DPS Skis Founder, Stephan Drake (Ep.38)

A few days ago in Salt Lake City, I sat down with DPS Skis founder, Stephan Drake.

DPS Skis Founder, Stephan Drake, on the Blister Podcast
DPS Skis founder, Stephan Drake. (photo by Oscar Enander)

Today, almost every single ski in existence incorporates rocker. And Stephan produced the first quote-unquote rockered ski in existence. He was also one of the first ski designers to really incorporate carbon fiber — which as you all know, is now omnipresent in the ski world.

Of course, another prominent trend in the industry is an emphasis on low weight, and that, too, is something that DPS has been focused on since the beginning.

Finally, and perhaps most remarkably, Stephan and I talk about the DPS ski boot that Stephan has been working on for several years now. In short, this concept would basically turn the past 50 years of ski boot design on its head, and if it works, the term “game-changing” would once again be relevant, and it would almost be putting it mildly.


  • Where did you grow up, and when did you get into skiing? (2:25)
  • Being a “gringo ski bum” down in Las Lenas, Argentina (7:40)
  • Were you interested in product design in general / Early days of DPS? (13:35)
  • Carbon fiber & the history of DPS (18:50)
  • The first rockered ski — the 2002 Tabula Rasa (23:40)
  • Low weight and the “race to zero” in ski design (26:37)
  • DPS’s new Alchemist construction (vs. their DPS Pure3 construction) (29:30)
  • Tip Taper (where Stephan and I duke it out?) (40:39)
  • The new paradigm-shifting DPS ski boot (54:15)

1 comment on “DPS Skis Founder, Stephan Drake (Ep.38)”

  1. Had a coupla beers, feel nostalgic about leather tele boots, my old Dynafit tlt 4s’s and have some time on my hands…so, feel like typing/ranting.

    Whatever the DPS design, I hope they collaborated with/took notes from:


    Listening to the podcast, sounds like philosophically the visions are somewhat aligned in terms of freeing the foot to some degree and allowing a more natural motion of some of the individual components of the skier’s foot.

    Some of the design ideas espoused by the skier’s manifesto gentleman are a bit foreign to me. For example, I have flat wide feet with reverse sidecut arches and severely pronated feet…there’s no way I could ski without the rigid arch support that seems to be severely frowned upon. I can achieve pretty good ball of foot pressure/feel even with my rigid custom orthotics supporting my anemic arch.

    I’m old, and old school. Had a tele phase in leather double boots, progressed to leather boots with Lange downhill boot rear cuff ghetto attachment mod…and felt the best sensations on snow yet to be experienced…feeling the kernals of corn under the balls of my feet while the plastic cuffs gave enough lateral and rear support to ski groomers in parallel stance safely or tele stance like a boss. That sensation was limited to corn snow groomers, smooth backcountry or mogul lines for both tele and parallel skiing but it remains engrained as a top 5 skiing moment(s) in my 40 year ski life.

    Switching from tele to A.T. after I got too old to drop the knee in breakable crust with a pack on, stuck my feet in Dynafit tlt 4s boots with o.g. intuition liners. They flexed forward like leather hiking boots and snow feel was disappointingly isolated…but obviously control definitely felt light years mo betta than the free heel for parallel…which I still enjoyed in the cow boots due to that amazing mind focusing attention required to stay balanced on edge fore and aft while (trying) to rail groomers and master mellow hippy turns in 30 degree powder without faceplanting…which was actually fun in my 20’s. No teeth lost from face to ski tip close encounters of the crud kind…

    With the tlts, I had troubles ripping zipper mogul lines without the boots collapsing forward and my ankles cracking in half. In my mind to achieve a good feel of forward flex, a shock absorber system from boot top to top of forefoot of the shell could achieve a mechanically infinitely adjustable, dialed in ‘progressive’ forward flex…adjustable ‘preload’ for off the top stiffness/damping and dial in the forward flex stiffness progression curve…wonder if the DPS boot incorporates something like this? In the end, I made the boot work with modding a raichle flexon tongue to stiffen the forward flex; it did the job and mogul lines came back into the terrain option mix, thank christ.

    Wuz thinkin’ that some of the design parameters could be engineered separately with this type of forward flex control. Eliminate the stiffer plastic of tongue/overlap in lieu of thinner plastic/fabric to seal the boot and engineer carbon rear cuff and rear lower shell to create a rigid torsional/lateral/rear support profile. Lack of stiffer plastic in fore of instep, fold of ankle and lower shin could create a better wrap for support of ankle/cuff area for precise skiing laterally. Have the shock/strut removable at boot top and hinge on top of forefoot boot shell for free forward ankle flex required for ski touring.

    For my dollar, for present ski boot tech either downill or A.T., the best feeling turns come from ball of foot pressure triangulated with a snug heel/ankle lock down and shin on tongue progressive, supple boot top continuous pressure. Lateral support is appreciated. Downhill boots aside, for my 185 pounds plus pack, the present incarnation of the Dynafit Vulcan (no tongue, no flex stops) working a quiver of Dynafit binding skis gives me decent pleasure..but that tangible and intangible snow feel sensation thing still ain’t there. A bit better with dh binders but still feel a bit isolated.

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