Sign In:


Last Step!

Please enter your public display name and a secure password.

Plan to post in the forums? Change your default forum handle here!

Check Out Our Shop

Teton Tested: Dynafit’s Hokkaido Big Mountain Touring Ski

When Dyanfit brought on former 4FRNT athlete and ski designer tinkerer Cody Barnhill, the result was a wild deviation from the standard light, soft, uphill-oriented Dynafit ski. Instead, what came out instead resembles something much closer to the 4FRNT Hoji–stiff, stout skis whose heft and construction signaled that these Bad Larrys were built to hammer big, fast GS turns down the fall line with a full-length elliptical rocker that would add a touch of playfulness to the ski. The two skis–the 106-waisted Chugach and 118-waisted Hokkaido–are now the nexus of Dyanfit’s Free Touring lineup, and aim to win over aggressive backcountry and even resort skiers who before would’ve sought out a ski with a bunch of steel in it from another brand.

The Hokkaidos have full-length elliptical rocker similar to a 4FRNT Hoji, but with much less splay as you can see in the photo above. Ryan Dunfee photo.

I skied on the monster Hokkaidos for the latter part of last season and the early part of this winter, skiing the 189 length with dimensions of 142-118-131 and a longer turning radius of 28 meters. At 2,200 grams a ski, the Hokkaidos are not a featherweight ski, and their weight and stiffness–aided by full ABS sidewalls–showed early on that this ski wanted to go fast down some big shit in good snow. Carbon was built into the tip to lighten things up, and the tip and tail climbing skin attachments aren’t messing around, having been cut out of CNC’ed alloy to specifically accommodate Dynafit’s Speedskins (they held my G3’s totally fine, though). On the whole, the Hokkaido impresses as a far burlier pair of sticks than anything you’ve ever seen out of Dynafit.

The Hokkaidos on the Skintrack

Carrying around a long, wide, stiff ski like the Hokkaido a chore on firm, technical skintracks. Jon Grinney photo.

The Hokkaidos make no bones about being built for deep days, and as such, they tended to tour better in deep snow where each of the 118-underfoot skis could gain an easy purchase. My normal touring setup is shorter, narrower, lighter, and softer, so dragging these bigger, stiffer, wider and heavier skis up steep switchbacks on firm snow was a relative chore. Of course, this is really not intended to be a daily driver, and if you’re looking at having one single pair of skis for touring all season long, you’ll be better off looking at the Chugach unless you really do only go out when it is as deep as all those videos of Japan you’ve drooled over.

The Hokkaidos feature burly CNC'ed skin attachments at both ends of the ski. Ryan Dunfee photo.

All things equal, the Hokkaido does better on simpler skintracks with deeper snow that allows you to cut an easy track, and is not super friendly on any uphills consisting of firm snow, sidehills, and steep tracks.

A Quite Note About the Beast 14 Bindings

The Beast 14s are a great middle ground between the Radicals and the mostly overkill Beast 16s. Jon Grinney photo.

I skied the Hokkaidos in a pair of Salomon MTN Lab boots (that review can be found here) that were held to the skis with a pair of Dynafit’s Beast 14 bindings. I agree with most of what Pete Connolly said in his review of these bindings, which is more or less that they’re a great touring binding that skis very similar in feel to a more elastic alpine binding, they release predictably and only when needed, tour well if you’re going mostly uphill on your ski tours (as the binding doesn’t allow you to tour with your heel completely flat to the ski), and avoid the weight penalty that you don’t need to pay unless your name is Seth Morrison and really need the 16 DIN of the burliest Beast binding.

The Beast 14s have a very solid feeling comparable with your standard alpine binding. Garrick Tischler photo.

I would add some of my mild love/hate relationship with the binding’s elasticity features and its heel risers. Given that the toe is designed to rotate somewhat, you get the benefit with the Beat 14s of avoiding that sore knee feeling you get after touring for hours on end off a complete immobile toepiece. However, I find myself making micro-adjustments all the time when I step into the toe to either line the binding up so I can pull the lockout lever up and into tour mode, or line the boot up so it steps into the heelpiece properly. If you’re stepping into the binding on a sidehill, the microadjustment dance gets far more annoying.

Flipping the heel pieces back into ski mode requires some serious leverage and a strong ski pole tip. Ryan Dunfee photo.

