Competition skis are made to win races on speed and technique. Big mountain freeride skis are made for high speeds, soft and variable snow, absorb the forces of cliff drops. That is what these seemingly specific tools were designed to do very well. These are just two examples, too. Of just about any specific ski category you can reverse-engineer the original design brief.
Conversion of a use case
A ‘use case’ is a single case in which a product – a ski, in this case – has to perform at the highest possible level. The use case of a world cup downhill ski is different from a world cup slalom ski. Both are skied by highly trained professionals, aimed at skiing a particular (kind of) track the fastest. But since the tracks are very different in some crucial respects, so are the skis.
For the downhill ski, gliding in a straight line and not being susceptible to vibrations is very important. Being able to carve the tightest possible turns is not. In the slalom ski, it’s more or less the other way around. Both, however, need great stability and rebound for the athletes to get most of their input back.
There is a story, a use case, of each ski you can find in a ski rack. There is a design brief, some kind of not necessarily realistic scenario that any ski would be perfect in. That original story, however, is not always clear. Some brands write about the development of their skis, giving some insight as to what they are designed to do. But is it relevant? Is it important to know what a ski is designed to be good at?
Deconstruction is a term deriving from Philosophy. 20th Century French philosopher Jacques Derrida applied the concept to language. It basically means that you take the form and properties of something. By ‘destructing’ that something into its essential components and taking it apart, you can use those very same components to build something new, ‘construction’. Thereby leaving behind the original meaning of the thing you took apart and creating a new meaning in the new thing you just built.
Think of it as Lego. In my youth (1990s), Lego constructions came with a building manual. The manual always contained one other construction, mostly very different from the one featured on the box. All the components in the box could be formed into a completely different construction. To create that second thing, you can leave behind the original idea of the thing you just disassembled. It holds no meaning. Just separate building blocks and their properties that you can re-apply.
The same goes for ski properties. We don’t need to know why a world cup slalom ski is built the way it is. The only thing that matters, is that it has very specific properties. We can re-attach, re-match those properties to a new, original use case.
Our own use case
When advising people about skis, we try to do this very thing, but in reverse order. By supplying information on what kind of skier they are and what they like, we can build a kind of avatar. A skier that likes certain things, has a certain ability level, style, etc. We then convert that skier, that use case, into properties – strengths and weaknesses for instance – of skis he or she might like.
Since we have skied all the skis we advise on, we try to find the skis, the properties of which match the desired properties of the person we advise. It is on that ‘properties of skis’ level that we match the skier to the ski. Actually, we deconstruct the skier into a wish-list and the skis into properties and strengths and weaknesses. And then we match. No matter the original use case for the ski designers. No matter the far away ambitions of the skier – we match what we ‘see’. We de- and re-construct. And sometimes, we can get quite philosophical about it.