns in trickier snow, there are essentially three types of skis. Some skis make breakable crust and sloppy stuff almost fun; in our test, the wide and big Black Crows Corvus Freebird is the best poor-snow rider. Nothing in our review beats the beefy Chugach for crappy snow performance.
In between is the majority of modern backcountry touring skis and the DPS Tour1 is in that middle category. The Wailer 99s in Tour1 construction can blast through moderate breakable crust and surf on top of mashed potatoes. When it gets truly desperate, the featherweight sticks get pushed around and send the skier back to the basics just to get to the next powder stash. We found little difference in the poor snow performance of the DPS and the Best Buy Fischer Hannibal. The wider bodied, heavier G3 FINDr 102 fared slightly better in the chop than the DPS.
We choose our products for this review for all-around, quiver of one backcountry skiing. While we all wish to own and travel with many different dedicated skis, reality often dictates otherwise. Each of the skis we tested will suffice as one's only ski, if necessary. Whether that skier rides only his own familiar terrain during the height of winter or travels to distant ranges all year long, any of the skis, we review here will work. That being said, each ski on the market has its preferences and biases. We choose our Top Pick award winners to reflect greater specialization. If you are lucky enough to ride predominantly dry powder snow, with only occasional excursions to the firm or funky, the DPS Tour1 Wailer 99 is a hot rod cold smoke blaster. If you like the steep and rowdy, or the long corn tours, or end up on character building snow regularly, something else is likely to be a better choice.
The DPS skis are not inexpensive. Powder specialty and super lightweight construction come at a cost. The initial purchase is steep, and the skis' light weight means lessened durability. In the end, though, it is up to you to determine how much many thousands of feet of powder riding is worth.
DPS skis have a great reputation and a robust following. In our review of All-Mountain Skis for Men, the Wailer 99 in DPS' "hybrid construction" also won a Top Pick Award for powder performance. In that case, the Hybrid construction skis are heavier and more biased to resort use. The Tour1 construction is similarly fun in powder snow, but the lightweight construction is great for touring up and limited in absolute strength and durability.
— Jediah Porter