Both levels of the heel riser require some serious leverage to disengage, and I’ve had to stick to a pair of ski poles with stiff metal tips in order to snap the lower heel riser up and get the binding out of touring mode.

RELATED: Will Black Diamond's fan-powered airbag change the airbag game forever?

All being considered, I’d prefer being in the Radical 2.0 with a heelpiece that’s easier to deal with and touring risers that are easier to engage and disengage for the mostly mellow powder skiing I tend to be seeking out on my ski tours. However, if you do really despise feeble tech bindings, ski rowdy lines, or plan on using this binding in the resort a lot, the Beast 14 is a nice middle ground between something like the Radical and the super agro Beast 16.

The Hokkaido In Powder

Get the Hokkaido in soft snow and its behavior completely changes and livens up. Austin Hopkins photo.

Compared to many other skis I’ve spent time on, the Hokkaido performs wildly differently in soft snow than it does on firm. Give it not even 6” of fresh to work with and it bobs and weaves easily, the sidecut livens up the turns, and it feels instantly more playful. The long surface area and very minimal splay in the rocker profile translate to a ski that likes to plane on the top of the snow, and you could lean into the stiff sidewalls with confidence knowing you’d get an energetic response from the ski. Chopped-up sections could be bombed through with little to no thought, and while the Hokkaido is not at all a poppy or jumpy ski, it will stomp the shit out of any cliff landing with ease.

Laying down hip-scratching turns on the wide-open walls of Avalanche Canyon in Grand Teton National Park was an awesome experience on a ski as stout and powerful as the Hokkaido. Garrick Tischler photo.

It came as no surprise that a stiff, 189 cm ski with minimal rocker and a 28 meter turning radius preferred terrain in which it could get up to speed and rail big, wide-open turns. Tight trees were a chore and much more work, as you were then fighting a very stout ski’s singular desire to go fast and straight. But with some room to work with and even just a little fresh snow, the Hokkaido were a very fun, energetic ride that begged you to rail full-throttle GS turns at high speed.

The Hokkaido On Ze Piste

This was more out-of-bounds testing because hey! It's a good photo of some fun shredding evidence. Garrick Tischer photo. 

I spent a handful of days inbounds at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort during a dry spell last winter trying to get a handle on the ski before taking it out of bounds. Here, the more easy-going nature of the Hokkaido in powder is replaced by a more demanding ride on firm snow. The full-length elliptical rocker meant that the ski could pivot in tighter situations, but required that the skier remain religiously centered on the ski to do so, else the long, stiff tail get engaged and send you in whatever direction you set the edges. I think this was further accentuated by a hunch I had that I mounted the bindings too far forward, but nonetheless, the Hokkaido required some focus to navigate nimble, firm inbounds lines.

The Hokkaido can rail long groomer turns, still, as almost the entire ski edges into the snow if you lean down far enough. But they required some attention to stay in the sweet spot of the ski’s profile in case you needed to suddenly shut it down.

Again, this ski is named after the snowiest island on Earth, and was never designed to be an everday inbounds weapon, so take the above comments with whatever grain of salt relates this review to what how might actually intend to ski something like the Hokkaido, which, I hope, is in very deep pow. I do not recommend this ski for the East Coast.

The Bottom Line

The Hokkaidos are a fun, chargy soft snow tool for truly deep days in the backcountry. Austin Hopkins photo.

It took me a little accommodating and adjustment to get used to the Hokkaidos and tailor my skiing to how it liked to be skied. I might be the only person in Jackson Hole who’d admit to prefer a softer, lighter, shorter ski most of the time, and as such, skiing a long, super stiff, and relatively heavy ski took a bit of effort to manage.

That being said, in good, soft snow–pretty much exactly what these skis are built for–the Hokkaidos were a total blast and more of a GS ski take on your standard powder skis. With a little speed, they would easily plane up on top of the snow, and with a little more room to work with, they would lay down beautiful carving GS turns with a power you’d never expect out of the noodly Dynafit skis of yore. Oriented more towards former racers than Nimbus Independent pow jibbers, the Hokkaidos will please anyone who wants a stout, powerful ride for deep days. 

From The Column: TGR Tested

About The Author

stash member Ryan Dunfee

Former Managing Editor at Teton Gravity Research, current Senior Contributor, current professional hippy at the Sierra Club, and avid weekend recreationalist.