More changes shaping ski development |

More changes shaping ski development

For years in the ski industry, change crept along at a snail’s pace, with very little in the way of modifications to differentiate one year’s skis from the next year’s.

But all that changed in the early ’90s with the advent of parabolic or shaped skis. Wider skis with radical sidecuts and fat powder skis quickly became the industry standard, and now, as the decade draws to a close, it is next to impossible to find a new ski that wouldn’t be considered “shaped” to some extent.

But that doesn’t mean the rate of change in ski design has slowed as we enter the 1999-2000 ski season.

The trend this year, according to Michael Haas of Pomeroy Sports, a longtime trainer with the Ski Schools of Aspen and a representative for Dynastar skis, is moving toward what are called “mid-fat” skis. These skis, which are typically wide in the tip and tail and narrow underfoot, are meant for all kinds of terrain, from steeps and powder to crud and groomers.

“They’re particularly popular out West,” said Haas. “Mid-fats come from the whole free-riding or extreme wave and they’re great for all kinds of soft snow.” Vibration dampening systems Also in vogue this season will be sophisticated vibration dampening systems.

This concept, which incorporates veritable shock absorbers into the ski design, dates back to the ’80s when Rossignol introduced the VAS (vibration absorption system) on a number of its skis. In the past couple of years, a number of companies have followed the Rossignol example and introduced similar dampening systems.

Salomon has a feature called the “Prolink Twin” on a number of its models. This feature cuts down on chatter and vibration through a dual piston-action mechanism mounted on the top of the ski. A similar feature can be found on Nordica skis.

And Dynastar has a magnetic dampening system on some of its new models. This feature, like the Rossignol VAS that is still in existence, uses a magnetic plate mounted toward the front of the ski to absorb unwanted vibration and keep the ski edge in close contact with the snow for smoother turning and a more solid feel. Shorter is better But perhaps the biggest change skiers will notice this season is that skis are shorter than ever, considerably shorter.

“As a general rule for longtime skiers, you’ll be dropping about 10-15 centimeters in length,” said Haas, provided you’re on the correct size skis to begin with. “Faster skiers won’t drop as much, but skiers looking for more control will probably go down the whole 15. It depends on how you want to ski.”

This year, 180 centimeters will be about as long as slalom skis get, which many skiers might find a little wimpy.

“Good skiers need to get over the whole `I won’t ski on 180s’ mentality,” said Bob Bennett, a shop technician at Pomeroy.

“Skiing ability is no longer determined by ski length,” added Haas. “That’s sort of an outdated macho concept.” Twin-tips While the above innovations in skis are essentially refinements of old concepts, there is a whole new idea sweeping the ski industry: twin-tip skis.

With the rise in popularity of terrain parks and halfpipes, skiers, particularly younger skiers, had a need for a ski that would be good for doing tricks and spins, and, most important, they needed a ski that could be ridden “fakie,” or backwards, the way a snowboard could.

The answer is the twin-tip ski, one that has a tail that is curved severely upward, just like the tip, which makes possible a whole new realm of tricks.

“They’re designed for jumping, landing, half-pipes,” said Ivan Petkov, a buyer for Stefan Kaelin Sports in Aspen and the inventor of the “S” ski, the original parabolic ski. “They’re very soft, very stable, easy to turn and carve.”

The first twin-tip, the K2 El Camino, actually made its appearance about four and a half years ago, but its sales languished and it was discontinued.

The concept then remained dormant for a couple of years until the introduction of the Salomon Teneighty, one of the most popular skis on the market today.

With twin-tip skis, whole sections of mountains previously off limits to skiers are opening up, creating what is known as “new school” skiing, a hybrid of skiing and snowboarding.

“For our conditions, it’s an incredible ski,” said Petkov.

With all the changes in skis this season, one can become easily confused, so Bennett, Haas and Petkov all recommend that potential purchasers talk to shop technicians and others in the know to determine which ski is best for them.

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