DPS’s Phantom Glide treatment has been receiving a lot of attention, and for good reason. If it performs as advertised, this single-application alternative to standard base wax could revolutionize the way people slide on snow. (We covered the introduction of Phantom in this article and on this blister podcast).
If you haven’t already, you should definitely check out our conversation with DPS founder, Stephan Drake, and the lead chemist behind Phantom, Jeff Bates. Stephan and Jeff go over the development of Phantom and the details of how it works:
And we are now putting time on several skis and boards that have been treated with Phantom, and will be posting updates here as we continue to get more time on the product.
Blister reviewer Paul Forward now has over 6 days on the DPS Alchemist Wailer 106 that has been treated with Phantom, so he is the first to offer his initial impressions.
Shortly after I received and mounted the Phantom-treated DPS Alchemist Wailer 106, Southcentral Alaska experienced a relatively cold spell with temperatures in the single digits (Fahrenheit). During this period, I spent several days skiing cold, chalky snow on the Wailer 106, mostly on relatively smooth, grippy groomers.
In the cold snow, the Phantom treatment seemed to perform well, and the glide across flatter sections was at least as good as other skis that I’d recently waxed with standard blue Swix CH6X wax (which has a temperature recommendation of -14°F to 23°F). When we got a few inches of cold / light snow, the Wailer 106 continued to glide well without any hint of extra drag from the new cold crystals.
Recently, things got a bit warmer with temperatures in the high 20’s to low 30’s, and we received 10-12” of high moisture-content snow. After canceling our day of heli-skiing due to the ongoing storm, I headed up to the hill for some inbounds maritime pow skiing. The first thing I noticed when I got off the tram and clicked into the bindings was that the skis felt a little sluggish as I was pushing away from the tram deck. Once I started heading downhill, however, that sensation immediately disappeared and I skied down to the next chair with great glide and overall performance.
Throughout the day, the base treatment worked great, and the only time I had any other thoughts about it was while doing a beacon drill during which I took off my skis for about 30 minutes. When I picked up the skis from the snow to click in again, I was a little surprised to see that quite a bit of snow was sticking to the bases. I opted to just toss them down, click in, and ski away, and this was all it took to get back to excellent gliding.
While having some wet snow stick to my skis while stationary was a little surprising, it is something we were told to expect by the folks at DPS. Specifically, I was told that Phantom “behaves differently than wax, since…it isn’t wax. At very slow speeds (like a lift line) you will NOT feel the slippery, freshly waxed feel. But as soon as the initial friction between the base and snow is overcome you’ll have great glide.”
I would say that this description exactly reflects my experience so far.
After only a few days, I’m definitely not ready to fully endorse all of DPS’ claims about Phantom, but so far, things seem to be working as advertised. We will be getting some other reviewers on skis and boards that have been treated with Phantom, and will be providing updates on how Phantom deals with different types of climbing-skins glue, how it performs in different temperatures, and do some A/B comparisons with traditionally waxed skis. So keep an eye out for updates, but so far, so good.
Four Blister reviewers have now spent time on Phantom-treated skis, so it’s time for an update.
I’ve now had another 15 days or so on the DPS Wailer A106 treated with Phantom, and I’ve remained impressed. I’ve skied in temps from about 10°F to the low 40’s°F, and in everything from cold pow to rained-on snow, and still feel like the glide in all conditions is quite good. Overall, I wouldn’t make any changes to my initial impressions.
I’ve spent several days touring on the Scott Superguide 105 that I treated with Phantom myself. I’m going to do a separate writeup on the application process, and here, I’m going to stick to performance.
When I first heard about Phantom, I did two things: (1) geek out hardcore on the super cool chemistry, and (2) got really excited about the possibility of fast touring skis that wouldn’t get traditional ski wax sticking to the glue on climbing skins.
I’ve had 4 days on the Phantom-treated Superguide 105’s, paired with Colltex Camlock Mix Whizz skins. So far, I haven’t had any issues with skins sticking to the Phantom-treated bases, or issues with the Phantom affecting the skin glue at all. The skins have behaved just as if I had been using an unwaxed, untreated base — which is exactly what I want.
