Guess Who’s Back

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Guess Who’s Back

Dynastar’s new M-Free line ushers in a fresh—yet, familiar—era for the brand


“It’s kinda fun to be able to go backwards,” Rachael Burks chortles in the Mineral Basin lift line at Snowbird. I’m on location for the Dynastar team shoot at the ski resort in Utah’s Little Cottonwood Canyon, highlighting the brand’s new M-Free line of skis, set to hit shop shelves in the fall of 2020. I’m sharing a chair with Burks, Richard Permin and Sander Hadley on either side of me—talk about a legendary load. Former Freeride World Tour competitors Conor Pelton and Hazel Birnbaum, Dynastar’s newest member of the freeride squad, Megan Dingman, and team manager, Matt Beers, fill up the chair behind us. The energy radiating from this crew is contagious, from the party shreds to the snowballs thrown at each other during down time. Similar to the vibe you get when watching footage from Dynastar’s Troublemaker days in the early ‘2000s. 

While Dynastar is most often associated with its stiff-as-hell directional, flat-tail skis, the brand’s history in freeskiing runs deep. “Freeride and exploring the high alpine has always been ingrained in the brand’s spirit,” says Brand Marketing Director, Nick Castagnoli. Founded in 1963 at the foot of Mont Blanc in Chamonix, France—arguably the birthplace of freeride skiing—Dynastar dominated the emerging scene of “extreme” skiing with athletes like Pierre Tardivel descending into a whole new territory. Namely, being the first person to ever ski down the south face of Mount Everest in 1992. By the late ‘90s, Dynastar placed itself at the forefront of freeskiing, adapting to the paradigm shift of the sport and developing skis for the specific needs of its athletes—think big-mountain maestros Dave Swanwick, Jeremy Nobis and Arno Adam. In 1998, Dynastar released the first-ever freeride-specific line of skis from any company, championed by the 4×4, and the brand’s first twin-tip, the Deep Groove, which was developed in conjunction with the French phenom, Candide Thovex. 

PHOTO: Erin Spong. SKIERS: Richard Permin, Conor Pelton, Sander Hadley.
PHOTO: Noah Wetzel. SKIER: Sander Hadley. SKI: M-Free 118.

Riding into the new millenium, Dynastar’s momentum within the freeskiing realm snowballed working with some of the most progressive athletes in the sport at the time: Dave Crichton, Mikael Deschenaux and the three Phils—Phil Larose, Phil Belanger and Phil Dion. With regular appearances in the early Level 1 films—Strike Three, Forward and High Five, just to name a few—Dynastar’s presence on the scene couldn’t be ignored and the products coming out of these athlete collaborations, like the Intuitiv, Legend Pro Rider and Troublemaker, set a new brand standard for high-quality, progressive ski design. “We’ve continuously pushed the envelope in terms of technology, shape and construction to bring something fresh and new to the market,” says Castagnoli.

Over the last 10 or 12 years, however, Castagnoli admits the brand has given its freeride line less emphasis in favor of the burly, directional Cham and Legend collections, which are great for the skier looking for that very specific style of ski but are otherwise much less approachable by the average snow slider. “We are more focused on getting back to our roots of building progressive shapes that have a better balance of accessibility and high-performance precision so we can appeal to a wider swath of skiers and skiing styles,” Castagnoli assures me. This newly redirected focus culminates in Dynastar’s brand-new M-Free line, featuring the M-Free 108 and 118. 

M-Free 108
M-Free 118
PHOTO: Noah Wetzel. SKIERS (left to right): Conor Pelton, Richard Permin, Sander Hadley. SKIS: M-Free 108 & 118.

Three seasons ago, Dynastar picked up another French legend, Richard Permin, and wasted no time getting him in the design factory. From this collaboration, the PR-OTO was born and released in limited quantities for the 2017-18 season. It only came in a 189-centimeter length with a race-ski build, meaning it was extra stout and only skiable by a select few. The following season, the Menace PR-OTO became commercially available in 180 and 189 centimeters, along with the Menace 98, establishing a resurgence in playful ski design for the brand. For 2021, Permin’s pro model returns in the M-Free 118 and the M-Free 108 rounds out the progressive collection to appeal to all skiers. “From the graphics to the shape and ski-ability, [the M-Free line] is something that is appealing to younger, more playful skiers,“ Castagnoli says with absolute confidence.

“It’s stiff, you can land and ride switch if you want to and if you want to go for a big line or mountaineering, this ski can do it all,” says Permin of his 118 pro model. “The 118 is a nice blend of a stable flex and a playful shape,” adds Hadley of the M-Free’s performance. “The 108 continues on that DNA and is a bit more versatile with the skinnier width and a bit more of a turned up tail, perfect for tapping and slapping at the ski area and making turns wherever you want.”

PHOTO: Erin Spong. SKIER: Rachael Burks.
PHOTO: Noah Wetzel. SKIERS: Megan Dingman, Rachael Burks. SKIS: M-Free 108.

Along with the M-Free’s sexy top-sheet design, which is a photo of a tree branch in a wintry Japanese forest zoomed in to emulate marble, it’s the collection’s size range that caught my attention. With so many ski companies developing women’s-specific skis, or just simply “shrinking and pinking” a men’s ski, Dynastar takes gender out of the equation by offering the M-Free line in a wider range of sizes: 172, 182 and 192 centimeters. A ski made for skiers. “As a woman who skis everyday, I don’t want to be on a female-specific ski or a different topsheet,” says Birnbaum. “I just want to ski on the same ski as everybody else… If women want to buy a pink or purple ski, they can still do that, but it’s nice to have the option to be on the same ski as the guys, in my size.” 

PHOTO: Erin Spong. SKIER: Hazel Birnbaum. SKI: M-Free 118.
PHOTO: Erin Spong. SKIERS: Hazel Birnbaum, Megan Dingman. SKIS: M-Free 118 & 108.

Having the chance to follow the Dynastar team around for a few days, it’s clear the M-Free’s genderless sentiment carries over to its athlete roster. It’s not very often a team shoot has the same ratio of female to male skiers, but then again, Dynastar isn’t like every other ski company.

“It’s a family and I know everybody. I’m serious. The people that have been with Dynastar have been with them forever…I’ve been sponsored by them for 14 years…And it’s rad to walk into the office and see all of the people that I met that first year,” says Burks.

“Not very many brands do that anymore, they’re about the numbers, but with Dynastar I feel like I know everyone at the office, I’m meeting everyone on the team,” adds Permin. “It really feels like a family. It’s not a brand where you put your skis on and do your thing in the winter, we are always in communication.”

“Dynastar is serious about doing things the right way and making a genuine impact with products that speak for themselves,” says Hadley.