HELISKI.com Gear Interview: DPS = Deep Powder Skis? Are they the best skis for heli skiing?

Gear for heliskiers interviews continue with another stellar powder ski pioneer – DPS.  We spoke with Erme Catino and Mike “The Ski Finder” Cannon about what makes them great.

best skis for heli skiing


1.  I heli-ski on the DPS Lotus 120 Pure Carbon + Nano, and they CRUSH it!  But the most amazing thing is that everywhere I go, the GUIDES want to ski them.  How did you develop such a strong reputation among the Gods of skiing as the best skis for heli skiing?


Nice to hear we’re in good standing with the gods—we want to make sure as we continue to grow that the sweet sirens songs never tempt us—it’s important we stay true to our core audience and our roots. I think our good standing with so many talented, life-dedicated skiers worldwide comes from resonating with DPS’ core vision: to make perfect skis worthy of those who live and breathe the sport. Our roots are ingrained in big-mountain riding. Our founder Stephan Drake has spent his life traveling the globe chasing powder in some of the most storied locations. His obsession from the start was to solve a pain point of providing the most advanced ski shaping coupled with the very best materials available. We’ve never been complacent, and never are. The ski industry is brutally competitive, and DPS is thriving for one reason: we’re obsessed with building the best skis possible for those who demand the best. We pioneered the use of aerospace carbon fiber and a sandwich construction to build skis that are 30 percent lighter than conventional skis, while being 30 percent torsionally stiffer, stronger, and more powerful. The focus is on the product and the search for deep snow, and the best skiers have sought us out. We are psyched when we see guides on our skis.

One more point regarding the guide community, particularly in Alaska and Canada. Last year, we lost our good friend, Rob Liberman, in an avalanche while guiding in Haines, AK. Rob was a passionate human, a damn good heli-guide, and a ripping skier. I think a ton of guides trusted Rob’s ski choices because of his abilities and enthusiasm. He’s part of our legacy, story, and family.  [Yes, Rob was a great guy and is missed]



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2.  The “DPS Ski Finder” is unique. Tell us how DPS matches skiers to the right boards.


DPS has been fitting skiers over the “interwebs” since 2005. We’re also now in over 130 of the finest brick and mortar shops worldwide, but a large share of our sales are direct through dpsskis.com. Customers respond well to the personalized attention they get from us and have peace in knowing that they are being ‘fit’ by ripping skiers. The process works as follows: A customer fills out our ski finder which is written to get a feel for the skier’s ability, preferences, background, skis liked/disliked, etc.

It is sent to Mike Cannon, DPS’ direct sales manager who oversees a small in-house team. Mike has fitted countless skiers over the Internet for over nine years. He’s typically the point of contact, and he emails and speaks with customers constantly. In addition to creating happy customers, he develops a great rapport with them. These relationships are important to us on a number of levels, it is the foundation of the ski finder—to build skis for people with a passion, and develop a family around the brand.


3.  What DPS skies are the best for heli-skiing?


For powder surfing nothing compares to the Lotus 138, it is the most evolved and tested powder ski on earth… The Spoon debuting this winter will also join the Lotus 138 in powder surfing nirvana. Additionally, and not be forgotten is the Lotus 120, the classic, charging 120mm powder pintail.


heli-ski DPS Lotus 138, heli-skiing Canada


4.  Compare and contrast the Lotus 120 and 138.


Both the Lotus 120 and Lotus 138 surf powder phenomenally well. Below are two descriptions for each individual ski to help decipher the difference between them.


  • The Lotus 120 is the original and often imitated 120mm class powder pintail. If you are looking for a directional charger, and are not a fan of tail rocker, there is simply no comparison. The Lotus 120’s shaping is optimized for deep snow; a 600mm tapered and rockered shovel gives the Lotus 120 early planing ability, while the flex pattern and geometry gives skiers unequaled balance and ball-of-the-foot driven powder performance. [I’m selling a pair of these in 190cm, email if interested]

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  • The Lotus 138 was the first rockered ski with sidecut ever built. The iconic shape is a freak of nature that combines our carbon construction’s unmatched reactive power and precision with featherweight lightness. Riding the Lotus 138 in deep, or even soft snow is like an entirely new sport.



Overall, the Lotus 138 has a looser feel than the Lotus 120. The 138 slarves and slides down the fall-line, where the 120 is traditionally directional in its turn shape.


