A new era of DPS.
DPS always pioneers new ski shapes and brings new visions to the ski industry. DPS is on an endless mission to explore the “mystery encountered during a slide across snow”, and tries to build the dampest and most stable skis possible. Prioritizing the highest quality materials (like space-age carbon fiber), construction techniques (like their wood lamination), and design innovations. The list is endless. For the 2023-2024 season, DPS brings in a new era of their all-mountain/freeride line: Kaizen. Replacing the Pagoda series from last year, Kaizen incorporates design features from over the years and across their lineups. So what does Kaizen bring to the table? We dive into the most narrow of the new set in our DPS Kaizen 100 review.
DPS Kaizen 100 Review: Field Notes
There are three new skis in the new Kaizen collection; 100, 105, and 112. You’ll notice these waist widths mirror their Pagoda predecessors, but feature new builds on the inside. DPS uses a new split wood core. The ash and poplar woods are layered horizontally in a new way (inspired by the technique used in their Pagoda skis) to maximize shock-absorbing properties. The carbon fiber sandwich DPS has become so known for was redesigned and tweaked from the techniques used in the Pagoda Tour skis.
Let’s talk shape. You might notice a DPS calling card missing in the model name: RP or C2. DPS has ditched that in favor of more general names, like “directional” and “rocker”. The Kaizen 100 and 112 feature the “rockered” shape, while the 105 features the “directional” shape. Despite the models mirroring their Pagoda and Alchemist ancestors, these shapes are still tweaked from the originals. The Kaizen 100 keeps much of what we loved from the RP; with a tight turn radius across all sizes, lots of tip taper, and deep rocker and splay in the tip and tail.
I’m 5’8″ and 130lbs and tested the 171cm DPS Kaizen 100 at Loveland Ski Area during our Powder7 Ski Test this spring. There were a variety of conditions on the mountain, from chalky steeps and firm trails to some soft snow stashes. This sizing felt just right for me for an all-mountain ski, but I think in the 112 model I would size up.
At 100mm, the Kaizen 100 should in theory be the most versatile for skiing on trail, and it delivers. Maybe it’s the red color, but to me, this ski felt like a blend of the old Pagoda Piste 100 (which featured a beefed-up construction and the C2 shape) and Pagoda 100 RP on groomed terrain. The Kaizen has the dampness and stability of the Pagoda Piste, with the easy turn initiation and responsiveness of the Pagoda 100 RP. Considering the significant rocker, it felt securely locked into turns and wanted to hold a turn well. I didn’t find it wanting to slip or wash out on turns. And while the turns felt more directional than something more truly twin tipped, I thought the tip shape kept turns easy to initiate. That led to smooth and engaging carving.
The groomed trails were fairly skied up and had some slick patches by the time I got on the Kaizen, but the ski stayed predictable and smooth riding throughout. Because of the tip splay and rocker, I found a little bit of tip chatter on truly frozen slopes at high speeds. I never found the tip chatter to be unpredictable or distracting. The midfoot of the ski feels solid and trustworthy.
By no means is this a carving ski to rip your fastest GS turns on, but at the end of the day, that’s not its intended use. It can rip a few carves back to the lift or hot laps, but the ski shines in truly “all-mountain” terrain around the mountain where truly “carving” is less of a concern. It rolls over on edge more easily than some other demanding skis in this class, like the Nordica Enforcer 100 or Volkl Mantra 102.
Bumps and Trees
I found this is where the DPS Kaizen 100 shines. It’s quick and responsive, even in the largest of bumps. You can feel the energy-loaded carbon sandwich adding liveliness, making zippering bump lines really, really fun. But the ski doesn’t feel unhinged. It’s dialed and refined, popping you at the right moment and not before or after. The dampness of the wood core and carbon is noticeable when encountering an imperfect patch of snow, and the ski’s predictability is clear here too.
Like mentioned above, this ski still definitely has a directional shape compared to more progressive and twin shaped skis, so it prefers a pilot that likes to pressure the shovels. But once you’re there, the Kaizen feels easy to flick around and light on the feet.
I also thoroughly enjoyed this ski in tree runs, where the snow can be a bit more variable. The damp construction does the heavy lifting to smooth out those inconsistent snow conditions. The tight turn radius and deep tip rocker also allow for quick turns. When you need to rip a fast turn to avoid an obstacle, the ski is right there along with you. This kind of terrain is where a 100mm waist feels perfect—sometimes soft where a bigger platform is handy, while still being quick to roll over and navigate tight terrain.
Powder and Mixed Snow
The origins of DPS’s tapered and rockered tip shape were designed for increased float and maneuverability in deep snow. Including that design on a narrower ski, like the 100, provides great bang for your buck. While it’s not a powder-hunting machine like the DPS Lotus or even Kaizen 112, the 100 will float on sneaky storm days or on trips where only one ski will do the job. It easily gets on top of soft snow and remains easy to turn.
If it’s been a few days since the fresh snow, the Kaizen 100 won’t charge through chop like something heavier, wider, or with less rocker. It reminded me of the Pagoda 112 RP, in that it prefers to playfully skip around less desirable snow, rather than charge right through heavier snow. That said, the damp construction discussed above helps to keep things predictable underfoot. For folks who like to take turns and prioritize finding good snow, you’ll get along with the Kaizen 100 just fine.
I will note, I loved this ski in steeps. Chalky snow off Over the Rainbow at Loveland felt extremely fun with these skis. The energy from the carbon made for a lively ride in this terrain. The shape allowed the ski be easy to flick around in steeper terrain. I find this width to be perfect in steeper terrain out West. Wide enough for a stable platform in variable snow conditions, while quick enough to whip around when things get techy.
DPS describes these skis as “playful”, but I think most “playful” skiers would hop on this and feel a little out of sync at first. By playful skier, I mean someone who likes to ski with a centered stance, butter and press, and finds every lip to pop off of in sight. The stiff flex and directional shape mean the Kaizen 100 does like to be skied in a directional way. It prefers a pilot who takes a forward stance. You don’t have to ski dialied up to level 10 aggression like on some more metal loaded skis, but it rewards traditional technique.
I just checked: I said predictable five times in this review. So while that may mean that I need a thesaurus, it also means this ski is reliable and easy to trust even in tight terrain or sticky snow situations (literally and figuratively). Which is exactly what DPS set out to do, right? Create the highest performance skis that are damp and smooth riding no matter the snow. You’d be hard-pressed to find a ski that balances play and performance as well as the DPS Kaizen 100.
I think the Kaizen 100 suits advanced to expert skiers best. It’s ideal for skiers who like a stiffer ski for performance on firm and variable snow, and who ski with a forward stance. But, where the Kaizen differentiates itself is the quick ride and light-on-the-feet feeling. Ideal Kaizen 100 skiers are looking for a more responsive and fun ride than comparably stiff models that find rigidity in heavy metal and heavier wood cores.