On snow, I’ve had a very similar experience as Paul. The skis have been fast and consistent across snow types and temperatures. The skis certainly don’t have the slippery freshly waxed feel of actual wax when standing and shuffling around (which is actually quite nice as it makes sidestepping and skiing downhill out on flat skin tracks in walk mode much easier).
I have, however, experienced an unusual amount of snow sticking to the bases. Usually I notice this when I take my skis off to transition, as there is often a few chunks of snow stuck to the bases. A quick brush with my glove tends to easily clear the base.
On one occasion, I had ice buildup on the bases during the transition from up to down. I’m not positive that the skis would have iced up if they had not been treated with Phantom, but I suspect that it wouldn’t have been as bad (neither of my partners had serious icing issues with their standard-waxed skis). I think with Phantom-treated skis, it is even more important to keep your bases out of the sun during transitions to mitigate icing. And we’ll definitely be keeping an eye on this as we spend even more time touring on skis treated with Phantom.
I just spent three days on the 18/19 DPS Cassiar A79 treated with Phantom on both very firm, early-morning groomers, and then on very soft late-afternoon snow at Taos, with temperatures ranging from around 25°F to well into the 40’s. Overall, I thought the skis felt very quick, and on firm snow they felt just as good if not better than any other skis I was on that weekend.
When the temps rose and the snow got even slushier, I thought the skis treated with Phantom had slightly better glide than those without.
Overall, my brief experience with Phantom has been quite positive, and I’ll be treating some skis with it this spring to see how it handles warm days of touring.
I have four days now on the Phantom-treated 18/19 DPS Cassiar 94, and I am extremely impressed so far with how the ski has glided on snow. And if I continue to get this same degree of performance from Phantom as I get more time on these skis — i.e., if Phantom is still performing at day 30 as it has on these first 4 days (as it’s supposed to), then I will be sold.
We were doing a lot of ski swapping over the past four days, and I can say that the Cassiar 94s felt fast, and no ski I was on (well, other than the HEAD i.Speed Pro, which is simply a search-and-destroy missile of a ski) felt noticeably faster or offered better glide.
It maybe — maybe — was the case that on Taos’ long return trail (“Around the World”) that takes you from chair 4 back to chair 1 at the base, maybe the Cassiar was a bit slower on long, flat sections than some of the other skis I was on? But I wouldn’t wager a single dollar that this was actually true.
Point is, I was pleased. And if I get to experience this same level of performance without reapplying wax? I’m sold.
Final two things:
(1) Like Sam, I did notice some snow sticking to the bases of the Phantom-treated Cassiar F94. Especially as we were lapping West Basin and so removing skis for the short bootpack up, in those 30-40 degree F spring temps, some snow would be sticking — which wasn’t happening when I was swapping to the Nordica Enforcer 93 to A/B against the Cassiar F94 on the same lines. But the stuck snow would easily wipe away with a single swipe of the hand, and I never felt any weird on-snow performance. So it’s possible that this was a result of the warm, sticky snow, and we’ll monitor to see if we find this happening at colder temps.
But for me, at least, the on-snow performance was so good that I didn’t care about a little caked snow.
(2) One of the things that actually concerned me most about Phantom — aside from the part where I thought the whole thing was a stupid gimmick and would not work at all — was DPS talking about how the skis would feel “unwaxed” when moving slow on snow. I wouldn’t care about this while shuffling through a lift line, but I did actually worry about this description given that I tend to spend a good bit of time in some steep, techy terrain — would Phantom-treated skis suddenly feel “stuck” when making — or landing — a tight jump turn? Because if it did, I would be 100% out on the product.
The good news is that I experienced no such thing on entrances where getting stuck or bucked would have likely resulted in a slide down terrain where a self-arrest would have been quite difficult. And I have a very personal and very high interest level at the moment in not tomahawking down steeps; my surgeon would not at all approve.
So anyway, I’m not sure whether anybody else out there wondered about this, but when billygoating around steep, techy terrain, I’ve experienced no issues, and honestly, never even thought about it. Which is again the single best thing I can say about my experience of Phantom so far: when skiing steep, techy terrain or maching down groomers, I really don’t want to be thinking or worrying about my ski bases at all.
With Phantom, I haven’t.