5.  So how does the new Spoon compare?


The idea of the spoon is a ski that nestles the perfect balance between ‘slide’ and ‘rail’. In other words, the skier should be able to feather the ski into long, planing fall line slides; then, at will, have the ability to stand on the tail and experience a tight driving turn across the fall line. To balance both qualities, we discovered that the ski needs to feel very loose in the shovel, semi-loose in the midbody, and have a hard railing turn feel in the tail. This is crucial and will be available on the production Spoon model, debuting Winter 2012.


DPS is giving away a pair. Enter by Liking DPS on Facebook]


6.  My 120’s are 190cm… Why do you ski DPS’s so long when everyone else is on blades?


We offer skis for all ability levels, however, a lot of chargers wanted longer models – The Lotus 120 & Lotus 138 have 200cm and 202cm available lengths respectively. With rocker, skis may be slightly longer, but it is important to pay attention to the running length and what type of ski you are looking for.


7.  Your graphics are very simple. Going for retro?


Haha, not going for retro. Our skis are intentionally simple by design and are centered on the quiet mystery encountered during a slide across deep snow. When you ski deep powder, your mind is clear, and the skis are a direct reflection of that state of mind. For our Dreamtime Preorder (July 19 – Aug 1) — we offer special edition graphics on select models for folks wanting something a bit more.


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8.  Explain your two different constructions – Pure: Carbon+Nano and Hybrid: Fiberglass+Carbon+Bamboo?


DPS is driven to improve technology and performance through its construction. In every other sport or field outside of skiing, price stratification exists around the materials and performance of the product.


For example, Porsche offers an $80k 911 and a $160k 911 Turbo. The 911 is so fast it will make your jaw drop, but The Turbo is twice as fast.


DPS offers two performance packages. Each package is offered at a price that reflects the cost of their components. Both consist of the same award-winning shaping, engineering, and design, but consist of different materials and build process.


The DPS HYBRID compares favorably to any ski on the market.


The PURE boosts this level of sophistication and power and is an unparalleled skiing experience.



9.  Why did you decide to sell DPS directly to customers?


DPS was founded as a design based/grassroots company to build the perfect ski. We see the ski, skier, and ski builder as an intimately connected triangle, and by selling direct we can keep that tight-knit relationship. DPS customers are among the best skiers in the world and are technically savvy folks with an obsession for trick skis.


10.  Now you have retail shops, too, eh?


Yes, we do. The brand launched in 2005 via the Internet direct sales model. In 2008 we expanded to include a conventional retail model. Currently, DPS skis are sold in approximately 130 of the best shops worldwide in the US, Canada, Europe, Oceania, and Japan.


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11.  Do you consider DPS to be a boutique ski manufacturer?


We don’t consider ourselves to be a boutique ski manufacturer. Rather we like to think of ourselves as a leader in innovative shaping and design. Our roots are in the high-performance powder skiing culture, and we strive to build skis that are lighter, stronger, and more powerful than conventionally built skis. The boutique is one of those labels that is too limiting, especially for our vision.



12.  So DPS stands for Deep Powder Skis, right?

No, actually DPS stands for Drake PowderworkS.  [May be time for a change, I like Deep Powder Skis better……]


13.  What else would you like to tell heli-skiers about DPS and the best skis for heli-skiing?

We hope that you can try a pair of DPS skis on your next trip – we’re confident that you will find them to be the highest performing boards you’ve ever ridden.


Thanks!  And thanks for the great days on my Lotus 120’s!



RAMP Skis & Snowboards: 15 Questions with HELISKI.com & HELIBOARD.com

RAMP Skis & Snowboards

Interview with Ramp Snowboards

– We talked with Mike Kilchenstein, founder RAMP Snowboards and Handmade Skis and about their revolutionary ski manufacturing process….and skis!

1.  Mike, how long have you been making skis and RAMP Snowboards?

I started with Rossignol in Vermont right out of school, and made skis with them for 32 years.  I did a lot of jobs for Rossi from Factory Worker to Tech Rep, Sales Rep then Sales Manager then VP Sales and Marketing managing Roxy Skis, I only actuall made skis for 2 years there but was always involved in testing, and part of marketing committee.

Not a slogan, it’s an acronym.   The meaning is explained in Question 11.

2.  What’s different about how RAMP makes skis and RAMP Snowboards?

RAMP uses a vacuum molding process.  For over 40 years, skis have been press molded, at 4 atmospheres of vertical pressure, onto expensive camber plates.


Vacuum molding is used for high precision manufacturing, like racecar bodies.   We are pioneering vacuum molding techniques in skis.   The RAMP process uses only 1 atmosphere of unidirectional pressure (equal in all directions and constant), so that the materials set up in their natural state based on the thermal expansion characteristics of the material – making the end result harder, more resilient and with more consistent and predictable performance characteristics.  There is no camber plate, so that camber is the natural shape of the ski.  The shapes can be tweaked using CAD, so R&D is super fast.   We are also able to experiment with any mix of materials. 

3.  Why are you are using a Bamboo core?

Bamboo is extremely hard.  It’s 50% harder than ‘hardwoods’, and 400% harder than poplar, the core of most skis.  The bamboo core rides as smooth as a baby’s bottom.

4.  You just built out a factory in Park City, Utah.   That’s different, eh?

You would be surprised how Made in the USA is making a comeback.  And it offers many advantages for us.  Slope-side manufacturing is a natural fit with our flexible manufacturing process.    We are able to do rapid prototyping, testing variations of materials, designs and shapes.   RAMP does not require expensive presses and molds, so manufacturing is less capital intensive.   We can also change designs fast and cheap.  [Like my old girlfriend!]

5.  You have a complete product line, but heliskiers want to talk powder.

This year we are launching a pure powder ski – Kapow.  It is a powder-specific hybrid of our Peacepipe (Freeskier Editor’s Pick for 2011/12!).  Kapow has a 125mm waist, and more rocker tip and tail, and the contact point moved back.   Powder requires early rise and reverse side-cut in the tip.  And the deeper it gets, the more rocker you want.  This is the ultimate powder ski, but it won’t cost a fortune.  It comes in a 189, 179 and 169mm.  [I’ll take a 189.  Need my address?]



6.  You must have some fun with it.  Your model names are very hilarious:

Groundhog, Beaver (women’s of course), Chickadee, Frenzy, Hysteria, Hula, Cork, Swarm, Honey, and my favorite – Kumoniwannaskiya.

Hey, skiing should be fun.




7.  What’s different about women’s models?


Cosmetics.  Really.   Over the years I have discovered that the really good skiers like the same skis, regardless of gender.  Girls like different graphics, so that’s what we offer.  [True, ask any Bad Betty, like the 5-time World Champion and Olympic Gold  medalist Donna Weinbrecht]

8.  Speaking of graphics, yours really pop.

We have developed a new process that allows us to sublimate graphics onto the bamboo veneer.  The first time people see RAMP skis they are amazed. 


9.  But you won’t find them in stores, so order by midnight tonight?

Right, we sell direct and through a small number of resort-based ski shops.  For years, I saw the retail ski business change.  There has been a margin squeeze that resulted in consumers getting less attention and less choice.  Going direct allows us to offer great prices and to engage with our customers.


10.  And you also have reps.   How does that work?

We found that our customers are our best salespeople, so we offer them a chance to earn something for selling.  [Cool]

11.  What is the philosophy behind RAMP in RAMP Snowboards?

RAMP stands for Riders, Artists, and Musicians Project.  It’s about combining creative energy and being environmentally responsible.  My partner is a marketing guy who works with musicians, music festivals, X-Games and more.  So we do lots of cool co-promotion.  We also have a team of athletes that are RAMP ambassadors. 

12.  Our HELISKI.com readers will want to know about your RAMP snowboards.

Right, we sell about 80% as many snowboards as skis.  The industry average is about one-third of the total volume, so we must be doing something right.  You and I do both.   What’s cool about your boards? 

13.  Again with the funny names.   I guess Lobstah is a nod to your New England roots/accent?

Yeah, and Mussel and Oyster, too.  The Lobstah is great for launching big air in the pipe and ripping stable, carved turns at speed.  Ross Powers got us our first XGames Medal on the Lobstah!  He’s a New England guy, too.


14.  What’s best RAMP Snowboards for big mountain and pow?

Tumbleweed.  No speed limit. 

15.   And for the Keiki’s (kids for you Haoles)?

Gotta be the TaterTot!

Hilarious!  Just send a pair of Ka Pows my way before my first heli trip, please!  (WHICH THEY DID!  I SKIED THEM AT EAGLE PASS HELISKI AND HELIBOARD)

And thanks for playing 15 Questions with TJ.

Best Regards,



PS Check out my blog post on heli-snowboarding vs heli-skiing

Tom Jackson

CPO (Chief Powder Officer)




Expert Advice – Knowledge is Powder